Our Town

People and places that define Orlando

Going Viral

After a judge withdraws from the Casey Anthony trial, blogger ‘Marinade Dave’ enjoys—or not—sudden celebrity. By Mike Boslet

As attorney Jose Baez wraps up an interview session with a battery of local reporters outside the Orange County Courthouse, a question comes from behind him:
“Why did you single me out?”

Baez turns his head toward the voice but doesn’t respond. After a few moments, the question is repeated. This time Baez isn’t faced with cameramen and microphones, so he glances over his shoulder and smiles. “I don’t think anybody singled you out,” he replies.

The exchange is of no interest to the mainstream media splintering away from the lawyer. But to the bald man who asked the question and is holding a video recorder eight feet away, it is fresh material for his blog, marinadedave.wordpress.com.

Two weeks earlier, on April 16, the site’s host, Dave Knechel, fell out of the Internet’s orbit and landed in a heavily populated environment, the court proceedings of Casey Anthony. That’s when Baez and defense co-counsel Cheney Mason did, indeed, single him out in a motion requesting that Circuit Judge Stan Strickland withdraw from their defendant’s capital murder trial.

Knechel (pronounced NECK-el) began blogging about the Anthony saga in November 2008, a month before the remains of Casey’s missing 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, were found. Somewhere along the way, Strickland began following “Marinade Dave,” and last October the judge told Knechel, in open court, “You have a really fair blog.”

And Knechel did—that is, until Baez and Mason claimed that the blog Strickland had called fair was biased against Anthony. The judge begrudgingly recused himself.

Knechel, 57, an unemployed graphic artist who doesn’t make a dime on his site, has since gone viral on Mason and Baez, portraying them as the Keystone Kops of defense attorneys.

Still, he has a clever writing style (though referring to Mason as “Bricklayer” and Baez as “Pimpdaddy” does seem petty), complemented by research, a sharp memory of other area murder trials and self-taught reporting skills that have yielded some interesting details and keen observations.

The Strickland flare-up turned Knechel into a small-town Dominick Dunne of sorts. On the day that Strickland’s replacement, Judge Belvin Perry, held his initial hearing in the Anthony case, Knechel did two live interviews on truTV’s court-news program, In Session. The following morning, NBC’s Today show ran an update on the Anthony trial, with Knechel prominently mentioned, and the Orlando Sentinel gave the blogger a front-page splash in its Sunday (May 2) edition. Few bloggers attract so much
media attention.

Traffic to his site has taken off, too, increasing from a daily average of 3,000 hits to nearly 20,000 the day after the motion was filed and leveling off at about 8,000 hits per day.

Knechel’s cynical take on his newly raised profile suggests he’s cut out for this kind of work:

“A lot of people hate me now because they think I’m a celebrity whore.”



Hazardous Duty

Winter Park’s Dr. Linnda Durré offers advice about dealing with the toxic types who may inhabit—and poison—your office. By Jay Boyar

It’s 9:17, Monday morning, and you haven’t even had your first cup of coffee. But already, all around you, the workweek’s revving up.

In the cubicle to your left, Sander the snake is furiously plotting your demise. And at the work station to your right, Tina the talker is getting ready to monopolize your morning with tedious tales of her wayward weekend.

Meanwhile, in a room down the hall, your boss, a micromanager and a screamer, is going ballistic on a fellow employee who was unlucky enough to catch his eye in the hallway.
Sure it’s a nightmare, but take heart. Dr. Linnda Durré feels your pain.

A psychotherapist for three decades, Durré, 61, has been based in Winter Park since 2000. She has recently written Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against the Co-workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day ($18.95, McGraw Hill). If you sometimes feel like you’re trapped in a Dilbert cartoon or an episode of The Office, this book might be for you.

Surviving the Toxic Workplace grew out of presentations that Durré, as a business consultant, has made in corporate training seminars and workshops—presentations informed by therapy sessions with private clients and by her own personal experiences.

“I have done everything that I’ve talked about in this book, as an employee,” says the therapist, a petite woman with alert, understanding eyes who has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today and 60 Minutes, among other programs. Workplace issues, she points out, have assumed a particular urgency in the current recession.

“Especially in this economy,” she says, “most people need the job.”

Durré identifies the many varieties of toxic co-workers and bosses (“the smiling cobra,” “the talker,” “the control freak,” “the drama queen,” etc.), and offers commonsense strategies for dealing with each.

“It’s a big bowl of spaghetti, in terms of what people put up with and have to experience in the workplace,” she says. And some of her advice can apply to a wide range of people:

• Confront the toxic person at lunch. “Food is a great [tension] absorber,” she says. “And if you’re doing it in a restaurant,” you’re “not being yelled at.”

