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But it always worked for Milton Berle!


Protip: If you're a municipal official at any level, do not ever, ever stage a press conference that depends in any way on a plot idea from old TV sitcoms. That lesson was learned the hard way by Sue Stenhouse, the former director of senior services for Cranston, Rhode Island, after a press event at a senior center featuring a sweet little old lady who would presumably benefit from a volunteer snow-shoveling program. The only problem was that the sweet little old lady was a male van driver for the senior center, in not especially convincing drag. After a hard-hitting exposé on a local teevee station, Stenhouse resigned her city job and stepped into the brief glare of microcelebrity in the Weird News columns.

Stenhouse arranged the stunt to publicize the city's "Snow Angels" program, in which local teens volunteer to shovel snow for the city's elderly residents. On hand were a handful of enthusiastic teenagers waving snow shovels, a big pile of not-quite-snow -- shavings from a local ice rink -- and even Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, while Ms. Stenhouse took the mic about what a terrific volunteer program it was. Standing next to her was the ersatz old lady, complete with grey wig, frosted pink lipstick, earrings, and a pearl necklace (also fake, we bet). The real tip-off, though, was probably the name tag:

Fine. 'Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire' would have been better.

You have to doubt the con-artist skills of whoever decided to write "Cranston Senior Home Resident" on the card. If only they'd written "Actual Senior Citizen," instead.

The affair came to light after unnamed "sources" advised local NBC affiliate WJAR's "I-Team" that the Senior Home Resident was not, in fact, a sweet old grammy, but was instead one David Roberts, who drives a van for the senior center.

Nice blur effect there.

As far as we can tell, Roberts still has his job, which just shows you how white male privilege works, now doesn't it? It doesn't appear that the Cranston Senior Home Resident had the opportunity to speak at the event, so we'll never be able to fully compare Roberts's vocal performance with that of the great Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Rumor has it, however, that Roberts once played an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass.

We're especially taken with how doggedly the I-Team chased down this part of the story:

"He said to me, 'I need to have grey hair, curly,'" said Elaine Mancuso, who sold Roberts part of his disguise at her hair salon in Cranston. "Dave usually drives the senior citizens into the salon, so he says to me, 'Elaine, do you have a wig that I could borrow? I have to get dressed as a senior.'"

When Mancuso watched the story break on NBC 10 News, she was shocked.

"I said, 'Oh my God. He wanted it for that.' I probably would have given him a better wig if I had known."

Isn't it great that All the President's Men inspired all those young people to pursue careers in investigative journalism?

Stenhouse was a bit less than diplomatic when the "I-Team" showed up at her door following its initial reportage:

When NBC 10 visited Stenhouse's Warwick home Wednesday evening, she at first told a reporter to go away.

Then, she opened her door and exchanged a few words with NBC 10.

"I've been in a meeting all night being a great public servant for the city of Warwick," Stenhouse said. "Now, I get this (expletive.) And you guys did not reach out to me. And that was a big lie on the news."

The story dutifully notes, "NBC 10 maintains it reached out to Stenhouse ahead of the broadcast and she knew the story would be airing." So there you go: Rashomon in Rhode Island.

Partisan politics appear to be at least part of the nontroversy; the president of Cranston's city council, Democrat John E. Lanni, said the event "makes us the laughingstock of Rhode Island." Considering that the Providence Journal has somehow managed to milk the event for four stories, it's entirely possible that this is the hottest story in the state.

Stenhouse, a Republican, has long been active in local politics and formerly served on the city council. And like any good politician caught doing something stupid, she seems to have settled on a strategy of blaming the media. On her Facebook page, Stenhouse posted a vigorous defense of her character, apparently written by a friend:

We really love that bit about Stenhouse "protecting" seniors by not subjecting a real old lady to the cold during her press event. What's more, by dressing a bus driver in drag, she may even have saved some defenseless elderly person from being taken advantage of! Besides, politics is all about fakery. Why are you people making such a big deal out of this? There is no truth to the rumor we just made up that Stenhouse is seeking a PR job with the Trump campaign, although now you can say you read it on the internet.

The anonymous tipsters' identity remains unknown, but Yr Wonkette has reason to believe it was four teenagers and a big dog who travel the country in a van solving mysteries.

[Boston Globe / WJAR / WJAR again / Providence Journal]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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