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weasel of the week
"The Hack On The Newspaper Rack"
by The Cranky Media Guy
Weasel of the Week: Hack Writer Bob Levey
Bob Levey 

If you've never been to Washington, D.C., you might think that your nation's capital is a sophisticated place, full of exotic entertainment.  You'd be wrong. 

OK, think of it this way:  if you live in a city of any size, there's probably a big, ugly monstrosity of public "sculpture" that everyone hates, sitting outside of the local federal building.  Washington is full of the kind of people who commission that crap.  Washington is a town that thinks that Mark Russell, the PBS staple who does toothless satire about politicians, is cutting-edge.  In a city full of people constantly looking over their shoulders (figuratively speaking), they like their entertainment safe.

This is a town where you can get a reputation as the office eccentric if you wear a paisley tie with your dark suit.  Ever notice how a lot of conservatives like George Will and Dr. Koop wear bow ties?  That's to show the world that they "go their own way".  "No one's gonna tell me what to do!"  Go get 'em, Tiger!  Ah, but I digress.

My point is that in a town as cowardly as Washington, a columnist like Bob Levey fits right in.  He's the hall monitor you hated in sixth grade all grown up.  There's nothing too trivial for Levey to tsk tsk, from people talking on their cell phones on the Metro to a woman selling muffins in Union Station who had the temerity to call her female customers "honey".  His column (which runs on the first page of the comics section in the Post) is the kind of thing you expect to find in a small town weekly paper.  It's so cornball that you figure it has to be a joke the first time you encounter it.  I mean, the Washington Post, the paper that broke the Watergate scandal, can't possibly be running this seriously!  Well, guess again, Sparky, 'cause they are.  The guy's a friggin' institution around here.

The Free Lance-Star, a newspaper out of Fredericksburg, VA (about 50 miles south of DC) runs a weekly column about local goings-on in Culpeper (an even smaller town in the middle of nowhere).  A picture of the guy who writes the column accompanies it.  In it, he's wearing a cowboy hat and he looks like the cousin the Clampett family kept locked in the root cellar.  That guy writes a more interesting column than Bob Levey.

Levey wears his out-of-itness as a badge of honor.  He'll occasionally write about some fad that everyone else in America knows went out of style about six months ago as if it's all the rage currently.  You want to shout, "Hey, schmuck, have you been to a mall recently--like in the last decade or so?" God forbid Levey ever comes across a mark-down shelf in a Spencer Gifts; he'll be writing columns about Rubik's Cube for the next year.

His latest harangue was about how he turns down the volume on his TV while watching Monday Night Football because he can't stand Dennis Miller.  He describes Miller as tasteless and unfunny.  Personally, I think he dislikes him because Dennis makes jokes about things that happened after Ike was named Supreme Allied Commander and Levey isn't quite up to speed yet. 

I'd love to open the Post some time and find that the editors have come to their senses and given that valuable real estate next to Peanuts to someone else--anyone else--but I'm not holding my breath.  The guy who writes the Culpeper column for the Free Lance-Star would probably make the jump, but I doubt they'd offer the job to him.  Too sophisticated for D.C.  This is, after all, the town that keeps bringing back that silly excuse for a play, Greater Tuna (or one of its even dopier sequels), year in and year out, to Ford's Theater.

In any other town, that piece of fluff runs for a night or two at the Civic Center, then scurries out of town.  In DC, however, it's right up there with Hamlet.  In a town with tastes like that, a hack like Levey must be the Bard.


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