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Service Delivers the Very Worst in Best Revenge

November 23, 1989|RAJ KAMAL JHA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you don't mind hurting your purse in order to hurt the person, for $180 plus tax you can get a satin-lined mock coffin with the message "Wish you were here."

But if you want to play it cheap, you can have a bouquet of dead flowers delivered for $25. Or cheaper still, for $20 you can have the person put on the mailing lists of 20 religious groups.

Allen Pool will do the dirty work for you: gift wrap the stale fish, fill the shiny red container with cow chip; stick pins in voodoo dolls. And then he'll drive with his bull terrier, Peugeot, to deliver these bundles of vengeance.

"It's a way to have fun with an ugly situation and a fun way to be mad about something," says Pool, 29, who started Revenge a la Carte about two months ago after quitting his job as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. Referring to the airline's hard-nosed boss, he says, "I jokingly say that, after working for Frank Lorenzo for six years, this business came naturally to me."

Working out of his West Los Angeles home, he says he receives an average of five calls a day from disgruntled employees, angry co-workers, jilted lovers or people who just want to play a joke on unsuspecting friends. Most of the callers are in their mid-20s to late 40s, though Pool says e once received an order from a woman who "wanted me to know for sure that she was 86 years old."

About half of his business comes from people who want to get back at their former lovers, Pool says. Customers frustrated about something or someone at work are also very common.

He recounts the case of a young woman who used his services to make her displeasure known to a co-worker. She had heard through the office grapevine that "a man had bet his friend that he would have her in bed within 30 days." She asked Pool to deliver a box of overripe fish to the man with a card saying "No way."

"Live embarrassments" are another service offered on Pool's "menu of just desserts." These are priced according to the situation. According to the menu, Pool will retain "starving actors" to provide "public humiliation made to order."

Pool recalls, for example, a man who wanted to play a practical joke at a friend's wedding. Pool hired an actress to show up at the wedding portraying the groom's pregnant ex-girlfriend. In a rumpled maternity dress and with tears streaming down her cheeks, the actress told the groom: "I can't believe what you have done to me. You didn't even invite me."

The flabbergasted groom tried his best to convince his upset bride that he had no idea of what was happening. It was only when the groom's so-called girlfriend laughed that the tension was defused. The actress even was invited to stay for the reception.

Not all jobs turn out to be plain, lighthearted fun, Pool admits. "If the going gets serious, I leave. It's a situation between two people, and I don't want to get involved."

He sees himself merely as someone who "helps people relieve stress."

"A lot of times, people may be a bit too timid," he says. "After you express your feelings, it's always much better."

Pool, who moved to Los Angeles from Denver a year ago, finds Southern California ideal for such a business. "People here are more accepting of a new idea. Also, they will do practically anything to have fun after the day's traffic, smog and the office."

The very nature of his service has made Pool wary of lawsuits. "I can't arrange for . . . services like pies in the face. I have to protect myself."

Besides, he says, he has his own standards of dignity and taste to maintain. "Someone asked me the other day if I could send body parts to somebody. It was so shocking to hear that. I wouldn't send something that would offend me."

Although Pool says he knows of no competitors in Los Angeles, he said there are similar services in Boston and Denver. In any event, Revenge a la Carte is unusual enough to have drawn attention from, among other places, Australian television and the British Broadcasting Corp.

Pool hopes that one day he is "able to have a storefront in a foot-traffic area so that people may enter the shop and see what it has to offer."

A new addition to his list of services is the "Surgeon General's Warning." This is a bottle full of cigarette ashes and butts that "can be delivered by a smoker to one who is against smoking or by a non-smoker to one who fouls the workplace."

New ideas flow in every day, particularly from friends. "The business keeps getting bigger," Pool says, and the schedule tighter.

And Pool is confident that his niche is secure.

"Till the end of time," he says, "somebody will be mad at something or somebody."

Revenge a la Carte is at 3634 Tuller Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 398-0028 .

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