• Try the “sandwich” technique. “You start off positively, you give them the difficult feedback and you end positively,” she advises.

• Make it reciprocal. When you’re telling the toxic person what bugs you about him or her, be sure to add that “if there’s anything I’m doing that drives you crazy, please tell me.”

Durré also suggests using the word “and” rather than “but” (as in, “I enjoy working with you and there is something we should discuss”) and being clear, assertive and extremely frank. If you feel you are in a strong enough position to do so, she adds, you might even deliver an ultimatum.

Something to consider on those grim Monday mornings when things are revving up.



Guitar Hero

Bob Desmond’s hand-made guitars are applauded as instruments of beauty. By Joseph Hayes

“The guitar is a very feminine instrument,” Bob Desmond says.

“Run your fingers along this wood.” He gestures toward an unfinished guitar held upside-down in a vise. Even without a final coating of hand-mixed shellac, the dusky rosewood of the body feels like silk, its curves sensual. A very feminine instrument.

Desmond has been making classical and flamenco guitars since 1991, applying skills learned in his youth as a carpenter and music student. Now 55, he crafts six to nine guitars a year in the workshop of his Dr. Phillips home. Each sells for between $7,000 and $13,000 and is prized for its beauty and sound.

Desmond spends up to 300 hours on each guitar. “It’s a series of hundreds of steps,” he says. “It’s not just about what it looks like. Sound, feel, playability, then the look. A guitar can look like a Ferrari, but sound like a clunker.”

Michael Petrovich has owned a Desmond Guitar since 2001, a Flamenco Cutaway Model designed specifically for him.

“I always had store-bought guitars,” Petrovich says. “Handmade is no comparison, even against a really high-end one.” Petrovich has a degree in classical guitar performance from UCF and plays regularly in the Orlando area. “This is a hot rod guitar,” he says.

Desmond brings an artist’s eye to his work. As a senior marketing photographer, he was brought to Orlando by Disney from Boston in 1987, laid off in 1994, then rehired as a freelancer. These days he spends 80 percent of his time working on guitars.

There are 3,600 members of the Guild of American Luthiers (stringed instrument makers). Or as guitar dealer Beverly Maher puts it, “There’s millions of them, and they all want me to sell their stuff.”

Maher owns the Guitar Salon, selling exceptional instruments from her apartment in New York. “Bob’s work is incredibly beautiful,” she says. “They should be in a museum. Lots of people make guitars; not so many are concerned about the beauty of the guitar.”

A world of wood goes into guitars: Brazilian and Indian rosewood, Spanish cypress, Western cedar, American red spruce, German spruce from Switzerland, Engelmann spruce from Canada. Each has its own sound and feel.

Like a tailor making a bespoke suit, Desmond matches the instrument to the customer. “I’m making this for a guy who has really small hands,” he says, holding up an instrument, “so the guitar’s neck is thinner.”

He slides his fingers down the graceful neck. “I want him to pick this up and fall in love with it.”



Is Rollins Party U?

Playboy magazine says it is—again —much to the school’s displeasure.

Some schools are known for the quality of their faculties. Others for their illustrious alumni, innovative curricula or state-of-the-art facilities.

Rollins College doubtless can claim all that. But lately the private school has been distinguishing itself in a totally different sphere.

In the May issue of Playboy, Rollins was listed as one of America’s top party schools for 2010. It came in at No. 7, just a few notches below the fourth-ranked University of Miami. (For the record, the top spot went to the University of Texas at Austin.)

“It’s not the size of a school, it’s the commotion its students cause when they collectively rage,” noted Playboy’s article, by way of explaining why Rollins made the cut. “Rollins, in Winter Park, Florida, is the hardest-partying small school (1,785 undergrads) in the country. Yes, it feels like a high school but one that convenes in the clubs every weekend.”

Go Tars! Right? But what, exactly, is a “party school?”

“Our editors try to answer the question: Where would someone who wants to live the Playboy lifestyle want to go to school?” says Playboy publicist Steve Mazeika.

Point taken.

If you think that Rollins’ making the list this year is a fluke, think again. According to Mazeika, Playboy has published a party school list just five times since 1987, and Rollins has been on three of them. The school, however, isn’t flattered by all the attention.

“We don’t take this ranking seriously—the criteria are absurd,” says Ann Marie Varga, Rollins’ assistant vice president of public relations. “We first appeared on the survey in 2002 as a result of a fraternity prank and now we remain on the publication’s radar.”

Meanwhile, Rollins’ website may offer additional insight into the school’s party culture—that is, if you read between the lines:

As a student at Rollins, you will find an exciting and vibrant campus environment. Every day is a new adventure, and much of that adventure is experienced through the many on-campus recreational outlets and resources provided to students.

Again, point taken.

—Jay Boyar

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