I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen for 20 minutes now, trying to put “black marks on white space,” as a former editor used to say.
But what to write about? So many quirky, strange and bizarre events have happened in the last two weeks that it’s hard to focus on just one topic.
First, there’s the sordid tale of Lisa Nowak, the NASA astronaut who was arrested in Florida for attempted murder and other charges after driving 900 miles wearing a diaper and some kind of O.J. disguise, armed with pepper spray and a BB gun allegedly to kidnap a woman because they were in love with the same astronaut. Late-night talk shows and tabloid newspapers are having a field day with this story. Some of my favorite headlines; “From the Rocket to the Docket,” “Astronut,” and “Lust in Space.” As Letterman said, “It was one small step for man, one giant leap to the nuthouse.”
Let’s give Nowak a break. How many of us haven’t been overcome with the same impulse? OK. None.
Then there’s the tragic, untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith.
I was in the newsroom when word came in that Playboy magazine’s 1993 Playmate of the Year had died in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Reporters, secretaries and editors jumped up from their desks and huddled around the newsroom television.
Smith’s body wasn’t even cold yet and there were about a half-dozen men claiming to be the father of her 5-month-old baby, Dannielyn.
Because the child stands to inherit millions, by way of Smith’s deceased billionaire husband’s estate, the infant has become something of a winning lottery ticket.
Smith’s death is clouded in mystery and comparisons have been drawn to Marilyn Monroe, who died in 1962 from an apparent overdose of sleeping pills.
Smith memorabilia already is popping up on Internet auction sites. Reading bits and pieces about her life, I come away with a sense of sadness that all this woman had going for her was her beauty. Oh, the emptiness of having lived a life that will be mocked for years to come.
Hey, are we having fun yet?
Let’s move on to the next story.
Four-year-old Rebecca Riley of Hull. She died a slow and painful death allegedly at the hands of her parents, Michael and Carolyn Riley, who were feeding her Clonidine tablets like they were PEZ candies. Why? Because she fidgeted. And some genius psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, prescribed the potent drug after diagnosing the toddler with, get this, attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Kifuji also said the girl had bipolar disorder, which means Riley had dramatic mood swings. What kid doesn’t fidget and have dramatic mood swings?
And it’s easy to throw rocks at the parents, but there is so much culpability to go around in this case. From the family members to the Department of Social Services, to the psychiatrist, to the pharmacists.
There is supposed to be some kind of support system, some kind of safety net that will prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future. How do all these people sleep at night?
OK, just one more, because I’m getting tired and depressed (Maybe I’m bipolar).
This out of Providence: A woman and her boyfriend are charged with having sex in front of her 9-year-old daughter. I’m not making this up. I wish I were. The boyfriend told authorities that he didn’t believe in hiding anything and wanted to teach the girl about sex.
Meanwhile, flying well below the radar, a grand jury in Washington is looking into allegations that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff, was involved in a high-level CIA leak. This story has Watergate potential in terms of its impact on the White House. This is really important, but do we care?
Hardly. We want to know who Dannielyn’s father is, and I need to put black marks on white space.
Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is dshaughnessey@thevalleydispatch. com.