From the mail bag: Political wags are getting a jump on the campaign season with these posters of Joe Arpaio (top and middle) and Alfredo Gutierrez (bottom).
From the mail bag: Political wags are getting a jump on the campaign season with these posters of Joe Arpaio (top and middle) and Alfredo Gutierrez (bottom).


Finkel, Finkel Little Star

Colorful and controversial abortion doc Brian Finkel finally got sprung from Sheriff Joe's slammer last week after a judge lowered his bail on charges he sexually abused quite a few women during abortions and other gynecological proceedings.

Too bad. The Fink had become one of the Spike's favorite jailhouse correspondents since his incarceration last fall. Reporters, especially here at New Times, get a lot of mail from the county jail and the state corrections facilities. People with a lot of spare time can really crank out those single-spaced, meticulously handwritten pages filled with usually unprovable allegations of raw deals and mistreatment at the hands of their captors.

But Finkel is a letter-writer of a different color, jotting off short notes in pencil about life inside Joe's joint. "Captive's Log, Star Date 7 Dec 01, Madison Jail, The Final Frontier." Unfortunately, the Spike can't reveal certain other details, since the doc scrawled "Not For Publication," apparently fearing retaliation.

But he's out of Joe's reach now. So the Spike couldn't resist sharing The Fink's final missive from the Big House which arrived last week, the day before Finkel's (possibly temporary) escape.

Enclosed? A torn strip of Sheriff Joe's infamous pink underwear, a mandatory sentence for all inmates in Joe's custody. "Unlike the Shroud of Turin there is no 'spectral images of the Bogey Man' in my shorts," penciled Finkel, who said he intended the undies as a good-luck charm.

The Spike's main concern was addressed in a brief P.S.: "I hand-washed the shorts myself. They are clean."

Firing Line

The folks at American Journalism Review, arguably the news biz's leading professional journal, recently asked readers to play this little game: "If someone made a movie or TV show about your newsroom, what would it be called and why?"

According to the responses published in the magazine's current issue, most journalists who responded had the good sense not to foul their own nests, particularly at a time when newspapers are cutting budgets and slicing staffs across the country. As Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Johnson wrote (he called his screenplay "It's a Wonderful Life"), "Given the state of the economy and the fears everybody in the business has of further layoffs, it's the vocationally prudent thing."

So the Spike is wondering what possessed two of our local brighter lights to totally trash their employer in the pages of a national journalism magazine.

Scott Seckel, a general assignment reporter at the East Valley Tribune, called his production "Can You Get Them to Say This?"

It would be "a movie about an embattled group of underpaid but dedicated reporters working for an ogre city editor who sees terrorism angles in neighborhood cleanup and zoning stories."


Or this entry from the EVT's Scottsdale bureau chief Paul Giblin (who, by the way, is known around the Trib newsroom as "the Notorious G.I.B."):

"It Died on the Editor's Keyboard."

"A weekly TV series about reporters who pour their hearts and creativity into the front-page masterpieces, only to have them slashed in half and shoved into an inside news hole."

Boys, boys, boys. The Spike would like to point out that you do work for the Trib. So those "front-page masterpieces"? Puleeeze.

That said, the Spike had a lot of fun coming up with titles and story lines for one of those reality TV shows starring Seckel and Giblin.

Spike's favorites:

"Dumb and Dumber" -- No plot line necessary.

"Abridged Too Far" -- Bureau chief complains about masterpieces being cut to, well, Tribune length.

"Orange County" -- How a supposedly libertarian California media company attempted to deny freedom of speech at its Arizona quote factory. (Could it be that the boys have already gotten in some hot water over this whole thing?)

And "From Here to the Unemployment Line" -- The ultimate man-on-the-street assignment. Reporters are sent by their editors to get real quotes from real people who find themselves in the same situation as our heroes.

From Phoenix With Love

You wait on them, you use them, but you hate driving behind them -- that's right, Spike is talking about Valley Metro buses.

The same 40-foot-long metal behemoths that crowd Phoenix's streets are headed for the chilly tundra of Salt Lake City to carry visitors, participants and officials at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Even one of the city's regular bus operators, Richard Nichols, who works for ATC Phoenix, is taking vacation time to make the trip to act as a driver.

Phoenix officials, in a gracious show of goodwill toward the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, are sending 20 buses to the games in what will be the city's first-ever participation in an Olympic spectacle. The cost? A piddling $3,500.

Just as athletes from around the globe will be on display, so too will buses from cities across the West contacted by the SLOC, says Marie Chapple, a public information officer for Phoenix's Public Transit Department.

Spike only hopes our buses can compete. These aren't new buses; the new Valley Metro buses began arriving this month and will stay here.

Many of the city buses headed to Utah are more than 30 years old. And they're all due to be auctioned off as surplus upon return.

"They're going to run," Chapple says. "We are spending a bit of money just to make sure we look good."

Olympic bus passengers will be glad to know that, according to Chapple, among the items getting a thorough once-over to ensure proper working condition are necessary gadgets like the heaters.

With reporting from Amy Silverman, Robert Nelson and John W. Allman.

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