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Friday, Feb. 13, 2004 - 2:21 p.m.

Inside the pink slipper

What I like best about New York, I think, is a world I couldn't enter until I left college. Well, until I entered my senior year: bars. When dark pink walls, a ceiling in alumninum and a stage curtain that looks like it was made from the drapes from someone's 1950s living room pass for pub decor, it's not hard to imagine Kerouac or some other literary icon finding refuge at the low-lit bar on the Lower East Side. I love atmospheres like that. Outside, it doesn't look like much, nothing special. Yet on any given night, you could be walking past it, not giving it another thought, when inside someone or something is happening. It wouldn't be on the scale of Dylan or someone huge like that, but if I had walked past the Slipper Room last night at 8 o'clock and found out that Sarah Harmer was standing solo on stage with her guitar, I would've at least known the name. I've seen her before.

Instead, I was inside. It was an invitation-only half-hour set for media types like me. Casey had other plans, so I went on my own, got there early enough to secure myself a seat at the corner of the bar with a good view of the stage not 30 feet away and enjoyed the open bar and the half-hour performance of new material from her upcoming album. My strategy worked well, too, as the public relations folks found me and introduced themselves and I met and mingled that way, without getting up off my stool.

That's how it's done, people.

I don't know what I'm talking about. Anyway, if you're into Canadian singer-songwriter types and you think you might enjoy a voice like Sarah McLachlan's and guitar work like Joni Mitchell's (both Canadian see what I did there?), you might like Sarah Harmer. She's got two albums out already, if you don't want to wait for the March 23rd release of the new album.

I need to end with a minor political comment. In his State of the Union speech, the President pretty much failed to propose any major new programs or legislation and tried to focus on the few good things that have happened in his horrendous three years in office. But he did mention what he and a bunch of other old, rich, white guys feel is an important need: A Constitutional amendment to uphold "the sanctity" of marriage. First off, I think this would be a good idea if only those members of Congress who have been truly faithful to their spouses or have never been divorced are allowed to vote for it. Try getting your 3/4-of-Congress votes then. And yet, they want to pass this (it's an amendment against gay marriage is what it is, and why should any of us care about what others do with their private lives) despite such wonderful heterosexual examples of the sanctity of marriage set by people like Britney Spears or Elizabeth Taylor. It's a different world today and people just don't make relationships last like they used to. Not even Ken and Barbie can keep the fire burning. What hope do the rest of us have?

Here at National Entertainment Magazine where (I kid you not) we're treating this like the Ben and J. Lo split (though on a smaller scale), we discussed this earlier.

DAN
After 43 years, she finally got inside his pants and found out he doesn't have a penis. That's why she left him.

MATT
Well, if you were with Barbie for 40 years and watched her have all those jobs and get the Dream House and all those cars, you'd feel like less of a man too.

DAN
Yeah, talk about "whipped."

ELIZABETH
Barbie's PR rep just told me she's getting everything. "It all says 'Barbie' on it, doesn't it?" he said.

DAN
God, she's such a diva. She wants it all, yet she can't find what we all want out of life: That one true love.

ELIZABETH
Well now Ken can finally come out of the closet. I heard he and G.I. Joe have a thing.

MATT
I heard Barbie and Skipper have a thing ...

DAN
Now there's a scenario that didn't come up as often when my sister played with them.

But back to the breakup: Where the hell did they come up with this one? Who sat there in a staff meeting at Mattel and said, "You know what would boost sales? Let's break them up." You'd think the first person to mention that would get laughed out of the room. On the other hand, it's probably a brilliant move. While it's tough to say what it means for kids' image of adult relationships (though Ken and Barbie were never really married, were they?), I'm sure there are some who will jump on the angle of, "Barbie don't need no man to be successful and happy. You go, girlfriend!"

I think she'll come to miss Ken. I don't think he was gay (not that there's anything wrong with that); I just think he was trapped in a time warp. There must've been a time when tight pants, a white sweater and an ascot were acceptable for a man to wear? Wait, I think I'm confusing him with Fred Jones from Scooby Doo. But when was the last time the guy bought some new clothes? He certainly didn't get any positive feedback from Barbie, the Prom Queen Princess who was always asking, "Does this ballgown make my butt look fat?" You know, I wouldn't be surprised if this were another abused "husband" relationship a la Liza and David. Ken's probably going to need botox injections to his head to stop the pain.

Come to think of it, Ken probably is gay.

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