Sad news from Portfolio. The September issue reveals the world's worst kept secret: George Steinbrenner is unwell. The Post, writing about the piece today, describes a tragic moment from Franz Lidz' article:

Lidz recently gained entry to George Steinbrenner's home in Tampa, Fla., by tagging along with McEwen, a wheelchair-bound former Tampa Tribune sports editor.
"A solitary figure emerges out of the shadows, limping towards us," wearing silk pajamas and a terry-cloth robe, Lidz writes.
"Great to see ya, Tommy," Steinbrenner says to McEwen.
Steinbrenner says "Great to see ya," each time McEwen, 84, asks about the Boss' wife, sons and daughters in separate questions.

This is, of course, upsetting for everyone involved, but particularly Steinbrenner (and Post) flack Howard Rubenstein, who has a hard time explaining the Boss' decrepit mental state.

Steinbrenner's spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, yesterday said the repetition "might be a defensive mechanism."

"He doesn't want to give any interviews, and it's better to say, 'It's great to see you,' as opposed to 'Get lost,' " Rubenstein said. "I think George is in a good way. And it isn't right for someone to come in under false pretenses."

Just to be sure that Rubenstein's obvious bullshit might not be entirely untrue, we arranged a quick IMterview with Steinbrenner, which Rubenstein would only consent to if he we allowed to be online as well. To the chatroom!

BALK BTW: Good morning, Mr. Steinbrenner!
BILLYMARTINBLOWS: Great to talk to ya, Balk!
SPOKESMASTER: Mr. Steinbrenner is expressing pleasure about your conversation.
BALK BTW: So, this Portfolio piece.
BILLYMARTINBLOWS: I like corn flakes.
SPOKESMASTER: Mr. Steinbrenner has no comment on the Portfolio piece, which was inaccurate and deceitful. Mr. Steinbrenner lives by the rule that if you can't say something nice, change the subject. So he's talking about things he likes.
BALK BTW: Do you feel like you were mischaracterized in the Portfolio story, Mr. Steinbrenner?
BILLYMARTINBLOWS: Great to talk to ya, Balk!
SPOKESMASTER: Mr. Steinbrenner is getting tired. This is his polite way of indicating that this interview is over.
BALK BTW: Do you have Alzheimers, Mr. Steinbrenner?
BILLYMARTINBLOWS: Franz Lidz is a fat pussy toad.
SPOKESMASTER: You can put that one on the record.
BILLYMARTINBLOWS: Great to talk to ya, Balk! Gotta run. They're taking me for walkies! I like ColorForms!
SPOKESMASTER: Okay, we're done here.

[Image: Robert F. Bukaty]