Editor’s note: The following content, unlike the rest of Mountain Xpress’ award-winning coverage of local news and events throughout the rest of the year, is 100% fake.
An anonymous source has revealed exclusively to Xpress that Officer Kora, Asheville Police Department’s therapy labradoodle, is secretly living a lifestyle of the rich and furr-mous.
Handler and officer Debbie LeCroy has maintained Kora is a pup of the people: living in LeCroy’s home, playing with ropes and tennis balls and eating regular dog food.
But an anonymous source who requested to go by Schmentin Schmiller reveals the posh pooch actually has “Gold Status” with Omni Grove Park Inn for her repeated usage of the E.W. Grove Penthouse Suite. A rider for Kora’s visits shows the labradoodle requires the refrigerator in the full-size kitchen in her suite be stocked with beluga caviar, Dom Perignon and a vial of tears from a member of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.
Schmiller shared a receipt of expenses showing Kora has Elka, a Swedish masseuse at the GPI spa, on call and enjoys daily 80-minute Mountain Honey Wrap Treatments.
Spokesperson Samantha Booth has not responded to a request for comment on how difficult honey is to wash out of dog fur.
Kora was previously known to enjoy regular color and light wraps with aural imaging, Schmiller divulged to Xpress. However, the spa — voted one of Conde Nast Traveler’s top such establishments in North America — banned the labradoodle from receiving those services after what the employee would only refer to as “the incident.”
When asked to respond to reports of Kora’s lavish lifestyle, then-APD Chief David Zack said, “Look, the APD force is down 43%. Everyone is working overtime. I’m not going to deny our officers if they need a little downtime. I’ve got North Asheville riding my ass. I’ve got South Asheville riding my ass. This is not news.”
When reminded that Kora is a dog, and not an actual officer, Chief Zack shouted, “Damn it!” and hung up the phone.
The ‘bank’ is open
Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides doesn’t let an opportunity pass to reference his 30-plus years in banking, even in a conversation far afield of the world of finance.
“You may know I spent more than 30 years in banking, and that’s why I just don’t think we should meet on Wednesdays,” he said during a discussion of the 2024 calendar at a recent Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting.
But according to public records obtained by Xpress, his “career in banking” was actually a reference to his great success at the blackjack table. Wednesdays are BOGO nights on the slots at Harrah’s Cherokee Center’s Cherokee casino, a favorite of Whitesides’ wife, Shirley.
Whitesides is a household name on the reservation, where a penthouse suite commonly referred to as “The Vault” is decorated with snapshots depicting Whitesides’ Godfatherlike status.
“We probably would’ve gone out of business if it wasn’t for ‘Big Al,’” says casino General Manager Brooks Robinson. “Everyone wants a seat at The Commission … I mean, his table.”
In the highly unlikely event of Whitesides’ retirement — from gambling, not the county commission, where he has served for six generations — the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians recently decided to expand its offerings to a different sort of “green” tourism. Though Whitesides’ stance on “the sticky icky” has been made clear during numerous Commission meetings, he supports the EBCI’s “portfolio diversification” and looks forward to pocketing Benjamins from a new set of “altered gamblers.”
“Who doesn’t like free money?” he says. “Now that’s responsible banking.”
Report: TDA intentionally turned Thomas Wolfe Auditorium into a sweat lodge
After a series of electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning malfunctions at meetings of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority throughout 2023, an independent consultant revealed that the “outages” were part of Explore Asheville President and CEO Vic Isley’s master plan all along.
Upon further inspection of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium’s “broken” HVAC system, it turns out someone had simply disconnected it from the power supply.
An internal strategic plan printed on Explore Asheville letterhead detailed step-by-step instructions for how to get public buy-in for large infrastructure projects, starting with McCormick Field.
“If the lights go out on opening day, they’ll have no choice but to fork over the dough for a new stadium,” wrote Asheville Tourists President Brian DeWine in an email to Isley in March.
The plan continued with an entire section titled, “Sweat them out.”
