Sutherland: Breakfast @ The River Club

m-2Even a movie that is so dated that it’s painful to watch can contain some insight or observation that gives it current day “redeeming social value” (to use the words of the Supreme Court re works of art that would otherwise be unpublishable). 

I’m thinking here of the early sixties hit movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  Supposedly about a zany, mad-cap party girl from Tulip, Texas (“Holly Golightly”) who takes New York by storm, it’s really about a gay young man like the author Truman Capote (just as the female character “Albertine” in Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust is based on a boy the author was in love with).

Holly (played by Audrey Hepburn, looking fabulous I have to admit) tells an admirer that when she feels stressed she likes to simply get in a cab and go to the carriage trade jeweler Tiffanys.  It has an immediate calming effect on her, she explains:

“It calms me down right away, the quietness and proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of  silver and alligator wallets.  If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.”

I think if you gave former local publisher and the KC Star’s current token “conservative” (sic) columnist Steve Rose truth serum, he’d come out with a similar dreamy reverie, but the locus of his fantasy would be the private dining club favored by Kansas City’s plutocracy, The River Club.

Everything about Steve Rose’s life is aimed at one goal, to get accepted into The Kansas City Establishment. Like the book of that name, which took a marketing professor at Kansas State fifty years to write, however, by the time he’s figured it out, it’s disappeared!  There simply is no “Establishment” left to get your validation from, the way there was thirty-five years ago.

kc_establishment_webWhat do I mean by this?

First of all, Kansas City’s become a branch office town.  Fewer and fewer significant businesses are locally owned and managed.  The dwindling ranks of those that are have been hard hit by changing consumer preferences and tastes (e.g. Russell Stover and Hallmark).  Secondly, the World War II generation that ran things for two generations is practically gone.  To a large degree, their offspring have not taken their places.  When I entered Pembroke Hill almost fifty years ago, one of our teachers gave us a pep talk about how we owed it to our community to be serious about our education since we’d be running the city someday.  (It didn’t turn out that way!)

How do I know this about Little Stevie Wonder? 

Steve_Rose_Johnson_CountyFifteen years ago, I called Steve to compliment him on an editorial that he’d written in the Johnson County Sun, the weekly that he then owned and edited.  I left my name and number and the message that I’d like his permission to submit his editorial (on the Lewinsky scandal) as an op-ed piece to The New York Times.

Much to my disappointment, I never heard back from him.  My mother, however, called and said he’d called my parents’ house three times to talk to my father, the late Dwight Sutherland, Sr.  I realized that he could care less about my opinion.  (I was a young lawyer, making a modest salary, not a CEO nor a multi-millionaire listed in the Forbes “400 Richest Americans” issue.)  What he saw was an opening which might lead to corporate nirvana, i.e. a chance to break bread with the Kempers, Sutherlands, Soslands, and Halls at The River Club.

henry-bloch-1-sizedEverything else follows from this.  Abortion?  The Mission Hills crowd likes abortion because it reduces the number of blacks and poor people, so Steve is pro-choice.  Does the Respectable Media lobby for gay marriage?  Yes, by a 5 to 1 margin, so Steve’s position “evolves.”  (You got it!  He’s “grown as a person”!)  Do Don Hall and Henry Bloch support every Republican Presidential nominee?  Well, so does Steverino (despite castigating local Republicans as “extremists” for taking the same positions!).

Which is not to say Steve is dumb, or that he can’t write!  It’s just that everything he says can be explained away in this fashion.

WillieSutton_2

Willie Sutton

Interestingly, the one thing Steve Rose does break from “mod-squad” orthodoxy on is school finance.  He’s smart enough to know that Johnson County is getting the short end of the stick under the existing Kansas school finance formula and that it needs to be changed to let us raise and spend more money locally.  The problem is that if you give a blank check to the KNEA and the rest of the educational-industrial complex here in Johnson County, the rest of the state will want to do the same and send us here in Johnson County the bill, since to quote the late bank-robber Willie Sutton, “That’s where the money is!”

My own quandary is that I see Sam Brownback and Company going to the opposite extreme, trying to create the laissez-faire dystopia of ‘Pottersville’ in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  What happened to a thinking conservatism of fiscal prudence, evolutionary change, and a sense of duty to those less fortunate?  We aren’t about to get it from either Rose’s crony capitalism or Brownback’s social darwinism.

That is the real tragedy of today’s Kansas Republican Party.

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29 Responses to Sutherland: Breakfast @ The River Club

  1. sunnyvale steve says:

    This comment intentionally left blank….this is where the smartman comment would normally be.

    *pours out the first two sips of my ballantines 40*

  2. chuck says:

    Pervasive thought amongst we hoi polloi is that everyone from Pembroke Hill is pecuniarily insouciant by way of birth and blood as opposed to sweat and effort. As we can see on this blog, these Pem Day cake eaters are a pretty bright bunch.

    That said, Suntherland’s “Remembrance of Things Past” with regard to Rose’s afront is an interesting window into the mindset of folks most of us not only won’t “break bread” with, but are lucky to work for.

