"Night Court" + El Vado Motel = ABQ City Council Follies


One Albuquerque City Councilor referred to it as a “train wreck”. Several Councilors objected to the fact that they were “negotiating on television”. Nevertheless, last night the ABQ City Council train wreck proceeded to publicly negotiate for a hour or so of glorious attorney-filled comedy television, then voted to make the old, crappy-looking El Vado Motel a historical “landmark”. This despite the fact every Councilor on the Council agreed they didn’t know exactly what such a designation would mean. Then the Council took a break, most probably to shower themselves free of what must have been a rather thick layer of embarrassment.

Personally, I always thought the old show “Night Court” was unfunny. Its writers could have used the far better situation comedy premise of ABQ City Council “Night Court”. Instead of characters like Judge Harry Stone, Baliff Bull Shannon and District Attorney Dan Fielding (pictured above), a far funnier mix would be:

  • Nattily attired current El Vado owner Richard Gonzales and his feisty attorney John (yeah, I voted for him once too) Kelly;
  • Some guy representing the City (whose exact name I could not catch) who has to pretend he doesn’t want to kill John Kelly while Mr. Kelly pesters him unmercifully;
  • A City Council that couldn’t really figure out if it was some sort of twisted Supreme Court hearing the case, a plaintiff in the case, a defendant in the case or some combination of all of the above;
  • Councilor Sally Mayer repeatedly asking pertinent questions that illustrate the basic cluelessness of Council about the issue of “landmarking”;
  • Council Michael Cadigan who flat out states the Council knows little to nothing about the situation due to the machinations of the Mayor’s Office;
  • Councilor Ike Benton who knows much about planning and building renovation but is reduced to looking at some vague photo-copy schematics of the El Vado property and trying to decide on live television what percentage of the property is worth “landmarking”;
  • The shadowy off-stage presence of Feudal Prince Marty Chavez, who like Charlie in “Charlie’s Angels” evidently controls all City Administration employees via a $1.29 speakerphone;
  • A cast of City Administration employees who listening to Mayor Marty via speakerphone deliver obtuse statements about things like “authorization for appropriate demolition”;
  • And lastly Councilor Don Harris, as the scene stealer (ala “Kramer” in “Seinfeld” or “Ralph Cifaretto” in “Sopranos”), raising points both valid and wacky, making and un-making motions with unfettered abandon (such as the idea the Council should just go eat dinner), and asking John Kelly point-blank “how much do you want for this property?” repeatedly, despite and possibly because of the fact that this only made John Kelly mad.

Funniest show I’ve seen in years. Seriously. That Don Harris character is a keeper for sure, and I’d like to thank new City Council President Brad Winter for his freewheeling directorial style that just let the funny happy. Second City, Mad TV, Saturday Night Live since Chris Farley died has got nothing on “ABQ City Council, 2008”.

And the new season just started. Fortunately those that missed the live broadcast tonight can catch it on reruns on Channel 16 plenty of times in the next few days. Personally, I think “Nick at Night” or “TV Land” should pick this show up immediately. This is an instant classic we have on our hands here.

P.S.: Just because I said the El Vado is old and crappy-looking doesn’t mean I’m not necessarily in favor of a “landmark” designation, IF someone could explain to me (or the City Council) what that means exactly. Right now I have to admit that when I drive by the property my heart doesn’t go a-flutter. It’s more of a “nice sign, crappy-looking old motor court” reaction. I could be persuaded, however.

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