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California and the West | CALIFORNIA DATELINE / Snapshots
of Life in the Golden State

Archives of Red Scare Yield an Underground Empire

November 16, 1999|PATT MORRISON

The hits just keep on coming.

A scant 8,000 pages released from more than 80 cartons of data and dirt compiled by the state Senate's Un-American Activities Committee over 30 years show a few hits and some big misses:

* Witnesses were asked whether they were familiar with "Mankind United," said to be "a race of little men with large metallic heads who dwelled in a subterranean abode somewhere in the interior of the Earth . . . and controlled earthquakes and floods." Most said no, but one man said he'd heard them talked about, and confirmed "with qualifications" that "Mankind United" could stop wars by making ammunition useless. However, that witness could not confirm that "Mankind United" had developed a device to paralyze traffic. (Of course lower-case mankind has been able to do that pretty well on its own).

* A 22-year-old reporter named Lyn Nofziger, who would become an influential advisor to Ronald Reagan, testified about a teacher at Canoga Park High School who had told him and others, that she didn't like a conservative radio commentator because he was "a reactionary," and praised a now-defunct New York newspaper because it was liberal.

* Back when sex education was considered as un-American as fluoridated water, the committee went to Chico to question witnesses about a sex education book the city's schools never used.

One wonders whether eyebrows were ever raised about the committee's fervent anti-Communist chairman, Sen. Jack Tenney. After all, he wrote a hit song called "Mexicali Rose," and rose is a color that's about as pink as it gets.

*

Art attack: Piece by piece, one segment at a time, a 512-square-foot mural--gone.

It took a crowbar and power tools and who knows how many hours for thieves to dismantle a mural bolted to a wall of a downtown San Francisco building.

Artist Barry McGee's sketches alone can sell for $500 each, and the missing mural, composed of images and collages of figures painted and enameled onto old tin printing-press trays and mounted on plywood, could be sold piecemeal, McGee's admirers say.

Police heard about it in September, but locals noticed the first disappearance of a panel was noted in June. "One piece was taken, and then another, and then it was gone," said Laurie Lazer, co-director of the arts organization that helped to fund the grant for the mural. Not a single piece of the 300 has yet been recovered.

*

Going, going . . . The humdrum household detritus left behind by Heaven's Gate cult members who committed mass suicide more than two years ago is going to the auction block on Saturday.

Anything bearing the cult's insignia, along with writings and videos of its leader, were given to two former cult members in a legal settlement.

What's left is a yard sale inventory of kitchenware, TVs and a trampoline, among other items from the Rancho Santa Fe mansion. It's generated little interest except from two San Diegans who own the Museum of Death, which has been planning a move to Los Angeles.

"Even if it's just a linen napkin, we hope to get something," says co-curator Cathee Shultz, who would much rather get one of the 20 bunk bed frames on which the cult members were found dead. She is doing this, she says, "because it's weird and I like that kind of stuff, but I'm a historian, too."

*

One-offs: Three young men who told a witness, "Our pledges can take care of it" dumped barrels of trash in a memorial garden to victims of the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, and officials at UC Berkeley are looking into whether the dumpers were fraternity members . . . Several fifth-graders at a Redding school acknowledged they lied about a substitute teacher threatening them, because they were angry at the teacher for cracking down on their misbehavior . . . A Sacramento federal jury convicted a Los Angeles man of mail fraud for claiming more than $650,000 in California recycling refunds on glass, aluminum and plastic shipped in from Arizona . . . A Danville high school student who found herself using a chemistry book older than she was, won an essay contest for suggesting that schools be required to replace textbooks every 10 years--and the assembly member who sponsored the contest will put her idea into legislation.

EXIT LINE

"For a lot of these guys, the reason they're glued to a computer screen is they don't have a woman."

--Richard Gosse, chairman of American Singles, which sponsored its national singles convention last weekend in Silicon Valley, a region reported to have more bachelors per single woman than anywhere except Alaska, where last year's event was held. Organizers then made the mistake of scheduling it on the first day of hunting season; this year, the Silicon Valley convention coincided with the computer industry's biggest trade show, in Las Vegas.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Turkey Anyone?

California ranks sixth in the nation when it comes to producing the main meat we'll eat next week: 19 million turkeys were raised here in 1998, accounting for 6.7% of all the birds raised nationwide. Here are the biggest turkey-producing states:

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Turkeys raised Nationwide State (in millions) percentage 1 North Carolina 50.0 17.6% 2 Minnesota 44.5 15.6% 3 Arkansas 28.0 9.8% 4 Virginia 26.0 9.1% 5 Missouri 22.0 7.7% 6 California 19.0 6.7% 7 Indiana 13.5 4.7% All other states 82.2 28.8%

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Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service. Researched by TRACY THOMAS/Los Angeles Times

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California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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