Matthew Weaver, a 19-year-old Santa Monica College student, is trying to put together a Christmas party for the homeless of downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 14. It's a project that Weaver concedes has met with some skepticism among his friends.
Weaver's idea is to set up Christmas trees and provide a deejay and seasonal music as a backdrop for a handout of food and personal hygiene packages. The food is the easy part, said Weaver, who began a weekly distribution of sandwiches and fruit to the homeless last Thanksgiving. But friends and others he's approached to raise money for toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap and shampoo are doubtful that these items will get much use, primarily because the homeless don't have regular access to showers and bathrooms, he said.
"Everyone says, 'Where are they going to use shampoo?' " Weaver explained, "but I think if they're spending the night at a mission, they'll be able to take a shower. Even if they're just able to be clean for a day or two, it's worth it."
So far, Weaver said, he has purchased 2,000 toothbrushes. But it's been tough raising money for the rest of the items he hopes to put into 2,500 individual gift-wrapped packages.
Weaver said he's spending about $100 out of the $150 he makes a week at a part-time job for his weekly food giveaways. "I don't have anything better to spend my money on," he said.
That effort was reported in View last spring. Since then, Weaver said, the food effort has had its rough spots. Last summer the Sunday sandwich brigade organized by Weaver missed four consecutive weekends because he was out of town, Weaver reported. On his return, he added, he was apprehensive.
"I thought I was going to go downtown and they were going to kill me," he recalled. "But it was OK. They were asking, 'Where were you, we missed you.' "
Laurels for a Lawyer
William G. Smith will be honored Saturday night at a banquet in Santa Monica for a career spent on unpopular or controversial causes.
Smith, a 53-year-old attorney, will be recognized by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild for work that has included voter registration of Mississippi blacks and involvement in thousands of draft-related cases during the Vietnam War.
Since graduating from USC law school in 1963, Smith, a former Air Force captain, has spent most of his professional time on public issues, including his defense role in the widely publicized 1982 case of Pasadena draft-resister David Wayte, who refused to register under terms of the 1980 draft law. Wayte was sentenced to spend six months confined to his grandmother's Pasadena home. In addition, Smith continues to devote about a quarter of his time to matters with roots in the Vietnam War.
"We're seeing a lot of Vietnam veterans suffering severe psychological problems, post-traumatic stress disorders, and Agent Orange illnesses," he said.
While his clients often have been prosecuted for anti-government stands, Smith himself has gotten high marks from his courtroom opponents. Richard Romero, prosecutor in the Wayte case, called Smith "a gentleman attorney" who "always took the high road." Romero added, "He was effective, obviously experienced with the material and relied on knowledge instead of emotion."
Smith recalled that one of his memorable cases was not about weighty issues. Defending a Navy enlisted man who had thrown a pie in his commander's face, Smith subpoenaed comedian Soupy Sales, who testified that he had launched about 20,000 pies without once being prosecuted. The enlisted man was acquitted.
Games, games, games.
For a variety of political, intellectual and commercial reasons, Southern Californians are being singled out this fall by the creators of games wanting to tap the brains as well as the pocketbooks of the vast Southland market.
First, there's Sports Games International, a Denver firm that has created board games closely related to Trivial Pursuit for the fans of the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Raiders and the San Diego Chargers, as well as the San Francisco 49ers. Each team game consists of 2,400 football questions, including 800 about teams featured on the game box. Neither number is excessive, according to the company's Terry Rector, who explained the games are meant to be challenging to even the most rabidly fact-minded fans.
All questions are NFL-approved, Rector said, which meant that some questions were disallowed before the games were put on the market. So if you're looking for queries about players "who ate light bulbs and ashtrays," forget it, Rector said.
Sample question: "Who is the Los Angeles Rams' player whose last name is spelled the same backward as it is forward?" Answer: "Dennis Harrah."
So far the best-selling game is the one devoted to the Raiders, Rector said, noting that Rams fans are less avid about their team--at least until the playoffs.