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SCOTT HARRIS

Antonovich Skirts Issue--and Chivalry

August 24, 1993|SCOTT HARRIS

My conscience had been bothering me for a few days, but right now I'm feeling better. A chat with Deputy Mayor Barbie, Mayor Riordan's miniature blonde adviser from Mattel Inc., can work wonders.

You see, it all started a couple of Fridays ago, with the nagging feeling that Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich probably thinks I hung up on him.

First of all, let me say that I'm sorry, Mike, if that was you on the phone. The truth is, I really don't know if it was you or somebody else on the line that morning. All I know is that when the phone rang, I picked it up and, as is my businesslike habit, greeted the caller by stating my name.

The reply was a hearty "Good morning, Scott!" It was all just this side of audible. I'm 99% sure the caller was male and using a speaker phone.

"Hold on," I said. "I can barely hear you."

I put on my headset, thinking that might help. Instead there was nothing--no voice, no click, no dial tone. Perhaps I had inadvertently touched a wrong button. Perhaps there was a problem on the other end. After a few seconds of saying hello to no avail, I hung up.

Then I waited for Mike Antonovich to call me back.

Had to be him, I figured. No doubt Antonovich wanted to respond to my column that ran the day before. Certainly the supervisor wanted to explain why Deputy Mayor Barbie was wrong, dead wrong, to criticize him for having created the largest, most expensive personal bureaucracy of all the county supervisors. Surely Antonovich, who advertises himself as a fiscal conservative who hates taxes and government waste, wanted to explain why his staff's payroll of $1.82 million is twice that of Gloria Molina and $500,000 more than Deane Dana.

But nobody called back.

So it was nice when, a few days later, a colleague passed along a copy of a letter from Antonovich dated Aug. 12:

Dear Editor:

It is obvious that your reporter Scott Harris is spending too much time "dating" imaginary playmates like his friend "Barbie" and not taking time to acquaint himself with the real world.

His penchant for fantasy girlfriends seems to have clouded his view of the impact high taxes are having on the law enforcement, economic and social climate ...

The Harris diversion hiding behind Barbie's skirts while pointing to my administration as Fifth District Supervisor is either an attempt to distract Los Angeles City residents from the failure of Mayor Bradley's administration or a blatant cry for higher taxes and a civic climate even more hostile to the private sector.

Instead, Mr. Harris and the Times should be throwing your (sic) support behind Mayor Riordan's difficult task of reversing the backward and failed roads traveled by his predecessor and moving forward with a sound policy of increasing police strength to take the Los Angeles City streets from the criminals without another tax increase. Mr. Harris: Forget Barbie and find a real girl.

Sincerely,

Mike Antonovich

Whew.

Now that Mike Antonovich has had his say, my conscience isn't bothering me so much. I mean, the guy accuses me of hiding behind a skirt made from maybe five square inches of cloth.

Forget Barbie? When I called the mayor's office and read the letter, Deputy Mayor Barbie laughed out loud.

"Typical politician. He doesn't even address the issue!" she said. "OK, so he was against a tax measure to bolster the LAPD that the vast majority of voters favored.

"But Mr. Law-and-Order just dodges the point about his own bureaucracy. How much more law enforcement could we have bought for an extra $500,000 per year? How many sheriff's deputies for $900,000?"

Barbie pointed out that the county Probation Department, perhaps the best hope for rehabilitating wayward juveniles, has announced it is shutting its School Crime Suppression Program. Under the program, nine probation officers were assigned to high school campuses to closely monitor young probationers. School and probation officials praise the program, but lack the $360,000 to sustain it another six months.

Deputy Mayor Barbie also found it amusing that Antonovich would refer to her as a "girl," though she didn't belabor the point. After all, she's 34 now. Although she is too modest to say so, Barbie is quite the Renaissance woman--not only a deputy mayor, but a doctor, a businesswoman, a chef. She even served in Operation Desert Storm as a sergeant in the Marine Corps!

If Barbie isn't real, how do you explain the fact that in 1992 she generated nearly $1 billion in revenue for Mattel? How do you explain that Mattel has sold more than one billion pairs of Barbie shoes?

It was flattering that Supervisor Antonovich would think that Barbie and I are an item. We've had a few laughs, sure, but we're just friends. Really.

Barbie seemed more amused than flattered.

"Oh, you know how people talk. Some people have even confused me for Mayor Riordan's lady friend, " Barbie said. "But Nancy Daly is much taller."

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