Category Archives: Favorite Columns

Yanking Yasser: Evicting wax terrorists is a slippery museum slope

Reality Check: Most visitors to New York's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum would rather fondle Jessica Simpson's tush than caress Yasser Arafat's beard.

Reality Check: Most visitors to New York's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum would rather fondle Jessica Simpson's tush than caress Yasser Arafat's beard.

CULTURE SCHLOCK — By Darren Garnick
The Telegraph

Originally published: June 1, 2001
In perhaps the most ludicrous government act since the Nashua City Council outlawed back-to-back yard sales a few years ago, the New York state legislature is exploring the possible eviction of a wax Yasser Arafat from the new Madame Tussaud’s museum in Times Square.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and 50 of his fellow lawmakers called on the museum to give Yasser the boot solely because of his career choice: terrorism. The demands are largely symbolic because Madame Tussaud’s is a private business and could, if they wanted to, replace Tony Bennett with Ayatollah Khomeini as their official greeter.

Nonetheless, smelling good copy from the New York Post, Hikind and his supporters recently picketed the museum to pressure Gov. George Pataki to cancel a June 14th Republican Party fundraiser scheduled there. Pataki won’t give up his opportunity to charge $100,000 for stuffed mushrooms and cocktail franks. But the governor did say that he would party with non-terrorist wax figures to prove his opposition to evil and his support for goodness.

Here’s what apparently only Madame Tussaud’s understands: wax museums need villains to counterbalance the heroes. Including unsavory characters in these kinds of exhibits is vital. O.J. Simpson belongs in the mix. So does Tonya Harding. And Ivan Boesky. And every Russian leader (who died every two weeks) when Reagan was in power. Toss in the CEOs of tobacco companies.

I visited Madame Tussaud’s the weekend after Assemblyman Hikind’s protest. Well before I got to the world leaders room, I was offended. I was first outraged by the disproportionate representation of New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle… Joe DiMaggio… George Steinbrenner… disgusting. Not a Red Sox cap in the building. Then, there’s Woody Allen, a “comic genius” who gets away with sleeping with his stepdaughter because he made a few good flicks in the 60s and 70s. And perhaps the most offensive of all, Larry King, proof that the devil is swinging deals for journalist souls.

It’s instantly apparent that this wax museum, which attracts far more foreign tourists than Americans, has no interest in making political statements. Why bother rooting for one side, when you can herd bitter rival factions into the same gift shop? If there is any conspiracy, it was forged between the museum and Kodak. This is a Disneyland where the costumed characters don’t take lunch breaks or strike for health benefits.

Madame Tussaud’s is all about pictures.

Scene 1: An Italian visitor instructs his young son how to pose with supermodel Elle McPherson. The boy, whose height placed him at eye level with the wax figure’s chest, instinctively stretches his arm around Ms. McPherson’s shoulders. No good, says the father, shaking his head. He redirects his son’s hand, firmly pressing it on her behind and smiles. Perfect picture. A father-and-son bonding moment.

Scene 2: Indian man eyeing John Travolta. The tourist hands me his digital video camera, a model which no doubt is the most expensive on the market, and inexplicably asks me to record him for “six seconds.” Like Stallone in both the Rocky and Rambo movies, Mr. DigiCamera writes, directs and stars in his own films. “Hi there!” he says, waving at the camera. “I am here with my friend, John Travolta.” Cut. End of shot. No exploration of his fictitious relationship with Mr. Travolta. No references to Olivia Newton-John, Vinny Barbarino or the Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Imagination, unfortunately, does not come with the camera.

Scene 3: Museum visitor getting a little too intimate with jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Oblivious to everyone around him, the man is caressing Armstrong’s teeth. He does so for at least 15 seconds, an amount of time bordering on obsessive (disclaimer: I am not a licensed psychologist). The guards are looking the other way at Princess Diana, the only wax figure in the museum to be surrounded by fancy velvet ropes.

Yasser Arafat needs no bodyguards at Madame Tussaud’s. Most visitors walk right by him, preferring to be photographed with Pope John Paul II or Lady Di. The anti-Arafat crowd has nothing to fear and nothing to gain by his eviction. The wax Yasser is unloved. Nobody wants to fondle his scraggly beard or pinch his terrorist tush.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column appears every Friday in The Telegraph’s “Encore” magazine. Feedback and ideas are welcome via e-mail at cultureschlock (at)

Yasser Arafat's wax alter-ego is socially shunned by Fidel Castro's wax alter-ego at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York

Yasser Arafat's wax alter-ego is socially shunned by Fidel Castro's wax alter-ego at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York

Culture Schlock Story: “Threatened by Wax?: Arafat deserves museum spot as much as the Penguin or the Riddler.”“Shedding no tears over the wax Hitler beheading.”

