Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Regal Gesture

Reclusive Virginia Beach millionaire and Gold Key/Professional Hospitality Resources CEO, Bruce Thompson finally broke his silence nearly a month after being chosen King Neptune XXXVII by holding an internet press conference early this morning.  We're talking real early.  8-ish.  But, when you're one of the few members of the local media given an exclusive evite to hear Mr. Thompson speak and maybe...just, MAYBE see him - you wake up whenever he says.  Heck, who am I kidding - I stayed up all night for this. 

Although the image was blurred due to steam rising from his jacuzzi, no one could mistake the deep, slow southern drawl and constant cigar puffing for anyone else than the Oceanfront developer famous for building the 31st Street Hilton after citizens rallied against it...not to mention it blocks the range of a radar at Oceana crucial to Homeland Security.  He's responsible for the whole Laskin Road Gateway project.  When that's closer to completion, he'll probably start reshaping the entire Rudee Inlet loop area.  He owns seven hotels, six restaurants, all the t-shirt shops on Atlantic Avenue, both loggerhead sea turtles at the Virginia Aquarium, and a flavored ice cart on the Boardwalk near 14th Street.  In 1991, he was involved in obtaining some secret phone call recordings of then-Governor of Virginia, L. Douglas Wilder.  Oh yeah, AND he wants to build this thing where the Dome used to be on Pacific Avenue.

Subtle, isn't it?  Real beachy, too.

Here's what he said at the press conference:

Good morning everyone and thank you for joining me.  To say that I was overwhelmed when I learned that I had been named King Neptune XXXVII would be quite an understatement.  I was overcome with such a great wave of joy and gratitude that I began to cry.  A knee-trembling powerful cry, too - not one of those one or two tear trickles.  It is simply the greatest honor anyone could have bestowed upon them by the Neptune Festival Committee, which is primarily made up of other Oceanfront developers, restaurant owners, and their wives - in other words, my peers.

Now, the reason I've called you all to this morning's web conference.  While I gladly accept the title of King Neptune XXXVII, sadly, I cannot accept the duties and privileges that accompany it.  Over the years, I have been vilified by some of the long time residents of Virginia Beach.  They've resisted the inevitable change that any resort city must endure.  Old buildings get torn down.  New, safe, bigger, more luxurious structures get built. If Virginia Beach wants to continue to attract visitors from all over the world, we must move into the 21st century.  It's sad to see remnants of the Old Beach go, but they must.  Nothing lasts forever, people.  Get used to it.  

So, in order to appease the critics of my vision of our city - to show the year-round, tax paying locals that, hey, I'm not such a bad guy after all - I'm doing something that no other King Neptune has ever done.  I'm relinquishing my crown.

(pause for gasps)

I have taken it upon myself, not the puppet committee, to appoint someone more deserving of all the pomp and attention.  Ladies and gentlemen, your new King Neptune - Hector Nunez Jr.!

Hector's originally from somewhere in Guatemala, but he and his wife, Juliza,  have been Virginia Beach citizens since 1998.  Their lovely children Olivia, Hernando, Oprah, and Hector the 3rd were all born right here - making them true Beach locals.  Hector has been an outstanding employee of Professional Hospitality Resources since early 2004.  Travelling every single day by bus in the predawn hours from the Newtown Road area to the Oceanfront, working 10 hours or more as a dishwasher, a banquet server, a bathroom attendant, and currently, as a landscaper at one of my properties.  Hector and the hundreds just like him are the ones responsible for making Virginia Beach what it is today - a vibrant, safe, family friendly East Coast summer fun spot.  Not quite up to par with Myrtle Beach, but close.  Very, very close. 

For his reign as King, starting today by the way, I hereby decree that he is exempt from work and he will still receive a paycheck every week...not his normal paycheck, however. He will receive mine.  He can use one of my cars, too. 

Secondly, Hector and all of his family will be taking my place in the back of some festooned convertible for the parade on September 25th as well as ANY Neptune Festival events he feels up to attending.  If he doesn't want to go to any of 'em - he doesn't have to.  I can understand him not wanting to hang around city council members and other local dignitaries in some cheap tent on the beach, drinking warm Bud Light, watching Wang Chung and trying to make small talk.  Trust me on this one, Hector - they're all boring as hell.  I'll probably be heading to the Outer Banks for the entire festival.  I've never attended one, so I why bother now, huh?

Oh - and also, once his kids are done with school for the year, I hereby decree that Hector and his family can occupy the top floor of the 31st Street Hilton.  All of it.  For the whole summer.  No - the whole rest of the year.  I'll make sure your house is taken care of.  No.  You know what?  I'm giving you a Turtle Cay condo.  Or how about two of 'em?  The damn things are pretty much empty all year long, anyway.

