We're Ohio, dammit. It's what we do.
The problem: Said dumps are loaded with asbestos, arsenic-treated lumber, and gypsum board, which contains the ever-poisonous hydrogen sulfide. The situation has gotten so bad that the Centers for Disease Control declared all of Warren Township a public-health emergency, due to noxious fumes and leaking garbage juice.
So last year, the Ohio Senate passed a bill that would require owners to line the ground with plastic and install vents to clean the air before it escapes. But it died in the House, where dump owners sent an army of 40 bagmen . . . er . . . lobbyists to work their magic.
This year, the legislature tried to enact a surcharge of a few pennies per ton to help local health departments monitor the sites. But either comically or tragically -- take your pick -- the bill also prohibits locals from writing citations for illegal dumping and does nothing to reduce air and water emissions. In other words, they're giving us kickbacks in exchange for putting up with this. "As hard as it is to believe, they found a way to make the situation worse," says Senator Marc Dann (D-Ashtabula County) of his esteemed colleagues.
The upside is that Ohio's lack of pollution controls make it ridiculously cheap to dump here. "People are bringing trainloads of this stuff from New Hampshire and New York," says Dann. But at least the state is once again on the cutting-edge of a hot new high-tech industry.
Blue Note, the legendary Greenwich Village jazz club, wants to build a club in the old Centrum theater on Coventry, which has stood empty for more than a year. But Cleveland Heights isn't exactly pouncing on the offer.
In a letter to the city, Blue Note president Sal Haries says Cleveland Heights "is very appealing to us because of its diverse cultural and social mix and its proximity to the active music scene of Cleveland." But flattery has gotten him nowhere. Planning director Richard Wong says Blue Note wants the city to kick in $500,000 to help convert the theater into a three-auditorium music-and-comedy venue, with a café. All of which has Punch asking: Will the last American businessman capable of doing anything without welfare please stand up?
"That's a very steep price tag for a city our size," says Mayor Ed Kelley. Haries did not respond to interview requests.
If the tourism bureau needs a spokesmodel to promote Cleveland, it should look no further than Mischa Barton, illustrious star of teen soap The OC. When Punch caught her strolling down Coventry last week, we asked for her thoughts on Cleveland.
"Cleveland is great," she said flatly, forcing a half-smile to her lips. Why? Inquiring minds wanted to know. "It . . . it just is," she mumbled with an abrupt nod. "I have to go."
Barton is in town to shoot The Oh In Ohio, the cinematic tale of a young woman in search of an orgasm. When one female bystander was informed what the "Oh" stands for, she called out to Barton, "Mischa, honey, you came to the right state."
Being a huge media celebrity, Punch is close personal friends with the biggest names in Hollywood. Many want to have our baby. But the darling Amy Salko Robertson, one of the producers of Oh in Ohio, nearly kicked us off the set last week as she oversaw a shoot at Case Western Reserve.
"You guys cost us a location," said Robertson, who also breached Hollywood etiquette by failing to kiss us on both cheeks or comment favorably on our latest bout with plastic surgery. It seems she's a little miffed by Punch's revelation that producers failed to disclose the adult content of the movie in order to gain access to East Side high schools. She may also have been soured by our mention of Cleveland crew members receiving substandard wages.
But Robertson, who spent three years scraping up the loot to fund the picture, says she's doing her best to keep the local crew happy. The problem, she claims, is the city. You might say our welfare package for incoming filmmakers isn't of the Cadillac variety. "Cleveland -- it has no incentives, no base," she says. The Cleveland Film Commission does what it can, but its four-person staff is only loosely funded by grants.
So why film here, when she can save money shooting in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, two cities that specifically court the Hollywood crowd? Because this is where the script was set, and Robertson doesn't want to jinx it. "Actors and everyone respond to great scripts. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
The devil's new name
If you start seeing Belkin Productions promoting concerts again, it isn't because Clear Channel has sold the company back to the people it bought out.
Clear Channel owns more than 1,200 radio stations nationwide, takes in an estimated 70 percent of the country's live-music revenues, and controls thousands of billboards. Unfortunately, it can't buy love.
Since deregulation in 1996, the company has become synonymous with questionable business practices, skyrocketing costs, and mind-numbing uniformity in its playlists. Mix in its running feud with Howard Stern, who's still pissed about being dumped by 10 Clear Channel stations in the wake of the FCC's Puritan Crusades, and you might say the company has the same image problem as the Khmer Rouge.
So execs at the Texas corp. are trying to distance themselves from . . . well . . . themselves. Clear Channel San Francisco now goes by its former name, Bill Graham Presents. Philadelphia's Electric Factory Concerts also downplays its ownership. And Clear Channel Cleveland has reverted to Belkin Productions. When Punch contacted local HQ, executives were too busy sacrificing a small Euclid girl to explain the name change, though a press release mentions something about corporate restructuring.
In related news, the devil announced yesterday that he will henceforth do business as Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness Ltd.
Channel 19's sweeps-week stunt featuring Action Newsbabe Sharon Reed disrobing on camera has succeeded in drawing national attention. But the unreported story behind the gratuitous exploitation of TV viewers is the gratuitous exploitation of Spencer Tunick, the alleged artist who got famous by photographing large batches of naked people in the street.
"It's not a very good thing for me," says Tunick of the Channel 19 piece. "But if there's anything positive that came out of this, maybe as an individual Sharon Reed has had some inner change about how she sees the body of an individual."
Okay, so we don't know what the hell he's talking about, but we're pretty sure all seven of the station's viewers experienced inner change about how they see the body of Sharon Reed.