Schlock Blog: “The Hezbollah Children’s Museum: A Cross-Cultural Study”

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Filed under Asinine Mideast Analogies, Darren's Archive Vault, Favorite Columns, Foreign Affairs, Middle East, Politically Incorrect Products, politics, Yasser Arafat wax statues

Terrorist Geek Exposed: Action figure hostage hoax fizzles in Iraq

Action Figure Hostage Hoax

Action Figure Hostage Hoax

Culture Schlock – By Darren Garnick
“Toy collector exposes action figure hostage hoax in Iraq”

The Telegraph — February 10, 2005
Newspaper journalists loftily think of themselves as “writing the first draft of history.”  When the definitive stories of the Iraq war are written decades from now, they hopefully will include at least one paragraph on the persistence of toy collector Brady Miller, a military analyst the mainstream media has largely ignored.

Miller’s expertise is in action figures, perhaps the reason why the Associated Press didn’t immediately take him seriously when he called their national desk last week with vital information on a breaking news story from the Middle East. The name of his business, “Monkey Depot,” likely didn’t enhance his credibility as a source.

Based in Mesa, Ariz., the Depot sells the highly evolved descendants of G.I. Joe – meticulously detailed 12-inch plastic soldiers who come with dozens of variations of uniforms, weaponry and other equipment. Miller, who jokingly refers to himself as a “worldwide arms peddler,” specializes in loose parts: offering helmets, boots, berets, gas masks, night vision goggles, belts, binoculars, MREs, propaganda leaflets, grenade launchers and every firearm imaginable in miniature.  His business model was inspired by frustrating experiences as a collector, not wishing to pay $45 for a high-end figure if all he needed was an extra machine gun or flak jacket.

Last Wednesday, while looking up a price on his computer for a customer, Miller stumbled across a breaking AP story on the Yahoo! News site. Iraqi terrorists claimed they had kidnapped a U.S. soldier and posted a grainy photo of the bound American with a gun pointed at his head.

“Even from the thumbnail image, I knew something was wrong,” recalls Miller, finding it odd that the hostage was still wearing his military-issued knee pads. “I clicked on the photo for a close-up right away and after I saw the gun, my gut feeling was absolute. I stare at these things 12-14 hours a day.”


Miller was the first to discover the hoax that the kidnapped soldier was actually a special edition action figure named Cody, which was sold only on U.S. bases in Kuwait. He frantically tried calling several different bureaus of the Associated Press, each time getting referred to their automated reader comment line. “If someone would just take two seconds to look at this, they’d realize this is an action figure and not a real guy,” he told the gatekeepers. Finally, a skeptical photo editor in New York listened and agreed to look at photos of the action figure for comparison.

“Thanks for the great info and images,” the editor fired back in an email. “You have the largest newsgathering organization on the planet at a standstill!”

After confirming the photographs with the manufacturer, Dragon Models USA, the AP ran with the action figure hoax story that instantly became incredulous conversation fodder at water coolers around the world. On his popular news satire Web site, comedian Andy Borowitz later reported that the most recent Osama bin Laden tape was actually the voice of Hokey Pokey Elmo.

“Of course America should be outraged at the atrocities of kidnappings, both real and staged,” says toy publicist Lauri Aibel, a longtime observer of the military action figure industry. “But it seems the terrorists tangled with the wrong market. Hobbyists combed their memories and then their ample collections to quickly unveil the identity of the un-named GI and to them it was as obvious as if they had just seen a scale-size gun pointed at Malibu Barbie.”

Liam Cusak, a spokesman for Dragon Models USA, says he’s “stunned” by last week’s bizarre intersection between the military action figure world and the real world. He notes that the fact someone would confuse a Dragon figure with a real soldier for even a moment is “a great compliment,” but quickly adds: “Of course, we don’t condone anybody pulling these sort of hoaxes just to get attention.”

