Gossip from July and August 2007
By Chris Busby
August 22, 2007
Suslovic fucks up the Kool-Aid
At Monday night’s Portland City Council meeting, Councilor Ed Suslovic tried to make light of a colleague’s contention that he’s been brainwashed by the hype surrounding proposals for redevelopment of the Maine State Pier and surrounding properties.
The joke (mostly) worked.
Responding to comments Suslovic made regarding the possibility of including an expanded Ocean Gateway in negotiations for the pier’s redevelopment, Councilor Kevin Donoghue said of Suslovic: “He’s drank the fuckin’ Kool-Aid.” [See “Kool-Aid in the City Hall water cooler?,” Aug. 14, in News].
Accordingly, Suslovic showed up at the meeting with a large jug of grape Kool-Aid, which he offered to this reporter, fellow councilors and staff.
Unfortunately, the lukewarm drink was missing a key ingredient Suslovic neglected to add: sugar.
August 14, 2007
I Hate the Press Herald
In the alternate universe that is the Portland Press Herald newsroom, the ordinary laws of journalism do not apply. For example, a modest miscalculation in a local school budget is tantamount to Watergate; Bill Nemitz is considered a political satirist; and facts are deemed less important in articles than the “flow” of a reporter’s prose.
This last anomaly surfaced Monday in Herald staff writer Justin Ellis’ column, NXT: The Next Generation. The piece, headlined “Fit to a T,” is a feature story on Small Victory Studios, a new South Portland-based business that sells t-shirts designed by local artists.
Ellis, a thorough and competent features writer, tells readers exactly where they can buy Small Victory’s shirts, and namedrops four Internet companies with similar business models. Given that the column was “teased” with a color photo of a sexy model atop the paper’s front page, the businesses identified can expect at least some increased level of attention, if not sales, from the readership of Maine’s largest daily.
Fair enough. But The Bollard thought it was curious that one local company central to the subject at hand was alluded to, but not named, in Ellis’ column. This company actually prints Small Victory’s shirts. Surely being namedropped in NXT wouldn’t hurt this tiny enterprise in Parkside. After all, it’s called I Hate T-Shirts.
But it seems I Hate T-Shirts’ bluntly ironic name is itself the cause of this missed opportunity. You see, Ellis explained, if the business’ name was included in the one-sentence paragraph about the business, it would interrupt the smooth progression of facts he’d put together – “It was more just a story-flow type of thing,” was how he put it yesterday morning.
We were more than curious to hear this, since the paragraph we’d just read reads as follows: “The shirts are printed on organic cotton and screen-printed by local company, which uses natural solvents and cleaners, he said.”
Funny. We think – and we hope every editor and English teacher in this dimension agrees – the paragraph “flows” better if you insert an “a” between “by” and “company.” Alternately, one could simply add the following words after “company”: I Hate T-Shirts.
But that was too much for Ellis’ editor, who thought including the name would confuse the paper’s readers, so it was pulled. (This according to an inside source at the Herald who discussed the decision with Bollard staff at a bar last weekend.) Ellis’ bit on Monday about “story-flow” is just cover-my-boss’-ass bullshit. That, or he’s being bluntly ironic.
In any case, The Bollard is certain the Herald didn’t censor I Hate T-Shirts’ name just because Bollard art director Mich Ouellette and Tristan Gallagher, husband of Bollard contributor Michelle Souliere, are the sole employees of I Hate T-Shirts. After all, Small Victory is owned and operated by Bollard contributor Jeff Badger and his wife, Lydia. And the sexy – if seemingly stoned – male model in the story, Nathaniel Meyer, contributes illustrations to our publication. (Hey, why didn’t we get namedropped?!)
Plus, Ellis’ NXT blog entry, posted on the paper’s Web site Monday afternoon, does name the company. The paragraph follows…
“At the same time they’re trying to be environmentally friendly, by using 100 percent organic T-shirts. The uber-local feel also extends to production, they’re working with ‘I Hate T-shirts,’ a local company that uses environmentally friendly chemicals in the printing process.”