    I got through college as an assistant (That’s right) janitor unplugging sh*tters and cleaning up messes so I could pay tuition after military service. I would like to think that I can relate to this story by way of a time line.

    1) One rich guy writes letter, wants tete a tete.

    2)Another rich guy, reads letter wants tete a tete.

    3) Both rich guys are dissapointed.

    4) Decades late, white trash guy from Ruskin Heights with similar politics reads about it at 5 AM, giggles, goes to work.

    By the way, my congratulations to ANYone who can read Rembrances of Things Past. Je*us, the first 40 pages (As I recall) are about the feel of a pillow on some guy’s face. It was brutal. Ishmail would go back to sea in a coffin to escape that book.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      You should never have admitted your college job as an assistant director of sanitation sciences; you know who will tag you with what since Smarty is no longer here to hold the title of diseased hot tub cleaner-outter.
      KCC isn’t going to be the same for a long time and I, for one, will greatly miss SnarkyMan.
      On a brighter note, it’s awesome to see the intellectual increase Dwight has brought to the space. I’m a huge fan of him and his writing. Chief among the positives, it renders our resident special needs child neutered from commenting in any direction. Dwight’s talents leave a 2000 word, zig zag rambling treatise of a response worthless. Let me clarify; the response is always worthless, it’s just that here it’s glaringly out of place.
      Long live Smarty and thanks, Dwight, for classin the place up and forcing new readers/commenters from the woodwork.

    • expat says:

      The distance between ourselves and the KC elite is probably less than the distance between the KC elite and the actual elite on the East Coast who run things. I wonder with amusement if the people at the River Club got their panties in a bunch over not being invited to Martha’s Vineyard. Either way I think people like us are lucky to be insulated from those kinds of problems by lack of burdensome wealth.

  3. chuck says:

    Sorry, “decades later”

    🙂

  4. chuck says:

    smarty, where the hell are ya?

    I can still shoot straight and have thunder in both hands, do we need to recon in?

    Are ya in St. Barts?

    🙂

  5. Nick says:

    À la recherche du temps perdu is actually not that difficult a read, though perhaps some of its themes — art & alienation — are a tad sere for modern sensibilities. But unconscious memory is topical enough – witness the resurgence of Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, or even the quaint Bourne trilogy. My preference for Lynch’s Mulholland Drive rather than a simple madeleine aside (okay, actually it would be for Laura Harring, blinding white sheets and scores of fresh madeleines…) , the sweet smell of a freshly mown lawn is guaranteed to induce a coexisting reverie…

    Intermittence – we all deal with it differently; witness another of Sutherland’s ancient grudges publicly nursed as topical political insight.

    Se couper le nez pour faire dépit à son visage…

  6. the dude says:

    He is right about guv Brownshirt though, he will lay financial waste to this state in the name of his masters the Koch Bros.
    And the school finance law is killing Johnson County schools.

    • Nick says:

      In that regard you are correct: Brownback’s willing bidding at the Koch brother’s behest is both embarrassing in its eagerness and so painfully hidebound it could have come straight from the Bible.

  7. Jimbo OPKS says:

    Would someone please explain to me how Brownback is laying financial waste to KS? If there is not enough money in the future to pay for programs that are needed, cannot the taxes then be raised to pay for them?

    • the dude says:

      He wants to basically do away with taxes and privatize everything. It is kind of hard to raise taxes when the governor and legislature throws them out the window.

      • Jimbo OPKS says:

        It isn’t a legislature for life. What happens if it doesn’t work and a legislature elected in say, 2016, raises taxes? Or, are you afraid that it will work? Work defined as things people don’t care for don’t get funded and no one notices.

  8. The Stomper says:

    Nice piece again today Dwight, however there was not as much raw meat as I had hoped for. It was an impressive lead-in to take your shot at Steve Rose. Proof that you can effectively wield the velvet hammer. I also recall the “noblesse oblige” lecture and think it rings true.

    Since you were a bit mild, I’ll take a shot at pissing off some of the political junkies here. Politics, obviously is a very personal topic and people vote they way they do for reasons all across the spectrum. Some are single issue voters ( i.e. tree huggers, anti-abortion, gun rights, etc.) Some are strictly personality voters. They may have voted democratic in the past but just dislike Obama this time around. Individual personalities and single issues are minor distractions to my way of thinking. To me, it is strictly about how one sees the role of the federal government. Do you generally favor small and non intrusive government and that trumps your view on one or two specific issues? Or do you generally favor an energetic government that will step in when the private sector either cannot or will not work to solve a problem that faces the nation as a whole (i.e. healthcare, education, Wall Street malfeasance, etc. etc.). I fall into the later category. The government has a role to play. The job of the private sector is to maximize profits. Not their job to solve social problems. Is there duplication of efforts among departments at the federal level? Absolutely. Is there government waste in spending? Absolutely. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. I’m a capitalist that always wants to give the private sector the first shot but if that fails then I expect my government to act. The government is not the enemy. They should be regarded as a partner to the private sector. A junior partner but a partner just the same. You wrote above ” Do Don Hall and Henry Bloch support every Republican Presidential candidate ? Well so does Steverino …” I’ve got no problem with that. Steve’s view with regards to education and state funding may tilt more to the liberal side but generally he favors a smaller role for government. I respect that. While I’m a democrat with regards to the macro perspective, I’m closer to the GOP view with regards to immigration and gun rights ( although I can’t understand the total aversion they have towards background checks) . Obama is certainly not my favorite democrat but to me, the worst democrat is always better than the best republican. If that statement doesn’t make a few of you go apoplectic, I’ll be disappointed.

