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A Chronicle Of The Passing Scene


No Smoke in Forecast

A magazine picture of the two Bud Studs from "90210," with cigarettes hanging from their hands, raises the internal temperature of KNX traffic and weatherman Bill Keene of Toluca Lake.

Keene--a new convert to the gospel of "No Ifs, No Butts" who admits to being a smoker for 50 of his 65 years--says all of a sudden cigarettes are being made to look sexy and cool again.

Keene says: Not!

With all the other problems facing teens these days, he says smoking may seem like a minor vice to many.

He asks those "many" to consider the fact that all it took to get him to kick the habit was a couple of trips to St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank for triple heart-bypass surgery followed by a bypass on his left carotid artery in the region just below the brain.

In May, 1991, he was playing golf with fellow newscaster Gil Stratton and he could hardly catch his breath. An X-ray of his lungs looked like a black hole. Other tests sent off alarm bells. The surgeries followed.

He was lucky. He got to keep his life.

"Those days in the hospital were what it took to finally get me to quit," he says, adding that nicotine is a hard drug to kick.

"Back when I started smoking no one knew how dangerous or addictive it was," Keene says. "Kids today don't have that excuse."

The Empathetic Counselor

David Van Gorder, a Northridge psychotherapist, is a quadriplegic who's turned a handicap into an advantage.

"I don't have to do a lot of tap-dancing to establish my bona fides as a sympathetic listener," he says, laughing. "People take one look at me and know I can understand their emotional grief."

Two weeks after his wedding 26 years ago, Van Gorder broke his neck in a construction-site accident. He was transformed from jock to quadriplegic.

"I was the stereotypical macho guy who had everything tied up in body image," the therapist remembers. "I was very into myself and not open at all."

He was told to get a home-based job, maybe like making telephone calls or something like that. He also was denied state assistance to get an associate of arts degree at a local junior college. A school counselor told him to resign himself to life as a shut-in.

Four degrees later, including a Ph.D. in counseling, he has a thriving counseling practice.

He isn't bitter about the people who told him his life was basically over, but he warns: "You shouldn't always believe what other people tell you, which is an awful thing for an analyst to say." Then he laughs again.

Selling Realtors on the Valley

The number of houses sold is down from the golden times of the '80s.

The number of people trying to figure out how to pay the bills is up.

Things are glum in the real estate business.

So, what's to be done?

While other office managers try to get their troops to paddle into what they hope will be a new wave of buying and selling, Diana Brookes, manager of the Jon Douglas Encino office, is sending her troops to school.

Brookes has offered her people a chance to get acquainted with the Valley by inviting guest speakers from the Fire Department, Police Department, school system, post office and historical societies to the office for a chat.

"Our company stresses service, and this is one way of providing it," Brookes says. "The more we all know about our community and how it works, the better we can help our clients."

The program started, she says, when John Burke, an instructor at Valley College, joined their staff for the summer.

"He was keen on the idea of our agents becoming more familiar with the community so he set up the first speakers. Now, even though he's back teaching at Valley College, we are going to keep the program up," she says.

If You Can't Earn One, Buy One

Jacques Hay of West Hills has a Northridge shop where he makes gold records.

He's created them, he says, for about 30,000 people, including Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando.

Marlon Brando got a gold record? Well, sort of, Hay says, laughing.

He laughs a lot on the way to the bank.

The gold records that Hay makes are not sanctioned by the Record Industry Assn. of America, although that official body and Hay's Award Winners shop use the same gilding company, he says.

Hay makes gold records that are gifts and say things like "Congratulations on your 50th Anniversary Waltz." For $80, you can send a gold record, with appropriate message, to just about anyone.

Hay sells many records through retail outlets across the country, like Neiman-Marcus, as well as through his own shop. No matter who they're addressed to, he's the guy who has to get them delivered. Since people in the entertainment business are often recipients of the gifts from friends or fans, that can get tricky.

"I've had several stars' representatives tell me I could only deliver the record if I would sign documents saying I wasn't a reporter from any supermarket publication. I usually know how to get the gift to the intended party, but it can be a hassle," he says.

He says he could have never guessed, when he got the idea from seeing a gold record on the wall of a celebrity in 1980, that his funny little idea would grow into something big or that he would corner the market.

"A couple of other people have tried to do what I do, but they just drop off the charts after awhile," Hay says.


"Who would know better?"

--Couple looking at L.A. Zoo sign saying: "Some animals are predators, some are prey." Donated by the Milken Foundation

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