(Looks like the copy editor had a crack at this, too. It’s called a dash, dude – fear it not.)
Anyway, Gallagher declined to comment for the record, and the Badgers were anticipating the birth of generation NXXT this past weekend, so we didn’t bug them with this crap. But Mich had a funny story.
He said I Hate T-Shirts was spontaneously conceived during a moment of frustration over the pair’s inability to decide on a company name. One notable moniker they abandoned would have given Ellis’ editor a fit for an altogether different reason. Here’s the logo Mich made…
Yup: Cock Tees.
August 7, 2007
Read my lips: No new slots
When pitching their proposal to take over the Maine State Pier, the Ocean Properties team invariably highlights its experience operating high-speed ferries in Florida. In fact, should the company be selected to redevelop the pier, OP said it will bring one of its Florida-based ferries up to Portland to make runs along the coast.
If that happens, passengers in Maine can expect the same amenities OP offers in the Sunshine State – comfy seats, flat-screen TVs with satellite, a full galley and bar – with one exception: no slot machines.
Unlike, say, the Big Cat Express (the ferry highlighted in OP’s original proposal for the pier), the ferry in Maine will be slot-free, said OP executive and project spokesman Bob Baldacci.
Baldacci, brother of Maine’s anti-gambling governor, chuckled a bit at the slots question, which hasn’t yet come up in public discussion of their plan. He further clarified that there will be no gambling of any kind on OP’s Maine-based fast ferry.
There’s already a high-speed casino boat operating out of Portland, The CAT, which has over 70 slot machines on board. The CAT is operated by Bay Ferries Limited, a Canadian-owned company. OP’s team has said they will work with Bay Ferries to coordinate scheduling and marketing should they get the nod for the pier project.
In addition to his brother, Bob Baldacci has a fellow OP team member also well known for his opposition to gambling: Dennis Bailey, whose PR firm Savvy Inc. has helped the statewide organization CasinosNo! battle one-armed bandits. (Granted, Bailey’s also worked for Scotia Prince Cruises, The CAT’s predecessor in Portland, which likewise took its passengers for more than one kind of ride.)
In an essay on the home page of casinosno.org, Bailey has some choice words to say about slot operators and the politicians who enable them…
“Like pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes and three-card monte – all of which are illegal – slot machines are a classic rip-off,” he wrote. “They are legalized theft. They promote a nothing-for-something economy – taking money from area businesses, car dealers, restaurants, and putting it in the hands of out-of-state casino developers. And when our legislators join in on this dishonorable and deceptive enterprise for a piece of the action, they are reduced to nothing more than Las Vegas sharks in snakeskin suits.”
Don’t tell that to Portland officials and the bosses at New Hampshire-based OP, who are trying to remake our eastern waterfront into a playground for rich casino-cruisin’ retirees and swingers.
Actually, on second thought, go ahead.
July 25, 2007
District 3 City Council race gets ugly early
The race to represent District 3 on the Portland City Council has barely begun, and the mud’s already flying.
The district – which includes Libbytown, Stroudwater, and the area around the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus – is currently represented by Dr. Donna Carr, an employee of Unum serving the last year of her first three-year term.
Criminal defense attorney Dan Skolnik and commercial real estate broker Tony Donovan have taken out nomination papers to challenge Carr this fall. Carr has also taken out papers, and she told The Bollard on July 23 that she intends to submit the signatures required to get on the ballot in November. However, Carr said she has not yet decided if she will actually campaign for a second term after her ballot status is secured. She said future discussions with her employer will determine whether she runs or not.
Skolnik said Carr was singing a very different tune last week. “I like Dr. Carr very much, and respect her, and this would be a hard decision for anybody,” he said. “All I can tell you is Dr. Carr invited me into her home last week and told me clearly, three times, that she’s not running.
“Dr. Carr has a right to go back and forth as many times as she wants, but District 3 needs commitment,” Skolnik continued. “District 3 deserves a councilor who means what he says and says what he means.”
