Where’s the stand-up schtick?

Dec 10, 2002 6:45 AM

Last week started slowly but ended with a rush.

First, Paul O’Neill got the boot as Treasury Secretary, the first crack in the wall of the castle of the Imperial Presidency.

Then, at long last, the answer to the question that female friends have been asking me all my life. "Are you a man or a mouse?" The geneticists have discovered that I’m both, that out of 30,000 genes possessed by the mouse, only 300 are really different than mine (or yours).

This week will be a different matter.

I’ll spend it, along with 999 others, at the lofty mountain perch of Loew’s Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Arizona. The Race Track Industry Program of the University of Arizona holds an annual symposium on racing there, and the leaders of the sport show up en masse.

Normally the week drones on in one discussion after another on the problems of racing. Usually there is little excitement and less entertainment, other than some soggy hors d’oeuvres and a few drinks served up by the vendors to the industry, who populate the Symposium in great numbers. On Thursday night, however, the racing school throws a big banquet, with a comedian. This year that event has produced sparks, a welcome ingredient at any time, but particularly in affairs like these.

Rita Rudner was on hand two years ago, and wowed the crowd. Last year it was a cowboy comic named Baxter Black. This year they signed Elaine Boosler.

They signed her, but they didn’t quite get her.

Ms. Boosler thought she was signing to do a stint for a crowd of horse people, a fair assumption on her part. Then she found out that the Racing Symposium also includes dog racing types, and Ms. Boosler, an anti-cruelty gal, went ballistic. Knowing about what happens to dogs who can still bark but can’t battle efficiently on the track, she abruptly notified the folks at the Race Track Industry Program that she didn’t cater to canine abusers, as she saw it, and she cancelled her contract.

Doug Reed, who runs the Race Track Industry Program and the Symposium, quickly reached out and grabbed a funny lady named Kathleen Madigan, whose routine Thursday night predictably will include hilarious remarks about Elaine Boosler not going to the dogs.

But there is far more controversy than comedy.

Although Reed does not like controversy, there hardly was any way he could ignore the goings-on of the Drexel Boys, the enterprising computer kids who rigged the Breeders’ Cup Ultra Pick Six for $3 million. That topic cried for attention, so Doug got the bright idea to call the three major tote companies in this country ”” Autotote, which was directly linked to the Pick Six inside job by a "rogue programmer", and AmTote and United Tote ”” and ask them to dispatch spokesmen to talk about tote technology, its problems, and ”” hopefully ”” their solutions.

They said, "Sure, and thanks for the invitation."

At least I assume that’s what they said, for Doug promptly announced a panel that would give the thousand on hand a deep insight into the mess and how racing would work its way out of it.

Then the corporate suits stepped in, and one can assume the phones buzzed back and forth among Autotote, AmTote and United.

All three declined to speak, with thanks.

They will be on hand at the Symposium with their heavy equipment, as they are each year, filling the Ventana Canyon’s rotunda with the latest in pari-mutuel gadgetry. But no talk.

A suggestion.

Doug Reed should contact Chris Harn, the "rogue senior programmer,"as described by Autotote, who confessed to changing numbers on Pick Six tickets with some computer wizardry after the first four races of the Pick Six had been run. Chris is out on bail right now, and needs money for legal fees and the family before he heads for time. He might be eager and anxious to appear in a "How I Did It" session that could replace the reluctant tote companies.

That one would really be a draw. Elaine Boosler might even show up, and get some really neat material for future engagements.