For a few days, it was no fun to be named Tom Vail. You remember Vail, once the youngest publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper. He took over as editor/publisher of The Plain Dealer at age 36, presiding over the paper for three decades. The rap on Vail was that he liked the high-society part of the job better than that whole journalism thing. His current occupation involves golfing and waxing nostalgic about his glorious role in Cleveland's past, which he does from the comfort of his Hunting Valley mansion.
So Vail must have received a considerable jolt November 4 when he picked up the newspaper he formerly operated. There was the name of his son, Tom Vail Jr., listed as the only arrest at the Chagrin Falls Pumpkin Roll.
Arrests at the gathering are nothing new, but they usually involve students charged with underage drinking and merry hooliganism. Tom Vail Jr., it should be noted, is 48. It seems Junior and a friend were boozing it up before they decided to engage in the ceremonial smashing of pumpkins and sliding downhill on the innards. But it didn't help that, as he slid down the hill, kids chanted "WAS-TED PAR-ENT." Nor did it help that Vail said "Fuck you" to an officer, according to one witness.
It took three cops to cuff Junior and get him into a cruiser. Vail, however, would not be silenced. "Mr. Vail asked us a number of times what he did and told us he wanted to go home," says the police report. "Mr. Vail also told us a number of times that he is an attorney and his father owns half of Hunting Valley."
Unfortunately, Vail Sr. doesn't own the Chagrin Falls Police Department. Junior sobered up in jail.
Bling bling boozing
Winery Mogen David recently introduced Cleveland to Bling-Bling Blue Raspberry, an enticing elixir marketed under its low-end brand, MD 20/20. By co-opting "bling bling," Mogen is trying to attach a certain cachet to its infamous bum wine. As catchy as it is, "Mad Dog" doesn't have the je ne sais quoi of, say, Moet or Hpnotiq.
The gentle libation packs an alcohol content of 18 percent and should require little marketing, since generations of hobos and degenerates already know MD's subtle virtues. Best of all, it's priced to move at 99 cents a bottle. But it can only be found at your better foreign groceries and family-owned bodegas.
While Mogen David appears to be searching for a younger, hipper, blacker demographic, company officials won't comment on their branding decision.
"Mogen somewhat hides their identity by abbreviating their name," says James Richardson of Heidelberg Distributing. "The 'Bling Bling' flavor thing is kind of a twisted idea."
Another new product, This Done Get Your Cracker Ass Hammered, is now being test-marketed in Missouri.
The lines at the BMV in the Heights are unusually long, and Legacy Village may be to blame. Punch recently had to renew our tags, and we found ourselves standing behind seven -- yes, seven -- prospective shoppers that had their pockets picked while strolling the new Lyndhurst epicenter of all things consumable.
A clerk at the Cedar Center bureau said that since Legacy Village opened, the BMV has been flooded with victims replacing their driver's licenses, some canceling their credit cards by cell phone as they wait in line. The Golden Gate BMV offered similar stories. Legacy Village security isn't talking.
The jilted bride
Dan Kerr just got stood up at the altar. Again.
Kerr, leader of the Day Laborers' Organizing Committee, has been pushing Cleveland to protect temp workers. In 2001, his group got city council to hold a hearing in which 18 day laborers complained about the industry's low pay, hazardous working conditions, and questionable fees.
Organizers wanted a law guaranteeing minimum wage and barring temp agencies from charging workers for their own safety equipment. They also wanted the city's help in creating a hiring hall, which they hoped would drive up wages by competing against private companies.
Kerr says the word came from Councilman Frank Jackson that organizers had a choice to make. "We heard through back channels that Jackson only wanted us to push the hiring hall or the fairness law, not both at the same time," says Kerr. "So we went for the hiring hall."
And what did the activists get in return? Squat. Facing budget cuts, council couldn't spring for a hiring hall while police jobs were on the chopping block. Unions and private foundations were tapped for funding instead.
