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STEVE HARVEY / ONLY IN L.A.

The truth is . . . well . . . half true

May 17, 2008|STEVE HARVEY

'Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable," author James Frey writes at the outset of "Bright Shiny Morning," his new book about Los Angeles.

Frey seems to be alluding to the scandal involving his first book, "A Million Little Pieces," which was labeled a memoir but turned out to be largely fictitious.

Considering his warning this time around, it's difficult to know what to make of "Bright Shiny Morning," which is presented as a novel but also contains sections devoted to "fun facts" about L.A. Are they true facts?

Here are a few of his improbable assertions:

* "There are 300 wild buffalo, which are protected by law, that roam Los Angeles County."

* "Every year, at 8 p.m. on the second of July, hundreds of people gather along a section of Los Angeles rail track to drop their pants and moon passing passenger trains."

* "There is a museum in Los Angeles devoted to the banana."

Turns out, the above examples are more or less true.

The buffalo are on Catalina Island (which is part of L.A. County). The mooning takes place outside a bar not in L.A., but in Laguna Niguel, in July (the dates vary). And there was a banana museum in Altadena until it split for Hesperia.

Such a deal

Elizabeth Clark of Hacienda Heights received an "award" of round-trip tickets between two cities that are close in miles but, for some reason, not in hours and minutes (see accompanying). She would have been more thrilled if the flight had been between L.A. and the Ontario to the north (in Canada), not the Ontario to the east.

College daze

USC is under the scrutiny of investigators regarding possible illegal gifts given to former student athletes Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. But something suspicious also seems to be going on at UCLA, judging from the photo that James Mitchell took a while ago (see photo).

Yes, we have no banana museum

I couldn't leave you hanging about the shocking disappearance of the museum.

What happened was that museum founder Ken Bannister (who sometimes spells his name as Banan-ister) moved to Apple Valley and found it too difficult to commute to Altadena.

Luckily, the Harrison Exhibit Center in Hesperia took in his collection of more than 17,000 artifacts, including a banana-sequined purse bearing an image of Michael Jackson. The museum was 34 years old.

According to the website of banana expert Dan Koeppel, Bannister got the idea for the landmark while he was working as a sales manager at Campbell Soup Co. He began handing out banana stickers at conventions "just as a way to get people's attention."

Soon, he said, recipients of the decals started sending him banana-related items and, well, the collection just grew. Campbell's, by the way, does not have a banana-flavored soup.

miscelLAny

The departure of the banana museum is another blow to cultural life in the L.A. area. The last couple of decades have seen the passing of the Hopalong Cassidy Museum in Downey, the Foot and Toe Museum in Long Beach, the Bigfoot Museum in Venice and the Southwestern Road Kill Museum (see photo) in downtown L.A.

Actually, the Road Kill was just a prop in "Larger Than Life," a 1996 Bill Murray movie that had a very short life.

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Steve Harvey can be reached at (800) LATIMES, Ext. 77083; by fax at (213) 237-4712; by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, 202 W. 1st St., L.A. 90012; and by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com.

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