Flashes 03-16-2000

Crime of the Millennium

Nothing makes the Flash's day like being accused of a crime. Especially when the accusation comes from a lawyer. Especially when the lawyer is a former editor of New Times.

Strange but true. The mail brings a sniffly protest from First Amendment sharpie David Bodney, who edited this august rag during Phoenix's Great Real Estate Depression.

As an editor, Bodney was a damn fine lawyer.

Bodney's client in this case is Phoenix Newspapers Incorporated, wayward parental unit of the Millennial Arizona Republic.

Bodney and Republic ediots are passing stones over the Flash's February 17 publication of an E.J. Montini column that -- get this -- the Republic's editors refused to print!

The forbidden Montini column lampooned those very editors for publishing an exposé titled "Killing weaves bizarre web." The February 6 piece raised the possibility of a romantic link between U.S. Senator John McCain and former starlet Connie Stevens, and if you squinted really hard, perhaps, a homicidal link between McCain and a guy named Ron Bianchi, who wound up getting ventilated.

The piece prompted Montini to wax sarcastic: "I'm prepared to state with complete confidence that Sen. McCain was in no way involved with the disappearance of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, the collapse of the Arizona Cardinals and the mysterious success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire..."

"Fine, but what about JonBenet Ramsey and Vince Foster?

"I've done some checking. McCain is not mentioned in any of these reports I've read concerning the death of President Clinton's late friend and lawyer, and, so far as I know, he has yet to be questioned by police in Boulder, Colorado.

"I've been unable to find out if O.J. Simpson -- on a nationwide tour of golf courses in search of the 'real' killer -- has removed McCain from his list of potential suspects."

You get the picture. The "bizarre web" story was a dog. It was to be the Republic's big blockbuster on presidential candidate McCain, and it barked. Its canine tendencies were so pronounced, the Republic's political editor quit in a huff -- only to be coaxed back into the kennel with a pork chop. The piece was such a mangy mongrel, the American Journalism Review is writing a story about it.

Yet none of Montini's commentary on the "bizarre web" story appeared in the publication that actually employs Montini. Republic bosses are beyond reproach, so they spiked Montini's column like it was a vat of prom punch. Predictably, humiliated Republic journalists leaked the column to the Flash, knowing that this Burst of Light is always ready to stand up for Truth, Justice and Unbridled Ridicule of the Republic.

Already embarrassed and tottering in an undertow of newsroom angst over her insistence on publishing the "bizarre web" piece, Republic managing editor Julia Wallace was apoplectic over the Flash's scoop. In a memo to her subordinates, she characterized the leakage as a breach of security and "trust."

And then she sicced her First Amendment attack poodle, David Bodney, on the Flash.

"I write with respect to your willful infringement of the copyrighted work of Phoenix Newspapers, Inc.," Bodney writes.

". . . As you may know, copyright infringement exposes your company to liability for up to three times actual damages on your profits, as well as injunctive relief. The Copyright Act also provides for criminal penalties in cases of willful infringement."

Well, lock me up with a dude named Delbert!

Flash forward to Friday, March 10, and Pat McMahon's weekly "Mosh Pit" on KTAR. The inspired lineup of guests: Louis "Chip" Weil, president and CEO of Central Newspapers Incorporated, PNI's parent company; grocery magnate Eddie Basha; and . . . Ted Nugent, known to metalheads everywhere as the Motor City Madman. Nugent's presence made for splendid radio, but that's a whole 'nother Flash.

McMahon and Basha appropriately chastised Weil over the suppression of the Montini column. Weil lamely responded that editors are really "censors" who possess that "right."

Yes, and the Flash has the "right" to remove his shirt in public. But that doesn't mean it happens.

Weil went on to knock New Times, saying the episode proves that we'll "print anything."

Damn straight -- especially "anything" created by our columnists, who are paid to speak their minds.

Weil must have taken a 3-wood to the head. Chip, good buddy, what about the "right" of your exalted commentators -- the truth-telling consciences of our community -- to practice their craft, unfettered by ass-covering editors? What about crimes against free expression?

And Julia, babe, if you covet the trust of your subordinates, you might want to consider a novel approach -- try trusting them.

See you in court.

2 Jokes, 1 Stage, 0 Laughs

"Stop right there, Mr. Rockwell! Put your hands up!"

Dumped Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? groom and tabloid sensation Rick Rockwell halts his standup routine and raises his hands. The audience at the sold-out Tempe Improv sees the man ordering the comic to stop and is delighted.

It's Sheriff Joke Arpaio.

"You've already got way too much publicity, probably more than I have," the Sher says in his toughest, wish-I-was-John Wayne drawl.

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