Friday, April 14, 2006

Do You Canoodle?

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

With all due apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the rich and famous are different from you and me. They get to canoodle. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only upside to being rich and famous is the rich and famous get to “canoodle” and have that canoodling merit mention in the gossip columns.

Just what is canoodling? I’m not sure, quite frankly – another reason why it’s not very likely you’ll ever read about me doing it. According to, to canoodle is to “engage in caressing, petting or lovemaking.” The web site offers as Exhibit A a video snippet of Rep. Rick Renzi (a Congressman from Arizona) and Rep. Katherine Harris (a Congresswoman from Florida made famous in the 2000 Dimpled Chad Debacle) canoodling on the floor of the United States House of Representatives while a fellow member of Congress drones on in a speech. It was recorded by C-Span and is not nearly as enticing and exciting as, say, the canoodling between Pamela Anderson and Kanye West that was reported by several Web sites. But at least now we know what the “C” in “C-Span” stands for.

I am happy to report I am not the only one in the canoodling dark. I was discussing the Canoodling Phenomenon recently with my good friend John, a.k.a. The Bishop of Babylon, who like me and countless others considers reading Page Six of the New York a guilty pleasure. Neither of us was quite sure what specific activities actually constitute canoodling but we agreed it seemed like a fun thing to do or at least like a fun thing to be reported in the newspapers as doing. John and I are both happily married suburbanites and family men, however, so even if we knew how to canoodle and assuming (however unlikely) we could get our respective wives to agree to canoodle in public the news of such activities would not see the light of day. Nobody cares about married men and women canoodling unless, of course, they canoodle with men and women other than their spouses. Then everybody cares.

From what I can tell the unwritten rule of canoodling, at least as far as the gossip columns are concerned, is that at a minimum either the canoodler or canoodlee has to be either rich or famous - ideally both – which best explains why Paris Hilton is considered the Queen of Canoodling. Fame is relative, of course. When I was in college one of my fellow undergrads – I’ll call him “Bob Owens” – had a dorm room that overlooked most of the campus quad. He would park himself by his window on a Saturday night and take notes about who was seen walking across the quad (a prelude to some dormitory canoodling, no doubt) with whom and when and then dish the dirt the following morning in the cafeteria over bad eggs and stale cereal. We all lived for the gossip and, if memory serves, being worthy of mention in a Bob report meant you were something of a big wig on campus. Needless to say, and somewhat ironically, Bob himself did not get out much but we all greatly appreciated his taking one for the team on our nosy behalf.

I think our fascination with the whole canoodling process dates back to high school, when your choices for conversation were either yesterday’s algebra test or who was seen making out with whom. Canoodling (or public displays of affection as we called it back then) was the lifeblood of your social status. If you canoodled with the right person in the right place at the right time then you mattered. If not, you were voted most likely to read about other people canoodling in Page Six for the rest of your life.

That so many of us are fascinated by canoodling couples – and that the careers of these canoodlers seem to improve with each reported canoodling – proves the wisdom of what Frank Zappa once said: “Life is like high school with money.” (For the record, that a generation of American students has received their diplomas without having listened to a Frank Zappa album saddens me. In fact, I weep for the future.)

Speaking of the future, there is talk – blasphemous, dangerous talk – that use of “canoodling” has become passé. Just last month, for instance, Page Six reported that it is bored with the term and so opted to use “making out” instead when reporting that “Winona Ryder was seen with Liev Schreiber at Von on Bleecker Street.” Unfortunately for Page Six – which has had its hands full lately with scandals of its own – it turns out that Ryder was indeed just canoodling harmlessly with Mr. Schreiber, who apparently “is blissfully committed to (the) gorgeous Naomi Watts.”

Now I’ve heard of both Ms. Ryder and Ms. Watts but quite honestly I wouldn’t know either of them if they came to my door selling Girl Scout cookies. I have no idea what kind of place Von is. I thought it was a grocery store. It sounds expensive. As for Mr. Schreiber, for all I know he is the Secretary of the Interior. Yet the idea that he was seen canoodling with Ms. Ryder, that somebody felt compelled to share such information with a major news outlet in the Media Capital of the World and the fact that that news outlet felt compelled to share this bit of news with the rest of the world is just fascinating.

Not so fascinating that I want to canoodle, mind you. Fitzgerald canoodled, and he died at the tender young age of 44. Besides, since I am neither rich nor famous if I were at Von on Bleecker I could be sitting next to Kathleen Turner in her prime and I’d be too busy worrying about how much that bottle of Pellegrino was going to set me back.

Thank you for reading this column.

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