By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
How often do you get to peep porno at a city attorney's office?
This pervy pelican's referring to Mesa City Attorney Debbie Sphincter's (uh, Spinner's) office, where the top prosecutor keeps alleged lewd e-mails on file. See, Mesa coppers were sending these un-PC missives to each other until an internal investigation netted 266 of the boys and girls in blue and their civilian counterparts for circulating improper videos, pics and jokes.
The investigation kicked off late last year in response to a city worker's sexual-harassment claim, and it actually covered all of Mesa's workers (ultimately 521 were punished, including 266 from the cop shop). But it was five-o's involvement that sent the local mainstream press into a tizzy, with TV reporters and paper journos acting shocked, shocked just like Captain Renaultin Casablanca.
Not by the porno, but by, as the East Valley Tribune wrote, e-mails that made fun of "senior citizens, Latinos, blacks, rednecks, homosexuals, Mormons and obese people."
Since curiosity killed the cat, not the canary, this mischievous magpie made haste to Spinner's office to see what all the hubbub was about. The über-particular Spinner would only allow The Bird to gander the "evidence" under her watchful eye. It took the winged one two trips to comb through the two big boxes of supposedly inappropriate e-mails and two CD-ROMs full of video clips. The material had been classified from one to five, with one being hardcore porn, and five being the sort of cartoons and jokes that nearly everybody sends each other all the freakin' time.
On the CD-ROMs, there were pornographic slideshows of showering lesbians, clips of trannies doing the dirty deed, and one mini-flick called "Dirty Latina Maids," which The Bird may have to Google first chance it gets. But to this ribald rooster's disappointment, there turned out to be very little in the XXX category. A handful of horny clips at best.
The rest on the CD-ROMs contained everything from snippets of nude newscasters stripping as they read headlines and bare-chested babes firing high-powered guns, to a bearded fat guy doing a parody of that Paris Hilton commercial for Carl's Jr. and a Comedy Central skit about a restaurant called "Beavers," instead of, you know, Hooters. (Sounds like an idea restaurateur Harry Mortonof Pink Taco fame could run with.)
This mockingbird chuckled over most of these. But its favorite was an amusing youtube.com classic, which has some skinny Jewish dude dressed up in a Ku Klux Klanoutfit making the rounds in the black community, and almost getting his ass beat several times, like when he takes his sheet into a black-owned laundry to ask for it to be dry-cleaned, or when he asks some black men at a filling station if they can help him out with some gas, because his tank is empty, and he's on his way to a, um, meeting.
The Bird first saw the clip when a black pal sent it its way. It reminded this taloned scribe of the famous Dave Chappelle skit where Chappelle plays a blind, black KKK member, unaware of his own race. When a fellow Klansman finds out the truth, his head literally explodes. It's edgy, but it's the sort of material comic Chappelle has made his fortune on.
This feathered fiend expected to discover really racist stuff, but this Chappelle-like KKK spoof was as bad as it got. Combing through the two boxes of e-mail printouts, The Bird mostly found the sort of joke pictures people download off sites like crazyshit.com and then post to their MySpace accounts. Everyone with a computer has seen similar images, and all but the most humorless ciphers have giggled at them like at the naked, grossly obese woman trying to squeeze into a compact car, with the caption, "Does this car make my ass look big?"
There was another showing a pickup truck carrying a penis sculpted from snow, with the line, "I was out driving the other day when this dick-in-a-truck pulled out in front of me." Or the "optical illusion" showing a half-naked hottie rising from a lagoon, a waterfall behind her, which says, "I have no idea how this works, but if you look at the image for about five minutes, you can see a waterfall in the background."
Even the un-PC stuff was pretty lighthearted: There were Mexican jokes circulated by officers with Mexican-American last names; a black dude wearing a T-shirt with the Warner Brothers WB logo that says, "If you see a cop, warn a brother"; a "redneck birthday cake" with the candles on PBR cans; and a Jeff Foxworthy-esque "You might be a Mormon, if" list, with punch lines such as, "If you ran out of Old Testament names before you ran out of children," and, "If your mother-in-law was pregnant at your wedding."
The Bird also eyeballed morbid pics of a motorcycle accident and one of some murder victim's decapitated head. But we are talking about the po-lice, after all. This is the kind of gruesome shit they see every day. If they couldn't make fun of it, like the cops on The Shield do, they'd prolly go bonkers. Speaking of cop dramas on TV, much worse antics are depicted as routine. The point is, anybody who watches the fare on HBO or FX has seen far worse than almost anything this raucous rooster observed in Mesa.
"There are things I think some people would find objectionable," Heather Gray, Mesa's public information officer, told the Bird. "It's just a question of whether or not individuals should be doing this at work. This type of thing happens everywhere. The city of Mesa isn't unlike any other organization. It's really more a question of us being in the public eye."
According to Gray, hardcore video porn was deemed the most inappropriate, and those trafficking it were punished with 240-hour suspensions. R-rated stuff got 40-hour suspensions, and on down the line. The majority of those sending joke pics and cartoons received written reprimands.
