Gossip from January and February 2006

By Chris Busby


Updated February 24, 2006 

Back in action, thanks to a crack dealer with a conscience and the neighborhood paper everyone reads. (photo/courtesy Robbins)
Back in action, thanks to a crack dealer with a conscience and the neighborhood paper everyone reads. (photo/courtesy Robbins)

Gone guitar recovered, thanks to West End News

The 1972 Les Paul guitar stolen from King Memphis/Eldemur Krimm guitarist Matt Robbins has been recovered undamaged and returned to the musician. A local businessperson who requested anonymity told The Bollard the guitar’s return was arranged without the intervention or assistance of the Portland Police Department. 

The source said the guitar was recently exchanged for crack cocaine on the East End, but shortly after the dealer received it, the individual saw an item in The West End News about its theft, and then arranged to have it anonymously returned. Chalk one up for WEN editor and publisher Ed King!

One of Portland's finest picking up lunch. (photo/Chris Busby)
"We better investigate this joint": One of Portland's finest at Café Troika last month. (photo/Chris Busby)

Council lets cops’ neighbor serve vodka

Back in January, we noted that the Portland Police Department was recommending that the liquor license application of a café next door to its Middle Street headquarters be denied (see item below). One of the applicants, Sergey Filiok, a 24-year-old originally from Belarus, had recently been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. 

At a meeting earlier this month, the council voted 8-1 to grant the café – formerly Eatery Café, now called Café Troika – a license to serve beer, wine and hard liquor despite the cops’ recommendation. Filiok had expressed remorse for the OUI incident, and pledged to run the café responsibly. The tiny space isn’t a bar. It’s a breakfast and lunch spot that will soon be open for dinner, serving Russian cuisine and its requisite accompaniment: vodka.

Councilor Jill Duson cast the lone dissenting vote, for reasons she did not say. We’d give her a hard time about that, but she’s the first and as yet only councilor to put a Bollard sticker on her laptop, which is good for one free pass. Thanks again, Jill! 

Business, delicious business: The old scaffolding in front of Congress Square Plaza. (photo/The Fuge)
Business, delicious business: The old scaffolding in front of Congress Square Plaza. (photo/The Fuge)

Metal monster claims a victim?

North Atlantic Leather, a fixture at the corner of Congress Street and Forest Avenue for decades, has relocated to Biddeford. The leather shop is one of several businesses that’s been impacted by the presence of ugly metal-and-plywood scaffolding erected well over a year ago to shield pedestrians from masonry falling from Congress Square Plaza, a historic downtown building in need of repair. (See our Nov. 20 News article, “Metal monster menaces downtown.”)

The property’s owner, Congress Square Associates, recently got funding together to make the necessary repairs. New scaffolding was installed earlier this month in preparation for what may be at least a year of renovation work — but that won’t bring the leather shop back. 


February 6, 2006 

Phoenix leaves Portland online market; Hersey hits the highway
Who needs a streaker to boost Web hits when the competition willingly flees the market? 

Our pal Rufus can’t claim credit for this development (see below), but The Bollard is now the only Portland-specific online source for alternative local news and arts coverage. Resurgam!

The Portland Phoenix, an alternative newsweekly owned by the Boston-based Phoenix Media and Communications Group, never was truly local, relying as it does on news, music reviews and other copy penned by Phoenix writers in Boston and elsewhere. But last month the PP further pulled back any pretense of being Portland-centric by eliminating its Web site, http://www.portlandphoenix.com.

Now anyone looking for the Portland edition of the Phoenix online is redirected to a centralized site dominated by national news and features from the PMCG’s papers in Boston and Providence, R.I. A link in one corner of the site brings up a list of stories and features from the Portland edition, in no particular order. Good luck finding Portland-specific art and entertainment listings. 

The Phoenix media conglomerate reportedly spent $200,000 on the new Web site. The Bollard‘s site was created by local graphic and Web designers for less than $3,000. 

Also abandoning Portland’s online market is Scott Hersey, editor of MaineToday.com, the online home of the Portland Press Herald and other publications owned by Blethen Maine Newspapers, a division of the Seattle Times Company. Hersey’s abrupt departure has gone unnoted by MaineToday, where his “Editor’s Blog” simply disappeared a week or so ago. 

