SAD TO SAY, OUR TOWN: Warren Zevon's reporting trip!


Werewolves of the Washington Post: At some point in the 1970s, almost surely when he was still in his 20s, Warren Zevon went, or was sent, on a reporting trip to England.

Phil Everly seems to have been involved. When Zevon published his findings, he included such observations as these:

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain. He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's, gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein.

He also warned about this:

He's the hairy-handed gent who ran amuck in Kent. Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair. You better stay away from him—he'll rip your lungs out, Jim. I'd like to meet his tailor!

Zevon reported seeing a werewolf drinking a piƱa colada "at Trader Vic's"—presumably, at its London location. "His [the werewolf's] hair was perfect," the crusading reporter claimed.

All through his report, Zevon stressed the impeccable surface appearance of these unnoticed half-human shapeshifters. We thought of Zevon's breakthrough work when "Werewolves of the Washington Post" surfaced in numbers last week.

In this case, the number of werewolves in question was four. The number rises to five if you're willing to count this "editorial cartoon" by Ann Telnaes. Extending a seasonal pardon, we aren't.

As we documented yesterday, it has become a tradition. The wolves began to run through the streets of D.C. after first lady Melania Trump unveiled this year's White House Christmas decorations. 

Over the course of the past four years, Secret Service protection denied the wolves physical contact with the first lady's throat. 

Frustration builds through the course of the year. On Tuesday morning, December 1, the howling began in earnest.

"Gender columnist" Monica Hesse snapped and growled on the front page of Style. The sheer inanity of this tradition is captured in this passage:

HESSE (12/1/20): The end of Donald Trump’s presidency means the end of a lot of things, but one I’m personally grateful for is that we can all finally stop reading (or writing) stories about Melania. We can stop speculating on whether she actually speaks five languages, or what she meant by “I really don’t care, do u?” We don’t have to read into her slappy hand movements, delivered when her husband reaches for her arm; we don’t have to hear about her alleged pre-nup negotiations or what bed she sleeps in or doesn’t.

Transformed as she was by the seasonal angst, Hesse pretended that someone has been forcing her to read (and write) "stories" about the first lady. Someone had been forcing Hesse to speculate about how many languages the first lady knows, even to hear about what bed she sleeps in. Or doesn't!

Werewolves of Yuletide, ah-oooh! (To hear Zevon deliver his report, you can just click here.)

Hesse began her essay with standard snark about how inhuman the first lady is. (All the children go there.) She proceeded to offer a standard reference to The Handmaid's Tale, but also to this season's newest form of tribal tinsel—the claim that supporters regard the first lady as elegant only because she's so white.

She also worked with "Who gives a f---?" We'll try to get there tomorrow.

On that same day, in that same print edition, "senior critic-at-large" Robin Givhan was howling at the moon also. Her essay appeared atop page A2. Like the rest of her stablemates, she was troubled by the Christmas decorations too.

As the world has known since the time of the 2000 Florida recount, you can't get dumber than Givhan gets when she leaves his chosen field—the pointless field of upper-class fashion—and starts to comment on major political figures. 

When Givhan discusses the first lady's Christmas decs, the headlines which sit above her essays pull no rabbit punches:

Post headline, 2019: Melania Trump’s Christmas decorations are lovely, but that coat looks ridiculous

Post headline, 2020: Melania Trump seems quite content on her pedestal

Like Hesse, Givhan complained about how "tall and thin and White" the first lady is. They were employing a theme on which The Werewolves of the Upper-End Press have finally landed this year. 

Givhan would join Hesse in play the whiteness card. A bit more simply, she chose to open with full-blown unvarnished snark:

GIVHAN (12/1/20): Look at her. Because despite her protestations, that is what Melania Trump would like you to do. That’s what supporters find solace in doing. Let your gaze linger.

In her final Christmas video, the one produced during a pandemic, Trump emerges into frame on a staircase landing high above a tree-filled hallway, while wearing a shimmering blouse and slim skirt. She strolls through the White House and marvels at the handiwork of others—who remain unseen. She doesn’t hang a bauble and she most certainly doesn’t step into the kitchen for a peek at the secrets behind the 25 pounds of icing on the gingerbread White House.

The decorations, themed to “America the Beautiful,” mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, celebrate first responders and highlight the country’s wildlife. Trump goes it alone in this slow-motion video that eschews behind-the-scenes flashes of the many masked volunteers who climbed atop ladders and wielded glue guns. There are no references to socially distanced team work. She’s not guiding the public in an intimate virtual tour.

The video is a high-glamour narrative in which she is the star.

Givhan complained that the first lady had behaved this way "during a pandemic." It didn't seem to enter her head that she herself was drowning the world in ugly, stupid, trivial snark during this same brutal period.

Givhan complained that the first lady's video doesn't include the many volunteers who helped create the decs. It doesn't show us the workers in the kitchen, the people up on the ladders. 

The video in question was one minute long. Werewolves of Yuletide again!

