My fifteen minutes of fame had begun. All three major channels used me as their lead story night after night. Walter Kronkite said my story affected him more than Vietnam. Tom Brokaw tried to form a bond with me based on our shared name. Since my last name is Starita, not Brokaw, I rejected his advances. Peter Jennings offered to fly me to Winnipeg, Canada in coach if I gave him an exclusive. USA Today ran a poll in their paper showing that 63% of Americans would use me as a grandfather clock, 38% as a bear skin rug and only 13% as an ashtray. Eleven years before the O.J. trial, and fifty something years since the Lindbergh baby trial, my life as an ottoman had captivated the nation.
The trial was a short one, lasting one week, due to the pressure of public sentiment as well as The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon’s inexplicable decision to represent themselves during the trial. When Solomon stood up confidently and told the courtroom they didn’t need any counsel outside of their own mental brilliance, my lawyers, Robert Arcidi and Benny Greatman stood up and high-fived each other, causing the courtroom to burst into hysteria and a furious judge to declare she would clear the entire room if necessary. To prevent any bias to seep into her jury, the Honorable Marsha Warfield banned any and all cameras inside the courtroom. Of course this didn’t prevent the trial artist from drawing devil horns poking through the berets of The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon. (they neither had devil horns or berets). Nor was it completely accurate that I was drawn with the slight hint of a halo.
The very first day proved to be a bad one for The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon. Solomon decided to gamble during his opening remarks. He stood up, wearing an “artistic” purple velvet vest, a black Malcolm X t-shirt underneath, tight brown leather pants and cowboy boots and began to pace the room. After three minutes of dead silence, Solomon dropped to his knees, looked the jurors dead in the eye and asked who here hasn’t snugly fitted an ice cold beer into the developing skull of a new born infant? Judge Warfield had to call for an immediate recess as three jurors passed out and one stood up and shot Solomon the finger.
My attorney, Benny Greatman stood up to make his opening remarks, paused and simply said to the jury, “really? REALLY?” Gloria leaned over to whisper something while the jury box smiled and laughed in response. Things weren’t going well for The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon.
On the fourth day, Solomon officially shot his case to hell. Seeing the trial and his freedom slipping away, he decided to gamble by putting me on the stand. Once again my attorneys high-fived one another while much hooting and hollering came from the people attending the trial. Solomon was betting on my limited vocabulary and had tried to use big words to both confuse and intimidate me. Fortunately, my lawyers had the foresight to see this coming in advance and plopped me down in front of the television to show me Sesame Street. Suddenly my vocabulary exploded to fifty five words and I began to understand the difference between people and inanimate objects.
Here is the official transcript of the trial, taken from the website http://www.nycourts.com/starita
Def Attorney: Mr. Starita, do you mean to tell us you are accusing the humble Solomon and his wife Gloria of child endangerment?
Witness: That is my assertion, correct.
(Defense attorney pauses and turns to wipe his brow with a dirty handkerchief)
Def Attorney: Did you appreciate it when you were reupholstered?
Witness: When I was your ottoman I used to abhor those cowboy boots, which you frequently dug into the small of my back.
(gasps of horror)
Def Attorney: Just answer the question Mr. Starita.
Witness: The only compatriots I had were a light switch and a dust ball.
(more gasps of horror)
Def. Attorney: Fine, if you won’t answer the question would you please point out whom, in your mind, abused you?
Witness: points to Solomon then Gloria
Def. Attorney: Shit, I didn’t think you ever actually saw our faces.
Judge: Let’s wrap this up. Son you can sit down now.
Three days later, The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon were found guilty of child endangerment, abuse and operating an illegal art studio inside their apartment. The verdict was fifteen years for Gloria and twelve and a half for Solomon – due to cutting his own deal at the very last second. Gloria wasn’t happy to say the least and the Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon would file for divorce by the end of the month.
I, on the other hand received the dubious honor of having a new law named after me: “The Tom Starita Adoption Act,” which would protect all American orphans from being used as decoration. As of this writing today, the international courts are trying to close loopholes as to allow all adopted citizens of the world the same rights and privileges their American orphan cousins receive.
Following the trial, I traveled the talk show circuit, appearing on Sally Jesse Raphael, Maury, Donahue and a young Oprah. The show I did on Oprah was noteworthy for two reasons. Number one, it was the first time she ever beat Donahue head to head. The second was because the Queen of Denmark just happened to be flipping through the channels one day when she came upon the show. Seeing me in my little brown suit and talking without fear caused her heart to flutter. She had to meet me and there was nothing anyone could do to persuade her otherwise.
My life would never be the same.