Talk of the Towns: 8.28.19

university city
If you’ve already gone for a loop on the trolley that clickety-clacks and ding-dings on a 40-minute trip from the Delmar Loop to Forest Park and back, why go again? Well, you’ll get a lot of funny for your money on three days this fall. Stop me if you’ve heard this. (Ed: Nope. Read on.) The Loop Trolley (pictured at top) has conspired with a crew of St. Louis comedians for hilarious rides that could boost ticket sales among tourists and St. Louisans alike. They’re here all week. (Ed: Um, no, they’re not.) The comics who have partnered with the trolley organization on a program named Laugh Tracks (Ed: Ba-dum-bum!) will perform stand-up on Friday, Sept. 13. What have you got to lose besides the fare? Then, bring your friends Oct. 11 and Dec. 13. You’ll be in stitches, but they won’t need to be taken out. (Ed: Ouch.) Yale Hollander, a lawyer by day, moonlights as a comedian and produces monthly comedy shows. He’ll warm up passengers, who won’t need much during the heat and humidity. Other funny men and women will follow Hollander on each trip. But what about when it gets cold? Hollander quips, “The comics will provide plenty of hot air.” (Ed: Groan.) “We both had the idea in our brains,” recalls Kevin Barbeau, Loop Trolley executive director, who had been sketching out onboard entertainment ideas when he saw Hollander’s loopy tweet. (Ed: Loopy tweet? Maybe the president isn’t the only person prone to that.) What next? A musician, history buff or magician may be on board. Trolley service begins at noon Thursday through Sunday. Once a third car has finished its test runs, the trolley will run seven days a week. (Ed: Thank you, thank you very much.)

the metro
The FCC is poised to make the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline easier to reach. The hotline number researchers have recommended, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai has approved moving forward, is 988. But a timeline hasn’t been determined: Before 988 goes live, the recommendation will require public comment, then an FCC vote. A 2017 hit song by rapper Logic with R&B artists Alessia Cara and Khalid titled “1-800-273-8255” (which is the actual Lifeline number; 8255 = TALK) brought the specter of suicide to the forefront. For a while. Then, three prominent suicides last year—musician Avicii (pictured), chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade—shoved the national health crisis back into the spotlight. A three-digit emergency number couldn’t come soon enough. Meanwhile, since 2007, callers to 1-800-SUICIDE have been routed through the Lifeline’s network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide. Also, anyone contemplating suicide can text START to 741741.

st. louis
So, we’re going to get another pro football team here. Not a replacement for the Rams, of course. To most global residents, ‘football’ is played with a ball always moved by the feet or the head—and the hands of only one player charged with trying to keep the other team scoreless. The last letter of the organization that sanctions major-league professional teams—MLS—stands for soccer. Die-hard sports fans here love any sport played with the noggin and feet, with or without a big stick. Plus, of course, a ball—or a puck! (Play “Gloria!”) Our esteemed metro daily has asked readers what to name the team, and some respondents suggested names that pay tribute to our fine Italian cuisine. We think the St. Louis Mustaches would be a perfect moniker because ‘small mustache’ is the literal translation of mostaccioli. Maybe the St. Louis Cahokians would be found inoffensive after the lawsuits peter out (instead of a Native American caricature for a logo, the mascot could be a stuffy suit derived from the same image). You know, precedent. Or, just think of the slogans that could be invented were the team to be named the St. Louis Buds! OK—more lawsuits. But a crack defense lawyer would hold that ‘buds’ has been short for buddies longer than it has been the nickname for a flagship beer from here. Anyhow, all this just muddies the waters for whatever marketing firm bills big bucks (for focus groups and who knows what) to make a recommendation. Hey, how about the St. Louis Big Muddies? All rivers in the metro are big and muddy—plus, it could be an apt description of what players look like after falling down and skidding across the turf for an hour and a half. Talk about reality TV.

The following, a true crime story, must be seriously fudged for the best-selling book and twisted again for the action-packed summer blockbuster: Donald L. Robison of Ballwin pleaded guilty Aug. 14 in U.S. federal court to stealing $7.5 million from St. Louis Community College. Robison, manager of corporate services for the college’s Workforce Solutions Group, was accused of siphoning off the funds over 20 years—he invested the money, which earned another $4 million. Robison is guilty of 15 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering for pilfering the millions earmarked for a job training program established by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. According to the feds, he stole from both SLCC and the Department of Revenue between August 1998 and November 2018. An FBI agent reportedly lamented that it was taxpayer money meant for unemployed people to learn better skills for the job market. This is certainly egregious—but kind of dull. So, to sell more books and tickets, the names, dollar amounts, setting, etc., have been changed in this fictional, italicized section: Rogue NYC programmer Charles Truesdale (George Clooney) hacks neo-Nazi bank accounts, transferring $500 million offshore for Paige Turner (Halle Berry) to launder. Turner makes thousands of small, untraceable deposits on behalf of agencies and volunteers assisting migrants at the southern U.S. border. Helicopters full of bad guys explode, a sweaty Truesdale and misty Turner kiss for no reason, and the sun sets on thousands of asylum-seekers taking jobs that no U.S. citizen would touch. Back to reality: Robison is to be sentenced Nov. 12. He faces as many as 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine—on each count. The original ‘principal’ and interest will revert to the school and the state. The moral, kids? Crime doesn’t pay. It’ll cost you.

notable neighbors
He was born in Memphis in 1951. His father left; his mother was 15. She raised him with a stepfather, who was in  and out of their lives. In 1966, the family moved to Rochester, New York, where relatives lived. He was 15 then, the oldest of eight. A year later, his mother and siblings moved to St. Louis, and he stayed up north with an aunt. He was 16 when the streets beckoned.

His grades went to hell, and so did he, turning to a life of crime, doing drugs and pushing drugs. Cocaine, then the crack pipe, completed his unraveling. He couldn’t be a father to his own children. He did stints in prison. It wasn’t until he woke up on a bench at the bus stop in front of Beaumont High School that he came to a stark realization: Get clean, or die. His life took a 180-degree turn that day. Clean and sober since July 1993, Halbert Sullivan got back in touch with his kids, earned an MSW from Washington U., and was able to answer the call in 1997 from two well-heeled women—one, president of the Junior League; the other, an exec at BJC. They needed someone at the helm of a program designed to help kids by making real fathers out of ‘sperm donors;’ that is, irresponsible young men who impregnate women and move on.

Sullivan has since transformed Fathers’ Support Center (FSC) into a social-services juggernaut. In March, he testified before the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee; in May, he welcomed Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house, to FSC headquarters at the state building and one-time hospital in the city’s Penrose neighborhood, where it occupies 10,000 square feet. For now. FSC is renovating 20,000 square feet in a building at 1601 Olive Blvd. that will include a technology center (open to the public) when it opens in March. How important is a father? Essential, says Sullivan. According to FSC, the absence of fatherly guidance rarely begets good parents—only scared, unprepared sexual partners.

FSC stats reveal that children in fatherless homes are:
• five times more likely to commit suicide
• nine times more likely to drop out of high school
• 32 times more likely to run away

“Life is about the choices you make,” Sullivan says, emphasizing that young people rarely can choose wisely without a father’s advice and guidance. Three of four men who enroll in FSC programs are dropouts; four of five have criminal records. Since its inception, FSC has helped transform 16,000 men into financially and emotionally involved dads—who, in turn, have made all the difference to more than 40,000 children! Visit

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