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Not Everyone Toasts Idea of Champagne Glasses on Float

November 06, 1988|ERIC WILHELMUS | Times Staff Writer

ARCADIA — The question of whether a Rose Parade float topped by two tipped champagne glasses promotes alcoholism is being debated by some residents here.

"What the city of Arcadia is presenting to millions of people is to celebrate and be happy, yet abuse the No. 1 drug in America," said Bob Johnson, president of Parent's Alert, a community group formed 10 years ago to discourage drug abuse.

"We're not talking about responsible adults having a drink, we're concerned about teen-age substance abuse. And the ironic thing is that we are going to have teen-agers on the float," he said. The five teen-age members of the Arcadia Tournament of Roses Royal Court will be riding on the float.

But according to a spokesman for C. F. Bent, the Pasadena firm that designed the float, the creation merely reflects the mood of the holidays.

"The float depicts a happy New Year's celebration--two goblets overflowing with flowers, a top hat and a cane and a pair of white gloves. It's a New Year's toast wishing one and all a happy new year," said Bill Walleck, director of special events for C. F. Bent.

"There's no alcoholic beverage depicted or being dispensed or champagne bottles or anything like that on the float," he said. "It's like anything else. It's in the eye of the beholder. It's a matter of interpretation."

Members of C. F. Bent and Parent's Alert have been discussing putting a sign on the float reading "Just Say No" to drugs and alcohol. But no decision has been reached.

The float's design was approved at the beginning of the year by the Arcadia Tournament of Roses Assn. in a unanimous vote of its 26 board members and 18 past presidents. The private organization is paying between $75,000 and $80,000 for the float.

Harriet McComas, president of the Arcadia Tournament of Roses, said it was "nonsense" to think the float glorifies alcoholism.

"I'm president and am in complete support of the float," she said.

It will be the group's 24th entry into the Tournament of Roses Parade.

The 17 1/2-foot by 18-foot float will be adorned with nearly 300,000 flowers, including roses, carnations, gladioluses, chrysanthemums and orchids.

At least one Arcadia school has entered the fray.

Don Schulz, a 9th-grade English teacher at Dana Junior High, said students in his first-period English class proposed writing the letters after relating a story they read about hypocrisy and how there can be different points of view on the same issue.

Schulz then took excepts from some of the 101 letters from students in his five English classes and sent a summary letter to the Arcadia Tournament of Roses Assn., The Times and the Arcadia Tribune.

Eighty-nine of the students opposed the float design and 12 approved of it.

A portion of the letter containing the views of those opposed said:

"I can't believe the double standard you are setting. Just two weeks ago, you adults asked me to fill out a card that said I would lead a drug-free, alcohol-free life. You asked me never to drink. I considered it, but did not get my card in. It would be hypocrisy to tell children not to use drugs and then display a huge float having champagne glasses on it. Even worse, we are going to have our high school students sitting on the float representing our town."

A portion of the letter containing the views of those who support the float said:

"I don't think that the float will influence anybody to go out and get drunk or even try an alcoholic beverage. That is like saying every Dodger fan that sees the Dodgers celebrating is going to think, 'If the Dodgers can do it, why can't I?' I feel the public will enjoy the float and not really pay attention to what others think it represents."

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