Missoula's always had a reputation for being, well, a little out-of-step with the rest of Montana.

So when its daily newspaper, the Missoulian, did a feature on a loon that landed on the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Al Acheson of Superior couldn't resist poking a little fun at the Garden City in a letter to the editor. Acheson quoted the lede to the article, which said: "This may sound crazy to the rest of Montana, but Missoula is no place for loons."

Quipped Acheson: "Now, that is funny! Ha ha ha ha."

The "campiest" place on planet Earth? According to the New York Times, it is Great Falls' infamous Sip 'n Dip Lounge, known for having women dressed as mermaids swim in an underwater pool that's visible through a window from the bar. The bar also features "Piano Pat" Spoonheim, who has played her "jazzy" style music since 1963.

Times reporter Brook Barnes describes the Sip 'n Dip as a "kitsch-tastic tiki bar" hidden inside the O'Haire Motor Inn where a dozen women -- three are currently out on maternity leave -- rotate as the bar's mermaids. But Spoonheim, who plays three nights a week, seems to be as much of a hit as the mermaids. 

Barnes says the Sip 'n Dip has become a magnet for travelers around the globe, "a must-visit for fans of Americana run amok — the wacky places where the human spirit gushes to the surface in an unexpected geyser." She quotes one visitor, a teacher from Illinois, who called it a "bucket-list place."

Of course, this being the Times, Barnes couldn't help but take some condescending shots at Great Falls, which she says can be a "soul-deadening place." She started her story this way: "When a study recently found Great Falls the least gay-friendly city in Montana, one man wrote on a local news website, “Let’s keep it that way.” Mermaids are totally tolerable, though." (Nothing like using one idiot's remarks to represent the thinking of an entire city, huh?)

The "recent" study Barnes refers to was done more than four years ago by the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT rights. Its study gave Great Falls low marks for such things as lacking a human rights commission, policies on bullying, and a non-discrimination laws. The report also marked the city down for having a median household income of only $42,487 (the report doesn't explain how that level hurts the LGBT community more than it hurts other parts of the community.)

The top story on the front page of Wednesday's Helena Independent Record took a look at donations GOP Congressman Greg Gianforte has given to conservation organizations that are allegedly trying to dismantle federal campaign finance rules. 

The same story also ran in Montana's other Lee Newspapers, and was attributed to the Center for Public Integrity, a group most Montanans probably have never heard of. The center, which describes itself as a nonprofit news organization, is based out of Washington, D.C., and has called itself "strictly nonpartisan."

But the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have both described it as "liberal," while Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a self-described progressive media watchdog, also has labeled the center as progressive. According to Wikipedia, the center's funding comes from various liberal foundations, including George Soros' Open Society Foundations.

So don't the Lee editors owe their readers an explanation for their decision to turn over such prime news space to a group widely viewed as left-of-center? Especially at a time when polls show that readers, especially those on the right, say they don't trust the media to be fair? This recent Gallup poll, for example, showed only 27 percent of Americans said they had a lot of trust in newspapers.

MONTANANS love their huckleberries. But what would they think about the tasty fruit on their burgers? Now we've got a chance to find out.

​James Monroe, the Eureka chef who won the nation-wide best burger competition in 2009 with a Cajun-inspired creation on the "Live! with Regis and Kelly" TV show, is back with a new artisan burger that's topped off with a splotch of huckleberry ice cream.

Sounds yummy. Or not. Guess we'll have to try one to find out.

Anyway, because of his burger victory, Monroe's been invited to serve his prize-winning Bubba burgers, as well as the new huckleberry burgers, at a reception that follows the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., in early December. The 70-foot-tall spruce is being harvested in the Kootenai Forest, not many miles away from the Front Porch Grill that Monroe and his wife, Andi, run in Eureka

THE POLICE blotter reports in Montana newspapers offer some of the most amusing -- and perhaps insightful -- commentaries on human nature.

Take this recent item in the Flathead Beacon: "A Canadian called the sheriff’s office and asked, 'What the heck is going on down there?' It’s unclear if anyone had an answer to that question."​​



The state has seen a significant drop in its medical marijuana tax collection in the most recent quarter, so it plans to send a reminder to providers to pay up. (Billings Gazette)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​              A daily digest of Montana news

Jan. 23, 2018




Medical pot payments drop dramatically, so state will send reminders

CDC says 2 small MT counties more at risk for HIV; state says: What?

Consultants tell UM it must 'immediately' tackle lack of brand identity

Montana lawmakers split votes on measures to reopen government

Flathead Valley Community College unveils $18 expansion plan

Survey: Montana ranks 7th hardest hit state by government shutdown

Missoula man dies in Idaho avalanche

Yellowstone Co sheriff: Man shot by deputy expected to survive

Bullock makes note that state government hasn't shut down

Tester backs bill that aims to boost border security

Great Falls native happy making mark as African diplomat

Helena's Women's March celebrates year of activism, demands fairness

Montanans join marches in a number of communities

Supporters -- and some critics -- greet Cliven Bundy in Sanders County

Group calls for change in management of Bighorn River

Mom worries how her disabled sons will fare under Medicaid cuts

As Missoula grows, impacts hit surrounding communities

State's 2 big public worker unions merge into single entity


Soaring lumber prices leave mills cheering, home builders moaning

Bullock orders 'net neutrality' for any firm getting state contracts

Firms, groups challenge fees on state workers' comp assets

Billings keeps close eye on former power plant property along river

Some clues as to why young professionals settle in rural Montana

Will Anaconda's slag ever fuel a successful business venture?

Millennials can provide economic boost to Montana communities

New federal tax law provides big boost to beer makers

Distiller returns to the Flathead Valley


Grizzlies jump to 21st in mid-major hoops poll

UM's Moorehead shuts down MSU's Hall, gets his 1st double-double

Griz grind out 67-52 victory over rival Cats on road

Lady Cats swarm Lady Griz, 81-64

UM football attendance dips, lowest its been since 2007

MSU's Fish: Big Sky's the best it has been in his 4 years as coach

Bobcat, Grizzly games Saturday to feature league-leading teams

Former UM coach Stitt going to Oklahoma State as offensive analyst

As Bobcats improve record, ticket sales continue to rise



Suspension of MSU fraternity sends right message

Regional split of Interior Department offices could benefit Montana

Stapleton out of line in attacking media

State needs rules for handling of low-level radioactive waste in oilfields

Proposed natural gas pipeline meets a lot of needs

Reserve judgment, and treat Montana's pregnant addicts

Montanans should pay attention to low rating for public health programs


In the aftermath of a Butte tragedy, a dog died of a broken heart

Study of mountain lions reveals some surprising results

A wolf in the MT Cowboy Hall of Fame? Say it ain't so

Jobs program teaches responsibility to Missoula students

Historical Society highlights Montana's microbrewing history

MSU professor reflects on 'River Runs' film he worked on 25 years ago

Actor Bill Pullman coming to Bozeman for premiere of 'Ballad' movie

MT cartoonist Mal made millions smile, but he didn't have an easy life



Rod Stewart doing his 1st Montana concert in Billings April 14

Decemberists schedule Aug. 4-5 dates for Missoula music festival

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