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Nüz Junkies

[whitespace] DeCinzo comic

The year past brought us Breatharians bearing bottled water, 'Buffy' bigwigs from UCSC, Deadhead-channeling authors and hate-hating petitioners--Nüz remembers it all in words and pictures

Edited by John Yewell
Cartoons by Steven DeCinzo

IT HAS BEEN ANOTHER banner year for Nüz, which has managed to ruffle enough feathers to start a down-pillow factory. No nook was too dark, no cranny too narrow, no scandal too sordid and no cow too sacred for us to peer into, pry apart, sniff around or skewer.

Indeed, Nüz was more than once humbled by the reach and influence of our weekly page. After writing with an utmost lack of earnestness that a certain local journalist would bear the love child of a certain local politician, we were astounded at how many people believed us. We resolve to be more careful but no less scrappy in 2000.

What follows is a quick trot through some of Nüz's more memorable moments in the next-to-last year of the millennium, with updates on those stories that refused to go away. Some of the items have been edited for space, but the names of the guilty and the guileless alike have not been changed.

Grandma's New Digs
(Jan. 13)

After nearly 30 years of service to the Beach Flats community, Grandma Sue Wilson is celebrating yet another victory in her long tenure. On Monday afternoon, Wilson, founder of Grandma Sue's Community Projects, got the news that her decades-old project has finally obtained an official building site. Since Wilson moved to Beach Flats in 1971, she has been working out of her home to help families in need.

The new building site will be at 718 Frederick St., the former location of Barrios Unidos' T-shirt-making project. "People have been waiting for this for a long time," Wilson says. "Now we need public support to make it happen."

UPDATE: Grandma Sue makes the cover of our Dec. 22 issue as she finally occupies her Frederick Street space.

Kate's Familia
(Feb. 3)

As the Feb. 11 supervisors' vote on a new district attorney approaches, legal observers watch with growing disgust as supporters of several of the candidates do everything they can to ruin the reputations of their opponents. Meanwhile, the press has been besieged with charges and counter-charges. The mudslinging is getting ridiculous.

Nüz neither supports nor opposes any candidate, but recently a letter from the supporters of acting DA Kate Canlis came to our attention that bears particular scrutiny.

The letter, sent Monday to the Board of Supervisors and copied to all the county's chief law enforcement officials, was signed by Assistant DAs Dennis Wong and Siddhartha Sundaram, both members of the DA's gang-violence suppression unit. Wong is a supervisor in the unit, and both he and Sundaram are declared supporters of Canlis, having signed a petition two weeks ago backing her candidacy.

The letter questions whether DA candidate Ron Ruiz, a private criminal defense attorney, would be an appropriate choice for DA based on Ruiz's defense of Vincent Arroyo in a murder case. Arroyo was a leader of a notorious gang known as Nuestra Familia.

The defendant eventually pleaded guilty and turned state's evidence.

"I know gangs better than anyone in that office in Santa Cruz County," Ruiz says. "I'm persona non grata with those people."

The judge in the Arroyo case, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy, has even written a letter to the supervisors in support of Ruiz, calling Ruiz "an outstanding lawyer," "well respected by lawyers, judges and court staff," and
"intelligent, balanced and incredibly honest."

Ruiz is not alone in having represented Nuestra Familia. Defense attorney Peter Chang, a former DA himself who's trying to get his old job back, says he once represented Nuestra Familia leader Robert Viramontes against a perjury charge.

Wong and Sundaram did not return phone calls for this article, and their letter did not explain why they were singling out Ruiz for criticism.

UPDATE: Ron Ruiz was appointed DA by county supervisors on Feb. 11. On Oct. 20, Metro Santa Cruz published an analysis of his first months in office under the headline "Trial by Fire: The Education of DA Ron Ruiz."

White Plight
(Feb. 24)

Wearing a teddy, stiletto pumps and not much else, a buxom blonde casts a shy glance over her bare shoulder. Her delicate arms covered up to her elbows in a long, lacy gloves, she strikes a demure pose complete with gauzy see-through skirt.

At first glance, she looks like a fashion-don't victim or a Frederick's of Hollywood catalog reject. But according to two anonymous activists passing out fliers at last Thursday's Business Fair at the Capitola Mall, this little vision in white is the "Earth's Most Beautiful Endangered Species."