Speaking of attention, Miller is getting very little of it. Internet journalist Matt Drudge is now widely credited for exposing this hoax first, even though his photographs were the same ones from On top of that, outside of Miller’s hometown paper, all of the major news coverage neglects to even mention him. He also has no plans to brag about his journalistic coup on his Web site, explaining, “I don’t want to try to sensationalize this or even give the appearance of sensationalizing it.”

“I hate to say this,” adds Miller, “but I have to begrudgingly – very begrudgingly – give them (the hoaxsters) credit for the idea. For $44.95 and a little Internet bandwith, they were able to make the troops a little nervous. In this conflict, propaganda and using the media is a key part of the battle.”

Theories abound as to who is behind the hoax – one analyst speculated that this stunt was designed to undermine the credibility of terrorist Web sites – but there is a glimmer of positive news if this was from the usual gang of headchopping thugs. Trying to fake a soldier kidnapping means that it is extremely tough to abduct real ones.

If an action figure fanatic recognized problems with the kidnapping photo, chances are the U.S. military wouldn’t have been fooled either. Nonetheless, it was the toy collector and not the Army who embarrassed the 24/7 press for its report-first, run-a-correction-later mentality.  Every minute longer that the hoax remained unexposed was another minute of needless worrying for U.S. military families.

“This whole experience has been a freakish thing,” says Miller. “But I’m glad this story got squashed when it did.”

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in Encore. Reader feedback is welcome via email at cultureschlock (at)



Squeezing Saddam Hussein’s Noose Into Lemonade: A gallows humor action figure.

Kentucky Toy Surgeon Rescues G.I. Joes on Their Deathbeds: Meet the guy who knows what to do about action figure balding and joint deterioration!

Pink Aisle Refugees: Guys who shop for (and train) Barbie commandos — Do her accessories include rocket-propelled grenades?

Coming to a Gumball Machine Near You: Classism! Trailer park figurines come with kegs and unemployment checks.

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Filed under Action Figure Hoaxes, Darren's Archive Vault, Favorite Columns, Foreign Affairs, Middle East, War Toys

Miss America contestants now slam home states for cheap laughs

CULTURE SCHLOCK — By Darren Garnick
“Miss NH struts home from pageant with dignity intact”

The Telegraph — February 7, 2007
Here’s my journalism conference fantasy (please substitute your own professional development conference here so you can play along):

I’m sitting in a hotel ballroom with folding chairs and we’re going around the room giving personal introductions to our colleagues.

I put my hands on my hips and in a sassy, sing-songy tone, I say: “From the home state of Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, Carlton Fisk and Story Land, I’m Darren Garnick, the pop culture guy for The Telegraph!”

The auditorium goes nuts with applause.

OK, I wake up to my TiVo, which has serendipitously recorded the 2008 Miss America pageant. I’m curious to see how Miss New Hampshire, Rachel Barker, will fare, especially since she’s from the Greater Nashua area. How can I not root for her?

Soon, instead of thinking about the “Live Free or Die” State’s chances, I’m wondering how badly this pageant has been impacted by the writer’s strike.

Miss Maine is strutting in her tight jeans up to the spotlight. She’s giggling and having a blast. “Coming from the home state of McDreamy,” she chirps, “I am Tara Allain, Miss Maine!”

Wow. No traditional references to lobster or the rocky seacoast. Her celebration of actor Patrick Dempsey is almost Dennis Miller-esque. Is Dempsey’s “McDreamy” nickname from “Grey’s Anatomy” really that universally known?

But these Miss America contestant introductions get even more baffling. Many take a page straight out of the Mitt Romney playbook and belittle the beauty queen’s home state for a cheap laugh from the audience. For those of you with TiVos not tuned into your secret viewing pleasures, I have done you the favor of transcribing a few classic lines.

“From the state where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, I am Makenna Smith, Miss Oklahoma!”

Is that all you got, Makenna? Don’t you feel like the Miss America scriptwriter wanted to just get the Oklahoma intro over with?

“Home of the country’s highest birthrate — as long as the Osmonds don’t move — I’m Jill Stevens, Miss Utah!”

Yikes. Aside from mocking Mormon reproduction rates, what are Osmond references doing in a so-called young and hip pageant makeover? Does anyone under 30 even know about Donnie and Marie?

“From the state where you can have a Southern accent and a college degree… Hey y’all, I’m Leah Massie, Miss Georgia!”

