The PD's Racist?

Paper gets heat for hiring another white guy.

The Plain Dealer is under fire from black journalists after adding another white guy to its roster of sports columnists, a team that now has the diversity and sex appeal of a Golden Girls shower scene.

In a letter last week, Roxanne Jones, an ESPN V.P. and member of the National Association of Black Journalists, criticized the hiring of former Akron Beacon Journal columnist Terry Pluto. He is white, male, and the love child of a Whose Line Is It Anyway? skit gone bad.

In her letter, Jones criticized the PD's poor minority hiring record, which includes the time editors got drunk and approved Bud Shaw's Sunday Spin column. The paper should have at least interviewed some black candidates for the job, she wrote.

Editor Susan Goldberg, formerly of the more diverse San Jose Mercury News, admits her paper is whiter than a Shelley Long movie marathon. "I came from a much more diverse newsroom," she tells Punch. "Just visually, it stood out to me." Only 14 percent of the editorial staff are minorities, she says, not including editorial writer Kevin O'Brien, who comes from Planet What the F%&# Is He Talking About?

But hiring Pluto, the best-known sports columnist in Northeast Ohio, was a no-brainer. Goldberg didn't need the charade of interviewing others. While the paper plans to cast a wider net for other jobs, "This is an exception . . . He's a major player here."

The paper's mistake will not be Pluto's race, Punch predicts, but his religion. The born-again columnist once penned a piece confessing his porn addiction. Despite this serious miscalculation -- That's way too much information, Terry! -- the PD has also agreed to let Pluto pen a regular religion column.

Like father, like son
"If you're not cheating, you're not trying."

That's been Ohio's unofficial motto for years. And it's being passed down to a new generation, including Ken Blackwell's son Rahshann.

The 33-year-old ambulance-chaser-in-training has spent years trying to pass the bar exam. But Rahshann, like his father, seems to have a tentative grasp of the law. He's been caught twice going over the time limit for the test. The first time, in 2003, the Ohio Supreme Court gave him a do-over. But when he was caught doing it again in 2005, the bar ruled that he couldn't take another test till 2009 -- and only after getting psychological treatment.

In a profession known for its scam artistry, why allow a clear amateur to join the fun?

But that's not stopping Rahshann from reaching for his dreams. He petitioned the Supreme Court this month to get another pass, arguing that the punishment violated his Fourth Amendment right to due process.

The move probably cemented a future in the Home Depot paint department. The Fourth Amendment actually deals with illegal searches and seizures.

Billy Morris sucks!
Cleveland may have given birth to rock and roll, but it would have been wise to abandon Warrant guitarist Billy Morris in the hospital nursery.

Morris' life isn't all Cherry Pie these days. Instead of playing to packed amphitheaters, he jams with an '80s cover band ["What Would Journey Do?" June 6]. So when budding soul singer Ce-Cee heard that Morris was holding a Cleveland Idol contest at his Hi-Fi club this spring, she wasn't exactly impressed. "When they said who it was, we thought it was kind of a joke," she admits.

But first place meant a free trip to the American Idol tryouts in Philadelphia -- plus a day at the salon and a recording session in Morris' Lakewood studio.

After 11 weeks of competition, Ce-Cee, with a voice like Aretha Franklin, was named the winner. But when she called Morris to collect, he started acting like a crackhead late on the rent.

At first he told Ce-Cee he'd call her back, yet never did. Then he stopped answering her calls altogether. He told Scene that a California production company that was holding the contest is responsible for getting Ce-Cee her prizes, not him.

Now the Idol tryouts are over, and the only thing Ce-Cee has to show for it is a free haircut. "I was really excited, and that's why I entered. That's a great opportunity . . . It would have been."

Stripper bill halted
Ohio's new Leave It to Beaver-inspired strip-club law is scheduled to take effect next Tuesday. But if you've been counting the days to September 3 -- hoping for some kind of Last Supper freak-fest at your local gentleman's club -- you might want to shower off. The strippers, it seems, are going down swinging. (From a pole, by the way. With spiky shoes. It's way hot.)

The industry will provide the state with close to 400,000 signatures, hopefully to get the law overturned on November's ballot, says lobbyist Neil Clark. While getting on the ballot requires 241,000 of those signatures to be validated, the move temporarily blocks the law. Clubs will be able to stay open past midnight, and patrons and dancers can continue to make contact without facing prosecution.

But strippers shouldn't be too optimistic, says Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati conservative group that dreamed up the bill after they ran out of gay stuff to ban. "I think they'll find that they'll be well short of the 241,000," he tells Punch.

In his previous experience pushing wildly judgmental legislation, Burress says at least 40 percent of signatures were found to be invalid. In this case, it could be worse: There have been numerous reports of shoddy collecting, he says. (Punch did, in fact, encounter an apparently drunk man gathering signatures on West 25th a while back. When we asked whether he cared if we were registered to vote, he looked very confused.)

Still, the two sides are gearing up for a fight that could make for a thoroughly goofy campaign season. CCV enlisted former Secretary of State Uncle Tom Blackwell to record a phone message urging people not to sign petitions. And while Burress, a former porn addict, expects the adult industry to spend at least $2 million on campaign ads -- paid mostly in glitter-stained singles -- he says CCV is planning "a huge grass-roots campaign" tentatively titled, Seriously, Tell Those Chicks to Put Their Tops On. It's Hard Enough With All These Victoria Secret Catalogs Lying Around.