green acresBy Peter Galuszka

Is Richmond really Hooterville?

By golly gosh, that’s the impression that one might come away with after 14 days of testimony at the corruption trial of former Gov. Robert F. and Ms. Maureen McDonnell.

Pretentious Richmond likes to see itself as a genteel and sophisticated historic relic with a Southern snob appeal rivaling Charleston, S.C.; an architecture and culture that worship the English (although the best of the Brit lot didn’t always end up here); and basic unfriendliness. At the upper levels, people whose can’t trace their families back several generations are not really welcome unless they have lots of money, which bespeaks Richmond’s more honest background as a service and industrial town.

“RVA” as its promoters like to now brand it, is supposed to be a tourism and great restaurant destination with professional service (that’s a laugh). Residents are supposed to enjoy a high life that goes well beyond a burg of 1.25 million trapped in the distant shadows of Washington, D.C.

To be sure, some younger Richmonders are thankfully well beyond these handcuffs. So are a passel of “come heres” who have brought the town more sophistication from Germany, Japan or Croatia or even from  even from such Deeper South spots as Charlotte and Atlanta — Charleston being little more than a tourist trap and shipping center. Richmond does have nice museums, art galleries and a popular baseball team that they’re trying to ruin by moving it to a congested, politically orchestrated spot.

But you’ve got to wonder. In recent trial testimony, the story was told of Jonnie R. Williams, star witness for the prosecution, who tried to court (among many others) Dr. George Vetrovec, a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University. Williams was trying to get VCU’s and the University of Virginia’s imprimatur on Anatabloc, Williams’ over-the-counter anti-inflammatory so questionable it has just been pulled off the shelves nationally. The former used car salesman also dotted doctors’ meetings with props from Johns Hopkins University as if they were supposed to impress the supposedly lower-tier Virginia folks. To their credit, many state officials didn’t bite.

Dr. Vetrovec thought he was going with Williams to the Executive Mansion to sample some of Ms. McDonnell’s cookies which are supposed to be delicious. Instead, it was a reception for dynamite director Steve Spielberg, in town to film “Lincoln” in October 2011.

Wowie! Zowie! THE Spielberg! “This is the most unusual event you can ever imagine,” the doctor said. As readers can see from the link, Vetrovec’s statements were reprinted in the London media, giving Richmond a somewhat laughable reputation.

Huh? Where the hell are we? “Green Acres?” Go to any city that Richmond aspires to be like Atlanta, D.C. or New York. No one would go nutty over Spielberg-spotting. Movie stars and directors are like so, so what? But Richmond was mad about “Lincoln” and was chock-a-block with all the local stand-ins they hired. You couldn’t walk downtown without tripping over the beard of an extra that he might have waxed with bacon grease to give it an 1865 look and aroma.

My own sister was an extra in “The Exorcist” in Georgetown back in the 70s but she never regarded it as the high point of her life. It was more an amusing anecdote to be shared over a glass of wine. When I worked in Moscow in friendlier times in the 1990s, I was driving downtown near a hotel. I was amazed since it was covered in bullet holes – even more so that I didn’t hear the shots although I lived nearby. Turned out it had been a prop for a Val Kilmer movie and they hadn’t cleaned it up yet. Muscovites did not gush. They walked silently by.

So are Richmonders really that impressionable? Is it a deep sense of being second rate? Is it an over-sized turnip truck? Why were the McDonnells so impressed with Williams’ Ferrari that they had 25 pictures of them with it? Had they never seen a Ferrari before?

There’s the $5,000 bottle of Louis XIII cognac in New York’s Four Seasons hotel. Later, Williams spent something like $36,000 for a four-day getaway for six people including the McDonnells at a posh Cape Cod resort. The six tippled 16 glasses of Louis XIII for something like $125 a snifter. Their dinner menus included lobster, duck, steak and fish – all on Williams’ tab.

And on it goes – the Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, the golf clubs and so on.

