Anthony Bourdain & Nancy: Happier Times

June 30, 2008

By Karen

Life seemed rosy for Tony and Nancy Bourdain when his book, Kitchen Confidential, became a best-seller and earned him an interview in the August 14, 2000, issue of People.

The article, “Reality Bites,” by Peter Ames Carlin and Debbie Seaman, covered ground very familiar to Bourdain fans today so I won’t repeat it, but Nancy was also quoted and here, at last, is a good photo of her:

The photo caption reads: “The stuff we eat is awful,” said Nancy (at home with Bourdain). “But if we’re having a family gathering, I can press him into service.”

Here’s what Nancy said in the article:

Though Bourdain likes to project a freewheeling image, the demands of full-time cooking and a thriving writing career don’t give him much time to waste. “He’s really disciplined,” says Nancy, 45, who helps research Bourdain’s books. “I can’t remember the last time he’s had eight hours’ sleep.”

Now working on a travelogue about exotic foods (“I’ll be looking for monkey brains and poisonous blowfish gizzards”), Bourdain, who lives with Nancy in a spacious one-bedroom apartment in uptown Manhattan, is usually too tired to cook at home. “I thought I’d be eating well,” Nancy says with a chuckle. “I do – if we go out.”

(My thanks to reader Chris who sent me the original article.)

Did Nacho Breath Make Tatiana the Tiger a Man-Eater?

June 27, 2008

By Fred

Lawsuits in the December 2007 maulings are still pending, but one lawyer claims the late Tatiana became a ravenous killer because the San Francisco Zoo chronically underfed her.

The facts are pretty damning. When Tatiana arrived in SF in December 2005 from the Denver Zoo where she was raised from a cub, she’d been eating 42 pounds of meat 7 days a week and weighed 292 pounds.

When she was killed last December after attacking three teenage boys, she weighed only 242. Her diet in SF was only 32-36 pounds of meat 6 times a week. She’d dropped 20 pounds in the first month alone.

Written records and observers indicate that Tatiana was a notorious grabby-paws at mealtime. During a public feeding in December 2006, she clawed and gnawed zookeeper Lori Komijan’s arms through the cage bars. The very next day, the zoo increased her weekly meat ration to 38-42 pounds, but cut back again 5 weeks later.

Komijan’s civil lawsuit claiming zoo negligence goes to trial September 2.

Now the lawyer for the family of the late Carlos Sousa, Jr., says that smelling nachos on one of the Dhaliwal brothers could have made Tatiana mistake the boys for Tiger Chow.

However, Tatiana’s autopsy revealed she had a full stomach (which weakens the “nacho cravings” argument), was in excellent health, and showed no signs of malnourishment.

So if the boys’ lawsuits are filed as expected, their success will likely depend on jurers believing the zoo turned Tatiana into a starving predator who went nuts over nacho breath.

Rambo, the Taxi Tabby: His True Story

June 26, 2008

By Yul

Cab-driver Dan Somers read my post about his cat, Rambo, the Taxi Tabby, and provided what the media missed – Rambo’s remarkable beginnings. Here’s what Dan revealed:

“Rambo is 8 years old now. I have had him since he was a tiny kitten. My 15-year-old nephew, Tony, was staying with me and noticed commotion at a busy intersection here in West Palm Beach, Florida. A drunken homeless man had been struck by a car and killed while riding his bicycle. Tony noticed a little kitten’s head sticking out of the deceased man’s pocket and brought it home to me.

“I grew up with cats as my grandmother had as many as 25 at one time. The kitten’s ears were not yet erect and its eyes were closed – it wasn’t weaned from its mother.

“We learned that the kitten was taken from a stray litter, but we didn’t know where it was. But I have heard that once a human makes contact with a kitten, the mother cat rejects it and it would die.

“The vet confirmed that this kitten was not yet weaned. He told me how to feed it with a small bottle and special formula. He also showed me how to make it urinate by pushing on its lower stomach, like the mother would have done.

“After several weeks, the kitten’s ears erected, his eyes opened, and he was eating and urinating on his own. Since I was basically his mother, it created a very special bond between us.

“I clearly noticed a major difference in his personality. The normal stubborn cat trait had been deleted and he did most anything I asked him to do. I taught him basic commands such as sit, lay, stay, get in your bed, etc. This cat was special.

“About a year ago I started taking him with me in my taxi nights and he adapted almost immediately. When he got comfortable enough, he started to stick his head out the window and liked the breeze. In a short time, he stuck his head out all the time, even at high rates of speed, with his ears, hair and whiskers blowing back with the wind.

“Everywhere I went, people would see him. I became very well-known. Local news companies did a story and video, then CNN picked up the story. A lot of pet and animal Web sites discovered Rambo and he is appearing everywhere.

“I have been teaching Rambo more commands and tricks as he is very trainable. I can teach him to do most anything you can teach a dog, mostly because I think he does not know he is a cat! I think cats are as smart as dogs, and in some cases smarter because they are more cautious than dogs.

