Dawson's Creek scopes out UR 

Street Talk

But What Were Dawson's SAT Scores?
City Slows Traffic in Church Hill and the Fan
WXGI Loses Round One
Baldwin and Barbershoppers in Perfect Harmony
Out of the Closet Out of BusinessBut What Were Dawson's SAT

Hang on, teeny-boppers. James Van Derbeek may be the next big man on campus at University of Richmond.

But don't start scouting out the student commons just yet.

He may be the bomb of the WB network on "Dawson's Creek," but can he hit the books and still be cool? That's what the show's writers and execs are wondering as they approach the inevitable. At some point, the world-wise Dawson will have to leave Dawson's Creek.

Naturally, Van Derbeek's character will have no trouble getting into an Ivy League school. The problem for producers is, what college campus best doubles for an Ivy League school? Duh. Hello? How about UR? The college ranks No. 1 in the category of beautiful campuses according to the just released Best 331 Colleges 2000 Edition, an annual buyer's guide to colleges published by the Princeton Review.

"It's made the gossip mill," says Kim Bolger, public relations director at UR. Bolger says, too, that even though the word is out among students, it's still not a done deal. "There is the possibility they may be coming here to shoot," she acknowledges.

But if things go as planned, the gothic-style brick campus and its bucolic setting will stand in as an Ivy League school — which to many, is not much of a stretch for the school that's known for its increased exclusivity. But don't worry, Dawson should fit in.

Bolger says that if any episode is filmed at UR, it likely would include the show's main characters and would focus on their transition to college life. If you're a "Dawson's Creek" fan, look for the UR campus to pop up in a show airing sometime before the holidays. "It should be fun," says Bolger.

— Brandon Walters

City Slows Traffic in Church Hill and the Fan

Slow down, you move too fast — especially those of you driving through the Fan and Church Hill. New enforcement measures in both neighborhoods are aimed at slowing down the lead-foots.

Turk Sties, committee chairman on safety issues for the Fan District Association, says motorists think Fan streets are an alternative to the RMA and whiz down arteries like Floyd, Grove and Main at speeds topping 45 mph. The speed limit is 25 mph. And during a recent random four-day period, police set up radar to prove the point. Sties says police wrote 24 speeding citations.

"We'll continue to press for speed-limit enforcement," says Sties who thinks also that residents need to set a good example. "This is our neighborhood," says Sties. "It's a lot more dangerous than it needs to be."

Meanwhile, City Council has literally put a stop to speeding in Church Hill by voting to erect four new four-way stop signs on Broad Street at 23rd, 28th, 32nd and 35th.

The signs were proposed by 7th District Councilwoman the Rev. Delores McQuinn at the behest, it seems, of no one in particular.

The city's department of traffic engineering conducted an evaluation a month ago and provided a report which did not recommend the new signs, according to a department spokesman. The Church Hill Civic Association didn't request them either. McQuinn could not be reached for comment, but for now, area residents seem to be giving the move the green light.

— Brandon Walters

WXGI Loses Round One

The nation's first full-time country music radio station has lost the opening round in a federal labor case arising from its 1997 firing of four employees, allegedly for their pro-union activities.

WXGI ("Country Gold" AM 950) is appealing the recent decision of an administrative law judge in favor of ex-announcers Steve Giles, Mark Matthews and Wiley Southworth, and sales manager Bobby Overman. But the case threatens to drag on at least for another two years, both sides agree, as it winds its way through the backlogged National Labor Relations Board process en route to a probable circuit court finale.

It also promises to remain marked by mutual contempt and occasional hostility. In his Aug. 25 ruling, even Judge Thomas R. Wilks got into the fray, calling WXGI owner David Gee Sr. deceitful and "disingenuous."

"It was typical of his testimony to exaggerate and distort the facts to support the main point of his testimony," Wilks wrote. "Gee's demeanor was not spontaneous, nor was it convincing and forthright. At times, it reeked of cumulative contrivances."

The decision prompted a biting appeal Sept. 22 from the station's attorney, Thomas Roberts, who last week called Wilks' order "improper" and "horrible jurisprudence."