“From the state that moved up its primary, but nobody cared, I’m proud to be Miss Wyoming, Jenn McCafferty!”

By far, I feel most sorry for Massie and McCafferty. Both of them delivered their lines with their heads held high, but managed to inadvertently reinforce massive inferiority complexes. Did a Miss America pageant contestant really chipperly say that Southern people are stupid? Did Miss Wyoming really call her home turf the most insignificant, worthless place on earth?

“Home to the First-in-the-Nation Primary, where the hot air blows as fast as the wind atop Mt. Washington, I’m Rachel Barker, Miss New Hampshire!”

Well, at least New Hampshire viewers didn’t reach for their remote controls.

Beyond the opening ceremony, there were plenty of other bizarre Miss America moments.

Semi-finalist Massee, the Georgian who taught us you can still get accepted into college if you have a Southern accent, kicked things up a notch. In a pre-recorded interview, she declared it is possible to be an ‘It Girl” even if you are wearing flip-flops or gym shoes. And that no matter what you wear on your feet, you can still “live a respectful, honest, responsible lifestyle.”

Asked to name a role model, Miss Texas Molly Hazlett called talk show host Kelly Ripa a “great mother” and a “phenomenal woman.” She didn’t indicate if her parenting assessment was based on first-hand observation or from reading Entertainment Weekly.

But those moments paled in comparison to the degrading comments several women were forced to make about their own states. Network executives may never learn that there are millions of people, millions of happy people, who live outside New York and California.

Personally, I’m thrilled for our hometown contestant, Rachel Barker. Miss New Hampshire may not have cracked the top 16 candidates for the shimmery tiara. But she came home to Amherst with her dignity intact.

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs Thursdays in Encore. For an extra helping of “Schlock,” including original films and assorted subversive writings, visit

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Coming to a gumball machine near you — Classism!


CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
“Coming to a gumball machine near you: Classism”

The Telegraph — June 15, 2006
It’s not often you have the opportunity to purchase a gumball
and make fun of poor people at the same time.

This one-stop shopping for elitist snots is now at your local
supermarket, right next to the bottle recycling machines and brochures
about how to get your kid to stop wetting the bed.

For 50 cents, you have a 1 in 12 chance of scoring your favorite
buck-toothed “Trailer Park” figurine
– ready for display right next to
your Franklin Mint dolls of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

To insulate themselves from charges of insensitivity, the coin-op
vendors who service my favorite market also include a machine that
dispenses charity rubber band bracelets that say “Faith” and “Hope”
and “Love” and “Dream.” But back to the poor suckers who live in a
tin box.

The toy tribute to mobile home residents includes characters like
Betty Lou, a scantily clad gas station attendant who can “pump you up
real good,” and Kegger Ken, the guy in charge of “gittin the kegs
ready for the weekely (sic) barbeques they have at the Trailer Park.”

Ha, Ha! Aside from not having any money, those stupid poor people
can’t spell either.

Trailer park culture – or the more commonly used impolite synonym
“white trash” – is white hot at the moment. NBC’s hit “My Name is
Earl” feeds off the stereotypes, as does MTV’s “Trailer Fabulous,” a
mobile home makeover show.

The gumball machine’s marketing card boasts that “Trailer Park”
figurines are “from the creator of the Homies,” a wildly popular
figurine set that celebrates the personalities of urban gang members.
Fantastic selling point. I almost expected to hear these words come
out of the machine in a baritone movie trailer voice.

Toy designer Dave Gonzales insists on his Homies Web site, which also
includes biographies for all his Trailer Park characters, that he is
not glorifying street thugs. Rather, “in an inner-city world plagued
by poverty, oppression, violence and drugs, the Homies have formed a
strong and binding cultural support system that enables them to
overcome the surrounding negativity and allows for laughter and good
times as an antidote for reality.”

Being gullible, I clicked on a random Homie bio to get a sense of this
“cultural support system.” I met “Mad Bomber,” a “famous tagger” who
has been chased by pit bulls and police during his noble quest to
display spraypainted art on previously blank city canvases.

Gonzales has already made a career out of exploiting low-income black
and Hispanic people. He certainly has a right to equally exploit
low-income white people. Especially the fat and sedentary ones like
“Flea Market Fred” and “Lazy Roy,” a guy glued to his recliner faking
injuries to collect welfare.

