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A YEAR OF LIFE : Nifty Hed, Short OK : Sentence style deck; don't leave out articles; breezy, downstyle, with period at end, bullet, thin spaces at start. Three to four lines.

March 14, 1991|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When last seen in these pages, Tina had a goldfish swimming in each breast and could be had for $3,000. Deanna Burski was counting the days to her wedding, and Mitch Thorson was the 21st-best professional surfer in the world.

But that, as someone once said in a bad movie, was then.

Through 52 weeks of publication, Ventura County Life has run roughly 1,000 stories-long, short, trivial, tragic-and to one degree or another, all have changed since the presses rolled. For this anniversary issue, we revisited 15 of them.

Ladies of the Livery

March 15: Sculptors M.B. Hanrahan and Michele Chapin had decided to collaborate, and the results were three wire-framed, larger-than-life female figures. They stood outside the Momentum Gallery in Ventura's artsy Livery complex.

Adrian, the first figure, was made of cooking utensils and hair curlers and stood as "a stereotype of a woman who doesn't exist anymore," Chapin told Ventura County Life. Barbara was topiary-based, made from drought-resistant plants and herbs. And Tina was a mermaid, her tail filled with non-recycleables collected at Surfer's Point on the west edge of town. She had fishbowls for breasts, and a single goldfish swam in each.

Update: They haven't sold, but they have traveled. Adrian has been seen in shop window displays on Santa Barbara's State Street and in Beverly Hills. (Hanrahan and Chapin also do window displays.) Now back at Art City, her birthplace, she stands next to the recycling bin.

Tina turned up for Earth Day on the beach in Ventura last year then ventured south for a stint in a Beverly Hills beauty salon. Since then, goldfish gone, she has taken shelter in Chapin's garage.

Barbara never left the Livery courtyard, but has sprouted new flowers and acquired a peace symbol. All three remain for sale at $3,000 each or for rent, price negotiable.

"They've more than paid their way," says Chapin.

A Gypsy Looks at 80

April 5: Garlic-gobbling, fig-toting, football-tossing septuagenarian Gypsy Boots had descended on Ventura County with blitzkrieg subtlety. In October, 1989, he moved from Los Angeles to Camarillo, and when Life caught up with him a few months later, Boots (real name: Robert Bootzin) had established a roving health-food business, working out of a van emblazoned with a 5-foot self portrait.

"Figs, apricots, prunes! Man's lifeblood!" he proclaimed. "It's unbelievable! I run around like a deer! I throw a football like Joe Montana! I stand on my head!"

Update: In August, Boots celebrated his 80th birthday with belly dancers and free bananas. He has expanded his health-food outlets, and can often be found at the Garden Fresh Restaurant on East Main Street in Ventura. On Saturday mornings, the man who five decades ago roved California as a vagabond can be found playing tennis with local businessmen near his Camarillo home.

"Gypsy's gone conservative!" says Gypsy. "What a story!"

By late February, he was preparing for the Los Angeles Marathon. And on March 3, he ran-or, rather, race-walked, hopped and generally cavorted through 26 miles, armed with a tambourine, a cowbell, and a bag of fruit. He finished in 6 hours, 20 minutes.

Foster Care For Five

April 12: Diane and Stacy Biggs of Oxnard, a pair of working parents with two children, wanted to help the county's beleaguered foster care system. In doing so, they gained five new family members and joined a growing number of volunteers who take abused or traumatized children into their homes.

The five children were siblings from the same Latino family. Life wasn't easy, the Biggses said, but there were the positive aspects to consider.

Their own children, Sean and Staci, were learning the importance of sharing. The foster children, who had been split up and sent to different families in the past, had some continuity in their lives. And athough all five were behind in school, Diane Biggs said, they were showing slight improvement.

Update: The Biggs family is still big. But after seven months in a drug rehabilitation program, the natural mother of the five foster children has started taking them on Saturdays. By the end of this month, if the mother has found an apartment, some or all of the children may go to live with her again.

"The kids have mixed emotions," says Diane Biggs. "They kind of want to go, but they also know they won't have the kind of life they've been living. They have their own rooms here. They love their school now, and almost all of their grades have gone up. They're not sure what everything will be like. This is a woman who hasn't parented for four or five years."

And the Biggses themselves?

"I've grown attached to them, but I also knew this day would come," Stacy Biggs says.

Diane Biggs says she wouldn't want to put her own two children through the year again-"I think they learned a lot, but they've sacrificed a lot, too... All that time we gave to the foster kids would have been their time with us." Still, the Biggses haven't ruled out the idea of another foster child later on.

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