The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Monday, March 30, 2009 - 5A
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, March 30, 2009 - 5A
In this country, you can show
someone on the streeta picture
of an important political figure
- let's say Vice President Joe Biden
- and there's a
decent chance the
person won't be
able to name that
political figure or
say what he or she >
does. But show that
civilian a picture BLOCK
of Matthew Lesko,
more commonly known as "that guy in
the question-mark suit," and, though
the person may notbe able to tell you
Lesko's name, the person will at least
be able to tell you that the question-
marked man can offer the secrets to
obtaining free money.
It's a sad truth that people know
more about celebrities than politicians.
It's an even sadder truth that info-
mercial hosts have joined the ranks of
other celebrities. Or at least I used to
think it was sad.
Matthew Lesko has written far
too many books, including at least
six whose titles begin with the words
"Free Money." Billy Mays has sold
everything from Lint-B-Gones and
Bedazzlers to ESPN's online coverage
r with his loud, in-your-face demeanor
and signature "Billy Mays here" intro.
Vince Shlomi (known in his infomer-
cials as "Vince Offer") is so universally
known for his ShamWow informercial
that a Wikipedia search for "Sham-
Wow" links directly to Shlomi's Wiki-
When I first realized these "accom-
plishments" are more successful ways
to build celebrity than acting in an
indie film or performing in a Broadway
show, I was understandably pissed.
Even the most commodified pop stars
have some semblance of talent that
made them famous. What right do
Lesko, Mays and Shlomi have to be
household names compared to true
talents and personal favorites like Gael
Garcia Bernal ("The Science of Sleep")
or Michael Cerveris (who played the
titular role in the 2005 Broadway
revival of "Sweeney Todd")? But then
I came to realize they have the same
right to fame as anyone else.
Sure, infomercials may be incred-
ibly annoying, but that doesn't mean no
semblance of skill is required to pro-
duce them and make them successful.
Also, when you think about how many
infomercials exist, it's remarkable
some stand out above the others. Yet
Shlomi, Lesko, Mays and perhaps some
of the home-gym sellers (I'm looking
at you here, John Basedow) have done
just that. And they are now the famous
few among the commercial crowd.
Now, these wizards of sales could
never have built their star power with-
out setting themselves apart from the
rest. Lesko's high energy is engaging,
and his signature suit was one of the
most effective advertising ideas in the
entire infomercial world. Mays is just
a powerhouse, full of great product
ideas and capable of selling anything
with contagious enthusiasm. Relative
newcomer Shlomi has a youthful exu-
berance that makes his products seem
like must-haves for a new generation of
So it turns out these guys might
actually have talent after all. But now
that they have their celebrity status,
they need to make sure they live up to
its standards of scandal and question-
able moral decisions. Luckily for us,
they haven't disappointed.
Let's start with The Riddler-
wannabe Lesko, who has had a rough
relationship with both famous news-
papers and our nation's government,
as detailed in his Wikipedia page. In a
2007 Washington Post article, Lesko
admitted to plagiarizing his books
from the federal guidelines regard-
ing grants and loans, and he has been
criticized by The New York Times for
claimingto still be a part of the paper
despite the fact that he stopped writ-
ing his column in 1994. Also, in 2005,
Emmy-winning writer Bernard Gold-
berg "honored" Lesko by including
him in his book "100 People Who Are
Billy Mays has
real star power.
Screwing Up America."
Mays and Shlomi aren't unfamil-
iar with creating drama within the
infomercial community either. After
Shlomi's rise to ShamWow fame, Mays
called him out in a radio interview on
Feb. 10, claiming that Shlomi's product
was a clear knock-off of Mays's own
Zorbeez towel product. Mays went so
far as to say, "Billy Mays doesn't take
this" and "I am the ultimate pitch-
Also, Shlomi assaulted a prostitute.
Really. Look it up. It just happened.
So it turns out infomercial celebri-
ties are no different than any other.
While celebs steal significant others
from each other, infomercial salesman
steal product ideas. While movie stars
get arrested for violating the law, Lesko
gets in trouble for plagiarizingthe
law and selling it as a book. And while
pop stars maybe loud and belligerent,
Mays's voice and Lesko's bright suit are
louder than all the celebrity singers in
this country combined.
So tobringthis all full circle, I have
two pieces of wisdom. First of all, don't
be as quick as I was to criticize infor-
mercial hosts - they've truly worked
their way to the top. Second of all, if
any of you are thinking about running
for elected office some day, start wear-
ing a crazily punctuated suit. It sucks
that it has come to this, but it might
just be the only way to get people to
pay attention to politics.