"Look long and hard, White man," the flier urges. "Images like hers may soon cease to exist forever."

Just when Nuz thought everyone in the county had attended at least one rally in support of Mumia Abu Jamal, one of our unsuspecting sales reps came face to face with a reminder that white power still thrives in Santa Cruz. While innocently hobnobbing at the fair, our blond-haired rep was approached by two young skin-headed gents. They didn't say a word but handed him a flier warning that "the White race faces extinction now. ... Only 2% of the earth's population is young, White female."

But Santa Cruz's skinheads do make an attempt at being sensitive to environmentalists--they print their hate fliers on recycled paper.

The skinheads were not available for comment--they neglected to leave contact information on the flier.

UPDATE: On March 17, Nuz ran an update identifying Aaron Bertsch, 19, of Scotts Valley as the man seen by our sales rep. Bertsch and an acquaintance had been arrested on March 5 for carrying a concealed weapon and admitted to a March 2 leafleting of racist literature at Temple Beth El in Aptos.

Later, on Nov. 2, Bertsch was one of two men convicted in a May 15 beating of a homeless man in Santa Cruz. Authorities believe Bertsch is a member of a local neo-Nazi group known as Blood and Honor, named after the law promulgated by Adolph Hitler in 1935 that defined Jews as a separate race and barred sexual relations between Jews and Germans.

One Spine Day
(Mar. 3)

It always warms our heart to see a home-town boy make good. Take for example Aptos chiropractor Ignatius Piazza, who discovered his calling wasn't cracking spines but the crack of gunfire.

Piazza's latest venture is the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, a 550-acre planned community of one-acre home sites for gun lovers near Las Vegas. Doc Piazza declined our request for an interview, but there was plenty of information on his website (www.frontsight.com) to satisfy our curiosity.

The compound will include a commercial center, private school and community park, as well as a 1,000-yard rifle range, private student ranges, a martial-arts gymnasium, a "celebrity training center" and an airport.

But prior to 1988, the Igster was just your average "gun enthusiast."

"Then one evening," Piazza writes, "a group of anti-socials drove through my quiet neighborhood and blasted away at everything that represented the fruits of a decent work ethic. During this random drive-by shooting spree, I was struck by a sudden and frightening realization. Although I owned firearms and shot them regularly at the range, I was never taught the skills required to use a gun when it is needed most--to defend one's life." (Emphasis his.)

Thinking of buying property in Piazza's new development? Just check out Front Sight's next Progress Celebration this spring, which promises a thrilling and unusual freebie featuring "law enforcement and military instructors with real life-and-death tactical experience. A full day of submachine-gun training from 8:00am to 5:00pm . . . using our brand-new suppressed subguns! You will be among the students who fire the first shots at Front Sight Las Vegas! A great way to participate in the history of Front Sight's development while having a great time and obtaining skills in the use of the submachine gun that most law enforcement and military personnel don't ever receive!"

And the best part: "All free of charge. Even the ammunition is free."

Piazza already has one Front Sight firearms school in Bakersfield whose mission is "finding and training the warrior in you."

Front Sight's motto? "Any gun will do--if you will do!"

UPDATE: In response to the April 22 shootings at Colum-bine High School, Doc Piazza posted the following offer May 4 on the Front Sight website: "In the wake of the Littleton, Colorado, shootings, Front Sight Firearms Training Institute . . . feels they have the answer to stopping further attacks on school children. Front Sight is offering free firearms training to any school administrator, teacher or full-time staff member designated as school Safety Monitors."

Pot Shots
(Mar. 10)

DeCinzo comic

It's the place to see and be seen--and busted, according to a few unlucky pot growers and their attorneys.

That would be Hydro Depot, the hydroponics supply store on Soquel Drive. Attorneys Ben Rice and Peter Leeming allege that the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Marijuana Enforcement Team is staking out the store that specializes in nutrients, water delivery systems and artificial lights necessary for indoor gardening.

Leeming says that he's had half a dozen clients in the last six months who claim a common thread--the Hydro Depot. Clients report being followed from the store, and both attorneys find striking similarities in the police reports detailing surveillance and the alleged pot growers' recollections of where they were those days.

Rice points to an expense report produced by sheriff's deputies for one of his clients that claims hours for "ground surveillance" on the same day his client dropped by the grow shop, as it's known, to pick up supplies for his 99 marijuana plants.