The obvious corruption is worrisome and hopefully the  federal (not state)  court will address it.The extra blow is that Richmond doesn’t just look bad, it looks ridiculous. It seems like a Third World capital, perhaps Jakarta, where traders and investors used to bring special goodies for Mrs. Suharto (a.k.a. “Mrs. Ten Percent.”)

Will Richmond be regarded as too simple to handle business, culture, science and education in  a much more interconnected and increasingly sophisticated world? Will foreign business scouts show up at RIC with suitcases full of cash, or maybe fake gold trinkets? Could it be that the McDonnells have it right — Richmond is really Hicksville after all?

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37 responses to “Is Pretentious Richmond Really Hooterville?”

  1. I notice over at Bearing Drift – they are accusing McAuliffe of shorting Stafford County of transportation money for an interchange as punishment for the GOP not supporting the MedicAid Expansion… I kid you not.

    I supposed they’ll get around to the Charlottesville Bypass and US 460 fiasco as also examples of the Dems meting out political payback… for the Va GOP losing the election.

    but they have ZIP to say about the McDonnell trial. Oh wait.. there is some guy name Rippert saying this:

    ” I guess there are two ways to interpret the testimony in the McDonnell trial to date. I see McDonnell (or his staff at least) turning down the free de la Renta dress offered to Maureen. I see McDonnell telling his adult son to return the gift of “golden golf clubs”. I see Maureen and the daughter taking the $15,000 for the weeding food and not telling Bob McDonnell. According to the daughter, when Bob found out he was furious. I hear aids to McDonnell claiming that Maureen was perpetually flying off the handle at McDonnell and his staff. at one point an aide to Maureen McDonnell asked Jonnie Williams for a job to get away from Maureen.

    The age of chivalry also came with the age of lady-like behavior. Wives did not scream at their husbands, they did not hide things from their husbands and they did not have “crushes” on other men.”


    I think this says reams about how we do “politics” in Va.

    Obviously according to RPV – the current McDonnell trial is a Democratic witch-hunt against an honorable Governor and wife…who the Dems – watergate -style – are hell-bent on besmirching his Conservative legacy and their Ozzie and Harriet, Petticoat Junction love song. Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch and …double ouch.

    Is that going to be the McDonnell “defense” – that the nasty Obama Justice Dept has gone after the poor ole Green Acres turnip truck McDonnells?

    so they’re going to put the “Obama” prosecutors on trial?

    Even Jim Bacon would blush .. I would hope…

    1. The trial is far enough advanced and enough evidence has been presented that I would not paint the prosecutors as being motivated by politics. One can argue that the prosecutors are over-zealous…. but most prosecutors are over-zealous. Prosecutors advance their careers by bagging the big game, and McDonnell is big game. Still, while I would judge McDonnell to be innocent of most charges (legally, not ethically) on the basis of what I have seen to this point, I would say it’s a close call. I could change my mind. I can see why the prosecutors filed the indictments.

      I don’t see that as undermining anything that Don the Ripper has said, either on Bacon’s Rebellion or Bearing Drift.

      1. the Ripper’s Bearing Drift comment was the now-rejected idea that “Maureen did it”.

        but then Don – goes on to claim that McDonnell has done nothing different or worse than Kaine/Warner did and that’s patently false unless Don has something more than baseless assertions – which is what you find over at Bearing Drift not infrequently … ( like McAuliffe “firing” a CTB member whose term of office ended). Just wretched partisan blather.

        1. Poor Larry is really struggling here. No sooner does he make some random statement about Bob vs Maureen than he is proven wrong by the facts.

          “As for the loan application submitted to Towne Financial, President William Sessoms (who also is Virginia Beach’s mayor) testified that a personal financial statement such as the one McDonnell filled out need not have included mention of debt owed by his wife ($50,000) or by a limited liability company such as MoBo Real Estate Partners.”

          He also conveniently ignores Tim Kaine taking campaign contributions and an $18,000 gift from a man who he subsequently appointed to a prestigious state position.

