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Resolution Targeting Tall People Falls Short

September 22, 1987|MARK LANDSBAUM | Times Staff Writer

There ought to be a law to guarantee that tall people don't block the view of short people in the movie theaters of their choice, mused Costa Mesa lawyer Edmond M. Connor.

So Connor mustered all of his eloquence and legalese and took his fight Monday to the State Bar of California's annual Conference of Delegates in Century City.

Connor's tongue-in-cheek resolution marked the end of the State Bar's four-day convention, where 510 lawyers also took up scores of somewhat weightier issues, ranging from the enforceability of writs to the merits of mandatory malpractice insurance.

But according to Connor, his good-humored resolution may have been "the only one that the general public cares about."

"It's a very compelling social issue," Connor said, playing it straight.

"Look at what's happening on the freeways, where citizens are bearing arms against each other," Connor said. "It's only a matter of time until moviegoers start bringing their guns and laying waste."

Connor said his "Movie Goers' Rights Act" would "prevent such carnage and allow moviegoers to coexist in harmony."

The resolution urged the state Legislature to declare it the right of every citizen "to have a reasonably clear view of the screen at a movie theater." To accomplish this lofty goal, it asked that special seating sections be set aside for the tall and the short and that $1,000 fines and misdemeanor jail sentences be established for lawbreakers.

Connor, a six-footer himself, unsuccessfully tried to have delegates taller than 5 feet, 10 inches, disqualified from the voting.

Saying he authored the resolution on behalf of "those in the area of 5 feet, 6 inches," Connor continued, "We may not have been able to put everyone on equal footing--at least put them on equal seating."

But 6-foot, 6-inch, Orange County Bar Assn. President Stuart Waldrip said he wasn't going to sit still for that. Waldrip opposed the measure--in verse:

"In unconscionable and childish retribution

"Ed would force movie audience redistribution

"Prime loge for the small,

"To the rear for the tall,

"Or be a guest in the county institution."

The Movie Goers' Rights Act was the latest in a series of not-at-all serious resolutions that turn up annually at State Bar conferences. They are dubbed "black robe resolutions" after one of the first, which would have forced attorneys to wear wigs and robes in court.

"Ed Connor has a history of proposing these kinds of despicable resolutions," joked Waldrip. "Last year, Ed Connor authored a resolution that purported to authorize court reporters to . . . order attorneys to stand in the corner and pay fines."

Waldrip, who said "there's a lot of a latent anger in the sea of court reporters," opposed that measure out of fear "they (court reporters) would run wild and punish unmercifully."

As in most legal matters, the Movie Goers' Rights Act was not cast in black and white.

"We oppose shortsighted, high-minded legislation that does not address other menaces threatening moviegoers," the Lawyers' Club of San Francisco said.

That group wanted to correct other shortcomings by adding a "Broad of Shoulder/Broad of Beam Section" to deal with horizontal obstructions and a "Gourmandizers' Section" to require seating "near an exit capable of being quietly opened" for those who have ingested chili, garlic, refried beans and assorted other "leguminous matter."

Waldrip and others of height rose to the challenge.

"Historically, tall people have been discriminated against," Waldrip said. "The Jolly Green Giant ads have been pushed aside by those little green people. All you really hear or see is the Ho Ho Ho. The short, little green guys are taking that over.

"The fixtures and mirrors in restrooms are oriented to short people. Ceilings in buses, lamps and probably the best modern example of an insidious device is the ceiling fan."

"When you run into those things, do you get sympathy?" Waldrip asked. "No. They just laugh at you and say, 'You are too tall.'

"Have you ever seen anyone lean down and ask a small person how the air is down there? No. They ask the tall people how's the weather up there."

The Movie Goers' Rights' Act finally was debated Monday afternoon. Briefly.

Alas, the vote fell short. Connor attributed the loss to being given too little time to argue.

"I can only assume that means that my fellow delegates have no sympathy for the little guy," he said.

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