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7/15/2004

Happytown > Happytown

The Monsters and City Beautiful terrorists

 

Heads are gonna roll, nod off and roll again, as everybody's favorite racially insensitive heroes, The Monsters (formerly known as The Monsters of the Mid-day), are forced from their 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. time slot on WTKS-FM (104.1) this week. Seems the waistlines made for radio (the lovely Savannah excluded, of course) made a few un-PC comments that drifted all the way over to St. Petersburg and into the ear of one Eric Deggans, TV and medic critic for the St. Petersburg Times. A little snippet from Deggan's indignant July 6 screed:

"One June 23, the show aired a parody song, ‘Mark and Greg on the Open Road,' referencing the California Highway Patrol and including the lyrics: ‘Two chocolate CHiPs is on our a**/ They're just monkeys with helmet hats/ Their big old' lips can't stop our load/ We're Mark and Greg on the open road.'"

Well now …

Deggan's column prompted Clear Channel to scream, "Suspension!" which Clear Channel is prone to do these days. This is a corporation still sporting kneepads from its recent run-in with the Federal Communications Commission over Bubba the Love Sponge.

So for this week anyway, you'll have to drink you're a.m. Schlitz by yourself, because Russ Rollins and company are undergoing "sensitivity training," which sources close to the incident tell us involves electric-shock therapy. Nonetheless, we hope they emerge just as homophobic and race-baiting as ever, because a soft touch would just ruin the whole gig.

Citizens hide your porn! In an effort to squash child pornography, terrorism and drug trafficking in Orlando, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar and the Orange County Sheriff's office have formulated a brochure that coaches your cable guy, trash guy and fire guy on how to racially profile … err … identify The City Beautiful terrorists, pervs and crackheads.

For example, if your cable guy happens to notice "large collections of untitled video tapes or tapes with sexually explicit titles," "multiple photos of a variety of children either clothed, partially nude or completely nude," along with "tape, rope, handcuffs, or wire usually kept in a garage that may be hidden in a closet," you could get tagged.

The brochure also urges workers to keep their eyes open for "multiple adult males living together, usually of Middle Eastern appearance and between the ages of 18 and 45, with little or no furnishings." In other words, Middle Eastern frat boys are screwed.

In July 2002, Dubya proposed a similar program called Operation TIPS, which came under attack and was eventually scrapped due to harpy civil libertarians droning on about their civil rights blah, blah, blah. Our opinion: Freedom is for people with something to hide.

When 36 prepubescent kids in 1930s garb are crammed into an overheated elementary-school classroom in downtown Orlando, it means one of two things: Either Jeb Bush is flexing his veto power again, or somebody's making a movie.

The latter explanation held sway June 10, when the locally based Stars North Films took over St. James Cathedral Catholic School to wrap up the whirlwind shoot of its latest short. Braving weekend heat made even more oppressive by some viciously large light reflectors, young actors spent hours upon hours in a tight, faux-homeroom configuration to help wrap Once, Not Far From Home, an era-spanning romance that Stars North will do doubt submit to the usual round of film festivals and TV showcases. Between takes, we spotted lead kid Erik Per Sullivan (of TV's Malcolm in the Middle) bouncing a ball in the hallways; other "names" in the flick include James Best, The Dukes of Hazzard's Eons, whose role as a sheriff represents a long-overdue move up the law-enforcement ladder.

But to us, the biggest star on the set was director Ben Van Hook, the Pulitzer Prize-winning still photographer and filmmaker. Sounding tired but enthusiastic, Van Hook showed off some of the day's handsome-looking footage on a monitor while explaining how he had come into contact with Stars North co-founder Todd Thompson, the short's producer: Thompson is a longtime volunteer at the Florida Film Festival, which in 2002 showed My Father's Son, a stirring portrait of Central Florida homelessness that Van Hook co-directed. Speaking of that film, Van Hook said he remains in contact with its charismatic central figure, John Blalock, whom he reports is still living in the woods (by choice) and having success in staying away from the bottle. Van Hook's genuine affection for the man was obvious; we'll remember it the next time some pinhead pundit argues that all documentary makers are exploitation artists.

Our happy town wouldn't be the same without John H. "Buddy" Dyer. The guy won re-election handily four months ago, but he's still under a cloud of lawsuits, subpoenas and grand-jury investigations regarding The Election That Won't Die.

Example: Last week the city's canvassing board attorney, David King, was in court asking (and getting) a 60-day stay preventing attorneys for Dyer-challenger Ken Mulvaney from deposing five witnesses. The problem? Apparently, with a grand-jury investigation of the election in progress, all five witnesses are pleading the fifth. Just like an old cop show!

But here's the bad news: You, the taxpayers of Orlando, are paying to defend the mayor. It works like this. While Dyer and co-defendant commissioner Ernest Page have their own lawyers, the majority of all the legal filings and court arguments to date have been made by lawyers representing the city's canvassing board, the entity that certified the election results. The lawsuit doesn't allege any wrongdoing on the canvassing board's part, but since Mulvaney wants the election results tossed, the agency was named anyway. And since the canvassing board is a city entity, guess who pays their legal bills.

Originally, assistant city attorney Amy Iennaco was defending the canvassing board, but she stepped aside to allow David King to take over. King's firm, King, Blackwell & Downs, is a favorite at City Hall. Dyer is using the firm to defend himself in a separate slander suit Mulvaney filed against him; Dyer pal Cameron Kuhn is using the firm for his divorce; and since 1999, the city has thrown at least $87,991 in legal work King's way.

Without question King has taken the lead here, filing motions for summary judgment, stays, continuances, motions to dismiss and answers to the complaint. He's the talker in court hearings, while Dyer and Page's personal attorneys are mostly silent. Dyer's personal attorney has filed only a handful of thin motions echoing the canvassing board's motions to dismiss.

All of which begs an interesting question: How much exactly is the city spending in Dyer's defense?

We don't get to know. City attorney Amy Iennaco says such information, as well as all correspondence between City Hall and King's law firm, is exempt from public-records law.

We do know that Mulvaney has already paid more than $26,000 in legal fees, and expects that number to tick up to $50,000 when all is said and done. It's a pretty safe assumption that King, with the backing of a powerhouse law firm, is charging more than Mulvaney's attorney, Frederic O'Neal, who is essentially running a one-man show.

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