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San Diego at Large

Is a Lawyer With a Lion on a Leash Next on TV?

July 22, 1986|JANNY SCOTT

The job Connie Burke just landed is the public relations equivalent of, say, raisin supplier to the City of Fresno. She's the new publicist for personal-injury lawyer Sam Spital, whose TV ads have brought him almost as much publicity as Ted Koppel.

Spital, the country's fourth-largest legal-services advertiser on local TV, hired the 27-year-old Texan out of an applicant pool of 200. He invited applicants in for interviews and asked for a written presentation of a new plan for plugging the much-plugged firm.

"I need your undivided attention for one hour," Burke says she told Spital. "I will provide transportation and I will create your campaign in San Diego for one hour. Then I asked his secretary to find out two things for me: His favorite drink and his favorite music."

Burke pulled up outside Spital's San Diego office in a chauffeured, silver limo. When Spital stepped in, Burke switched on a tape of Spital's favorite radio station and an advertisement promoting her Spital campaign.

"Hi! This is Ro-na Bar-rett from En-ter-tain-ment To-night. Stay tuned to find out why a San Diego attorney would put money into a program that could destroy his business! Watch tonight at 7 on 10!"

(Burke wouldn't disclose the proposed program to a reporter because, she said, Spital intends to use it. She would only say that it aimed "to build his image as giving to the community," and that she would attempt to involve Mothers Against Drunken Driving.)

The limo pulled up at the Park Manor Hotel, where Burke and Spital ascended to the top-floor lounge overlooking Balboa Park. A waiter approached, wearing a T-shirt promoting the proposed Spital campaign. The tables had "tent cards" explaining the program.

They drank Spital's favorite drink, Diet Coke, and talked about Burke's idea. Downstairs, a taxi pulled up bearing a placard advertising the promotional campaign. Then they returned by limo to Spital's office.

Three days later, Burke had the job. She says the effort cost about $125--for the limo, T-shirt, taxi and Diet Coke. The Rona Barrett imitation came courtesy of a friend who specializes in a nasal whine.

Some Very Brainy Talk

Looking for a little cerebral stimulation on a Thursday afternoon? Try tooling up to La Jolla to the Salk Institute's sprawling marble spaces for this hot seminar scheduled for July 31: Voltage-Clamp Studies of GABA Actions in Hippocampal Slices.

Huh? we asked Dr. Kenneth Klivington, assistant to the president for scientific planning.

"Well, I'll walk you through it," Klivington said patiently. His explanation went something like this.

A voltage clamp is an electronic device used to maintain a constant potential difference across the membrane of a nerve cell for measuring the current flowing across the membrane. GABA, of course, is gamma amino butyric acid, a neurotransmitter. Hippocampal slices are slivers of brain tissue (not slabs of sandwich meat). And the hippocampus is a region of the brain important in forming memories.

In English?

"They're looking at what goes on in nerve cells that are presumably related to the formation of memory," Klivington said.

Call now! Seating is limited!

Cashing In on Vanity

There will be no profane or obscene vanity phone numbers when Pacific Bell expects to start offering "personalized phone numbers" this fall. Curmudgeonly and anti-social telephone-phobes contemplating something like 462-4355 should try another phone company.

But CALL MOM (225 5666), COOL GAL (266 5425) and MR BROWN (672 7696) will be just fine, said Tom McNaghten, a Pac Bell spokesman in San Diego. A committee will be formed to censor and sanitize, he said, following the lead of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The purpose of the exercise, of course, is to raise cash "to help subsidize local rates and keep those local rates low," said McNaghten. The company expects to raise $4.7 million annually, based on a survey that 10% of all customers would be vain enough to try it.

Ego gratification doesn't come cheap, though. Just to have a vanity number will cost $1.50 a month plus an initial $10. To list it in the phone book will cost another $1.50 monthly plus an initial $5 fee. Businesses will pay more.

"Well, you know it's a discretionary expense, certainly something you don't have to do," McNaghten noted defensively. Asked whether he would sign up, McNaghten said, "I don't know. For my own purposes, the number is sufficient."

Coming soon: Vanity Social Security numbers and vanity MasterCards capable of projecting a life-sized hologram of yourself with your favorite movie star!

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