Then there’s “Doo-Doo-Dan,” a surly figurine wearing soiled overalls.
Dan operates the “Honey Truck,” which suctions all the sewage out of
the trailer bathrooms.

Ha, Ha! A guy who cleans up after other people. What a

The Washington Post, which recently analyzed the trend of “trailer
park chic,” quoted a marketing consultant claiming that rural poverty
is now cool because it represents a “simpler life and more comforting

“Terrorists,” the Post notes, “don’t attack trailer parks.”

Maybe not, but natural disasters do. Imagine how well these figures
would sell if they came with their own trailers to flood and submerge

Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in The Telegraph’s Encore entertainment magazine.

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Leave Boy George alone: Why do you really want to trash him?


THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
“Do you really want to trash me?”

The Boston Herald — August 2, 2006
What impact does humiliation have on employee morale?

You know the answer. I know the answer. But the supervisor of New York
City’s 7,000-plus sanitation workers is inexplicably allowing his
department to be used as a petri dish for criminal

Fallen pop culture icon Boy George, the former lead singer of
gender-bending “Culture Club,” agreed earlier this week to serve five
days of community service as a garbage man in one of Manhattan’s
high-traffic tourist spots. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Anthony
Ferrara threatened the Karma Chameleon, a.k.a. George O’Dowd, with
jail time if he did not report for trash duty before Aug. 28.

Imagine you’re toiling as a street sweeper or a sanitation truck
worker – quite the fun assignment in 100-degree Manhattan smog – and
you learn that a washed-up celebrity has been ordered to do your job.
As a punishment.

The effeminate singer, best known for his outrageous make-up and ribbon-tied
braids, plead guilty to reporting a false break-in at his Little
Italy apartment last fall. Police had discovered cocaine at the scene,
but the drug charges were later dropped.

New York Department of Sanitation spokesman Vito Turso confirmed with
the Daily News that Boy George soon will be bringing his broom and
shovel to high-litter areas such as Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
“We also send them to vacant lots and to sweep sidewalks,” he crowed.

“This is the epitome of community service,” Turso added.
“It’s not like he’s going to be working in an air-conditioned office.”

Since when does a trash department hack get to act like a prison
warden gloating about all the big rocks that will soon be broken down
into little rocks?

Maybe Judge Ferrara hated his childhood piano teacher. Or maybe a
woman once rejected him at a singles dance during “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.”
Because the normal rules of criminal justice don’t apply here.
Assigning the Boy to trash duty is not only vindictive – it’s an inappropriate waste of resources.

His mandatory community service should involve talking to high school
kids about drugs, judging karaoke at a nursing home or warning
Americans about the hidden dangers of falling in love with your

But the judge wants to shame Boy George. He wants those manicured
fingernails to get tarnished by sticky soda cans and cigarette butts.
He wants to see the singer be tormented by the lyrics of his most
popular hit song.

“Do I really want to hurt you?” a meanspirited co-worker might
rhetorically ask. “Do I really want to make you cry?”

So while Boy George is mocked and gawked at by the public, and lives out the sad conclusion of his soon-to-be revised “Behind the Music” biography, the regular guys in uniform must be wondering if their careers are a joke, too.

George has teased the media in the past that he might protest his punishment by showing up to work in a Big Bird costume. At this point in his career, that might be a wise move — providing a gateway to the children’s birthday party market.

Ironically, the Big Apple’s sanitation bosses have made a tremendous
effort to market their profession as highly respected and desirable – even
going as far as issuing special World Series-style rings branding the
DSNY as “New York’s Strongest.”

That image is bound to unravel when the humiliation of the Boy begins.

Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. He was also vehemently opposed to the garbage-themed humilation of supermodel Naomi Campbell.



Do you work in the waste management industry? What do you think of punishing celebrities by making them pick up litter? How long do you think the Karma Chameleon or Miss Naomi Campbell would survive on the back of a garbage truck?

Send your insights to heraldstiff (at)

BOY GEORGE UPDATE: OK, he’s not worth defending…
In January 2009, the Boy was sentenced to 15 months in jail for handcuffing a male escort to a wall and keeping him detained against his will. Maybe he should be assigned to a place where they break big rocks into little rocks — and where he can be handcuffed to the job site.

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Corpse Action Figures: Mad scientists coming to a museum near you


THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
“Where are all the protestors at Body Worlds?”

