It never fails. Every year as the calendar winds down, our blood pressure inches up. The aggregate effect of 12 months of chronicling the doings of scumbags, nincompoops, mountebanks and fools takes its toll, and we find ourselves feeling … less than charitable. And that’s no way to roll into the new year.

So we’ve devised this little feature called Cheap Shots, in which we exorcise our demons by bestowing ignominious awards on the deserving, thereby helping us sleep better at night and wake up cheerful and refreshed. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to cry and mom would tell you to go ahead because it’s better to let it all out? It’s like that, only with indignation.

And so without further ado, and in no particular order, we present our annual ritual of cleansing and renewal – chicken soup for the journalistic soul, if you will. Enjoy.


Does the greed ever stop with Rich DeVos and his chronically bad basketball team? Stupid question. It wasn’t enough that we got swindled into spending hundreds of millions in tax dollars to build a new stadium for a billionaire, and on the cusp of what is looking more and more every day like a nasty recession, no less. But this season DeVos and the Orlando Magic came up with another, very clever way to line their own pockets at the expense of someone else: They sold the television rights to a good chunk of their games to a station that hardly anyone in Orlando gets. It’s all a complex bargaining game, but it boils down to this: Rich DeVos wins, and you lose. Again.

We’re all for letting people believe anything they want, but when that belief takes the place of real leadership and effective public policy, well, then it’s time for a Cheap Shot. And that’s just what we’re giving Operation Armor All, the Orlando Police Department’s much-publicized attempt to get God to solve the Parramore crime problem. The stunt was so Orlando most around here likely shrugged it off as one more example of life in the Stupid Belt. But take a step back and get a little perspective on this; you’ll be as embarrassed as we were. What we have here is a governmental agency charged with keeping you safe in a city with a skyrocketing murder rate asking Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, the Flying Spaghetti Monster -– whoever or whatever brings you to your knees – to get us out of this jam. Oddly enough, crime did not cease during the 40 days of prayer. Imagine that.

Say what you want about the City Beautiful, but we never miss a chance to demonstrate that homeless people are subhuman. And should you be caught acting as if that were not the case, you risk being arrested (by the same police agency that appeals to God for help with crime, it should be noted), as was Eric Montanez. His crime was feeding one more homeless person than the law in these parts allows. Orlando taxpayers -– that’s us – squandered tens of thousands of dollars trying to put him in jail for this high crime, but he beat the rap. Perhaps the jury took a look at the evidence -– a pot of vegan stew confiscated by the cops -– and decided that this city has gone insane. Just a guess.

We’re not even sure if Xtreme Baseball is a sport. If it is legit, it’s only in the way that ping-pong matches and hot dog–eating competitions are, so an xtreme Cheap Shot to this non-sport. Just picture two teams on the field with two sets of bases, except that one team runs around them the wrong way. Thoroughly confused?

There are still only four teams (including the Orlando Dragons) but the league hopes to expand to 20-30 teams by next year’s inaugural season. This year the league only played a series of exhibition games hoping to spark interest. We’ll get back to you on how well it all works out.

An overdue Cheap Shot to former Magic head coach Brian Hill (though he won’t necessarily catch it) following his last season. After a decent five-year stint with the Magic, from which he departed in 1997, Hill returned for an anticlimactic year in 2005. He managed to lead the team to 88 losses and 76 wins before he got fired on May 24.

By then fans were so disgusted a small contingent began eating a taco in one bite after every Magic loss (one for each loss) to console themselves. In addition to the series of taco-stuffing videos posted to YouTube, a petition to dump him showed up at the illustrious, which accused him of stunting the growth of young talent while playing veterans on their last legs. We’d say he’s off to greener pastures, but it’s cold in Canada this time of year.

There’s being a little tardy, then there’s being ridiculously late. For its foot-dragging antics, a Cheap Shot to the Orange County School District for 45 years of procrastination on desegregating schools. Orange County has fought a court order to get it done for decades. The district seems unfazed by the fact that most of its failing schools, such as Jones High School, are predominantly black.

After years of sitting on its collective ass, the school board thinks it might finally be able to settle the lingering federal lawsuit, filed in 1962 after OCPS refused to comply with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in the coming months. Don’t bet money on it. And do look for a follow-up Cheap Shot on the same topic about this time next year.

By now the saga of bathroom sex perv Bob Allen is well known, but Allen’s not getting a Cheap Shot. Why? Because after he was convicted of a misdemeanor – albeit an embarrassing one – Blow Job Bob™ had the good sense to resign from the Florida Legislature. Central Florida State Sen. Gary Siplin, on the other hand, is still fouling Tallahassee a full year after a felony conviction for steering tax dollars to his campaign workers. Go away, Gary, and take that creepy obsession with low-riding trousers with you.

