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Mayor Reels In Winnings From Wager

June 05, 2004|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles is in the grip of Laker fever, and Mayor James K. Hahn, like many fans, has developed a little bit of a gambling problem.

The mayor has been soliciting bets -- on city stationery no less -- and having his staff fax them all over the country, entreating mayors of cities with rival teams to bet on the outcome of the National Basketball Assn. playoff games.

Luckily for city taxpayers, Hahn is on a winning streak. Last month, he wagered 60 chili burgers from Tommy's -- a bet he didn't have to pay off. On Friday, he offered to bet Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick sweet treats and lemon cakes from Mrs. Beasley's.

This week, one of Hahn's gambling buddies paid up: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak sent him 22 walleye fish fillets, packed in dry ice.

In a little dig at L.A., Rybak said one fish came from each of Minneapolis' 22 lakes.

"I'm sure you could use some of our fresh air as well," he added. "But Los Angeles has already taken enough from us." The Lakers, you may recall, were originally a Minneapolis team, hence their name.

So the fish arrived skinned, filleted, frozen and wrapped in white butcher paper. They were placed in the office freezer Tuesday; on Friday afternoon, they were unceremoniously plunked on the long wooden table in the mayor's ornate conference room.

As his staff fretted about how to get the fishy smell off their hands, Hahn solicited recipe tips. "I've never cooked walleye before," he said, peering at the bundle of frozen flesh. "I don't know if this is a grillable fish."

The fish were a bit more problematic than some of the other bets on city teams that Hahn has won over the years.

His staff fondly remembers the Krispy Kreme doughnuts from the mayor of Charlotte, N.C., and the Nathan's hot dogs that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent when L.A.'s women's basketball team, the Sparks, beat the New York Liberty.

Still, Hahn said he was pleased with the fish.

"Those Minnesota people are honest folks; they are true to their word," he said, remembering that some other mayors had failed to honor their bets.

"Did I ever get the tomatoes from New Jersey?" he demanded.

"No," his spokesman Yusef Robb answered. "And you never got the water from Sacramento."

Hahn shook his head, recalling the Lakers' victory over the Sacramento Kings two years ago.

"I never got the water from Heather Fargo," he mused.

Pausing, as if considering the injustice of the Sacramento mayor's snub, he recalled: "She says I got it already, that L.A. had already stolen the water from up north."

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