May 11, 2004

If There Is Ever a Polka-Themed "Behind the Music" We Have a Candidate. So years and years and years ago, my friend Christine invited me to join her at the Union County Arts Festival for Polka Night, which I of course agreed to do. The headliner that night was the Jan Lewan Orchestra, which had been nominated for the Best Polka Album Grammy the previous year. Well, after the very fun show Christine and I talked to Mr. Lewan, then later wrote up a story about it ("Polkapalooza") for the zine I was doing. A small Pennsylvania paper actually reprinted the story, which was pretty cool, we thought.

So that's pretty much the last I thought about any of this until earlier this evening, which is when Christine sent me an IM asking if I had heard what happened to our old friend Jan. And what it turns out had happened was not only was Jan Lewan (real name: Jan Lewandowski) serving a five-year prison sentence for swindling people out of more than $2 million through the fraudulent sale of unregistered securities, but that in mid-April he had his throat slashed by his cellmate, a convicted murderer who had also set a fire in the prison that caused 20 injuries.

And while all this is happening, Jan's wife, Rhonda, remains tainted by news that she was the beneficiary of a rigged vote in the 1998 Mrs. Pennsylvania Pageant, claiming the title when she actually scored 20th out of 20th. Though Mrs. Lewan was forced to forfeit her crown, the Mrs. United States site still lists her as the winner, and she never handed over the prizes or trophy.

It just goes to show that you have to choose your heroes carefully, even in polka.
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