“I am totally convinced that all cats know what you want them to do – they just don’t do it unless they feel like it. But Rambo does everything I ask without hesitation. If you have the patience to get a cat to do just one command for you, 99% of the battle of training is over. Rambo doesn’t even want a treat or reward for his obedience, just a pet, a hug, a kiss, and a “Good Boy.” It’s remarkable!”

Daniel Joseph Somers III, President
American Eagle Taxi, LLC, and Owner of Rambo Somers

(Note: Rambo’s story edited for length. Full text available as a comment on original posting.)

Can $1 Million Make Cats Love Meow Mix?

June 25, 2008

By Yul

Del Monte Pet Foods has hired David Doyle, the mastermind behind the World’s Ugliest Dog competition, to exploit cats next by producing The Meow Mix® Game Show.

It boils down to a ploy to unload a lot of Meow Mix on cats. A container of Meow Mix treats recently ended up in the trash here after Cats Working gave it 3 tails down so, for the sake of all concerned, I hope the food is a lot tastier.

Auditions are being held around the country to select 8 cat-human teams to compete on the show. Actor Vincent Pastore, a cat person who was aptly named Big Pussy on The Sopranos, was one of the judges recently in New York.

Every team who auditions takes home free samples and earns a pound of Meow Mix to go to a local animal shelter.

Here are some details on the competition itself, and it will be a miracle if all 8 cats cooperate.

They’ve made the chances of anyone getting the $1 million grand prize practically nil because it will take pure luck for a cat and human to pick out two random bags of Meow Mix containing identical winning cards.

Otherwise, the teams who win, place, and show will receive $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, with an additional 10 percent each going to local cat-related charities (the only good thing coming out of all this). The winning cats will also get stuck with… uh, win… a year’s supply of new Meow Mix® Wholesome Goodness™ cat food.

The Meow Mix® Game Show airs on GSN November 15 at 8 p.m. Don’t miss it.

Did Big Brown Get a Last-Minute Shoe Switch?

June 24, 2008

By Fred

I finally found a photo of Big Brown’s loose shoe on ESPN.

I can’t tell if it’s like this cushioned, glue-on Yasha horseshoe they said Big Brown was going to wear at Belmont. I think they even showed one on TV right before the race. But the close-up of Brownie’s loose shoe looks to me like there’s a bit of nail sticking out.

The Yasha doesn’t look like it uses any nails. So at the last minute did they switch shoes on Big Brown? Why? He’d been winning races on Yashas.

Why isn’t anybody but a cat asking these questions?

Cat Helped Create World’s Ugliest Dog

June 24, 2008

By Adele

Some feisty tomcat in Gus’ past cost him an eye, but it worked in Gus’ favor at the 20th annual World’s Ugliest Dog competition at the Sonoma-Marin Fair held in Petaluma, Calif. on June 21.

Gus is a pedigreed hairless Chinese Crested – which means he’s hideous even on a good day. Being also one-eyed, three-legged, and suffering from skin cancer helped him beat all the other ugly contestants, including Sam, a truly horrifying Chinese Crested who’d won 3 years straight from 2003-2005.

Gus traveled from Florida with his owners, Jeanenne and Janey Teed, who rescued him from life in a crate in someone’s garage. Now he’s on national TV and a guest on CBS This Morning.

In addition to being visually repugnant, Gus is hardly Mr. Personality. He slept through most of the competition, but when he’s awake, he bites.

The cat world has few such events because ugly cats are rare. Well, some look like they smashed into a wall face-first, but their gorgeous fur still makes them favorites at cat shows.

Most cat owners would never exploit our diseases and deformities for 15 minutes of fame because it’s just not worth sleeping on urine-soaked pillows. Payback is hell.

There’s a sad Web site looking for “ugly cats,” but it mostly features cats wearing ugly facial expressions, especially when they’re sopping wet. One owner exposes her poor cat Sticky’s cleft palate. Shame on her!

Animal Planet airs the World’s Ugliest Dog competition in October. If you watch it, don’t be eating.

Big Brown: Shoe Trouble or Glue Trouble?

June 23, 2008

By Fred

Ignoring the likelihood that Big Brown’s performance at Belmont was due to horse sense, humans are still rationalizing his historic last-place finish. But early on, Big Brown was the only one who knew his right hind shoe was flapping. A freelance photo just published in The Blood-Horse magazine captured it.

When Brownie’s owner, Michael Iavarone, saw the photo, he told Newsday, “The picture shocked me. When the shoe spread, a nail could have been pinching him. Or he could have been stepping on a hot nail, which would have been worse. I’m guessing the nail went back in but not in the same spot. Or it could have been a loose shoe, which would be like trying to run with a wobbly cleat. Any of those things would be significant for a horse running a mile and a half.”

Big Brown was supposed to be wearing Yasha shoes, which don’t even use nails.

Ian McKinlay invented the Yasha, which is glued to the hoof instead of nailed. It has padding that absorbs impact. McKinlay describes it as “like wearing a sneaker.”

