Got news? A tale of two collars

50spink_tasselsTwo quick confessions.

Yes, I do read the women’s mag Marie Claire – this wasn’t a tip from one of our commenters.

And no, I didn’t page right past a story about an aspiring politician and an amateur burlesque dancer.

But I didn’t notice the autobiographical commentary by writer Sarah Liston in the middle of the November issue of the magazine until today. After, uh, setting the stage, Liston describes husband Dave’s work as a public servant — and his other volunteer activities.

My husband, Dave, just finished his third term as chairman of our local New York City community board. He serves as cochair of the landmarks committee, and was recently awarded his own Appreciation Day by the borough president. His life revolves around volunteering as a subdeacon at an Episcopal church and listening to the public complain about subway construction, class size, and too-noisy bars. His dream is to make it to Congress one day, and to have an old-fashioned, street-level storefront office where constituents can stop by. After a long political career, he hopes to attend divinity school and become an Episcopal priest.

As an amateur burlesque dancer, I perform mostly at upscale restaurants and wine bars in New York City. My dream is to go on a burlesque tour through Europe, wearing ostrich feathers and velvet and bustiers, removing piece by strategic piece in lush, red-curtained, time-stained theaters. Usually, political scandals implicating half-dressed women involve everyone but the wife. In our case, the sex scandal is the wife. Though, for the record, I never get completely naked when I dance, and I use a pseudonym, Grace Gotham, to stay incognito. But still, you can see how my new hobby might put some drag on my husband’s political trajectory.

So let’s put the pieces of the story together. Here’s a little more biographical information about Subdeacon Liston. Turns out that he’s a lawyer at a New York City law firm and a former assistant district attorney — as well as a mayoral appointee to the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board. In a city of public servants, many of whom are pretty well-known, Mr. Liston would still be someone newsworthy.

Imagine for a moment that an evangelical or Mormon lawyer/public servant had a wife with this eclectic avocation? You’ve got to believe that some mainstream media outlet would be all over this story. Actually, whether you approve of burlesque or not, it’s a potential feature story.

Of course, if you are a well-known lawyer who has a spouse who is an author impelled by a yen for pasties and Edith Piaf — you’d have to be an Episcopalian, wouldn’t you? Stands to reason. Given David Liston’s biographical reference to Holy Trinity, I’d guess that this innovative East Side church is his parish. Tough to tell from his spouse’s commentary if she attends or not. Judging solely by the website, Holy Trinity seems to fit into the “inclusive” or “progressive” category.

I wonder why David Liston wants to wait to become a priest — to atone for years in the political crucible? His wife doesn’t tell us. Sarah Liston does give readers hints that her amateur career placed a bit of stress on her marriage. I also wonder, parenthetically, why she doesn’t note that her husband is a lawyer.

There’s so much more to tell here. Note to editors at the New York Times — all you have to do is figure out whether the Liston story belongs in the “Politics” or “Style” sections — and it sort of tells itself. The religion angle, played for “cute” in the Marie Claire essay, also could use a lot more attention. In short, you could argue that the tale of the kitty-collared performer and the lawyer/politician who dreams of the priesthood definitely has legs. So to speak.

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  • Davis

    I wonder why David Liston wants to wait to become a priest — to atone for years in the political crucible? His wife doesn’t tell us. Sarah Liston does give readers hints that her amateur career stressed her marriage. I also wonder, parenthetically, why she doesn’t note that her husband is a lawyer.

    My guess . . . the first-person column isn’t about him. It’s about her. She’s talking about herself, and her accident, and her dancing. He’s just a bit player.

    Imagine for a moment that an evangelical or Mormon lawyer had a wife with this eclectic avocation? You’ve got to believe that some mainstream media outlet would be all over this story.

    A lawyer, or a politician? I don’t think the press cares that much about what lawyers’ spouses do, Evangelical, Mormon, or Episcopalian. As for politicians, I think the press does care. He appears to recognize the dilemma, even though he’s probably not the kind of politician who spends time legislating about people’s private lives and bedrooms.
    I’m not seeing any bias here.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    DAVIS:

    Of course you don’t. There would be no clash between the feminist ideals of the Episcopal Church and her activities.

  • Dan Crawford

    I’ve been an Episcopal priest for a number of years, and I confess I never heard of an ordained Episcopal “sub-deacon”.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 E.E. Evans

    Dan:

    I agree. It’s a function, not a job. He acts as a sub-deacon for eucharists, I think.

  • Davis

    Of course you don’t. There would be no clash between the feminist ideals of the Episcopal Church and her activities.

    It is true that feminists may be unhappy about her burlesque, although they’d probably be more concerned if she was swinging on a poll naked. But I’m not sure what that has to do about him and why the press allegedly isn’t writing about him.

    He’s a politician and an Episcopalian. He’s acknowledged he’s uncomfortable with it, in terms of his political career. So where’s the journalism offense? That they haven’t written about his burlesque wife but they would if he was an Evangelical under the exact same situation?

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 E.E. Evans

    Davis –

    I’ll let Terry speak for himself, but I do feel that this is major media outlet material — and wonder why no one has picked up on it. I hope it’s not because we Episcoplians have become so idiosyncratic that no one even notices a couple in which one is a local pillar of the community and the other is having a blast imitating Josephine Baker.


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