There, it is revealed that Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke was paid $1 million to say onstage in front of a sweat-laden sold-out crowd: “Don’t f****** pass out tonight.” He nailed the line at his band The Smile’s July show at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium when the unplugged HVAC had its big debut.
Explanations for the rest of the year’s apparent infrastructure mishaps were also documented in what’s being called “B.O.gate.” Harrah’s Cherokee Center staff cranked the heat up to 85 degrees (Fahrenheit, though many attendees claimed it was Celsius) at ArtsAVL’s Town Hall event where city leaders discussed renovation options for the Wolfe. The TDA then paid Smoke and Spice Catering $250,000 to stage a “kitchen incident” where the crowd was “smoked out” of the Diana Wortham Theatre, and The Orange Peel staff flipped a switch in the fuse box to send ArtsAVL’s State of the Arts Brunch into darkness.
Even the Asheville Symphony Orchestra was in on the ruse.
“If we don’t get a new auditorium next year, we’re all going to have to move to Charlotte,” complained ASO music director Darko Butorac. “No one wants that — especially Charlotte.”
Preggo No’ Mo’: The Experience
This week, Explore Asheville debuted its newest campaign “Abortion — Only in Asheville,” which promotes the city’s Planned Parenthood clinic as the only place to access a safe, legal abortion in Western North Carolina.
“Asheville is the premiere destination for beer, buskers and $18 burgers,” trills Explore Asheville President and CEO Vic Isley. “But let’s not forget, our beautiful mountain refuge is also home to a singular health clinic providing lifesaving medical care to half a million women of childbearing age.”
Isley calls the Planned Parenthood – Asheville clinic a “must-see visit on any tourist jaunt,” along with sunset cocktails at Omni Grove Park Inn and a tour of the Biltmore House. Gray Line Tours is in talks with the clinic’s South Asheville location for inclusion on its hop-on-hop-off tours.
“Four out of five visitors surveyed said they’d love to come back to Asheville, especially if it was the only place within 250 miles of their home where they could terminate a pregnancy,” Isley says, citing recent research.
Explore Asheville splashed out on a $1.2 million budget targeting influencers for its “Abortion — Only in Asheville” campaign, which a swag bag containing an East Fork mug, a Spicewalla jerk seasoning mix, shearling earmuffs to block out the shouts of anti-abortion protesters and years of therapy to address the traumatic experience of being castigated while obtaining health care.
TokKween92, a TikTok influencer working with the Explore Asheville campaign, said she’d heard about Asheville from watching “A Biltmore Christmas” on the Hallmark Channel and would consider Asheville as a destination for an upcoming bachelorette party.
The Explore Asheville team encouraged TokKween92 to schedule the bachelorette party during the 12 weeks that pregnancy termination is legal in North Carolina.
“Oh,” TokKween92 told Xpress when reached for a comment. “Twelve weeks? That’s bullsh*t. I’m just going to Colorado.”
Asheville City Schools shocked they still have a superintendent
Six months into Maggie Fehrman’s tenure as superintendent, the Asheville City Board of Education posed the question that’s been on everyone’s minds since she was hired: Is she ready to go back to Decatur, Ga.?
“It would be helpful if you went ahead and quit now, so we can start our annual superintendent search before spring break,” said ACS board Chair George Sieburg at last week’s public meeting. “Your last few predecessors were really inconsiderate by leaving so late in the year that we all had to skip our summer vacations, so it would be great if we could get the process started early this time.”
To encourage a more timely exit for ACS’s 27th leader in the last decade, Sieburg says the district has done everything it can to encourage her speedy departure, including entering an agreement to consolidate with Buncombe County Schools while publicly denying that would ever be possible, sending its public information officer to Haywood County so the press would have to talk directly to her and inviting Pastor Ronald Gates to frequently speak at board meetings.
So far, however, she seems undeterred.
“It’s just so nice here in the mountains,” Fehrman says. “I love having such a high brewery-to-school ratio.”