Ben Stein's Diary

A Case of Intracoastal Blues

A magazine installment from the world's leading Diarist.

By From the June 2012 issue

This has been a good day.

Yesterday was terrible. Alex and I awakened yesterday in the Capital Hotel in Little Rock. I had been up late because all around me young women were running, yelling, and screaming, because they were coming from a wedding rehearsal dinner in the hotel dining room. They were drunk. They were loud. I didn’t like them.

However, exhausted as we were, Alex and I got ourselves over to the Little Rock airport. It is now named the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport. I am not kidding. Where is the Richard Nixon airport? Clinton had his points, but his accomplishments were minor compared with Nixon’s. Oh, well. This will be an endless struggle.

We flew to Dallas, where we had a three-hour wait for our connection to Fort Lauderdale. I slept, then read a pleading in a lawsuit in which I am involved as plaintiff. The defendants have described me in ways so unrealistic they are almost funny. But they are not funny. They are dismaying.

The legal process is difficult. I had probably better not say any more than that right now. Let’s just say it is expensive but offers major opportunity for interesting research and thought.

In Fort Lauderdale, we had a pleasant driver from Mongolia. Yes, Mongolia. Now he lives in Fort Lauderdale. He was a superb driver.

The hotel here in Fort Lauderdale welcomed me and treated me like a prince about a year ago. Last night, the front desk people could not have been much worse. Unhelpful. Slow. Surly. One man, a young man named Brandon, tried to help but his boss, a woman whom I will not name, was completely uninterested in any kind of help. It took an hour and a half to find halfway decent rooms. I was furious. This is no way to run a hotel. The Westin Diplomat. Really, the contempt the front desk showed us was breathtaking. Then, a 90-minute wait for toast. Amazing.

Then, a jolt. As I was watching Fox News, I saw that my old marching companion and colleague, Chuck Colson, had passed away. That is a loss.

However, today was a lot better. I spoke to a great group of men and women who distribute janitorial and food-service products. They could not have been better people. Smart, friendly, good energy. These are almost all family-owned businesses with third and fourth generation owners and executives. The backbone of the nation.

After the speech, I joined the men and women at a buffet. I sat with men and women from Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We talked about George Wallace, about the Franklin Battlefield outside Nashville, about Shiloh, about folk art. All very jolly and encouraging.

Then back to my room to read a condescending obit in the New York Times about Chuck Colson. They have such contempt that they dared to say that Colson “said” he had a spiritual conversion about the time of Watergate. Now, look, NY Times, the man spent 35 tough years to bring help to the least of the earth’s people—its prisoners. He went into hundreds, maybe thousands, of prisons, prayed with millions of prisoners. He did this for 35 years. He spent his whole life bringing Christ to people in steel cages. Does that sound like a fake conversion?

His Prison Fellowship students, pupils, members, have less than half the recidivism rate of prisoners who do not join the Prison Fellowship. Does that sound like someone who just “says” he had a spiritual conversion?

May I ask where or when any journalist of any kind has done more for his or her fellow man than Chuck Colson? Where any former political figure has ever done more for his fellow man than Colson? I agree that Jimmy Carter is in the competition, but he’s far, far behind.

I scoured the Internet and did not see one story that pointed out the fantastic success record of the Prison Fellowship. Naturally, it’s not there. Chuck would have prayed for the mocking, contemptuous humans who could not hold a candle to him.

Well, I had the great pleasure of working with Chuck Colson on a project he had going about the ethical dimensions of the collapse in 2008. He was a thorough gentleman, gone far too soon. Too many going too soon.

Then, a late supper with my wife at a restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway across from our hotel. The night was balmy and pleasant. An immense yacht was parked right in front of us. Its owner, a pleasant Texan who manufactures everything from controls for torpedoes to locomotive parts, told us all about the boat. Two 2,000 horsepower diesel engines. Unbelievable. That boat was like something out of a dream. An 88-foot Pershing. It was out of a great dream.

So…let’s take it away from him, sell it, and give the money to Solyndra! Then, let’s put him in prison for being a smart, energetic guy. Doesn’t that make sense?

I stayed up very late watching a great steamy show on Showtime called The Borgias. It stars Jeremy Irons, a talented, super-talented British actor who was brilliant as Humbert H. Humbert in the remake of Lolita some years ago, and what a painfully sad movie that was. Pedophilia is not really anything but cruel for everyone involved.

Jeremy Irons plays a Borgia Pope and he plays him for laughs. He is really funny and the whole storyline is extremely funny. I am not sure it was supposed to be funny, but it has such perfect Brentwood/Santa Monica story twists (a single mother daughter who will not breastfeed her crying baby unless her father buys her a Porsche, or something like that…maybe it was to grant her dead lover a decent burial) and Jeremy Irons plays it for such canny self-mocking humor that it works as a medieval sitcom with a good bit of nudity.

Then I watched a simply fabulous movie, also on Showtime, called Drive Angry. It is about a man who comes back from the dead, Nick Cage, to save his granddaughter from satanic worshipers. He is aided and abetted in this task by someone from Hell, played by a very funny guy named Fichtner, and by a spectacularly perfect looking woman who I thought was Denise Richards but was really Amber Heard. She is so beautiful it should be a crime.

The movie had way more sex than was necessary and way too much graphic violence. But it also was extremely funny in its own campy way. I would watch it over and over, but then there is no better actor on the scene than Nick Cage. So, anything he’s in…I’ll watch it.


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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.