Tailpipe

For Sale: Political Office

For the script, Gillette hooked up with Michael Gingold, managing editor at horror entertainment mag Fangoria. Gingold's previous writing credits include Leeches!, a straight-to-video flick about nature gone wrong, and Shadow, a "women's prison martial arts zombie film" that's still in production. Look for the gory denouement to take place in the Flagler Museum.

This is one movie in which the lead probably won't have to ask the director, "What's my motivation?"

Another One Bites the Dust

Nothing like having your face hit the asphalt at about 30 mph to awaken one's activism. Until November 7, Delray Beach art gallery owner George Martin had been indifferently following the story of his city's reluctance to give bicycles and pedestrians safe right of passage on State Road AIA. That particular stretch of oceanfront roadway has been under the microscope, as the State of Florida has called for five-foot bike lanes, which wealthy homeowners have opposed.

On a ride along the beach just before noon, a car making a left turn onto Ocean Terrace smacked into Martin and his bike. "An elderly woman," Martin says, "who wasn't paying attention..." After striking the car's fender, "I flew over and across the car's hood and landed on the pavement on the other side." A helmet helped him avoid serious injuries, but his face is pretty messed up. "I was lucky. I'm happy I'm still here," he adds.

Weekly rides from Boca Raton to Palm Beach are always most treacherous during the Delray leg, Martin explains. "There should be bike lanes, clearly marked crosswalks, and properly exhibited signs," he says. As for folks pedaling in his skid marks, Martin offers some sage advice: "Be careful. And go to the city hall and pressure them."

Brother, Pass the Trojans

Tailpipe finds it unlikely that, somewhere between the prayers, the hymns, and the passing of the plate, church elders would take time to distribute contraceptives to the assembled masses. Not even if Bill Clinton were to be proclaimed president for life.

Yet there it was last Sunday on the front page of the Palm Beach Post above a story on AIDS. Why, the Post pondered, do pastors "condemn homosexuality instead of handing out condoms?" While this tube's all for tolerance, distributing rubbers in the collection basket -- now, that seems unlikely.

Unsurprisingly, the passage, and the six AIDS-related articles that followed, angered a few of the men in robes, who are now demanding a sit-down with Post editors. Why? More than anything else because the newspaper implied that the preachers snubbed a pancake breakfast held last year to discuss the AIDS problem for fear that it would be connected to homosexuality. The absence of two of the most prominent leaders of black churches in Palm Beach County was mentioned: Bishop Thomas Masters and Bishop Harold Calvin Ray.

"What they said about Bishop Masters and me was libelous," says the charismatic Ray, whose voice simmers with indignation. He insists that, on the morning of the breakfast, he had a previous engagement. "I don't know what [the Post's] intentions were, but they were not good."

Masters, an eloquent voice for the African-American community in South Florida, says the Post was misguided in criticizing black preachers. "No one in Palm Beach County has done more about the AIDS problem than Bishop Ray," Masters says. "Both of us have done a lot to help stop AIDS from spreading, but you can't find anyone who's done more than him."

So, while Masters and Ray were battling the disease (in a county that has the fifth-highest HIV rate in the nation), how were the Post editors chipping in? Was that Editor Edward Sears out on Henrietta Street, passing out little foil-covered packages?

VA Crimes

Not long ago, New Times investigated the troubled veterans medical center in West Palm Beach ("The Hospital on the Hill," Wyatt Olson, September 9). The story described a hospital rife with nepotism, favoritism, and harshly punitive policies toward those who worked there. One employee, Veronica Pledger, a 44-year-old single mother, described a particularly shameless act of favoritism: In December 2003, she said, her supervisor expedited a claim for the brother of hospital director Edward H. Seiler.

The article led to quick action by the powers that be at the Veteran's Administration. Unfortunately, the official response was to kill the messenger. Pledger, a veteran herself, is now facing a two-week unpaid suspension, which, in the Byzantine logic of Seiler's bailiwick, is simply a prelude to her termination. "They'd rather make a point," Pledger says, shaking her head, "as opposed to addressing the real issue -- at the expense of service to veterans."

VA officials maintain that Pledger violated the privacy of the director's brother. But Pledger revealed no details about the case -- other than that preferential treatment took place and that she had notified a high-ranking administrator about the problem. No one has been disciplined in the case except Pledger.

"I lose 1,300 bucks," Pledger laments. "I've already told [my daughter] that basically means no Christmas."

Next stop, termination. "That's the cost, I guess," Pledger says, "for speaking up." VA spokeswoman Margaret Macklin said it was "against policy" to offer preferential treatment, adding that she could not comment on Pledger's case.

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