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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

How am I funny?

When he was attorney general, Eliot Spitzer was dubbed the "Sheriff of Wall Street."

During his recent battles with Joe Bruno, the Senate GOP leader, Spitzer has been called "spoiled" and a "dictator."

Then there were the preschoolers at an Albany Head Start program who gathered around Spitzer last week to listen to him read "If You Give a Pig a Pancake."

Spitzer said the kids could call him "Eliot," prompting the following exchanges:

Spitzer: No? Why? What do you want to call me?

First kid: I want to call you clown.

Spitzer: OK.

Second kid: I'll call you clown.

Spitzer: Two of you? What do you want to call me?

Third kid: Clown.

Spitzer: All right. Do you like clowns?

Fourth kid: I want to call you Chuck E. Cheese.


A PAL in Albany

Speaking of the governor, don't tell the rest of New York, but there's been a second, confirmed sighting.

In November, after his landslide election, Spitzer was spotted in Puerto Rico wearing, of all things, a Buffalo Police Athletic League T-shirt.

And then last week, the guv was spotted at the Boilermaker 5K race in Utica, again in a Buffalo PAL T-shirt.

Coincidence or gubernatorial preference?

We're guessing Spitzer, a longtime donor, has similar PAL shirts from across the state. Yet none of them rivals Buffalo's as the official, albeit undeclared, T-shirt of New York State.

"Everyone has that favorite T-shirt, one that's old and comfortable," said PAL Director Sue Gonzalez. "For the governor, it's apparently his Buffalo PAL T-shirt."


Beer-and-wings dispensation

The National Black Catholic Congress being held this week in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center is a serious, spiritual affair attended by 2,500 faith-filled Catholics from across the country.

But it has plenty of lighter moments, too -- including right from the start.

Attendees seemed a bit caught off guard when Bishop Edward U. Kmiec suggested during his welcome to the group on Thursday that they check out the Anchor Bar on Main Street.

Apparently, not everyone is familiar with the home of the chicken wing.

The bishop, though, didn't miss a beat, noting that the Anchor "is a restaurant, too."

Besides, he added, the wings need to be washed down with a beverage.

"I think a beer would go very well. I'm one of those liberal bishops," he said with a wry smile to the chuckling crowd.


A special guest

Ever wonder what it takes to bring a former vice president of the United States to your event?

You'll have to provide a generous lecture fee and meet a lengthy list of contractual requirements, as the University at Buffalo learned this spring.

Former veep and current environmentalist Al Gore spoke at UB in late April, and this prompted a few questions.

How much does Gore cost? Does he have to be picked up from the airport in a hybrid limousine? Does he insist on a hotel that runs on solar power?

UB gave the answers in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.

First, he doesn't come cheap. Gore received a $100,000 fee.

The contract stipulated that UB pay for first-class airfare, a car service, accommodations and meals for Gore and an adviser.

Gore also approved in advance any related events, promotional material and "backdrops, banners, scenery, logos, settings, etc."

It even spelled out the time Gore spent signing posters for sponsors -- 10 minutes -- and his need for 30 minutes of downtime before talking.

No hybrids or solar power specified, so UB was able to meet every requirement except one: Gore's request for "absolute confidentiality" for the contract's terms and conditions.

Written by Stephen T. Watson with contributions from Tom Precious, Phil Fairbanks, Jay Tokasz and Brian Meyer.


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