2015: A Year in Review, Vol. 14, Issue 47

Like any other year, 2015 held its share of Issues of Perfect Propriety - or the lack of it - in the news. Yes, people are still behaving badly everywhere, sometime astonishly so. ENTERTAINING AT HOME

January saw one British family invoice another when their child failed to attend a birthday party. Etiquetteer wrote about this issue here, but the most Perfectly Proper way to deal with no-shows is to stop sending them invitations. Certainly one doesn't make a scene involving one's children, or the children of others. A wedding guest in Minnesota also got a bill from a Bridal Couple when they failed to attend the wedding. As frustrating and expensive as no-shows are, it's not Perfectly Proper to bill them.


New England was hammered with record-shattering blizzards in winter, which led one sexagenarian female to attack another with a snow blower. As the police chief involved said, “Emotions may run high during a historic weather event like the Blizzard we just endured, but that is no excuse for violence.” Etiquetteer couldn't agree more. Indeed, it inspired Etiquetteer to write on blizzard etiquette. And conditions deteriorated so much that later on Etiquetteer had to write even more.


This year also saw the rise of a terrible practice, that of making multiple dinner reservations at different restaurants for the same time. While this increases one individual's options, it's discourteous to other diners, and disastrous to restaurants, who count on filling every seat to pay their bills. Stop it at once! Another restaurant issue to hit the news was the number of people claiming "allergies" for preferential treatment. And speaking of people who are precious about their food, even the Thanksgiving table is a battleground now. Etiquetteer rather wishes people would just be grateful there's something to eat . . .


The behavior of tourists made the news this year. American tourists were caught carving their names into the Colosseum in Rome. The twenty-something California women managed one initial each before getting caught. Remember, take only photos, leave only footprints. But don't take photos of someone's bedrooms. Harvard University had to issue new rules for tourists to protect the privacy of their students. And you might want to think about taking photos at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. One writer called out tourist behavior there, especially around selfie sticks.


Anno Domini 2015 saw the rise of "athleisure wear" - shudder - which has led children to reject denim for public wear in favor of sweatpants.  There was also the Suitsy, the business suit onesie. This article explains, rather fascinatingly, why we're dressing so casually now.

Also, musicians are taking a stand about their standard uniforms of white-tie or black-tie formal attire. In another direction, see-through wedding dresses are being promoted by designers. Of course Etiquetteer thinks they're Perfectly Proper - if you're getting married at the Folies Bergere. Another fashion trend that needs to end is the sloppy manbun, now also available as a hairpiece. Sadly.

First Lady Michelle Obama made the news when she didn't cover her hair on a brief visit to Riyadh to meet King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Her allegedly bold and courageous stance in not wearing a headscarf was, in fact, Perfectly Proper diplomatic protocol, as was shown by photographs of previous First Ladies and Female World Leaders like Angela Merkel, also without headscarves while meeting Saudi dignitaries. The Duchess of Cambridge made a fashion choice that brought coverage for a different reason: wearing a bright red gown for a state dinner in honor of China. Since red is the national color of China, that was not just Perfectly Proper, but also Deftly Diplomatic.

Higher Education is supposed to teach students about making Appropriate Life Choices, such as wearing shoes that will not make you fall over. Etiquetteer felt alternately sorry and embarrassed for this young woman who floundered through her graduation because of her shoes. Conversely, ladies in flats were turned away from screenings at the Cannes Film Festival. Please, ladies and film festivals, safety first!


Under the guise of asking a question of Senator Rick Santorum, Virginia Eleasor let out an incoherent rant against President Obama, accusing him of nuking Charleston. This led Etiquetteer to ask questioners at public events whether they really want to ask questions or make their own speeches.


Regarding air travel, The Boston Globe reported on the rising phenomenon of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who, when flying, refuse to sit next to women not their wives on religious grounds. Later in the year The New York Times wrote about the increasingly fraught sport of seat-swapping on airplanes. One man no doubt wanted to switch seats after his seatmate repeatedly stabbed him with a pen because he was snoring. Violence against fellow passengers is never Perfectly Proper. Etiquetteer would have put that seatmate on a no-fly list.


