By Ryan Yousefi
By Chuck Strouse
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By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Munzenrieder
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A typical example, from May 1996: "In last week's column, the Sun-Sentinel's local music writer wrote about Dade blues duo Piano Bob & the Snowman, but she called them Piano Bob and the Snowmen, which would make them more than a duo. Schulman has now misspelled or misnamed at least one musical act (and usually more) in four of her last six columns."
As regular Koretzky readers and acquaintances know, that's his style. "He likes to pull people's chains just to see how they react," says former girlfriend and former XS associate editor Janine Sieja Hagerman. And he does it all the time -- both in his column and out of it.
For example, local poet and spoken-word artist Adam Matza has been subjected to several blasts of abuse. First, Koretzky wrote a piece implying that a poem Matza had published in a compilation had been accepted only because of a friendship between Matza's mother and the book's publisher. Then last summer Koretzky stood up at an open-mike spoken-word event and read a poem called "I Am Adam Matza," in which he accused Matza of walking out on a personal debt. "He really ripped me," says Matza, who has never lost an opportunity to rip Koretzky back. "He's a weasel." Koretzky says Matza is "disgruntled" because Koretzky stopped buying his freelance articles.
So when Koretzky goaded Schulman with the "Alert," he was only being Koretzky. In fact, you might say he was engaging in just the style of commentary that's squarely in the tradition of the independent alternative newsweekly -- except for the fact that he wasn't working for an independent.
His paychecks were coming from Gold Coast Publications, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sun-Sentinel, itself a link in the massive Tribune Co. chain of papers and television stations. After Schulman complained about the "Alert" to Sun-Sentinel arts and entertainment editor John Dolen, he in turn complained to Wissink, and in June 1996 Koretzky's own chain was yanked and his nose swatted with a folded-up Sun-Sentinel, Schulman says. In his column Koretzky wrote, "My boss has asked me not to pick on Sun-Sentinel local music writer Sandra Schulman any more. He thinks it's becoming redundant to repeatedly point out her mistakes." Koretzky and Wissink now deny that pressure from above had anything to do with the demise of the "Schulman Alert." Koretzky says, laughing: "It was becoming too easy."
Koretzky wouldn't be muzzled. In a freelance piece he wrote this past summer for Better Days, a zine put out as a side project by XS designer W. Kelly Lucas, Koretzky quoted a local musician as saying, jokingly, that "Sandra Schulman should be shot." When Schulman read that, she decided it was time to be direct.
On August 27 she delivered a letter to Wissink:
"I was hoping the harassment against me by Michael Koretzky, that you allowed, had run its course.... I worked pretty darn hard for your publication for three years and this is the thanks I get -- a bunch of cheap shots in print, including the recent article where Koretzky quotes a band as saying I should be shot.... Sorry Steve, but it's not funny, or fair, any more."
She also included a little jab at Wissink himself, reminding him that when she had written for XS, "harassment also came in other forms from you...." The allusion was to a 1991 incident in which Wissink admits to coming on to her.
After reading the letter, Wissink called Schulman, who informed him of her plans to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against him because of the 1991 incident. "He was begging," she says. "Groveling, absolutely groveling. He wanted to know what it would take to satisfy me. I said, 'There's nothing you can do to satisfy me. I want you and Koretzky fired.'"
Wissink admits calling Schulman, but he says there was no pleading involved: "I tried to give her a call, but she didn't want to talk about anything." Of the threat of the lawsuit, he says, "It was just another routine thing. The nature of the beast is that you get complaints." In the next week's paper, Koretzky's name and title (arts and entertainment editor) were missing from their usual place in the masthead. Wissink won't say on the record whether he out-and-out fired him, but he does say that "Koretzky went around telling people in the newsroom he got fired." And Adam Matza says Koretzky's answering machine had a message that week telling callers: "I've been fired." In any case, the former "arts and entertainment editor" was suddenly just a "contributing writer."
Wissink denies dumping Koretzky in an attempt to appease Schulman. "Koretzky's departure had nothing to do with Sandra Schulman," he says. But she doesn't buy it. "I talked to Stephen on the phone one day, and the next day he fired Koretzky. You figure it out," she says.
Whatever the truth, Koretzky didn't fall too far. When the September 4 XS issue came out, his column was still there in its usual place. The only thing different was his lack of a management position.
In the Sun-Sentinel newsroom, meanwhile, the rumor mill was cranking up. One story making the rounds, according to a staffer, was that Wissink had paid off Koretzky with a new contract in return for his keeping his mouth shut about things that had happened back in Wissink's drinking days. Bob Pignone, owner of the Poor House nightclub, says a friend who works for the daily paper "told me the word going around the Sun-Sentinel was that Koretzky had incriminating photographs of Wissink with some girl."