2007-05-04 / Columnists

On The Beach

Commentary By Beverly Baxter

BEVERLY BAXTER It's one thing to intermittently desire anonymity; but because you live in Rockaway, you rarely get it. Living in a small town, one is more apt to find themselves on the front page of the local paper for an overdue library book than to dare crave any shred of anonymity- and that's part of the charm of Rockaway. It's quite another thing to make a brief sojourn to another country for some much needed rest and relaxation and wind up on national TV! So much for "I vant to be alone" quiet solitude!

Owen wanted Aruba, I'm more Mustique; but since we had to be near the mainland, we settled on the quick convenience of the Bahamas. OK, I thought, The Ocean Club is always nice...remote...private…we'll certainly get some rest there! As soon as we touched down in New Providence, chaos ensued! The hotel hadn't any record of our pre-paid reservation and they were entirely booked for the holiday week. My panic turned to practicality and I sought the obvious solution. We'll make some calls and simply go elsewhere. Luckily, there was somewhere else to go. We'll deal with American Express when we get back. As we entered the lobby of the beautiful British Colonial Hotel, Owen still muttering how we should've gone to Aruba and I'm taking the hotel snafu as a sign that we shouldn't have gone away at all, a reporter from a show called Inside Edition puts a microphone in my face and asks for my thoughts on whether "Larry is da baby daddy?" I don't think I mustered more than a monosyllabic "huh?"

Owen, however, gleefully told the guy that he sings and broke out into song! Owen also told the reporter, "Bevie is a writer!" I demurred that I wrote a column in a weekly community newspaper, boasting its second oldest status of its kind in all of NYC, but I assured the reporter that I didn't have any relevant thoughts as to "who's the daddy?" I merely wanted to check-in! But Owen did! And unbeknownst to us, it immediately became apparent by the satellite apparatus, camera equipment and cables strewn about, that we were about to enter the epicenter of the Anna Nicole media frenzy. Actually, the entire hotel was a media set due to the fact that all of the principle players in the case were staying at this hotel. They had descended on the Bahamas for the paternity issue and the release that week of the DNA.

Although I must admit, I, like so many around the world, had been mesmerized by all the legal questions and decisions that rendered this case newsworthy, I am embarrassed that, as a country, our media forces the perverse fixation with the sordid demise of public figures. It's as if we are amusing ourselves to death, or using these news/reality shows as an escape from the mediocrity of everyday life. As someone who is truly a news junkie and who admires the true broadcast journalists of a different era, it saddens me that we've lowered our standards to where there are more and more Katie Courics, or the "playmates" of the journalism world, and less Diane Sawyers and Christiane Amanpours. But regardless, I was in the Bahamas; and when Larry Birkhead is being interviewed on the Today Show which is being broadcast live from the hotel room next door, who am I to shun an invitation to have coffee and watch; or later that day, after the paternity was revealed, when I found myself serendipitously having dinner poolside with the mother, Virgie Arthur, I could not escape being enthralled by all the media outlets and what goes on behind the camera. And after nearly a three hour tête-à-tête with Ms. Arthur, I found I did have an opinion on the matter. The Anna Nicole tragedy, when you water it down and go behind the incarnation of Marilyn Monroe, you find there's little or "no there there"; and the essence of the story is not unlike an everyday mother who loses her grip on her addicted daughter who ascends to an orbit where she can longer be reached. We discussed her frustration with the medical/substance abuse and legal communities and how these two communities seemed to miss each other and the most glaring nature of addiction. At the end of an addict's life, if there is no intervention, the only ones left standing in the room are other addicts or enablers, the bottom feeders and profiteers. It's like Elvis Redux. And this particular woman, who happened to be the mother of an icon, whom we call the subject of a news story du jour, watched helplessly from the sidelines and couldn't stop her daughter's demise. Very compelling, but so sad.

***The RMAC-hosted Literary Arts Festival was, by all accounts, an enormous first success and an important addition to the cultural fabric of our town. Kudos to Event Chairman Stuart Mirsky and Co-Chair Barbara Eisenstadt, who continues to set new cultural standards in bringing this, as well as all of the many worthwhile RMAC events to us. Kudos to Maxine Schack, Shirley Golub, Steve Yaeger, Susan Hartenstein Rosemarie Curley, Myra Berger, Bernice Meyers, Dan Guarino, Martha Voutas Donegan; and Student Writing Competition Judges, Jill Eisenstadt, Michael Drinkard and Neil Gordon. A personal note of thanks to Owen Baxter, Patrick Clark, Kevin Breslin, Videographer, Greg Vanderveer, Claudette and Marvin Eisenstadt, who masterfully procured the wonderful weather!

The winners are: Kathryn Quartuccio, from St. Rose of Lima, First Place Award for Personal Essay; Chris Baierlein, from Beach Channel High School, First Place Award for Poetry; and Jillian Spataro, St Francis de Sales, First Place Award for Narrative. Grade Winners were awarded to Y Ho, Chris Baierlein, Jenna Hoffman, Stephanie Hanna, Steven Resch, Marissa Morales and Thomas Ormsby. Honorable Mention was given to Sabrina Gonzalez, Donovan Deans, Arabia Dodson, Robert Kitt Jr., Oshane Wilke, Rupinder Kaur, Jennifer Furno, Deidre Munday, Jennie O'Hara, Jennifer Keim, John Barca, Cynthia Henderson, Grace McCaffrey, Theresa Kavasansky and Jamie Siller. Certificates of Appreciation were awarded to Stella Maris High School, St. Francis de Sales School, St. Rose of Lima School, P.S. 42, Beach Channel High School, Channel View For Research and Far Rockaway High School. Congratulations to all the participants, who confirmed through their work, that there are so many talented students in our midst. The judges conceded they'd had a difficult time choosing from the many wonderful submissions. I hope to have more information regarding the publishing packages, as well as the RMAC Anthology that we hope to publish in the very near future.

***Save the dates! The Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association will host its General Membership Meeting on Thursday May 11 at Stella Maris at 7:30 p.m. The agenda will focus on the much contested rezoning issue. Your presence is encouraged.

The Rockaway Republicans will host its next meeting on Wednesday May 17th at 8 p.m. at The Belle Harbor Yacht Club. Contact George Greco, Tom Lynch or Stuart Mirsky for details.

***See you...On the Beach!

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