Stories about bad behavior in theatres continued to make the news in 2015, including Madonna Herself, who was not invited backstage after a performance of Hamilton because the cast saw her texting throughout Act II. But even Madonna was upstaged by the young man who went onstage before a performance to recharge his cellphone on the set! And even that Astonishing Event was eclipsed by the woman who went backstage to ask the actors where the restroom was during a performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch, a True Gentleman, appealed to his fans in a Most Perfectly Proper Way not to use devices during performances.


This year Etiquetteer tried out a March Madness-style survey of Pet Peeves. The winner, from the Table Manners/Dining Out category: Ill-Mannered Children of Complacent Parents. And in fact, there were some related news stories. A little girl's meltdown at a White House function led Etiquetteer to wish more parents used babysitters, for instance. But the champion news story on this topic - and perhaps for the entire year - has to go to the incident at Marcy's Diner, when the owner yelled at a crying toddler who wouldn't shut up.


Anno Domini 2015 began with a story about a woman in Florida shaving her - ahem - "bikini area" while operating a motor vehicle. While Etiquetteer understand the desire to be completely groomed before arriving at one's destination, Etiquetteer longs for the day when it was understood that ladies and gentlemen were completely groomed before they left the house.

Both Vice President Joe Biden and actor John Travolta came in for criticism for getting too "up close and personal" for greetings with Ladies Not Their Wives.

A Florida fraternity got itself into a colossal amount of trouble at its spring formal when drunk fraternity boys spit on wounded veterans, stole their American flags, and urinated on them. It should be needless to say that these aren't the values any fraternity is supposed to inculcate into its members.

Thirty people got in a fight over whether or not someone cut in line to use a waffle maker. Sometimes it's best not to escalate the situation. Sometimes it's best to stay in a hotel with a proper restaurant with a proper cook to make the waffles.

Perfect Propriety and pets moved uneasily in a Brooklyn building where dog waste in stairwell and elevators was becoming an issue.

And finally, a South Carolina politician used his holiday greetings to express his unhappiness over a vote on displaying the Confederate flag by enclosing this message: “May you take this joyous time as an opportunity to ask forgiveness of all your sins, such as betrayal.” Rather like getting a lump of coal in the mail.

And with that, allow Etiquetteer to wish you a Happy and Perfectly Proper New Year in 2016!


A Perfectly Proper Announcement, Vol. 13, Issue 51

Etiquetteer nodded with approval over the announcement today of actor Benedict Cumberbatch's engagement to director Sophie Hunter. The traditional method of printing a notice in The Times could not be more Perfectly Proper, as it eliminates all the unnecessary vaporings about True Love. Announcement of an engagement in itself illustrates the depths of one's emotion to one's Beloved; no further explanation is necessary . . . nor is a link to a gift registry. Couples without Celebrity Status should consider this as an example of how Restraint illustrates Good Taste. Etiquetteer wishes the Happy Couple long life and Happiness!

Etiquetteer Muses on the Oscars, Vol. 13, Issue 29

The Academy Awards take place tonight, one of the great televised rituals of the American year (the others being the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Super Bowl, of course). The grandfather of all televised award shows, Americans love it - and love to hate it - for its red carpet parade of fashions, its cheesy dancer numbers, snappy (and sometimes abusive) patter from a host comedian, and its creaking length. What was once an industry dinner dance with cameras changed over the decades into a full-blown production. The show's length is now due less to rambling acceptance speeches than it used to be (Etiquetteer vaguely remembers that Greer Garson's clocked in at something like 22 minutes!), but there was a time when it was sadly fashionable to use the Oscar podium for political statements. Oscar-winning actress Joan Crawford was interviewed at Town Hall on April 8, 1973, and criticized the change in the demeanor of the Oscars thus (beginning at 3:40):

"Let's talk about the Academy Awards. I think everyone tried to have the cutes, and each one who came after the couple before tried to be funnier. The dignity and the beauty of the Academy Awards, I must say, has been lost without the Gregory Pecks and the Charlton Hestons. The Gregory Pecks come on, the Frank Sinatras come on . . . they come on with dignity and they set the stage, really, for what everyone else should do. Some don't. And this year I was appalled at the behavior of everyone, including Mr. Brando."

