- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Target audience

No venison, no guns, no skeet. Vice President Al Gore thinks New York officials should bar the National Rifle Association from opening a theme restaurant on Times Square.

"Surely, they can find a better tenant," he said yesterday, adding that America must "get handguns out of the hands of people who should not have them."

Mr. Gore was in Manhattan for an appearance on ABC.

"Look at how great Times Square is now," he continued. "It's just so wonderful, and families come there." The NRA Grille "is the last thing that Times Square needs."

The City Council agrees, and is now urging the 3.5 million-member group to drop plans for an eatery that would include grilled game, virtual-reality trap and skeet shooting and a shop selling camouflage goodies, among other things.

"The promotion of guns has no place in such an entertainment venture and especially not in Times Square, where the city has worked hard to rid the area of guns and gun-related violence," the council noted yesterday.

One council member called the the NRA's restaurant "outrageous," but noted the city could not legally block it.

The NRA, meanwhile, has kept its eyes on the prize. Lease negotiations are still going forward.

"If the City Council of New York cannot stomach the fact that 40 million Americans participate in shooting sports, they will choke on their own political correctness," said NRA spokesman Bill Powers.

Target, Part 2

Meanwhile, the New York City Council doesn't seem to mind fake guns, violent video and clandestine amour.

Fresh on Times Square is Bar Code, an arcade-nightclub that is open 24 hours a day and features such shoot-'em-up games as House of the Dead, Tekken Tag and Time Circus.

And couples, New York magazine noted this week, "make out" behind the black curtains of one game "flanked by two plastic guns," while a deejay elsewhere offered a $10 game token "to the first woman who takes her bra off."

Someone else, writer Logan Hill said, was handing out fliers for "Assault & Battery," an underground bare-fisted fight club. Meanwhile, a bit of marijuana smoking was spotted in the men's room as well.

Bill & Joe

President Clinton will have written his autobiography by the time his dynasty ends, at least according to Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, still manning the hottest hot seat in the world.

Several major PR firms are already trying to woo Mr. Lockhart into their stables once his White House tenure is through.

A chipper Mr. Lockhart tells PR Week this week that his job is "classic crisis management" with an eye on accuracy. He also thinks the days of the prolific spinmeister are on the decline. "Information," he said, "is so easy to come by."

But he won't be writing any hot tell-all book about his time at the press podium.

"It's a common-sense standpoint," Mr. Lockhart said. "Nobody in their right mind wants to read another book about the Clinton administration. By the time I leave, there will be a definitive autobiography by President Clinton. I know which one I would rather read. And anyway, I'm not sure I could relive it all."

Bill & Al

Ever since he dropped out of the race, former presidential candidate Bill Bradley has stayed mum for months about his true feelings for the Democratic Party.

Would Mr. Bradley ever join the forces of Vice President Al Gore?

His silence inspired the Republican National Committee to keep a gleeful tally of the days "since Bill Bradley refused to endorse Gore on March 9th."

Now the tally must end. Yesterday, Mr. Bradley finally took the plunge.

"I said I give him my full support, and that's what I will do," Mr. Bradley said yesterday outside polls in Montclair, N.J., where he had come to vote in the state's primaries.

The easygoing ex-senator added that he planned to campaign for Democratic candidates, including Mr. Gore, come autumn.

"We're in the midst of very productive discussions with the Gore campaign, so I'll leave it at that," Mr. Bradley said.

Raised voices

The 44-year-old Washington Opera may soon be known as the National Opera.

Yesterday, the House voted to give it a name that has a lot more gravitas, right alongside the National Symphony Orchestra. Both perform at the Kennedy Center.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Goodling, Pennsylvania Republican, said the opera company "has achieved the stature of a world-class company" and deserved an equally fitting new name.

His peers agreed by voice vote, naturally.

He, she and it

Farther upstate, the gentlewomen of New York have had it with the old-fashioned prose of yesteryear.

Female legislators up in Albany want 170 words in the state constitution to be purged because they use the dreaded "he" words identifying officials with masculine pronouns.

Under a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, a Democrat from Ossining, and Sen. Patricia McGee, a Republican of Franklinville, 170 words in the document would be dumped in favor of neutral terms, or the more convoluted form of "he or she."

"It's time for a change. It's the year 2000," said Miss Galef. "We've had three lieutenant governors who are women. And the head of the court system is a woman. And one day, we will have a woman governor."

It's taken 81 years for feminine ire to grow. Women have held office in New York since 1919. Currently, there are nine in the state Senate and 36 in the state Assembly.

Meanwhile, Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and New Hampshire are also considering the gender-neutral route in their constitutions. Delaware and Nebraska alone have passed initiatives so far.

The web of Debbie

Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan has been wrangling over his spot with Rep. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat who has lashed out at him in the past few months through anti-immigration TV ads underwritten by Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Now Mr. Abraham is lashing back via the Internet.

His own campaign has launched LiberalDebbie.com, a new Web site meant to explain the pros and cons of Mrs. Stabenow's beliefs.

"Debbie Stabenow is far too liberal for Michigan," said Joe McMonigle, spokesman for the Abraham campaign.

Indeed. The site has received 14,000 hits since it went on line May 26 (www.liberalDebbie.com).

"We know Stabenow will attempt to run away from her liberal record," Mr. McMonigle continued. "So it's up to us to tell Michigan voters where she really stands on the issues. The virtual truth squad is open 24 hours a day."

Another first lady

Russia's new first lady, Lyudmila Putin, made her first public appearance yesterday at a women's prison in Moscow, where she told inmates that "all applause should be directed not at me, but at my husband."

The appearance was closed to foreign press and presented, observers said, "tightly scripted" on state television.

"I hope when you leave here, you find the moral and physical strength to live a worthy life in this very cruel world," she said. "I hope that you find the strength not to commit more crimes."

Mrs. Putin noted in a recent book that she wept upon hearing her husband was to become president back in January.

"I cried all day, because I knew that this was the end of our private life," Mrs. Putin wrote.

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