Gas Bag Man

Great toucan turds, people! With all the pathetic blubberin' that's busted out over the past couple of weeks due to the demise of former Arizona House Speaker Jeff Groscost, you'd think the long-disgraced Mesa Republican was the second coming of JFK. Um, instead of the scandal-dogged sneaky bastard whose shenanigans bilked this state to the tune of $150 mil in the outrageous alt-fuel scam of Y2K.

That brazen boondoggle, in which the now-croaked Mormon pol shilled for his pals in the natural gas industry, might've GrossCost (get it?) the Zona a whopping $1 billion if then-governor Jane "Are you sure I signed that?" Hull hadn't stepped in to put a halt to AZ subsidies for brand-new monster trucks and SUVs converted so they could run on propane or natural gas instead of gasoline. That's assuming owners were willing to drive 30 minutes to one of the few alt-fueling stations extant.

Basically, the program did diddly for the environment as the greedy pebble-skulls in these state-promoted urban assault vehicles kept their steel behemoths suckin' unleaded like they owned oil derricks in their backyards. All the same, these alt-foolies made out like bandits while the swindle lasted, garnering themselves 30 percent to 50 percent discounts off the sticker price at the expense of Ma and Pa Taxpayer. $20K off an alt-fuel-converted $60K Cadillac Escalade? No sales tax, and you get to ride in the HOV lane solo? As Cartman on South Park'd chirp, "Sweeet!"


Jeff Groscost

One of those rushing to cash in was none other than House Speaker GrossCost, who slipped the stealth legislation into an unrelated bill as an amendment during the state's 2000 lawmakin' session. GrossCost had lobbied for the natural gas industry two years before in Utah and Wyoming, receiving a $10K fee for his efforts, and the industry helped GrossCost draft his Y2K alt-fuels-conversion law. After the legislation passed, the Mesa manipulator purchased three autos from a vehicle conversion company, and lied to the press about his connections to said company until paperwork for the deal proved otherwise.

In fact, as far as this gimlet-eyed kestrel can see, GrossCost never stopped working for natural gas interests over the interests of the Grand Canyon State. The House Speaker quietly and successfully hit up the Environmental Protection Agency to drop its opposition to converting vehicles to run on both gasoline and alt-fuels. And shortly after the start of the program, when the director of the state energy office started squawking about how the cost of the cash giveaway was already exceeding estimates, GrossCost browbeat and threatened the state employee into silence.

The conservative Mormons in his own heavily Republican district became so fed up with the stench of GrossCost's corruption that they voted him out and voted in a Democrat instead. You'd think GrossCost would've ended up a prison-striped jailbird for the mess he caused, but none other than our own Governor Janet Napolitano, then AZ's attorney general, declined to prosecute, saying that GrossCost was not grossly criminal, just grossly incompetent.

Incompetent like a fox. In 2005, GrossCost returned to the gas-passing fold, becoming president of Mesa's AFV Solutions, Inc., an alt-fuels-conversion company. Earlier this year, he penned a six-years-late apology for the 2000 disaster that left many auto owners holding the bag when the state reneged on its GrossCost-composed promises of rebates. His cynical mea culpa appeared in the Arizona Repugnant in May, and, ever the slippery scoundrel, GrossCost took the opportunity to — you guessed it — pimp the alt-fuels industry to fellow Arizonans.

Hey, you can't keep a good con man down. No doubt GrossCost's busy selling alt-fuel hybrids in Hades. But what's really gotten this seagull's goat is how everyone from Senator John McCain and KKNT's wing-nutty radio hosts Liddy & Hill to's Greg Patterson and Governor Manet herself have joined the rush to memorialize the heart-attacked 45-year-old as a master pol.

Manet ordered flags flown at half-staff over the state Capitol in GrossCost's honor. McCain eulogized GrossCost as a great leader. And the Repugnant called GrossCost a "rare talent." Not rare enough, as far as The Bird's concerned. Single-handedly, GrossCost torpedoed his own alt-fuels cause for all time by linking it to a fiscal black hole that would've bankrupted the state if left unchecked. Talk about a man of vision. If GrossCost'd shafted the AZ taxpayers any more, his fellow pols'd be building a statue to the dood on Wesley Bolin Plaza, and naming grade schools after him. To borrow a line from the Apostle Paul, "Oh, death, where is thy sting?"

Tempe Town Tame

Hold on to your feathered caps for this one, fellow fowls, but 'tards at the City of Tempe are out to ban a rock concert because of — gasp — bad language and heavy beer consumption.

Yes, once again, Tempe's nominating itself for Lamest College Town Known to Man because it wants to say thanks but no thanks to future EdgeFests on municipal properties. Seems the day-long alt-rock event produced by The Edge 103.9 at Tempe Beach Park on September 30 resulted in reports from the Tempe po-po of onstage potty mouths and concertgoers sucking down suds.

There were even, in the words of the classic Eagles tune, reports of the "warm smell of colitas rising up through the air." What's next? Satanism? Human sacrifice? Moshing in front of the stage? Maybe even kids wearing their jeans low. Where's director Penelope Spheeris when we need her? It's The Decline of Western Civilization all over again.

But what the Tempe thought police are really pissed at is the fact The Edge didn't uphold Tempe's "PG clause" at the fiesta. According to Travis Dray, Tempe's Deputy Manager of Recreation services, all municipal parks are covered by the clause, which "protects the community from being offended by profanity, vulgarities, decibel levels, and any other actions that may offend community members." Oh, you know, like, holding a rock concert.

Reportedly, pretty-boy actor Jared Leto and his band 30 Seconds to Mars were the real bad boys of EdgeFest 2006, using the word "fuck" during their set, an expletive this avian is sure the teens and twentysomethings at the concert'd never heard before. Other groups used naughty words that day as well, and according to droopy Dray, all heck broke loose because of it.

