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OFF MAIN STREET
THE OFFBEAT SIDE OF THE NEWS

'Stop this popemobile!'

Even Pope John Paul II enjoyed breaking the rules once in awhile.

Six years ago, Dr. Jeffrey Meilman, a Buffalo plastic surgeon, led about 20 Buffalonians to the Polish town of Torun, which the pope was visiting on one of his frequent trips. Meilman, who had met the pope years earlier while doing charity work on behalf of poor and injured children, had hoped to see him again.

"We went to the bishop in Torun and asked him if we could see the pope," Meilman recalled last week. "The bishop said absolutely not; he's much too busy."

Undeterred, the group learned that John Paul would travel the streets in the popemobile as part of a processional later that day. All 20 found a spot together along the route and waited for the pontiff to arrive.

A few minutes later, as the popemobile went by, they yelled out "Buffalo" as loudly as they could. And the pope heard them.

"He turned around, caught our faces and stopped the processional, much to the chagrin of the bishop and archbishop," Meilman said.

Upon recognizing Meilman and some others, the pope stepped out of the popemobile and blessed them one by one.

Spectrum weathers its scoops

The Spectrum, the University at Buffalo's student newspaper, broke some big stories last Monday. The scoops included the startling news that Pat Summitt, winningest coach in college basketball history, is leaving the University of Tennessee to take the women's coaching job at UB.

The Spectrum's annual April Fool's edition also included the headline, "Classes canceled because of weather hazards." Unfortunately, the jab at UB's reputation for never, ever canceling classes because of the weather apparently was lost on some international students unfamiliar with April Fool's Day.

The story caused "minor chaos" on campus, said George Zornick, Spectrum editor in chief.

"Information (offices) at UB said they were bombarded with calls all day, and we got more than a few here also," he said.

Lunch isn't on the county

Deputy County Executive Bruce Fisher never got that power lunch of antipasto salad and assorted cold cuts. The January luncheon in the Rath County Office Building was for Carl Calabrese, who was stepping down as deputy county executive.

"It was to say farewell and have Carl leave on a full stomach," Fisher said.

Others, however, got a sick feeling over the idea of tax dollars paying for the spread, so Comptroller Nancy A. Naples rejected a $250 payment request for lunch at Casa-di-Pizza on Elmwood Avenue.

The reimbursement form from the county executive's office indicated the luncheon had celebrated Fisher's appointment as deputy county executive.

"Our office manager, unbeknownst to me until last week, mischaracterized the event on the requisition form and took the liberty of submitting it with my signature," Fisher said. "I thought maybe I missed a free lunch. As you can tell from my waist line, lunch and I are closely related."

Fisher said no event ever was held for his appointment.

"I've been called many things, but never lunch king," Fisher said.

By Phil Fairbanks with contributions from Stephen Watson and Patrick Lakamp.

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