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OFF MAIN STREET / The offbeat side of the news

Just checking

Rep. Brian Higgins used the dedication of Buffalo's new federal courthouse this week to tell a funny tale about one of its influential behind-the-scenes backers.

Higgins said he was home in South Buffalo one weekend years ago -- the courthouse was still far from a done deal -- when there was a knock at the door.

"Who is it," Higgins asked.

"It's Bill Skretny," a voice answered.

"Federal judge?" Higgins thought to himself. "This can't be good."

Turns out the Bill Skretny at the door was not U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny but his father.

"I want to talk to you," Skretny said.

"What about?" Higgins replied.

"The federal courthouse," he said.

"I'm doing all I can," Higgins said.

Skretny, a man determined to see his son's plans for a new courthouse come true, made it clear he was less than convinced.

"I'll ask my son," he said, "and if not, I'll be back."

Last November, the elder Skretny, then 95 and in poor health, looked on with pride as he watched the courthouse open to the public for the first time. He died in his sleep the next morning.


Easy rider

Sure, Vince Schiano was a comedic target of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" the other night, but the Niagara University student isn't upset about it.

Schiano, who wasn't identified by name, showed up during the "Headlines" segment on Monday's "Tonight Show," according to the university.

Someone sent in the photo that accompanied an article in the Democrat & Chronicle about Schiano and classmate Chris Zukas, who plan to take part in a 4,000-mile, 70-day charity bike ride. The Buffalo News also profiled them.

The Rochester paper's photo showed Schiano jumping in the air, sans bike, as he trained.

"Biking for a cause," Leno said Monday, reading the headline. "First thing you need -- a bike."

The university noted that the D&C and other media took their photos before the students had their bikes in hand.

"I'm not bothered by the segment at all," Schiano said in a statement. "At least I can say I made it to national TV."


House party

Fans of the New England Patriots and their star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, have a chance to buy his childhood home for a cool $689,900.

Gronkowski and his family moved into the 4,800-square-foot, four-bedroom East Amherst house after it was built in 2001, a source told the website Deadspin.

The listing for the 5.1-acre property on New Road notes it has tennis and basketball courts and an in-ground pool.

Deadspin has now posted 12 items featuring Gronkowski since Feb. 6. Most of the photos show him dancing, drinking or wearing garish Zubaz pants as the 22-year-old has dived wholeheartedly into his spring break, including stops in Aruba and South Padre Island.

A March 27 post noted Gronk's appearance at a Dunkin' Donuts near Gillette Stadium to celebrate his endorsement contract with the company.

"Catching 17 touchdowns in a season? Double-fisting Boston Kremes and eclairs? There is no limit to this man's talents," Deadspin commented.


Signing off

The issue of East Aurora's requirements for exterior lights on businesses came up during a recent Village Board meeting. As of now, the village doesn't allow lighting behind signs, and it's painfully clear village officials are fussy.

"Honestly, I think these signs are ugly," Trustee Ernest Scheer said, specifically citing the Dunkin' Donuts sign. "I hate them all. I think that's a hideous looking sign, front-lit or back-lit."

He added that a lot of chains use these signs, but the village shouldn't have allowed them.

But Trustee Patrick Shea was sensitive to not "beating up" on Dunkin' Donuts. He must have felt a twinge of guilt, because he went out of his way to say he's a customer. "I like their doughnuts. Look at my body," he quipped.

Written by Stephen T. Watson with contributions from Phil Fairbanks and Karen Robinson.