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Only in L.A. / People and Events

December 29, 1987|PATT MORRISON | From Staff and Wire Reports

The bottomless cup has bottomed out.

Every New Year's Eve for 20 years, Forest Lawn's four cemeteries have poured free mugs of java for every besotted driver who had the good sense to want to sober up, courtesy of a place where they might otherwise wind up.

Now, 8,000 cups later, the tradition is ending.

Forest Lawn is dumping it's free-coffee, anti-drunk-driving radio spot in favor of a more dramatic (if decaffeinated) radio message, which begins airing today. Over the sounds of a spinning pistol cylinder and the clicks of a pulled trigger, a voice likens drunk driving to playing Russian roulette.

"There is some controversy about whether or not coffee really helps a person who's been drinking too much," said Forest Lawn Vice President Ted Brandt. "Plus asking people to drive under the influence to one of our mortuaries (for coffee) isn't too good either. Better not even get in the car."

The coffee started flowing in impromptu fashion 20 years ago, Brandt said, when a couple of drunken sailors stumbled into the Cypress cemetery on New Year's Eve. Later one bar, after its 2 a.m. closing, regularly sent Auld Lang Syners over to Forest Lawn.

"I think if that program saved even one life," Brandt said, "it's been worthwhile."

And if any regulars don't get the word and show up anyway, "I'm sure we can find some coffee for them."

Hope is now the thing without feathers--or at least without wings.

On Monday, Bob Hope stepped off an Air Force C-141, back at the Van Nuys Air National Guard Base after a 27,000-mile Christmas USO jaunt--his 31st since he began 46 years ago.

Hope and his road show had to skip a performance in the Azore Islands because of bad weather but managed to take Western civilization--in the forms of Miss USA and the Bob Hope Superbowl Dancers, among others--to U.S. military audiences from the Pacific to the Persian Gulf.

The 82-year-old comedian stepped off the plane (temporarily christened "Hope One") toting the inevitable golf club and queried, "What base is this?"

Sara Beth Heller wrote Santa that almost all she wanted for Christmas were her two front teeth.

On New Year's Day, still gap-toothed, the Lancaster, Pa., 7 1/2-year-old (she insists on the half) will get a gift just a little bit rarer than her teeth: a ride in the Rose Parade.

Sara and 81-year-old Herbert Blackburn, of North Las Vegas, were the two "civilians" selected to ride on the California Bicentennial Foundation "We the People" float. From about 3,000 names, a computer, a Boy Scout and the organization's buffalo-robed mascot, "Bisontennial Ben," narrowed down the list on the Big Spin lottery show.

(One name drawn was a member of the float's advisory committee; he deferred to Sara, whose grandparents in Glendale sent in a $10 donation for a rose for the float in Sara's name.)

Sara, who visited Philadelphia last summer, says she knows that the most important thing in the Constitution is "freedom." She is staying an extra few days with her grandparents, but she doesn't need to rehearse her wave to the crowd. "I already did."

Blackburn's daughter, Marlene White of Cypress, said her father watches the Rose Parade every year, and "when I called him to explain, he just couldn't quite believe it."

Now they hope his health will permit him to take part.

The Blackburns aren't quite Walter and Anjelica Huston, but there is family continuity at stake here. Thirty years ago New Year's morning, Marlene White rode the rose route herself--as queen of the Los Angeles County Employees Assn.

It was the real thing and, for once, it wasn't coke.

Sheriff's deputies at the Sybil Brand Institute for Women were just beginning a practice hazardous-chemical evacuation to keep their skills sharp, when "a CHP officer turned the training exercise into the real thing," said Sheriff's Sgt. Merlyn Poppleton.

The highway patrolman was booking a prisoner when he dropped a vial of PCP he had taken from her, and the mock drill became a real alert.

Vapors from the half-ounce of the liquid hallucinogen caused some minor headaches and sent two deputies and four prisoners for checkups, said Poppleton, but no one was seriously hurt.

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