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SLAPP Happy

You can bet Boulder Creek resident Julie Hendriks breathed a big sigh of relief last Friday after Judge Robert Atack dismissed the lawsuit brought against her by forester Roy Webster. You may remember that Webster's client, Humboldt County­ based Eel River Sawmills, had proposed to do some logging in the neighborhood, and requested easement for its logging trucks from the Boy Scout camp near Hendriks. Hendriks wrote her concerns about Webster to the camp, who then forwarded them on to the good forester.

What followed, in Hendriks and her lawyer's opinion, is charges of libel in what's known in environmental circles as a SLAPP suit--a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Such lawsuits have been criticized as attempts by corporations and wealthy individuals to silence their critics and, in many cases, they have.

In this particular case, the suit was thrown out in its early stages. "The judge decided [the letter] was privileged information and that no malice was intended," says Hendriks. "This is a win for environmentalists. We can participate in the public process and not have to worry."

Reached by phone, Webster says, "We never got around to whether the accusations she [Hendriks] made were true or false. I felt that I didn't get my day in court because of legalese."


Spirits of
The Seas

Why didn't Jimmy Buffett think of this first? Seems that there was a boat docked in the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor this last weekend called the Untamed Spirit II. No, it was not your typical retired drug runner's toy or Silicon Valley trophy sailboat, but a self-proclaimed ambassador from the Republic of Cuervo Gold, Nation of Untamed Spirits," which is both a bona fide Caribbean Island and an inspired marketing ploy from the good folks who brought you the mass-market tequila of the same name.

The cactus juice's parent company--Hartford, Conn.­based Heublein, Inc.--has leased an eight-acre island off the coast of Tortola. According to Heublein's manager of public relations and event marketing, Scott Mueller, the island has not only petitioned the United Nations for a seat in the General Assembly, but, "We have declared our independence." The boat's purpose, which has now motored from our yacht harbor down the coast to Monterey, is "to spread the word of the new nation to the citizens at each port of call," Mueller further explains.

And, what might that word be, exactly?

"That the only rules are that there are no rules," says Mueller.

Oh, sort of like those who bed down about our City Hall?

Well, not exactly, says the shot- glass sophist.

"It's an attitude--you participate in life to the fullest," clarifies Mueller.

However, don't plan on pulling together a convention of rules-snubbing, life-affirming boozehounds and booking a charter down to the new republic just yet. Mueller points out that although there is indeed a dock, general store, bar (natch) and restaurant at the newly minted nation, the hotel only has eight rooms, which can run you about $300 a night during the high-- er, expensive--season.

Anyway, it's not really about slugging back the shots or visiting the country, it's about a state of mind, deadpans Mueller: "If they choose to drink our product, that's great. But it's not about how much you drink, it's about living the untamed spirit."

Those who missed her last weekend can catch the boat's return when the Cuervo Gold Pro-Am Volleyball Tournament comes to town the first week in August.

In the meantime, no word yet on when the Republic's AA meeting schedules will be printed.


Honest, I Swear I Wasn't Loaded

Call it the 13th step of Narcotics Anonymous: A recovering addict trips and falls outside of a 12-step meeting held on municipal property and NA gets sued by the City of Santa Cruz after a claim is filed.

That's what happened to the local chapter of NA when a member hurt his knee last year as he was leaving a meeting at the Louden Nelson Center, which is jointly run by the city and the county.

According to Michelle Fearnehough, an attorney for the city, the member sued the city of Santa Cruz for damages, claiming that the lot where he tripped was dangerous. But city lawyers quickly pointed the finger of responsibility at NA and filed a complaint of their own, contending that NA had previously agreed to hold the city harmless in such situations.

NA's San Francisco attorneys declined to discuss the case with N-uz. So far, the member has racked up a cool $15,000 in medical bills, says Fearnehough. The case is now in non-binding arbitration. If an agreement can't be reached, the fate of all three parties will be in the hands of a jury or a Higher Power.


A Higher Calling

Now you can chat with your uptight, conservative parents in Iowa and stay true to your Santa Cruz, hippy-dippy ethics at the same time. Place that call on a NORML Prepaid Calling Card, where a nice chunk of the profit goes to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Issued by PRE-TEL of Southern California, these little cards (retailing for 10 bucks a pop) give savvy smokers a way to save on every long distance call.

Although calling cards are more expensive than your typical residential call, explains PRE-TEL Veep of Marketing Mike Philbeck, they still will run less than credit cards or collect calls. And, he points out, "About 40 percent of every $10 goes to NORML."

But the concept's real beauty--literally--is the luscious green horticultural artwork that adorns the card. This kind of touch is why the market for prepaid calling cards as collectibles is growing like a, well, weed.

In fact, reports Philbeck, there seems to be more interest in his cards for their collectibility than for their fundraising ability. He also distributes one that raises funds for gay and lesbian causes through the Rainbow Foundation.

What's surprising is that herb-lovers can purchase this card in Missoula, Mont., or even Coon Rapids, Minn.

Everywhere, it seems, but Santa Cruz, which is a shame, since Philbeck says his company only printed 3,000, and 2,500 have already been sold.

Okay, listen up. If you are interested, put out that roach and write down this address: PO Box 2703, Toluca Lake, CA 91610-0703.


Nuz welcomes tips. Leave messages by calling 457-9000, or email us at msc@livewire.com

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From the June 27-July 3, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing and Virtual Valley, Inc.


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