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Picture a Cover Girl of a Different Kind

March 18, 1993|BEVERLY BEYETTE

Katy Rodriguez was on her way to class at UC San Diego, her weeks-old baby in a front pack, when, as she recalls it, a photographer approached her about being in "this little book we're doing about the college."

That was in May, 1991.

Time went by. The next month Rodriguez graduated, moved to L.A. and took her first teaching job. She had forgotten all about that photographer.

Then, one day, a friend called to tell Katy she'd been immortalized. From 165,000 undergraduates at nine UC campuses, she'd been chosen "cover girl" for UC's 125th anniversary book, "In Pursuit of Ideas: A Year in the Life of the University of California."

"It was a total shock," she says. Fourteen photojournalists had been assigned to capture student life in 1991. There are serious images and frivolous ones and, on Page 187, there's Rodriguez again, shown as husband Richard hands baby Cassandra to her just before she gets her diploma.

Today, the family--Katy, 24; Richard, 29; Christiana, 3, and Cassie, almost 2--live in Fallbrook, in San Diego County, with a rabbit named Bill Clinton and an orange cat called George you-know-who.

Although Katy figures it was the baby that attracted photographer Rick Rickman, she is, in many ways, the quintessential symbol for a book about UC.

A native Californian, she is very much a contemporary woman who juggled marriage, two children, a job and classes, graduating with a B average.

"Either I was very ambitious or very foolish," she says.

As a family, they lived in UC San Diego housing and spelled one another at child care as each worked and went to school. Katy says, "I took Cassie to a final with me when she was 6 days old. And I did very well."

Determination was a major factor: "I didn't want anyone to say, 'I told you so. . . .' "

The compromises were few, the regrets few. Once on a pre-med track, she decided on a psychology major and teaching in order to spend more time with her family.

Katy--who's bilingual in Spanish and English--teaches fifth grade in Escondido. Richard graduated in 1990 from University of San Diego and is a bank examiner.

They recently bought their first home and, with Richard doing well, Katy talks of going to graduate school--and having more babies. "Babies and school work for me. Maybe the hormones enhance my learning."

UC's birthday is March 23. The book is in malls everywhere. Once--only once--Katy says, she and Christiana went into a bookstore just to look. The child spotted the coffee-table volume and announced, "That's Mama's book."

A UCLA Takeoff on Taking It All Off

At UCLA, academics shared a stage with ladies who once trod the boards in--and out of--feathers and sequins.

The weekend conference was a first-ever scholarly look at "burlesque comedy and the striptease as an American art form," explained Andrew Davis of UCLA's Center for the Study of Comparative Folklore and Mythology.

A panel of academics tried to explain it all, with long papers that explored the striptease and sexism, the striptease and homosexuality, the striptease and gender-bonding among males, the striptease and fear of sex, the striptease as a metaphor for removing layers of social facade. . . .

Platinum-blonde Dixie Evans, 67, famous for her Marilyn Monroe spoof, seemed a bit puzzled to learn that stripping was all so complicated. "I didn't go to college," she said later, but when she was doing the bumps and grinds, she wasn't thinking about any of that stuff.

"I was worried about falling over the champagne bucket or having something catch on those rhinestones."

Brunette Mitzi Sinclair, still in demand for private parties at age 75, added, "I just hoped they liked me. I was thinking about whether I needed to diet, about packing for the next town.

"They're talking about sex. Who was thinking about sex?"

Never mind, said Evans, she loved the whole idea of this conference. "Just another one to sock it to 'em back East. Only at UCLA--in California."

First Cat Look-Alike Good/Bad for Business

Socks Clinton is in the White House but, alas, Tuxedo, another black-and-white, seems to be in the doghouse.

To celebrate the first First Cat in ever so long, Frank Sumen, owner of FramePros in Glendale, sent out 3,000 flyers offering 20% off to clients bringing in a treat or a toy for Tuxedo, his 7-month-old shop mascot.

By the hundreds they came, bearing Tender Vittles (which Tuxedo hated), Sheba (which Tuxedo adored), a scratching post and a little catnip mouse. "He loved the attention," says Sumen.

But, alas, Tuxedo's days as house cat were to be numbered.

"A lady came in with some dried flowers from her son's funeral," Sumen explains. "The man who took the order kind of set them on the table and didn't lock Tuxedo up. Tuxedo rearranged them."

Then, he says, "A man brought in a quite valuable lithograph. Tuxedo jumped up and put a wide scratch through it."

So, Tuxedo (with his stash) has been sent to Palmdale to live with Sumen's mother. It's not the same around the shop. Sumen says, "I do miss the little guy. He's a sweetheart. But two mishaps in one day is not good for business."

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