We get an eyefull of Exodus, Manes puts the "fun" in fund-raising and politicians hate you

Hey homos! No need to go on living that way, you know. You can be cured of impure thoughts and urges and start lusting after the opposite sex, like the rest of us.

Or so says a group that put up a billboard on Orange Blossom Trail, and that's the part of town from which we get all of our insight into human sexuality. If it says so in big, bold letters on OBT, it must be true. Or cost $30. Or both.

Check it out for yourself. There, south of the East-West Expressway, Exodus International put up a two-sided billboard encouraging gay folk to "Rethink Homosexuality" and to check out the Exodus website at www.exodus.to. The billboards will be up for a year, and cost $12,000 in donated money.

Despite the big sign, and lots of media coverage, Exodus director Alan Chambers – a former queen himself – isn't happy. "We don't love the location of the one we got," he tells Happytown™.

The original location would have been far more visible to Chambers' target audience – Marys – and would have caused a big, hairy storm of controversy. See, originally, Exodus had a contract with Viacom for a billboard on Parliament House property.

"It wasn't really a target of a gay establishment," Chambers says. "It was a location where a lot of people travel every day. That was our purpose." P-House owners got peeved, and Viacom moved the billboard down the street.

Chambers wants more billboards, but probably not near gay clubs. Instead, they'll pop up on well-traveled roadways near churches. We won't even venture a guess as to which denomination.

Speaking of gay, Happytown™ paid a visit to the mayoral debate at the Varsity Club April 15. This soiree was hosted by the Tiger Bay Club, aka old, white people who've run this city forever, aka Bill Frederick's people. Happytown™'s dark horse, Billy Manes, didn't even bother to show up because he's little, yellow and different.

As the crowd rolled in, we stood in the back chatting up Tico Perez, who makes no bones about the fact that the next time there's an election, he's in. Looking out at the crowd, Perez gave us one of those made-for-Hollywood quips: "This isn't their city anymore."

Later, Bill Frederick walked up and introduced himself: "I'd like to see something nice in the Weekly," he said.

OK, here goes: If we had to declare a victor in this hour-long snoozefest, Frederick would be it, because he reminded the crowd repeatedly that he'd been mayor before, that he was simply saving the city from imploding and implied that his competitors are clueless. In other words, he had something to say. Point to Frederick.

But props to Manes for being the only candidate putting the "fun" in "fund-raising." While the other candidates are either collecting checks at private rubber-chicken lunches (Frederick), or doing nothing at all (Samuel Ings, Ken Mulvaney, Edward Lopes), Manes is at least giving voters a reason to shake their asses and throw back a few. He's got two more events set before this truncated campaign mercifully comes to an end: April 21 at The Parliament House featuring Wanzie and Doug, Miss Sammy and Carol Lee ($10); and April 25 at The Social, with musical guests Q-Burns Abstract Message, On Cassette and Watch Me Disappear ($7).

Then, of course, comes the Billy Manes Victory Party, May 3 and also at The Social. Be there for the dawn of a new era in Orlando politics. Or not.

Happytown™ received an irate e-mail from a Seminole County resident this week bemoaning the fact that Orange County libraries will, as of August 1, no longer loan DVDs, videotapes, books on tape or any other audiovisual media to Seminole County residents. Books only. Like people in Seminole County read.

The e-mail asked for an investigation, and we are happy to oblige. Turns out Seminole County's libraries don't stock audiovisual stuff, so its residents have to lean on Orange County to get the goods, thus depriving God-fearing, taxpaying Orange County citizens of such material. See, Orange has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with all of its neighbor counties, but Seminole wasn't keeping its end of the deal.

Whether this issue will generate the "uproar" that our e-mailer warned us about remains to be seen. Until it does, may we suggest that Seminole County fund its library adequately? We do not appreciate having to wait weeks to borrow a Celine Dion CD. Moochers.

Politicians hate you, just in case you didn't already know that. They hate that they have to ask you for permission to do things, they hate that you have the power to take their jobs, and they hate that you can make laws, just like they can. They may smile, and they may shake your hand, but beneath the veneer they're fantasizing about putting an ice pick in your skull.

As proof we offer Senate Bill 1996 and House Bill 1471, legislation winding through the snake's belly right now that would make it difficult – if not illegal – for citizens to amend the state constitution. In the truest up-is-down tradition of all bad policy, this one comes to you in the guise of protection: The Petition Fraud and Voter Protection Act. Your caring legislators at work, right?

Wrong. If this one passes the Legislature (and a ballot initiative), the smallest mistake made by anyone collecting signatures would mean every signature collected by that person would be thrown out. People gathering signatures would have to wear badges. No one under 18 could collect signatures. Everyone who signs a petition would have to submit a government-issued ID, to be kept on file by the person or group doing the collecting. Some collecting practices could become felony offenses.

Orlando was one of five cities across Florida that hosted protests of this heinous piece of legislation April 14. But you wouldn't know it's an important issue by the sparse crowd that showed up in front of the Orange County Courthouse. Twenty-one people representing groups against the bills and two media types (including yours truly) were on hand. That's it.

The House version of the bill is ready for the floor, but the Senate version still has a few more votes before it's ready to go. Call your state senator and representative and get pissy. You don't have to be polite, because they already hate you.

While talking up SunTrust Broadway in Orlando's 2005-2006 season was the ostensible reason for a luncheon April 13 at the Carr Performing Arts Centre, the occasion also turned into a mini-referendum on the future of the Orlando Performing Arts Center, one of many civic-improvement projects that have been left twisting in the wind while the Dyer administration struggles for its political life.

Speaking from the Carr podium, Florida Theatrical Association executive director Ron Legler promised that work on the Performing Arts Center will proceed "while Mayor Dyer fights to get back where he belongs." Guess Ken Mulvaney shouldn't count on Legler to help him distribute shamrock-shaped campaign buttons.

An accompanying promotional video contained footage of Dyer, Legler, artist Donna Dowless and Orlando Ballet artistic director Fernando Bujones, all of whom declared an urgent need for the center – though the message was slightly undermined by audio that mysteriously cut out every time another interview subject, UCF president John Hitt, opened his mouth to speak. (Don't you wish it could happen to the real thing?)

Then it was on to the season preview proper, which included news of an encore of Mamma Mia!, a version of The King and I starring Stefanie (Hart to Hart) Powers and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the looming arrival of which was promoted by a wisecracking Santa Claus and six high-kicking Rockettes.

We were told that hosting the latter touring extravaganza will swell the city's coffers to the tune of an extra $14 million – more than The Phantom of the Opera netted! No taped words of protest were heard from Bujones, whose group is losing a week's worth of Nutcracker performances at the Carr due to the Rockettes' booking.

But our favorite moment of the midday session was Legler's syllable-dropping testimonial that Movin' Out, another of next season's offerings, is "one forgettable Broadway musical." Nice work, Ron. Are you trying to put us out of a job?


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