HAPPYTOWN 


;The fall guy has fallen. No sooner did the shit start hitting the fan last year at the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority — which needs to die [see "Kill the beast," Dec. 28] — than authority officials canned and blamed Ron Pecora, the agency's contract flack.

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;;Pecora responded by squealing about $2,600 worth of theme-park tickets he says authority chairman Allan Keen demanded, for which he was never paid back. On March 28, that decision bit Pecora in his fleshy backside: Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar announced that Pecora was being indicted for soliciting a bribe. Under Lamar's theory, Pecora hooked Keen up to ensure that he kept his $1.7 million a year public-relations contract. On March 29, the authority piled on and filed a fraud lawsuit against Pecora, just to show the public how tough they are when it comes to fraud.

;;Keen wasn't indicted, though Lamar insists his investigation isn't over. Doug Guetzloe was also indicted for perjury, but picking on him these days is like hunting cows with a deer rifle, so we'll demur.

;;How about that crazy Lawson Lamar, though? After three decades as chief prosecutor and Orange County sheriff, he seems to have realized what he's supposed to do for his paycheck. Lamar, personally, plans to take down this "culture of greed and corrupt electioneering." He called an afternoon press conference in front of the courthouse to announce his indictments. Then he delivered a lecture on how our elections aren't quite as bad as those in Miami, but if we're not vigilant they will be, and in no way is he going to stand for that shit. It's been a long time since we've seen a grown man get as giddy as Lamar did when preening for the cameras.

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;Normally we don't do this ;kind of thing, but seeing as everybody who's anybody was aware that Oscar hostess and TV phenom Ellen DeGeneres would be in town recording her daytime talk show out at Universal this past weekend, we figured it might be time to actually throw some shorts on and take a sniff around.

;;Not the actual Ellen show, mind you. We're not J.Lo.

;;But what we did find is something that we didn't quite know about happening on a national level right here: iVillage Live, an interactive NBC syndicated daytime (read: house-spouse) talk show that streams on the web weekdays at noon and airs in 12 major markets that aren't Orlando (it launched Dec. 4). Publicist Deanne Schulz invited us out for an episode, the same one — get this — that Ellen would be on, and we jumped at the idea. That's news, right?

;;The show is a less contentious version of The View, one that includes a guy, whose name is Guy, and a crew composed largely of defectors from the Daily Buzz. While the main hosts interview celebrities and specialists on "issues," a sub-host named Naamuua (whose name's pronunciation borders dangerously on "nambla") mines the show's chat room for online audience questions/comments, etc. And there are cooking segments. You get it.

;;We got to see Ellen (not very attractive sans soft lighting, mind), who when asked by an online "viewer" if there were any segments she's ever done that she regretted, responded glibly, "Like this one?" Then she was gifted with a freaky likeness of herself made of e-mailed fan questions. Awkward.

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;Finally, someone elsehas recognized just how tasty manatees are. We've been saying they're delicious all along ("Eat at Doug's," May 22, 2003), and the fact that they're so fat and slow is a bonus.

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;; But never in our wildest dreams did we consider making wine out of them. A stroke of genius! Pluck 'em out of the water, squeeze 'em and stamp on 'em, let the juices ferment … why didn't we think of that?

;;The credit goes to the folks at Oreana Wine Company in California. Obviously the fact that they're thousands of miles away from the all-powerful manatee lobby here in Florida is why they were able to recognize the supreme deliciousness of the dugong. They've created "Manatee Merlot," and though we've yet to try it, we give it a big thumbs up.

;;The weird thing about all this is that the wine is produced in conjunction with Maitland-based Save the Manatee Club, a group we assume is against consuming manatees by the glass. Nonetheless! On the strength of the presser, the stuff sounds pretty good: "The Oreana Winery sources its grapes from top vineyards in the renowned Santa Ynez Valley and throughout California."

;;Grapes? Umm, never mind.

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;What did you do March 29? We spent the morning listening to two old men jabber on about how great they are and how much they love each other and how cell phones have saved the world and how they want to teach the world to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya."

;;This was the (unbelievably expensive, we presume) March 29 keynote speech for the CITA gathering at the Orange County Convention Center. And our guests, in case you haven't figured it out, were Presidents Bush (41, the less evil one) and Clinton.

;;H.W. went first and was actually kind of amusing, like your grandfather when he gets drunk at Christmas and regales you with tales from the Old Days. Among the things we learned about the Bush we're actually nostalgic for: "I do love the e-mail." And he's on the CrackBerry all the time. He's also cognizant of the fact that he's not long for this earth, and isn't entirely certain of his eternal salvation. ("Twenty-five years from now, you can look back, and I can look down — I really hope I can look down …") And he's not commenting on national policy because he doesn't want one of us jerkface journalists noting any disapproval of his son's plan to ignite the Apocalypse in the next two years.

;Then came Bubba, who wore a pink tie. His punishment for whipping the old man's ass in 1992: "It is my fate to spend the rest of my natural life as [Bush 41's] straight man." Oh, how we laughed. Then he got all serious and told us that how we use technology was the key to the 21st century. If we hook up kids in undeveloped areas of the world to the web they're less likely to become terrorists. And the immediacy of information will change the political world. Clinton took 45 minutes to make those rather obvious points, because he really likes to hear himself talk.

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;;This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Billy Manes and Bob Whitby.

happytown@orlandoweekly.com

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