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8/28/2008

Columns > Happytown

HAPPYTOWN

 

In its August issue, Orlando magazine ran a profile titled “The Natural” about the dazzling life of Winter Garden jack-of-all-trades Mark Pulliam, a former New York Yankee and an artist to the stars with a commissioned portrait hanging in the offices of the Yankees to his credit. Great story, except it turns out that Pulliam’s preferred medium is bullshit, and Orlando magazine didn’t catch it.

The mag’s lack of fact-checking was revealed in New York magazine on Aug. 20. Oddly enough, Orlando magazine’s website went down for several days last week after the New York magazine piece came out – technical difficulties, surely.

In associate editor Jay Boyar’s article, Pulliam claimed he played Major League Baseball after being drafted from the University of Florida. He also said he had pitched at an exhibition game against the Yankees while a junior at UF. None of it was true, though it is exceptionally easy to check pro ball rosters to verify such claims. (Routine disclosure: Boyar has also written freelance pieces for this here publication.)

However, this is the story of one of Pulliam’s college pals, Larry Mikesell, who had no idea Pulliam was swapping lives with him. The whole sordid tale unraveled after a reader called to dispute Pulliam’s status as a pro ball player, which proved to be only the beginning of the lies.

“Beyond verifying that he is a full-time artist, we did not independently corroborate many factual details in the story, a lapse in judgment that extends through the editing chain of command and ends with me,” wrote Orlando magazine editor Mike Boslet in a letter posted to the mag’s website.

Pulliam wasn’t commissioned by George Steinbrenner to paint a portrait of Yankee Stadium to hang in the club’s front office, as he told the magazine. His claims that Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods own pieces of his artwork, and that his work is admired by Madonna and Paul McCartney, also seem sketchy and couldn’t be verified. When confronted with the fabrications and embellishments, Pulliam simply stammered that he didn’t know what to say, according to Boslet.

And neither do we, except “wow.”

Just as the giant white sheet was about to be pulled off the design plans for Orlando’s future arts nexus, the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center (you can read more – or less – about the unveiling in Blister this week), more cracks were starting to threaten the yet-to-be-poured foundation.

At the Aug. 19 Orange County commissioners meeting, there was some arty blowback as commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell suggested that the county take back $36,000 it had budgeted for United Arts (out of the $834,750 it had promised) and give it instead to WMFE-TV, from whom the county had taken $36,000.

Things got a little high school-ish as WMFE CEO Jose Fajardo slipped United Arts CEO Margot Knight a note claiming that his hands were clean on the deal, or “it wasn’t me.” Knight then said that she probably wouldn’t be writing that $17,000 check to WMFE for advertising. Fajardo then sent an e-mail blast to his board, calling for a polite uprising. Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty saw the e-mail and flipped out, calling on commissioners to maybe consider not giving United Arts any money at all, thank you very much. Knight was left with her head spinning, giving David Damron of the Orlando Sentinel the rather tragic quote, “This is the worst professional day of my life.”

We contacted Knight Aug. 20 and she was indeed suffering, hoping that the mayor would call her to straighten things out. Well, as of the morning of Aug. 25, he had.

“Everything is hunky-dory,” says Knight, adding that the whole thing had been a big, dramatic misunderstanding. “They’ve got to make tough choices, we’ve got to make tough choices. I’m putting this behind me.”

Here’s some long-awaited news: The first night of the new Will’s Pub, 1040 N. Mills Ave., happened Aug. 23, though chances are you missed it. It wasn’t an official opening, nor even a soft opening. In fact, there was nothing to buy except merch from the bands and it was BYOB. But it rocked.

There was no air conditioning, no lights, no stage and the bands brought the PA. Nevertheless, quite a few folks showed up for what was essentially a garage party.

The good: There was no doubt that this was the same legendary Will’s we all used to love. It was like a sauna, but people were dancing and bleeding and laughing. All the cover-charge cash went to the bands, who deserved it just for hauling in the gear.

The bad: It was only possible to stay inside for moments before being overtaken by the heat, the sweat and the aroma. Most people were hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the bar just to get some of the cool, breathable outdoor air. The bar is unfinished, but the bathrooms worked. We’ll just say the cover didn’t get you many amenities.

The ugly: Come on, kids, you know better than to stagger across five lanes of traffic with an open container in your hands and a girl riding piggyback. That’s just foolish. It was surprising the cops didn’t bust up this party.

The verdict: With “more-than-adequate” AC and an actual working bar promised for the official opening, it seems clear that we’ll soon have Will’s Pub back. Will himself was heard to remark that the place was going to smell like a monkey cage by the next day, and it probably did. But if you want maximum flavor, you have to start seasoning the joint early.

This week’s report by Billy Manes, Ian Monroe and Deanna Morey.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com
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