The Boston Herald — August 16, 2006

Boston’s human rights activists go ballistic whenever a sneaker
company pays overseas workers only a gazillion times their country’s
minimum wage. But when a prestigious city institution is linked to a
Chinese sweatshop that makes corpses into life-size action figures,
there is silence.

Dead silence.

A New York Times reporter recently visited the factory that processes cadavers for the Museum of Science’s new “Body Worlds 2”
exhibit, which debuted two weeks ago and runs through January 7, 2007. In case you’ve missed all the gushing local media coverage, the exhibit showcases plastic-injected human corpses frozen in various athletic and sedentary poses.

For 24 bucks, museum visitors can look at “original, authentic and
inspiring” dead bodies playing soccer, hunched over a computer or
cruising upside down on a skateboard. German scientist Gunther von Hagens, who seems ready to take over for Dr. Evil in the next Austin Powers movie, laughably calls his traveling sideshow an effort to “democratize anatomy.” No longer will medical students be the only ones to see real cadavers, he claims, ignoring the fact that medical students don’t pose their bodies like Barbies.

Von Hagens’ factory in Dalian, China’s third largest port, employs 260 medical school grads to work the “Body Worlds” assembly line.
According to the Times report, factory workers get $200-$400 a month to peel skin, scrape fat off muscle and replace bodily fluids with soft plastic. Based on a 40-hour work week, that comes to $1.25 to $2.50 an hour for what has to be the grossest job in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Von Hagens concedes that his former factory manager may have used “unclaimed bodies” from the morgue when he first set up shop in 1999. Hey, there’s a billion Chinese. Who’s gonna notice if a few missing political prisoners are stripped down to their vital organs, injected with plastic and posed in ballet slippers?

Hey you, Ms. Davis Square Hippie Chick with the “Bread Not Bombs” pin on your backpack and the Che Guevara earrings. Why aren’t you
protesting the Body Worlds sweatshop factory in Dalian?

You know what the difference is between the Body Worlds people and the dead butterflies pinned under glass in the Museum of Science basement?
The butterflies still have their dignity.

The proud inventor of the “plastination” process, von Hagens is
essentially a 21st century Dr. Frankenstein with a gift shop.

At the Body Worlds souvenir stand outside the exhibit, museum patrons can bring home their favorite dead bodies on a set of refrigerator magnets ($12.95), commemorative t-shirts ($25), plastination keychains ($3.95 ), microwave safe coffee mugs ($12.95), and even jigsaw puzzles ($9.95). Fun for the whole family!

The infamous Alcor cryonics lab in Arizona seems almost classy by
comparison. At least you don’t see them selling snowglobes with
floating Ted Williams heads.

Hey you, Mr. Surly Harvard Square Coffee Shop Guy with the “Rage Against the Machine” t-shirt. Why aren’t you protesting the Body Worlds sweatshop factory in Dalian?

Each one of the human sculptures obviously has a name and a life
story. But we’re not told if the face helplessly staring at us was
once a shipbuilder in Gdansk, a dissident college professor in
Shanghai, or a little old lady from Pasadena. Dr. Angelina Whalley,
the exhibit’s designer and von Hagens’ wife, recently told the Herald

“We feel (that) would distract visitors,” she explained. “When you
put information like ‘This was Mr. So-and-So, he was this age, he died of this disease,’ people tend to feel sorry.”

The last thing Dr. Whalley and her unsentimental hubby want is for
people to waste their time with silly emotional issues, moral issues.

Hey you, Mr. Newton City Alderman with the “Save Darfur” sticker on
your Volvo SUV. Why aren’t you protesting the Body Worlds sweatshop factory in Dalian?

According to the mad scientist’s PR people, all of the bodies on
display in Boston signed consent forms when they allegedly had
functioning brains. Now, you can join them. Body donation forms are
available on-line and at the Museum of Science. After your funeral,
you too, could be enjoying a free trip to China.

No promises what you might be doing later though. Maybe you’ll spend eternity lifting barbells or maybe you’ll be forever strapping on pink toe shoes.

Any volunteers?

Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. Stories or rants about the workplace are welcomed at heraldstiff (at)


The mad scientists are upset with me. So much so that they hired a global PR firm to handle their rebuttal.

UPDATE: Casinos go for corpses, entertainment that will knock you DEAD!

