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Benjamin Epstein

Mock Jail Cells Used to Extract 'Bail' at Cancer Society Benefit

August 07, 1986|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN

Cancer cells can often be deadly.

But sometimes they can actually benefit cancer patients--such as when they're makeshift jail cells occupied by folks busy raising money for the American Cancer Society. That was the case at the "Jail and Bail" staged by the society's Orange County unit over the course of two days last week.

By donating $25, county residents could get a warrant for temporary lock-up issued for the inmate of their choice. All manner of riffraff--social misfits such as mayors, fire chiefs and newspaper editors--were then "arrested" at their homes and places of business by members of the Sheriff's Department and local police departments, assisted by Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders, and incarcerated on the green at South Coast Plaza Village in Costa Mesa.

Arrestees were allowed as many phone calls as they needed to raise their bail, which was set by a "judge" and "jury" after careful review of what one prisoner, KWIZ disc jockey Ronni Richards, felt were "trumped-up" charges. Seventy jailbirds were sprung--to the tune of $40,000 raised for the Cancer Society, according to Jail-A-Thon chairman Sally Fenton.

"They're going to stick it to me good, I've got a feeling, a very funny feeling," confided Huntington Beach City Councilman Jack Kelly as he awaited sentencing on charges of being a maverick.

They did.

As Kelly began to recount the morning's events--how he was sitting in his office and suddenly heard "a rumpus out from the bullpen . . . and here comes this big tall cop in a Keystone outfit with cuffs and the whole works"--he paused for a reflective draw on his cigarette. That brought an outcry from the courtyard peanut gallery:

--"Put out that thing, this is the American Cancer Society! Double his bail!"

--"He's worse than a maverick, he's a smoker. The worst!"

--"We'll see he's never elected again!"

"A very serious offense," agreed judge Cec Hubbard, a commodore at the Huntington Harbor Yacht Club. "$1,000."

Kelly's friends came to his rescue with $3,000, the most money raised by one prisoner.

Sportscaster Ed Arnold, caterer Frank Spinarski, Costa Mesa Mayor Norma Hertzog and Seal Beach Mayor Frank Clift were already behind bars when Richards arrived early Thursday morning. She protested mightily.

"What trash I'm in here with!" complained Richards, arrested for being a public nuisance for six years. "What scum! Do I have to serve with them? Can't I get solitary?" She broadcast her radio show from the site until enough KWIZ listeners called in pledges to set her free.

Nearby, Spinarski was working his way through his phone book.

"I thought getting out of here was going to be easy," Spinarski said. "20 friends, 50 bucks apiece. Well, the first guy gave me 50 bucks. Then I got a cheap guy, he gave me 10 dollars, then I got two fivers. . . ."

Arnold was picked up for audacity.

"I'm getting ready to call my optometrist," Arnold said. "It's time for me to go see him. Then I'm going to ask my bosses at KTLA for about $500.

"What I've done, very sneakily," he continued, lowering his voice, "is in case I run short, I brought my own check."

Also among the seized were mayors Bob Mandick of Huntington Beach and Fred Voss of Fountain Valley; Richard Luehrs, executive director of the Newport Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce; Olga Hunt, owner of the Good Earth Restaurant at the Village and florist Chris Lindsay.

In place of the traditional bread and water, inmates were served Calistoga and croissants.

Those trying to reach their friends Friday afternoon experienced the greatest difficulty. Columnist Jerry Kobrin, charged with excessive pipe smoking, and contractor Paul Salata--his staff at El Toro Materials arranged for his arrest because "he's a pest, he bothers us"--both failed to raise bail. After promising to continue their efforts, they were released on their own recognizance.

Organizing committee chairman Fenton gave a rundown of some highlights of the event.

"Joan Murphine was sent a chocolate cake while she was in jail," Fenton recalled. "Inside was a file.

"Our youngest fund-raiser was 8-year-old Jodi deBoom, daughter of Barbara and Jim deBoom. Barbara worked on our staff, Jim was another jailee. Jodi raised $530 by calling people she knew."

One of Friday's judges, Ed Strano, decided to nab innocent bystanders. Fines started at 30 cents and were deposited in a tin can. Travis Parry--a recent laryngectomy patient, Parry had read about the upcoming event in a newspaper--and photographer Gene Selig made the arrests; at day's end, the tin can contained more than $250.

The two days were capped with a Jail House Party attended by 100 members of the Cancer Society's new singles league, the Society Club.

Ronni Richards also served as emcee at the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.'s John Zimmerman Memorial Dinner Auction on Saturday night at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers.

The "Celebration of Courage" honored Jeff Pierce, a 28-year-old asset management systems administrator with AT&T in Santa Ana who has muscular dystrophy, and William Bloomer, retired Marine general.

More than $30,000 was raised by the 350 guests, according to the MDA district director Gere Gastineau. Co-chairmen of the event were Glenn Leibowitz, John Weeks and Richard Zimmerman, father of the Fountain Valley boy in whose memory the event is named.

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