"You can put two and two together," says Leeming. "Any [new client] who walks in I ask, 'Have you been to the grow shop?' "

Reached by phone at his store in Sonoma, owner Slawek Michalak makes it clear that he will "absolutely not" sell to wacky tabbacky farmers.

"If anybody asks," he says, "I tell them to leave."

Michalak has heard complaints from customers about being tailed when they left the premises--and it's no wonder. Rice says that for sheriffs, staking out Hydro Depot is "like shooting fish in a barrel."

Leeming says police reports indicate that sheriffs run the license plates of Hydro Depot customers, then subpoena PG&E for records to see if there's been a spike in electrical usage. If there has, sheriffs use that as evidence to obtain a search warrant.

Sheriff spokesperson Kim Allyn says he can't confirm reports that as many as 20 investigations were underway centering around customers of the Hydro Shop, but he defends the strategy.

"Any effort on our behalf to keep drugs out of the hands of children is worth the cost of controversy by the select few who now find themselves in criminal court for breaking laws," read Allyn from a prepared statement. "So far, we have not caught anyone growing tomatoes."

Sounds like confirmation to us.

UPDATE: The Hydro Depot went out of business a few weeks later.

Birds of a Feather
(Apr. 14)

It was a tragedy that left the nation paralyzed in grief. Years from now, everyone will remember where they were when they first saw that picture of the mighty Fabio, spattered in blood. Who knew the horror that could result when a roller-coaster-riding supermodel collides with a migrating goose?

Beak met beak, high in the air out there at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., last week, and although modelboy suffered a bloody nose and almost lethal humiliation, he at least escaped with his life--unlike the unlucky goose.

The disaster prodded Nüz investigators to find out what safety measures our local coaster constables had put in motion.

"Like goose-proof screens?" chuckles Santa Cruz Boardwalk flakmeistress Ann Parker. She admits to reacting to the bird-meets-birdbrain story with a mixture of "professional horror and National Enquirer glee."

However, Parker got to waxing nostalgic about some of the other weird things that have popped up--or popped out--around her beloved Big Dipper. Like a glass eye, for example. Fortunately, the errant orb didn't fly into a supermodel.

Then there was the excitement when workmen hysterically called to say a drowned dog had been found in the Logger's Revenge water chute. Actually, it was a wig.

Neither eye nor hair was claimed by the owners.

UPDATE: Fabio survives brush with avian mayhem--continues life as third-tier celebrity.

New Political Math
(May 12)

Politics make strange bedfellows, and few situations make the point better than the story behind the headline "Democrats Target McPherson for Defeat," which appeared recently in our favorite daily.

There is an assumption that the demographics of Sen. Bruce McPherson's 15th District makes the seat ripe for the taking, if Assemblymember Fred Keeley decides to run for it. But other observers see a different picture: that with the advantages of incumbency and an appeal that transcends party labels, McPherson will be a tough opponent. A liberal Republican surfer? What better combination for a district that includes lefty Santa Cruz and conservative San Benito counties?

Keeley, McPherson's putative "worst nightmare," has a secure Assembly seat and more promising career path--he doesn't need to gamble his political future on a risky challenge to McPherson. "My intention is to seek a third term," Keeley says. So why the coy demur? Why not just come right out and say he won't run against McPherson?

One reason might be that a successful Democratic challenge to McPherson by anyone else may not be in Keeley's interest. A Democratic Senate winner in 2000, up for reelection in 2004 as an incumbent, would create a career roadblock for Keeley.

That's not to say Keeley is overtly discouraging anyone from running against McPherson, or that he won't work to help the eventual Democratic challenger. But a McPherson victory in 2000 maintaining the status quo might suit Keeley just fine.

UPDATE: Keeley has announced he will back Bob Hertzberg of Sherman Oaks to be the next speaker.

Ham Cam
(May 19)

Nothing quite as embarrassing as having your erotic fondlings of zucchini and tomatoes caught on video. Just ask enraged customers down at the downtown Santa Cruz Farmers Market, who have accused the Santa Cruz Police Department of videotaping the comings and goings down where the vegetables, fruits and nuts collide. And that's just the customers.

A call to Lt. Joe Haebe confirmed it--sort of.

"There's a minor misunderstanding," he explains. "It's not the farmer's market, it's the church parking lot instead."

