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This week in City Paper History

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COVER ILLUSTRATION BY JIM RUGG
  • Cover illustration by Jim Rugg
The Justice Department under President George W. Bush seemed to have a fascination with its U.S. Attorneys prosecuting high-profile morality and political cases. And during those years, Mary Beth Buchanan was the teacher’s pet. She prosecuted Cyril Wecht for charges that basically amounted to misusing paper clips owned by Allegheny County. She built a case of trading prescription medications for sex against former physician Bernard Rottschaefer based on the testimony of stool pigeons who testified against the doctor for reduced sentences on drug charges; most also recanted their testimony. She also was no stranger to reaching outside of Pennsylvania for high-profile cases. She sent comedian Tommy Chong to prison for selling bongs online, and brought the country’s first obscenity case against a pornographer in 10 years. On March 25, 2009, City Paper looked back on the prosecutor’s legacy in the waning days before the Obama administration chucked her out of office. Buchanan always said she believed in her prosecutions. But as one source told CP: “Just because she’s sincere about what she’s doing doesn’t make it noble.”

Sports alternative (March 4, 1992)

Covering sports has always been a challenge for alt-weeklies. By the time we run a game story, it’s already a week old. To combat that, CP covers a team that no one has likely ever heard of — the Pittsburgh Bulls. The Bulls were a professional indoor lacrosse team and played their games at the then-Civic Arena between 1990 and 1993. The sport never caught on, however, and we’re not sure whether it’s because the team went 10-24 in that period or because nobody gave a shit about lacrosse.

Thank God they didn’t leave before they won (March 22, 1995) 

In 1995, the Pittsburgh Pirates were only five years into the worst losing streak — 20 years — in the history of pro sports. But the news of the day wasn’t whether the Bucs would ever win again; it was all about whether they’d even stay in town. The ownership group at the time wanted to sell the team to new owners who planned to move the team to Washington, D.C. That sale never went through, and Kevin McClatchy eventually bought the team and kept it in town once the city pledged to pay up for a new stadium.

The day the music died, at least for a little while (March 22, 2000)

The closing of famed rock club Graffiti led arts editor Mary Binder to examine whether the city’s music scene was in a death spiral. In addition to Graffiti, the Electric Banana, the Decade and Cloud Nine had recently closed, all following the loss of the Syria Mosque several years earlier. Binder writes: “Graffiti, the Decade and the Banana ... were always about the music. Perhaps that’s what has diminished — the attitude that the music is the focus.” On the other hand, Binder also noted an indie venue hoping to make it — the Mr. Roboto Project.

Here comes the neighborhood (March 23, 2005)

Music editor Dan Eldridge details how young Pittsburghers connected to the punk community are buying and rehabbing houses in neighborhoods like Garfield, Braddock Hills, Polish Hill and Highland Park. “I feel like it’s social equity and cultural equity,” said new homeowner Mary Tremonte. “We’re investing in the world we want to live in.” 

Remember when the police got along with the community? We don’t either (March 21, 2007)

Charlie Deitch examines the strained relationship between police officers and residents in African-American communities. Police officers are wearing tactical uniforms and driving their armored vehicle, called The Bear, into neighborhoods like Lincoln-Lemington and Homewood. Then-police chief Nate Harper, who later spent some time in federal prison for theft in office, tells CP: “We don’t want this to become a police state, but these tactics serve to put fear in the criminal element.” However, residents say these tactics are part of the problem: “If police want a good relationship with black residents,” said activist Paradise Gray, “they have to stop treating Homewood like Baghdad.”

Internet kills the video star (March 20, 2008)

After 12 years in business, Dormont’s Incredibly Strange Video closes up shop due to online competition from the likes of Netflix. Owner Bruce Lentz was the go-to guy for strange and rare horror and sci-fi films. But in the end, he says, location might have done him in: “You’ve gotta get off your lazy fat Pittsburgh ass and get in a car and come through a tunnel to get here.”


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