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Springer, Starr among 10 defining chutzpah in 1998


A QUICK glance at the calendar tells me that 1998 will end in another day. That means it's time for the annual Chutzpah Awards, to be handed out to those deserving souls who went above and beyond the call of duty in displaying sheer gall.

Ninth runner-up: the management of Radio One, which owns five stations in the Baltimore-Washington area. Management makes the list for its silence in the firing of C. Miles, off the air nearly two months but still the best radio talk-show host in America. WOLB owners may, in their minds, have had legitimate reason to fire Miles. But after proclaiming the listening audience their "family," they totally froze out those family members who called wanting to know what the deal was with Miles. Radio One owner Cathy Hughes and company may not have to tell listeners everything, but they should tell them something.

Eighth runner-up: those anti-death penalty opponents who convinced Tyrone Gilliam that he went to his execution a victim. They argue that race and class are factors in who ends up on death row and who doesn't. They could add a third factor: personal choice. With a few notable exceptions, most of the guys who end up on death row get there because they made some egregiously bad choices. Gilliam made his.

His Muslim brothers and sisters in the Nation of Islam have too much class to say this. But folks have accused me of having no class, so I'll say it for the folks at Mosque Six. Had Tyrone Gilliam joined the Nation of Islam before Dec. 2, 1988, the night Christine Doerfler was murdered, he would have still been alive as of Nov. 17, 1998.

Seventh runner-up: special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who makes the list because of his suspicious timing in sending his report to Congress only weeks before the primary election.

Sixth runner-up: Monica "Boom-Boom" Lewinsky, who whined about how much she loved that man Bill Clinton when they had their affair. Uh, ladies in the readership, how many of you have saved a dress stained with the semen of the man you love?

Fifth runner-up: talk-show host Jerry Springer, who came to Baltimore and told students at the Johns Hopkins University that folks who criticize the guests on his show are guilty of elitism. Uh, Jer, the criticism is not that your guests are not worthy of being listened to. The critics simply ask why the often painful personal topics they discuss are any of our business.

Fourth runner-up: Democrats crying foul because Republicans impeached President Clinton. The how-dare-they attitude of Democrats is shocking, considering the grilling they gave Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork when they ran Congress. And Bork committed no perjury or sexual peccadilloes. Bork's crime was his ideas. He had the nerve to say up front that he was a judge and would do no legislating from the bench while he served on the high court.

Third runner-up: Republicans who couldn't see that their opposition to Lani Guinier's appointment to head the Civil Rights Commission several years ago was based on the same thing the Democrats found so distasteful in Bork: her ideas.

Second runner-up: National Basketball Association owners, who locked out players during the summer and started the labor -management crisis that threatens to cancel the season. For those fans who think the players are the villains - and that's probably most fans - consider that some former players from the 1940s and 1950s - who played less than five years - testified last summer that it's the owners and NBA commissioner David Stern who refuse to give them a pension. The old-timers said they have the support of the players. And the old-timers aren't asking much: $300 to $400 a month for about 70 men.

First runner-up: those sports fans who continue to rail against "overpaid athletes." You'll never hear them utter the term "overpaid actor." So they'll see the error in their logic, I'll propose a hypothetical situation to them. Suppose about 10,000 folks were loony enough to pay $50 a head to watch them do their jobs. But these folks don't pay them. They pay the company they work for. How much of the $500,000 should they get, and what percentage of that money makes them "overpaid"?

And the winner: who else but William Jefferson Clinton, who went before the American people after, in his elegant phrasing, "misleading" them to plead that his affair with Lewinsky was personal? Clinton wins for not giving Starr the answer that should have been given when the prosecutor asked about him and Lewinsky.

"It's none of your bleeping business, Mr. Prosecutor."

Pub Date: 12/30/98

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