Archive for October, 2005

Close Encounter: Got Calf?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

By Penelope Whitney

It’s a Wednesday winter afternoon at the Missoula, MT stockyards and the intense action around the cattle chute resembles a pit stop at the Indy 500. Two dogs rush a cow into a chute, the door clangs shut, and while two men at her head check her teeth for age and ear tags for vaccinations, Dr. Rollett Pruyn eases his right hand in through the cow’s anus until his arm disappears up to the shoulder. The cow bellows and rolls her eyes, then quiets. The veterinarian signals to his assistant whether it’s an early or late pregnancy, then pulls the lever that opens the chute’s door. That cow leaps free and the next thunders in. The team has processed 300 cows in less than four hours and it shows: their hats, ears, noses, and cheeks are marked with moss-colored explosions of cow shit. Even the cattle dogs wear green spots.

The operation is part of the stockyard’s special sale of stock cows, which are sold not for slaughter but for raising calves. Scenarios like this one are played out at cattle ranches and stockyards across the U.S. — wherever beef cattle are raised and sold. The cow’s value fluctuates depending on the extent of her pregnancy. Today Pruyn checks cows that are either six or seventh months pregnant. The further along she is the more valuable, because calf sales the following October will be based on weight. The older the calf is then, the heavier it will be.

“The first thing I check is the cervix and different attachment sites of the baby to the uterus,” says Dr. Pruyn. “And sometimes I just go in to get my arm warm – it’s cold outside.”

Pruyn often works seven days a week, testing 9,000 cows a year, averaging a hundred cows an hour, speeding across western Montana as he makes house calls. Most days he tends to cows, horses, and dogs, but he’ll also doctor llamas, sheep, cats, and goats.

“At first they panic and want to get out, and after ten seconds they stand. They’re thinking, ‘Get it over with, I have hay to chew.’

“Cows and dogs are my favorite animals to work with. They have the same inquisitive disposition — when you walk up they run up to see what’s going on. They’re not like cats and horses. You can take a cow that’s been running free for 10 years, rope and tie it to a tree and pick up its foot without it trying to kick you.

“I change the glove on my arm every hundred head. Without the glove you get a severe skin rash from the hair follicles on your arm going in and out so many times. Most work on cows is fairly physical. At the beginning of the season, in August, I do 1 to 200, and I’m fairly stiff by the end of the day. By now, December, I can test five to six hundred in a day, no problem.”

Almost Famous: Bill O’Reilly Never Harassed Me. Damn.

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Kathy Ritchie, an associate producer at The O'Reilly Factor from February 03 to July 03, is now attempting to be her own boss; she’s a struggling freelance writer who is sometimes mistaken for Angelina Jolie.

This is a true story about an unfortunate, unpleasant, unappetizing event that should have happened to me. And I’m pissed.

I spent six long months at The O’Reilly Factor as an associate producer, and during that time Bill O’Reilly – my ex-boss and the only man who could single handedly turn the falafel into a sex toy – never once pinched my ass.

You can’t blame me for being pissed off. Let’s be serious, if you placed my image next to his ever-somber accuser, Andrea Mackris’, well, I’d win hands down. It’s not arrogance, it’s a fact: I’m way prettier than she is; yet Bill never once, in a loving way, of course, advised me to use a vibrator to relieve my work-related stress. I even shared an elevator with the Man and not once did he cop a feel or make a sexy comment, like, “I want to cover you in hummus.” What a dick.

I remember the morning the scandal broke on every cable and local news channel. The victim’s name still hadn’t been released. Cold shock. A colleague stopped by my desk to see if I had any idea as to who the alleged victim was. I ran down the names of possibilities. Still shell shocked. After all, Bill was (and by all appearances still is) a holier-than-thou super newscaster who loves pissing on anyone whose ideas or opinions run contrary to his.

