Doug Gallagher and America: How Great Can We Make It! 

Doug Gallagher, the Miami millionaire nobody running in the Republican primary to fill Bob Graham's U.S. Senate seat, was in town July 29 for the Orlando premiere of what he's dubbed "Florida's first-ever political movie." To help fill seats at D.MAC for the event, Gallagher posted a campaign worker at the corner of Pine and Magnolia hawking free sandwiches to anyone who sat through the film. About 15 people, including this Happytown™ correspondent, took the bait. (Note: Free sandwiches will get us to a short movie; free beer will get us to a concrete manufacturer's convention.)

America: How Great Can We Make It! (yes, they really did use a friggin' exclamation point instead of a question mark) is a "movie" only if you disregard inessential elements like plot. We'd actually characterize it as a 15-minute commercial for Gallagher's candidacy, which is struggling to gain some footing in a race tilting so far to the right it's threatening to flip over completely. So props to Gallagher for the novel idea of stumping on the strength of "watch my movie and get a sandwich!" And by the way, the pickle that came with our turkey sandwich was probably the best deli spear that has ever crossed our lips. It was a really, really good pickle.

The film does have its moments. We loved the opening shot of a room full of old white guys in dark suits eating tomato soup with forks; and the scene where the suits line up single file and disappear, one by one, into a puddle was inspired (if eerily reminiscent of that scene from The Wall in which people line up and disappear, one by one, into a meat grinder).

We'll go out on a limb here and say Gallagher is going to get creamed in the Aug. 31 primary, so contact the campaign today for your copy of America: How Great Can We Make It! It might be worth something on eBay someday, if Gallagher eventually does succeed in buying his way into office, or at least learns how to punctuate.

Jesus loves Happytown™. It said so right in the skies above Orlando last week.

Well, OK, it didn't say "Jesus loves Happytown™." But it did say "Jesus loves you," and we've got to think the message wasn't intended for everyone but us, ergo, Jesus loves Happytown™. We knew it all along.

A miracle? Not quite. The inspirational skywriting was the handiwork of Jerry Stevens, the Boca Raton-based pilot behind an endeavor called Holy Smoke. No, really.

"Jesus told me to do it," says Stevens. He doesn't mean it figuratively. "I was coming out of church one day and he told me to do it. He said, 'You have a talent for flying, you should do it for religious purposes.'"

Stevens, 61, is retired from the furniture business. He's been flying since he was 16, and specializes in acrobatics. Nonetheless, he didn't know a thing about skywriting when he got The Call, and had to learn from the guy who sold him a skywriting plane. "It's a lot harder than you think," he says. Why? Because for the letters to make sense from the ground they have to be written backwards, in a mirror image, at 10,000 feet, at 120 mph. "When I write 'Jesus loves you' it's 7 miles long," says Stevens.

Stevens says he has a hard time writing on paper. In the sky, he turns the plane over to – you guessed it – Jesus.

"He's flying the plane. I'm just the hands and feet and eyes."

It's getting hot here at Happytown™, and not in the way that makes your head spin and your skin smell like burnt pavement. With the Democratic National Convention wrapping up its monitored hand-waving, the political race is currently high-kicking its can-can in that "think globally, act locally" kind of way. Special interests deserve special drinks, we tend to think (drink?) at Happytown™, and Orlando does not disappoint.

This weekend saw a small litter of political events, ranging from county commissioner candidate Lui Damiani's backyard barbecue to a poorly attended Clinton bashing at Barnes & Noble by a bitter old Georgia congressman (Bob Barr) who wrote an impeachment tome for trees falling in the woods.

But the real barnstormer was Rob and Claire Mola's J.K. Soiree (John Kerry, not Just Kidding, to our disappointment) Saturday night on Garvin Street. Drinky-Winky (aka Patty Sheehan) delivered a five-minute pep talk, as did a Kerry campaign rep, while 80 or so people drowned out the deafening row of the current administration with the elixir of the future. All told, the event brought in about $1,000 for the Kerry campaign, which means, basically, that Democrats are either cheap or they work at the Weekly.

Mark your calendars: Aug. 23 is unofficial start of Alan Yurko week in Orlando.

Oh, you hadn't heard? Then you probably aren't one of the dozens of Yurko supporters (Yurkoheads?) set to descend on The City Beautiful when their man finally gets his day (more like a week) in court later this month.

For the truly green, a short primer: In February 1999, Alan Yurko was convicted of shaking his infant son to death. Orange-Osceola's infamous chief medical examiner, Dr. Shashi Gore, performed the autopsy that led to the conviction. The trouble is he got a few things wrong – like the baby's race and head size. He even contradicted himself on whether or not baby Yurko's internal organs were there at the time of autopsy. You know, basic stuff.

Yurko's wife, Francine, has been working diligently since his conviction to get him released, and she has made much hay of Gore's sloppy autopsy. Last spring her perseverance paid off: Alan Yurko won a weeklong evidentiary hearing in front of an Orange County judge beginning Aug. 23.

Yurko is something of a phenom on the Internet. Some websites label him a hero and some websites label him a child killer. There are a whole bunch of sites theorizing that his infant son actually died of an adverse reaction to a vaccination.

Francine Yurko says up to 50 supporters are coming to town from as far away as Australia. There's even a special discount for them (the Yurko Project rate, $29.95 per night) at the Howard Johnson on West Colonial Drive. Should be one king hell after-hours party.

This week's installment of Wacky Election Shenanigans comes to us courtesy of the Rick Staly for Sheriff campaign. Staly reports that on July 31, an Apopka man witnessed two men in a truck swiping a large Staly for Sheriff sign from his front yard. "The homeowner attempted to stop them but they sped off ignoring his requests to stop. He then pursued them in his vehicle and when finding them down the road confronted them and discovered that they were Orange County employees. One employee identified himself and returned the sign they had taken while the other refused to give his name and became belligerent."

The homeowner did what any American would do when his First Amendment rights were imperiled and immediately called a press conference to denounce incumbent Sheriff Kevin Beary.


More by Amy Cassell


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