Haebe says that while the rest of Santa Cruz is scoring green beans, the dope fiends over at Calvary Episcopal Church parking lot are scoring green bud and poppy products. After two weeks, the boys in blue have busted a handful of "herb" shoppers.

Haebe insists there's nothing undercover about it.

"The [cops] are pretty obvious about it," Haebe says. "But the only ones who should be paying attention are too busy dealing."

Non-Workers Committee
(May 26)

For the workers and by the workers has been a rallying cry of the newly developed Coastal Berry of California Farm Workers Committee. Funny thing is, the leaders of the anti-union group--which opposes representation of field workers by the United Farm Workers in this week's representation election--aren't even workers at Coastal Berry Company.

Sergio Leal, committee vice president, was fired from the company in January. Ernie Farley, current company president, declines to discuss details of Leal's work history, but former company president Dave Smith confirmed that Leal and seven other employees were fired after the company investigated charges of unfair labor practices. Farley says none have been rehired. Enrique Leal, Sergio's brother, is a supervisor at Coastal Berry.

"[Enrique] is one of the notorious anti-union supervisors," UFW spokes-person Marc Grossman says. It's a violation of labor law for a supervisor or an employer to "dominate or interfere" with labor organizing.

After the Coastal Berry Farm Workers Committee (a name strangely similar to the new group's) won last year's election, the ALRB tossed out the vote amid allegations of threats, intimidation and exclusion of large numbers of workers from participating in the election. CBFC president Jose Guadalupe Fernandez is no longer an employee at Coastal Berry, either. The company also axed him following the investigation.

Fernandez was an activist with the now-defunct Agricultural Workers Committee, yet another incarnation of anti-UFW labor groups at Coastal Berry that preceded the CBFC. The AWC was a defendant in the UFW vs. Dutra Farms lawsuit, which uncovered $56,000 in checks from agribusiness to the AWC and its predecessors.

Coastal Berry of California Farmworkers Committee attorney James Gumberg did not return Nüz's calls.

UPDATE: The CBFC later appeared to win an August representation election over the UFW, but the UFW disputed the results, which have not been certified.

Power Mad
(May 26)

It's a bright idea that makes perfect sense to the power moguls at PG&E: chop down 2,000 trees along a seven-mile swath from Bonny Doon to the Coast Dairies property to protect transmission lines from falling trees. PG&E wants to widen the current 50-foot clearance surrounding the lines to 100 feet in some places.

So a group of Bonny Doon residents hired an arborist, James Allen & Associates, to take a look-see.

"If they're trying to prevent trees from falling down, they're actually creating more of a problem," says Allen's associate, arborist Maureen Hamb.

"They've cleared an established line that's been there for years and years," explains Allen. "To take part of the established grove would decrease the stability of the remaining trees."

Concerned Bonny Doon property owner Paul Foerster says Stuart Craig, a PG&E forester, told him that property owners would need to give permission for the amp champs to take down the troublesome trees that are on private property. Permission is supposedly voluntary, but "they said if they didn't get permission, they would I.D. each tree," Foerster recalls, "and suggested that our failure to remove them constitutes poor maintenance and therefore legal responsibility for the trees."

Bonny Doon resident John O'Malley recalls being told by Craig an even more chilling scenario if he did not comply. Say someone in Davenport is on a respirator and a tree on his property falls down and disrupts power. O'Malley might be held liable.

"Safety has always been the highest priority in this company," says PG&E flak Scott Blakey. "Always has been and always will be." Blakey denied Nuz access to Craig.

Third District Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt was unimpressed. "I told them that people wouldn't take it too seriously that PG&E is concerned about the risk to people," Wormhoudt growls, "given the amount of energy they spent defending nuclear power plants."

Wormhoudt is incredulous that a project this massive could slide right through without CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) review or the need for a coastal permit.

"It is the complete abuse of power by a large monopoly," Wormhoudt fumes. "Whether they can get away with it, I don't know, but not without me doing everything I can to interfere."

Update: Bonny Doon residents filed suit Nov. 12 to stop the cutting, but the court later denied their motion for a temporary restraining order. PG&E has since completed cutting at least 700 trees under the first mile and a half of power lines and is scheduled to resume cutting in the spring.

We Hate Hate
(July 14)

DeCinzo comic

We warned you this would happen.

