I had a bizarre encounter yesterday with the Modesto Bee, the newspaper that covers Democratic Congressman Gary Condit.
The man who answered the phone at the Bee's news desk was not allowed to tell me the names of Gary Condit's brothers. A simple question, yes?
He said, "We are not allowed to discuss Gary Condit. All questions about him must go through our executive editor. That's his policy. To cover my ass, I'm telling you to search our on line archives."
Then he hung up.
What is it about Gary Condit's brothers the Modesto Bee doesn't want us to know? Some distressing information has surfaced about both of them.
Condit's older brother, Burl, is a sergeant on the Modesto Police force. According to reports from the Modesto Bee in 1999, Burl Condit was part of a scandal at the police department when he lied about purchasing surplus guns from the same department. He said he bought one, but state records showed he bought nine. Then he said he couldn't remember how many he bought.
He was not disciplined.
A letter to the editor of the Bee in April 1999 read in part: "If Officer Burl Condit really can't recall buying more than one gun, when, if in fact he purchased nine, he should turn in his badge. If he has selective memory syndrome, how could he be used as a credible witness in a criminal case?"
Selective memory must be a family trait since Gary Condit told the FBI he couldn't remember if he had sex with Chandra Levy during their last rendezvous.
Burl Condit's activities have not gone unrecognized. The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday about Burl: "He was once reprimanded for shooting his service revolver in a park for fun, and city officials say one errant bullet even landed in his rump. Locals chuckle that because of a demotion, Burl is the only Modesto cop to ever make sergeant twice."
You might ask, is Gary Condit his brother's keeper? Well, Burl Condit proudly recalled in a 1998 Modesto Bee story that his brother once defended him in a brutal fight behind a gas station. "Gary whipped this guy and whipped him pretty good, too."
Meanwhile, Gary's younger brother, Darrell, continues to be a source of embarrassment for the congressman. I am told by sources that Darrell Condit is wanted on an outstanding warrant in Modesto for drug possession. And Fox News is reporting there is a warrant for his arrest in Florida as well. The Modesto Police Department refused to comment on outstanding warrants when I called them.
But on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported this about Darrell Condit: "Darrell's rap sheet and needle-scarred body became a testament to a life that had spiraled out of control soon after the family put down roots in Ceres. He fell into the shadows of the San Joaquin Valley's methamphetamine nether world, court records show, and hopped from state to federal prison on convictions for drug possession, vehicle theft and trying to pass a forged government check. In the 1980s, he led Modesto police on a high-speed chase through city streets, convinced they were trying to kill him."
And why, I'd like to ask Modesto Bee executive editor Mark Vasche, doesn't Darrell Condit's name come up once in their archives between 1996 and 1999 if he has such a long history of trouble with the law? I would call them again, but I don't like getting hung up on.
I have to laugh: Madonna's name came up in court testimony down in Atlanta on Monday. According to a witness in the Gold Club trial, Madonna once went to the Atlanta strip club and left with one of the dancers. This was presented in the trial with incredible melodrama. We were supposed to be shocked by this news bulletin.
This would be the same Madonna who had two children born of out what we used to call wedlock, who published a book called Sex which showed her in every imaginable erotic situation, whose videos stretch the boundaries of good taste, who had a long-term relationship with Miami nightclub moll Ingrid Casares and who starred in a documentary called Truth or Dare in which she demonstrated oral sex techniques on a Perrier bottle.
Her rep, Liz Rosenberg, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that if the Gold Club episode had taken place, "I don't know if it's anything that Madonna would be ashamed of, by the way."
The Gold Club story is a strange one. The government alleges that stars and athletes met strippers — and I suppose high-class hookers — there, and had sex with them. This is also supposed to be a surprise: NBA players getting lap dances. It makes you wonder if the people down in Atlanta are really naïve or what. Steve Kaplan, who owns newsstands here in New York called Puff 'n Stuff, among other things, is the Gold Club's owner. Prosecutors say he paid dancers to have sex with celebrities in order to create a loyal clientele. Well, duh.
On Monday, former club manager George Kontos testified about Madonna, and recalled that former Knicks star John Starks and actor Stephen Baldwin received "sexual favors" at the club when they went into private areas with the dancers. I mean, what else would they have received? Poetry readings? The polio vaccine? Advance scripts for Star Wars Chapter Two?
My favorite testimony so far in the Gold Club trial was from a guy named Dwight Allan Kent, who was mad that he'd been charged $24,000 on his credit card while at the club. According to the papers, his voice "quavered" as he recalled his outrage on the stand. He'd only spent $5000, he said, by the time he left the club at dawn! Kent conceded that he spent five and a half hours inside a semi-private Gold Room with two dancers.
This is like the terrorists who took their rental car back for a refund after they bombed the World Trade Center. Talk about nerve. Next thing you know, they're going to allow breach of contract suits against strip club patrons who don't leave fully satisfied.