Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How Mean is Too Mean?

I've heard those who teach feature writing say that one of challenges of creating feature writers is that if their basic reporting teachers have done a good job of teaching students to write basic "fact" stories, it's difficult for those students to embrace the freedom and playfulness that some feature stories require.

Irony, mockery, paradox, attitude and point of view are all saleable commodities if you are a feature writer or -- perhaps, more common -- a writer for a magazine or snarky website. Here is a link to a pretty famous arrest report posted at Smoking Gun, where public documents that describe the embarrassments of both the famous and the obscure are posted.

Poor bride apparently drank too much at her wedding reception and blotted her copybook.

It's a police report I sometimes use in basic reporting class as an exercise in the summary lead because so much of an outrageous nature is described that it takes some thinking to boil it down to 250 words, with a hundred words at the top that make sense if that's all an editor uses. Students want to tell the tale chronologically, but readers don't have the time nor publications the space for such languid telling.

(Online, of course, has the space, but readers have even less patience, and the demand for telling it quickly and succinctly is even more urgent.)

I gave the cop report to my feature writing class and asked them to "have some fun" with it. I told them to see if they write something -- factual, of course; no making things up -- that would be so brash, have so much attitude, be so unkind that I would tell them to draw back, tone it down, show some respect.

Here are the results (Audrey and Cameron to come??):

1)

A wedding celebration turns into drama as the bride, Adrienne Samen, ends up on supposedly, the happiest day of her life, in jail.


On Saturday August, 16 2003, the Police from South Windsor, Connecticut was called for breach of peace. But what they didn't know is that they were about to meet with a crazy bride.


After leaving the reception with plates and food all over, even in the parking lot, according to one of the staff members Kerrie Smith, the uncontrolled bride was seen yelling at everyone in the street and shouting obscenities. The police tried to calm her down and stop her twice, but all they got was her middle finger in their face. Then, if it was not enough, the drank and outraged bride, called Agent Dobler, Lopez and everyone around "c--- s-----" and "f------ a------."


She, then was transported to the station and, still under the influence of alcohol, instead of signing her name at the end of the form, wrote down "stupid people arrested me because."


2)

I wonder if Mrs. Samen thought while zipping up her white gown that after the wedding she would be getting handcuffed not by her husband in bed but by Officer Caleb Lopez outside of Mill on the River Restaurant. I was under the impression that this special day was the BRIDES. Appeasement only given to the princess of the universe. So if Adrienne Samen decides that she wants to spend her wedding day throwing dishes and yelling obscenities at strangers, police officers and the gods, well, so be it! No one can stop the force of a woman on her wedding day, except maybe the South Windsor, Connecticut police department.

3)

For one new bride, an evening in jail probably wasn't something she had included when planning her wedding day. Neither was threatening to harm her new husband hours after they said "I do."


Newlywed Adrienne Samen was arrested Saturday in her wedding gown while walking down the street after leaving food, broken plates, and well-dressed family members in the parking lot of Mill on the River.

Restaurant staff member Kerrie Smith told police that Samen "flipped out" when she asked one guest to leave the restaurant after going behind the closed bar area without permission.


Afterwards, Samen then started yelling at everyone and proceeded to throw food and plates around with some ending up in the parking lot. Samen left the restaurant as the wedding guests spilled out into the parking lot.

While she was taken into custody, Samen proceeded to shout vulgarities like "c--- s-----" and "f------ a------" at the officers and attempted to kick the cruiser's windows in when she was seated inside.


4)

A bar, a bitch and a wedding may be unwise to mix. Yesterday, this led South Windsor Police to an angry, drunken bride on her wedding night.

Adrienne Samen, draped in her white wedding gown, created quite a stir following her wedding yesterday. When police found her walking the streets she greeted them with a courteous middle finger along with a string of obscenities. Ah, nothing quite like a happy bride on her magical night.

Samen initially became outraged yesterday at Mill on the River when some of the wedding guests were told they were not allowed behind the bar because it had closed, police said. This led to an outburst in which Samen turned into a junior high student who had just been told she was grounded. Her ensuing hissy fit included throwing plates and food all over the restaurant.

This incident, combined with her actual wedding, apparently did not tire her out. She still had enough energy to attempt to kick out a police car window and bite one of the arresting officers. Maybe she did not have enough to eat at the reception.

Samen was charged with Breach of Peace and Criminal Mischief, police said.

5) Ending what is supposed to be the happiest day of your life sobering up in a county jail cell is the sad, sorry reality for newlywed Adrienne Samen. But the way her marriage seems to be working out thus far, maybe the crazed bride will get another shot at it one day. Following her wedding reception Samen joined guests and friends for a few rounds of drinks at Mill on the River Restaurant in South Windsor, Connecticut. What turned into a simple celebration of the coming together of two love birds ended in a frenzy of kicking, screaming, and ultimately a $1000 bond, and a court date for Breach of Peace and Criminal Mischief in the 3rd charges. When police arrived on scene they came upon an intoxicated Samen stumbling drunkenly down the street slowing traffic and slinging obscenities at anyone who met her path. In her wake lay broken plates and glasses and food, as well as a company of stunned guests. “She was flipping out,” said Kerrie Smith, staff member at the Mill on the River. “Flipping out” could be considered putting it lightly as she hailed insults at arresting officers Robert Dobler and Caleb Lopez “c---suckers, f---ing assholes

6)

Approaching what literally looked like a piece of white trash on the street, two police officers met Adrienne Samen and her middle finger as she walked down Ellington Road in her white wedding gown. A shouting Samen was escorted to the police car in hand cuffs where she continued to act obscenely by kicking the glass of the rear door.