          Larry struggles to understand that the only reasons we know about the extent of McDonnell’s debauchery is because of a disgruntled chef, a particularly slippery gift-giver and a Democratic President in the White House.

          Time to call Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to the stand and start asking them about the gifts they took and the favors they did for the gift givers. We can begin with Kaine, the $18,000 free vacation and the appointment of the gift giver. If that’s OK then I have to wonder what McDonnell did that was not OK.

  2. rethinking my comment… it’s over-the-top wrong. My apologies to all.

    1. I hope you don’t think your comment bothered me.

      There are two questions regarding Bob McDonnell:

      1. Did he break the law?
      2. Legal or not, how corrupt was his behavior compared to former governors?

      I think he’ll be found innocent of every charge save for a failure to disclose the loan.

      I think if McDonnell’s “corruption level” is 100 then the average former governor would be about an 80.

      His legal team would be well advised to infer that the trial is a politically inspired witch hunt by the Obama Administration. Given the endless scandals of the Obama Administration I am sure there are a few jurors who would find it very easy to imagine a vendetta. Add the fact that Kaine and Warner each took hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts too and it’s hard to see McDonnell as some hyper-corrupt aberration.

      The real funny thing is that only Virginia governor who will probably finish his term honestly and without pocketing a small fortune in gifts is Terry McAuliffe. That will really stick in the craw of Virginia conservatives!

      1. if you’re claiming Kaine and Warner and their wives had relationships with gift-givers like the McDonnell’s I think you need to back it up – it’s egregious for you to make that claim without supporting it.

        Second – if you are implying that Kaine and Warner sold stocks and investments prior to the requirement to disclose them and then bought them back afterwards – then you need to also back that up.

        Third – if you are implying that Kaine and Warner lied on loan applications, then – again -you need to back that up

        …. if you really want to assert that all the govs “do the same thing”.

        but how in the world would you know that McAuliffe is doing none of this – either?

        IN short, I think you’re over the top on your speculation about other govs and equating their behavior to McDonnells… but that’s par for the course over at Bearing Drift… so you’ve sort of classified yourself as engaging in what many over there – do.

        hope this does not “bother” you.

        this is exactly why I backed up from engaging in the type of thing they engage in over there – like accusing McAuliffe of “firing” the CTB rep – who had reached the end of his two terms… and claiming that’s par for the course for Dems… it’s just nutty stuff and I ‘m surprised you partake of it – and even join in.

        1. Kaine took an $18,000 gift from a man he subsequently appointed to a prestigious state wide position. How is that any different from McDonnell taking gifts from Jonnie Williams and then introducing Williams to people who might help him in Virginia’s government?

          In fact, Kaine’s gift-giving friend actually got something while McDonnell’s gift-giver only got a cold shoulder from various state officials.

          McAuliffe was very clear that neither he nor his family would take anything but trivial gifts while he serves as Virginia’s governor. Your company can give him a coffee cup but not a Rolex. I see no reason to distrust McAuliffe on this matter.

          McAuliffe did voluntarily what should be the law – no gifts for elected officials.

          Bearing Drift reported on some silly sounding claims by a former CTB member. Given the e-mails that were made public it was reasonable for them to report the story. I think the former CTB member is a quack but it’s still newsworthy. The error about how he left the CTB was corrected by the author of the blog post.

          There aren’t many balanced blogs on Virginia politics. In fact, there’s only one I know of – this one.

          1. I would not legitimize what was “reported” as “reporting”. It was blatant lies .

            and I question your own ability to discern the difference between plum appointments given to supporters…

            and engaging in a long running relationship with someone who is raining gifts on you and your family, and you are, in turn are not disclosing the gifts and selling stocks right before they have to be reported -then buying them back right after required “disclosure – and lying about the loans you have received from this same guy – on a loan application.

            when you provide true evidence of these kinds of transaction for Kaine and Warner – I’ll stand up and take notice but until then you’re engaging in the same kind of illicit talk that Bearing Drift does at times.

            where in the world is your sense of proportionality and need for real evidence before you accuse others of the same behavior of McDonnell?