Hesse and Givhan occupied high-visibility spots in that day's print edition. On that same day, Molly Roberts' takedown of the decs appeared in the Post online.

Roberts is four years out of college. To her credit, she compensates for her tender years by basically knowing it all.

Not failing to cite The Handmaid's Tale, she reviewed four years of the first lady's "downright spooky" Yuletide "horror shows." Astoundingly, she closed by journeying back four years to cite a Melania tweet:

ROBERTS (12/1/20): “What is she thinking?” Trump tweeted in the distant days of 2012 to accompany a snapshot of a beluga whale. The creature’s head is thrust through the sea’s surface, and its jaw yawns wide open in what it is tempting to call a smile. The post resurfaced as she took on the title of first lady, and ad infinitum those watching her, hating her and loving her have pondered the query. This unusually usual holiday display may finally give us an answer: not much at all.

What has the first lady been thinking? "Not much at all," the Harvard kid saucily said as she wrapped up her werewolf performance. ("Ad infinitum" is Latin.)

As noted, it was December 1. By now, the Post had published three—count em, three!—sneer-alike essays by three of its stable of wolves. 

We might have thought the assault was done—but Saturday, on the op-ed page, Alexandra Petri shared her own thoughts on the current decs. Petri amused Post readers with this, humorous headline included:

PETRI (12/5/20): The nine circles of Melania Trump's Christmas decorations

Midway upon the journey of my life, I found myself in the midst of a dark and festive wood. I sought to escape the wood and climb away, toward 2021 and the new administration I could see gleaming just on the horizon, but there appeared a figure before me whose voice seemed rusty from long silence.

“Virgil?” I said.

“Melania Trump,” the figure said. “Follow me, and I will guide you among these ominous trees, through a place where you will hear desperate lamentations and see ancient, disconsolate spirits in torment. Would you like a tour of the White House Christmas decorations?”

Petri, another Harvard kid, was playing the Virgil card—and we don't mean Virgil Tibbs! She was comparing Melania's decs to Dante's nine circles of Hell!

(According to Dante's detailed report, he had been guided by Virgil.)

According to Zevon's breakthrough reporting, well-groomed werewolves were roaming freely through London highest circles. "I saw Lon Chaney dancing with the queen," Zevon reported, "doing The Werewolves of London."

Today, high-end shapeshifters of this very type are employed all over D.C. And when we think about Our Town, it's amazing to understand this:

Many of us, right here in Our Town, can't see, or begin to understand, how this utterly stupid shit will look to so many others. Anthropologically, we're too prehuman to think about this and too prehuman to care.

The Werewolves of the Washington Post all have excellent tailors. Along with the pair of Harvard kids, Givhan graduated from Princeton. Hesse settled for Bryn Mawr.

Werewolves are quite well received in Our Town. They often went to the finest schools. Is it possible that this explains why we aren't better liked?

Tomorrow: The soul of our floundering town. Also, Hillary's decs!


  1. Our culture has gone collectively insane. Television, the internet and propaganda have driven us mad.

    1. There are psychological and neurological effects of covid that are barely understood at this point in the pandemic. Given the large number of covid infections that display few symptoms, someone who doesn't know they have had covid may have been affected in ways that change brain functioning and consequent behavior. Given the lack of testing, we don't even know the true incidence of covid in our society.

      I wouldn't be so quick to blame the internet and propaganda.

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  2. Unfortunately, Warren Zevon was a drug addict and alcoholic who beat his wife and squandered his musical talent.

    How can a werewolf have an impeccable appearance when Zevon plainly recognized them and called one "a hairy handed gent"?

    Warren Zevon passed away in the mid-80s and isn't here to protest the use of his name and lyrics by Somerby. That makes this dirty pool.

    There is a line in The Right Stuff that fits this situation:

    "We think your Jose Jimenez impression is A-OK, we just don't like what you're doing with it."

    Amen to that. Somerby can talk about werewolves without invoking Warren Zevon to lend authority or credibility or faint lucidity to his words.

  3. "Extending a seasonal pardon, we aren't."

    That was a pretty tame cartoon. I don't think it requires any kind of pardon. Melania said every word of that on tape. Why should anyone ignore that kind of attitude in a First Lady? She should have apologized, or better yet, not said it, even to a friend. If she doesn't understand the importance of Christmas decorations, it explains a lot about all of the other things she doesn't understand about her job and position in society. She deserves every word of that criticism.

  4. Melania doesn't speak 5 languages. She doesn't speak English well enough to deliver a speech without plagiarizing from Michelle Obama. "Be Best"? And everyone pretended that was a normal slogan as written, missing the little words that would make it coherent: Be your best, or Be the best, or Win at all costs all the time.

    Hint: She doesn't have a degree in architecture either.

  5. Well done, Bob. Thank you.

    1. Say hello to Mao when you see him.

  6. "Hesse pretended that someone has been forcing her to read (and write) "stories" about the first lady"

    Yes, it was her job to cover the First Lady. Too bad it had to be someone like Melania, who is as unfit to be First Lady as Trump is to be president.

