HAPPYTOWN 


Here's a fun fact: Did you know that the TD Waterhouse Centre — home to the Orlando Magic and schlocky touring acts like Billy Joel — is named after a company that hasn't existed in more than a year? It's true! And it's also the reason why there is no TD Waterhouse Centre anymore. There's a huge building at the Centroplex with a sheet over its name surrounded by acres of parking, but the TD Waterhouse itself is gone. Let's all take a moment to mourn.

The moniker is down as of Nov. 30. The sign has been covered up, and the building will be rechristened either the Orlando Arena or The Arena in Orlando. Boring. But a couple of weeks later it could very well be renamed again, if the city and the Orlando Magic find a new company that will pony up big bucks. (Halliburton could use some good PR these days….)

The city's naming-rights contract with TD Waterhouse, enacted in 1999 and worth more than $8 million since, expired in September. But the city and the Magic kept the sign up, hoping they could lock up a contract with a new company to buy rights for this arena and its proposed successor. To date there have been no takers, so TD Ameritrade, the company formed when TD Waterhouse merged with Ameritrade in June 2005, told the city to pull the sign.

Until the city locks down another big-dollar sponsor, we have an arena to name. And because we are a magnanimous, community-minded publication, we are prepared to make the following offer: Orlando Weekly will pay $50 and a 12-pack of Schlitz to be the "interim" titular sponsor of that place where the Magic plays, which will be temporarily known as the OrlandoWeeklyplex. City officials: Please get back to us at your earliest convenience.

We're not really big on criticizing the Orange County Health Department, because heaven knows we would never want their job (except for the part involving pills). But when we hopped, skipped, then jumped over to their ghetto-industrial downtown Central Office Nov. 30 for what was promised to be an important press conference — the term "call to action" came up — our Blackberry was atwitter with PR blippery.

The subject of the cattle call? The "Silence Is Death" report, which we covered Nov. 9, that outlines the disproportionately high number of HIV/AIDS cases among blacks in Florida. Obviously it isn't the stuff of celebrity cameos and finger foods, but we were excited nonetheless about the program getting a much-needed media boost. They even promised to trot out an actual person living with HIV/AIDS for the media to poke and prod!

Maybe, just maybe, this three-month-old news could finally get out of the offices and into the street, this being the eve of World AIDS Day and all.

Most of the local TV stations sent camera crews, but it was much ado about nothing. The health department trotted out some higher-ups, and they produced the Rev. Randolph Bracy of the New Covenant Baptist Church, who got all Ezekiel on our asses with an "I hold the blood of the people on you" speech. Kind of awesome.

But when the "person living with HIV/AIDS," Nelson Maldonado, spoke there was confusion in the room. Maldonado isn't black; he's Hispanic.

The health department issued yet another call to action and the whole thing sort of fizzled out with yet another showing of the Primetime Live special, "Out of Control: AIDS in Black America."

We did buttonhole a health-department suit afterward, who just kind of dropped the fact that the county is getting federal funding to the tune of $296,000 a year for three years to improve HIV/AIDS outreach services. Good on 'em. But why wasn't that mentioned in the press conference?

Because this was the worst press conference ever, that's why.

Back in October, this esteemed publication sent a reviewer to check out RAW Productions' Nights of Terror, a haunted-house event going mano a mano with Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights for your scare bucks. Our man on the spot praised Nights of Terror's artistic ambitions, but noted its amateurish organization. Now it appears that criticism was more prescient than even we could have foreseen. Several people involved in the production told Happytown™ that they've yet to be paid for their work.

"This is the only time I've not been paid in my life," says Greg Thompson, the owner of Vagabond Entertainment. Thompson referred talent and provided musicians for Nights of Terror. He says he only got half of his first paycheck and is still owed $2,000.

The problem, apparently, stems from simple economics: not enough bodies through the door. Rochelle Warriner, the owner of RAW Productions, told the Orlando Business Journal in October that her haunted house would cost some $700,000 to produce, and she would need 5,000 people through the doors every weekend to break even. Based on interviews with NOT employees (most of whom would not give their names), it's likely only a fraction of that number actually showed up. Warriner could not be reached for comment.

A company that provided makeup artists for NOT has filed a fraud complaint with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which has an open investigation into the matter. In the meantime, those awaiting their pay may have no choice but to write it off as an expensive lesson in the perils of showbiz.

Attention, fornicators! Dec. 6 is Free Emergency Contraception day at Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando! You read that correctly: If you screwed your little brains out up to 120 hours prior to Dec. 6, you can come on down to PPGO and get yourself some "morning after" pills for free!

Yes, it's short notice. (Technically this paper doesn't even publish until Dec. 7, though we usually hit the streets on Wednesdays.) But we thought it important enough to let you know, because free EC doesn't come along every day.

Get your pills between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Eastside Clinic, 10244 E. Colonial Drive, Suite 204; or the Westside Clinic, 726 S. Tampa Ave.

DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT:
THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!

Taking a cue from the French in World War II, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is apparently trying to appease both sides in the great sectarian battle for Christmas. Orlando’s newest public event, which took place right in front of City Hall Dec. 5, is called “Holiday Lights Orlando.” Note that it’s not called “Christmas Lights Orlando.” We did.

However, the actual tree that was plugged in and lit up — a 30-foot Norway spruce — is referred to in official city literature as a “Christmas tree,” which will no doubt bring the godless ACLU down on them.

“We’re celebrating all holidays,” says city rep Heather Allebaugh, who notes that there will be a menorah and something representing Kwanzaa, but she’s not sure exactly what. “We love them all.”

happytown@orlandoweekly.com

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