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[whitespace] Richard Nixon
Covello & Covello Historical Photo Collection.

He's Back! Just kidding. Tricky Richard Nixon (center) was here at the California Real Estate Convention on Oct. 3, 1950. This photo was taken at the Cocoanut Grove. Nixon was probably speaking against some ordinance that would regulate businesses on Pacific Avenue.

Bruce Bratton

THE CARMEL PLAZA CONFERENCE. The part of the Making Cities Livable conference we went to was full of positive information and plans on how to create a plaza in a downtown and how to make it work. City officials and planners from Santa Fe, New Orleans, San Luis Obisbpo, Erlangen, Germany, and Fort Lauderdale spoke to us and to the group about plazas. Dr. Suzanne Crowhurst Lennard spoke on the "immeasurable contributions that squares make to cities." She talked about how plazas bring people together and create a sense of community--and how squares and plazas have been a necessary part of historic cities since ancient Greece and are also part of new cities being planned all over the world. She told of many cities in the U.S.A. without plazas that now realize their mistake and are creating them by tearing down structures to make them. Portland is an example, and Santa Fe's plaza is so successful that the city is planning another one that won't even be put into use for years. Lennard went on to say that the first thing to do is to educate the part of the community that always resists change about the financial advantages and how real estate values always increase around plazas. She says the location is the No. 1 item: it must be central and in the paths of people going between places. Seating is important, as well as focal points, public art, outdoor cafes and restaurants, farmers' markets and events and entertainment. A quote from the book Livable Cities Observed: "Cities cannot be saved by abandoning the city center to finance and commerce as some theorists have proposed." Our Downtown Plaza Committee will meet Dec. 2 at 7:30pm in the Main Library Meeting room, and we hope to show the video of Dr. Lennard's talk. Call the Downtown Committee to volunteer your expertise or enthusiasm at 479.9172.

SOME FINE FILMS. Being John Malkovich is every bit as funny and interesting and intriguing and absurd as you hoped it would be. Try very hard not to talk to anybody about this film--it has too many wonderful surprises--just go asap. The tobacco film, The Insider, is another triumph for Al Pacino, and it's a triumph for the film industry for even making it. Even though it's nearly three hours long, it's a well-done film. It'll make you want to give up smoking all over again--or at least give up ammonia. Then there's Train of Life, another bittersweet saga centered on the Holocaust, but this film is excellent. It just shows you, or at least it showed me, that it is possible to make a good and human film on that most horrible of topics without the dreck und schmaltz that Roberto Benigni and Robin Williams poured on it. Never mind about House on Haunted Hill--just pay no attention to it whatsoever, and it'll go away. The same applies to Dogma. Yes, the trailer made the film look like it had potential, but it's even more preachy and less funny than the Bible. Suffer not, if you can help it.

THAT DARNED NAVY SHIP. Yes, I'm disappointed that there isn't more of a protest against the U.S.S. Antietam visiting our bay. Not just because it's the first Navy ship to visit here in 10 years, not just because it's named after the bloodiest battle in our most tragic war, not just because it reminds people of the way the Russians used to drag out their biggest weapons on May Day in Red Square--I guess it's because we're teaching and sending out the wrong message. I've asked before: Why can't we display a Navy research ship or a hospital ship or some ship that does peaceful things? Why does it have to be a missile-carrying attack ship?

ABOUT FIRST NIGHT. Plenty of new happenings at the last-of-the-old-millennium First Night celebration Dec. 31. The main stage will be located in the middle of North Pacific between the Town Clock and the little park with the mural on the wall (a.k.a. SCOPE Park, formerly Scribner Square). That'll allow for lots more folks. The procession will return to its original south-to-north direction. There won't be any opening ceremonies; they're raising the children's button age to 18; and they're going to do a time capsule. We'll all see some creation called a Web Wall; the Civic Auditorium will stage a very hot teen set of attractions; and the newly recreated Santa Cruz High School Auditorium will debut with three separate performances featuring the very finest of our area stellar attractions. What you need to do right now is to get a few friends together and all volunteer to help out on First Night. Be involved with your community on this grand evening; do something you'll remember and be proud of for the Millennium Eve. There are hundreds of exciting jobs you could do, and if you call now you can get the times and places you'd like to work. Call the First Night office at 425.7277.