Eleven months ago, the Nüz bunker got wind of an effort by our favorite do-gooders, the Santa Cruz Action Network, to ban hate in Santa Cruz. Now SCAN diva David Silva plans to hold a kick-off event in front of City Hall at 10:30am Thursday to gather signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

The advisory initiative would ask the Santa Cruz City Council to place signs at the entrances to town that might read "This is a hate-free zone--leave your hate at the city limits."

The signs would go next to the "Nuclear-Free Zone" placards, so all you nuclear weapon-toting haters, be forewarned.

OK, OK, we know they really mean hate crimes. But couldn't we at least can the Barney act and include the word "crime" in the title?

UPDATE: First reported by Nüz, the hate-free ballot initiative garnered national headlines for its political correctness but ended with a whimper when Silva failed to gather enough signatures by the Nov. 15, 1999, deadline. He has since asked the Santa Cruz City Council to pass the ordinance on its own.

Breath Taking
(July 14)

With countless reports of toxic smog and acid rain, some say that fresh air has become a scarce resource--even a commodity. And who better to pioneer a new air product than Santa Cruz's most beloved Breatharian, Wiley Cecil Brooks. Brooks, director of the Breatharian Institute of America, has become a local legend with his claims he has lived on a diet consisting mainly of fresh air for the past 30 years.

Just a few weeks ago, Brooks introduced his new product, "Fresh Air in a Bottle: Liquid Air (Not Water)." The clear liquid comes sealed in a plastic drinking bottle and looks amazingly similar to water. But the veteran Breatharian says it's a new discovery that will change lives.

"It's just miraculous. It's a process I've discovered to condense pure air into water," Brooks boasts. "It's not really worth my time trying to describe it. You just have to try it for yourself." Brooks says he learned the trick from a "very spiritual man" he met while at a retreat in the mountains.

Locals may remember Brooks from a 1983 scandal in which the internationally known Breatharian leader was allegedly busted sneaking out of Laurel Street's 7-Eleven with a hot dog, a Slurpee and a box of Twinkies. He claimed the informant was a scorned ex-lover spreading lies but later added that he does occasionally "take food" when he's away from the nutrient-rich pure mountain air.

Chemists believe that to liquefy air it must be chilled to approximately minus 200 degrees centigrade. But the doubting Thomases don't bother Brooks. "They laughed at the Wright brothers," Brooks writes in his breathy manifesto, Open Letter to the Citizens of the Earth. "They ridiculed Thomas Edison."

UPDATE: The next week Nüz reported that tests revealed Brooks' "Liquid Air" to be de-ionized water. Brooks' reply? "Most scientists don't even understand that they have souls."

Jerry Live
(July 28)

Nearly four years ago thousands of souls cried out in agony, constructed memorial altars and wondered how they would spend their summers upon hearing of the death of Grateful Dead ringleader Jerry Garcia. In the ensuing months Santa Cruz even made national headlines with its free support groups for Deadheads grieving the loss of their spiritual and cultural superhero, who passed away on Aug. 9, 1995.

On Aug. 5 at 7pm, Wendy Weir, sister of Dead guitarist Bob Weir, arrives at Gateways Books & Gifts to assure the mourning masses that while Garcia has abandoned the physical realm, he's alive and chatting in the spirit world. Weir will read from her new book, In the Spirit: Conversations With the Spirit of Jerry Garcia, and describe three years of "checking-in" using the spiritual equivalent of conference calls with Garcia and her brother Bob.

"At first it was really hard to get ahold of Jerry's spirit in the astral [plane]," Weir recounts by phone from her hotel room in Florida. "I asked Bob to come in telepathically. We had to go to a higher level, to the oversoul, or higher self."

Wendy Weir, an environmental educator and activist who's co-written several children's books with her brother, says she and Jerry had about 16 conversations after breaking through their initial communication barrier. A trained psychic, Weir explains that once Garcia was able to detach from his memories of physical pain, he felt free to share his life lessons as a spirit guide.

"He said that drugs aren't good, and that we need to learn with joy and love," Weir adds. "He also said we have to realize that we are all one."

Calls to Nancy Reagan, inquiring whether she will attempt to recruit Jerry's spirit for her "Just Say No" campaign, were not returned.

UPDATE: Jerry Garcia remains dead. Bandmembers and ex-wives continue to squabble over his financial and artistic legacy.

Cop Shop Talk
(Aug. 4)

The next time your ID is checked in a bar, Nüz suggests you check the bouncers' as well. They may be cops.

