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I'm Ready for My Close-Up, Dear ... er, Mr. Chief

June 23, 2003|Patt Morrison | Times Staff Writer

It was an afternoon of the sort that justifies everything else about living in Los Angeles. An L.A. transplant, Rikki Klieman -- attorney and Court TV host -- was standing on the breeze-warmed terrace of the Norma Talmadge estate in Los Feliz, grandly restored by the party's co-host, designer-philanthropist Xorin Balbes.

She was reading excerpts from her autobiography, "Fairy Tales Can Come True," and at one point as she spoke, her husband, LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, suddenly darted inside. A police emergency, Klieman said philosophically. Nope -- the chief was grabbing a camera to snapshot his wife in mid-read.

Couldn't tell whether the camera was stowed in a messenger bag ($25.99), among the "collectible merchandise" available from the official Rikki Klieman online store, where fans of the author/anchor/attorney's book and career can find, among sundry T-shirts, baseball caps, aprons, teddy bears, wall clocks and other items, a mouse pad ($17.99), stainless steel travel mug ($21.99) and lunch box ($20.99).

Davis Recall Campaign Has a Song in Its Heart

The latest addition to the Web site for the Gray Davis recall campaign is a song, to the tune of "American Pie," whose verses run in part:

"Is there someone out there who can save us/From the clutches of Gray Davis?"

"Bye Bye, Mr. Gray Davis guy/I suspect that Darrell Issa won't be drying his eyes/When you end up recalled he'll be one happy guy."

Lyrics by Glenn Erath, who does what he calls "clean, clever, customized corporate comedy," performing for outfits like AT&T, Allstate Insurance and Pepsi. Among his most recent lyrics, matched to popular tunes: "Osama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Terrorists."

Final Bell Hasn't Rung in False-Alarm Fight

Should L.A. police keep answering the call of false alarms?

It looked for a while like Bratton would get his way: L.A. cops would no longer waste time answering every single burglar alarm that rings across the city, more than 90% of them false. Instead, the Svelte Blue Line would answer only those alarms with "physical verification."

But homeowners and some council members -- including the mayor's sister, Janice Hahn -- wangled and wrangled with the Police Commission to delay the start of the policy.

And now Mayor Jim Hahn himself, evidently hearing the sound of alarms ringing in voters' heads, may be hedging: His people got a 30-day cooling-off period to "try to reach a compromise."

Bratton is holding fast. "My preference still remains," he said Friday, "to get out of the alarm business. It's a total waste of police resources."

An Inmate With a Clear Picture of Budget Crisis

The state's budget woes have reached even into one of California's bleakest prisons.

No, no -- guards aren't getting pay cuts, at least not yet. But a convicted murderer serving 35 to life in Pelican Bay State Prison wants to help save public education.

Steven Castillo wrote a letter to Democratic state Sen. Gloria Romero of Los Angeles, whom he had recently met. In his segregation unit, Castillo stays in his cell 22 hours a day, freed only to exercise and shower.

For most inmates in the isolation unit, television is a sine qua non, and Castillo had been watching images of teachers and students protesting proposed education cuts. And he had an idea:

He'd give his TV to Romero to sell, and put the money toward the budget deficit. "Don't worry about me going crazy without TV," he wrote to assure her. "Too many reality TV shows these days. They took all the fun out of watching TV."

A Pelican Bay spokesman couldn't reckon how much Castillo's contribution might put in the state kitty, but the inmate "probably paid about a hundred bucks for it."

Romero, who had been looking into conditions at the Crescent City lockup, was impressed: "When an inmate in solitary confinement says, 'Here, take my TV, I want to do my fair share for the budget crisis,' it moves me."

Davises Give Schoolkids a Capitol Experience

What a relief from budget brain-busters and recall jokes.

Gray Davis and his wife, Sharon, wedged themselves into kid-sized chairs at Broadway Elementary in Venice, and read aloud to second- and third-graders from "Capitol Kitty," a children's book by the state's first lady.

In the story, a cat living on the Capitol grounds sneaks into the building with a stray feline, leading a chase through the legislative chambers and eventually sliding down a long table into the governor's lap.

Davis, who said he hadn't read the tale since the book came out, skimmed ahead as his wife read, chuckling. At one point, he tried to explain state government to the 7- and 8-year-olds.

"Now, the Assembly is like the federal House of Representatives," he told the youngsters, who stared blankly. Later, he told them that the moral of the story is to be undaunted by new and difficult situations: "It's important to believe in yourself and not be afraid."

Points Taken

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