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NEIGHBORS : Wedding Time : Many couples have their hearts set on Valentine's Day nuptials.


Valentine's Day can be a boon for certain business people. Among them, proprietors of wedding chapels.

Richard Henniger, co-owner of the Cameo Wedding Chapel in Ventura, said he expects to conduct about six weddings today.

"Normally, we'd be lucky to have one on a Thursday," he said. "Many people say, 'We've been meaning to get married, and it would be nice to have our anniversary on this date so it will be easy to remember."

Henniger said some people are simply determined to get married on Valentine's Day. Very determined.

Said Henniger: "A couple of years ago we had a fellow who had just gotten out of the hospital. He came in in a wheelchair. He was in a couple of leg casts and we had to prop him up. He said, 'By gosh, we planned to get married on this day and we're going to get married on this day.' He got married and we sat him back down."

Sadly there's a flip side to Valentine's Day prosperity in Ventura County--even in the chocolate business.

Katalin Christopher, president of the Jerbeau Chocolate wholesale business based in Newbury Park, said the county is hardly a hotbed of chocolate consumption.

"People out here do not eat nearly as much as in other parts of the country, or even in other parts of Southern California," she said. "Up here we have a lot of younger families and we have a lot of families with young children and teen-agers, and this generation is a heck of a lot more aware of what it eats."

So it's not just a lack of romance? "No. Absolutely not. I don't think so," said Christopher.

When Marji Peterson gave birth in January, her husband Richard, an art instructor at Ventura College, was set on capturing the event in some creative way. Not thrilled with the idea of bright camera lights he had to come up with an alternative to video.

The solution? Placenta prints.

Peterson said he had never seen a placenta before, let alone tried to use one in his artwork, so it took some imagination to make a lithograph from one.

"When you pick it up, it sort of falls into a blob like a round ball, but I needed it to be rigid. I had to freeze it," he said. "Then I had to paint it with some sort of greasy material to transfer it to a plate. I tried to grease it with hot butter, but the butter froze."

He eventually came up with a workable liquid. "I got the impressions of the placenta with its veins and the umbilical cord," he said. "Some of them look almost like flowers, like long-stem roses."

Peterson plans to cast the placenta in bronze and aluminum and to make wall sculptures and table decorations out of the design. What is the public reaction to all of this? "I think it was in jest," he said, "but somebody said I was real sick."

But that's not all: Peterson's next project is to make baby prints.

"Everybody gets the wrong idea," he said. "They think I'm going to run the baby through the press." Not so. In fact, Peterson discovered that melting and cooling butter, and then applying it to the baby's skin and then gently pressing the baby on a lithographic print will do the trick.

Peterson said he would like to have an exhibit of both the placenta prints and the baby prints, which he would title "First Impressions." Trouble is, he expects difficulty in finding someone to display his work.

Ever since county officials temporarily banned 15 of his paintings from the Government Center in 1986 for being "obscene," Peterson said he has had a difficult time getting an exhibit of any kind. The banned artwork dealt with euthanasia, abortion, apartheid, war and aging.

"It won't be easy to get an exhibit," he said. "But it might be easier than with what I normally do."

For all of you who have been breathlessly awaiting the results of last weekend's pancake race at the Victoria Restaurant and Pub in Ventura, here they are, in order of finish:

Runner/pancake flippers from California 66 won first place, those from Marie Callender's took second place, and bringing up the rear, in third and fourth places, were the participants from the Victoria Restaurant. Yes, they were gracious hosts.

"One of our guys was leading up until the last bend and then he slipped and fell," said Andrew Stone of Victoria Restaurant. "Then the guy from California 66 overtook him and won. Our pancake racers will just have to do more training."

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