            Have you also included Allen and Gilmore in this – “they’re all equally crooked” foolishness?

        2. How many times do you have to be told, under Virginia law, that the wife is irrelevant? She can take gifts, she can take loans. Unless she tries to get her husband to do illegal favors her actions are utterly unimportant. So, why do you keep bringing up the wives? Yet another leftist attempt to muddy the waters? It is not working on anybody.

          I don’t have to make any assertions about Kaine or Warner’s wives because they are irrelevant to the issue of whether they broke any laws. Under Virginia standards they are irrelevant to the question of ethics. As long as they are not elected officials they can do what they want.

          Having eliminated the wives’ behavior from the matter the question falls to the actions of the governor. Was McDonnell doing anything markedly different from previous governors? Now that the loan disclosure hoax has been debunked I’d say “no”.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Larry hell noooo!

    1. naw.. I don’t want Bearing Drift to set the standard for judging governors… I thought it a little nutty about the transportation thing… because they also were saying that the CTB rep was fired ( when in fact the Kaine-appointed CTB rep finished his 2nd term).

      but I don’t think even if Bearing Drift wants to make issues partisan that the McDonnell mess should be partisan. Let it stand on it’s own for what it is.

      I DO think it’s an honest question about “conservative” values.

  4. wolchko Avatar

    Not that details matter, at least as they relate to second-rate commentary, but it’s “Vuitton,” not “Vitton.” And while I’m at it, it’s not “Oscscar de la Renta,” but “Oscar de la Renta.” Whatever. My point is that you’re the one with the complex, not “Old Richmond.” “They” won’t bother responding. Sorry, I couldn’t finish reading the rest of your post as I had more urgent matters to attend to…namely my twisted ankle and the bruise on my face that resulted after tripping over your misspellings. Richmond may not be perfect, but neither are you, sir.

  5. As far as Richmond – there is something about the attitude of the people from that city. The huge Confederate flag flying near the highway. Douglass Freeman High School (the Rebels) trying to re-institute the Confederate soldier as their mascot. The statue of Robert E Lee. Lee grew up in Alexandria. I don’t think there’s a statue of him in that Virginia city. No giant Confederate flags flying over Northern Virginia that I know of. None in Charlottesville that I know of.

    You don’t see a lot of statues and memorabilia in London celebrating the War of 1812. You know why? Cause they lost! I have some bad news for Richmonders. The South lost the Civil War. Badly. The South barely spent any time in Northern territory while the North fought through the South for years. How did it end? Unconditional surrender?

    1. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

      “The huge Confederate flag flying near the highway.”

      That was put up by a group called the Virginia Flaggers, who operate out of Sandston (not Richmond) and draw support from people all across at least the state, if not further out.

      “Douglass Freeman High School (the Rebels) trying to re-institute the Confederate soldier as their mascot.:

      That’s out in Henrico County, not the city of Richmond.

      “No giant Confederate flags flying over Northern Virginia that I know of. None in Charlottesville that I know of.”

      Why does the size of the flag matter? Were either of those places ever confederate capitals? Could it be that (and cheaper land prices) which caused the VF to hang that flag where they did? You think no one drives down Lee Avenue in Manassas with a Confederate battle flag on their bumper? You think no neo-Confederates drop their kids off at Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax?

      “I have some bad news for Richmonders.”

      What you mean is “I have bad news for racist whites all across the country,” because this attitude is neither isolated nor particularly present to or in the city of Richmond. You know how many battle flags I see when I drive through West Virginia? Or the interior of Pennsylvania? Upstate New York? More than I see in the city of Richmond. The white people that are into that crap more or less fled to Peter’s bucolic Chesterfield and Henrico suburbs as soon as humanly possible.

      1. I don’t believe Peter’s commentary or my comments were limited to the legal boundaries of the City of Richmond.

        1. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

          Peter always singles out Richmond as a singular entity separated from the counties when he writes on the subject. But even if your point is there’s something unique about the metro area with regards to Confederate sympathizers/apologists you’re still wrong.

