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Westside Watch

A Fearsome Icon Fails to Fend Off Mudslide's Fury

March 16, 1995

From the battlefront in Malibu, where the slide meets the tide, we offer you scenes of valor amid the sludge:

One man, ferrying housekeepers via convertible to their respective mud-trapped employers, gleefully yells to another: "We're trapped in paradise, but I don't care. I've got enough shampoo. . . ."

A fashionable resident, displaying considerable pluck, walks along mud-choked Pacific Coast Highway smoking a cigar and wearing a gray suit, a striped fuchsia and white button-down shirt, and an understated tie.

. . . Also earning mud fashion points was Kent Knudsen, a visionary who dons a wet suit to clean up. Unfortunately, Knudsen fails in an attempt to allay the fury of the mud gods by bolting a gargoyle to his roof.

"I'm kind of bummed he didn't work better," says Knudsen, whose garage was filled with mud for the second time in two years. "But I guess he kind of worked because our house didn't get hit as bad as the others."

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SPEAKING OF DISASTERS: An earthquake store recently opened in Santa Monica, offering first aid kits, flashlights and portable stoves, among other emergency gear.

Rita Blogg, vice president of the store, said the idea came from "recent seismic activity in California and a false sense of earthquake preparedness. . . ."

WELCOME TO L.A.--GO HOME: Professor Martin Orzeck may teach English at the University of Pennsylvania, but he has much to learn about life on the mean streets of West Los Angeles.

Jaywalking his way across Santa Monica Boulevard on his way to mail some St. Patrick's Day cards, he failed to appreciate the gravity of an encounter with two LAPD officers.

"I asked them why are they wasting their time with jaywalkers when Nicole Simpson's real killer is somewhere out there?" Orzeck said. Unimpressed by this argument, an officer wrote up a ticket and Orzeck signed it with some bad grace, using his initial rather than spelling out his first name.

The professor said he always does it that way.

In any case, he was soon in handcuffs, only to be released when he agreed to sign the ticket with his full name.

Orzeck, who said his specialty is the modern American novel as "historian," used the incident in a lecture to his American literature class, he said.

"I told my students it's a marvelous anecdote about the thin line between civil rights and fascism," he told Westside Watch after his return to the City of Brotherly Love. "It's the 'Grapes of Wrath' all over again--an ordinary American citizen with no place to go but West ends up in Los Angeles and gets mugged by police authorities."

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SOCIAL CLIMBERS: Scaling new heights on Rodeo Drive usually means running up staggering credit card bills. But two mountain climbers did the real thing last week, scrambling to the top of a three-story building, then rappelling down with bottles of champagne.

The occasion was the renaming of a local hostelry as the Summit Hotel--Rodeo Drive ( Summit --get it?). Dressed as hotel valets, the climbers skimmed down the side of the former Beverly Rodeo Hotel and handed the champagne to Beverly Hills Mayor Vicki Reynolds and hotel officials.

The dignitaries dutifully smashed the bottles and christened the 86-room inn, which was recently bought by the Summit Management Group. Despite the dashing example set at the dedication, guests will be allowed to use the elevator to reach the upper floors.

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