Joe Strupp’s ‘ASNE Confidential’ for Thursday: Thelma Houston and ‘The Dating Game’

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By: Joe Strupp

For anyone who believes the newspaper industry is a circus, Wednesday night?s reception for the American Society of Newspaper Editors left no doubts. The party, sponsored by Hearst Newspapers and King Features Syndicate — at Seattle?s lively Teatino Zinzanni dinner club — was a throwback to old style carnival life.

Under a big top tent-styled ceiling, and surrounded by decorations better suited for a cirque de soleil cast than a newsroom cocktail hour, the ASNE faithful were treated to a buffet of lamb, grilled veggies, and even bagels, along with authentic mediterranean fare. Once the bar drinks took effect, the real center of the evening began.

As the lights dimmed, the ?cast? of dancers, who also doubled at times as servers, flooded the room to the house tune ?Spirit in the Dark.? For the editors, who just hours earlier were sitting in seminars on anonymous sourcing and readership, the costumed contingent with a lively rhythm made them forget circulation numbers for a while (as if).

Somehow the replica front pages of the Albany Times-Union, Houston Chronicle and Plainview (Tex.) Daily News that Hearst had spread around the rooms seemed oddly out of place.

With lead performer and former disco star Thelma Houston taking the center stage area, all eyes focused on her as she led the song. Then, as the music stopped, Houston introduced Ukranian contortionist Vita Radionova, whose twists and turns were part-gymnast, part-belly dancer.

?We need to be in a hip and cool place,? Robert Rivard of the San Antonio Express-News, said after watching the slinky syren. ?I?ll be practicing yoga tonight in my room.? Scott Bosley, ASNE executive director, said he was seated next to the stage area purely by accident. ?It was just serendipitous.?

Ken Bunting, associate publisher of the Seattle Post-intelligencer, welcomed the group following the acrobatic opening act, saying, ?I assure you, after that, there will not be a long program featuring me.?

Soon, however, the performances continued. After the two Portuguese strongmen, the Duo Manducas, delighted the crowd by literally throwing each other about, Comedienne Christine Deaver took over with her ?Elizabethan Elimidate.? Sporting a royal outfit that would rival Queen Victoria, or maybe Liberace, Deaver brought three unsuspecting ASNE men in for her own version of The Dating Game.

The ?lucky? picks were none other than Alfredo Carbajal of Al Dia in Dallas; Nathan Stoll, project manager for Google News; and ASNE attorney Kevin Goldberg. When the contest ? which included a comedic sword fight and dancing competition – was over, Goldberg was left standing. His prize? Taking part in a scene from Romeo and Juliet with the portly Deaver that had Shakespeare turning in his grave.

To end the evening, Houston brought the house down with a rendition of her hit, ?Don?t Leave Me This Way? that had most of the newsroom types shaking their booties. Among the more lively boogie knights were Chris Peck, editor of the Commercial-Appeal in Memphis, and Bob Haiman of the Freedom Forum, who did his own disco tango.

Bunting credited his wife, Juli, a former events planner, with finding the party site. She admitted that it took some convincing of her husband to suggest the location. ?But it looks like everyone had a good time,? she said.

***

As part of her introduction of former Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll prior to his luncheon speech Wednesday afternoon, Charlotte Hall, editor of the Orlando Sentinel, offered a previously unknown story about Carroll. With few specifics, she revealed that he was once forced to hide under a table when confronted by a jealous husband with a shotgun.

Upon taking the podium, and before saying anything else, Carroll sought to explain the story. ?About the jealous husband,? Carroll began. ?He was someone that I had never seen before and he wasn?t looking for me. That was my only connection to this man, I had never heard of him before.?

But before anyone could ask for further clarification, he went forth with a speech that had more to do with budget-cutbacks and news values than firearm confrontations.


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