Entering the online realm this month is The West End News, the biweekly community newspaper edited and published by Ed King. King has begun posting stories from his paper at http://www.thewestendnews.blogspot.com, which is part of the blog site run by Blogger, a California-based company purchased by Google several years ago. 

King is apparently free to post any content he wants on the new site, provided it does not run afoul of Community Party officials in Beijing, who dictate the content accessible via Google in a sizeable chunk of the globe.

On a slightly more serious note, The Bollard wishes King much success. We’d extend the same wish to the PMCG and Hersey, but we already spent our other two wishes on cheap beer and chicken wings.


February 1, 2006

Gone guitar
In an unfortunate postscript to our Gossip item below about Matt Robbins joining Eldemur Krimm, The Bollard has been alerted that Robbins’ prized 1972 Les Paul Gold Top guitar (pictured) was recently stolen from his car. Pawn shop owners, be on the alert for this special guitar (Serial # 966218-U). Anyone with info is asked to contact the Portland Police Department at 874-8300 (Report #06-1202). The rock must not be stopped.


January 30, 2006 

Eyewitness photo of Rufus in action (sticker simulated for your protection).
Eyewitness photo of Rufus in action (sticker simulated for your protection).

Rufus on the loose
Rumors that a naked, bearded white man streaked from the 600 block of Congress Street to the Portland Museum of Art (and back) last Thursday night, shortly before last call, have been confirmed. 

It is also true that the streaker, known as Rufus, had Bollard stickers affixed to the offending portions of his anatomy. 

No, we do not plan to continue this particular marketing campaign. Once was enough, but thank you, Rufus. Please, keep the stickers. 


January 23, 2006 

Fred Dodge, left, and Matt Robbins discussing the virtues of cheap beer. (photo/courtesy Krimm)
Fred Dodge, left, and Matt Robbins discussing the virtues of cheap beer. (photo/courtesy Krimm)

King Krimm
You’d have to go back to the mid-60s, when Jeff Beck replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds, to find a development as similarly promising as this: King Memphis guitarist Matt Robbins has joined Eldemur Krimm as a permanent member. Robbins replaces Neil Collins, who left the band over a year ago to sail the world. 

Robbins, a guitarist, singer and songwriter of national stature on the rockabilly scene, played several gigs with the heavy-rockin’ Krimm last year, but the acclaimed Portland band was still technically a trio until recently. The other members are Fred Dodge (guitar and vocals), Jason Marshall (bass and backing vocals) and Stefen Samuels (drums).

Robbins will continue to perform regularly with King Memphis. (Robbins is also a freelance photographer who has contributed work to The Bollard).

Robbins said he was a hard rock fan before he got into rockabilly culture, so the switch isn’t as unusual as it may seem. Krimm is reportedly working on the follow-up to its 2004 debut album, Dirigo.


Another Miss Portland Diner prospect
Lee Urban, director of the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said the city is working with another prospective proprietor of the Miss Portland Diner. The city accepted the historic Marginal Way diner from its former owner over two years ago, but has been unable to find a new owner willing to operate the business in Bayside. The diner is currently being stored on a city-owned lot in the neighborhood.

Urban said the interested party, a “fellow” whom he did not name, grew up in Portland and now lives out of state, but still has family on Munjoy Hill. With this negotiation, “it all comes down to dollars,” said Urban, a former Miss Portland regular who’s spearheaded the city’s efforts to find a new owner. The new proprietor would have to invest in additional seating to make the business a success, he said. 

The city is still eyeing the bus shelter area near the corner of Marginal Way and Preble Street as an ideal home for the eatery. A neighboring developer plans to build student housing at that intersection, which would all but guarantee a steady flow of hungry customers. 

If the negotiations go well, a public announcement could be made this spring.

(For news on the fate of the diner’s sign, see the Jan. 5 item below.)

The ceiling of the new 128 Free Street. (photo/The Fuge)
The ceiling of the new 128 Free Street. (photo/The Fuge)

Money doesn’t stick on trees 
The new bar and restaurant called 128 Free Street, formerly the Free Street Taverna, may be a classier joint than its predecessor, but there’s a lot less money inside. Well over $100 in $1 bills and other currency, lovingly (and drunkenly) decorated by Taverna patrons of past years, no longer adorns the wooden rafters of the former rock club and watering hole. New owner Ted Arcand, who also operates the Dogfish Café on Congress Street, took the bills down during recent renovation work. A bartender said the bills are still on the premises, and some may be put on display in the future.


