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9/9/2010

Columns > Happytown

Happytown

 

We’re off to see the Wizard! Well, we were, anyway. In our ongoing attempt to keep you apprised of all of the comings and goings of the still somewhat theoretical Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – formerly known as The Pin-Drop Palace™ before the acoustic hall was removed – we skipped downtown to the round DPAC office building last Thursday morning to meet with the ladies (seriously, every DPAC meeting requires three ladies and some bawdy laughter). At issue were the nonprofit’s annual tax reports, which were just filed on Aug. 16; DPAC’s flack insisted that in lieu of just providing us with the reports, we should probably sit down with chief financial officer Cecelia Kelly so she could explain them to us. Fun!

Before we got down to fiscal business, DPAC vice president of communications Alexis Jackson got us caught up on a few things. The groundbreaking, originally scheduled for this fall, will now occur sometime early next year. (“All we’re doing is moving it up closer to the construction part,” she says. “Vertical construction, we call it.”) The “education” component of the center has yet to be finalized but may include interactive “master classes” with global virtuosos. And all of that marketing talk about “circles” of people spreading the good word of the Phillips Center at Rotary Clubs and homeowner’s association meetings is still happening. Still creepy, then.

Then came the paperwork. Uh-oh. Turns out things are about as bleak as you would expect for the fundraising-driven project. In 2008 DPAC brought in $2.9 million in “revenue” (mostly fundraising), but 2009 saw only $1.3 million. Worse still, when you subtract expenses from revenue, DPAC was actually $1.4 million in the red for 2009 (it was $1 million in the black in 2008). Bring on the brackets

“I don’t consider it a red flag,” Kelly red-flagged. “Coming mostly from the for-profit world, I don’t like brackets. This didn’t surprise our board or any of our stakeholders. Once we’re operating, our goal – as with most performing-arts centers – is a break-even status because of our nonprofit designation.” Zing!

Oh, there were tons of other numbers – $14,500 for lobbying expenses, $184,419 in costs to refinance to a lower-interest loan, $560,261 for the 11 current staff members ($272,000 of that going to DPAC head cheerleader Kathy Ramsberger), $2.7 million in “functional expenses” (the construction planning and fundraising, mainly), to-date expenditures at a whopping $33 million with nothing much to show for it – but that wasn’t even the exciting part. Nope, that would be DPAC’s new consumer- relations management software, Tessitura (“The Cadillac of the arts management world,” according to www.idealware.org, it’s “much more appropriate for organizations with multi-million dollar budgets”; Kelly was unable to quantify the expense of the program, though she did allow that DPAC had purchased “a low-intro model of it, so it’s not a significant cost.”) What does that mean to you? When you buy tickets for Cats in 2019, your name will be entered into a donor database and you will be ceaselessly begged for money. You’re welcome! 

So, the big media news last week was that Orlando Sentinel editor Charlotte Hall – who took over for the admirable Tim Franklin in 2004 – would be exiting her perch atop the region’s gladrag on Oct. 1. We know this because we searched “Charlotte Hall” on the Sentinel website on Sept. 2 and it provided us with our favorite moment of that day: a response reading “did you mean Charlotte Rae?” Of course we did, Blair!

Anyway, Hall is the latest to jump ship under the terrifying bankruptcy of Sam Zell’s “fuck you” leadership, and though her six-year reign has been completely synchronous with the decline of the newspaper industry (see “The incredible shrinking newspaper,” Aug.  7, 2008), we do wish her the best. 

We weren’t necessarily surprised by the news, however. Just the day before the announcement, we got a hot tip from a certain former staffer called “Billman” that there was an ambiguous opening in the gaping Central Florida journalistic vortex. JournalismJobs.com listed an opening for “candidates for a Managing Editor position at a mid-to-large size daily newspaper” at a “highly regarded privately owned newspaper company” in an unspecified “Central Florida location.” Hmm, we thought to ourselves. That’s fishy. Maybe we should look into it?

We didn’t, and the news broke late that night, and blah and blah and blah. Except, wait! That advertised position isn’t for “Editor” at all! And doesn’t the Sentinel already have a managing editor? So two plus two made four and we tried in vain to divine who the mysterious managing editor is via the paper’s non-existent online masthead. That did not work. So we shot our boyfriend Scott Maxwell, the paper’s Taker of Names, an e-mail asking “so, are you the new editor?” – you know, to flirt – “and just who is the managing editor?”

“Fat chance,” was his curt reply. Then he revealed that Mark Russell is the current managing editor. Russell received a “BJ in 1984” (bachelor’s degree in journalism, probably) from the University of Missouri, according to the school’s website, to whom he gave a staggering interview once. Our favorite quote? “I wish I done a stint as a copyeditor for at least one year.” Admittedly, he probably didn’t edit the website that interviewed him, but it does make for some fancy schadenfreude fun. 

Publisher Howard Greenberg is said to have “no timetable” for announcing the new editor, so we’re just going to assume (for now) that it will be Russell. Congrats, Mark! 

And so long? It’s only fair that if our daily paper is going to be such a drama-lovin’ mess that we start looking elsewhere for our needs – it’s us, not you, whoever you are these days – and we’ll have you know, Sentinel, that we may have found us a journalistic fuck buddy down the street. And they’re tough! 

The recent double-Pulitzer-winning daily St. Petersburg Times in Tampa ran a piece in the run-up to the primaries that called Florida Democratic Senate hopeful-cum-loser Jeff Greene’s massive yacht a “party boat,” insinuating/inferring that Mike Tyson, among others, may have snorted some Dr. Zhivago and passed around some Romanian strippers with Greene while onboard. 

Greene claimed defamation and threatened to sue. After all, the only evidence the Times had were, ohhhhh, photos of Romanian women boarding the yacht at night and of Greene and Tyson gallivanting around France and Ukraine and the fact that Tyson told Sports Illustrated that one time he picked up this girl in Romania and hopped around France and Ukraine with a “big rock of cocaine” in tow

Tyson later defended Greene and the Times updated the story as such. But within a few weeks, Greene started bandying around talk of a lawsuit. Then Greene lost the primary, freeing him up to sic his lawyers on the media (including the Miami Herald, which made fun of him or something), demanding a full, front-page retraction of the inflammatory stories or he’d sue their asses off. When neither budged, Greene dropped the libel bomb, officially filing on Wednesday, Sept. 1, and kicking off our sudden torrid love affair with the muscley Times, whose editor, Neil Brown, responded by calling Greene a “sore loser.” Swoon. 

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