Carr chasers: Dan Skolnik (left) and Tony Donovan. (photos/courtesy Skolnik, Donovan)
City Council races are officially nonpartisan – candidates’ party affiliation does not appear on the ballot, and most do not make their party registration part of their campaign. Skolnik is among the exceptions. His early campaign cards prominently declare him a Democrat.
Asked about this, Skolnik said, “one is not prohibited from declaring what party you belong to. I felt that in the dynamics of this particular race, I wanted people to know I’m proud to be a Democrat.”
Carr and Donovan are also registered Democrats, but Skolnik said Donovan’s affiliation with the party “is billing, and mine is the truth.” He declined to elaborate.
“I don’t bill myself as anything,” said Donovan, when told of Skolnik’s remark. “I’m a lifelong Democrat, [but] I’m not running as a Democrat.”
Candidates still have several more weeks to collect nomination signatures for city council and school board seats. Local Green Independent Party leaders say they’re actively searching for someone to run for council in District 3.
As of yesterday, the only person to pull papers for the District 3 school board seat was Peter Eglinton, the incumbent who won a special election in June (in which he was unopposed) to complete Jason Toothaker’s term.
Incumbents Jim Cloutier and Jill Duson have taken out papers for the two at-large council seats up for grabs this year. Former planning board member John Anton is also in that race.
In the race for two at-large school board seats, incumbent Ben Meiklejohn was the only one to pull papers as of yesterday. The other incumbent, former board chair Ellen Alcorn, is rumored to be uninterested in seeking a second term. She did not return a call seeking comment.
July 16, 2007
Booze news roundup
There was plenty of action on the local bar-and-restaurant front during tonight’s meeting of the Portland City Council – most of it good news for lovers of food and drink, though several items were postponed.
First, the good news…
Tu Casa, the popular Salvadorian eatery on Washington Avenue, got the OK to serve beer on its patio.
Geno’s owner JR D’alessandro got the nod to serve booze a few blocks away when he takes over operation of the neighborhood joint Awful Annie’s Irish Saloon, on Munjoy Hill, later this summer (see Gossip item below).
Joe Pompeo, the guy who caught hell over plans to let a Dunkin’ Donutsoperate at his property on Stevens Avenue, got a liquor license for Siano’s, the brick-oven pizza and Italian eatery he intends to open and operate there later this summer. The council’s unanimous vote of approval may cause Pompeo to rethink plans to name sandwiches after city officials [see “I’ll have two Nicks and a Suslovic, to go,” Dec. 29, 2006, in Briefs].
The Miss Portland Diner got a step closer to its resurrection when councilors approved a beer and wine license for proprietor Tom Manning – no, not thatTom Manning; a different one. In documents submitted to the city, Manning indicated he hopes the expanded diner will be open by Dec. 1 of this year at its new location on Marginal Way, where a large bus shelter once stood. Operating hours will be from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
And on Custom House Wharf, Comedy Connection/Porthole owner Oliver Keithly III is expanding his mini-empire into the space formerly occupied byBoone’s Restaurant. The Porthole will be expanded to include the old eatery next door. In a letter to councilors, Keithly said the expansion will create more restaurant space and room for weddings and other events.
Three other matters were postponed at tonight’s meeting for future consideration.
Andrew Cole, former proprietor of Bikini Bottom Grill on Wharf Street, wants to open a new bar and dance club in the Warren Avenue building last occupied by Austin’s Boot & Buckle Saloon. The country bar closed earlier this year [see “Austin’s Boot & Buckle Bites the Dust,” May 20, Gossip, below].
The new venue would be called Goodfellas Bar & Nightclub. (Note to Cole: To ease the license-approval process, don’t name your establishment after a mob movie.) It would offer a full bar, some food (pizza, burgers and hotdogs), and music by bands and DJs. Approval of Cole’s license requests has been postponed pending a neighborhood meeting to address any concerns residents across the street may have with the establishment. Austin’s faced similar scrutiny over allegations its patrons disturbed the peace in the largely commercial/industrial stretch of Warren Ave., but the matter was eventually settled.