    In closing, I appreciated ( and was a bit stunned to be honest) with your closing paragraph and shot at Sam Brownback. ” What happened to a thinking conservatism of fiscal prudence, evolutionary change, and a sense of duty to those less fortunate?” Wow, I had you pegged on the fringe out there with Kobach, Norquist, and Altevogt. My bad.

    How about a piece next week on the internal conflict in the GOP between the Tea Party fringe and the moderate wing of fiscal conservatives and social liberals? Keep up the great work. Ditto on Paul’s kudos for classing up the place and forcing new readers/commenters from the woodwork. You got me off my duff !!

  9. John Altevogt says:

    Ah, recognition and in such wonderful company to boot. Thank you very much. except you show your ignorance of Republican Party politics while I am part of a loose working group on the issue of immigration with Grover and others around the country, my position on that issue is dramatically different from my friend Kris Kobach. And, while I generally support the fantastic job Governor Brownback has done in revitalizing the state’s economy and reducing the income tax, I fear rough times for our personal (non-existant) relationship ahead given that more of the tax burden will fall on our broken property tax system, a system made far worse as a function of that idiot Sam Sheldon who the Governor appointed as Chief Judge of the Court of Tax Appeals, and I am an opponent of that system and his (idiotic) appointee.

    As for Rose, we have certainly had our moments, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Whether he is allowed into the sacred corridors of the River Club, or not, Rose is a community leader and far more than simply a wannabe. In the long run he will have had far more influence than Art Brisbane who, as publisher of The Star, was little more than a lawn jockey at the River Club and toady for the city’s corrupt establishment.

    Finally, one can only wish that all of these references to the GOP’s alleged drift into social Darwinism were true. Were it only so, our country would be in far better shape than it currently is under HRH King Hussein’s pathetic third world regime.

    Again, my thanks to Stomper for his kind comments.

    • admin says:

      John, I know you had a falling out during Brisbane’s reign at the Star, but don’t kid yourself as to the impact he had on this community both as a columnist, the editor and the publisher.

      And look where he ended up, The New York Times.

      Pretty hard to diminish that resume, frankly.

      • John Altevogt says:

        And I also understand that you and Art are friends and I would expect no less a defense than what you’ve indicated above. He also wrote for the Washington Post and was the grandson of America’s highest paid columnist at the Hurst papers. That said, some of us are less than impressed by the leading lights of the establishment media and so I think we can leave this discussion with the observation that our differential perception of Art’s influence may be a function of perspective. (And I have absolutely no idea what any of that means.)

  10. John Altevogt says:

    By the way, could that be our old friend Tom Frank making his Kansas City introduction as “Nick”?

  11. Sargent Shriver Stedenko says:

    If Steve Rose is Holly Golightly, the prostitute who dreams of becoming upper class….does that make you Fred, the closeted homosexual who wants to become a published writer?

    • John Altevogt says:

      Now that’s funny, I don’t care who you are. And, unlike Nick, we can all understand that little gig.

  12. Dwight Sutherland says:

    Actually it makes me Mr.Yunioshi,the Japanese character played by Mickey Rooney,who says things like “Miss Gorightry!” or better yet,Doc Golightly, Holly’s erstwhile hick husband,who shows up to try to get her to go back to Tulip,Texas with him.Played by Buddy Ebsen,it led to his role as Jed Clampett in the next year’s”Beverly Hillbillies”! There are all sorts of role models to aspire to in this classic film!

    • the dude says:

      Do you play up the role for maximum racial stereotype like in the movie?

      • John Altevogt says:

        Why yes, yes he does, but you should have known he wouldn’t be the guy who wants to be a published writer since he is a published writer. But, back to Dwight’s uncanny ability to pass for people of other races, today is his birthday and so today he’ll dress up as one of the brothers, join a flash mob on the Plaza and then go out to Starlight and shoot the place up. It’s always great fun. Happy birthday, Dwight, let me know if you want to borrow the rocket launcher.

      • Dwight Sutherland says:

        Whose ethnic stereotype?Mr. Yunioshi’s or ‘Doc’ Golightly ‘s? I’d probably do a lot better at imitating the latter since my own “cultural baggage”includes hound dogs and coon hunting,notwithstanding any later acquired elitist veneer.

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