Smile, You're on Convict Camera
KNXV-TV Channel 15 could hardly contain itself last week. With its futuristic promo machine set on full-tease, the station announced its latest journalistic coup: Tony Kovaleski had gone undercover at Sheriff Joke Arpaio's jails just days before the Tent City riot!

That's right, only days before The Crime Avenger's famous ersatz jail erupted in violence, Kovaleski, or rather his alter ego, "A.C. Coleman," had gone deep, deep, deep undercover on Sheriff Joke's chain gangs!

The toil. The grit. The courage.
No price was too high. "Coleman," posing as a "dead beat dad," had to shave his mustache, because aside from conspicuously absent teeth, Sheriff Joke's chain gangs are models of good grooming.

Everything was just like a REAL chain gang. The inmates never played to the camera, although they did sing Negro spirituals about Sheriff Joke as they shuffled along, picking up trash. The spit-polished detention officers conducted themselves as they always do: in stern but respectful tones that left no doubt that they had the inmates' rehabilitation at heart. Call it tough love.

The Flash was relieved to learn that Kovaleski, one of Channel 15's crack "investigators," had come out all right. Of course, Kovaleski admitted when the piece aired November 21 that Arpaio's guards knew who he was. After all, they had to, for "Coleman's" safety.

But Kovaleski was still deep undercover, his upper lip fully exposed! The inmates, the newscaster said, didn't know who he was.

Sure, the inmates might have had some suspicions about why a television crew was following them around, but that didn't blow Kovaleski's carefully crafted cover.

Last Thursday, back in the studio and disguised once again as a journalist, Kovaleski summed up the experience for his breathless Channel 15 colleagues: "It looked like a lot of fun, but really [it was] a lot of work."

Channel 15 sources tell The Flash that Kovaleski's next undercover mission will hurl him into the seedy netherworld of the notary public.

A Pain in the Acid
Sumitomo Sitix officials had reassured Desert Ridge residents--the folks who will live in the shadow of the corporation's new silicon-wafer plant--that they needn't worry about the plant's planned use of hydrofluoric acid.

The solvent, used to clean silicon wafers, would be so diluted, plant officials said, that if a worker came into contact with it, a brisk dousing with cold water would render the caustic agent harmless. Pesky opponents to the plant, however, had spread alarmisms that the acid at 50 percent solution--reportedly the concentration Sumitomo will use--could cause serious and possibly fatal injuries to anyone who came in contact with it, as well as pose unacceptable health risks to neighbors in the case of a spill.

Sumitomo and its wholly owned subsidiary, the City of Phoenix, denounced the upstart coalition of opponents, calling their claims preposterous. But when those opponents recently asked to see reports on the acid which the company had filed at the city, the citizens were told they could look--but not make copies.

"In the report, the company discusses how bad the health effects are, and they don't want that to get out, especially after this," says Steve Brittle, one of the coalition's leaders.

"This" is the November 12 death of a Brooklyn sanitation worker. According to the New York Times, the worker had thrown a parcel into the back of a garbage truck and pulled a lever to compact a load of trash. A container burst, spraying out a 70 percent concentration of hydrofluoric acid.

A chemistry professor told the Times that the acid "burns like fire, dehydrating the skin, and [the professor] added that even as little as a drop 'generates a very, very painful experience.'"

The worker, Michael Hanley, 49, inhaled the acid's fumes, which led to his death. His partner suffered burns on his face and hands and was hospitalized.

The Times called the acid baths an "unfortunate reminder of the daily hazards faced by sanitation workers," a job one study claimed was second in danger only to that of coal miner. No word yet where silicon-wafer-plant neighbor fits on that list.

A New Organ for Gay Community
Heat Stroke, a new publication for gays and lesbians, hit the streets last week.

Editor Allen Kalchik says he and his partner, managing editor Kelly Reidhead, created the publication to fill a void left when both publishers of another gay newspaper, the Western Express, died and the paper folded.

Kalchik served a stint five years ago as editor of Echo magazine, the state's preeminent publication for gays. He also wrote for another former publication for gays, Phoenix Resource.

Don't expect a publishing war. Both Kalchik and Jeff Ofstedahl, general manager of Echo, believe there's plenty of room for more than one publication that caters to gays and lesbians.

"Echo is real solid, and they do what they do pretty well," Kalchik says. "So we're going to try and be a little different."

Ofstedahl, who was named Community Journalist of the Year for 1995 by the Arizona Press Club, concurs, saying, "Quite frankly, I think that there are voids to be filled. We don't meet the needs of every gay person in Arizona, and we don't try.

"I don't necessarily think it's the best situation to have all of your news and information and opinions coming from one source."

Kalchik says that while Echo is issue-, news- and investigation-oriented, Heat Stroke will focus more on in-depth features and lifestyles--at least initially.

The inaugural issue of Heat Stroke can be found in gay bars and selected bookstores.

Feed The Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, [email protected]