For sure, this approach is expensive cpu-wise, etc., but if I need a solution that works right away then "module fetches/renders HTML into text", combined with regex processing that at least I know how to do, IS a solution. Sure, per RBFuller, "... if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong" but if those cycles won't be used for anything else, who cares? This bear of little brain would have his program done.
So, assuming that efficiency doesn't matter, I'm still fishing for something like building the $html object via a LWP 'get' as above and then turning it into text that I can examine with regexen. (However, since this is turning a golden object into lead, I'll do some more digging as you suggest, like re-reading this thread's Data::Dumper/HTML::TableExtract example! :-)