Allright.  That's it.  Press Conference is over.  I've got work to do.  Those North End whiners won't stop yapping about the whole Laskin Road thing.  Enjoy the summer everybody.  Especially you, Hector.  Enjoy the hell out of it.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Buy...or Beware

In a fragrant, well-lit restaurant in Virginia Beach's Town Center, Tidewater Log met with former "Best Of Hampton Roads" public relations coordinator and co-editor, "Mr. X", to discuss the dark side of the Virginia-Pilot's seemingly innocent and genuine annual contest. (No, "Mr. X" is not the real name of our fact there isn't an "x" anywhere in his name.  Actually, it's a woman, but she made us guarantee that we'd conceal her identity as much as we could.  Why she agreed to pose for a photograph, we'll never know.  She may have been a little confused by the camera - thought it was a tape recorder or a phone or something.)

TL:  Thank you for agreeing to speak with us.

Mr. X:  My pleasure.  I'm tired of keeping these secrets.  I'm old and can do what I want.  (laughs)

TL:  Okay - plain and does one get the "Best of Hampton Roads" distinction?

Mr. X:  Money.

TL:  The public has nothing to do with the outcome? 

Mr. X:  Nothing at all.  The winner paid for everything - the banner, the little plaques, the mention in the paper.  You know, it even costs to get on the ballott in the first place!  That alone should tell you it's crooked.  The public just doesn't...they don't see how things really are.

TL:  What happens to the ballots?  The online ones?

Mr. X:  They're absolutely meaningless.  It's just something to drive web traffic up for the newspaper's website.  You know, on average just about 40 people go there a day...and most of them are members of the newspaper staff leaving angry, rambling comments their own and each other's stories.

TL:  How about the old mail-in ballots?  What happened to those?

Mr. X:  Dumped 'em in the Bay myself.  Unread.  Hell - unopened!

TL:  So, are we talking about the winners paying for their awards with money...or products and services?

Mr. X:  Back when it started, 15 years ago, we'd do it for free oil changes, pizza, patio chairs, and such...but nowadays it's plain ol' money, honey (laughs).

TL:  How much?

Mr. X:  Depends.  A frozen yogurt place or shoe repair place doesn't have to pay as much as a law firm, a private school - or one of them big ol' seafood buffets.

TL:  On average?

Mr. X:  Oooooooooh....I'd say...'bout twenty thousand for a high roller...three thou for a small fry.  And that was back in 2004, before I quit.

TL:  What happened?  Why did you leave?

Mr. X:  I can honestly say that the people I worked with in the "Best of" division were the greediest, most mean-spirited, downright cruel people I'd ever worked with...and I used to work in a slaughter room up in Smithfield in my younger days.

TL:  Wow.  Gross.

Mr.  X:  Yep.  Pig brains being squeezed outta their lil' ears!  Squeeeeeeeeaaaawwww!!! (bugs out her eyes and sticks out her tongue)

TL:  Eeeeeeeew!  SERIOUSLY - that's GROSS.  No more.

Mr. X:  Aw, I'm sorry.  (laughs)  I'd see business owners really do a great job of campaigning - getting their customers to vote and spread the word and such.  Some had just opened their restaurants or whatever and really thought that one of those banners hanging out front would bring in more customers. 

TL:  Well, they do...don't they?

Mr. X:  Not at all.  Tell me, do you know anyone with any sense that frequents a business because of some cheap banner flapping in the wind out front? 

TL:  (thinking)  Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Mr. X:  NO!  Only an idiot would.  Towards the end, I told some real nice folks to just print up their own if they feel the need to.  Print one up and hang it yourself.  (laughs)

TL:  So, the cruelty you saw?  What happened?

Mr. X:  The public doesn't know about the team of about sixty "Best of" employees going all over Hampton Roads all year long intimidating and threatening business owners.  I've seen 'em trash places because they thought the owners were hiding money.  They'd smash windows after hours.  They'd release bags of roaches or termites WHILE health inspectors watched.  They're in on the whole thing, too, you know. 

TL:  That's horrible.

Mr.X:  Yep.  And remember, these were families - with babies or kids in colleges.  Their lives were ruined.  In some cases of immigrant owned restaurants - the authorities were called, a raid took place, and they were forced to leave the country.  Immediately.

TL:  All because of some dumb banner?  or a sign?

Mr. X:  Yeah.  People think it's really important...mostly the "Best of" staff.  They don't mess around.

TL:  I guess it's their livelihood.  They have to pretend it's important.

Mr. X:  Bingo.  It's everyone at the newspaper's livelihood.  We're talking about ALL the major regions of Hampton Roads - Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, and Williamsburg.  You do the math.

TL:  Dear God, we're talking about...

Mr. X:  It's a multi-million dollar operation. 

TL:  For....what?

Mr. X:  For nothing at all.  Sounds like a good deal, doesn't it?  (laughs)

TL:  (laughs)

Mr. X:  (bugs out her eyes and sticks out her tongue again)

TL:  AAAAAAGH!  That's it - this interview's OVER!