What did Marlon Brando do that was so appalling? It wasn't that he didn't attend when he was nominated for his performance in The Godfather (nor could Joan Crawford have Wagged an Admonitory Digit at him for that, as she was famously home in bed the year she won Best Actress for Mildred Pierce). Brando found a young Apache woman names Sacheen Littlefeather to speak on his behalf in case he won. Etiquetteer doesn't say "accept," because Mr. Brando didn't intend to accept the Oscar, but to decline it in an ostentatious way to call attention to the way Native Americans were treated by the film industry:

Needless to say, this provoked outrage in Hollywood and beyond, as did Vanessa Redgrave's acceptance speech a few years later, when she won Best Supporting Actress for Julia. Note her reference to "Zionist hoodlums" at 2:54:

Now, back to Joan Crawford at Town Hall. Later in that wonderful interview, she really summed up well Perfect Propriety for Oscar winners (beginning at 6:41):

"I think people who go on the Academy Awards and . . . oh brother! Just accept and be grateful for the honor, and don't try and get on national television and make your pleas, and never discuss politics or religion."

For those viewing tonight, Etiquetteer wishes you a Perfectly Proper Oscarthon!

Suburban Drag Racing, Vol. 13, Issue 7

Dear Etiquetteer: Justin Bieber has gotten himself into trouble drag racing in Florida. I feel sure he could have managed this better if you provided a few pointers on how to behave correctly in these circumstances. Just how DOES one drag race correctly in suburbia?

Dear Provocateur:

First of all before you get started, permission from the homeowner's association (HOA) is absolutely essential if you're in one of those gated communities. If no HOA is involved, be sure to get a racing permit from City Hall or the local Department of Motor Vehicles. Omitting these important steps could get one into a lot of trouble, as Mr. Bieber has discovered.

Next, some concern should be given to one's wardrobe. Perfectly Proper racing apparel absolutely includes a helmet with goggles, brown leather jacket, leather driving gloves, and white silk scarf. Etiquetteer very much recommends not wearing anything that could be mistaken for a prison jumpsuit. Orange may be the new black, but not for Best Society.

Even with a permit and everything, local laws about driving under the influence will still apply; when you go back and look at that permit, Etiquetteer'll bet there's no checkbox for "waiver of Driving While Impaired laws." So Neely O'Hara-style consumption for drag racing just is NOT Perfectly Proper.

Drag racing attracts attention, so it's important not to be surprised if local law enforcement suddenly appears to take an interest - especially if one hasn't already gotten permission (see above). Once THEY appear, only your Best Behavior will do. The police expect complete obedience, if not respect, but they will certainly not be inclined to assist you if you use Bad Language and fail to cooperate.

Last but not least, foreign nationals should be absolutely sure that their paperwork is in perfect order. One never knows when deportation might become an issue.*

The discerning among you will have understood by this time that Etiquetteer takes a dim view of this particular situation.

* If Mr. Bieber is, in fact, deported over this Unfortunate Incident, Etiquetteer can envision phalanxes of Beliebers descending on the White House in protest. Since most of them aren't yet of voting age, it will likely make no difference.

Declining an Invitation to the White House, Vol. 11, Issue 2

Suddenly many people are upset because Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, the team that just won the Stanley Cup, declined an invitation to the White House to be received by the President of the United States. To hear some of the carry-on you'd think Mr. Thomas had flouted a Divine Command of the Deity of Your Choice! So you may be surprised to learn that Etiquetteer fully supports Mr. Thomas's decision not to attend this event (although he could have done so without making a statement to the press about it). The United States of America remains a democracy. Its founding cornerstone has been Liberty. Citizens have the right to accept or decline invitations from anyone as they choose, including invitations from the Chief Executive. Such invitations are not Royal Commands! Etiquetteer is fond of historical precedent in such cases, and indeed, Etiquetteer's beloved Ellen Maury Slayden supplies it. In 1902 she wrote "That snobbish twaddle about invitations to the White House and elsewhere being 'virtually commands' is having quite a vogue lately, chiefly, of course, among those just 'arriving' socially. I wish I could reproduce the savage humor with which Senator Vest treated the subject when we discussed it before him. He said he had been declining invitations to the White House for fifteen years because he didn't want to go and had not been threatened with impeachment yet."*