Block needs a ShamWow to clean
his bathroom. E-mail him atjamblock@
umich.edu if you have one to lend.
It doesn't matter where you live, Dhani Jones will grab your balls.
University alum Dhani
Jones is a better
linebacker than a TV host
By CAROLYN KLARECKI
Daily Arts Writer
The student body at the University of
Michigan is comprised
of the "leaders and best," *-
and alum Dhani Jones
is no exception. Jones Dhani Tackles
helped the Wolverines the Globe
win a football national
championship in 1998, Mondays
and he is currently a line- at 9 p.m.
backer on the Cincinnati Travel Channel
Bengals. Though Jones
has achieved a lot in his football career, his
career asa TV host needs alot of work.
In his show, "Dhani Tackles the Globe,"
Jones goes to a foreign countryto experience
the culture and food and, of course, to check
out the local sports. One episode sends Jones
to Switzerland to learn about the country's
national sport: schwingen. Thoughthe Swiss
assure Jones that schwingen is an intellec-
tual and strategic sport, it's really nothing
more than wrestling in sawdust - the only
catch being that players aren't allowed to
let go of their opponent's pants. Throughout
the episode, Jones trains, immerses himself
in Swiss culture and eventually flaunts his
skills in a schwingen tournament.
Because all of Travel Channel's program-
ming is very similar, "Dhani Tackles the
Globe" stands out among the monotony. It's
a smart move for a travel show to use sports
as its grabbing gimmick. It's also a welcome
change of pace. Travel aficionados and sports
enthusiasts alike can enjoy the culture and
history exhibited in obscure sports from
around the world.
Though a show like "Dhani Tackles the
Globe" is a clever way to attract a broad
audience, Dhani Jones might not have
been the best choice for a host. He has no
idea how to conduct an interview, even an
informal one. Whenever the conversation
lagged, Jones reverted back to one question:
"Will this help me with my schwingen?" He
was always answered with a blank stare,
which he attributed to a language barrier.
But clearly, the answer meant "how would
milking cows / playing an alphorn / eating
fondu / yodeling / wearing traditional Swiss
attire / making meringue help you with your
schwingen?" Jones really needs to work on
his casual conversation skills.
After playing in many high-pressure
See DHANI, Page 8A
'Gomorrah' reveals Italy's crime culture
By TIMOTHY RABB
Daily Arts Writer
Every day, citizens of cor-
rupted areas of the world are
forced to live in
event, regard- Gomorrah
less of its emo-
tional impact, At the State
has any moral Fandango-IFC
This universe is presented in a
startling observational format in
"Gomorra," a riveting multiple-
character study that reveals the
extent to which wanton crimi-
nality is ignoredby an indifferent
and ethically bankrupt society.
The docudrama is set in the
Campania region in Italy, one
of the few remaining strong-
holds of the sinister real-world
crime organization known as
the Camorra. The organization
resembles the Sicilian "Cosa
Nostra" (the Mafia) in the nature
of its illegal operations, but dif-
fers in its hierarchy. Rather than
consisting of a tightly knit, ver-
tically structured family, the
Camorra is divided horizon-
tally into more than 100 loosely
connected factions that vie for
control of the Campania
The deep-seated ten-
sion bred between these
clans often erupts in vio-
lence that bears an inesti-
mable toll on the economic and dairy farming, waste disposal
1 climate of the communi- and clothing manufacturing -
itionally, since Camorra- are executed exclusively by the
Camorra. The inefficiency with
which the Camorra performs
these duties has resulted in dra-
istructured matically increased pollution
r , and death rates in every region
et riveting. in which they have influence.
The screenplay of "Gomorra"
is unstructured, consisting offive
different narratives that follow
ions have no government the lives of individuals related
ht, many privately con- to the Camorra. After the film's
professions - including See GOMORRAH, Page 8A
The UM administration has disregarded its agreement
with the Lecturers' Employee Organization.
They moved money around to deny Lecturers the raises they negotiated.
Come support LEO and good faith financial practices at UM
Thursday, April 2; 12noon in Fleming Plaza by the ube
FUBAR, jugglers, sleight-of-hand artists, teach-in!
How can I show my support? Show up to the Rally!
Go to the LEO website, www.leounion.org, where you can find more information
& send an email to the Provost asking her to give LEO their negotiated raises.
Lecturers' Employee Organization, AFT Michigan Local 6244, AFL-CIO