So guess what: Orlando has another cutesy scheme to reshape itself into a “real city,” and the fiscally insane folks at City Hall are only wasting $893,000 of your taxes on it! It’s called the Downtown Ambassadors, and it boils down to a corps of geeks on Segways giving drunk sorostitutes and shiny-shirted frat boys directions from one Church Street bar to another. Hey, they do it in Atlanta, and that’s a real city, so why not here? (That’s a rhetorical question; we know why not.) Cheap Shot to the city “leaders” who came up with this idea.

Why are we still even talking about U.S. Rep. Ric Keller? Didn’t he make a promise a long time ago that he’d leave us alone after six years? Yes, he did. And apparently he lied about that; so sorry! Keller’s decided to try and grace us with his presence for a fourth term. Now we have to point out once again that slightly insane remark he made way back in February about not mowing lawns in Iraq anymore, we have to make note of his ongoing man-crush on Gen. David Petraeus and his love affair with endless war, and we have to note that he doesn’t think poor kids deserve health insurance. A Cheap Shot to you, Ric, for reminding us of your existence.

Here’s a large-caliber Cheap Shot for Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary. We’ve written extensively about Beary’s petulant leadership over the years, yet it seemed that nothing Beary did wrong – from his constant absences from work to his lavish spending to his lucrative work on the side -– could prevent him from getting re-elected over and over. Thank this county’s legendarily apathetic voting public for that. But when Beary wasted $11,200 on 14 elephant rifles, people went ballistic (sorry). The .499-caliber rifles, the biggest weapon in the sheriff’s arsenal, are pretty much useless for anything other than taking down huge, rampaging animals. And that has happened exactly … never. (An elephant did run amok in Honolulu once, which should make you tremble.) If it takes a big gun to rid us of Beary, so be it, but just know that’s the least of his transgressions.

Right after the Republicans got their booties kicked in November 2006, President Bush turned to Florida’s own U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez to right the sinking GOP ship. Mel, you’ll recall, was going to reach out to the Hispanic community and become the public face of the Republican Party. That lasted all of 10 months. Martinez became the point man on President Bush’s immigration reform bill, but then the Republican base revolted (some of them ain’t too fond of the brownskins, it seems). Besides that, Bush’s approval ratings (and Martinez’s) started dropping like anchors in the ocean, so it’s pretty safe to consider Mel’s tenure a failure.

Pardon our dust-addled brains, but Stardust Video & Coffee this year went from film-student hang with just the right dash of pretension to a too-many-chefs mess. Along with frequently hosting interesting local music, the coffee shop was best known for its many obscure, foreign and rare films, the movie covers affixed to the walls with Velcro. Earlier this year, however, the secluded spot got all growed-up, snagged a liquor license and apparently decided that those celluloid gems were an eyesore. Since then, the extensive film library has been minimized, spined-out and alphabetized on wooden shelves in the back of the place behind potted plant–lined coffee tables. Manager Hazel Newluck calmly explains they wanted “more seating” and “a cleaner, easier-to-navigate library.” That’s fine, but don’t blame us when you get a shot of our ass crack because we have to bend over the coffee table to get a copy of The Brown Bunny.

We’re so pissed off at Men’s Healthmagazine for naming us the angriest city in America we can barely unclench our fists long enough to type. Put it this way: If these effete bastards ever show their faces around here, we’ll do more than give ’em a Cheap Shot.

With a heavy heart, we send a face-smack out to Orlando rapper S.K.I.P. for diva-like behavior at a charity concert. One of our favorite local talents, Nonsense Records’ S.K.I.P. was supposed to perform at Rock for Hunger, organizer Christopher Goyzueta’s benefit festival at Back Booth, but flummoxed attendees were instead treated to nearly 30 minutes of onstage (and fully miked) sniping between the rapper and the sound booth. “I can’t hear my iPod,” he repeated like a mantra. “Nothing’s coming out of the left side,” he said again, despite coming through loud and clear to the audience. Admittedly, nothing was coming from his keyboards, but since when does a rap show need keyboards? The embarrassment multiplied when the failed set was followed by a completely a cappella spoken-word performance by Sage Francis that captivated. With zero music to back him, the veteran Rhode Island MC led by example. Here’s hoping S.K.I.P. was paying attention, not still fucking with his iPod.

So Florida’s Jan. 29 Democratic presidential primary, which for a minute we were stoked about, is now meaningless. Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee decided to strip Florida of all of its campaign delegates because the state held its election before February. As a result, all the major candidates have avoided the Sunshine State – because it’s not like Florida’s important or anything. Cheap Shot to Dean, the DNC and New Hampshire, the state that thinks it has some God-given right to dictate our presidential candidates.