January 17, 2006 

The tiny Eatery Café, at left behind car. (photo/Chris Busby)
The tiny Eatery Café, at left behind car. (photo/Chris Busby)

Cops: No booze next door
The Portland Police Department is recommending the city council deny a liquor license application filed by owners of the Eatery Café, a tiny restaurant and take-out place located next to police headquarters on Middle Street. The reason: One of the applicants, 24-year-old Sergey Filiok, was arrested for driving while intoxicated last month – his first such arrest, according to a police report. He has no other alcohol-related convictions. 

The café currently serves breakfast and lunch, and wants to open for dinner, as well, with beer, wine and liquor available. It’s also undergoing a name change, to Café Troika. 

In application documents submitted to the city, café owner and manager Stacy Ayotte said, “I have no intention or desire to have the Café resemble a bar.” The dining area, which can accommodate up to 15 people, “is quiet and located next to the Police Station,” Ayotte notes.

Reached by phone, Ayotte said Filiok has spoken with the neighbors (that is, a police captain), who told him the department routinely recommends denial of liquor license applications if an applicant has a recent OUI arrest or conviction. She said Filiok was an exchange student from Belarus whom she hosted in her home, and he has since become like “a permanent member of the family.” The young man is writing a letter to Police Chief Tim Burton and City Manager Joe Gray expressing regret for the alleged infraction and promising it will not happen again. 

One of Portland's finest picking up lunch. (photo/Chris Busby)
One of Portland's finest picking up lunch. (photo/Chris Busby)

The café gets some business from police officers, but Ayotte said the beat cops generally don’t make enough money to eat out with much frequency. 

The café does not serve donuts.

The café’s application is on the council’s Jan. 18 agenda, but consideration of the matter will likely be postponed until the Feb. 6 council meeting. 

New artwork at Local 188. (photo/Chris Busby)
New artwork at Local 188. (photo/Chris Busby)

Miss Portland Diner reborn – well, kinda
City officials still haven’t figured out what to do with the Miss Portland Diner, the historic eatery the city accepted as a gift nearly two years ago after its owner couldn’t find anyone else to take it off his hands. A local artist, however, has found a cool use for the diner’s old plastic sign: wall art.

Portland painter and illustrator Patrick Corrigan (a Bollard contributor) found the old sign in pieces at a small, city-run dump pile in Bayside last month. The sign had been damaged by vandals while the diner sat empty on Marginal Way (it’s since been moved to another lot in Bayside), and city workers apparently decided to trash the damaged piece of history. 

Corrigan and a friend took the red plastic pieces that once spelled out “Miss Portland” in cursive and rearranged them into a new phrase, roughly translated as — well, you figure it out. The reconstituted letters now hang on a wall at Local 188, a restaurant and art gallery Corrigan co-owns on State Street.

Corrigan said the pieces that make up this new phrase are in the same shape they were in when he discovered them on the trash heap. Some of the new “letters” are solid red, and others are a faded pink – the difference being that one side of the plastic faded after years in the sun. 

For those Miss Portland regulars feeling really, really nostalgic, Local 188 does serve breakfast (well, brunch) on the weekends, though it ain’t as greasy, or as cheap, as the diner’s fare. 


Eyes without a Face

Though it’s debatable how many people, if any, have realized or even care, the Phoenix Media and Communications Group has not published Face Magazinefor two months running at this point. The Massachusetts media conglomerate, which publishes the Portland Phoenix, bought the struggling Maine music monthly in 2004, around the same time Good Times, a Long Island-based music rag, entered the Maine rock market. 

Apparently unwilling to invest much more money in the mag, the Phoenix filled it with previously published copy by Boston-based writers and crap written byPortland Phoenix editorial, production and advertising employees using fake names. 

“The new facemag.com is coming soon,” promises its Web site, where readers can download “this month’s Face“– actually, you get the February 2005 edition.

In early December of last year, when Face failed to show up around town, The Bollard called Portland Phoenix associate publisher Marc Shepard to inquire about Face‘s fate. Shepard left a message saying, “Look for an exciting announcement about Face in an upcoming issue of the Portland Phoenix.” 

A month later: no announcement, and again, no new Face

Hey, at least our buddy Eggbot’s mug, featured on the cover of the November 2005 issue, is still staring up at us from the dusty corners of certain bars and markets. Now, that’s good face-time!

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