Of course Senator Vest was able to decline an invitation without making a sweeping statement to the press criticizing the Nation's government as a whole. While Mr. Thomas may exercise his Freedom of Speech to say whatever he pleases, and while the press may exercise its own essential Freedom to report what Mr. Thomas says, Etiquetteer can't find it Perfectly Proper for them to have gone to all this fuss.

To conclude, Etiquetteer thinks complaints about Mr. Thomas "insulting the President" by turning down this invitation are unjustified. If one is going to complain about Mr. Thomas, one is more justified complaining about the manner in which he did so, not the mere fact that he did.

* From Washington Wife: Journal of Ellen Maury Slayden from 1897-1919, page 41, copyright 1963. Used without permission.

Etiquetteer very much hopes to see you on Wednesday, February 1, for Good Manners at the Gibson House with Etiquetteer! Please contact the House today to reserve your tickets!

2007 Year in Review, Vol. 6, Issue 41

Because the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects all forms of free speech and free expression (which is as it should be), Perfect Propriety took a real beating in 2007. From the "wide stance" of Senator Larry Craig to "Don’t tase me, bro!", from "Why don’t you shut up?" to the Brawl at Symphony Hall, people from all walks of life have behaved badly.

Don Imus tops the list of Perfectly Improper Users of Free Speech this year. Back on April 4 he casually referred to the women’s basketball team of Rutgers University as "nappy-headed hos." The ensuing brouhaha saw Imus evicted from the airwaves and learning just how wrong offhand slander is. To Etiquetteer’s surprise he returned to the airwaves in December, but appears to be appropriately chastened. With his history, however, Don Imus bears watching.

Overall the women of the Rutgers basketball team behaved with true decorum. Kia Vaughn’s ill-considered defamation lawsuit, however, brought down the tone a notch. Aside from the fact that Imus never mentioned her by name, the lawsuit was filed on August 14, months after the incident. Her reputation would have been better served by keeping silent. Which leads Etiquetteer to ask, which is more important: money, fame, or honor?

On May 9 Perfect Propriety got a black eye at that Brahmin bastion, Symphony Hall. Depending on who’s telling the story, either Matthew Ellinger asked Michael Hallam to be quiet, causing Hallam to punch him – or that Hallam was struck first by Ellinger. The "brawl at Symphony Hall" cast a blot on the start of the Pops season, but these two men did at least drop charges against each other a month later. Once upon a time Boston audiences could be guaranteed to keep the excitement only on the stage; let’s hope this isn’t a new trend!

The ranks of the Perfectly Proper were sadly thinned with the deaths of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, New York’s Brooke Astor, and Boston’s own Cathryn Keith. Their departures leave us with a real gap. Matrons just aren’t made the way they used to be.

Instead we’re left with Kyla Ebbert, the Hooters waitress who created a national scandal – oh, forgive Etiquetteer, "dialogue" – about Perfectly Proper attire for air travel. Ms. Ebbert, you may remember, was asked to cover up an outfit of debatable skimpiness on a Southwest Airlines flight. Rather than go home and contemplate this quietly, she and her mother brought the story to no less than Matt Lauer onThe Today Show. Etiquetteer is hardly suggesting a burqa instead, but is a knee-length skirt and a blouse that doesn’t look like a wifebeater too much to ask?

Etiquetteer’s opinion of this young woman was later completely justified; she undercut her own moral indignation by posing for Playboy, something no lady would ever do. Etiquetteer hopes that she’ll learn she has more to offer than her body before it's too late.

