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California and the West | CALIFORNIA DATELINE: Snapshots
of life in the Golden State.

All the World's a Stage--Whether You Know It or Not

July 14, 1998|PATT MORRISON

There are some summer vacation video scrapbooks you might not want to bring home.

Remember the man, described last month in this space, who was caught strolling a beach in Orange County with a video camera in a hollowed-out boombox, following and secretly taping women?

No law kept him from doing so, and the cops cut him loose. Now it seems he was not alone: In Disneyland and at a fete in Garden Grove, two other men have been found doing the same thing, videotaping up women's skirts and down their shirt fronts, recording images that may wind up on the Internet as low-grade, peeping-Tom porn.

One man, police said, wandered Disneyland for 11 hours with a camcorder in a large bag, standing in lines or walking close to women to nudge the lens up under their clothes. It may be tacky--heck, it is tacky--but it is not illegal. So far.

When Anaheim detectives showed some of the video to Assemblyman Jim Morrissey (R-Anaheim), who has three daughters and several granddaughters, he found it "disgusting," and pledged to try to put together a bill by year's end which would stop such high-tech panty raids and yet pass 1st Amendment muster.

"There's thousands of women out there on the Internet [Web sites] who don't know that they're there," he says. "You could have nuns, for crying out loud, who could be on the Internet right now."

It's "just another thing women have to be apprehensive about, and it's disgusting. . . . The feeling of betrayal and invasion of your own privacy has got to be something else."

The technology even allows for hooking a fiber-optic camera to a shoe, and aiming the lens upward. (And we all thought the reflections in patent leather shoes were old wives' tales. . . .)

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Defy authority . . . surreally The happy faces can stay on the fire hydrants of Belmont, courtesy of a state law exempting them . . . and in Berkeley, where vandals have decapitated eight of 10 city parking meters, marigolds and dianthus bloom brightly where before passersby saw only red "expired" flags.

But the most adroit trompe l'oeil of all was that charming country estate in Eureka, where nothing turned out to be what it appeared to be. The flowers in the garden were faux . . . the first-floor windows that gave a peek into a bathroom were illusory, and the front of a new house was a facade that could have opened for business in the village of Potemkin.

Behind it all was a "a sea of green," as one lawman said, but not the habitat of a yellow submarine. And that wasn't kelp; it was more than 12,000 marijuana plants in four buildings, a hothouse crop of year-round harvests.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Knight said of officers' first wanderings through the wonderland: "By the time we got through, we felt like we had wandered around a Hollywood set."

And another fake: The "cop" who showed up at the home of a Vallejo man with an arrest warrant on a sexual assault charge was no cop--he's been investigated for impersonating an officer before--but there was a valid warrant out for a man named Robert Bass.

So Robert Bass, 34 years old, a paranoid schizophrenic with sound dental work, was arrested, authorities acknowledge, instead of an older Robert Bass, a sexual assault suspect with several silver teeth. Because of his mental illness, the younger Bass did not protest his arrest and declare his innocence; he spent six weeks in jail, almost being committed as being unfit for trial, before his public defender realized something was amiss, and a Solano County judge ordered him released.

Plum Line

These are the days when black and red plums are ripe for the taking-- and California grows nearly 90% of the nation's crop. This year farmers expect a drop in output because spring hailstorms damaged about 15% of the crop. Here is how the plum trees have borne for the last 10 years.

In thousands of tons:

1997: 243,000

Source: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times

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One-offs Marin County humane officials have outlawed county fair pony rides that tether the animals to a "carousel" hub and force them to walk at the same pace in a circle. . . . An armed robber who tucked his gun under his arm to count the loot in his victim's wallet was killed when the victim yanked the gun away and fired as the thief lunged at him. . . . A newly neutered Castro Valley dog--a Chinese pug named Frodo--has received the world's inaugural set of solid silicone testicle implants. . . . Rechanneling the century-old wisdom that there is no such thing as a bad dam, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt today cuts a ribbon to launch destruction of the McPherrin Dam on Butte Creek.

EXIT LINE

"I still had about a bite left when they found me."

--Tami Skaggs, of the one peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich that saw her through nearly three nights of being lost in Sequoia National Park, where she has a summer job maintaining trails.

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California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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