Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

10 things City Manager Mike O’Brien can do to save Worcester money

By Rosalie Tirella

• Get Worcester cops off road details. Massachusetts is the only state in America that doesn’t use civilian flag women/men. If you look at the City of Worcester’s Top Wage Earners for 2008 (this issue, page 7), you’ll see that most of the city workers making more than $120,000 a year are cops – some as low on the totem pole as sergeant or just plain ol’ police officer. Why pay Worcester policemen/women $200 plus for four hours of detail work (at $50/hour), when you can get flagmen/women for around $30 an hour? And without the four-hour minimum requirement. Continue reading 10 things City Manager Mike O’Brien can do to save Worcester money

On the legendary Bijou Cinema dying an unjust death …

By Rosalie Tirella

A comment by “Big Asshole” (I’ll just call him “B.A.” starting now!) on my Foothills Theatre blog-post (see below) got me thinking: B.A. is so right! Good things just don’t make it in this town – a town with no pity!!!  The Bijou Cinema – the jewel of a movie house in the old Worcester Galleria – was a good thing, as B.A. pointed out. No, make that a great thing! But it died … Owner/creator and first-rate human being Leslie Courtney really tried, and she made her “Bijou” sparkle: great independent, alternative movies; good food; cool ambience. She even opened up her little movie house to all sorts of groups in Worcester – you know outsider/alternative types who wouldn’t get the time of day, say, in the Worcester Art Museum. Leslie was/is one of the nicest people you ever want to meet! But what happened? Worcester let her dangle. Well, there is more to the story … .

A bunch of “do gooders” (ha!) with some cash and cash connections – old-money guy Allen Fletcher and two other “community  leader” type guys – I remember one being a real shrimp – took over, telling all they were SAVING THE BIJOU. Then, before the Bijou butter was drizzled on the Bijou popcorn, Fletcher and pals had the arrogance to, after making the Bijou a nonprofit and promising Leslie that she would manage the cinema – still be its soul and artistic director – fired her. That is one day Leslie went to work and the locks on her beloved Bijou were changed! The shit-heads had locked her out! Without so much as a phone call! The place that Leslie had created from scratch! Literally! Her husband Pat, a carpenter, actually built the waiting area and counters. Leslie designed the restaurant – got the flowers for the tables, the wall hangings for the walls. Can you imagine? Why would a city do this to a creative person who decided to set up shop here? Move here from New York to build a life (with her husband Pat, a Worcester native)? For a long time, Pat couldn’t even drive by his wife’s former movie house.

But Leslie was vindicated. After she was let go, the place went belly up (of course!). It was obvious that Fletcher and his smarty pants pals knew NOTHING about running a movie house. I interviewed Leslie for InCity Times after the debacle. She told me that the crew who took over didn’t even have enough popcorn to make it through the first weekend. And then Fletcher and friends did something truly stupid: they destroyed Leslie’s dream – dismantled the eating area and built a “martini bar” type place. No longer did the Bijou look like a place where your earthy crunchy crowd was welcome – and they weren’t. The food changed, too. And a new team of movie critic experts took over. 

Leslie’s film afficianados boycotted the “new,” phony Bijou. There were fewer people attending its movies now. CPR was attempted by Fletcher and his moneyed posse: swanky fund raisers were held with people dressed to the nines. The events made the papers and TV news, but enough money couldn’t be raised. Phoniness can only take you so far, after all.

But Leslie wasn’t a phony! She was a super person – and would have made it in any other city.

The Foothills Theatre wants us to foot the bill …

By Rosalie Tirella

Here’s hoping the Foothills Theatre makes it, but if it doesn’t, we know: The Hanover Theater really “stole the show,” as far as Wormtown goes, and the Foothills is just not strong enough to compete with the class act that pretty much sits in the middle of a pisshole (Southbridge Street/The Goral building is soooo depressing!). It’s funny: the people who attend theater here can certainly afford two theater subscriptions. Why can’t Worcester’s old timers – when I used to go with my boyfriend  “Mario,”  the majority of Foothills patrons were 60+ years old – attend both the Foothills AND The Hanover? Ha! Maybe that would tucker them out! Maybe for these seniors, it is an either/or proposition! The Foothills OR The Hanover! Can’t do both! That would be exhausting! Once when we were at the Foothills Theatre, Mario and I sat next to some oldster who fell asleep (during a very good play) and, chin on chest, quietly gurgled through the entire performance! Later that eve, Mario and I talked about why there weren’t any younger folks in the audience – say people under 50. It was that bad! Yes, there was a young couple here and there and a few twentysomethings. But that was it. (I’m not counting the kids taken by granddad, etc).

This, to me, looked like a problem. When the old timers died out, I told myself, who will support the Foothills Theatre?! Still, the place was always packed! Not an empty seat in the house!