The behavior of politicians may be scrutinized more than anyone else’s, so you’d think they’d use their Perfect Propriety all the time. On the other hand, the rigors of air travel and security are enough to aggravate almost anyone. On August 20, Rep. Bob Filner (D-California) got booked for assault and battery at Dulles Airport after trying to charge into an employee-only area. It seems he was upset about a delay in claiming his luggage. Last time Etiquetteer checked, the Declaration of Independence said " . . . all men are created equal." That includes you, Congressman!

Closer to Etiquetteer’s home base, Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown (R-Wrentham) gave Generation Y a taste of its own medicine by quoting their own profanities. Senator Brown and his daughter Ayla, an American Idol finalist, had taken a lot of abuse from other high schoolers onFacebook. The senator received a lot of criticism for doing this, but Etiquetteer thinks it’s the kind of civics lesson more teens could use. Unfortunately for the senator, it resulted in even more unwanted attention, including the discovery that he had posed nude for Cosmo back in 1982.

And speaking of nudity, Brattleboro, Vermont, long a bastion of liberalism, made it into the news this summer after enacting a controversial public nudity ban. Any time some utopia of unclad young people gets started, it just takes one stupid, naked old man to bring it down. In this case 68-year-old Clayton Crowe showed up in downtown Brattleboro, all the way from Arizona, for a clothing-optional summer vacation. He was attracted by all the media attention over a dozen or more nude teenagers hanging out in a local parking lot. Mr. Crowe’s appearance at Brattleboro’s Gallery Walk wearing a fanny pack and a smile did not endear him to anyone. A member of the Brattleboro Selectboard, Dick DeGray, was quoted in many news articles saying "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." And really, Etiquetteer could not agree more. To paraphrase an old song, "You’re Never Fully Dressed Without Your Clothes."

It shouldn’t take a law for people to know that you should wear clothes in the downtown business district! Wear your birthday suit to the swimmin’ hole, the hiking trail, or public facilities where it’s the dress code. And while Etiquetteer Wags an Admonitory Digit at the Unclad Youth of Downtown Brattleboro, they have at least the excuse of youthful rebellion and ignorance. Mr. Crowe, however, is way old enough to know better at his age.

November 10 King Juan Carlos of Spain memorably asked Venezualan dictator Hugo Chavez "Why don’t you shut up?" Unfortunately Chavez was ranting and insulting other diplomats by calling them mean names like "fascist." Etiquetteer can only offer the advice of his mother: "When you lose your temper you lose your point." Unfortunately the real downside of this diplomatic incident is that its recording has become a popular ringtone.

And speaking of popular ringtones, "Don’t tase me, bro!" has become a universal catchphrase since Andrew Meyer was subdued by campus police at the University of Florida. Apparently Mr. Meyer "jumped the queue" during a student forum with failed presidential candidate Senator John Kerry in September and "the event organizers were unhappy with his line of questioning." Etiquetteer certainly hopes that Mr. Meyer has learned his lesson about waiting his turn in line! He could also have remained more composed at the microphone, which might have kept the event organizers and the police from taking the actions they did. Senator Kerry could and should have been allowed to interact with this young man, who could have an important future if he partners with Perfect Propriety.

"A lady always knows when to leave a party," goes the old saying. Not that we needed any more proof that Britney Spears was no lady, but her comatose appearance at the MTV Music Awards embarrassed the nation. Senator Larry Craig proved that he’s no lady either! In September, his sudden refusal to resign from the Senate after his disgrace made the nation writhe almost as much as his behavior in that airport restroom.

Just because one finds jury duty onerous or boring doesn’t give one the right to tune out during the trial. In July, Ruhela Khanom, a Muslim twentysomething in London, was charged with contempt of court after she was discovered listening to an iPod under her headscarf during a murder trial. The following month prosecutors declined to refer her case to the High Court citing "insufficient evidence," even though jurors heard the music and an iPod was found on her person when she was searched outside the court. It’s just as well Etiquetteer was not the judge; Etiquetteer would have given her the maximum sentence! What’s really horrible about Ms. Khanom’s selfish behavior, however, is that it throws more suspicion on devout, well-behaved Muslims who wear the hijab. This not only impedes Perfect Propriety, but world peace.

Etiquetteer wishes you all a Happy, Healthy, and Perfectly Proper New Year!

