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electric habitat

Confederate slags

By Amanda Nowinski

USHERING IN BLACK History Month like a good old boy draped in a fine Italian suit, Pacific Heights socialite and chair of the San Francisco Arts Commission Stanlee Gatti appeared costumed in blackface as Mayor Willie Brown at last Saturday's $300-a-plate benefit for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The theme of the party was "come as you aren't," but after questioning the unapologetic Gatti over the phone, I discovered that he came exactly as he is.

Bay Guardian: So why did you decide to wear blackface?

Stanlee Gatti: It seemed like a fun, clever thing to do – the perfect thing to do, since Willie's such a good friend.

BG: Are you familiar with the history of minstrels and that the Jim Crow laws [Southern segregationist legislation] were named for a minstrel character?

SG: I don't feel like there's any connection [to that] whatsoever. I was going in costume as my friend, Willie – like someone who dresses as a concubine or like men dressing as women. White people dressing up in blackface was part of the whole time when people were making fun of that. I think that is so far behind us. I had forgotten that it was even an issue.

Gatti's selective amnesia may have enabled him to forget the horrible significance of wearing blackface, but lately I have been unable to forget a thing. Where's all that karmic smack when you need it most? The shit-kicking cowboys have resurfaced in thunderous droves, and we no longer have to worry about all those annoying politically correct niceties that were hammered down our throats in the '90s. We no longer believe you, Anita, because we are finally free to be the assholes we have always dreamed of being. The American flag whips aggressively in our daily consciousness, smacking us with tragic delusions of freedom. Roe v. Wade feels moments away from dissolution, and while the papers replace war reporting with more engrossing Enron gossip, the Bush brigade quietly undoes our rights (they cut federal spending on libraries by $39 million; reduced by 86 percent funding for the Community Access Program, which benefits public hospitals, clinics, and providers of care for people without insurance; pulled out of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty global-warming agreement; walked out of the U.N. World Conference Against Racism; cut $700 million in capital funds for repairs in public housing ...).

The dot-com crash smashed the legend of the self-made man. New money may have crumbled, but through it all, the blue bloods haven't shed a tear. Expansive Pac Heights has remained as glorious as it ever was (ask Gatti), reminding us that the dot-com spurt was nothing more than a cute diversion in the overall plan. I can taste the imminence of evil in the bottom of my throat like vomit that won't escape.

Skimming through the January issue of W today, I note that designer Tommy Hilfiger, who owes his entire fortune to the hip-hop community (particularly to stars like Grand Puba and Snoop Dog, who popularized his fashions in the early '90s), has now cleverly switched his attention to cowboys too. Lauren Bush, Dubya's 17-year-old niece, was recently hired to be his new Tommy Jeans spokesmodel. "She's really all-American," the designer says. Indeed, she is, but equally as American as another Bush niece, 24-year-old Noelle Bush (daughter of Jeb), who was just arrested for faking a Xanax prescription. This particular Bush knows firsthand that evil never really lurks; it just devours you slowly.

Send comments or tips to amanda@sfbg.com.