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Thursday, June 25, 2009 06:05 pm

Patti in the jungle

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She served as the state’s First Lady, but lately Patti Blagojevich has been roughing it in the jungles of Costa Rica in NBC’s reality show “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” which concludes this week. On Tuesday night’s episode Blagojevich was voted off the show.

Initially, former governor Rod Blagojevich petitioned the courts for permission to join the show. The petition was denied. In steps Patti. I first thought the Blagojevich’s were desperately trying to join the cast for money — after all, both had lost their jobs. But after learning that some of the money earned will be donated to the celebrities’ favorite charities, I struggled to understand why a mom would leave her family when her daughters are facing such a serious ordeal. While I’m still trying to figure out how having a husband arrested for a number of criminal offenses, including allegedly trying to sell the senate seat, makes one a celebrity, the show gives audiences a hint of how the former First Lady is faring.

In between eating a tarantula and performing numerous physical challenges, Patti has definitely let her fellow castmates — former athletes, comedians, actors, and reality show stars — and the rest of the world know who she blames for her husband’s criminal woes. After first declining to speak about the former governor’s arrest and pending criminal trial, Patti eventually placed blame squarely on the shoulders of Springfield residents. “Those people in Springfield hated us. They felt it was a slight because we did not move to the state capital,” she proclaimed.

While Patti may have lost “mommy points” from me for leaving her family when they desperately need her, she certainly gained mega-points when she stated that they decided not to move to the mansion to keep their two daughters in their current school and home. “It was important for us to the keep that part of their lives as normal as possible.”

Although Patti cannot talk about the criminal charges, at times obvious pain and fear keeps her from being able to speak at all. Yet at other times she definitely uses the opportunity to sing her husband’s praises, touting health care and preschool for all children as a couple of his great accomplishments.

Through the course of the episodes, which aired Monday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Patti went on to say that the public has been supportive, honking, giving thumbs up, and shouting encouraging words to her husband during his daily jog. While very soft-spoken when telling how her family, now driving a 21-year-old car, has “lost everything” and is “fighting to keep our home,” she didn’t hesitate to twice throw a jab at “the unbelievably selfish lieutenant governor [current Governor Pat Quinn],” who she says pulled their security team just three minutes after the impeachment vote.

Patti also voiced disappointment in the friends who voted for impeachment, stating that it has been the saddest part of the entire ordeal. “People he has known for 17 years…good friends…weren’t strong enough to stand against the tide or speak up for him. People you thought were your friends, ended up just hanging around you for what they can get from you,” she spewed.

While describing the show as a “good distraction,” in one of last week’s episodes an overwhelmed Patti broke down when cast members began sharing stories of their “big breaks” and career-altering events. “Not a big break but a huge catastrophe,” Patti told the cast. “My husband is facing a trial in two years and it’s our cross to bear for awhile. We gotta just hope that the truth comes out. We’ll have our six months in court. But what do you do in the meantime?” she asked.

Without a doubt, Patti has won over the cast, who have each expressed, on several occasions, their sympathy, support and love. And after watching the episodes, I’m convinced that the show is a calculated attempt for public sympathy and to win over the jury pool.

I must admit that I have developed some fondness for Patti, who is clearly standing by her man. The strength and resilience shown in physical challenges will serve her well in getting her family through the current predicament. As for now, the family is taking everything “day by day.” When asked if the Blagojevich’s would have to “start over,” Patti responded with a nod, and added: “And you start in the jungle.”

Jolonda Young of Springfield, a frequent contributor to IT, works at Blackburn College in Carlinville. Contact her at ladyj2066@aol.com.

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