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City of Angles

April 06, 2001|ANN O'NEILL

Whither Ernie?

He came this close to being the First Cat, but his own bad habits got in the way. Now, the Bush family's six-toed orange and white tabby is on the lam in Los Angeles.

The White House and the cat's new owner said Thursday that Ernie the cat is among the missing. The onetime stray, rescued by then-Gov. George W. Bush from a tree in Austin, Texas, wasn't invited to the White House for fear he'd claw the antiques.

And so Ernie was adopted by family friend Brad Freeman, an investment banker who lives in Brentwood Park. Freeman disputes reports that Ernie may have scrammed because he didn't appreciate his new press-on nails, a humane alternative to declawing. "He couldn't have been happier," said Freeman, who last saw Ernie in mid-March.

But Ernie always has been a roamer. Freeman let the feline come and go as he pleased, and it wasn't long before Ernie was out all night catting around. "Somebody could have picked him up, knowing he was the president's cat and kept him," Freeman said. "He wouldn't hang around anybody's doorstep," Freeman said. "He had everything he wanted . . . freedom, food, comfort."

Noelia Rodriquez, a spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said the Bushes are saddened by Ernie's disappearance. "In the meantime, they hope that Ernie's having a good time on the beaches of Southern California," she added.

Looky-Loos on the Lawn

Actor and cigar aficionado Jim Belushi is suing his former landlord and a real estate firm, claiming they violated his $6,500-a-month lease and disrupted his life by posting a "For Sale" sign in front of a house he rented last year in Brentwood.

"As Mr. Belushi is a well-known actor and celebrity, he was concerned about his privacy and for the security of his family," say court papers filed in Santa Monica. The sales sign caused people "to stop, look and walk about the property." This caused the Belushis emotional distress because they were dealing with a stalker at the time.

Belushi had no comment. But his former landlord, Phillip G. Samovar, talked: "I can only laugh. He calls himself a well-known actor and celebrity who has starred in dozens of motion pictures, none of which I can remember."

Along Came a Writer

Author James Patterson has written two bestselling thrillers that have been turned into Morgan Freeman movies. The latest, "Along Came a Spider," opens today. Meanwhile, the prolific writer's latest book, "1st to Die," immediately shot to No. 1 on the L.A. Times bestseller list.

The former advertising man isn't one to hype himself. "This is not Madame Bovary," Patterson said at a party in Brentwood.

Another reason to like this evolved, level-headed author: "I much prefer the company of women," he says. "In advertising, if there was a problem, when the men walked into the room they all had the answers already, whereas women would come in and ask, 'What do you think?' "

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Times staff writers Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug contributed to this column. City of Angles appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

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