Flashes 08-10-2000

See Ya Later . . .

An alligator is loose at the Phoenix Zoo, and that's no croc.

The zoo recently acquired two young gators that had been confiscated from citizens by the Game and Fish Department. One new arrival was promptly killed by an adult gator. The other hasn't been seen for a week -- at least in the alligator pen at the zoo.

However, there is a four-foot gator hanging about in a lake at the zoo -- but outside the alligator enclosure. Holy lost luggage, Batman! Lock up the aardvarks!

Perhaps the fugitive fled to avoid the same fate as his fellow confiscee.

"In my opinion, this animal poses zero threat to our animal collection or the public," says Dr. Kevin Wright, a veterinarian at the east Phoenix facility.

Nobody is certain that the gator seen in a lake on the south side of the zoo is an escapee from the alligator exhibit, Wright says. He notes that citizens who have gators as pets have been known to dump them near the zoo when they become too difficult to care for.

Wright says zoo employees have their eyes peeled for the reptile on the run, and will humanely capture the animal with nets at first opportunity. If it's the zoo's missing lizard, keepers will know by a mark put on the animal, he explains.

Wright adds, "In my opinion, it can't get outside the zoo perimeter. We have a secure perimeter fence."

Of course, the Flash assumes there's a "secure" fence around the alligator exhibit, too.

Dillard's Pickle

Nightclub owner Tom Anderson booked his concerts, promoted his shows, paid the talent and filled his seats. Now, two months later, he wants his $5,487 in ticket sales. But he and other promoters say their money is being withheld in a business dispute between a bankrupt ticket seller and Dillard's, the department store chain that also handles ticket sales.

Since 1984, Anderson used Dillard's Ticketing Systems (DTS) to handle ticket purchases for concerts at his Anderson's Fifth Estate club in Scottsdale. DTS was recently sold to a California-based company called ETM. But ETM went bankrupt in June, and Anderson has yet to receive profits from ticket sales from his last two concerts.

What occurred seems obvious enough -- ETM went bankrupt and can't or won't pay. But according to Anderson and other promoters still awaiting payment for tickets processed by DTS/ETM, that's not the whole story.

"Dillard's seized monies that came from the [ticket] credit card purchases because they saw the ETM bankruptcy coming and decided to recoup some of the money that ETM owed them for the purchase of Dillard's Ticketing Systems," says Anderson's attorney, Chuck Kelhoffer. "They took care of themselves, but didn't take care of any of their loyal customers."

Dillard's attorney, Dean Worley, referred the Flash to a written statement noting that the ticketing service was owned by ETM and denying it owes anyone money. "Dillard's is not holding any monies belonging to DTS/ETM or their customers or their creditors," the statement says.

In a letter to Anderson, Worley also denies holding any funds, but then adds: "Dillard's properly exercised a right of offset against funds" that ETM owed Dillard's. ". . . the offset funds may or may not have included funds that ultimately would have been paid to you . . ."

Anderson tells the Flash there's no "may or may not" about it. That's his money. And Anderson has recently discovered he has some heavy-hitting company.

Australian promoter Vald Wharton and Veterans' Memorial Coliseum tenant Jerry Jenkins say Dillard's took $164,000 in receipts from their July 30 Julio Cesar Chavez-Kostya Tszyu fight. In a letter to Dillard's, Wharton's attorney says the money is part of an estimated $1.4 million in ETM credit card transactions confiscated by Dillard's Ticketing Systems.

Wharton has been holed up in his hotel room since the fight and says he's not leaving Phoenix until Dillard's pays Jenkins, so Jenkins can pay him.

Dillard's "might not have had a happy association with ETM, but that's their problem," Wharton says. "To fraudulently and deceitfully remove money from other people's account and use it as their offset fund, then say they exercised their right properly, is appalling. This is the sort of problem you'd expect in a Third World country."

DTS/ETM also handled tickets for the Diamondbacks, and one big question among the fuming promoters is whether the baseball organization was quietly paid off while others were told to take a hike.

Worley confirms somebody from the Diamondbacks has called Dillard's to complain, but won't elaborate further. Calls to the Diamondbacks' attorney were not returned.

For Anderson, the stalemate is particularly painful. "I'm a small-time operator, but they really zapped me big time."

"I will never, ever walk into a Dillard's store again," he says. "They could have at least told me they were selling the ticket service. If I had known [DTS] was being sold to some company I had never heard of before, I would have switched to Ticketmaster."

Which brings up yet another point of contention among the promoters: They claim they were never told Dillard's wasn't responsible for their tickets until after the ETM bankruptcy. For the Chavez fight, the ticket sales contract specifically states that "Dillard's (i.e., DTS)" was responsible for collecting and disbursing ticket proceeds.

Wharton believes he has evidence attesting to Dillard's responsibility for his money. There were about 2,700 such items distributed from Dillard's box offices before ETM went under. Each one has two names printed on the back. One is ETM, but the other isn't DTS. The tickets say "Dillard's."

Well, Latte Duh

Several years ago, looking down from an upper-floor window in the Ritz-Carlton at 24th Street and Camelback and seeing the poor little Harkins Cine Capri dwarfed by all the development around it, the Flash knew at once that there was no point in all the protests and petitions: Time was marching on, and the Valley's only remaining wide-screen dinosaur was doomed.

Nor is this Burst of Light one to join in the trite, hypocritical fashion of condemning the ubiquity of Starbucks. Still, the Flash could not help but wearily notice that the ground floor of the new development on the southwest corner of 24th Street and Camelback, where the Capri once stood, houses a spanking-new Starbucks.

Just what we need. We're reminded of the joke about Starbucks opening a Starbucks in the bathroom of a Starbucks.


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