Now Kerr and his buddies got eight council members to sign a petition calling for a Day Labor Fairness Law. They even got a commitment from council member Fannie Lewis to introduce the bill on November 24.
But Lewis's office sent Punch to council spokeswoman Maxine Greer, who says, "It's not scheduled to be introduced anytime soon. They're trying to work through an anticipated $50 million budget deficit. That's the council's priority for the foreseeable future."
At Monday's council meeting, Lewis promised to introduce the bill in January, Kerr said. In the meantime, Kerr is trying to find a good dry cleaner for his bridesmaid's dress.
Taxi cab confessions
"Don't believe because you have a 'nice relationship' with a reporter that he or she is your 'friend.' A reporter's job is to act like a friend so you will talk freely and give good quotes and information."
David Eden wrote that. Before he became editor of the Free Times, he was a PR flack for Forest City, helping execs handle those lowlifes of the press. It was sage counsel, indeed.
Scene reporter Kevin Hoffman learned this firsthand, when he received an e-mail from The Free Times' Josh Greene. You know him better as "Harvest Moon Hack," the St. Ignatius rich kid turned Official Poet of the Mean Streets, who writes about driving a taxi. Greene had a big scoop: He believed that Hoffman fabricated his recent story on judges ["The Verdict Is In," October 29]. His evidence: Because the response rate to junk mail is typically less than 10 percent, there was no way 50 lawyers could have responded to a survey Hoffman sent to 550 Northeast Ohio attorneys, as he so insidiously claimed.
Never mind that people might be more inclined to dish on people they work with than answer questions about their yearly income and spending habits. (It also didn't hurt that the Ohio and Cleveland bar associations warned members not to respond, which prompted lawyers to request additional surveys. A belated "thank you" to both organizations.)
Unfortunately, Greene's one of those "friend" reporters Eden warned of. Instead of simply calling Hoffman and saying, "Hey, Hoffman, I think you're full of shit," Greene played coy under the guise of seeking collegial advice: "Nice story on the judges. Just curious, thinking about doing a similar story myself," he wrote, then asked several questions about the methodology Hoffman had used.
In the realm of amateur deceit, it ranked slightly below "The check is in the mail."
Sure enough, last week's episode of The Nose, the weekly column in which Eden lives out masturbatory fantasies about female TV anchors, drilled "Ob-Scene" for "phony, manufactured, quasi-journalism" and "hit-and-run, prepackaged reporting." The evidence: Hoffman's story didn't meet standardized response rates for junk mail.
Okay, so Punch isn't quite following, either. But Hoffman was crushed. Had Greene acted "like a friend" so that Hoffman would "talk freely and give good quotes and information"?
"What's the answer?" Greene sputtered when called out. "I'm thinking about how to answer that . . . No, man, I didn't lie. I really thought it was a good story. It was a good read. I wanted to know if you actually had any sources. That was all."
Then he claimed he didn't know what he did with the information. "I think I gave it to The Nose, man. I didn't give it to David Eden. That's different . . . Nobody here knows who the Nose is. Two people do, but we don't."
So this ace reporting sleuth doesn't even know who writes for his own paper? Maybe he should stick to driving a cab.
Cleveland tattoo parlors have slaved long and hard to prove something that most of us already knew: Tattoos do not qualify as "adult entertainment."
In the past, parlors were cursed by this zoning classification, which they shared with strip clubs and porn shops, making it nearly impossible to get a legal tattoo in Cleveland. Of course, the ban was a feast for the black market, where the needles offered hepatitis at no extra charge. At one point, legal parlors were required to pay a $50 daily licensing fee and allowed to operate only 40 days a year.
The city has finally loosened the regulations. Now tattoo parlors that are within 1,000 feet of protected areas like playgrounds and churches can get a zoning variance at the bargain rate of $375.
Don Folmer, operator of Wicked Tattoo and Piercing, wrangled with the city for 18 months, defending the right to tattoo at his Lorain Road shop. Now free of red tape, he's sure he'll thrive. "It proves the little guy can win," says Folmer. "You just have to stand your ground."