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How to Approach a Celebrity, Vol. 6, Issue 36

Dear Etiquetteer:

What is the most proper way to approach a celebrity?

I have a colleague who recently ran into Bruce Willis in a hotel lobby in Paris while on a business trip. She babbled to him, and apparently he was very kind to her as she was blathering on. It got me thinking - what is the most proper way to approach a celebrity that one encounters unexpectedly? Respect their privacy? Sneak a glance at them, but no more? Approach them respectfully? The paparazzi approach? I'm sure that Etiquetteer may have some gracious pointers in this regard.

Dear Starstruck:

Etiquetteer has had to think very carefully about this, and has come up with two Truths About Celebrity Interaction: a) celebrities are people, too; b) no matter what their publicists would have you believe, celebrities do not care about you. So the short answer to your query is not to make a fuss.

A Celebrity Who Will Not Be Named, after an outstanding career in notorious movies, finally decided not to go out to bars any longer. He got tired of being recognized as a celebrity and was quoted as saying "I just want to be myself." Etiquetteer thinks just about any celebrity feels the same way. One has only to look at the extraordinary lengths to which certain superstars have gone to avoid dealing with fans. Quite possibly the most famous example is the late Greta Garbo. Before she became a recluse, she used all sorts of subterfuges to escape notice; once she even had the studio makeup artist disguise her as an Asian woman so she could dine in a restaurant with her lover of the moment. These days the likes of Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor travel with bodyguards.

Some celebrities might even make fun of you behind your back. When mistaken for Edna St. Vincent Millay by an old man in a diner, famously irreverent Tallulah Bankhead convinced him that she was really the inspirational poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox.*

When accidentally thrown together with a celebrity, the best thing to do is not to mention their celebrity status at all. Etiquetteer wishes he could remember who recently told him the story of a friend who met Michelle Pfeiffer at a wedding. Both friends of the couple, they met while signing the guest book and passed the time talking the Happy Couple. Noreference was made to La Pfeiffer’s film career. But when you see someone on the street or in a hotel lobby, like your friend and Bruce Willis, the most respectful approach is to say simply "I just had to tell you I love your work" and then leave. Don’t ask inappropriate questions, don’t ask for an autograph, and don’

t take photos.

These situations are quite different from when you are invited to meet a celebrity, for instance backstage at a theatre or at an event where the celebrity is featured. Such occasions are established around the celebrity’s, uh, celebrity; in other words, they expect it and aren’t caught off guard. Etiquetteer vividly remembers being taken as a young boy to meet the legendary singer Roberta Peters in her dressing room after a recital. More than any other space, the dressing room is the celebrity’s own territory; to be willing to admit a stranger signifies that a celebrity wants to spend time with one. Many years later Etiquetteer was privileged to meet (on different occasions) Jeff Bridges, Judith Martin, Liv Ullmann, and the legendary Celeste Holm, among others. All of them were Perfectly Gracious, no doubt in part because they knew why they’

d been invited.

*This lovely anecdote from Eugenia Rawls’

book Tallulah: A Memory.

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Current Events, Vol. 6, Issue 17

Celebrities only seem to get into the news when they are behaving badly. Two recent mini-dramas have captured Etiquetteer’s attention.

You will be surprised – very surprised, Etiquetteer suspects – to find Etiquetteer defending Karl Rove about anything. But after the White House Correspondents Dinner last week, Etiquetteer must Wag an Admonitory Digit at Sheryl Crow and her dinner companion Laurie David for initiating a nasty little contretemps about global warming. Crow and David, whose self-serving account of the incident appears on Arianna Huffington’s blog, certainly make themselves out to be the Calm Crusaders. From ingenuous comments like "How excited were we to have our first opportunity ever to talk directly to the Bush Administration about global warming" to glossy acccounts of their own part in the barney ("We felt compelled to remind him that the research is done and the results are in"), they present themselves as Earnest Little Girls nicely asking the Big Man about a Bad Decision. Etiquetteer finds abhorrent their idea that Sheryl Crow’s beauty alone should compel Rove to speak with them ("How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow?"). Feminists everywhere should be offended with this 19th century notion.