Few Santa Cruzans seem aware of a recent push by the Santa Cruz Police Department's crusading "community services" officer, Lt. Patty Sapone, to promote a program in local watering holes called Cops in Shops.

The "voluntary" Santa Cruz program uses cops in plainclothes posing as employees. Sapone describes it in a July 2 letter to liquor licensees:

"Officers come to your business for a prearranged period of time and work next to your employees. . . . They will try to 'fit in' with the rest of your staff. You may be asked to loan us an employee uniform or shirt. Any violations of law, including the alcohol laws, will be handled by the officers at the business. The officers may make arrests, issue citations, or confiscate fake IDs."

Sapone has made a name for herself as the PD's designated killjoy. Sapone was behind the recent effort to quash informal music in bars and cafes that has led to an effort to rewrite the city ordinance to be more entertainment-friendly.

UPDATE: Concerning informal music in bars and cafes, Santa Cruz City Councilmember Christopher Krohn hopes soon to propose an ordinance exempting businesses with a seating capacity of fewer than 100 and which don't charge admission from needing an expensive city entertainment license.

Kat Kam Kaper
(Aug. 11)

Fame recently paid off for Kitty, the grande dame of Internet cats, with a new hand-crocheted bed from her devoted followers. Arguably the most famous feline on the web, Kitty is the star at www.kittycam.com, a website featuring a live video camera trained on Kitty's favorite nap spot run by Santa Cruz's Joint Solutions Marketing.

Then on July 27, the cutting-edge cat's website, which was receiving 1,200 to 2,000 daily hits, was cyberjacked by the online equivalent of claim jumpers.

Stealing the site was remarkably easy. The catnappers merely forged the email address of the registered owner, then instructed the online authority, Network Solutions, to change the registration of the domain and route website access requests to a company with a P.O. box in Dallas called DNS. Now a screen message informs the requester that the browser can't locate the site.

A quick Nüz Internet search revealed a half dozen recent cases of cyberjacking in as many months. But Network Solutions--the world's largest domain authority--barely acknowledges the problem.

"I spoke to our engineering department and confirmed that the incidence of hijacking websites, which is a serious and possibly criminal action, is not prevalent," communications officer Cheryl Regan writes by email.

As easy as it is to abscond with a site, getting it back isn't nearly so simple. Tyler Stone, vice president of Joint Solutions, says that two weeks of phone calls, emails, faxes and overnight letters trying to get Kitty back on the web have failed.

UPDATE: Nüz reported on Sept. 1 that Santa Cruz's most wired feline was back online. Congratulatory emails poured in from around the world.

Bordering on Madness
(Aug. 18)

Soon after Borders Books backed out of a deal last February to open a store in a downsized space in the proposed Capitola Crossing shopping center, Nüz began to hear the rumor that Borders would instead move into the new Redtree building at the corner of Pacific and Soquel. In a fit of pique, the rumor went, Redtree Properties, developer of both projects, would get even with Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Neal Coonerty for his opposition to the Capitola project by bringing Borders to downtown Santa Cruz.

No way, we said.

Surely Redtree was not that vindictive, we said.

Surely it would not risk the negative publicity, we said.


It is.

It did.

Two years ago, Redtree chief operating officer John Tremoulis told Sentinel reporter Karen Clark that Redtree had received numerous inquiries about the downtown building from prospective tenants, mostly from local retailers.

"There are some great local retailers in the Santa Cruz area, and they should be downtown," said Tremoulis. "They'll make downtown stronger. I don't want to see a bunch of national chains downtown."

This is the same man who, in last Saturday's Sentinel story, said of Borders: "You can't get a much better tenant downtown."

After the shopping center plan was sent back to the drawing board in 1996, the Borders threat receded--only to come roaring back last January when Redtree once again proposed the store as the controversial shopping center's anchor tenant. Tremoulis wrote in a brochure sent to Capitola residents that "Borders is attempting to make a 'backup offer' to take space in downtown Santa Cruz"--suggesting that Capitolans should jump at the opportunity while they had the chance.

People scratched their heads over that one. The only commercial space available in downtown Santa Cruz big enough to accommodate a Borders was Redtree's own building, then under construction.

