Published April 14, 2005
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – What a difference a fender bender makes.
Spent the weekend following last year's NASCAR Nextel Cup champ Kurt Busch (search), who raced for the first time in a purple race car (#97) that promoted his new sponsor — Crown Royal whisky.
But while Busch christened his new car, in the end it was Jeff Gordon (search) who did the honors of breaking the bottle on the hull, if you will.
With just 53 laps to go in the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Busch led Gordon until Gordon's # 24 DuPont car and Busch's made contact, sending #97 spinning into the wall and subsequently finishing 19th after running a near-perfect race.
Gordon went on to win his 71st NASCAR victory.
That's the way it is in NASCAR. You win some, you lose some, but one can't help to think that Gordon's car intentionally drifted into Busch's, while others think it was foolish of Busch not to just let Gordon pass, and take him on the next set of tires. Busch retaliated by tapping Gordon's car as Gordon lapped him.
In the end, Gordon, who dedicated the win to the families of team members who were killed in a plane crash nearby last fall — apologized — and Busch, despite being upset, shrugged it off as just being part of life in NASCAR, looking forward to Texas Motor Speedway next Sunday.
And on a weekend in which Tiger Woods won his fourth Masters in dramatic fashion, battling family man Chris DiMarco to the finish, I learned a little something about NASCAR nation.
First off, there are plenty of Grrr! fans among the NASCAR faithful, so thank you. But more importantly, I've never seen a more friendly and well-behaved crowed of 100,000 in my life.
They showed gratitude for soap star Bobbie Eakes' (search) beautiful singing of our national anthem, and cheered wildly for the Army choppers that flew overhead.
There is a quiet respect that NASCAR fans have for the sport, and for each other. With booze aplenty, it's easy to assume NASCAR fans would behave like the bleacher creatures in Yankee stadium or the rowdies that inevitably gather at football games. And I'm not saying there's no poor behavior in NASCAR nation at all, but there wasn't any in Martinsville over the weekend.
My hat is off to NASCAR fans for being fine Americans, and to NASCAR for knowing that the fans are more important to the sport than even the teams and drivers.
And yes NASCAR fans, I'm new to the sport.
Somebody Gag Me With a Spoon ...
A tablespoon. No, make it a ladle. Ah, hell, why not throw the whole pot down my throat.
Am I the only one sick of hearing about how hard a life poor-little Jane Fonda had at the hands of her allegedly abusive husbands and her emotionally distant movie-star daddy?
Oh boo hoo hoo!
Did poor "Barbarella Arnold," aka "Hanoi Jane," suffer the demons of the neglected little rich girl, starved so much for attention that she engaged in sex with prostitutes, took part in orgies and hid her Christian faith from her — she says — philandering billionaire husband, Ted Turner?
With her book tour in full swing and appearances on everything from "60 Minutes" to "Good Morning America," methinks we are seeing the prelude to the Paris Hilton of year 2040.
But wait, there's more.
All of this publicity happens just as her "big Hollywood comeback" movie "Monster-in-Law," with Ms. Box-Office Flop herself, Jennifer Lopez, comes out in a month.
And don't be surprised when the fickle entertainment press praises this so-called "third act" of Fonda's life, championing her talents and her tiny contrition for her "betrayal ... to the country that gave me privilege," as Fonda told CBS' Lesley Stahl.
Privilege? I thought your life was so hard? Grrr!
You ever notice that when people do something so incredibly stupid — like take sides with their country's enemy as Fonda did when she posed on an anti-aircraft gun with North Vietnamese in 1972 and went on to call U.S. pilots "war criminals" on Radio Hanoi — when they want to make a career comeback and sell books, all of a sudden all of these horrible stories emerge about how depressed they were, or how screwed up they are sexually, or how they had a drinking problem or that they were bulimic or ignored as a child?
Just give me a break, Jane. Go away.
Good Press for Liza Minnelli
And speaking of women who are totally screwed up, I saw Liza Minnelli (search) at Tony Danza's cabaret act at Feinstein's at the Regency Hotel in New York City the other night, and I was shocked — shocked I say — at how nice a person Minnelli was to several camera-toting fans who barged right on up to her to take her picture.
They didn't want to get in the picture with her. They just wanted to snap her picture. I don't get it.
Now I know that for most people, celebrity sightings are exciting. I can understand that. But why do people forget about basic manners when it comes to celebrities? People turn into total Oblivions, selfishly snapping away at people like they're zoo animals.
One Oblivion man tried several times to take Minnelli's picture. His camera wouldn't work. Finally, Minnelli reached out, grabbed the man's camera, turned it on and handed it back. The guy finally got his shot.
Anyway, I was impressed with Minnelli's kindness, given the situation.
I wasn't impressed, however, with the star of the show. Danza is most engaging when he's relating stories, telling jokes and really just being himself. But his routine takes on a desperate tone when he sings, tap-dances, sits at the piano, blows a horn or speaks Italian.
It's kind of like watching your attention-starved 9-year-old nephew with the stage-mom-in-training at the family gathering. I kept waiting for one of Danza's relatives to yell out from the back of the room, "show them the backflip, Tony!"
Danza opened the show stating his agent asks him why he insists on doing the cabaret thing. After watching, I can understand the agent's concern.
Tony's a nice guy. Doesn't mean I gotta like his show.
Mike Straka is the director of operations and special projects for FOXNews.com, and covers entertainment and features on the Sunday program "FOX Magazine."