So when the Foothills plays started changing – getting edgier and nudier – I thought: Well, the new artistic director, Mr. Garret, wants to draw a younger, hipper crowd. He wants to take the theater in a new direction. He did – and the old timers left the house! In a recent interview, Garret said the theater was in the red because 1. they didn’t get the big grants they had applied for and 2. attendance at many of the shows was “dismal.” Two years ago, attendance at the Foothills could never be described as “dismal.” Hate to sound like a geezer I was just pokin’ fun at  … but I kinda liked the OLD direction, the OLD Foothills productions. I liked – no! make that LOVED! – their musicals, their annual “Christas Carol” productions which sometimes starred Eddy “Carmine”-from Laverne-and-Shirley Mekka! I loved the old time plays and their simple sentiments. Best of all – and I know I am talking like a provincial Worcesterite – I really LOVED the musicals! (I know – I just wrote that!) When the actors busted out in song – and most had good voices, a few had fantastic ones – and shimmied their butts and kicked their legs up over their heads, I thought: WOW! THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT! And, let’s face it, that is entertainment by Worcester standards.

You can’t really screw up a great, classic American musical – and America has a magnificent songbook! If you have very good voices, you have a very good production of “Guys and Dolls.” Yes, if you have wonderful actors, with wonderful voices, they can take “Guys and Dolls” to new places, higher, exciting ground. But if you live in Worcester and you wanna have a good time, a bunch of good singers who belt out their lines with brio is good enough!

Or so I thought.

Enter, new Foothills artistic director, Russel Garret, stage right. Right off I felt Garret was sailing into choppy waters when, in an interview, he said he wasn’t “married to” the Foothills annual production of “The Christmas Carol.” I screamed to Mario: “What?! No Christmas Carol! I love Charles Dickens! I love that show! I love the way it makes me feel!” (The Hanover, wisely, has decided to make the play a Christmas tradition.) Garret’s 2008-2009 Foothills season sounded sort of boring. There weren’t a lot of shows I wanted to see … . Then there was the Foothills show with (I think) full frontal male nudity! I don’t know … If the acting wasn’t so hot, the only thing that “stands out” is the you know what … !

Here’s the rub: If you’re going to present heavy-hitting plays, you need heavy-hitter actors. Years ago, when there was a Worcester Phoenix, the Boston Phoenix theater critic attended the Foothills shows – and uniformly panned them. Marc Smith, then the artistic director, pretty much banned the guy from his theater, his “baby.” But the Boston critic wasn’t being a jerk. He was just applying the same standards that he sets for Boston plays. He was actually showing us a little respect. Acting – speaking words, so we believe them; moving so we believe, too – is hard. 

So now we have the Hanover. I have never been there, but if they bring in actors with bigger acting chops, men and women who have toured all over the world and country, actors who are first-class, then what happens to the Foothills? Can Worcesterites be expected to subsidize the ailing theater by buying tickets to “Casino NIght” or some other crappy event? Probably not for long.

We say: Bring back the musicals, Foothills! Make the plays more mainstream again! Then, at the very least, you may be able to re-attract the old timers who fled for safer entertainment – like old DVDs of “On Golden Pond.”

The Wonderful Greg Stockmal

By Rosalie Tirella

A few weeks ago Greg Stockmal of Vernon Hill passed away at the oh-so-young age of 56. I didn’t know Greg from the ‘hood – even though I lived a two-minute drive from his and his wife Carol’s Woodford Street home. I came at Greg from a different angle – the poetry angle, specifically the spare, lovely blank verse of the late Stanley Kunitz. Kunitz, an internationally known, multi-award winning poet (including the Pulitzer) was born and bred in Worcester’s Vernon Hill neighborhood – right in Greg and Carol’s home. The Worcester of his youth figures prominently in many of Kunitz’s most memorable poems, including “Three Floors,” “The Portrait” and “My Mother’s Pears.” Continue reading The Wonderful Greg Stockmal

When the going gets tough …

Hopefully, Worcester City councilors will do what they need to do to close a projected multi-million dollar municipal budget deficit. So what can Worcester do to save itself from itself?

* How about getting all unions to agree to have their members pony up 25% – instead of 20% – $$$ for municipal employee health insurance? If City of Worcester employees – including the school dept. side – agree to  pay 25%  of  their insurance bills, that relatively small concession (that’s what everyone contributes in the private sector) could save Worcester hundreds of thousands of dollars.

* City of Worcester employees need to say “to hell with Blue Cross Blue Shield” (what they can get if they stick to City of Worcester health insurance plan) and join the state insurance group. It costs a lot less money – and you get a ton of health plans to choose from, many just fine.

* PILOT – Payment in Lieu of Taxes. Get the nonprofits – especially the bigger ones and the colleges – to start making monetary contributions to the City of Worcester for doing business in Worcester for gratis. That’s right – they pay no property taxes and yet get fire trucks, police protection, DPW support, etc, etc. We know their endowments have taken a hit with the market in free fall, but they can – especially Holy Cross and WPI – give us something. City policy wonks say PILOT will only net the city about $1 million. We say – GO FOR IT! It’s a beginning, which is why the collecges are so resistant. And don’t worry, they’ll still be sending us their kids, asking for internships (precious experience for the kiddies).

