Tommy Trojan and Bruin Bear are wrapped in protective garb with sentries standing nearby. It's the week before the USC-UCLA football game, and the schools are guarding against sorties by each other's students.
USC seems to have started the custom in 1941 when some Trojans stole the Bruins' Victory Bell. Since then, USC students have pulled such stunts as publishing several phony Daily Bruins and ruining one planned pregame UCLA rally with cancellation announcements on administration stationery.
The Trojans' inaugural Bruin in 1958 contained fake stories, fake editorials (decrying state-supported education) and fake classified ads. "We kidnaped the regular delivery driver and substituted our own," proudly recalled ex-Trojan Joe Jares, author of "Crosstown," a video on the UCLA-USC series.
Over the years, UCLA has struck back with such operations as the dog-naping of the Trojan mascot, George Tirebiter, whose coat was shaved so that it said "UCLA." A USC sweater had to be knitted for 'Biter when the Trojans made it to the Rose Bowl.
One Bruin operation that backfired was an attempt to drop bags of fertilizer from a helicopter on Tommy Trojan. The Bruin commandos misjudged the winds, and the fertilizer blew back in their faces.
A few days ago, before its covering was installed, UCLA's Bruin Bear was splattered with red and gold paint. Daily Bruin police reporter Eugene Ahn speculates that a Bruin reply may be forthcoming. "I heard we had some students casing USC the other night," Ahn said. "Something will happen."
Southern California sometimes gets credit for trends that haven't started.
In July, The Times reported on the latest outbreaks of violence in the decades-old struggle among local surfers to carve out their own watery turfs. The Malibu boys versus the Vals and all that.
The article was picked up by the national wire services as well as the networks. The story then crossed the ocean, and once the saga reached Australia, it had been blown so far out of proportion that it sounded as though surfers here were engaged in paddle-by shootings.
The latest issue of Surf magazine reports that the Sydney Daily Mirror headlined its version of the story:
"GANG WAR OVER RIGHT TO RIDE THE BEST SURF."
How about this for a plot: Los Angeles County's population jumps over 8 million, with an increase of almost 900,000 bodies in six years. Another L.A. disaster script? Depends on how you look at it.
The figures are from "City and County Data Book: 1988," published by the Census Bureau. It proclaims Los Angeles County to be the nation's most populous (with 8,296,000 people) and fastest growing, with an increase of 881,700 from 1980 to 1986.
More than 10,000 counties are featured, including one in Texas that has one-tenth of one person per square mile. On a per-capita basis, residents make the most money and the fewest babies there--in Loving County, Tex.
Inasmuch as traffic on downtown streets moves at a 19th-Century pace anyway, the Los Angeles City Bureau of Street Maintenance has proposed that horse-drawn carriages be allowed to traverse Broadway on weekends during the holiday season.
The three vehicles, which would be operated by the Miracle on Broadway business association with an eye toward the tourist trade, would "provide a nostalgic air" for shoppers, the bureau says.
The Board of Public Works, which must act on the request, has been assured by the Bureau of Street Maintenance that the animals would be "equipped with waste-containment devices serving as 'excreta collectors.' "
Looking for a Dodger memento that's a bit more imaginative than a T-shirt? How about a bat broken by one of your heroes? The gift shop at Dodger Stadium sells the splintered war clubs--and they've been going fast.
"We have some for $25," a clerk said. "They're not our best players--a Sharperson, a Howell, a Tudor and a couple of others."
Higher on the social scale, the shop recently sold the last of the broken Kirk Gibsons for $200.
"The better players don't seem to break as many bats," merchandising manager Bob Herrera said wistfully.