The Bird can understand that Mesa fears sexual-harassment suits if it condones actual pornography and that workers should be working and not sending and receiving personal e-mails all day. But, come on, this pervasive lack of a sense of humor when it comes to e-mailed jokes is getting ridiculous! The Bird doesn't know how many times it's heard of a company or a government coming down on some poor slob for passing around a ribald joke that would be told routinely on the aforementioned TV networks or in the average local Laugh Factory.
The Bird doubts very seriously that members of the Mesa City Council or Mesa's tight-ass city attorney darken the doors of local comedy clubs much, let alone know who Dave Chappelle is.
Anyway, not being allowed to joke around in the workplace borders on Orwellian. Generally, the sort of humor exhibited in the e-mails in question is benign. Laughing at racial, religious, and sexual differences can even be downright salutary, a release valve for society. Otherwise we'd all have to tiptoe through life pretending we're at the church bake sale. That's why Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce were the greatest comedians of all time. They made us laugh at all the things we weren't supposed to laugh at, like racism, drug use, sex, religion and pornography.
The Bird thinks even reprimands are overkill for e-mail joking around. But there are plenty of PC taste guardians who disagree. When The Bird contacted the Phoenix-Scottsdale National Organization for Women mouthpiece Joan Fitz-Randolph and described some of the funnier e-mails like the one about the fat lady and the little car she was hardly amused.
"This is not funny, and we take offense at it!" squawked Fitz-Randolph. "Especially if it's written down. It's a very serious problem."
Not really, Joan, if you have a sense of humor. No wonder feminism and liberalism have all the cachet of the Russian Communist Partythese days. If it were up to NOW, the purveyor of the fat-girl video would get a one-way ticket to outer Siberia.
Catch a clue, for Chrissakes. Getting all worked up over the Mesa po-po's molehill of e-mails just shows how out of touch with reality such activists, and even some of The Bird's fellow reporters, really are. Maybe they need to remove some of the timber from their Spinners (uh, sphincters) and have funny bones implanted.
Put this one up to the irony file, but did you know that a founder of TNG:Arizona, one of the state's major fetish organizations, has been banned from the group for life, in part because get this he was hitting on people?
Seems that's what happened to Mitch Palmer, who co-founded TNG (which bills itself as "The Next Generation in Kink" on its Web site, www.tng-az.org). The organization sponsors social events and private parties for those aged 18-36 who're interested in bondage and discipline, toe-licking, food fetishes and pretty much anything under the sun of Satan that consenting adults can do to each other legally.
Demonstrations might include the intricacies of fisting, for instance, which makes Palmer's excommunication from the group by TNG's governing board initially seem so weird. After all, isn't the whole purpose of such get-togethers for like-minded folks to hook up and get their freak on?
Odd as it sounds, TNG's 7-member board met the first week of June and blackballed Palmer for life. Palmer, who's well-known around town as one of the principal organizers of the AZ Fetish Ball, which regularly draws more than a thousand participants to its cavalcade of kink, then sent out a press release of sorts to pals and members of the media, wherein he stated that he'd been given the big leather boot. The reason? Because "my personality is more direct and intense than TNG would like."
He continued: "Even as TNG:Arizona is a sexual based group, there is repression/oppression for those wanting to be open and direct to others sexually . . . Going to a man I find attractive and suggesting he is attractive and that I would like to pursue him violates some unwritten rule."
Palmer declined to be interviewed, claiming the e-mail was private, though it had been sent to a member of New Times' staff, as well as to at least one other member of the media. So this bawdy blue jay called up TNG's current president, who goes by the initials JJ. He labeled Palmer's reason for getting thrown out of the organization "a red herring" and suggested there were other reasons involving the group's rules of confidentiality, though he declined to give details of Palmer's case. Seems Palmer has threatened legal action against TNG, so JJ would only speak broadly.
"It's like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," explained JJ. "So if you're out in public and you see someone you've met through the group that you don't know very well, it's best not to talk about anything from the group."
JJ described TNG's bylaws, which sound as detailed as Robert's Rules of Order. Members, of which there are 80 to 100, pay annual dues of $10 and get membership cards. You have to attend one of the public, low-key coffee klatsches before you're allowed to any of the private parties where all the fun stuff happens. You're allowed to touch another member by consent only. And at age 36, you're "aged out" of the group, like the characters in that old sci-fi film Logan's Run, so that the 18-year-old newbie doesn't have to worry about getting it on with some decrepit geezer who resembles Elton John.
Interesting concept. Still, it'd make more sense to The Bird to exclude fatties and fuglies, regardless of age, though maybe that would cut into TNG's membership too severely for it to survive.
Not that The Bird gives a gecko's ass one way or the other, but it does find it amusing that an organization devoted to living out outré sexual fantasies would run itself like a high-school student council, albeit one with whips, paddles and enemas. JJ says all this structure is meant to ensure a safe environment for TNG's members, so maybe there's some logic to it.
Palmer's since indicated that he'll be starting a rival organization. And JJ acted pretty philosophically about the ruckus. Maybe 'cause JJ's 35, and only has one more year before the Logan's Runrule ejects him from the tribe.
"I think it's great," says JJ of the potential for a new Palmer org. "There's plenty of room for plurality. I don't call it competition, I call it plurality."
Now fans of high colonics and S&M will have even more options! As long as they're 36 and under, of course.