"Bands using profanity on stage and girls dancing on beer tubs," Dray dutifully detailed for this dirty duck. "We've never had a PG clause violated to the extent that it was embarrassing [before]."

Dingleberry Dray argued that this wacker-than-wack PG clause was a lot like the FCC's indecency regulations. But The Bird thinks that's pure pigeon poop. For one thing, AM and FM radio is free and accessible to all, but a rock blowout like EdgeFest is more like cable TV: You have to pay for access, and if your snot-nosed young'uns get in and witness something untoward, it's your friggin' fault.

"Hey, it's not Swan Lake, it's a rock concert," declared Edge VP Nat Galvin, who also told this talon-bearer that "in no way, in my opinion, was EdgeFest 2006 any more rowdy than past EdgeFests or other festivals I have attended."

Galvin made a point of polling the Tempe cops on duty at the event: "Each and every one of those uniformed officers, to a person, told me it was a cakewalk."

The Veep's observations are bolstered by those of Justin Stewart, who worked security at EdgeFest's local band stage.

"The fans were being respectful and weren't out of control by any means," said Stewart. "I walked through the beer garden a couple of times, and the drinking crowd was more subdued than the underage crowd. It seemed like a typical rock show, only more chilled out."

Indeed, Tempe PD spokesperson Brandon Banks confirmed a total of only five arrests in and around Tempe Beach Park on the day of the concert. Whew, how ever did the cops keep up?

But despite the relatively tame atmosphere (for a rock concert), and the fact local businesses raked in the scrilla like Jeff Groscost on an alt-fuel sellin' spree, Tempe's major city departments, including fire, police, refuse services and custodial, will meet in the next couple of weeks to make a "team decision" on EdgeFest's fate, according to Dray. And you thought ASU Prez Michael Crow was the only one responsible for making Tempe into a big, fat, family-friendly joke. Seems Tempe is now, and may forever be in the future, Edge-less.

Art School Confidential

So this beret-wearin' beaker decided to acquire some art-fart kulcha a week or so ago by flapping down to Grand Avenue's Trunk Space gallery for its monthly Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School. Basically, Dr. Sketchy's a life-drawing class for those too cool for art school, or so it claims, with burlesquey, performance-arty models who strike a pose for sketchers paying $7 a pop to get their doodle on.

This Dr. Sketchy shtick's the brainchild of Gotham artist Molly Crabapple, a twentysomething illustrator and former life model who used to bare her mommy-parts in the name of fine (and we do mean fine) art education. Crabapple dreamed up Dr. Sketchy as a way to cross cabaret and art school, eschewing the old hippies, mental patients and arty types who normally take it all off and sit statue-still for sketching students.

"Why can't drawing naked people be sexy?" asks Crabapple's Web site at Her pro-art propaganda promises "the most beautiful burlesque dancers, the most bizarre circus freaks, and the most rippling hunks of man" as models. In addition, there are "ridiculous drawing contests (Best left handed drawing? Best incorporation of a woodland animal?) where you can win booze or prizes." Sounds just like the kinda "art" this perved-out peregrine falcon can get with, bubbe.

Since beginning in Brooklyn circa 2005, Crabapple's "three hours of decadence," as she refers to her Sketchy sessions, have spawned chapters from London, England, to Melbourne, Australia. In May of this year, the Dr. Sketchy phenom blossomed in P-town thanks to the efforts of Amy Young, proprietor of Perihelion Arts Gallery and Bookstore, and Trunk Space twosome JRC and Stephanie Carrico.

All the wanna-be ribaldry sounded way-wicked on paper, but reality left this horny hummingbird disappointed in the extreme. Not only was there no full-frontal nekkid-ness in the hizzy, there was also no firewater and no excitement.

Indeed, if this Picasso-esque penguin recalls its college days correctly, life-drawing classes there were a riot by comparison to Dr. Sketchy. During the real deal, the models were always nude, if only occasionally hot. You could at least sneak in a bottle of Wild Turkey to add to your coffee if you wanted. And as the models had been there, done that, they knew how to hold a pose and could step back into it after a break.

None of this was the case with P-town's Dr. Sketchy, which on the Sunday The Bird visited featured the less-than-gorgeous Amy Austin as a model, decked out like a zombie geisha in the snow, munching blood pellets, and drooling fake blood like a scene out of Saw III. This part was amusing enough, though Austin made drawing her boyish frame near impossible by moving all over the place, hissing like a Madagascar cockroach as she went. She also had to break character once to ask organizer Matt Dickson to get off his duff and fix the skipping CD of industrial mood music she had playing.

For the record, Austin doffed her top, but little else. Odd, as Trunk Space cadet Carrico claimed that, as there's no alcohol available, "We could have nude life models if we wanted to as long as everyone's over 18." Er, then why not go for it, Steph? "That isn't in the spirit of Dr. Sketchy," she asserted.

Hmmm, what is, then — death by dullsville? According to Carrico, yes! "It's kind of boring — nothing weird has ever happened," she confessed to this warbling Warhol. "Basically, people show up and draw just like life drawing in college."

Maybe Dr. Sketchy's better in Brooklyn or London, but the PHX franchise flops like a beached pelican. There weren't even any cuckoo contests, just a lazy-assed raffle overseen by artist Rachel Bess, who's got Zoolander's "one look" down pat, and has been known to crack a smile once a decade. Sheesh, all The Bird got was a gander at wild-woman Austin's A-cups! Screw this cheese. This winged Whistler's goin' back to art college where it can finally have some freakin' fun.


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