Sometimes it takes a natural disaster like the flooding in Lake County to bring out the best in people. Unfortunately, it also tends to bring out people like Larry Bede.
Bede, who manages Perry Auto Center, decided to lend his tow trucks to help stranded motorists after raging flood waters overtook much of the county. One was Kim Roth, who had to be rescued by firefighters from her submerged Chevy Lumina.
But when Roth went to Perry Auto to pick up her car, Bede showed her a bill for $740.
"I'm thinking, this is nuts," says Roth, of Geneva. "Where am I going to get $740 at? I'm a single mother of three children living on a fixed income."
When Roth broke down crying in Bede's shop, he offered to cut her a deal: Just give me $50 and the title to your car. Roth, still in shock, agreed. Shortly after, however, she went to the Geneva Police Department to fill out a report. Police Chief Dan Dudik says the cops didn't even ask Bede to tow cars that day. Roth didn't either, but Bede refused to comment on his unique brand of Samaritanism.
"What he did was pretty unconscionable," says Sue McConnell of the Cleveland Better Business Bureau, which sees a spike in fraud anytime there's a disaster.
"Unfortunately, with everything else you have to think about, you have to worry about someone trying to rip you off."
Naked men, scorned woman
Can't a guy just build the world's coolest bathhouse in peace?
Apparently not. Charles Fleck, a Cleveland native who owns a national chain of gay funhouses, recently converted an East 26th Street bus depot into a haven for gay men looking for steamy games of Yahtzee ["Bath Time," May 3]. When Flex finally opens this month, the 48,000-square-foot private men's club will boast saunas, spas, theaters, a sun deck, a gym, dozens of private rooms, and enough free condoms for a weekend at Tara Reid's house.
But things haven't gone as planned. Construction delays have pushed the grand opening from early July to the middle of August. The Plain Dealer has peppered its pages with the obligatory stories about health risks posed by bathhouses. Now a Cleveland woman has filed a gender-discrimination complaint.
Deborah Coleman went to the bathhouse in search of a job, but was turned away because she's a woman. "They wouldn't give me an application," she tells Punch. "I never thought I would be treated the way I was."
Coleman filed the complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. She also hired a lawyer. She won't say whether she plans to sue Fleck, but high-level sources say lawyers aren't good for much else.
Fleck, meanwhile, says he has no problem hiring women, but simply can't have them mingling with his naked male customers. "I have naked men running around everywhere," he says. "There is such a thing as modesty."
Whether you're flashy or not, screwing grandmas is hard to justify. But Senator Mike DeWine (R-Sparkle Town) is doing so nonetheless in defending his vote for the fed's senior prescription program.
At issue is the program's cutely named "doughnut hole." Grannies and disabled people have been shocked to discover that, while their first $2,250 in medication is free, they have to pay the next $2,850 out of pocket.
Considering the costs of prescriptions these days -- and the fact that many seniors need multiple drugs -- a lot of elderly people will be subsisting on mac and cheese to trim $2,850 from their budgets.
DeWine spokesman Michael Dawson recently defended the doughnut to the Elyria Chronicle Telegram, saying that "If you want to hold down costs to the federal taxpayer, you need it."
But DeWine and company weren't so concerned about costs when they created the program. In what shall henceforth be known as The Whore Clause, the Party of Business expressly prohibited the government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for better prices, essentially allowing Big Pharma to rip off taxpayers and old people for as much as it pleases.
But what's bad for Granny is good for Mike. The pharmaceutical industry has rewarded his obedience with $300,000 in campaign contributions. So while the senator may not be flashy, he sure can skank.
Bob & Big Brother
After learning that employees of a Cincinnati company voluntarily had radio-frequency identification tags implanted in their bodies so their movements could be tracked -- have you guys heard of cell phones? -- state Senator Robert Schuler (R-Sycamore Township) leaped into action. Sort of.
He introduced a bill that would ban companies from requiring the devices, since it would totally harsh on workers' ability to sneak off to the bar at 2 p.m.
But it seems Schuler's trying to play Defender of the Working Man while simultaneously avoiding a decline in executive campaign contributions. The bill calls for companies to be fined "not more" than $150 per violation, a figure that would only discourage employers who can't afford transmitters anyway. "I'm not a criminal legislator," says Schuler.
His measure pales in comparison to a similar bill passed in Wisconsin. The Cheese Heads loaded up with fines of $10,000 per offense, per day. "We wanted to make it stiff enough so people would pay attention to it," says Michael Schoenfield, an aide to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Marlin Schneider.
It will also create a healthy treasury for those 2 p.m. bar runs.
Asshole of the week
Phillip Distasio of Rocky River may be the most loathsome person in the state -- outside Columbus, at least.
Last week, the confessed pedophile made a national stir at his trial for molesting two disabled boys and raping seven autistic children. Distasio claimed that pedophilia is part of his faith -- he must be Catholic -- and is thus protected by freedom of religion.
People have been trying this crackpot defense since Prohibition, when suddenly everybody needed wine for their religious rites. At least that was for a good cause.
But Distasio will get a personal introduction to old-time religion soon, when fellow inmates discover what he's in for.