Big Brown’s problem was loose glue. It would explain why he later didn’t seem to be favoring that foot and why they didn’t find any blood or other injuries to his hooves after the race. It was more like he just popped a French tip.

Big Brown is scheduled to race again on August 3 in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. I hope they make sure his glue sets before post time.

Obama’s Campaign Finance “Double-Cross”

June 20, 2008

By Yul

Why is it every time a Democrat learns more, gains experience, and then decides to change course, Republicans scream he’s a dishonest, underhanded flip-flopper? After the past 7 years, haven’t they seen the inherent idiocy of George W. Bush’s First Commandment:

“Thou shalt not forsake any really bad idea even if it destroyeth you.”

Obama has decided not to accept public campaign funding. He can raise more money on his own and knows he’ll need it when the Republican “Swift Boat” smear squads kick in to high gear.

McCain’s whining, “Obama lied to me!”

Well, that’s true. Obama’s done a total 180. It indicates he lives and learns. So sue him.

If we were talking about McCain pulling himself up by his bootstraps, rejecting a government handout to demonstrate his skill at raising and administering vast sums of money, everyone would say he embodies the finest Republican ideals. But when Obama leaves $85 million in the federal kitty to pay his own way, he’s a double-crossing villain.

We know campaign contributions from lobbyists and corporate PACs are just bribes for future favors, and politicians who accept them do so at their own risk.

But is money coerced out of stupid taxpayers who believe they’re not really giving it in their taxes because it’s left by the “Campaign Finance Fairy” – and they don’t even care who gets it – any better?

With all the other needs people have, government using their money to finance elections is like dumping their fresh Fancy Feast® down the garbage disposal. I don’t see how it’s a bad thing for Obama to rely on voters who know who he is and donate because they want him to win.

Tatiana the Tiger Replaced X3

June 18, 2008

By Fred

Maybe officials at the San Francisco Zoo were quick to kill Tatiana the tiger when she escaped and attacked 3 boys because they knew another tiger had a bun in the oven.

On March 6, 5-year-old Leanne gave birth to 3 healthy male Sumatran cubs. The zoo thought there was only one cub for about a week, until Leanne got up to get a drink of water and revealed 2 more.

Cubs at 9 days old

The cubs’ father is 10-year-old George. Leanne and George were introduced in SF on a blind date arranged by a Denver aquarium and a San Antonio zoo, and it must have been love at first sight.

Leanne has been an excellent mother, and her cubs made their first public appearance together on April 23. Here’s some video of proud mother and sons, taken when they were about 2 months old.

It’s believed there are only about 400-500 Sumatran tigers living in the wild, mostly on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in national parks, so gaining 3 more is a big deal.

With these new additions, the San Francisco Zoo now has 4 lions and 7 tigers. The zoo’s Web site has lots of pictures of the cubs, but I couldn’t find anywhere that they’ve been named yet.

Let’s hope the zoo’s efforts to fortify the cat enclosure will protect all the cats from humans like the Dhaliwal brothers.

If cats were in charge, the Dhaliwals wouldn’t still be roaming free after causing Tatiana’s death and another boy’s. We’d be building a high wall with a moat around them.

Mooching Helmsley Heirs Screw Pooch Out of $10 Mil

June 17, 2008

By Fred

Leona Helmsley’s 9-year-old Maltese, Trouble, wound up in deep judicial doo-doo when grandkids of the wealthy, infamous, and late “Queen of Mean” got greedy.

Helmsley – best known for saying, “Only little people pay taxes” – died last August at age 87. She left $12 million to Trouble and nothing to 2 of her adult grandchildren, “for reasons known to them.”

Helmsley also wanted one of her grandsons or her brother to adopt Trouble, but they both declined, being interested only in the money.

The disinherited grandkids couldn’t let Grandma RIP and contested her will. In convincing a judge that Helmsley was crackers in the end, they reaped millions for themselves and got their own brother’s and great-uncle’s sums reduced.

But now they can’t talk about it.

Trouble got royally ripped off. Separately, the judge decided to transfer 5/6 – $10 million – of Trouble’s money to Helmsley’s charitable foundation.

The dog’s only representation seemed to be an affidavit from her new caretaker, Carl Lekic, who manages the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel in Florida.

Lekic said Trouble seems happy and could be maintained on her remaining $2 million for another 10 years, although he only expects her to live 5. Here’s his breakdown of Trouble’s current annual budget:

24/7 security – $100,000
“Guardian fee” to Lekic – $60,000
Grooming – $8,000
Miscellaneous – $3,000
Medical care – $2,500–$18,000
Food – $1,200

These figures make me wonder what crap he’s feeding Trouble to rack up such huge vet bills – but shelling out $273.97 a day for security, of all things. That dog should be living on filet mignon. She spent the best 8 years of her life playing “best friend” to Leona Helmsley and deserves every penny she got. In fact, she has even continued to carry on the family legacy by earning her own reputation as a nippy little bitch.

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