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THE HIGHWAY 1 LIST / An Off-Center Look at Southern California and the Car


Everybody Knows Somebody . . . : Mazda is seeking a few really weird people. The Irvine-based importer is trying to fashion an image for its new Protege subcompact (and itself in the process) and has opted for the unconventional. It has hired "Ally McBeal" co-star Jane Krakowski to be its celebrity spokeswoman (she plays Ally's secretary, Elaine) for a series of "Out-of-the-Box Awards" honoring celebrities and ordinary folk who go against the grain.

Basketballer Dennis Rodman (big surprise) was top vote-getter in the first round of the campaign, in which Mazda polled twentysomethings for their favorite out-of-the-box celebrities. Now the company wants us to nominate friends, relatives, co-workers and others who handle life and its challenges in unusual or creative ways. Entries, in the form of essays of up to 150 words, can be handed in at Mazda dealerships; mailed to the company at OOTB Awards, P.O. Box 16699, Irvine, CA 92623; or submitted via the Internet at Deadline is Nov. 16.

Wild Colonial Boy: Ford President and Chief Executive Jac Nasser, whose Australian accent belies his name, found himself in a fashion nightmare on a recent trip to Washington, Automotive News reports. Seems Nasser, there for a formal affair attended by President Clinton, discovered on arriving in the capital that although he'd packed the proper shirt, tie and accessories, he had managed to leave his tuxedo jacket and trousers behind.

With no time to get a new tux, Nasser made an executive decision and went in his pinstripe charcoal suit. While talking to Clinton later in the evening, Nasser noticed the president eyeing his decidedly nonformal attire. Planting tongue firmly in cheek, Nasser informed Clinton that he was wearing an "Australian tuxedo." The stripes, he told the prez, paid homage to the Land Down Under's heritage as a British penal colony.

Whole Lotta Lovin': While Lincoln Mercury marketing manager Jim Rogers was telling a roomful of California International Auto Show backers in Anaheim earlier this month that the car maker loved the Orange County-based show and was going to use it for big things in the future, Lincoln Mercury's president, Mark Hutchins, was issuing a news release saying the car maker loved the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show and was going to use it for big things in the future.

The L.A. show, which runs Jan. 2-10, apparently is better loved than the Orange County show, which ran Oct. 14-18. Hutchins said Irvine-based Lincoln Mercury will use the L.A. venue for "major world debuts of two concept vehicles . . . that will hint of the new direction we are taking." The California International Show got only one goody, the Lincoln LS, a 2000 model that already had been shown overseas and pictured in Highway 1 and every car magazine in the country.

Stupid Cup Tricks: A week with a 1999 Mercury Cougar revealed a flaw in the appointments. The car gets rave reviews for most stuff. But we found that the front cup holder, which pops up out of the center console, is hinged and doesn't lock into place. Stick a large cup of diet cola into the retaining ring and it sits nicely while you're going straight. But hang a hard right and the hinged holder does a 90-degree flip, positioning the cup to pour its contents into the driver's lap. The good news is that the seat is deeply dished and easily holds 32 ounces of crushed ice and cold soda as well as one very shocked motorist.


A random sampling of bumper stickers seen around town:

"My wife was inmate of the month at county jail."

"I like my men pierced."

"I'd rather be driving a Titleist."

"Just say no: to sex with pro-lifers."

"I'm a corporate executive: I keep things from happening."

"Atheism is a non-prophet organization."

"He's not dead, he's electroencephalographically challenged."

"Honk if you love peace and quiet."

"Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool."

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