Crown Books left Pacific Avenue last year after a two-year struggle. But most consider Borders a much more formidable competitor. For Borders, there's a nifty bit of pay back in the deal as well. Borders and Barnes & Noble are being sued by the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent book stores, for alleged monopolistic trade practices.

Neal Coonerty is vice president of the ABA, and will assume the presidency next year during the trial. Officials from Redtree did not return calls from Nüz.

UPDATE: After weeks of bitter controversy, the Santa Cruz City Council approved the project Nov. 9.

DeCinzo comic

Party of the Century
(Oct. 6)

Anyone scrambling to make the perfect plans for New Year's Eve can relax a little. Those who didn't attend the annual Aptos Chamber of Commerce dinner, held on Oct. 2, have already missed the official "Party of the Century."

The momentous hootenanny at the Seascape Resort featured dinner, both live and silent auctions, and an awards ceremony celebrating the "People of the Century." The ever-ambitious chamber honored more than 20 citizens who have "made an impact on Santa Cruz County."

Members of the club include Barbara Palmer, one of the leaders of a controversial movement to separate Aptos from the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. The local Federation of Teachers, Migrant Parent Advisory Committee and members of the Watsonville Japanese American Citizens League have charged that the move is segregationist, but the chamber heralds Palmer for "trying to make the Aptos schools the best they can be."

The event also honors Liz Irwin, the UCSC public relations maven, praising her service on numerous boards and for her role as a "long-time advocate of excellent education at Cabrillo College and UCSC." Last year Irwin was criticized by the local press for obstructing reporters trying to gather information on student deaths on the UCSC campus.

While Nüz applauds the extraordinary appointees, we feel numerous deserving folks were forgotten. Poor Suzanne Gamble, a former chamber Woman of the Year, surely shaped Aptos history. After being honored for her work with earthquake victims, the artist turned artful dodger went on the lam with her golden retriever, Zeke, and more than $500,000 obtained by forging documents and defrauding banks.

When the feds finally caught up to her three years later, Gamble showed not only determination and flexibility--she had a .357-caliber pistol and nine IDs with different names--but a sharp wit to boot.

"Aren't you kind of fat to be a federal agent?" she snapped at her arresting officer.

Former Aptos acupuncturist Dr. Ignatius Piazza also missed the final cut. Piazza, who now refers to himself as a "four weapons combat master," opened a shooting gallery in Nevada called the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute [see "One Spine Day," above].

Apparently with the long list of creative citizens, the competition proved just too stiff. Maybe next century.

Mexican Mafia
(Oct. 20)

Santa Cruz's nationally renowned Latino magazine El Andar has been threatened with a lawsuit. And the threat could be deadly.

The Fall 1999 issue of El Andar profiles a Mexican family known as Grupo Hank, which owns Laredo National Bank of Texas. El Andar publisher Jorge Chino says that the bank has been under investigation by the Federal Reserve, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Justice for money laundering.

In Mexico the Hanks are considered untouchable, Chino says, and have tried to silence journalists. In 1988, Hanks family body guards were convicted of murdering a Mexican journalist. Attorney Ricardo Cedillo wrote a letter to El Andar demanding an apology and $10 million, among other things. "Should you elect to do nothing," wrote Cedillo, "you act at your peril."

"This letter affects freedom of speech," Chino says. "No way are we going to retract our story." El Andar also reported that bank president Gary Jacobs has attended White House coffees with President Clinton and has contributed to the Democratic Party. The story can be found at www.elandar.com.

Vampires? At Kresge?
(Oct. 20)

Between mid-terms, laps around Hahn Student Services and trust-fund raver roommates, life at UC-Santa Cruz can seem pretty close to purgatory. Evidence from last week's episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer suggests that the bastion of Banana Slugs is actually closer to hell than previously imagined. Or, in Buffy-speak, right on the hellmouth--the portal between earth and the evil underworld.

This season, Buffy, who balances vampire-slayage with a sharp wit and keen fashion sense, leaves high school behind to begin her new life in college at UC-Sunnydale. While watching the Chosen One cope with her Celine Dion-listening roomie during Tuesday's show, titled "Living Conditions: Attack of the Killer Roommate," Nüz's investigative team quickly noticed that Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has landed a dorm room in Stevenson. Even skeptics suspected it was more than mere coincidence when her potential post-Angel love interest, Parker Finch (Adam Kaufman), mentioned that he was living at Kresge as he filled his backpack with dining-hall supplies.

