Clear Channel to peddle Red Ribbon 

Six Florida AIDS organizations -- which together had put the brakes on a third Florida AIDS ride this year -- are gearing up for their own version of the fund-raiser to take place with support from Clear Channel Communications. This year's pedal between Miami and Orlando will be called "The Red Ribbon Ride," rather than the Florida AIDS Ride, the name used by two troubled events run by Pallotta TeamWorks, a California promoter of similar rides across the country. Reversing its predecessors, the 1998 ride will end in Orlando. And, organizers say, it will be held in November, rather than May, as were the previous rides promoted by Pallotta. "By the time we signed up with the production company, it was really too late" to hold the ride in May, says Caroline Gertz, executive director of the AIDS Resource Alliance in Orlando, who also pedaled in the previous rides. Also contributing to the decision to delay the ride were concerns about high temperatures in May and a potential conflict with a cross-country ride scheduled for that time. "I'm glad it's been postponed. I hadn't been training," Gertz says. Kidding aside, organizers were late off the starting line due to problems with Pallotta. From 1992 to 1996, the company had raised $41 million in 14 AIDS rides. But the promoter pocketed a guaranteed fee -- $16 million of the $41 million -- and required the sponsoring agencies to leave a portion of their take with Pallotta in order to hold their spot as beneficiaries of the followup rides. When the Florida rides failed to generate the anticipated support, Pallotta walked away with its fee while the agencies were left with meager proceeds. The Alliance itself wound up with $26,000 last year. "It was a bad scene," Gertz says. After steering clear of Pallotta's proposal for a 1998 ride, promoters decided to take the handle bars themselves. As in 1997, proceeds will be split between the Alliance, Fort Lauderdale's CenterOne; Action for AIDS, a statewide grant-making organization; Community Research Initiative, in Coral Gables; the Comprehensive AIDS Program in Palm Beach County; and the Tampa AIDS Network. Pallotta controlled everything from press releases to menus. "They took their model and superimposed it on Florida. They didn't pay much heed when people told them Florida would be different," Gertz says. The 1998 sponsor, Clear Channel/ Metroplex Communications, is the San Antonio-based media company that recently bought several local radio stations from Paxson Communications. "They are going to coordinate the even from beginning to end," says Dean Trantalis, development director for CenterOne. "They intend to give us a significant amount of air time and hopefully make this a very successful event."

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