It isn’t so much the content as it is the delivery that warrants Green Works Orlando a free-range, organic Cheap Shot. After all, any environmental concern is probably a
good one, considering that we’re all melting. However, when Buddy Dyer launched his “green team” in the spring of 2007 with the glossy marketing sheen that seems to render Orlando a showroom of dummies, a brow-cock was in order. By autumn, the city had transformed its green thumbs into an “initiative” by announcing a comprehensive program that would include the words “sustainable,” “green” and “advocacy.” In reality, the city’s plan to reduce our carbon footprint remains as riddled with gaps as Amy Winehouse’s mouth. Platitudes won’t save the world – nor will incinerators – but they may just distract us long enough for some more mixed-use development.

A face-melting rock roundhouse to Disney, who stumbled their way into some bad press with their clumsy handling of a ban on metal bands, which was handed down from on high to both the Anaheim and Orlando House of Blues venues (located on Disney property) in September. According to Robb Flynn, singer for Machine Head (the first band to be canceled in the flap), “The promoter canceled because they were being pressured to cancel bands such as ours – metal bands – because of the ‘imagery and lyrical content.’ We had to move to another venue on two days’ notice.” That new home turned out to be Club Firestone on Sept. 17, where Robb gave a rousing anti-Disney speech that landed on YouTube. Disney stuck to their guns and subsequently canceled or refused HOB shows by Cannibal Corpse, GWAR, Cradle of Filth, Lamb of God and Static-X.

Not all grass roots beget an appealing lawn, a fact illustrated by the placard-happy local supporters of pseudo-libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul. The Paultards – led by split-second mayoral candidate Nick Egoroff – sparked a lazy revolution here, as in other places, by enlisting the angry curmudgeon runoff from Neal Boortz’s FairTax movement to rally like hippies for state’s rights, anti-choice and lost causes in general. The county grew wary of the “revolution,” citing campaign laws that forbid sign-posting all over town all the time, and came after Egoroff with some hefty fine threats. The Paultards, of course, didn’t think that was fair and kept throwing signs up. All of the anti-authoritarianism would be fine if it didn’t look so crazy and wear a wig, but it does. Ergo, a Cheap Shot for cheap rhetoric in a cheap wig.

It’s been the golden ticket in the venues trifecta since the whole downtown facelift had its first ink-blotted consultation appointment, but there’s still something a little too pinched-nosed exclusive about the $425 million Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center. Like the CityArts Factory before it, DPAC (which used to be OPAC, not to be confused with OPEC) threatens to strangle bottom-up artistic impulses with diamond necklaces and dollar signs. There were ways around this – most notably not cozying up with the grandma police known as the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation – but in the end, anybody who’s followed the arts scene in Orlando sees right through all the talk of inclusiveness. Smaller arts groups have already been sized out by the architectural plans, and the likelihood of anything groundbreaking ever breaking ground there is about as good as Cats.

While it was heartwarming to witness the University of Central Florida’s meteoric growth manifest itself in an erector set of a football stadium (with bounce!), the process behind the whole ordeal reeked of enough political back-scratching to warrant UCF president John Hitt a place at the backroom mahogany table. Coupled with the school’s nurturing of the military-industrial complex, the hasty bulldozing over environmental and neighborhood concerns made UCF look even more like a Frankenstein, one menacing enough to warrant a giant mechanical kick in the power balls. Cheaply.

A drunken tai-chi Cheap Shot to rapper the Game for his Belvie-guzzling, venue-dissing, swallow-my-bullshit-and-love-it attitude toward the patrons of Club Firestone Feb. 10. After allegedly trying to get his own appointed opener, Junior Reid, kicked off the bill without pay (according to Reid himself), the L.A.-based MC took the stage nearly four hours late, put on a 20-minute show, then bolted out the back. In the course of his 1,200 seconds, half the time was spent challenging an audience member to a drinking game while the other half was spent calling out Firestone as a “little-ass club” and complimenting the mostly white, suburban crowd as “really hood.” Unfortunately for the Game, a writer for the top hip-hop magazine in the country happened to be in attendance and “Compton’s finest” was put on blast for fronting on Orlando. Check the stats, Game: We’re more dangerous than your hometown, anyway.

A wristband-sized imprint on the forehead of the Social, the Orange Avenue behemoth whose love/hate relationship with locals gets tiresome to listen to. Shove enough lager down any scenester’s throat, however, and you’ll eventually arrive at a common gripe: the Social’s “no re-entry” policy. Says the Social’s Jodi Goetz, “We do all-ages and 18-plus shows and this is the most efficient way for us to make sure that we don’t have any underage drinkers in the club. `The policy is` the industry standard.” Several other Orlando venues – among them, AKA Lounge, Back Booth and Taste – confirmed they allow re-entry; however, most did agree there are circumstances where no re-entry is merited. Will Walker (formerly of Will’s Pub) adds, “You can’t leave most concerts and re-enter. I think in a lot of cases it’s a safety thing.” Damn, that sounds completely fair, reasonable and responsible after all, however much we bitch. Wait, these are Cheap Shots.