"I think he's never seen anyone as honest and straightforward as Mr. Gee, and that caused him some confusion," Roberts adds.

Wilks ordered that WXGI offer Overman "full reinstatement to his former position of senior account executive; offer to Steve Giles and Wiley Southworth the employment status of on-call, casual announcers; and offer to Mark M. Matthews the position of regular weekday midnight-shift and regular weekend announcer, positions that they would have been offered on or about Oct. 1, 1997, had it not been for their actual or suspected union activities ..." Wilks also ordered WXGI to pay the men the amount of any decline in their incomes since the dismissals.

Giles, now at Lite 98, says he and the others have little interest in returning to the station, which was founded in 1947 by three local ex-GIs (hence "WXGI."). While overshadowed now by the dominance of pop-country FM, the station once was a major force in radio and helped launch country stars like Buck Owens and Loretta Lynn, who brought her first record to the station.

— Rob Morano

Baldwin and Barbershoppers in Perfect Harmony

You know him as the guy in the skies, reporting traffic for Channel 12 and WRVA. But did you also know Whit Baldwin is a barbershop singer?

Baldwin is a member of The Virginians, a 115-member men's a capella barbershop choral group which just scored its first big competitive win in its 47-year history.

The group, which practices every Tuesday night at Derbyshire Baptist Church, won the annual district contest Oct. 9 in Ocean City, Md.

"Barbershopping works on a competitive level like baseball," says Baldwin, who sings lead with the group. "Winning the division is like getting to the playoffs. Winning the district is like being sent to the World Series."

The Virginians will represent the mid-Atlantic region, which includes six states, in the annual International Contest that takes place in July 2000. And, according to the league rules, if they win the whole shebang, they have to bow out of competition for two years.

Baldwin says the group won-over the 5,000-member Ocean City audience and its panel of judges with a hobo-costumed, four-part harmony rendition of "That's Life," and "When I Leave the World Behind."

Baldwin says most members of the group croon at least six hours a week — not including shower time. And, the best-loved bachelor claims that when folks learn he's into barbershopping, they tune in. "I don't spend as much time doing it as I do working or playing golf," he admits.

With their latest victory, The Virginians have their eyes on the bigger prize — becoming the world champions of barbershop singing. So you better catch them while you can. The group's Christmas concert is Dec. 12 at Landmark Theater.

— B.W.

Out of the Closet Out of Business

The reportedly groovy local economy has been a dual-edged sword for at least one nonprofit group. But that means bargains-a-go-go for thrifty Fan shoppers.

While contributions to the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth are at an all-time high, sales at its openly gender-bending Out of the Closet Thrift Shop at 2001 ø Main Street are at their lowest point in its nearly three-year history. ROSMY, therefore, will shutter the nonprofit's unprofitable fundraising enterprise Oct. 30.

'Til then the shop is holding a going-out-of-business sale par excellence, with threads and duds marked way, way down. ROSMY chairman Howard Wells says the store was envisioned at its February 1997 opening to become "the main development arm" for the group, which helps 14-to-21-year-olds understand their sexuality.

But as operating costs and shopper's paychecks have risen, business at Out-of-the-Closet has fallen. ROSMY Executive Director Chris Clarke says the shop in 1997 provided about a fifth of the organization's $100,000 annual budget, but after needing to hire paid workers last year, profits fell to about $6,000. Bomb threats the store received over the years weren't a factor, she insists.

"I think it was wise of us to try it," Clarke adds, pointing to the funds and awareness the store was able to raise. And with personal donations and grants up 75 percent from last year, now's a good time to focus on ROSMY's core goal of helping teens come to terms with their sexuality rather than seeking to turn a profit, she and Wells say.

ROSMY offers a telephone counseling service, support groups, educational programs and even college scholarships for "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning" youth. "We're a social-service agency," Clarke says. "We're not business, retail people." Next year ROSMY plans to launch a public education and outreach campaign, hoping to eventually open a youth center.

— R.M.


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