ANTI-RENT CONTROL ORDINANCE SURVEY. I got a phone call survey and so did many other folks who were asked oddly loaded questions about the rent control ordinance. The callers said they were from Godbe Research and Associates or TRA or something in Sacramento. Somebody must be worried about this ordinance. The only names mentioned were Bruce McPherson, Fred Keeley and Bob Lamonica. This may be the attempt that succeeds, if Sacramento is that concerned.

GENE LEWIS JAZZ EVENT. India with Straight Ahead, Joe Indence, Gary Griffith, Kathleen Nitz, Anne Cleveland, Woody Parker, Dale Mills and many other friends of Gene Lewis are doing a Jazz for Gene benefit at Kuumbwa Jazz Center Wednesday (Nov. 17) at 8pm. Kelly Houston will emcee, and you shouldn't miss it. Donations at the door. Gene has played at Pearl Alley, Mr. Toots, the Shadowbrook, Espresso Royale and lots of other clubs, and this is the chance to hear great jazz and help Gene fight demon cancer at the same time.

THEATRE POSSIBILITIES. The Del Mar's closing shouldn't have been a big surprise. Business was bad, the competition from the Cinema 9 was the final blow and United Artists didn't care much anyway. I'm predicting that the Rio will go too--and soon. Last week, the projector lens at the Rio was out of order for more than a week, and there seemed to be no rush to fix it. Now what we need to do is start adrive to turn the Del Mar into a performing-arts center. I know there are problems with this idea, and that real estate grabbers want to tear it down and build more five-story office-space monstrosities. We just have to stop them, that's all.

AMUSEMENT PARK DEATH. Remember that 12-year-old boy who died after falling several stories from the Drop Zone ride in Paramount's Great America over in Santa Clara County? Well, the San Francisco Chronicle in an article headlined "Questions Linger in Amusement Park Death" stated in five columns on the front page of its Peninsula section last Saturday (Nov. 6) that 900 pages of detail in an investigative report still do not answer critical disturbing questions about the accident and the operation of the park. It goes on to ask: Did Great America hire underage workers? Was young Joshua properly strapped into his seat? Was his harness too loose? The conflicting witness accounts and lack of evidence left investigators without a conclusion, the case was closed and no criminal charges were filed. Now state labor investigators are looking into a report that a 14-year-old boy was working the ride that day. Two things bother me about this: The first is that a friend of mine was there when Joshua fell and has given statements that he was not properly strapped in. The second is that the Sentinel's 190-word report from the Associated Press was titled "Great America won't face charges in boy's death." The article says nothing about unanswered issues, nothing about conflicting reports, nothing about the state officials still probing the death--and that seems unfair to readers in this amusement-park town.

EXTRA SPECIAL EVENTS. Roy Malan and the Ives Quartet play Mozart and Beethoven Sunday (Nov. 14) at 8pm in UCSC's Recital Hall. Arthur Greene plays two nights of Scriabin on Nov. 16-17 also at UCSC's Recital Hall. Call 459.2159 for tickets. The Santa Cruz Chamber Players play music by George Crumb, Ravel and Muczynski Nov. 20-21; call 425.3149 for that. Scott Kirby plays ragtime and things Nov. 20 at Cabrilho College, and Chopin expert Pawel Skrzypek returns to the Mello Center to play more Chopin on Nov. 21; call 479.6331 for those tickets. That's a lot of fine music for the second smallest county in the state!


Bruce critiques films on KUSP (88.9FM) every other Thursday at 12:50pm. Reach Bruce at bratton@cruzio.com or 457.9000, #400.

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From the November 10-17, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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