Green Book 1962 edition (courtesy New York Public Library)
The name of the Best Picture Oscar-winning movie “Green Book” comes from a published guide to places where black travelers and tourists could stay without being hassled on account of their race during much of the 20th century after the advent of automobiles. In the movie, the Green Book was used to help guide real-life characters–black pianist Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali, who won his own Best Supporting Actor Oscar) and his white driver/bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga (portrayed by Viggo Mortensen)–across the deep South during a 1962 concert tour.
The South, of course, was infamous for its racial intolerance. So it’s easy for folks in other parts of the country to look back and smirk. However, the Green Book–its full name was the Negro Motorist Green Book–quickly came to cover the entire United States.
And it proved to be an interesting measure of racial comity. Based on the paucity of listings in most places, few regions came out looking good.
It was Alice on the phone again at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. She was shilling again for United Breast Cancer Foundation, imploring me to make a small pledge “for the ladies.” I kept saying I first wanted to review any literature she might care to mail me. On what likely was a recorded line, that was not a condition that pleased her, as it would not be possible for UBCF to follow up with a letter demanding I make good on my oral pledge. After going back and forth, she finally ended the call by beseeching me to tell three women to get mammograms.
Alice was not a real person but rather a voice generated by an interactive computer using artificial intelligence and monitored by a real human. This technology still has a way to go. In my opinion Alice wasn’t all that responsive to my remarks and actually came across as a little slow on the uptick.
Which I would say much the same about UBCF, which is based in Huntington, N.Y. After Alice called me a year ago, I researched the charity, saw how little of the cash donations went to items I considered meritorious, and wrote a withering post. Now I’m getting called again by UBCF and still being asked for money. So I’m nominating UBCF to my long-running list of “America’s Stupidest Charities.” It’s a roster of nonprofits that solicit me for a contribution after I already have strongly criticized them in a public post. Really, can it get any dumber than that? You can review the list elsewhere on this page.
Alice’s call gave me an excuse to dig up UBCF’s latest available financial filings and conduct a fresh analysis. I was able to find the audited financial statement and IRS Form 990 filing for a later period, the year ending December 31, 2017, on the website of the North Carolina Secretary of State. (Despite a state law, the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office doesn’t post online meaningful financial filings). It’s still not a pretty picture. Continue reading →
Jarrid Johnson (booking photo courtesy Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept.)
See updates at end of story
It’s possible Jarrid Johnson, the man charged with stabbing to death the homeless Las Vegas fellow whose body I found last month on the street near my home, has a thing with blades.
According to my reading of the public court record, Johnson, 25, had been released without bail on his own recognizance less than two days earlier for another felony charge. That alleged offense: domestic violence using a sword!
Had Johnson remained in custody, he wouldn’t have been on the street to encounter Ralph Franzello, 63. It was Franzello’s lifeless body, surrounded by a lot of blood and his remaining life’s possessions in an overturned shopping cart, that I spotted on a deserted block while walking the dog near the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. The time was just before dawn on the morning of December 21–the year’s shortest day. I quickly called 911.
According to authorities, a remorseful Johnson turned himself in unprompted at the county jail three days later and confessed to the crime, saying he used Franzello’s own folding knife in the middle-of-the-night deed. One news account said Johnson acknowledged attacking Franzello after being caught going through Franzello’s possessions, presumably in the shopping cart that remained at the scene of the crime for several days thereafter. Johnson is being held on $500,000 bail pending a hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
But the same authorities that eagerly issued a press release about Johnson’s arrest didn’t bother to mention that he had been freed from custody literally hours earlier with the state’s consent pending trial in a separate case of violence involving clear indications of mental illness. At least, that’s what alleged use of a sword in an assault on a family member says to me. So the Johnson matter may well raise serious issues about how the overworked Nevada court system evaluates such troubled individuals even before being convicted. I also believe some of these details concerning Johnson’s background have not been reported elsewhere in the Las Vegas media.
Slain homeless person’s possessions and blood at murder site two days later in Las Vegas
See updates at end of story
Walking the dog Friday morning before dawn on the year’s shortest day, I came across a grisly sight near the New To Las Vegas world headquarters: the body of a homeless man on the side of a deserted semi-commercial cul-de-sac. Blood coated the asphalt around him. Nearby: an overturned shopping cart containing his possessions.
I called 911, and Las Vegas Metro Police units quickly responded. The street was closed off for about 12 hours as ambulances, detectives, police photographers, coroner office personnel and eventually some kind of hazmat clean-up team worked the site. Officers confirmed to me–and to the Las Vegas news media–that the man had been stabbed multiple times with a knife, likely overnight some hours before I passed by. A murder investigation is underway.
This morning, a full two days later, I walked that block again with the dog. I observed several elements of note, all of which I documented in a photo I took that is nearby.