* Get the freaking Worcester cops off roadway details! Only one other state uses cops to direct traffic while digging, road work is going on. Let’s join the rest of the country and hire flagmen and women. With the Worcester police, you have to hire them for a minimum of four hours. Their pay rate starts at $50/hour. Flag guys and gals get around $30 per hour. That’s saving some serious dough! Also, it gets the police doing what they should be doing: preserving the peace; chasing robbers, drug dealers, etc.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Let’s all put our thinking caps on to save our city!

– Rosalie Tirella

Waiting for the City Hall number crunchers …

We have asked City Hall (and have been bounced to several departments) for the following information. This is info Worcester tax payers (anybody really – it’s public record) need to know:

  • Top 125 City of Worcester Wage Earners (we have 2007 – we want to post 2008)
  • who, from the Worcester City Council and School Committee, has declined (for 2008 – 2009) the hefty pay raise the City Council voted for itself last year. The raise doubled their stipends! The nefarious vote – the community was up in arms – made each city councilor worth $29,000/year and the Mayor $34,000. Before then city coucilors were payed $14,500/year  – an appropriate stipend for part time work, in my opinion. But everyone took the raise! Except these angels: Dennis Irish (gone), Gary Rosen and Mike Germain.

The school committee folks saw their stipeds double, too (it’s in the city charter). They now get $14,500/year  – double what they received in previous years, before last year’s vote. Who didn’t take the money and run this fiscal year?

We are waiting for this (very depressing) public information …

– Rosalie Tirella

On seeing my father

By Rosalie Tirella

Ever since my father died (about two months ago), I’ve been seeing him every where. When he was alive, he made about 1,000 entrances in my family’s life. Married with kids but not wanting to be married with kids, my father lived with my mother, two sisters and me some months and was Missing in Action (MIA) during others. He was as tentative as the junkyard dogs he loved so much (and owned).

Some of his entrances were comical — like the time he waltzed into our Lafayette Street apartment with some Frank Sinatra LPs and sang “I Did it My Way” to me. My mother had sent him out for a loaf of bread!

Continue reading On seeing my father

Web-zilla!!!!! (or:The Big “Mack” Attack!)

Mack Fairbanks
Mack Fairbanks

My dear readers, if there’s anything you’ve learned about InCity Times these past seven-plus years, is that we are ambitious – and a wee-bit technophobic, which makes for really interesting newspapering. Yes, yes, we have heard it all before: Rose, all the newspapers have websites!; Rose, ICT needs to be in cyberspace; Rose, think how great this will be for your writers and advertisers! So for four or so years, we’ve been on the fence about an ICT website – vascilating like crazy! To build an InCity Times website – or not to build an InCity Times website? That was the question!

Continue reading Web-zilla!!!!! (or:The Big “Mack” Attack!)

Worcester Magazine’s Allen Fletcher finds a new toy!

By Rosalie Tirella

Allen Fletcher has quit Worcester Magazine – sold it to some out of towners. He says he wants to move on to the next “phase” of his life. He’s had enough of newspaper-ing. He’s had enough of … . What exactly? The stress of writing all night? The stress of wondering where he was going to get the money to pay the bills? The stress of wanting a Paris vacation with only a Lake Quinsigamond vacation fund? The stress of starting a business from scratch and trying to grow it when the revenue isn’t yet flowing?

Truth be told, Allen Fletcher hasn’t experienced any of the stresses of owning a small business. His extreme wealth has insulated him from all the pain and woe – from every kind of financial disaster you can imagine – while he was at the helm of Worcester Magazine. That’s why he managed to own it for 15 years! The lucky (and pathetic) bastard! You can do anything with millions of dollars at the ready – play with any kind of toy you want! Own a newspaper, for instance. Save face, especially!

Continue reading Worcester Magazine’s Allen Fletcher finds a new toy!

Golden Oldies

By Rosalie Tirella

Yea, we went to the ZZ Top concert and it was great!” I told one of my gal pals last summer. “I love ZZ Top!” “ZZ Top?” my gal pal asked, giggling. Where the hell were my ZZ Top records, she wanted to know? Which of their songs could I sing?

Actually, none before I met my boyfriend “Joe.” Lucinda Williams, Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello – these are – or were – the artists I listened to on my “hi-fi” stereo. All literate and sometimes snarky singer songwriter types who rocked my world. And they COULD rock out! Warren Zevon is still a personal hero. But ZZ Top? And their delicate, exquisitely sensitive songs such as, “Cheap Sun Glasses” or “She’s Got Legs” – you know, those lovely ballads that reduce all women to hookers? Well, let’s just say they weren’t my thing.

Continue reading Golden Oldies