Column: A Man of Sterling Character
I had listened to roughly eight hours of commentary on Donald Sterling and the ugly remarks he made in conversations secretly tape-recorded by his girlfriend, before I heard anyone mention a wife.
HE HAS A WIFE? At first, I thought the topic must have changed when I left the room, but no -- the TV talking heads were still discussing Sterling advising his girlfriend to stay away from blacks.
Not only does Sterling have a wife of 50 years, but earlier this year, she sued his girlfriend, demanding the return of two Bentleys, a Ferrari, a Range Rover and a $1.8 million apartment, claiming it was bought with community property without the wife's consent.
The fact that this 80-year-old human-manatee, married with three children, has been openly consorting with prostitutes for decades does not account for 1 percent of the media's outrage against Sterling.
Wow. Cultural mores certainly do change. In 1947, it was a scandal when Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher was alleged to have been having an affair with a married actress, Laraine Day.
Durocher himself was not married, but Day, a Mormon who never smoked or drank, divorced her husband and married Durocher the day after being granted a provisional divorce decree. The divorce wasn't final, so the judge who signed the decree ordered Day and Durocher to live separately in California. (Yes, this was so long ago, the institution of marriage was still respected in California.)
And they did. She lived with her mother in Santa Monica and Durocher moved into a nearby hotel.
Yet and still, the Catholic Youth Organization withdrew its support for the Brooklyn Dodgers and advised its members to boycott the team as long as Durocher remained manager.
As CYO director Rev. Vincent J. Powell explained in a letter, Durocher was not the sort of person "we want our youth to idealize and imitate," adding that the CYO could not be "officially associated with a man who presents an example in contradiction to our moral teachings."
Durocher was suspended from the Dodgers for a year, purportedly over some long-standing gambling charges.
And that was in New York City! The reaction might have been a bit rougher in Kansas City, Mo., or Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Today, a team owner can sit with his mistress at games, give her millions of dollars in gifts, precipitate a lawsuit from the old coot's wife demanding return of their community property -- and none of that even merits a mention in the first 14 paragraphs of the scandal stories about him.
Yes, what he said about blacks -- under the ham-handedly leading questions of his mistress -- was nasty. You were expecting this guy to be a prince on race relations? Perhaps if a little more attention had been paid to Sterling's years of whoring, we wouldn't be so shocked at his trashy comments about black people.
About a decade ago, Sterling sued a prostitute he had been seeing, for the return of property he had given to -- as he called her -- this "$500-a-trick freak."
The man who is terrified of being seen as a racist opened up about his ruttings with a prostitute in a 2003 deposition that he knew would be part of the public record. This wasn't forced out of him: Again, he sued her.
Here's what Donald Sterling, born Donald Tokowitz, didn't mind telling the world:
-- "She was sucking me all night long." (There are many possible connotations here, but I believe this is a sexual reference.)
-- "It was purely sex for money, money for sex, sex for money, money for sex." (Well, then: not soul mates.)
-- "I knew from the day she came in that she was a total freak and piece of trash." (Oddly enough, this was in her eHarmony profile.)
-- "When you pay a woman for sex, you are not together with her. You're paying her for a few moments to use her body for sex. Is it clear? Is it clear?"
(Hard to believe this guy has to pay for sex.)
-- "The woman wanted sex everywhere. In the alley, in her car, in the elevator, in the upstairs seventh floor, in the bathroom." (Doing the work Americans just won't do.)
-- "That is all she ever provided -- was sex, nothing else." (Except that one year she did my taxes.)
-- "I called her 'Honey' because I couldn't remember the girl's name." (Her pet name for him was "fat racist pig.")
-- "I wouldn't have a child and certainly not with that piece of trash. Come on. This girl is the lowest form." (She must have been heartbroken.)
Sterling so enjoyed describing sex with "this piece of trash" that he occasionally got lost in his Penthouse-style reveries, even when the deposition question was not, technically, about how much the prostitute had sucked him.
Sterling: "When I'm in a limousine, she takes all of her clothes (off). The limo driver said, 'What is going on?' And she started sucking me on the way to Mr. Koon's house. And I thank her. I thank her for making me feel good."
Lawyer: "Sir, the question was, is this your handwriting?"
So what can we learn from the Sterling scandal?
First: Boy, have morals changed! (At least among our media watchdogs.)
In 1947, it was a scandal when Leo Durocher stole a married woman from her husband -- and promptly married her, even living apart pending a final divorce decree. Today, a married team owner can bring his prostitutes to games and give detailed accounts of their copulations and it's not even an issue.
Second: No conclusions about race in America can be gleaned from the utterances of this repellent man.
The innermost thoughts of a pile of crap covered in human skin provide no larger lessons about humanity, though Donald Sterling may be of interest to students of the porcine. For a window into the American psyche, I like to stick to my own species.