[caption id="attachment_42980" align="alignnone" width="600"] Like Jennifer Lawrence and Anthony Weiner, my most intimate and personal photos have been splashed all over the Internet. This one went viral--43 hits and counting.[/caption]
If you think the hacking scandal at Sony was bad, you should see the one here at Sarasota Magazine. Yes, someone got into our computers and got access to years of information, files, photos, emails, etc. It’s like we’re naked for the world to see—in my case, literally (see picture). And the worst part is we have no idea who did it. Sure, they call themselves the GOP, but Joe Gruters insists his organization had nothing to do with it.
Whoever they are, they have made unprecedented demands, most notably the threat that if my next column is released, there will be hell to pay. Well, they can forget about that. As an artist I demand freedom of expression. Yes, it’s true that the portion they complain about, where I describe Cliff Roles’ head being blown off by a malfunctioning flash bulb, is unprecedented in the world of society columns, but still—I must report the truth as I see it.
Some of these damaging revelations have already come out. And even more will surface in the near future, driven by our town’s insatiable appetite for scandal and titillation.
So, in an effort to dampen things down and get a proactive approach to the impending avalanche of unsavory tidbits, the owner of the magazine has asked me to address the issue. He figures if we can explain it all to our readers first, then it won’t seem so bad.
Let’s start with the magazine’s finances. It certainly was embarrassing to see everyone’s salary emblazoned all over the Internet. I for one was shocked to learn that our publisher receives $990,000 per year, and even more shocked to find out about the “perks” that come with the job: the $50,000 per year clothing allowance, the Land Rover, the key to Vern Buchanan’s skybox at Tropicana Field, and Pam Bondi’s cell phone number in case of a DUI arrest. And our editorial director, Pam Daniel, is doing almost as well. She takes home $750,000—not bad for a girl without a high school diploma—and gets a $100,000 line of credit (already overextended) at the Sarasota Plastic Surgery Center. Furthermore, junior staff members are required to babysit her grandchildren one night a week. Now, it’s true Pam has been here a long time—I’m guessing 50 years—but does she really need a clause in her contract saying that her bust must be displayed in the lobby during business hours?
And what about the rest of us, the “little people” who really make the magazine run? How are we faring? As you probably noticed in the documents released, I received $11,675 during 2014, and from this sum my uniform was deducted, along with a “paycheck fee” of $50 per month, employee parking at $100 per month, and an assessment of $250 per year if you opt to use the elevator instead of the stairs. Fortunately, I was able to pick up a little extra by cleaning the bathrooms after work, although this was strictly “off the books”—as are most of the expenses here at the magazine.
People seemed surprised to learn that we keep two sets of books and are incorporated in the Cayman Islands, but, hey—this is Florida.
All this information, as damning as it is, pales in comparison to the thousands of emails that were released. These were confidential documents, often written in the haste of the moment, and the ones sent by me do not truly reflect who I am. Still, I must strenuously object to the way they were reported in the press. For instance, I did not call Molly Schechter “a minimally talented, spoiled brat.” What I called her was “a minimally spoiled, talented brat.” That’s the media for you. They can’t even get their insults straight.
Now, about those emails that show that I ordered, online and with company funds, a SlimFit male corset, a chin strap to wear at night to tighten the skin, and a 100 percent human hair toupee. Yes, I did purchase them. But they weren’t for me. I ordered them for my dear friend, Jay Handelman. He was too embarrassed to order them himself, so I did what any true friend would do.
And those documents that seem to indicate that I have Platinum Membership in an organization called Tampa Bay Swingers Unlimited—yes, I often help out nonprofits as part of my efforts to give back to the community. This particular group is particularly effective at reaching out to the lonely and providing them with discussion groups and potluck suppers at members’ homes, particularly those with completely fenced swimming pools. The same goes for my involvement with Shirley’s Sexy Singles and the Anything Goes Social Club up in Lutz.
There were also a number of very strange emails about me, like this one from a local couple:
Just so you’ll know: When Mr. Chatterbox showed up this morning to write that story about our house, he smelled strongly of drink. And when he left—finally—there was Vicodin missing from the medicine chest.
Or this one from Victor de Renzi at the Sarasota Opera:
Chatterbox has been pestering me again. He says he’ll do a “real gushy” article on me for $5,000. This is outrageous. SRQ only charges $3,000.
While some of these revelations do cause a prick of embarrassment, I can live with that. I am currently on the waiting list to receive counseling from the Rev. Al Sharpton and am determined to learn from this experience. What may take me longer to recover from, unfortunately, are the things people have been saying about me, people who I thought were my friends.
Like this email exchange between our editor and our publisher:
Publisher: What is Mr. Chatterbox still doing in the magazine? I’ve seen younger faces on cash.
Editor: He just will not quit. He’s harder to get rid of than herpes.
Publisher: Yeah, well, the Pines called. The last person who thinks he’s funny just died.
Or this one:
Editor: Maybe we offer readers a premium with a new subscription. How about a Chatterbox watch?
Publisher: What’s a Chatterbox watch?
Editor: The hands have liver spots and it’s running out of time.
Well, the hackers have won. Or have they? Even if we can’t print it, I’m going to put the column online! Yes, it will soon be available on my new website, called, for reasons too complicated to explain, robertplunket.com. There you’ll find me exploiting my First Amendment rights. Don’t let the hackers win! And as for Cliff and his head exploding, I am changing that part around. Now it just swells to unbelievable proportions.