        2. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

          Also your exact words were “There is something about the attitude of the people from that city.”

          1. Speaking of race and Northern Va – there was this movie – “Remember the Titans”.

            It was a single theme movie designed for Denzel Washington, and not that great IMHO but …

            ” The film is based on the true story of African American coach Herman Boone portrayed by Denzel Washington, as he tries to introduce a racially divided team at the T. C. Williams High School in the southern Virginia town of Alexandria, Virginia in 1971.”

            I love the way they say “southern” Alexandria, Va.


            but good, stimulating comments on these issues on BR these days!

            I like the passion – and I like the fact that it’s not accompanied by the virulent Ad Hominems that seem to be so rampant on other sites.

            also – Virginia’s cities are independent from the counties whereas virtually all of states, the cities are contained within the counties.. but you still end up with Detroit/Dearborn type configurations. Both Detroit and Dearborn are in Wayne County.

      2. I can’t wait to hear the Richmond apologist excuse making around this one …

        The Arthur Ashe statue controversy?

        1. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

          Where did I make any excuses for anything? You made a case with a terrible premise supported by bad logic. Pointing those things out doesn’t make me an apologist.

          Yeah, there were/are a lot of racist white people in the city of Richmond, but I don’t think they’re isolated to this city and I don’t think the concentration in the city is much different than you’d see elsewhere.

          I mean I’m sure all those fine, upstanding Northern Virginians have been totally supportive of the movement to change the Redskins’ name, right?

  6. Peter, You don’t like Richmond much, do you? You need to sell your place in the boonies and move into the city. I think you’d meet a lot of people you like. You won’t find many Kentucky Colonels sipping on bourbon and branch water. You really won’t. There aren’t many left.

    1. but you’ll still find little statues of black jockey’s in front of some folks homes …

    2. I give up – what is branch water? From the branch of a creek? If so, does it come with algae and salamanders?

  7. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    Sorry Richmond is such a “backwards” place to you……but, I think you’re a little harsh.

    I realize it may surprise you, but back before NASCAR became “mainstream”, the organization used to hold its Awards Ceremony in Manhattan (I don’t know if they still do). In the early 90s, they would put the cars on display in Times Square. Crowds were enormous. I was up there in December of 92, and I can testify that those “sophisticates” were just as thrilled/curious about NASCAR show cars as much as Richmonders were curious about Hollywood.

    Putting something novel in any town is going to draw a crowd.

    And as for the McDonnells…..aren’t they both native NoVaites? Pretty sure they are……

    And finally….if this were a banana republic…..don’t you think that Medicaid expansion would have been the 1st order of business in January and already enacted? The money that the hospitals dumped into that would “buy off” any “3rd world dictator.”

    Details, details…..

  8. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Actually, Jim, Kentuckians are friendly and unpretentious.

  9. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

    I’m not sure the house rules regarding profanity here, so I can’t use the language I want, but if you think Atlanta has more culture than Richmond you don’t know your rectal orifice from a hole in the ground.

  10. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Re: Richmond vs. Atlanta.

    Atlanta has about four or five times Richmond’s population, is far more of a world trading center, has one of the busiest airports in the country, several major sports teams, a symphony and ballet beyond Richmond’s worthy efforts

    1. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

      “Atlanta has about four or five times Richmond’s population”

      Not an indicator of culture.

      “far more of a world trading center”

      Not an indicator of culture.

      ” one of the busiest airports in the country”

      Not an indicator of culture.

      “several major sports teams”

      Not an indicator of culture.

      “symphony and ballet beyond Richmond’s worthy efforts”

      Has the same cultural indicators as Richmond on a larger scale. Gotcha.

    2. Cville Resident Avatar
      Cville Resident

      When you worked for Businessweek did you routinely compare the economies of Spain and China? Probably not.

