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Column: 'Dollar's worth of regular' won't get you very far

As I was filling the tank of my car with $4.05-a-gallon diesel this week (total bill: $68.38), I fondly recalled my youth when "a dollar's worth of regular" would take us around town and let us "drag Main" for an entire evening.

(If my sister were here, she'd insist that the fuel for my covered wagon was hay, not petrol. Honest, I don't go back that far.)

Saturday Night Live's test to determine if a certain presidential candidate is an old guy asks three questions:

1. Do you watch Wheel of Fortune?

2. Do you have hard candy in a dish in the living room?

3. Do you sit on a bench in the mall?

Three "yeses" means, yup, you're an old guy (not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would quickly say).

Maybe SNL should add this one:

Do you remember when gasoline was 19-cents a gallon? A lot of us do, which I suppose would make us ancient.

Except that even my son remembers the days when a barrel of oil hovered around the $10 mark in 1985, and further back in 1973, when gasoline was so scarce that a wealthy judge in our Texas neighborhood bought a gas station just so he could get the fuel allocation, which he doled out to desperate commuters at 2 a.m. and thus reassured his re-election for decades to come.

Even then, we paid only $1.35 a gallon and would have hooted at the idea of $4-a-gallon gas. In fact, when we went to Europe in summer 2001, we did hoot at gas that was $1.29 a liter, or about $5 a gallon.

I'm guessing we'll be at that five bucks around here within a few months, if not sooner.

There haven't been any riots about fuel prices or the obscene profits of the oil companies, and I doubt if there will be.

Just wait until there isn't gas to be had at any price, and that's when the fights and riots will break out.

Drama at Stage West not part of any script

I was surprised and, I'll admit, quite concerned to learn that there has been a shake-up in the Stage West Community Playhouse board of directors.

Three of the top officers have resigned — president Harvey Lasky, vice president Paulette Hess and treasurer Andrea Gleason — to be replaced respectively by Terri Marwood, Leanne Germann and David Stenger, at least until the board election in June.

I've covered Stage West for about 15 years and have gotten to know most of the people involved in the officer switch, some better than others, which is why I cringed when I heard about it. The trio who resigned are three of the hardest-working, most dependable and most devoted community theater people I have ever known (and in my 35-plus years of newspaper reporting, I've known a lot), and those succeeding them should be aware that they have some enormous shoes to fill.

There have been spats and rumblings at Stage West throughout the years, with good people leaving and other good people coming on board, just as there are at most, if not all, community theaters.

Longtime theater-watchers may remember the turmoil at Richey Suncoast Theatre in the mid-1990s, when power struggles and accusations nearly tore the theater apart. It touched me personally, when the board voted to ban me from the theater, and the board president threatened to have me arrested for trespassing if I crossed the threshold. Someone drew a caricature of me and posted it on the front of the theater with a slashed circle and "No Cretins Allowed" written across the front.

As the lapel button stuck above my desk says, "It's All My Fault; I'm from the Media."

That regime eventually went away (at least two went to work for stripper club king Joe Redner in Tampa), and new people came in, most notably Charlie and Marie Skelton, and the theater has thrived and prospered
ever since.

I don't think things are that bad at Stage West, and the former officers say they intend to continue to be active in
the theater.

Still, from the e-mails I'm getting from people who have watched this thing unravel, I think there are some hurt feelings and resentments that may take a long time to heal.

Column: 'Dollar's worth of regular' won't get you very far 03/21/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 10:48am]

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