Mackris was never on my radar. I even spent time pondering which male employee might have fallen prey to Bill’s seductive charms – don’t tell me Tahini slathered onto some dude’s testicles isn’t hot – that is until Reuters finally announced the alleged victim’s name: Andrea Mackris. My first thought? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Mackris did have a couple of things going for her: she was confident and she was actually kind of cool. This is likely what caught the Man’s attention in the first place, since I doubt it was her looks. Now I know, this was probably the most difficult time in her life, surely causing her deep anguish and plenty of embarrassment. Never mind the fact that this girl stayed on the job despite a hostile work environment, then left for a brief stint at CNN, only to return to The O’Reilly Factor, apparently, after no one at CNN attempted to woo her with Middle Eastern cuisine; that and the fact that FOX matched the whopping $93,200 CNN was clearly suckered into paying her – not too shabby for an associate producer. Believe me.

Still, day in and day out, I live with the fact that Bill never once hit on me. What does that say about me! Am I not good enough for you? Is my Arizona State University journalism degree not impressive enough for you? Do you only fantasize about the Women of the Ivy League?

To make matters worse for me – the hot one – the pain is always rehashed during just about every job interview. If the simple fact that I worked at what was once one of the hottest shows on cable didn’t get my foot in any sort of door, I’d remove it and replace it with my first job ever – a movie theatre concession stand operator.

Interviewer: “Thanks for coming in. The position entails blah, blah, blah and blah.”

Me: “It sounds fantastic. Very challenging. Blah, blah and blah?”

Interviewer: “Naturally. By the way, did you know Andrea Mackris?”

Me: “Yes I did.”

Interviewer: “That’s so crazy. Do you think O’Reilly did it?”

Me: “No idea. Anything is certainly possible.”

Interviewer: “Did he ever try anything with you?”

Me: “Um, no. So did you say the salary is negotiable?”

I should record these conversations and sue for creating such a hostile interviewing environment.

My beef, ultimately, is about equal rights for the pretty people. If you’re a man or woman with a certain amount of power, you should at least have the courtesy to treat all of your young nubile employees the same lousy way. I’m not looking for $60 million, but $60K to pay of my student loans would be a good start.

Mario Puzo

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

By Michael Callahan

This past October 15th was Mario Puzo’s 85th birthday. Not exactly common knowledge, sure, but in the years before his death I learned a lot of little things about the man who wrote The Godfather, the book which begat the movie which begat more quotations among guys than anything short of the Bible.

See, nine years ago I was assigned by an airline magazine to do a telephone interview with Puzo. I set up the time with his agent and, on the appointed afternoon, dialed him at his house in Long Island. We chatted for about an hour. As is the case with most celebrity interviews, it was painless and rather pointless.

Before we hung up he said to me, “If you need to fill in any blanks, call back. But not between 3 and 5. That’s when I take my nap.”

I did call back (1:43 PM) to clear up some stuff, and this time we had a more conversational chat. I could tell he was doing something as we talked, so I asked him what he was up to. Making a sandwich, he said.

Six months later my phone rang. It was Mario. “How ya doin’, kid?”

I’d recognize that voice anywhere — sort of Ernest Borgnine on crack. Mario proceeded to fill me in on his health (he was having circulatory problems with his leg) and other minutia of his life. As time passed, my phone would ring a few times a year, and we’d just sort of shoot the shit.

When I moved to Boston, he told me it was a mistake. (”Terrible city,” he said. He was right.) The last time we spoke, a few months before his death in 1999, I called him one lazy afternoon only to hear the familiar voice of Jack Barry in the background, yelling, “Joker! Joker! Joker!” I started laughing. “Mario, are you watching The Jokers Wild?!” I said in disbelief.

He grunted. “There are not a whole lotta things,” he replied, “for old fucks to do with their afternoons.”

Don Corleone could not have said it any better.

Mick Jagger

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

By Jan Allen

People like to complain about the Rolling Stones, how old they are to be rock stars, how often they tour, and how much money they make, but I love them. I have been a devoted fan since I was a teenager in the sixties.

