By ROBERT RECTOR
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is visiting our Fair State this week and
as is common when highly visible Brits come to call, Americans are ga-ga over
Blair is not royalty, no more so than Dick Cheney, for example, although
he has a spiffier title than the vice president. Officially, Blair is the
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
First Lord of the Treasury, Privy Counsellor, Minister for the Civil Service
and Member of Parliament for the constituency of Sedgefield.
That sounds royal to our American tin ears so Blair is getting the
princely treatment by members of the public and press who find his visit a
refreshing distraction from the numbing carnage in the Middle East.
It as always been a bit of a puzzlement that Britons, usually preceived as
restrained and proper to a fault, nonetheless feast on media that display no
such traits. Indeed, most news outlets in England are loud, brash, and
irreverant, seldom letting the facts get in the way of a turn of phrase.
And true to form, the Brits coverage of Blairs visit to California is
colorful if nothing else.
"Tony Blair is to make a joint appearance in California with Arnie "The
Governator" Schwarzenegger, a menacing hulk with limited English and a
reputation for getting frisky with female colleagues," writes the Financial
The Guardian takes it a step farther, offering this advice to the Prime
"Never, ever go more than a few sentences without saying this word, dude.
Forget all the "Comrades, and I say to you" stuff. Dude is probably the most
totally awesome thing you can say while you're here.
"Like. Like is, like, the valley mantra. If you say the word like, like
every few words, you are totally telling your listeners that you are from,
like, the valley.
"Mexicans. There's a lot of them in the valley, picking fruit...Many of
these Mexicans are from Mexico, some are from other places that, dude,
without being heavy, may as well be Mexico...
"The governor. Don't call him Arnie. That's way too British. In California
he is known as Arnold, or The Arnold. And the addition of a comic Austrian
accent always brings laughs from a sophisticated audience. Mimic his
pronunciation of Kahl-ee-faw-nyah - a surefire vote winner. But remember,
Arnold was once in the movies. This makes him far more important than any
"Culture. California is home to some of your life-forming listening, Tony.
The Doors, the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Albert Hammond,
singer of the bittersweet seventies hit 'It Never Rains in California' (he
wrote it in London). And nobody summed up the cultural finesse of living in
Los Angeles better than honorary Londoner Woody Allen, who in Annie Hall
described it as "a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can
make a make a right turn on a red light".
"Things not to mention: earthquakes, drought, fires, Charles Manson,
George W Bush, Enron, the Lodi terrorist cell, Richard Nixon, the death
penalty, how hot it is in England, Warren Beatty, the prison system,
immigration reform, Ohio, looted antiquities, smog, the price of petrol,
community farming, New York City."
While this kind of stuff may have them rolling in the aisles back in merry
olde England, serving up tired cliches with a side of bad taste is about as
funny as Mel Gibson after a few shots of tequila.
Surfer talk? Valley girls? Charles Manson? Woody Allen? If you're going
to toss around stereotypes, at least try some that didn't fade away 30 years
Racial stereotypes? What a hoot.
Can you imagine this kind of dispatch appearing in a U.S. paper?
"Dear President Bush. Should you visit Great Britain in the near future,
prepare to encounter the following:
"The country is populated by painfully conservative people who are largely
characterized by pale skin and bad teeth.
"Bring your own food. Britons subside on blood pudding and kidney meat,
usually boiled and washed down by warm beer or vast quantities of gin.
"The weather ranges from awful to unbearable. The country's great
literary tradition was born of the fact that there was nothing to do but stay
indoors and write.
"The country's greatest export is expensive automobiles whose beauty and
luxury are only exceeded by their complete unreliability.
"The national past-time, aside from oppressing the Irish, is football.
Not real, man-on-man football like we play, but dull contests played by guys
in short shorts who do nothing for hours on end but feign injury. The sport is a mere excuse
for the real past-time: alcohol fueled riots staged by participants called
hooligans who mame hundreds of fans each season."
Now that we understand each other, welcome to California, Mr. Blair. And
have a bloody good time.