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A Tacky Way to Honor Sharon Tate

August 10, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

Dan Mathews is always up to something. In the past 15 years, the director of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has turned animal rights into a celebrity cause. He's also made a place for bad taste in this world, promoting beer over milk on college campuses to protest the alleged mistreatment of cows on dairy farms, and distributing PETA's colorful "Unhappy Meal" boxes, which describe the alleged mistreatment of chickens and pigs in gory detail, to kids at McDonald's playgrounds.

So, naturally, I didn't know what to make of Mathews' invitation to join him in commemorating the death of actress Sharon Tate at El Coyote restaurant Tuesday night. Tate ate her last meal there Aug. 8, 1969, before she and four others were killed at her Benedict Canyon estate by devotees of Charles Manson.

Mathews, 35, was then a toddler growing up in Costa Mesa, but he believes her murder was a turning point, a time, as he says, "when everyone started locking their doors, stopped picking up hitchhikers and began looking at hippies in a whole different way."

But Mathews, a rabid fan of the "Valley of the Dolls" actress, seemed to view dinner the other night as a campy occasion. He even had a Ouija board in tow. If Tate's murder was a cataclysmic event in Los Angeles history, one that changed people's perception of their personal safety, then perhaps it's not such a bad thing to commemorate. But marking the date by booking a reservation under the name "Tate," and swigging margaritas seems, well, tasteless. It's just what you'd expect from the guy who told Genre magazine that Andrew Cunanan was one of the most important gay men of the 20th century because he stopped Gianni Versace from using fur.

Not that Mathews is the only offender. There are others who go to El Coyote on Aug. 8 to commemorate the anniversary, and they'll continue to go until our culture's love affair with the macabre ends.

I'm all for a fun Ouija party once in a while, but there must be a more tasteful way to remember Tate (a donation to the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau, named for the actress' late mother, comes to mind.) I wonder how Mathews would feel about a party gathering at a steakhouse to drink to the deaths of fur-bearing animals?

*

Mathews is so good at his job as an animal rights shock-tivist, he even had me intimidated. So much so that, tearing through traffic and already late for dinner, I realized in a stomach-dropping fashion flash that I had to stop at home. Eyeing a month's salary on the car seat next to me in the form of my prized black-and-white Prada bowling bag, I shuddered at the thought of a defiant splattering of salsa, and took a detour to my closet . . . to de-leatherize.

Cleansed of animal products and hoping against hope that the militant Mathews wouldn't smell the turkey jerky on my breath, I went to meet the man, who was actually more gentle than I'd expected. He didn't spend the evening trying to convert me, but shared his beliefs more subtly, in a toast: "Thank God alcohol doesn't have any animal products!"

As we walked to our table, I took note of his attire: black jeans, a black Disneyland Haunted House T-shirt and, horrors, what appeared to be black leather shoes!

Guess I didn't need to stop at home after all.

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