Instead of hearing wedding bells on what was supposed to be the happiest day of Samen’s life, she heard police sirens. Instead of enjoying her wedding reception with her husband, she spent it in jail. This “bridezilla” was charged with Breach of Peace and Criminal Mischief in the 3rd on her wedding day.

According to the police report Evelyn Vitale, mother-in-law of the bridezilla, said that Adrienne had been drinking and that she had never seen her like this. But how much alcohol would it take for a woman to spit on her wedding ring, slam it down on a table, insult everyone around her, and lastly ask a police officer how long she would get for killing a Marine?

This mess all started during her wedding reception at a restaurant called Mill on the River when Samen became upset with one of the staff members, Kerrie Smith. Smith had repeatedly asked guests to stay away from the closed bar area of the restaurant, but when no one would listen Smith asked a guest to leave. This sent Samen over the edge.


7)

Brides are often typified as blushing, but it usually isn't alcohol that induces the pinkness of the cheek. Adrienne Samen defied all bridal convention on her special day when she was found wandering 989 Ellington Rd by police on August 16, 2003, her face plenty red. And if her treatment of the officers is any indication, she was anything but demure, exhibiting her shit-kicking prowess by first throwing plates and food at Mill on the River, where she had been partying all evening, then turning her rage on the knights in the black cruiser who arrested her for Breach of Peace.

According to a police report filed by reporting Officer Carlo Lopez, he and his partner Agent Dobler were not only subjected to a slew of vulgarities, Samen also tried to bite the forearm of the latter. Despite her failed attempt at escape by kicking the glass of the cruiser's back window with both legs, officers Lopez and Dobler were eventually able to get her through the door of the police station. There, Samen continued to embody the lyrics of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To" by removing her wedding ring, spitting on it, and slamming it on the table. This was all followed by more obscenities.

Lopez said that when he gave her the rights form to sign, she wrote simply, "stupid people arrested me because." Perhaps she will be able to finish that sentence when the videotape of her actions is released; an inevitable outcome of what will promise to be if not the happiest, the most memorable day of Samen's life.

8)

7 comments:

Jacob Marx said...

"A bar, a bitch and a wedding" may indeed be a hard mix. However, yesterday, this led to another outrageous and very interesting class assignment forged in the fires of the Robertson mind. Good language use overall by the contributing members of the class. Assignments like this allow writers to find the hilarity in everyday events and provide a break from the mundane trenches of every day life. The Feature Writing class under Robertson opened my eyes to the real world where brides get blasted and stir up drunk-tank after-parties and rogue professors throw boxes at their elevator occupying students.

Jessica said...

In the spirit of the assignment, I'll be blunt: Were these stories copy edited? As a reader, the minute I get hit with "comma overload," I bail.

Otherwise, I liked the feisty writing and approach to what could have been a forgotten story.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

First: If that elevator door had closed a split second slower, Marx would have had a limp for life.

Second: Put the blame on me, Jess. It was a quickie assignment at the end of class and I *demanded* a quick turn-in with no time to edit. And, in the spirit of blog, I threw this stuff online with no editing!

Tmorahan said...

hello there,
thanks for the invite to your virtual house of fun.
I think you all have learned the factual approach very well as Prof. Robertson referred to in the start of the blog. Everyone seemed to stick to the "facts" - Facts? What are facts? the rambling notes of a police person? Police person who describes his efforts as trying to calm her down (paraphrasing). Two Police persons tried to calm down a woman who was cuffed in the back of a car - hmmm - I wonder what tactics they used?
Isn't it a sad reflection on the news that so much of it is filtered through the establishment whether in the form of the police or some other pillar of society. Of course it is easier to criticise the 3rd world countries and war torn countries in far away places for this. But when it is in our own back yard we just accept the "facts" and reiterate them and spew them onto the page again.
Any way let's lighten this up....
Why is she so angry at her man? I would suggest that her man might have told the authorities in the hotel to stop serving her and this ticked her off! Forgive me for blowing the typical chauvinistic stereotype of the man being the tough drinker but I think we might have here a man that can't handle his woman's drinking. If his was a man on his wedding night would we still be talking about it?
Wouldn't it be an interesting twist if the man had in fact tried to stop his wife from letting loose. (I am in no way promoting any type of over indulgence of any kind - I'm just analyzing). Imagine - the nagging Marine husband. The marines would never be the same!
T.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Brother Morahan has a point, several points. But he does imply that perhaps the sad facts of this case should be ignored, or at least dealt with dimuendo. This is an important aspect of snark that should not be ignored.

Tmorahan said...

Hello there,

something I came across tonight in:

Ayers, W. (2004). Teaching towards freedom: Moral commitment and ethical action in the classroom. Beacon Press: Boston.

"In 1999 one of my brother Rick's journalism students, Finnegan Hamill, heard a presentation at his church about a youth peace group in Kosova. He made e-mail contact with a Kosovar teenager and they began a complex, continuous correspondence. Finnegan was following a tenet of Rick's teaching: the kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers are not the only and usually not really the best sources of information, and in journalism, whatever else you do, you should go to the base. Who built the pyramids? he would ask his students. What does the stonemason know that the pharaoh does not?"

Just throwing it out there.
T.

Maria Dinzeo said...

You can never be too mean as long as your stories are properly copy edited.