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Rah, Rah -- Boo, Hiss

In the run-up to today's USC-UCLA game, split loyalties among spouses, colleagues, even business partners lead to high jinks. All's in fun, right?

December 03, 2005|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

The pint-size marching band stopped outside the USC teacher's classroom Friday and boldly belted out the UCLA fight song.

On that note, today's big-time, crosstown football rivalry that has divided homes and businesses got even more personal at Palms Middle School on the Westside.

Band teacher Julie West, a UCLA alumna, was tweaking colleague Patti Mullen, an English and history teacher and a USC grad, as West led 50 musicians in a rousing rendition of "Sons of Westwood" outside Mullen's door.

"You guys sound great, despite the song you were playing," Mullen said with a laugh after the youngsters finished with the traditional "U-C-L-A !" shout.

Mullen was wearing a cardinal-and-gold USC sweatshirt. Similarly attired was physical education teacher Janiece Phillipp when the band stopped by the gym to serenade her.

"That song brings back a lot of memories," said Phillipp, who graduated from USC in 1972 but has regularly attended Trojan-Bruin football games since 1968.

West played in the UCLA marching band before graduating in 1978. She brought in 30 vintage Bruin T-shirts and band jackets Friday for her music class students to wear.

Only one pupil declined the invitation: Clarinet player Adriana Bautista, an eighth-grader, stubbornly wore her own USC shirt. "I like USC better," she said.

There was no chance, however, that Adriana would be able to perform the Trojan song "Fight On."

"We've never played it," West said. "I don't allow it."

Old-school loyalists across Los Angeles said that testing allegiances is an autumn tradition each time the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, face off on the football field.

At the USC campus, teaching assistant Marat Ahmetzanov pinned a UCLA pennant to his office wall. Next to it he displayed ticket stubs from Bruin football games he has attended this season.

A UCLA alumnus who is now a graduate student in clinical psychology at USC, he said he isn't conflicted about who he's rooting for.

UCLA has won every game this year that he's attended, he said. "And I'll be at the Coliseum on Saturday, sitting on the UCLA side."

USC sophomore and psychology major Trevor Cushman shook his head disapprovingly at the pennant.

"It's a crying shame, a disgrace. It sullies up the whole building," said Cushman, who works in Ahmetzanov's clinical labs.

In Beverly Hills, the co-owners of the Color Me Mine ceramics studio had all but painted a double-sided cardinal-and-gold and blue-and-gold line down the middle of their South Beverly Drive shop.

Fred Anderson graduated from USC in 1995. Bobby Zolekhian got his degree from UCLA in 1996. Both were predicting victory for their schools today.

"Unfortunately, Bob went to UCLA. It was the best he could do," said Anderson, a Mid-Wilshire resident who has a ticket to today's game. "If SC loses, I'm sure he'll show up with every Bruin sweatshirt and hat and pair of boxer shorts that he owns, and I'll have to wear them all next week. That will be ugly."

Zolekhian, who lives in Beverly Hills, said he frequently brings his paid-off college loan papers to wave in Anderson's face -- "to rub it in," as he put it. He said he will be manning the store at game time but plans to monitor the Coliseum matchup.

"I'll keep text-messaging Fred to try to distract him from the game," he said with a laugh.

The game's outcome will determine which of the partners wins a water bottle that holds loose change that has accumulated in the cash register over the last several years. The winner will get to pick the charity that will get the estimated $250, Zolekhian said.

There was a split down the middle of the Donatucci household in Manhattan Beach too. Colleen Donatucci graduated from USC in 1985. Mark Donatucci graduated from UCLA in 1988. She'll be sitting at the 48-yard line on the Trojan side of the Coliseum this afternoon. He'll be on the Bruin side -- in the peristyle area of the stadium.

"When SC is playing in the Coliseum, they stick us in the end zone," said Mark, a food-processing company operations manager.

Colleen said her husband "has indoctrinated" the couple's two boys -- Michael, 9, and Matthew, 7 -- to be UCLA fans.

She struck back at Halloween, dressing up the pair's twin 5-year-old girls, Kelly and Caitlin, in matching USC cheerleader outfits. "He went wild when he saw them," she said of Mark.

Such garments, along with souvenir Trojan sweatshirts and hats, were flying off the shelves at the USC student store. The shop's second-floor area was decorated with small stuffed bears wearing tiny UCLA shirts. Each was hanging by one leg from strings suspended from the ceiling.

Amy Grat, a Glendale resident married to a USC alumnus, was purchasing a bear outfitted with the USC logo to send to a friend in Japan.

Asked why -- whatever the logo might be -- she was nonetheless buying a stuffed version of the UCLA symbol, she explained: "This is not a Bruin bear, it's a teddy bear. I'm not buying a UCLA bear. I want to stay civil."

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