New scientific evidence suggests Spider-Man will make you gay.

If you were wondering why producers of Spider-Man 3 chose to shoot the film in Cleveland, Punch has finally discovered the unsettling truth: They're trying to make us gay.

That's right. Disturbing footage of Spidey is raging across the internet. It shows the masked avenger dancing more suggestively than Alex Arshinkoff at an all-boys-school prom, and includes the message: "Warning: Spider-Man will make you gay. Don't watch Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, or even the movie trailer! Unless, of course, you want to be gay."

So Punch went to the Spidey set on Euclid Avenue to get the crowd's reaction.

Ken, an extra from Massillon, had a hard time swallowing this breaking news. "I actually have a picture with [Spider-Man], and he has his arm around me," he said disgustedly.

Shane, who was in town from Virginia for a Tribe game, was in a state of denial. Not only has he seen both Spider-Man movies, but he also read the comics as a kid, making him double-gay.

"I love pussy," he protested, but his two friends slowly backed away.

The film crew got tight when asked about Spidey's sexuality. "I can neither confirm nor deny," said one crew member.

But for Jennifer, a Case Western Reserve student, the news came as little surprise. "I've seen that one too many times with my favorite superheroes," she lamented. "You just never know."

Cash explosion
There's good news for consumers beaten down by prices at the gas pump: At least no refineries have exploded lately.

But that could soon change in suburban Toledo, where a BP refinery is apparently taking its safety cues from FirstEnergy. Last week, the feds levied a $2.4 million fine against the company for 39 violations -- problems similar to those found at BP's Texas City refinery, where a 2005 explosion melted portions of Texas and killed 15 people.

It appears that the company hasn't cottoned to that whole "learning from experience" adage. "Certainly they were aware of the issues at Texas City, and the same problems exist here . . .," says OSHA's Jule Hovi.

No way, responds BP spokesman Scott Dean. "We have clearly learned from the terrible accident at Texas City and have made changes in all the refineries to improve worker safety."

BP will appeal the citations and seek a reduction in fines. Analysts agree that a $2.4 million hit for a company that had $22 billion in profits last year could adversely affect the selection of caviar at the next shareholders meeting.

The Derf Kennedys
Famed Cleveland cartoonist Derf -- he's like Madonna; he needs only one name -- has earned a prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his comic strip The City, which appears in this rag and dozens of other papers around the country.

"Derf aggressively attacks the institutions, ideologies and attitudes that create an environment for the continuing oppression and exploitation of the powerless," wrote the judges, who also praised Derf's knack for poop jokes.

News of the award came via phone call from Ethel Kennedy, wife of the late Robert. "She said, 'Bobby would be so proud of the work you do.' And I couldn't even process that statement," Derf says. "That was one of the great quotes of my career. Better than 'Hey, fucker' and 'You asshole.'"

The award will be presented at a May 25 ceremony in Washington, D.C. Derf plans to donate his prize money to the bar that evening.

All in the family
When Lisa Penix confessed that she watched three people help kill, behead, and burn her cousin's body, she probably expected to catch a break ["The Wrong Crowd," April 12]. But last week she was sentenced to life for the murder of Steven Spade. She won't be eligible for parole until she's 44.

Penix claimed that Patrick Shane Rafferty forced her to participate in the killing and keep her mouth shut. But her co-defendants claimed she was a willing accomplice who knowingly lured Spade to the Akron house where she knew he'd die.

As the judge announced Penix's sentence, the 21-year-old was reduced to tears. She apologized to Spade's parents, admitting she used "extremely poor judgment" -- an excuse better suited to drunk driving or voting for Kucinich, not the calculated murder of one's own cousin.

But Spade's father was not in a forgiving mood. He told her she'd rot in hell.

Courting votes
In the final days before Tuesday's gubernatorial primary, Ken Blackwell made a last-ditch campaign stop at Sugarcreek Restaurant in Sheffield Village. During a rousing stump speech, he told the crowd that "We have to make a statement that we are open for business again!" -- implying that after the annual winter siesta, state government's extortion rackets are operating again. Go team!

But Uncle Tom's still struggling to attract traditional black voters. As he back-slapped his way around the room, he threw an arm around Jean Wrice, head of the Lorain NAACP. Despite the attention, she remains skeptical, given Tommy's attempt to suppress the vote during the 2004 elections.

"Civil-rights people, that's one thing that's hurting them right now, and he's got to clear that up," Wrice says.

Though she came to the meeting with an open mind, Blackwell wasn't so open. Before his speech, he held a closed-door meeting with local black pastors, but refused to let Wrice in. He told her it was a minister-only gathering -- though she could see other laypeople in the room.

Wrice's companion, Brian Wotton, suspected there was another reason she wasn't welcome. "They know she's gonna speak her mind," he said.

And since this great country of ours was founded on acquiescence and timidity, speaking one's mind is very, very bad.

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