Because there aren’t already enough holidays reminding us what sinners and reprobates we are, along comes Abstinence Day, a right-wing celebration of piety. So here’s a virtuous Cheap Shot for this celebration of not gettin’ any (which, frankly, was nothing to celebrate back in our day). From this day forward, May 22 shall be devoted to chastity belts and saltpeter. Thank you, Family Research Council.

Abstinence Day on the Hill, celebrated for the third time this year, marks an early chance for the fundies to inseminate lawmakers with reasons why they should approve more money for abstinence-only education in schools. The group touts some questionable research that claims two out of three parents think the “waiting to have sex” message is lost if kids are taught about using contraceptives. Could that be why the fundie chicks were always getting knocked up in school?

Trying to understand the relationship between Orlando Carnival and this city exasperates us. Carnival takes over every year during the long Memorial Day weekend with private house parties and a huge parade and festival held in Thunder Field, a city facility. But the dates for the blowout rarely make it onto the Orlando Centroplex calendar, because the supporting Orlando Carnival Association works down to the wire and the paperwork is not always final till all the feathers are glued in place. The event gets forgotten on a lot of other calendars around town, too. There may not be anything wrong going on, but there’s definitely a Cheap Shot aimed at city, county and cultural leaders for not forming a rapport wit this multicultural blowout that brings many brown faces and tourist dollars to town.

It was in the heat of summer when an Orlando vendor alerted us to the steamy August 2007 issue of Campus Talk magazine that he had moved behind the counter. On the cover was a shiny blonde, kind of crossing her legs in that naughty way. Turns out she was teasing the story “Play Ball: A guide to the bases of sex” (which didn’t live up to the headline, but we digress). Backslaps all around to Campus Talk for daring to be tawdry. The reason for the Cheap Shot? That would be the red starburst positioned on the model’s ass that read: “NOW printed on scented paper.”

The rules of etiquette in Winter Park’s social and political circle generated more than a few stiff upper lips this year. City commissioners fired the city’s longtime manager, Jim Williams, in late September, overruling the wishes of Mayor David C. Strong. It was months later that a letter, paid for by the mayor personally, arrived at residents’ homes. Strong made it clear that the commissioners prevented him from publishing any news about the axing in the city’s newsletter, but he felt the need to soften the blow by sharing his respect for Williams. And what a polite-but-strange piece of correspondence it was. Winter Parkers as a whole earned a chunky Cheap Shot to chew on for not questioning the messy matter.

Doesn’t it just figure that when an astronaut flies off into deep space, Orlando is somehow involved? Thanks a lot, Lisa Marie Nowak, for just confirming what the rest of the country already believes about us.

Nowak might have had good intentions Feb. 5 when she frantically drove from Houston to Orlando to attack romantic rival Colleen Shipman over her involvement with fellow astronaut William Oefelein, allegedly wearing adult diapers (Nowak disputed the diaper allegation) so she didn’t have to be bothered with bathroom breaks. Like many bumbling Orlando scofflaws, she never got to use her whole arsenal – the black wig, the latex gloves, the trench coat or the two-pound drilling hammer. But she did shame Orlando in the national spotlight, and here’s her Cheap Shot for that.

Our city’s high murder rate makes for interesting conversation with tourists. It’s fun to buttonhole them and say, in a shaky voice, that our cops are so maxed out and edgy that they actually Tasered a black bear to death. Which is true. It happened in August. The poor bear couldn’t get away from OPD and got worked over for resisting arrest before wildlife officials could arrive. It was apparently being fed treats by someone in the Waterside subdivision. Concerned citizens called 911, then all hell broke loose before two shots from the stun gun dropped and killed the bear. A Cheap Shot is in order for the adrenaline-charged cops, who likely never watched Yogi Bear as children and therefore didn’t realize the gentle, picnic-basket-loving nature of these creatures.

The “All local, all the time” tagline for Central Florida News 13 is almost as well-known as the doodly-doo smooth sax solo that plays over and over as the community calendar scrolls onscreen. Oh yes, those horn squawks grow repetitious. Yet fans really do call the station to ask the name of the performer and where they can buy the CD, for true. So, with no direct offense intended toward the studio that packages and sells the mind-numbing library music, how about Channel 13 calling it quits on the sax play? It’s only been the station’s musical standby since 2001, the dawn of the millennium. A big, loud Cheap Shot is sounding its way to Channel 13 for sticking us with that sax for so long without public protest.

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