First, someone had put a memorial lit candle by the spot where I found the body.
Second, the hazmat team did such a poor job of cleaning that the victim’s blood was clearly visible in the street more than 48 hours later (that reddish rectangle to the left of the candle).
Finally, the victim’s meager possessions were still in the shopping cart, which had been righted and put on the sidewalk.
I am advised that it is official Metro policy to leave the belongings of deceased homeless folks where they are found if in a public place. Two officers told me Metro feels it doesn’t have the legal authority to take away stuff that isn’t evidence. Even putting aside the obvious lack of dignity and humanity, that’s ridiculous. Authorities surely can temporarily store such goods until the victim is identified, and any next-of-kin notified and given the chance to retrieve the possessions.
If a reporton KVVU-TV, the Fox affiliate, is to be believed, the killer might have been asleep in a nearby dumpster when I found the body, and not discovered by the police who quickly responded. According to the report, one Jarrid Johnson, 25, walked in the county jail three days later and confessed to the crime. He was charged with murder with a deadly weapon. The homeless person victim was identified asRalph Franzello. He reportedly caught Johnson going through his things, a fight ensued and Johnson repeated stabbed Franzello, quite possibly with the victim’s own knife.
Further update on January 1, 2019:
A notice on a Las Vegas funeral home website says Franzello was 63 years old, two decades older than the original estimates in news account of a man in his 40s. No other details were given.
Yet another update on January 3, 2019:
Nearly a week after KVVU-TV, citing a police report, identified the victim as Ralph Franzello, the Clark County Coroner’s Office confirmed the ID and ruled his death a homicide. Stated cause of death: “multiple sharp and blunt force injuries.” That certainly would account for all the blood I saw when I found the body. Meanwhile, according to the website of the Clark County Detention Center, Jarrid Johnson, the accused killer, remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail and has some kind of hearing scheduled for January 18.
t continues to amaze me how questionable stuff that happens in Las Vegas can make big news elsewhere but not cause much of a stir here.
My latest example is a long-running criminal case in New York City currently the subject of a federal-court trial. Among other things, James Grant, a former high-ranking New York Police Department officer, is accused of taking bribes that included a room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas during a Super Bowl weekend and the services of a hooker who flew in with him on a private jet to, ah, watch the game with him.
This scandal has been playing itself out in the New York media for more than two years, with headlines like “Ex-Hooker Testifies About Vegas Debauchery at NYPD Bribery Case.” That came during the ongoing criminal trial, in which a verdict hasn’t been reached. But you wouldn’t know about the case from the Las Vegas media. A search of the online Las Vegas Review-Journal archives shows no coverage at all. In 2016 the Las Vegas Sun website ran an Associated Press story about the arrest of Grant that mentioned (1) the hooker, (2) Super Bowl weekend, (3) the private jet and (4) a fancy hotel room while editing out (5) this took place in Las Vegas.
Still, the caper is good enough to make Grant and co-defendant Jeremy Reichberg, accused of bribing him, candidates for my list, It Didn’t Stay Here. This is a roster of folks in trouble elsewhere for something that happened in Las Vegas. Still New To Las Vegas, I call this my continuing rebuttal to “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the famous (or infamous) marketing pitch of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. Previous nominees, which includes some big names, can be found elsewhere on this page. Continue reading →
Nearly two years ago, not long after becoming New To Las Vegas, I wrote in this space about the Injured Police Officers Fund. It’s a now-36-year-old Las Vegas-based charity accepting tax-deductible contributions whose stated mission is to “provide financial assistance to families of officers injured or killed in the line of duty” in Southern Nevada.
Based on my review of the organization’s 2015 federal tax return and my many years writing about nonprofits, I declared then that the IPOF, which sometimes pops up in the local news after an officer is hurt or killed, seemed a cut above most law enforcement-themed charities. This was mainly because the IPOF eschewed direct mail and telephone cold-calling in its fundraising efforts and so didn’t hand over most of the money raised to outside paid telemarketers, as was often the case with cop charities.
But fundraising is only one part of any charity’s performance. So when the IPOF’s tax return for 2017 became public record last month, I decided to find filings as many years back as I could to make a long-term assessment. I was able to locate 17 tax returns in the public record from 2001 to 2017–nearly half the IPOF’s entire existence. Putting all the data on a spreadsheet, I crunched the numbers.
Alas, I regret to say that the larger picture suggests a number of troubling questions about how the money the IPOF received was spent–or not. And since I last wrote about the charity, it seems that wives of some police officers have started asking pointed questions of their own about the IPOF. They even have an open Facebook group page suggesting that something iffy is afoot. Continue reading →
Keeping a fortune growing smartly can be as hard as amassing it in the first place, at least around Las Vegas. That’s my New To Las Vegas take-away from the latest annual edition of the famous Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, which was released this week.