By contrast, the fate of The Icehouse Tavern – formerly Popeye’s Icehouse, a bar in Portland’s West End – remains unsettled due to neighbors’ ongoing concerns. After years tangling with city officials, The Icehouse has lost its food and entertainment licenses, been forced to close at 10 p.m. and keep patrons from enjoying its patio, and now stands to lose its liquor license. Councilors agreed to postpone action on that license until next month to give the bar’s owners and attorney more time to prepare their defense.
Council action on the downtown building once eyed to be the second coming ofThe Skinny was also postponed. Building owner Bill Umbel said he intends to seek a special contract zoning exemption to operate a restaurant, bar and music club in the space at the corner of Congress Street and Forest Avenue, where the dive bar Whits End once did business.
Umbel and business partners Todd Doyle and Johnny Lomba had initially sought to permanently change the zoning governing the building, a prospect that raised concerns from neighbors and police. By seeking a contract zone instead, the zoning change would be tied to the establishment, rather than the building itself, which may ease neighbors’ worries that a rowdy bar could take over the space if Umbel ever sold the property.
Lastly, a few other bits of bad news. Spring Street, a gay bar on the West End, has closed after months of financial struggle. Portland’s Restaurant and Bar, a steak and chops place on Commercial Street where Oolong once operated, is also kaput. And the Press Herald reported late last month that the Longfellow Square eatery Uffa is leaving town later this summer. The silver lining: owners James and Heidi Tranchemontagne intend to reopen in Westbrook, in the space previously occupied by Chicky’s Fine Diner. The new restaurant, to be called The Frog and Turtle, is expected to open in September.
July 11, 2007
Geno’s on the Hill
J.R. D’Alessandro, proprietor of Portland’s legendary downtown rock club Geno’s, plans to take over operation of Awful Annie’s Irish Saloon, on Munjoy Hill, later this summer. Geno’s will continue at its Congress Street location for the foreseeable future.
D’Alessandro said he plans to run Annie’s as a neighborhood bar, in the spirit of Norm’s Downtown Lounge or Annie’s predecessor, George’s Tavern. The small room doesn’t really accommodate live music. D’Alessandro said his focus will be on creating a comfortable place for locals to relax, enjoy a drink or two, and maybe have a bite to eat.
As previously reported in Gossip, Annie’s owner Ann Muller has been looking for someone to take over the bar since early last year. D’Alessandro and Muller are still working out the final terms of the deal, but D’Alessandro is confident enough it’s a go that he’s applied for a second liquor license.
The name of the reborn establishment has yet to be determined. This reporter’s pushing for “J.R.’s.”
Maple’s moving downtown
Maple’s Organics, the ice cream and pastry shop on Forest Avenue, is readying to move into the Old Port space formerly occupied by Casco Bay Books – above Bull Moose and Videoport, on Middle Street – according to an informed source.
A call to the Forest Avenue location was not returned this afternoon.
Maple’s was opened by local entrepreneur Kristie Green early last year. It claims to be Portland’s first certified organic bakery and ice creamery.
Bingo for Duson
Let no one say Portland City Councilor Jill Duson isn’t a good sport. The at-large councilor and prospective congressional candidate was on the First Friday Art Walk last week when she stopped by Congress Square for a round of comedy Bingo.
Hosts The Fuge and Country Rhodes (a.k.a. Bollard art directors Mich Ouellette and Sean Wilkinson) were giving the people a lively (but rather sanitized) public version of their popular nightclub prop-comedy act as part of the monthly “Truck Show” the arts organization MENSK puts on for the art event.
Duson got bingo, but so did another player that round, thus forcing the dreaded “dance off” to determine the winner. Duson bested her challenger in broad daylight and walked away with the prize: a home pregnancy test.
Ethan Strimling thinks he’s cool because he knows a guy on The Sopranos? Top that, pretty boy!