If they really wanted to have a meaningful dialogue about climate change with Rove, they would have used this opportunity to schedule an appointment. Indeed, courtiers of Louis XIV were always advised not to surrender petitions to him during particular audiences because the Sun King was likely to lose them while changing clothes. Instead, it just looks like they wanted to get in the paper themselves.

Not that Rove comes out smelling like a rose. Eyewitnesses indicate that he gave as good as he got, whereas a change of topic or a cold "This is not the time or place to discuss it" would have been Perfectly Proper. The truth, as is so frequently the case, is someplace in the middle.

Moving right along, we find that actress Kim Basinger has released to the press an abusive voicemail message from her ex-husband, Alec Baldwin, to their daughter Ireland. While hardly excusing Baldwin’s vicious telephone tantrum – did he miss that day in anger management class? – Etiquetteer is outraged that La Basinger and her attorneys leaked the voicemail to the press. Can you think of anything that would be more embarrassing to eleven-year-old Ireland? All this dirty laundry could have been kept right where it belonged – in the family – without the vengefulness of a celebrity divorcée selfishly shaming the father of her child, and her child as well.

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to join the notify list if you would like to know as soon as new columns are posted. Join by sending e-mail to notify <at> etiquetteer.com.

Reader Response, Vol. 4, Issue 37

Etiquetteer received some thoughtful and vigorous response to his comments about paper towel disposal in public restrooms:

From a health care worker: As a worker in a health care system, I have been trained to conclude my hand washing properly with drying my hands on a paper towel, using same paper towel to open the door, turning around and tossing the paper towel in the waste basket. That's how it's done.

Whether or not anyone saw you not wash your hands, those bad smells and bad germs are still on your hands! What bad smells? Urine has a strong lingering odor that permeates whatever is near it. Wash your hands, boys and girls. What bad germs? Why, strep and staph and things that make all of us seriously ill. Wash your hands.

At this point, it's not just etiquette. It's a duty to humanity, like driving while sober.

From a health care administrator: I drop paper towels by the door after I use them to open bathroom doors. I seek forgiveness. There actually has been a campaign underfoot for years by public health, epidemiologists, and other 'squeamish folks' for years to do just this: drop paper towels on the floor after opening bathroom doors with them. The idea is to encourage (dare I say train) folks who clean, design or build a restroom that a trash bin next to the door is needed and NECESSARY to decrease cross-transfer of germs.

An alternate goal would be to make exit doors in bathrooms push rather than pull, so this 'litter' is again unnecessary.

Littering may not be the answer, but washing your hands after using the bathroom and then opening a dirty door that others just have opened with wet or unwashed hands is defeating the whole purpose of washing the hands in the first place, especially when those people are kitchen staff who are about to touch or prepare your food.

Etiquetteer responds: Well all Etiquetteer can say is, that’s a mighty passive-aggressive "campaign" for change. May Etiquetteer suggest that a letter-writing campaign or a petition might be more effective than littering?

A reader submitted this charming story about the late Zero Mostel after Etiquetteer’s advice on How to Approach a Celebrity:

Back in the mid-sixties my former father-in-law and his wife were vacationing on one of the New England coastal islands (probably Martha's Vineyard, but I'm not really certain) and they were at the dock waiting to meet friends who were arriving on the next ferry. My former father-in-law saw Zero Mostel there, apparently also waiting to meet the ferry.

Camera in hand, he approached Mostel. "Excuse me, Mr. Mostel, but could I ask a favor of you." Mostel, no doubt very tired of always being approached by the public, especially when he was on vacation and attempting to relax, scowled as he turned. Mike continued "Would you mind taking a picture of my wife and me here on the pier."

Mostel was quiet for a moment, somewhat taken aback by this request that was the opposite of what he had obviously expected to be yet another request that he pose for a photograph, and then he burst out laughing and said "Of course." My former in-laws posed on the dock as Mostel took their picture. He was still chuckling as he handed back the camera.

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to join the notify list if you would like to know as soon as new columns are posted. Join by sending e-mail to notify <at> etiquetteer.com.