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For years, peace activist and former Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy has taught a high-school course titled “Alternatives to Violence.” After a handful of class discussions on cruelty to animals, McCarthy’s students this semester at the School Without Walls in Northwest launched a letter-writing campaign targeted at Channel 4 sportscaster George Michael for his glowing coverage of rodeo events. “How would you like it if some big bozo was jumping up and down on your back, shoving sharp pieces of metal into your side?” one student wrote. Michael responded by letter, telling McCarthy and his students that he is a devoted supporter of animals and that he and his wife had rescued four burros in Death Valley, Calif. Michael also let students in on the fact that he broadcasts only rodeos sponsored by the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, whose horses and bulls “receive the finest care in the world.” Nice thoughts those, but then Michael went rodeo clown, suggesting that “if husbands and wives treated each other as well as the stock contractors treated their animals, we would probably no longer have divorce in this country.” McCarthy, in turn, shot back a note telling Michael that one of his students asked the class to imagine “George Michael putting a flank strap on his wife as a marital aid and riding her around the front lawn as she bucks and kicks.”

Brand Value Beginning Oct. 4, 1998, the National Gallery of Art will mount “Van Gogh’s Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum.” The museum missed an opportunity to mention that Van Gogh’s Van Goghs are Van Gogh’s masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum. (He signed his paintings “Vincent,” by the way.)

Here Come Wranglers The producers of Enemy of the State may have recruited their share of locals to work as extras while filming on location in Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, but certain roles require imported talent. In one scene, two dark-suited NSA agents chased a man onto a building roof as pigeons flew overhead. Each time the director yelled cut, a new steel cage full of pigeons got escorted onto the set. Did the producers stage casting calls at local haunts such as Diversity Park at the corner of Columbia and Champlain Streets or the more infamous “Pigeon Park” at the corner of Columbia and 16th? “Nope, those are wrangler pigeons,” explained a member of the film crew. “The wrangler, he trains all kinds: llamas, alligators, pigeons. Those are professionals, flown in direct from L.A.”

Visible Man Though an elusive man when it came to his tenants at the failed Dupont Down Under food court, Washington developer Geary Simon was a big presence on national news magazines this week. He emerged as the designated TV spokesman for the grieving family of Sonny Bono during funeral services in Palm Springs. The two first met, Simon says, when Bono’s wife, Mary, was studying martial arts at a local school and Simon was dating the woman who owned it. “After he came to Washington, we became inseparable….It was one of those guy-guy relationships men just have to have,” says Simon. “He and I shared a sarcastic outlook on life.”

Lay Away A few days after Christmas, Shaw resident Steve Dwyer called the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) again to complain about an anonymous gift left on the street near his house. The present—a white Toyota with expired Virginia temporary tags—had been sitting near his home on Warner Street since the beginning of October and had accumulated a stack of parking tickets. Though a clerk for the abandoned and junk vehicles department promised to look into it, the car remained on the streets. When Dwyer called two weeks later, he was told that the car could not be moved until the District had cleared away all of its car inventory. “All the impoundment lots are packed full,” explained Judith Brown of DPW. “[We’ll] have an auction that frees up some space, but we have nowhere else to put them until then.” The division held an auction on the first of this month, which made some room for a few more vehicles. So after a month and a half of complaining, Dwyer’s present was finally dispatched to the Brentwood impoundment lot last Tuesday morning.

Reporting by Chaka Freeman, Michael Schaffer, and Elissa Silverman.

Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa Silverman at esilverman@washcp.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.