Sunday, February 15, 2009

David Barton

One of Slowhopes favorite movies is Tootsie, if for no other reason than its better-than-average depiction of the life of a middle-aged New York actor named Michael Dorsey. Although I never was a middle-aged New York actor, I hung around a few, and the essential conceit of Tootsie--that Michael would do absolutely anything to get cast in a part--revealed itself plenty of times. It's just hard to be an actor, and the subtext of "New York actor" is that you're talking about a certain type: a character actor, not a leading man. Not a looker, but someone possessing something, but not necessarily something that earns them many juicy parts in their twenties and thirties.

Character actors, like fine wine, usually take a few years to emerge into their best light.

(All of which is fine and dandy, but tell that to a schlubby, eager, sensitive young man with a little too much hair growing on his back that he may not really work until he hits his forties).

Of course, there are exceptions: Liev Schrieber is the patron saint of character actors, and has worked steadily since he graduated from Yale 15 years ago.

David Barton isn't Liev Schrieber. He was a high school teacher in Hendersonville, Tennessee, married to a minister and the father of two daughters until, in spring 2007, he decided to visit New York for spring break, for two reasons: 1. His daughter was in grad school and he could hang out with her for a week, and 2. There was an open call for a touring production of Annie, and Barton had always played Daddy Warbucks in various amateur community productions over the years. He was Daddy Warbucks before he turned 30.

So he flew to New York, and at the age of 47, became a working New York actor for the very first time.

Here's a story I wrote about him in the Herald:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

U.S. Economy: I Used Performance Enhancing Drugs

by Stephen Hunt

NEW YORK. In a startling televised interview, the American economy today confessed that it used illegal performance enhancing drugs, but that it has since stopped.

"It's true, I did ingest a banned substance," said a chastened economy, referring to the period beginning in the late 1990's and continuing through to the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008. "But you must understand: everyone was doing derivatives in those days. There was no testing. No regulation. We were all into them--Iceland, Spain, Ireland, the UK. We thought we were part of the next wave of economic innovation."

Instead, the popping of the economic bubble has resulted in the near-collapse of economies around the globe. Iceland's economy has melted. The Irish are fondly recalling the famine of the 1840's as the good old days, and a condo on the Costa del Sol can be had for llittle more than the price of a bus ticket.

The English economy is so bad, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a dour, doughy Scottish economist with the personality of a stewed turnip, is beginning to look good.

(The Canadian economy issued a press release following the American economy's interview with Katie Couric denying that it had taken any performance enhancing drugs. "Canadians don't do derivatives," it said. "We believe in being boring. As everyone now knows, boring is the new interesting." The Canadian economy wore beige, pleated cordoroys, sensible shoes and a baby blue denim shirt when it made this statement).

The dramatic confession by the American economy came after weekend reports leaked drug tests performed anonymously on global economies during the 2003 fiscal year, at the behest of the IMF, which showed that a whole lot of bankers, brokers and politicians knew something was broken, but decided that the American way was to let the market decide when it would implode and spark a global economic crisis rather than suggest that letting the market decide was the problem.

(The market continues to insist that its fine, although it could use a trillion or two in public funds to help it decide for sure.)

The American economy has been hoping for some time now that everyone would just leave it alone, and that the trillion dollar bailout by the U.S. Treasury would catch up all the banks and allow those same bankers to collect their multi-million dollar year-end bonuses, buy $35,000 drapes with which to redecorate their corporate offices and host lavish retreats in five star resorts, where they would get to know their new colleagues: everyone from the investment houses they bought out for a nickel on the dollar, because no one from those investment houses went to (economics! LOL!) school with the Secretary of the Treasury and thus had no access to the TARP fund, designed to save the American economy from itself.

Instead, the nattering nabobs of negativity who now dominate the business pages of the world's floundering newspapers continue to harp on a bunch of office expenses and act as if earning eight figure year-end bonuses paid for by American taxpayers is anything but business as usual.

"Without paying our top people competitive salaries, we lose the chance to recruit best and the brightest," said the economy, while neglecting to mention that it was the best and brightest who got us in this mess.

A recent initiative by President Barack Obama to limit the salaries of CEO's who accept bailout funds to $500,000 has been met with what can only be described as limited enthusiasm by the American economy.

"What am I supposed to do with 500K?" asked one corporate CEO. "That's car service money--if you don't pay the taxes!"

The startling admission by the economy was a coup for perky CBS anchor Katie Couric, whose stock is way up following her stern questioning of Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin during the 2008 election.

"Katie hit the ball out of the park in the one on one with The Economy," said a CBS insider who declined to be identified for fear that his superiors would discover he had an opinion about anything. "If you can bring The Economy to its knees on national TV, you can pretty much write your ticket in Washington these days."