Water Into DeWine

Senator forecasts a lake-effect snow job.

Festival Express The Cedar Lee Theater
Word out of Congress on Great Lakes restoration efforts these days is pretty negative. A congressional investigation last year ruled that the government's plan to protect the lakes is, in Capitol Hill jargon, a fucking mess. Senator Mike DeWine's bill authorizing a $6 billion cleanup reads like a punch line among congressmen.

So the National Wildlife Federation's recent reporters' tour of Lake Erie should have been a golden opportunity to build momentum for coverage of critical issues, like the killer Asian fish and all those brown globs. And, of course, DeWine's bill.

The daylong pep rally kicked off with a lakeside chat with DeWine, co-chair of the Senate's Great Lakes Task Force. In layman's terms, DeWine's talk was an eco-buzzkill. Before the complimentary donuts were gone, reporters had irritated the senator, who seemed not to have anticipated basic questions like . . . "How do you get them Congress boys to come around?"

"I've spent enough time with the lawyers and experts in the field to know that I don't have all the answers," offered DeWine, himself a lawyer. He was promptly shuttled off by handlers to a photo-op in Toledo.

Legalized gambling
Cleveland Police officers are in short supply these days, so it's a good thing they have a knack for being near the scene of the crime.

Take the massive, brazen criminal enterprise that occurred July 28-August 1 at the East 185th Street Festival. Casino fund-raiser John Copic, who Cleveland-area police have long suspected of skimming money from his clients, had a tent jammed with card tables. That alone made it illegal -- casino fund-raisers must be held in churches or fraternal halls. And the beneficiary, the East Shore Development Corporation, did not qualify under state law as a charitable organization.

One concerned citizen phoned Cleveland's 6th Police District and spoke to a sergeant from the vice squad. The sergeant agreed that the event skirted the law. "But he said, 'I have nobody who can do anything, because all my officers are working security at the event,'" recalls the tipster.

Indeed, an eyewitness reports that no fewer than five police officers were at the illegal fund-raiser -- providing security.

Burning bridges
Alan Schechter hired the best demolition team in the country to blow up the Detroit-Superior bridge last September for a movie he was producing for NBC. Nice exposure for the city, but the deal was that the bridge remain intact. Schechter's production company agreed to use only a light combustible material that wouldn't cause structural damage. But the pyrotechnic guys used gasoline instead, resulting in $60,000 worth of cosmetic damage, which has yet to be paid.

Jeff Horvath, the city's chief bridge inspector and maintenance engineer, has been trying to settle the bill with Schechter for 11 months now. His phone calls to the production company have gone unreturned, even as the finished film (Bet Your Life) aired on August 3. Only in the last week did the production company's insurer put up some cash (less than half the total) to get the work under way.

"They have their film and they blew out of town," says Horvath. "We gave them everything they wanted. They got their action scenes and then they left."

One might expect Schechter to set a better example. He's from Shaker Heights, after all, and he has already spent millions in Cleveland filming two other films here (Proximity, a straight-to-video thriller, and Double Dragon, which set a tragically low bar for the video-game-inspired movies to follow). So what's another $60,000 to fix the bridge he messed up? He certainly owes us at least that much for this line from Bet Your Life, uttered by the ever-creepy Billy Zane: "I love the smell of Cleveland in the morning."

They came from Hollywood
Fear not, Ohioans. The celebrities are here.

Public relations flack Jeff Rusnak hosted several lefty actor types in his Cleveland Heights home last weekend to raise money for Bring Back Ohio. About 180 guests paid $500 apiece to hobnob with Hollywood's semi-elite.

Martin Sheen, who is not a politician but plays one on TV, at least bothered to offer some reasons why anyone here should care what he thinks. "I'm a born and bred Buckeye," said Sheen, who grew up in Dayton. And he told the crowd of his life of danger. "What you guys don't know about is the threats," Sheen said. "The death threats, the letters, the threatening phone calls we take to come out and talk like this."

The rest were less entertaining.

"I cringe at watching actors talk about politics, especially people like me, who haven't been that involved," said Julianna Margulies, former star of the formerly good series ER, who admitted she'd never set foot in Ohio before that night. Chad Lowe, star of such made-for-TV classics as Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, said he's "struggled with being a celebrity and stating my opinion." But like the cringing Julianna, he did it anyway.

Susan Sarandon sounded almost grounded in comparison. "No, I don't think my celebrity status will help bring people to the polls," she said. "But with the corporate media the way it is, I can use my position to ask questions for people who are voiceless."

When the interviews were over, the stars climbed into waiting limos and sped off to meet more voiceless people in Woodmere.

Head case
A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. And sometime's a man's gotta sell some cranial real estate on eBay.

Enterprising Cleveland Heights resident Jeremy Martin is auctioning off the right to tattoo a company logo on his bald head. Bidding starts at $25,000. He promises to "go out in public at least five days a week . . . including but not limited to going to local stores, gas stations, the mall once a week, and driving the major freeways and/or interstates of the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area."

It's all in a good cause. "I decided to try this idea to help my family," Martin tells Punch. He cares for his blind mother and elderly grandfather by day and works at night. "When you have responsibility, you have to step up to the challenge, even if the ends don't meet when you're done."

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