Saturday, August 01, 2009

Portsmouth Floodwall: Crazy Swayze

The Patrick Swayze image above is on an out-the-way section of the Portsmouth flood wall. It looks like it might have been painted from a stencil, which raises the question of whether stenciled images qualify as graffiti, and whether graffiti can be copyrighted. Another question that occurred to me is whether Portsmouth Murals, Inc. (PMI) owns this particular Crazy Swayze image now that the city council has passed an ordinance that leases “the surface” of the “Property commonly known as the Portsmouth Floodwall” to PMI for sixteen years. I don’t know the answer to that question because the city council and the city solicitor and the Ohio Cultural and Facilities Commission (OCFC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) provided no explanation about exactly what the ordinance means when it refers to the “surface” of the “Property commonly known as the Portsmouth Floodwall,” and what the practical consequences, if any, might be of PMI’s lease of it.

From what I can gather, the leasing of the flood wall was the result of city solicitor Jones and LeeAnne Woods, a project manager in the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, putting their legal heads together via the phone and email to come up with a way PMI could qualify for a $250,000 grant that had already been awarded to PMI by OCFC. The very cryptic ordinance wording Jones and Woods worked out is too Swayze, to add another meaning to the word, as in “I don’t understand what that ordinance means, because to me it’s too Swayze.”

How crazy is Swayze, anyway? The star of Dirty Dancing has been battling cancer in the tabloids for several years as I notice when I am stuck in the molasses express lane at Kroger’s while Portsmouth’s mayor Jim Kalb punches the cash register at his part-time day-time job. I would not be surprised if some Thursday morning I see the mayor punching the cash register in a Crazy Swayze T shirt, because it is a popular item on the internet, which the mayor surfs religiously when he is not punching a cash register, falling asleep at council meetings, or tooling off on an extended weekend to a geezer motorcycle race in one of the Carolinas. In addition to the T shirts, Crazy Swayze mugs and Crazy Swayze Karoke businesses advertise on the internet. Apparently no one has copyrighted the Crazy Swayze Karoke name because they are all over the place, including in Ohio, with one in Columbus and another in Lancaster. Can Portsmouth be far behind or do the drug dealers, prostitutes, and politicians have a monopoly on dirty dancing in our river city? Speaking of copyrights, it is not clear how leasing the surface of the property commonly known as the Portsmouth Floodwall to PMI might affect the copyright that the painter Robert Dafford reportedly has on at least those sections of the flood wall displaying his murals.

It proved much easier for me to find out more about Patrick Swayze than about the leasing of the flood wall. Swayze appears no crazier than other Hollywood celebrities or than any of the other millions of Americans who are addicted to nicotine and alcohol. Leaving the falafel to Bill O’Reilly and the Viagra and painkillers to the likes of Rush Limbaugh (a Southeast Missouri State dropout whose mother said failed all his courses, including ballroom dancing), Patrick Swayze patriotically smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish, as you might expect from the son of a dance choreographer and an engineer from Houston, Texas, a son who was later voted “The Sexiest Man in the World” by People Magazine. The Urban Dictionary lists a couple of sexual definitions for the word Swayze, including as a synonym for a homosexual and for a man who likes to dress up in spandex and dance. But that may be unfair, because Swayze has been married for a long time to his boyhood sweetheart, a girl he met in his mother's dance class. Swayze, in other words, is not, knock on wood, “Swayze.”As Bugs might say, that would be too cwazy for words. One blogger denounced such rumors as “Pat Smears.” Incidentally, it was a relief to learn from Robert Dafford’s MySpace profile that he is not “Swayze.” Whew! With those artists and dancers you never know.