We knew things were freaky at U.S. Airways, the down-at-the-heels, bankrupt airline headquartered in Arlington, but we didn't know they were this freaky. For Halloween yesterday, CEO David Siegel -- who took over the controls in March and has been trying to save U.S. Airways from extinction -- attempted to lift sagging corporate morale by donning an Austin Powers costume.
Not only wearing the shagadelic retro getup made famous by Mike Myers, but also shouting, in a fake English accent, "Grooovy!," "Yeah, baby!" and other faves, while wandering the halls handing out candy to depressed underlings. A company spokesman told us that Siegel's performance was an antic allusion to his calling rival Delta Airlines Chairman Leo Mullin, in a recent speech, "Dr. Evil."
The spokesman added that Siegel, a 40-year-old graduate of Harvard Business School, was too busy cheering up the troops to call us, and couldn't tell us if the cost of his elaborate costume, complete with crooked teeth, was being charged to the stockholders.
The Banality of Bad
* The wraithlike Willem Dafoe plays sitcom actor Bob Crane's creepy sidekick in "Auto Focus," a disturbing and explicit biopic about the "Hogan's Heroes" star -- boyishly grinning Greg Kinnear at his bathetic best -- and the damage that results from their shared sexual compulsion and stunning selfishness, notably Crane's death by bludgeoning.
"You know, I felt pretty comfortable in the role of John Carpenter," Dafoe told us yesterday, referring to the now-dead video equipment salesman who joined Crane in his depredations and later is thought to have killed with a tripod while he slept. "I had no problems with the sexual aspect. It was a little odd. Some days you knew you'd be coming to the set and were going to be getting somewhat intimate with strangers."
Or -- in one memorably repulsive scene in the movie that opens today -- getting intimate with himself.
"Yeah," Dafoe agreed with a giggle, "but that's nothing new. What's potent about the movie, I think, is that it's about two guys who are fixated on sex -- which a lot of people see as a fast-track to intimacy -- and it shows that it's not always such a good thing, after all. The movie is certainly not titillating or pornographic."
Rare to the point of uniqueness, it's a Hollywood movie that aggressively deglamorizes sex. So, does Dafoe think the film, and his performance in it, will actually encourage abstinence?
"Oh God, I hope not," he answered. "I don't know. I hate to think that I'd be on that side of the fence!"
THIS JUST IN ...
* Fiction-writer Gabe Hudson has been claiming for weeks -- in venues ranging from the New Yorker Observer, to the Hartford Courtant to yesterday's Reliable Source column -- that President Bush wrote him a testy letter recently about his short-story collection "Dear Mr. President." In a McSweeney's magazine interview with New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, Hudson said: "At first I thought it was a joke. But, one thing I can say for sure, when you have a letter from the president you know you have a letter from the president. The stationery alone is intimidating." When Treisman asked point-blank, "Are you telling the truth about this?", Hudson replied, "It's true." But yesterday morning White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer informed us -- and by extension everyone else who fell for Hudson's fabrication -- that the president has not written any such letter. Yesterday the author finally acknowledged as much. "I never sent my book...to the president, and I never received a letter from him," he said in a lengthy statement released through his publisher Knopf. "My claims that I received a letter from the president were meant as satire, and were intended to be perceived as such." We are not amused.
* Yesterday Virginia Gov. Mark Warner had one of those aw-shucks moments that so thrill us about our public servants, claiming that Forbes magazine exaggerated when it recently ranked him one of the nation's wealthiest politicians, with a net worth of $200 million. "I just wish I was still as wealthy as the Forbes Top 10 list said I was!" Warner said during his monthly radio show on Richmond station WRVA, according to The Post's R. H. Melton. "They got that from a year ago -- I don't know about you, but in the last year my net worth has not gone up." Compared to New York's billionaire-mayor Mike Bloomberg, "I'm just a piker!" the governor added, with becoming modesty.