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Jewish World Review Feb. 28, 2001 / 5 Adar 5761

Evan Gahr

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Consumer Reports

Jesse the spendthrift? 'Moocher' is more like it! -- MAYBE JESSE JACKSON isn't such a spendthrift after all.

Sure, he favors most every government program imaginable. Does anyone know just how he spends the millions of dollars showered upon him by big business and the federal government over the years? Jackson certainly wears expensive-looking suits and treats at least one ex-girlfriend well. But does he cut corners elsewhere? Jackson "had a reputation for not tipping" waiters and waitresses at a Georgetown jazz club, a former employee claims. Jackson let it be known that waitresses and waiters should be paid more and tipped less, she says.

Why repeat this woman's story from 1989 today? Well, Jackson and other esteemed members of the liberal lynch mob gleefully dredged up allegations far more serious and unsubstantiated when they connived to keep Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court. The Washington Post gossip column now reports regularly on the tip styles of the rich and famous.

Certainly, stiffing the waitress is not unknown in the left-wing universe Jackson trolls. Early in her senate campaign, Hillary Clinton was lambasted for her failure to tip a waitress for the $6 lunch she was "comped" at a diner near Rochester. Can we at least treat Jackson with the minimal scrutiny accorded Hillary, queen of the double standards?

Is this story credible? It certainly reeks of Jackson's propensity to conflate his own crass self-interest with "social justice." Moreover, it was unsolicited and recounted by a casual acquaintance of this writer after she read his piece about Jackson's current travails on another web site. If this woman is a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty, recent history suggests she might have concocted a far more lurid tale. Certainly, the record suggests Jackson has probably been a familiar figure to Blues Alley employees. He has not been there recently but patronized the jazz club/restaurant since at least 1977, says operations manager Ralph Camilli.

In 1985, The Washington Post has reported that he was even scheduled to appear at a February 23 press conference at the Blues Alley to announce a fundraiser later that month for his Rainbow Coalition. The press conference was cancelled when Jackson was unexpectedly hospitalized for a collapsed lung. Flash forward four years. Our source, a former Blues Alley hostess, says that sometime around the spring or summer of 1989 Jackson and an all black entourage of four or five showed up for dinner one night at the restaurant. They gobbled and boozed their way to quite a bill. But the waitress who "should have [received] about $40 in tips on that table" got zilch. (The numbers here mesh with a review of the Blues Alley's current prices for food and liquor.)

Instead of venting her rage at Jackson, the unlucky waitress blamed the hostess for putting Jackson in her section. The hostess was flabbergasted. "I didn't know that [Jackson had a reputation for not tipping." She says co-workers later told her that "Jackson did not tip because he believes waitresses should not be dependent on tips and should earn a decent, livable wage."

All's well that ends well. "I made up with [the stiffed waitress] the next week by giving her a group of 12 Japanese tourists,'' she said, implying this type had a reputation for generosity.

Ralph Camilli, the Blues Alley official, says he "never heard" of anyone complaining to him that "Jackson stiffed me." Of course, complaining to the boss that a big celebrity stiffed you is probably not a prudent move at most any establishment. He is highly skeptical of the story, but concedes it is "a possibility." Any counter-evidence? Camilli says he is sure Jackson tips but could not provide any details.

A spokeswoman at Jackson's Rainbow Coalition headquarters in Chicago said she has "no idea" what he does for gratuities and "no knowledge" of the Blues Alley anecdote. Others are equally tight-lipped, including Al Sharpton, a Jackson pal who presumably has dined with Jackson. (Although who can blame Jackson if he doesn't want to spring for the tip on Sharpton's tab?) Sharpton has been a little press shy about Jackson lately, perhaps because they have reportedly disagreed about the most efficacious way to shake down corporations. He did not return a phone. Neither did Sylvia's, a Harlem restaurant where Jackson is reputed to dine.

Jim Fleischmann, the new executive director of the wacky New Party which spearheads a nationwide living wage campaign, says Jackson is an outspoken ally. But he has never heard anyone offer Jackson's alleged "rationale" for not tipping and knows nothing about how Jackson personally handles tips. But University of Maryland professor Ron Walters, who worked on Jackson's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns, openly doubts that Jackson is a shnorrer (a Yiddish word for someone who shirks his financial obligations). Walters says "that Jesse is not typically in situations where he has to pay. The staff usually does that.''

Yes, but what are their instructions?

Walters says he remembers only one time when Jackson personally handled the bill and did tip. After either the 1984 or 1988 presidential campaign, Jackson took his whole campaign staff of 12 or so people out to dinner at a fancy Chinese restaurant on K St.(He can't remember the exact name.) Walters says Jackson included a tip on the bill, which he charged. How does he know a tip was actually included? Well, to paraphrase Potter Stewart on pornography, Walters knows it when he sees it. "I know what would have happened if he hadn't put down a tip." Walters says the waiter looked quite pleased, presumably with the tip, when he took the charge slip.

And there you have it: Walters is the only one of a half dozen Jacksonians contacted who could provide a detailed and coherent answer to a rather simple question about a relatively minor matter. Most public figures are considerably more forthcoming about matters large and small.

Message to Stonewall Jackson: little steps for little feet. Try to answer some questions about gratuities first? Then, proceed to tougher subjects?

JWR contributor Evan Gahr is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


02/21/01: Remember Saint Ralph?
02/17/01: Donna Brazile Speaks out on Clarence Thomas
02/15/01: Operation PUSH back
02/08/01: Of 'players,' boozers, and your tax dollars
02/02/01: Schumer's new insensitivity
01/31/01: The Real Pat Caddell
01/26/01: Louts Above the Law
01/18/01: Bush and other GOP converts to racial politics are profoundly misguided
12/20/00: Whose America? Here are some election results the "mainstream" press won't report
12/14/00: Gore's last smear campaign
12/05/00: Fido v. Fido --- the emerging 'pets' rights' movement
12/01/00: Missile defense fog
11/17/00: The Dersh opens his yap one time too many
11/13/00: Gore's biggest missing Florida bloc
11/07/00: Hillary's cruel blow to American pluralism
11/01/00: Given Hillary's history should anyone -- other than society's most radical -- be surprised?
10/26/00: Remembering Gus Hall, that 'all-American' kinda guy
10/19/00: Hey conservatives, Nader wants your vote!
08/24/00: Not So Super-Heroes
08/15/00: Meet Mr. Quotas
08/01/00:The Visigoths are coming! The Visigoths are coming! ... Or so the media thinks
07/12/00: Geraldo's Food for Thought
06/27/00: Time for To Execute a Murderer
06/20/00: Hillary and the Cop-bashers: Will the real Ms. Rodham please stand up?
06/08/00: For voting rights purposes, should criminal offenders be judged not by the content of their character but the color of their skin?
05/10/00: Feminist Majority Rule
05/02/00: The Tin Man's Doctor
03/07/00: Bob Jones hypocrisy: Liberals are lecturing Americans on "anti-Catholicism"?
02/03/00: The red and the Black: The Left-wing Extremist in Bill Bradley’s Camp
01/06/00: Looking backwards: An anchorman's version of the 20th Century
12/16/99: Yellow journalism for the Pink Lady?
12/07/99: How to make the American Psychological Association squirm

© 2001, Evan Gahr. Adapted from the Front Page Magazine