That's entertainment
Forget the cheesy haunted houses, skip the costume parties. If you're looking for some real Halloween fun, wash your face, comb your hair, and head to church this weekend in Irving and Fort Worth. Bob Larson, described in his press release as a "lecturer, author, and radio and television host known for his bold confrontations with Satanists and witches," is going to "call out and exorcise demons from among his Dallas-area audience."

That sounded like a straight line so freighted with potential that Buzz's brain locked up as we tried to pick a target. Let's see. Who's ripe for exorcism locally? The Mavericks? No, they just stink. The Dallas father of the year prone to sudden fits of yelling and profanity? Our mayor shows definite signs of possession there. The hate-mongering, anti-gay House majority leader? He probably is Satan, or at least kin.

We were a little suspicious that Larson's release was a joke, until we called his press agent--Does everyone have one?--who affirmed that he is indeed serious and is the author of Satanism: The Seduction of America's Youth. He also has appeared on Larry King Live, which given King's history of shilling for Ross Perot Sr.'s presidential bids, seems like a natural forum for Larson, whose books include UFOs and the Alien Agenda.

Larson battles the metroplex's demonic forces at the Calvary Temple in Irving on Friday and the Calvary Cathedral in Fort Worth on Saturday. Both shows start at 6:45 p.m. Buzz, unfortunately, won't be able to make either. We're not chicken. Our coven has scheduled a retreat that weekend.

That's not entertainment
When it comes to glomming onto free, nausea-filled, head-spinning fun, we're batting 0-2 this month since The Dallas Morning News canceled its company picnic at Six Flags. That's right, Buzz would have gotten a ticket to the DMN's picnic because, thanks to the incestuous nature of the news business, more than one Dallas Observer staffer has a spouse working at the News.

Now, you may be asking, Isn't it hypocritical to take frequent potshots at the News and still expect to go to its picnic? We've consulted an ethicist on this, and the answer is: We don't care. For a chance to ride Mr. Freeze--the roller-coaster equivalent of sex--for free all day without lines, Buzz would kiss DMN publisher Burl Osborne full on the lips. (Note to Burl: Call us; maybe we can work something out.)

Rumors that the News is tightening its belt have been floating about for weeks and were confirmed when someone faxed us a copy of a letter from president and General Manager Bob Mong announcing the picnic was canceled.

"I know most of you understand...that when the company's financial performance is outstanding we all benefit. And when that performance is lagging somewhat, as it is this year, we must each watch costs closely and conserve," Mong wrote.

Beyond canceling the picnic, the DMN is considering shrinking the size of its pages to cut newsprint costs, according to other staffers. Other newspapers have done the same. Offering readers less news for the same price is a time-honored tradition among newspapers. Of course, so is declining circulation.

To find out when we might expect another free ride from Belo, and since no one there takes our calls, Buzz checked out A.H. Belo Corp. stock reports on the Web. Belo's earnings per share are expected to be up more than 13 percent this year over last, though its stock price has gotten the snot beaten out of it since reaching its 52-week high of 28 1/2. According to Standard & Poor's, Belo "was recently trading toward the low end of its 52-week range, and at a cash flow multiple of less than 10X our estimate for 1998. Thus, we raised our near-term opinion on [Belo] to accumulate from hold."

We don't have a clue what any of that means--except for the snot part, which is not a verbatim quote from S&P. (If Buzz knew how to trade stock, we wouldn't be scamming for free Six Flags tickets.) Nevertheless, here's our advice on Belo's stock. Buy. Buy as much as you can get your hands on, at whatever price. While you're at it, send the News any spare change you have lying around the house. Buzz really likes that roller coaster.

OK, now shut up
An old editor Buzz once knew described mixed emotions this way: "It's like watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new Cadillac."

That's sort of how we feel about the sudden, early departure of Don Venable from the DISD board. Sure, he was a pain in the butt, but he was always good for a quote on slow weeks. Still, there are limits even to Buzz's cynicism, and the sight of the self-appointed watchdog of DISD scuttling for the door like a cockroach for the baseboards after less than a year in office offends even us. Sure, we know Venable is a dilettante, but we expected him to have some sense of shame.

Of course, Venable says his board duties were wearing on his health. We sympathize with him, and suggest that maybe he can additionally reduce his stress level by ending any pending litigation against the board.

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

Barring a sudden exorcism of our foul influence from this space, you can e-mail Buzz at [email protected].

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams