Dunn's days are done at Get Out, the Mesa Tribune chain's weekly fluff churner. The Flash has learned that "Twisted" columnist Dan Dunn (he of the unfortunate head shot in sunglasses) abruptly quit on Friday and promptly embarked on a wild Fourth of July weekend in Las Vegas.
The Flash learned this when Dunn himself showed up in the New Times lobby Tuesday morning, sunburned, $700 down, and looking for a job.
"I want to stick it to that bastard," Dunn says--"that bastard" being Get Out chief Jess Harter.
The trouble started two months ago, Dunn says, when Harter was put in charge of Get Out's advertising, as well as its editorial content, over which he'd already ruled.
"The lines are blurred there," Dunn says. "The guy trying to bring in advertisers is the same guy telling writers what to write. It's a totally unethical situation."
For example, Dunn says, Harter recently directed Get Out club scene columnist Jennifer Birn to start selling ads to the same clubs she is supposed to write about and critique.
Dunn says he was frequently and openly critical of Harter's double duty.
"I made a joke in one meeting where I said, 'I've got an idea: How about I start wearing a different hat in the picture for my column every week, and we can tell businesses that if they sign an ad contract, I'll wear their logo on my hat?' Jess didn't think I was very funny."
Soon thereafter, Dunn says, he was offered a freelance assignment that requires a week of reporting later this month in Scotland--the same week he was scheduled for a "Hollywood junket." (Movie studios routinely fly daily reporters to California, put them up in nice hotels and usher them to screenings and interviews with stars, in exchange for guaranteed--and, without exception, fluffy--coverage.)
Dunn says he found another writer to cover the SoCal junket, put in and received approval for vacation time, then accepted the freelance gig overseas for a publication called Real Edge. When Harter found out that Dunn had sought vacation time to do freelance work for another publication, Dunn says, the editor/ad director canceled its approval.
"I think he did that because he wanted to get rid of me and he knew I wouldn't back down," says Dunn.
Harter is listed in Get Out's masthead solely as "Editor." Real editors have nothing to do with advertising.
Yet when the Flash called Get Out's Tempe office and asked for the person "in charge of advertising," the Flash was transferred to--ding!--Jess Harter.
"I'm not really the editor or the advertising director of the paper," Harter explains. "I'm the general manager."
Harter had little to say about Dunn "because of company policy for reasons of possible litigation," except this: "Dan had responsibilities here he did not want to take care of, and he resigned of his own free will."
Which is too bad, if for no other reason than Dunn's column, which he aptly describes as "some sophomoric bullshit, some good stuff," was the chief distinction between Get Out and its competition, The Tragically Hip Rep, a product of the Arizona Republic.
Coincidentally, the day before Dunn resigned, both Get Out and The Tragically Hip Rep came out with new issues bearing the same, Hollywood-supplied cover photo of Will Smith, star of the overhyped flick Wild Wild West, and accompanied by the same headline: "Wild Wild Will."
Proof positive that it's not just great minds that think alike.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
We haven't heard much about the Spur Cross Ranch deal lately, but the Flash hears that the dust is kicking up behind the scenes.
When last we left the saga, the state and Maricopa County had scraped together $15 million to buy and preserve the pristine hunk of desert north of Cave Creek.
The owners, who had seemed amenable earlier, are now complaining that the land's worth much more. If the deal falls through, it will be a huge embarrassment to Governor Jane Dee Hull, who counts the appropriation of the money to buy Spur Cross as her coup in the last legislative session.
Now it looks like there's going to be a showdown, and everyone's pulling out their big guns.
Minority owner Herb Dreiseszun has hired hotshot zoning attorney Grady Gammage to fight for more money. And Hull has spurned her stable of state lawyers at the Attorney General's Office, hiring Phoenix attorney Gary Birnbaum to be what insiders describe as her "personal emissary."
Owl Be Seeing You
The governor was really on her game on June 30, when she went on an ornithological rant during her weekly radio show. Here's what she said about the federal government's declaration of 731,000 acres of land in Arizona as critical habitat for the endangered pygmy owl:
"Obviously, there are some major problems in Tucson. They tried to build a school and they found a nest of these cute little pygmy owls that actually belong in northern Mexico. If you want to see them, you can go to Mexico and see plenty of them.
"I have been arguing with the Forest Service about turning almost all of Tucson into an owl habitat. First of all, I'm concerned for businesses in Tucson. But secondly, in that land they have just declared an owl habitat is about 125,000 acres of state trust land.
"That goes to fund education for the kids of Arizona. If we're blocked, we can't sell that, we can't lease that, we can't make money on that. Obviously, state land is one of our big resources that we want to use up.
"We are concerned. We will continue to monitor and continue to write letters to the Forest Service and the federal government. . . . We don't want to destroy the pygmy owl, but we do feel that there are places that possibly we can't put a fence around them either. The Forest Service may have overreacted."
This Burst of Light has several "issues" with our esteemed governor's utterances:
The Forest Service had nothing to do with the critical habitat ruling. It was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the governor is writing letters to the Forest Service, that might explain why she's getting nowhere.
Hull's suggestion that state trust land is a resource "we want to use up" contradicts her claimed commitment to preservation of some of these lands as part of her "Growing Smarter" initiative, which is really a pro-development crusade masquerading as growth control.
And if pygmy owls "actually belong in northern Mexico," perhaps the governor should get after those slothful federal agencies and demand that the Border Patrol deport them.
Ape is Enough
Concerned about the future of the Suns, the Flash burst into BOB for the annual NBA draft party. This party-Strobe was disappointed to find the fiesta atmosphere lacking.
Suns fans have a well-deserved reputation as a docile, mainly blue-haired crew. The few hundred bodies gathered in the bleachers did little to dispel that notion.
In their defense, there wasn't much going on to get juiced up over. Danny Ainge, Bryan Colangelo, Frank Johnson and Scott Skiles talking on the phone was about as exciting as watching the Suns' fast break last season.
(The Flash managed to cruise the phone line, hoping to get the scoop on a blockbuster trade. A deal for Penny Hardaway was nixed by the Colangelos when they learned he didn't have the curveball to be an effective closer.)
Cotton Fitzsimmons watched TNT's broadcast on a small TV sitting at his table. The Latrell Sprewell commercial came on where Spree insists he is the American Dream as his Afro is combed into corn rows.
Cotton turned his head away in disgust. The Suns would rather draft a guy who chokes in the clutch than someone who chokes a coach.
The only electricity from the crowd was generated by the beloved Gorilla. Kids begged for his attention. Adults were also astoundingly gaga over his presence. The furry one delivered backflips and other antics.
Realizing their mascot was the second best athlete on the team behind Jason Kidd, the Suns looked for a leaper with the ninth pick. They needed someone who jumped high, ran fast and would get the city excited about its team again.
The choice came down to UNLV's Shawn Marion or Duke's Corey Maggette. Each has serious hops and the ability to keep pace with Kidd. They don't do backflips, but both can dunk without the aide of a trampoline.
It was announced that Marion would become the newest ray of hope on the Suns. The crowd gave polite applause when the selection was announced. They immediately quieted down and wondered where the Gorilla was.
Richard Dumas without the nose candy problem and Michael Jordan without the jump shot. That is how Marion was described to the Dian Fossey clones who never heard of him.
The event wound down and the fans went home, looking forward to the new season with great anticipation. Not for Marion's first throw-down. Not for a triple double from Kidd.
All they care about is the Gorilla.