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January 20, 1988|JACK JONES | From Staff and Wire Reports

You know how things pile up in the basement.

While trying to sort out a longtime accumulation of fossils in a lower storeroom at the County Museum of Natural History last summer, Dr. J.D. Stewart found an unlabled package he thought might contain the hardened remains of a pteranodon, a prehistoric flying reptile.

But it was part of the tail of an extinct, 85-million-year-old, sharp-toothed sea serpent called a mosasaur--a creature scientists know little about.

Heaven only knows how Stewart recognized it, but he is assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology, after all, and realized he was onto something. He retrieved from a Vernon warehouse two other unlabled large plaster packets that also had come to the museum in 1967 from a Kansas chalk bed where they were found by a professional collector.

By combining the contents of the three unmarked packets with the head and neck of another specimen, the museum now has a mosasaur fossil with what Stewart says are "the best preserved external features of any in the world." For the first time, scientists know what the body, scales and skin looked like.

Why did it take 20 years to come across it?

"I suspect it was part of a larger shipment of fossils," Stewart said Tuesday. "But the primary research interest of the curator who was probably charged with the curation of these specimens was fossil sharks. We have such a large backlog of specimens that need to be prepared, that these were probably second priority."

The press release arrived Tuesday from the city of Redondo Beach. It announced that City Manager Tim Casey will give "A State of the City" address--including plans for the future--next Wednesday at the Blue Moon Saloon.

Part of Casey's plan will be to find a new place to give his speech. The restaurant was destroyed by the storms Sunday and Monday and, city officials said, will probably have to be demolished.

Deputies didn't even have to leave the Malibu Sheriff's Station to see if the waves were still pounding the shoreline Tuesday morning because the burglar alarms in all those expensive homes kept going off. "We knew the waves were heavy," Lt. Bill McSweeney said.

A letter-writing campaign by David Silva of the National Union of the Homeless, who complains that Los Angeles disc jockey Rick Dees has referred to the homeless on his show as "drug addicts" and "idiots" who should be "put in dumpsters," brought a response from Dees:

"What I said was that the people who are . . . dealing drugs and messing up all the people down at the beaches should be put in dumpsters. I wasn't talking about the homeless, but the drug pushers. If they happen to be homeless too, well . . . "

Anyway, said Dees, who has campaigned against drugs on his show, "I was joking."

West Hollywood's effort to brighten up its public image by lining its streets and boundaries with 500 banners proclaiming itself "The Creative City" has had to bend a little in the wind. The colorful, 9-foot banners were being taken down even before the past nasty weekend.

It wasn't that the heavy vinyl banners were ripped, said Marsha Meyer Sculatti, assistant executive director of the nonprofit West Hollywood Marketing Corp. But many of them were pulled from their moorings and wrapped around the light standards on which they were mounted.

The banner company, she said, tried wind slits and other devices, "but the next time we had winds, the same thing happened."

The banners were put up in September and were supposed to remain for up to six months. They are being saved for special events. In calmer weather.

Phil Morini, an American Cat Assn. judge at the (slightly late) New Year's Cat Show being held Sunday at the Glendale Armory to benefit California State Humane Officers Inc., admits he once misjudged.

A friend, he says, gave him the supposed runt of a litter of Abyssinian kittens. When it grew to 5 feet in length, "I finally called and asked my friend, 'What is this thing?' He said, 'Oh, that's from my mountain lion.' "

He says he still has it and that it has adopted all his other cats.

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