When Vine Street News opened in 1975, Eastlake had no laws against porn shops operating near residential neighborhoods. The store sold magazines and videos and housed an adult arcade. For two decades, everything was swell.
Then, in 1995, four dirtbags botched a robbery at the store, killing the security guard and wounding a clerk. Eight months later, Eastlake cracked down on adult businesses, real and imagined. It required strippers to wear bathing suits, even though Eastlake had no strip joints at the time. It also barred sex shops from opening within 1,000 feet of a church, school, or residential neighborhood -- effectively precluding anyone from operating anywhere in the city.
Since Vine Street News was already in business, it was grandfathered in. But five years later, police began hearing complaints about the place. A subsequent investigation revealed a good bit of weirdness. The arcade was littered with semen, feces, and urine. Four undercover cops were propositioned for sex. Store employees were allowing and engaging in prostitution. Vine Street offered a unique shopping experience. "I had to hose my officers down every time they came out of that place," says Lieutenant Tom Doyle.
In June 2003, a judge ordered the store closed for a year. Now the owners want to reopen. But since the store had been shuttered, Vine Street lost its grandfathered status. Not only is the store barred from reopening at its old location; it can't do business anywhere in the city without running afoul of zoning laws.
So the owners sued the city last week, claiming that Eastlake is violating their free-speech rights. But for guys big on speech, they're not particularly talkative. Their names appear nowhere in the lawsuit. Nor are they named in the company's incorporation documents. And their lawyer, Jeremy Rosenbaum, isn't returning calls.
Lieutenant Doyle remains quite talkative, however. "They should open a bookstore within 1,000 feet of where they live and inflict it on cities like Pepper Pike and Shaker Heights. If I sound bitter because they're money-grubbing bastards, that's why."
Off the hook
We didn't expect the Cleveland police to be big fans of last week's cover story, "Loose Cannon." So it was no surprise that some chose to vent by leaving cryptic, anonymous phone messages.
The best one ran through a litany of Scene's sins before ending with "You can give me a call if you wanna talk about this. My number's 9-1-1."
We'd love to chat more, but since you didn't leave your real digits, you'll have to call us back at our toll-free number: 1-800-Stop-Shooting-Unarmed-Civilians-in-the-Back.
The hot rumor at last week's Democratic Executive Committee meeting in Mentor was the prospect of a criminal indictment against John Chiappetta, head honcho of E&W Services, the sheet-metal manufacturer that received a boatload of state money, only to sink under the weight of massive, mysterious debt ("Mr. Big Stuff," November 11, 2001).
If Chiappetta confesses his sins, the political gossip goes, he may shed light on those of some prominent Lake County officials -- like former Eastlake Mayor Dan DiLiberto, who lured E&W from Mentor with the help of generous incentives, including a brand-new facility. At least one executive in Chiappetta's company donated heavily to DiLiberto's last mayoral campaign.
Though Chiappetta left his employees with stacks of unpaid health-care bills, he had plenty of dough for politicians. Betty Montgomery, Jim Petro, Steven LaTourette, and Bob Taft all cashed Chiappetta's checks. All of which gives Punch the sneaking suspicion that we're in for another round of pay-for-play scandal, just in time for the holiday season.
The Cavaliers are still weeks from opening camp, but their dance team is in midseason form. The Cavalier Girls are poised to unveil their first swimsuit calendar, featuring members photographed in undisclosed locales around town.
"We made Cleveland look like the amazing city that it is, and we really captured the beauty of it," says director Vandana Patel. Most of that amazing Cleveland landscape, of course, is helpfully blocked by scantily clad women.
ClevelandCavaliers.com is conducting a contest through this week to select the cover girl from among three finalists: Amanda, Elle, and Nicole (no last names, please).
In a related story, the Brownies announced that their plans for a "Men of the Stadium Grounds Crew" calendar have been suspended indefinitely.
The full Fulwood
Cleveland publisher Gray & Company has just released the perfect gift for that catatonic loved one.
Full of It, featuring the works of Sam Fulwood III, is now on sale for a mere $24.95. It features 320 glorious pages of The Plain Dealer columnist's greatest hits, in which he rewrites one of his colleague's stories, then offers state-the-obvious commentary and ideas that originated in 1983.
Gray president David Gray says Fulwood approached the company with the idea. The title was also Fulwood's, showing that, if nothing else, he believes in truth in advertising.
When labor demonstrations halted production for The Real World in Philadelphia last spring, Chris Carmody of the Greater Cleveland Media Development Corporation made a pitch to the producers to relocate here.
In the end, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell stepped in to mediate, and The Real World Philadelphia debuted last week. But Carmody remains hopeful that seven self-absorbed twentysomethings will stop being polite and start getting real in a fabulously decorated house in, say, Tremont or Ohio City in the not-too-distant future.
A Cleveland delegation met with the head of MTV Films in L.A. about two months ago, Carmody says. "We try to stay on people's radar." And if that works, Punch hopes Carmody will land Survivor: Whiskey Island, in which contestants will be forced to live off garbage in the Cuyahoga River and read Sam Fulwood's book.