    Somerby seems to think the press should be covering up for Melania. Does that extend to Donald too? Should the press ignore or normalize the bizarre behavior of this couple? The press is accountable to the truth, not Somerby or any political party. Is it true that Melania wore a tasteless jacket that needed explanation of some kind? Absolutely. Is it true she claims 5 languages and a degree in Architecture from Slovenia? Yes, she claims those accomplishments but there is no verification of them. She came to America as a model, not a student or architect. In fact, she came on a tourist visa, overstayed that, met Trump and then his lawyer helped her acquire a fraudulent "genius" visa (meant for famous and talented artists, writers and musicians). There is no immigration category for beautiful girlfriends of rich guys.

    Somerby wants us to "not care" about that stuff, but I do and I think many others do as well, which is why Hesse needs to write about it.

    I don't care that Donald Trump must import women from Eastern Europe, because American women won't have anything to do with him. That's his business -- until he runs for and is elected president. Then it becomes everyone's business. And that's why Hesse has to write about it.

    For all we know, Melania, with her talent for languages, may have translated at Trump's extra special business meetings with oligarchs who funded his candidacy. Unless Trump himself speaks Russian -- but that is hard to believe given his unwillingness to learn anything. Ivana and then Melania -- that doesn't seem like a coincidence and thus it requires explanation by the press. Because Trump has clearly been in bed with more individuals than Melania, politically speaking, and she is part of the package.

    Knowing that Melania and Trump have a transactional marriage in which monetary benefits are spelled out in writing might have forewarned the nation about Trump's willingness to barter presidential access, contracts, favors and pardons for cash. Because that's what a transactional guy does. Sell things that shouldn't be sold.

  7. "Givhan complained that the first lady's video doesn't include the many volunteers who helped create the decs. It doesn't show us the workers in the kitchen, the people up on the ladders.

    The video in question was one minute long. Werewolves of Yuletide again!"

    Here Somerby misses the point. Melania was not thinking about anyone but herself and she failed to use the video to help the people viewing it. When Givhan called it a high glamor video, she meant that it could have been the visual for an upscale fragrance ad, showing a moody woman alone in a glamorous place, wearing expensive clothing, with a tag line: Melania, for the pandemic in you, at fine stores everywhere. This is not what a First Lady should do as a Christmas message. Think about Barbara Bush, with small children and puppies in her lap, reading a picture book about The Night Before Christmas, then compare it to Melania's video, Melania starkly alone without reference to any other human being, without a smile, without warmth, without Christmas spirit, walking down the corridor as if it were a runway. This is why Melania is considered ugly by those of us who care about other people.

  8. How snarky is it to refer to reporters as werewolves, for writing something that Somerby apparently disagrees with?

  9. "She was comparing Melania's decs to Dante's nine circles of Hell!"

    Actually, I think she was comparing this pandemic year to the 9th circle of hell but the Christmas trees were part of the torture. Melania is offering to guide her out of hell, which doesn't seem right since she and her husband have been making this year (and preceding ones) hell via their actions, not helping anyone through it.

    Is Somerby upset because a reporter dared to use Dante as an inapt rhetorical device? He does that nearly every day (substitute Dante for Warren Zevon).

  10. "Many of us, right here in Our Town, can't see, or begin to understand, how this utterly stupid shit will look to so many others."

    Somerby is apparently complaining because reporters don't stop to think "Oops, this is true but I better not write it because someone in South Dakota might get upset." That's not what they teach in journalism school (which Somerby has never attended). They teach reporters to tell the truth and let the readers react how they will.

    It also seems kind of odd for Somerby to be asking the NY Times to write for the boondocks when its audience is largely well educated, liberal, Democratic, and fairly well off. Don't they have newspapers in those other areas who will take a tone and adjust their content for their own readers? The LA Times reports it whenever a movie star buys or sells a home. That's news in LA and people care about it. You don't see that in NY, but you do get a lot more fashion news, because that is their local industry. In Boston, you get more reporting about academia because there are 27 universities there.

    What Somerby calls "snark," I tend to think of as good writing. Maybe it is time for Somerby to pull up stakes and move to Wyoming, where he will feel more at home.

  11. I’m with no more mister nice blog. He’s been saying for a while that part of the problem with liberals is, to use a Somerby phrase, they have been “sleeping in the woods.” He feels, and I agree, that Democrats don’t stand up for themselves enough, that they should be much more aggressive going after Republican lies and attacks. Republicans constantly frame Democrats as the party of wimps or tyrants. Dems need to point out the lies and hypocrisy of the right.

    This doesn’t mean attacking conservative voters, but rather GOP party members and their elite media and backers.

    As far as First Ladies, maybe Somerby thinks they should be off limits, but when they wade into the political fray as Melania did with her birtherism, then they become fair game.

    And since the right wing likes to accuse liberals of waging a fictitious war on Christmas, it’s entirely appropriate to point out Melania’s attitude toward that fucking holiday and the hypocrisy of Republicans’ silence about it.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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