A quick call to the show's production department confirmed that this masterfully written ode to the demon roommate was scripted by UCSC alum Marti Noxon. Noxon, who has written for Buffy since the beginning of the second season, graduated from Oakes College in 1986 with a degree in theater arts.

"I came up and visited the campus this spring. I've been thinking about you guys a lot now that Buffy is going to college," Noxon says. "And I've always imagined Sunnydale as Santa Cruz."

UPDATE: The talented Ms. Noxon, an inspiration to Banana Slugs past and present, has since been promoted--she is now the show's supervising producer.

DeCinzo comic

Body Image
(Nov. 17)

In Santa Cruz, you can legally walk down the street nekkid as a jaybird, but according to one city official, displaying certain paintings of bare females is a no-no. The latest paroxysm of Puritanism comes courtesy of Raymond Evans, in charge of exhibitions at the Louden Nelson Community Center.

Two days after artist Lynn Zachreson installed an exhibition by herself and two of her students in the LNCC hallway gallery, Zachreson says Evans demanded that nine of the paintings be taken down because they were too "suggestive." Eight of the paintings are work from two models--one a 78-year-old woman, another a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy. In the ninth painting, a third woman strikes a pose looking over her shoulder with her back to the viewer. Ironically, Evans did not object to a painting of a naked man, genitalia in full view. Evans declined to be interviewed or to explain his decision.

Rather than remove the paintings, Zachreson eventually agreed to place paper veils over parts of the paintings, then posted a statement at the entrance to the gallery asking for comment on whether the censorship was warranted.

Explaining that there are many different groups, such as children and seniors, that meet at the center who apparently need to be shielded from portrayals of the naked human form, LNCC interim supervisor Laura Scribner defended Evans' action. "It's a very subjective process," she asserts.

Zachreson was incredulous. "Seniors have come up to ask me if someone had vandalized my work," she responds. "To say seniors and children can't view work is a horrible generalization. Because it might be objectionable to some people doesn't mean the rest can't see it."

Glass House
(Dec. 1)

You gotta watch out for them flyin' rocks when the walls are made of glass.

Former Deputy District Attorney and candidate for DA Kate Canlis has criticized her main opponent, DA Ron Ruiz, for going easy on batterers. In a Sentinel op/ed piece last Aug. 15, Canlis suggested that if Ruiz gone to trial on a felony domestic violence charge against Isaac Coronado last March rather than accepting a misdemeanor plea bargain, Coronado might have been deterred from later killing his wife, Leticia.

According to Santa Cruz PD records and sources in the DA's office, Canlis has a "Coronado" problem of her own.

In the case of Stephen Cardoza, the man arrested in Gilroy Nov. 22 and charged with killing Danielle Dewart, Canlis had an opportunity to practice what she later preached. According to press reports on the autopsy, Dewart was stabbed 77 times, her throat slit and her body run over.

Cardoza was arrested in 1995 for battery, and again on May 25, 1997, on assault with a deadly weapon after assaulting his mother, Denise Cardoza, at her home. Denise--whose 5-foot-4-inch, 115-pound body was no match for her son's 200 pound, 6-foot 1-inch frame--reported being thrown twice by her son and being beaten repeatedly, suffering broken ribs. She told Santa Cruz PD officers she believed her son was on steroids, and the police report describes him as angry, intoxicated, irrational and obscene. Denise obtained a restraining order a few days later.

Canlis was the assistant DA in charge of the 1997 case. On July 9, 1997, she declined to file charges against Stephen Cardoza.

Efforts to reach Canlis prior to deadline were unsuccessful.

Hare-Raising Escape
(Dec. 8)

Nüz would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to the person sporting the giant rabbit costume in this past Saturday's Holiday Parade. While enjoying the thrill of a running car, one of our reporters failed to notice the poor big-eared bunny strolling through a cross-walk. That is, until the frightened hare planted its fuzzy feet in the middle of the street and began flailing its little arms above its large head.

Nüz has nothing against rabbits, both great and small, or those who choose to wear bunny outfits. And we are proud to report that no animals were harmed in the writing of this Nüz page.

UPDATE: Sarah Fowler, the Cotton Tales employee who was almost struck by the Nüzmobile, called to say that she harbors no hard feelings about the bunny's near- road-kill experience during the Holiday Parade.

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From the January 5-12, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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