In 1994, the Stones came to Atlanta. They were on their Voodoo Lounge tour; I was working as a registered nurse for a local urologist.

MickJagger.jpgA day before the band’s first concert, I arrived at work a day to find an extremely excited receptionist. It seemed that Mick Jagger was experiencing some difficulties, and had been in before office hours for a special consultation with the doc.

After interrogating the amused physician about all the particulars– Mick’s appearance, his demeanor, his condition, whether he would have to come back in for another consultation–I got back to my duties. Among them: making sure that lab samples and their results got processed.

There in the lab, neatly labeled M. Jagger, were three containers of urine. We really only needed one, the others were backup. This was not an opportunity I could resist. I secreted the sample with my personal belongings and waited all day to be busted with a cry of: “Mick Jagger’s urine is missing! Do you have any idea where it could be?”

Sure do. In my freezer for nearly a decade.

The Dalai Lama

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

By John House

He was, of course, kind and attentive. Or maybe his attention is what made him seem so kind.

“Did you see that?” a woman in front of me marveled to her friend, fingering the white silk scarf that she had offered to the Dalai Lama and that he, in turn, had placed back around her shoulders as a kind of blessing.

“He just holds your hands and looks at you as if he would listen to you forever.”

My wife was also in front of me in the line winding past His Holiness, who was receiving guests before his speech at a benefit dinner in Hollywood. When my turn came, he smiled and said, “Ah, yes, Brussels…,” echoing my wife’s brief mention of some Tibetan friends in Belgium.

Then he looked at me, too, as if he was ready to listen forever. But the dinner was starting soon, and as we all moved toward the auditorium someone wondered aloud at the irony of seeing Sharon Stone and the Dalai Lama in the same town, let alone the same building.

“Honey,” said Bonnie Raitt, with gentle correction, “you should never try to judge a person’s worth just by the way they look.”

Stuck in an Elevator With….

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

How does a magazine about storytelling cover celebs? It’s a question we’ve been struggling with since the beginning of this idea more than three years ago. SMITH is much more interested in real people than celebs, but celebs are part of the world we stew in.

I was at this Who event last night at the Time Warner center (a truly delightful pox upon NYC) for the release of Tommy & Quadrophenia on DVD that somehow Samsung is doing rather than a record label; (btw, an interesting development for music/media) and all these Who freaks were slobbering on Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend clamoring for an autograph (one extremely smelly guy swiped a gift bag early, got the band to sign his DVD, and was then kissing it, somewhat maniacally; uh-oh). Then the other day Piper was in a funky little noodle place in the E. Village and Mario Batali sits next to her at the counter and she’s just not sure how to play it (Mario ordered loads of food and Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, soon joined him) so she just sits there eating her duck noodles and leaves him along. Meanwhile my friend Ty was in line at a cabaret at the Algonquin Room right behind Philip Seymour Hoffman (who, confirming the rumors, had bad BO, but that’s not why Ty decided not to strike up a conversation with PSH, he was just trying to play it cool and leave the guy be) and they all (well, not the Who crowd) said the same thing: it feels really dumb to talk to a celebrity, even though you kind of want to if it’s a celeb you truly dig.

And so … one of the only ways to have an interesting conversation with a famous person is if you’re both stuck in a situation which calls for equal footing, or equally weird for both of you (like maybe you ran into Dustin Hoffman in a store dressing room, as did my friend Dave. “How are the jeans,” Dave said he asked Dustin. “They fit,” Dustin replied) or being trapped in an elevator. So perhaps we find the nicest elevator in NYC (or wherever the celeb is) and try to do the piece from that perspective.

Which is a long way of saying: which celebrities interest you?

SMITH Magazine

SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
We believe everyone has a story, and everyone
should have a place to tell it.
We're the creators and home of the
Six-Word Memoir® project.