The current economic crisis has claimed the job of that journalistic institution known as Hearne Christopher, Jr., who was dismissed in the latest round of firings at the Kansas City Star last week. I normally don’t condone kicking someone when they’re down, but since Hearne made a regular habit of doing so in his columns to other media folks who lost their jobs, I’ll waive traditional protocol here.
HC’s “Cowtown Confidential” gossip column ran 3-4 times a week in the Star, and was the absolute epitome of vapidity, and I constantly asked myself why I even bothered to read it, but I guess the old car accident analogy is true—one couldn't help but look at it! It’s way beyond my realm of expertise as to how on earth a grown man who used terms like "wonk", "schmooze", “inside skinny”, “meister” and "kiddie-bopper" on a regular basis and coined phrases like “homeless dude” and “beggar extraordinaire” rated having a regular column in a major market newspaper. By comparison, Hearne made the high-school kids writing for the "Teen Star" section of the paper sound like seasoned professionals. Then again, to paraphrase a letter writer to the Star who slayed Hearne a few years ago: In Kansas City, there ain't much of an "inside" to be inside of anyway! To wit, being a gossip columnist in Kansas City is akin to being a snow plow driver in the Bahamas.
In general, Christopher’s columns were full of mindless tripe about what Marilyn Manson had for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House while he/she/it was in town or what Sting shopped for at Crown Center along with fluff pieces about the activities of the Watson’s Girl (a semi-irritating overly-perky big-boobed spokesmodel gal who does TV ads for a local swimming pool company). Hearne also kept readers posted on various and sundry rumors and scuttlebutt around the city (often prefaced by his pet phrase “Heard on the street…”) via his network of informants that included third-rate DJs (both radio and nightclub variety), bar owners and concert promoters. HC also had his regular lap dogs to provide fodder for his column like radio station executive Bob Zuroweste, TV weather geek Gary Lezak, light-rail activist Clay Chastain and former radio DJ Kelly Urich, the latter of whose “humor” was a regular feature in Hearne’s column. I didn’t think it was possible to make Gilbert Gottfried seem like George Carlin, but Urich somehow managed to. But I digress…
Of all his lap dogs, Erich “Mancow” Muller was far and away Hearne’s favorite. Even though Mancow hails from right here in Raytown (and graduated from the same high school as yours truly), I fail to see how an overrated shock jock based 500 miles away in Chicago could possibly have his finger on the pulse of what's going on in Kansas City, but that never prevented HC from boring his readers with Mancow’s latest opinions and exploits. If you didn't know any better, you'd swear that Hearne Christopher was actually Mancow's personal publicist, as HC couldn't go more than about three columns without quoting this loud-mouthed boor who doesn’t even have a following in this town, apart from his loyal legion of sycophants.
Christopher also went to great lengths to constantly rip on Mancow’s rival, the equally-irritating Johnny Dare on 98.9 The (C)Rock, especially for the show Dare was fined $250,000 by the FCC for because it featured strippers on it (playing “Twister”, I believe) in the wake of the whole Janet Jackson boob thing. I find it highly incongruous and crass that Christopher would criticize Dare's on-air style when his daily column was practically a never-ending commercial Muller’s show, which isn’t dissimilar to Dare's in terms of style and content (except for the strippers), and it's a safe bet that Mancow will never be known as "Mr. Wholesome Family Values". Hearne was a total hypocrite to criticize Dare's raunchiness while giving Muller a pass for doing essentially the same thing, especially considering that it was also perfectly okey-dokey for Hearne to write about Playboy Playmates and topless models in his columns on a regular basis.
[Oh by the way, I’m hardly a fan of Johnny Dare, but did anyone actually SEE those strippers on his radio show? Didn’t think so. So, exactly why was the show considered obscene?]
I also took issue with the way HC dogged on my man Randy Raley’s morning show on 101-The Fox a few years back, which he deemed to be a “snoozer” just after it debuted and before it even had a chance to find its niche. Nice going, asshole, you probably drove a lot of listeners away from Randy with your remarks without even giving him a chance to succeed. While Randy’s show was far from perfect, it was still light years better than the previous two morning teams on that same station, and was one of the rare morning shows I actually looked forward to listening to every day—it was a welcome respite from Dare’s sophomoric crapfest and the “Over The Hill Gang” at 99.7 KY, the other classic Rock station at the time.
Above all others, Hearne’s most bizarre folly was his championing of infamous panhandler Jerry Mazer (aka, “beggar extraordinaire”/"homeless dude”). Mazer made national headlines several years ago by challenging laws forbidding begging for money on public streets (he was even interviewed on ABC’s “20/20” once, as I recall), saying they were unfair to those of his ilk. Never mind the fact that this asshole refuses to get a real job, thinks nothing of using profanity and calling you names if you turn him down for a handout, and is totally unrepentant about what he does. As a veteran of numerous unpleasant encounters with Mazer myself, I found it appalling that Christopher constantly glorified this churlish loser and made him out to be some sort of local folk hero, as if anyone truly gave a damn about this creep’s every move. It would be poetic justice to think that Hearne is now out on the streets begging with ol’ Jer since he lost his job, but from what I hear (on the streets?), HC is a trust fund baby and his family’s loaded, so he won’t be hurting anytime soon.
There was talk not so long ago of a local radio show for Hearne—as you can clearly see by his mug shot above, he certainly has the face for it. I’d been meaning to do a blog entry on this putz for quite a while now—I was just waiting for HC to produce yet another classic bon mot like “homeless dude”, but I guess I waited too long. Oh well, buh-bye, Hearne—don’t let the door hit yer ass on the way out…