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UNSUNG HERO: Grandpa Bob delivered wisdom, heart, the Herald

Bob Tubin

Bob Tubin

THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
“Grandpa Bob delivered wisdom, heart, the Herald”

The Boston Herald — March 15, 2006
If you’re ever lucky enough to approach your 90th birthday, do you
think you’d fondly reminisce about the job you have now? Do you think
you’d even remember the names of your co-workers?

In his words, circulation driver Abraham “Bob” Tubin proudly
“schlepped” newspapers for the Boston Herald from 1949-1979. One shift
would change the Revere native’s life forever. On a rainy Saturday
night in 1954, his truck was slammed from behind by a drunk driver,
burying him in an avalanche of newspaper bundles.

This was a few years before Ralph Nader taught the world about auto
safety. No protective cages separated the drivers from their cargo.
The accident left Tubin with a lifetime of excruciating pain and
seemingly endless hip and hernia operations. Astoundingly, in
retirement, he’d often mention how much he loved his job – how he
would show up early and leave late just to hang out with the guys off
the clock.

Tubin was my Grandpa Bob. He died last Tuesday at age 88 after a long
bout with heart and respiratory problems.

Grandpa carried his Herald ID in his wallet for the rest of his life.
Sandwiched in between family pictures and his subway pass was also the
tattered business card of the late Joe McLaughlin, a star columnist
for the Herald Traveler in the 1960s and 1970s.

The popularity of McLaughlin’s “Tell it to Joe” column — which
resolved a wide range of readers’ problems — gave him celebrity
status in the city. The Herald plastered his face on the side of
delivery trucks and on billboards. Although it was extremely unusual
for loading dock “grunts” to socialize with the newsroom elite, my
grandfather and McLaughlin became close friends.

Their friendship stood the test of time. According to retired
circulation driver Tony Luongo, many of the Herald columnist’s buddies
disappeared once he lost his tremendous clout. “Everybody liked Joe
McLaughlin when he could do something for them,” Luongo says. “Bob was
one of the few guys who visited him during his darkest hours.”

Grandpa delivered toys to orphanages for the “Tell it to Joe”
Christmas drives. Thank you letters from the Jimmy Fund describe him
as the “spark plug” behind the Herald Traveler drivers’ annual
collections. He also generated additional buzz (and dinero) each year
by driving a donated taxi for a day and giving all his fares and tips
to charity.

He was a huge fan of “Take Your Child To Work Day” decades before it
became trendy. Son Bradley often joined him on his newspaper route,
usually punctuated by a triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich and a
mocha ice cream frappe. Years earlier, when he ran a Revere Beach
hamburger stand called “Sloppy Joe’s,” he proudly displayed his
daughters Iris and Barbara on the counter top. The girls thought they
were sitting on a throne.

Revere Beach was his second home. It is where he courted his future
wife Beatrice (“Grandma Bea”) when the shore was brimming with dance
halls and amusement park rides. It is where he later “borrowed” and
meticulously sifted sand for his grandchildren’s first sandbox. And,
it was fittingly the backdrop to his funeral procession route.

Next to inhaling the salty air, his favorite pastime was reading
newspapers. When I was a kid, at least two years of papers were
stacked in his front porch — a mountainous archive where I mined for
old Red Sox boxscores and Sunday funnies to press with Silly Putty. I
credit his newsprint addiction for fueling my desire to become a
writer – and also for my reluctance to throw anything away.

Ultimately, my grandfather’s legacy goes far beyond my ink-stained
fingers. When I think of him, I’m reminded that sometimes what we do
for a living is not our most important job.

Grandpa Bob was in the hospital recuperating from a hip operation when
my son (his third great-grandchild at the time) was born a few years
ago. He was beaming when he looked at the pictures.

“Darren,” he said, “This is the greatest thing you will ever do.”

Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. Comments are welcomed at heraldstiff (at)

Abraham "Bob" Tubin impresses his future wife Beatrice Steinberg with his washboard abs in 1940. Before beginning his career at the Boston Herald Traveler, Tubin ran the "Sloppy Joe's" hamburger stand on Revere Beach.

Abraham "Bob" Tubin impresses his future wife Beatrice Steinberg with his washboard abs in 1940. Before beginning his career at the Boston Herald Traveler, Tubin ran the "Sloppy Joe's" hamburger stand on Revere Beach.


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