      So, you want to compare a metro of 5.5 million to a metro of 1.5 million in terms of economic activity (airport, trade, sports teams)? Apples to Oranges.

  11. billsblots Avatar

    “we’re really proud of the caliber of our audience and quality of interaction in our comments.” – JAB

    “Actually, Jim, Kentuckians are friendly and unpretentious.”

    ROFL, now I can’t tell if JAB’s comment is meant ironically or if he just hadn’t read Peter’s comment yet.
    (this being Richmond, Hipster Capital, USA, I’d have to assume that Jim’s remark was made ironically, as was Peter’s)

  12. Richard Avatar

    Kinda of snarky post. Richmond can be charming and has no monopoly on snobs.

    Speaking.of.the Exorcist, and being a bit pretentious I suppose, I stumbled upon the Exorcist set during filming on my way to the Cellar Door to see John Prine.and.Bonnie Raitt (the opener) at a midnight show. Amazing. Bonnie.Raitt fell off the stage . It was startling to turn the corner and to run into the bright lights of.the.filming at that time of the evening. As a movie not so great. As part of a great night (and a pretentious story), very cool.

  13. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Apologies dear rebellion readers for serious typo issue . Need date with eye doc

  14. wesghent Avatar

    Benjamin Campbell wrote “Richmond’s Unhealed History,” published last year by Brandylane Publishers, Inc. He is thoroughly informed of the city’s past, and he is well-trained as a historian and commentator on Southern life — past, present and future. For over 40 years he has been involved in daily life in Richmond, as citizen, pastor, reformer, non-profit executive and peacemaker among races, creeds and socio-economic groups. No one has been closer to all segments of Richmond society than Campbell, and no one is as well educated or articulate in describing life in the 21st century in the Capital of the Confederacy, as well as what happened between 1607 and today that has influenced the way people in Richmond have lived and thought for over 400 years.
    Readers should be impressed but not confused by Ben Campbell’s attainments as a clergyman. Those who know him well are aware that his unique perspective contributes insight and hope to his analysis of what some might view as a still backward-looking state capital of today. He gives ample detail to the story of how Richmond became the most active slave market after New Orleans, and he traces how that part of its history has afflicted Richmond for 100 years. That was evidenced by the shameful distractions of “massive resistance” to Supreme Court-ordered school integration in the late 1950s, and subverting the Civil Rights movement’s impacts in the 1960s.
    Perhaps least acknowledged previously from a national perspective are the facts presented in this book as to how the inner city of Richmond was, after 1965, kept economically and racially segregated by city and state governments which thwarted growth inside the old city boundaries, while passing laws and covenants to enable the surrounding suburban counties (Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield, Goochland, Powhatan) to flourish as white enclaves of real estate profit and racial separation. In recounting these facts, Campbell brings to bear his academic training — at Williams College (A.B.), Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar), and Virginia Theological Seminary (M.Div.) — along with almost 50 years of pastoral and public experience in a variety of ministries and urban initiatives, deep in the heart of Richmond.
    Looking to the future, Ben Campbell is able to envision a new day for Richmond: “This metropolitan city has the power to claim its destiny in the world as a laboratory of racial and social justice—a city of once-great division and injustice where the races were reconciled by honesty, integrity and truth. The spirit makes the difference. There is no substitute.”
    Perhaps Richmond’s healing is near at last. Ben Campbell believes so, and has staked his life and ministry on such a dream. Cleaning up the mess in the Governor’s mansion and the General Assembly is an equal challenge — and will require even greater measures of integrity. As with all addictions, it’ll be one step at a time.

  15. Well … I gotta say – these knuckleheads seem to be having a lot of fun down in old RVA …

    1. see if you can discern race in this video:

      I think there is a message in this video for all of us.

      sometimes we all need a swift kick in the butt to make us see the half full glass.

  16. wesghent Avatar

    Yeah, the message for me is that there are no libraries, schools or colleges in RVA HAPPY. Just eating, drinking and dancing in the streets — not all bad, for sure.

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