Last year’s roster listed nine from Vegas. This year: just seven. And most of the remaining ones did not outperform the average 7% yearly gain of their peer group.
Casino czar and local newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson remained the wealthiest person in town (and the state) at No. 15 on the Forbes list. The 85-year-old was valued at $35.5 billion, up $100 million from last year. But that’s an increase of barely 1/4 of 1%. He dropped a click in the ranking.
Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie, 67, remained the richest woman in town (and the state) with a really good year. She was up $800 million, a hefty 16%, to $5.7 billion, also moving up her 13 notches from last year to No. 109.
But Andrew and Peggy Cherng, owners of the Panda Express Chinese restaurant empire, completely disappeared from the U.S.-only list. Last year they shared a No. 226 rank with a combined net worth of $3.3 billion. It’s my understanding that Forbes now values couples actively involved in a business individually. With the cut-off this year for the list–No. 400–rising to $2.1 billion a head, that means the Cherngs between them would have needed $4.2 billion. Forbes figures they’re now down to $2.9 billion. Continue reading →
Long before New To Las Vegas, I was New To Seattle. And it was in the Emerald City way back in 2012 that I first got called on the phone from a fundraiser for a Holiday, Fla., charity called Kids Wish Network. She asked for a donation to help children with life-threatening conditions.
I asked how much of cash donations went to fundraising as opposed to the children. The fundraiser said she had no current information. That pretty much ended that conversation. After looking up documents online, I had my answer: 74%, meaning barely a quarter of what was raised remained available for everything else, including kids. I wrote up KWN in a withering post headlined “Another day, another dodgy charity calls around Seattle.” You can read it by clicking here.
The next year, KWN popped up as No. 1 on a list put together by the Tampa Bay Times of “America’s Worst Charities.” The once-off roster of 50 was based on two factors: the large amount of money raised over time that went to fundraisers, and the tiny amount of money going out in cash grants in support of the stated mission. The paper flatly called KWN the “worst charity in America.” I can’t say I was surprised by KWN’s ranking.
But here’s something surprising to me. Despite my earlier lashing, a KWN fundraiser asking for money just called me again, this time at the New To Las Vegas world headquarters. The conversation was even briefer. The caller–actually an interactive computer–quickly hung up as I again started asking questions, not even answering one.
And again looking up documents online, the organization seems to me no less sketchy, as I will explain more fully below. Meanwhile, I am nominating KWN for my own long-running list: America’s Stupidest Charities. The criteria is pretty basic: nonprofits that call me asking for money despite being the subject of a previous critical post by me. I mean, can it get any dumber than that? The list of other nominees can be found nearby. Continue reading →
Earlier this year, a Las Vegas woman whose small dog was killed by a bigger dog at Dog Fancier’s Park shamed Clark County Parks and Rec officials by going public on TV to complain about the lack of a dedicated dog run for smaller canines. Nor, as I earlier had recounted here, was that the first such recent attack at the sprawling off-leash East Las Vegas facility off E. Flamingo Road near the New To Las Vegas world headquarters.
Since then, chagrined county managers have been rushing to remake Dog Fancier’s Park by adding fencing to create new dog runs for smaller dogs and installing a whole lot of new warning signs. That’s all good. But maybe a little too much rushing, judging from the embarrassing capitalization, spelling and word spacing errors displayed on one newly posted large new sign (red annotations are by yours truly):
“Learn the 4P Warning Signs” to prevent dog fights, the metal sign proclaims near the top. To Parks and Rec, I suggest a fifth P.
There’s nothing like an alleged affair in Las Vegas with a Trump angle to spice up the pre-Labor Day dog days of summer.
Page Six, the venerable gossip arm of The New York Post, is reporting todaythat a Las Vegas waitress starting posting online photos allegedly proving she had a brief affair earlier this year in Las Vegas with an heir to a New York laundry fortune hours before his marriage last weekend at a ritzy Long Island venue to a manager at The Trump Organization. To make the account even more delicious, the waitress, who goes by the name Mayra Angel, posted the photos on Instagram using a hashtag set up by the couple, ensuring that the bride, bridegroom and all the guests would see them.
The heir, Cory Perlson, denied any fling whatsoever, according to The Post. His lawyer is trying to get some kind of restraining order against Angel while also seeking to convince prosecutors to bring criminal charges. What they might be is unclear, if Angel truthfully told The Post she requested no money and hasn’t been in contact with Perlson or his now-wife, Brianna Ehland. Her LinkedIn profile says she has been senior manager of social marketing for The Trump Organization since early 2016 and is a 2014 graduate of the University of Arizona.
But this is more than enough to make Perlson a candidate for my New To Las Vegas list, It Didn’t Stay Here. It’s a roster of folks in hot water somewhere else for something that happened in Vegas. It’s a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal of “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” the infamous marketing slogan of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau. Continue reading →