THINGS SEEM TO be going well for 19-year-old Tyrel "The Beret" Ventura. Last month the First Son got to tag along on a tour of Hollywood movie studios as his father sought to drum up interest in Minnesota as a feature location; cameras captured him sporting his trademark black beanie and proclaiming his desire to become a filmmaker. Now he seems to have gotten his first big break--directing a public-service announcement urging kids to seek higher education. Ventura tells Off Beat that he has been making films since he was two and has held private showings for his former classmates at Champlin Park High School. Asked about his commercial credits, he readily admits, "I don't have any." The spot is to be produced by Northwoods Advertising, the firm that created award-winning campaign ads for Tyrel's father. Northwoods founder Bill Hillsman bristles at questions about the project. "I'll hire the best person for the job," snaps the ad man, confirming young Ventura's involvement but refusing to name the client. (Gubernatorial spokesman John Wodele says the PSA is sponsored by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities; MnSCU spokeswoman Linda Kohl did not return Off Beat's call.) Will the governor himself appear? Wodele says yes, Tyrel Ventura says no, and Hillsman says it hasn't been cast yet. Regarding another rumor making the rounds in the local film community--that he has been retained by Quentin Tarantino's company, A Band Apart Films, to direct music videos--Tyrel says coyly: "We're just talking."
The Benign Arm of the Law
THE BURGEONING POPULARITY of zero-tolerance policing methods has given rise to complaints that a new crime has been added to the roster of misdemeanor offenses: DWB, or Driving While Black. But there are signs that the law-enforcement community is addressing the issue. Police in San Diego, for instance, recently began keeping records of each and every traffic stop regardless of its outcome, in an attempt to determine whether a bias exists. Around these parts, of course, we like to proceed a tad more deliberately. According to Pierre Willette, spokesman for Minneapolis mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, when his boss was stopped for a broken taillight in another municipality (she doesn't remember where), she received a courtesy warning rather than a citation--and was inspired to unleash that revolutionary idea upon the local populace. "While 'DWB' is kind of catchy, the bottom line is that there are some people in communities of color that think the police are harassing them for small things," Sayles Belton told an audience at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis last month. "We have no way of knowing if the basis is real or perceived, but we have to deal with it as if it's real. So maybe it's the little light over the license plate that's out, and maybe it happens in an area where we're targeting misdemeanor activities. We're not going to give you a ticket for that, we're going to give you a Fix-It Courtesy Ticket." The non-citation is slated to make its debut by next year.
Revisiting the Ins and Outs of Minnesota Law
LOYAL READERS WILL recall our February 17 item chronicling Rep. Phyllis Kahn's ill-fated effort to decriminalize sexual conduct between consenting adults in Minnesota. Ever vigilant, last week Off Beat went to our favorite search engine, typed in the word fornication, and found a local Web site worthy of a bookmark: Repeal All Silly and Senseless Laws (www.rassl.org), designed by a nonpartisan group of Minnesota citizens formed at the beginning of the legislative session in order to, as they put it, "trounce outdated, unenforceable, and obsolete laws." The site's Top 10 list includes subsections of the criminal code that make it illegal to employ an intemperate driver, have oral sex, or fornicate, and even one that requires one to toot one's horn when driving on mountain roads. Laws concerning cough syrup (a controlled substance), trackless trolley cars, livestock rustling, and traveling carnivals are also cited. Just the other day the group sponsored "Turn Yourself in Day" at the Capitol rotunda, to illustrate just how overcrowded our prisons would be if these laws were enforced. "After the tax protesters got 5,000 people to come out, we figured we could get at least that many who want oral sex or want to make love," says RASSL's Renee Jenson. "I guess it depends on your priorities." Of course, there's more to all of this than a T-shirt slogan (although T-shirts are ostensibly available): In 1997, after a four-year study, the state-funded Nonenforcement Felony Advisory Committee (NEAC) issued a two-volume report recommending an overhaul of Minnesota's criminal and vehicular codes. But according to Jenson, because a few issues make legislators uncomfortable--sodomy, for instance, and, yes, fornication--no action has been taken on NEAC's recommendations. Ergo Jenson and her group. "If we get these silly laws off the books, we can open up the whole criminal code," she maintains. "Then the legislature could actually get some work done."
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