Concertmaster Meltdown

William Preucil blows up in Europe — literally.

It appears that William Preucil, esteemed concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, is having a trying year.

In February, we detailed how Preucil had been accused of propositioning a Cleveland Institute of Music student — and how the school covered up the incident by paying for the girl to transfer ["Sour Notes," February 14]. Orchestra members also complained that he was running the joint like a musical monarchy. Since the concertmaster's 1995 arrival, his sister, brother-in-law, and daughter have all secured coveted spots.

Then, in September, the orchestra finally changed its audition practices for the first time in 85 years, deciding against allowing relatives to judge auditions. Without her father, uncle, or aunt judging, Preucil's daughter Lexi didn't make the cut.

It's the kind of year that would drive most men to drink, which is exactly what Preucil did en route to England for the orchestra's international tour. On the flight overseas, members say, he got completely wasted and started screaming at the airline attendant. He was also overheard mumbling those laments of violinists everywhere: "Fuck the orchestra" and "fuck all this shit."

For drunken poetry, the judges gave him an 8.7.

Then, on the bus ride to the hotel, Preucil apparently started yelling at the driver that he "had to pee." When the driver told him he couldn't exactly pull over on the highway, Preucil opened the door himself, forcing the driver to slam on the brakes. Embarrassed, the head of the touring committee apologized to the driver. Apparently, Preucil didn't take kindly to apologies on his behalf. "You're an asshole," he told the driver.

In most corners of Cleveland, the episode would be dismissed as Things You See on a Normal Tuesday Night. But orchestra members were aghast. "We always joke that unless you come onstage drunk and pee on the floor, you're pretty much guaranteed job security," says one member. "But this is the kind of thing that gets you fired."

Tour manager Jonathan Martin fumbled for words to describe the escapade, before telling Punch to get in touch with PR — which, of course, never called us back.

Troy Smith does juvie
When Heisman winner and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Troy Smith stopped off for an inspirational speech at the county juvenile detention center last week, his odds of success weren't good. Row upon row of teenagers in blue jumpsuits slumped in cold metal chairs in the center's dismal gym, conducting silent warfare with their eyes. A guard noted that not all the kids could attend, since the center is overcrowded and authorities worry about gang problems.

But then something incredible happened. Smith attacked his audience with an unusual weapon: kindness.

"We miss you, man!" he began. "We need you guys to be future doctors. We need you guys to be future lawyers . . . We don't need you to be here your whole lives."

His voice rose and tears stained his cheeks as he defined Cleveland's deepest need: "We are starving for men."

The audience was hooked. Heads nodded, eyes were glued to the podium. "It's incredible to me how many beautiful young men we have in this building right now," Smith said. "I come here today as a humble servant to you guys."

One by one, he listened as the teenagers stood up to introduce themselves and ask polite questions. There were no jokes, no snide remarks. When Smith asked for their help in defending his hometown, most hands rose in the air.

"My long-term goal is making Cleveland a better place," he told them. "You can call me a hypocrite if it doesn't happen, but I guarantee you it will."

Superman's Propaganda
If you see a mushroom cloud in the days leading up to November 6, don't call 911.  That's just the fallout from two overeager politicians blowing each other to smithereens as they vie for the support of Seven Hills. 

 David Bentkowski — creatively known as "Get Bent-kowski" by those who hate him — is a 35-year-old mayor, up for re-election, who fetishizes Superman memorabilia and still lived with his parents until two years ago. Matt Trafis, his Lex Luthor, is a 27-year-old city council hopeful and the son of former mayor Gerry Trafis, though he presumably has his own apartment.

Throughout his reign, Bentkowski has published the Seven Hills News, which runs compelling stories comparing the mayor to Grady Sizemore and Brady Quinn, as well as photos of his bachelor's pad, which includes a Superman room, which explains why he's still single.

But with election day approaching, the paper's taken a more aggressive tone, reading like a combination jihadist manifesto/12-year-old's diary. The mayor unearths an old Halloween photo of young Matt Trafis posing in an Uncle Sam hat, while his father wears a fireman costume. "The big joke," writes the mayor, "was to dress up like two people they hate: me and firemen." Behold the fury of the mayor's cunning pen!

Yet Trafis has been inoculated against levity as well. He refused to answer questions on the record, then called Punch back five minutes later with a prepared statement, calling Bentkowski's manifesto "outrageous and offensive."

Somebody needs to remind these guys that they're vying for part-time jobs that pay less than Taco Bell.

Denny's Garage Sale
Dennis Kucinich is known for preaching protection for the constitution. And what better way to protect that holy document than to sell copies at an enormous markup?

For the low, low price of just $25, you can now own a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution, the same one Dennis made famous by carrying it around in his pocket. The offer is an attempt to capitalize on Kucinich's recent appearance on The Colbert Report, in which host Stephen Colbert made fun of Kucinich for carrying around more crap than a Central Park bag lady.

But wait! If you act now, you can receive a copy signed by the congressman himself for just $50! Collectors believe it will someday be worth more than a Corey Feldman-autographed copy of Meatballs 4.

"What better gift," reads Denny's website, "than to remember the foundation of our great nation and now, more than ever, why we need to protect it!" (Staffers reportedly edited out the next line, which read: "Please, America, I've only got $3.68 in federal matching funds left, and Elizabeth wants me to campaign down the slopes of Aspen!")

Lucky for Dennis, his supporters are too high on ginger root to realize that anyone can get a free pocket constitution from Campaign finance director Marcus Brandon says he's sold 1,000 copies. "We were baffled," says Brandon. "It keeps going up and up."

Next on Kucinich's auction block: a collector DVD featuring a reenactment of the time he saw a UFO at Shirley MacLaine's house!