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[whitespace] Hair Apparent: All the money in the world couldn't buy guv candidate Al Checchi a decent hair-transplant job. Notice the unusually straight hairline.

Keep on Pluggin'

His vast fortune has allowed him to buy $18 million worth of TV plugs so far, but even all his zillions couldn't buy Al Checchi a decent set of hair plugs. Reporters have known for a while about the Checchinator's botched transplant job that left him with a horizontal hairline. Voters, however, may not know all the facts about Checchi's hair plugs, though they surely must sense from watching his TV ads that more than just his political promises seem false. Legendary San Jose barber Jack Licursi, who has been cutting hair for more than half a century, says he could tell from Checchi's commercials that his hair was fake. "You could see it's not natural," the veteran hair professional observes. "Everyone will have some form of recession like a widow's peak. The giveaway is when you don't have that recession. It's a sad design." ... Checchi's actually been to the hair doc a couple of times in his life: The first time was 25 years ago, in the pre-Hair Club for Men era. Twelve years later, after putting a few mill in the bank, Big Al went back for a "fix-it" job, making Eye shudder at the thought of what he looked like before he got his 'do "fixed." One of Checchi's most circulated studio photos hides his parallel hairline with strategically placed lighting and a high camera angle. Unfortunately, not every photo can be so well staged. Witness Checchi's latest 12-page color brochure, designed by local consultant Roger Lee and his partners at Strategy Source. The classic low camera angles used in the piece, favorites of politicians because they give the subject that larger-than-life look, only make Checchi's plugs and wacky hairline more obvious. But Checchi's Democratic opponents shouldn't chuckle too loudly about the airline tycoon's vanity. Look at 53-year-old perma-tan gal Jane Harman--her grays are buried beneath a bleach-blonde frost. And Gray Davis--heck, the guy sleeps with his blow dryer.

Pol Position

This week Dando started launching a few grenades--compliments of Ace Smith's research, perhaps?--trying to portray Gonzales as a two-faced, anti-business hypocrite. The first attack came during a debate at the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, where Dando criticized Gonzales for his votes to close Reid-Hillview Airport when he was on the Board of Supervisors. (Gonzales ultimately voted to keep the airport open after a study showed it was safe.) Later, her campaign blasted Gonzales for signing a union petition last year calling for the boycott of Kmart. But Gonzo recently told the Chamber of Commerce PAC that he opposed the city's boycott of the discount store. Gonzales tells Eye that he signed the petition as a private citizen; as mayor of a big city, he'd act differently. "In the role as mayor, I have to do what is right for the city," he explains, "so I must sometimes put my personal feelings aside [to do what's best for the city.]"

Welcome and Goodbye

To show how combative the tussle between the Downtownistas and proponents of the Town & Country expansion has become, Eye offers a couple of anecdotes. First, at a recent special subcommittee meeting of the San Jose Downtown Association held at attorney Larry Wallerstein's office, T&C project lobbyist and association member Stan Berliner showed up, to everyone's surprise and annoyance. Wallerstein and board member Judy Stabile apparently told Berliner to hit the road. But the uninvited guest cited the association's bylaws--which his law firm drafted pro-bono a decade ago--and shot back, "As a member, I'm staying as long as the meeting lasts. If you want me to stop coming to these meetings, you'll have to get a court order." Bottom line: Berliner stayed for the rest of the meeting. Wallerstein dryly notes that Stan the Man never seemed eager to attend association meetings before--when he wasn't being paid. ... Another illustrative interaction happened at last week's Rotary Club debate between Tom McEnery and Bob Brownstein. Sources tell Eye that Linda Callon, an attorney in Berliner's firm, took a seat at a table in the back of Italian Gardens when she saw Redevelopment czar Frank Taylor approaching with a crony. (Taylor is bitterly opposed to the Town & Country proposal, which he views as a threat to the downtown's retail revival.) According to one account, Taylor was about to take a seat at Callon's table, but abruptly moved to another table after he spotted her. But another witness says that Taylor wasn't avoiding Callon; there was only one seat left at the table and Taylor wanted to sit next to his companion.

Semantic License

The odds against longshot sheriff candidate Brian Beck got even worse when reports recently surfaced that Beck possibly committed perjury in the infamous Murray Lodge murder case five years ago, causing a mistrial. Beck adamantly denied lying on the stand and promised to produce the results of the attorney general's investigation into the perjury charge. Soon after, Joe Kirby, a Beck booster who once ran for sheriff in San Mateo County with Beck's support, wrote a letter to his cop colleagues saying that Beck was "completely exonerated" by the attorney general's inquiry. But Don Zies, president of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association and a supporter of Jose Salcido, told union members that he highly doubted that the attorney general would ever use unequivocal language like "completely exonerated." As it turns out, Kirby used a bit of semantic license in drawing his conclusion. Investigators didn't exonerate Beck, but told District Attorney George Kennedy that after conducting "a thorough investigation" they didn't have enough evidence to prosecute. Beck acknowledges that the AG didn't totally clear him but quickly adds, "If, after doing their investigation, they had anything to go with, they would have [prosecuted]." He also says that he asked for the investigation in the first place.

Oppo Solution

More evidence that this year's mayoral race will be a nasty one: Pat Dando has hired the San Francisco-based oppo firm owned by Ace Smith to dig up information on her opponent Ron Gonzales. Smith, the son of former S.F. District Attorney Arlo Smith, is reputed to be one of the best dirt-diggers in the state. "The name Ace Smith strikes fear into the heart of opposing political consultants," one local campaign adviser reveals. What's bugging insiders, though, isn't that Dando hired an oppo guy--that's expected in a campaign like this, and Gonzales also plans to hire his own political detective--but that Smith is working for a Republican. He usually only works for Democrats. Smith is the famed gumshoe hired by the Clinton campaign in 1992 to investigate Slick Willie's own transgressions.

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From the April 9-15, 1998 issue of Metro.

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