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Conrad Black leaves the federal building in Chicago on July 13, 2007, with his wife Barbara Amiel Black and daughter Alana Black after jurors returned a mixed verdict in his fraud and racketeering trial. (M. Spencer Green/The Associated Press/M. Spencer Green/The Associated Press)
Conrad Black leaves the federal building in Chicago on July 13, 2007, with his wife Barbara Amiel Black and daughter Alana Black after jurors returned a mixed verdict in his fraud and racketeering trial. (M. Spencer Green/The Associated Press/M. Spencer Green/The Associated Press)

Jailhouse Rock

My new motto: What would Lord Black do? Add to ...

This guest column is by Kathryn Borel, a Canadian writer based in Los Angeles.

How does Conrad Black do it? I need to know. Where do I get some of what he's having? Is there a store? Can I acquire it on a website I've never heard of, via Cameroon?

I would do or give or murder anything, anyone to know how an internationally disgraced, universally loathed convicted criminal retains his godlike hubris in spite of so many cavity searches.

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Personally, I have never been cavity-searched, but like many people, I consider human existence to be one perpetually thorough spiritual cavity search and, at the end of every 16-hour waking cycle, I lay my head on my pillow with only a pain in my backside and the slightest scrap of energy, which I use to worry or weep myself to sleep.

So please, scientists, pharmacists, drug dealers, tell me there is a pill that will help me cut the ponytail off my pathetic little girl's soul and turn me into Conrad Black, vanquisher of both literal and figurative cavity searches.

In three days, all of us stupid commoners will have access to the October issue of Vanity Fair, which contains what has become a much-quoted exclusive, feature-length interview with Lord Black himself, where he reflects on his 29 months in prison.

This will, hopefully, hopefully, take the edge off the jones for my Black pills, my little Blackies, because from what I've read of the teasers that have been published so far, this article is going to read better than Goodfellas and The Shawshank Redemption combined. It will separate the cavity searchers from the cavity searchees once and for all.

In it, still-Lord Black will tell us how his reputation was celebrated by all the coolest dudes in the system, the guys we dreamed about riding skateboards with when we were all teenage boys – the Mafia! And African-Americans!

Get this: A senior member of the Genovese family pretty much told him that he'd put a bar of soap inside a sock and beat to death anyone who breathed in the direction of Conrad Black's satiny face.

And let's go back to those anal inspections for a second. He made poetry out of them: “[I]was slightly mystified at the extent of official curiosity about that generally unremitting aperture.” When you are Conrad Black, a prison guard can search your downstairs cheeks seven days a week and all he'll find is intransigent lyricism and, just inches away, the clattering sound of a pair of brass orbs.

To think that up until now, my white-collar prison hero was Martha Stewart. God, those were unserious days. All Ms. Stewart talked about when she got out of jail was about the books she read and the elaborate ceramic nativity crèche she made out of drabware. She waxed floors and delighted in cleaning the rugs.

How frivolous. Lord Black, meanwhile, deployed that selfsame lyricism that characterized his many, many cavity searches (so many!) as he was scrubbing the showers.

When the guards would come watch him on his hands and knees, get a load of what he said: “Captain, I get the sense you are watching the Super Bowl here, that this is a spectator sport. I assure you, this is nothing so entertaining.” The guards then burst into flames, and the moon appeared in the sky, in broad daylight, just to salute him.

The common man usually comes out of a sustained psychic trauma changed or – at the very least – with a bit of shoulder-shrugging, shoe-gazing humility. Some believe that the grace of a traumatic event is in the way it reminds the common man that, ultimately, he is powerless in the face of the cruelty of the world and social circumstances.

But as we will learn on Tuesday, the day he goes back to prison to slam-dunk basketballs after yet another routine probe of his iambic pentameters, Conrad Black is no common man.

People might want to pass off this Vanity Fair article – and his prison memoir, which comes out on Sept. 15 – as the worst kind of brew of nauseating rich-boy populism.

But not me. I'm using this stuff as a guide for life.

I won't see you on the shore from my mega-yacht. But if you squint, you will find me blissfully doubled over the bow, allowing celestial rays to illuminate that plateau upon which, for most of you rubes, the sun don't shine.

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