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[whitespace] Tom McEnery
Joe's Tom: 'Merc' columnist Joe Rodriguez claims his paper was the first to brand the former mayor with the 'Tomster' name.

Public Eye

Memory Upgrade

SLAVES TO ACCURACY that we are, we couldn't help but wonder about a June 14 column by the Mercury News columnist Joe Rodriguez, headlined "HizRonner vs. the Tomster," in which he referred to former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery 10 times as "the Tomster" in a 600-word piece. "Before there was a HizRonner there was a Tomster, the nickname given to McEnery by one of my predecessor columnists, Steve Lopez, back in the 1980s." ... Loyal readers of this column will recall, of course, that "Tomster" was an affectionate appellation used here over the years to salute our favorite '80s guy. If our friends at Ridder Park Drive were subtly influenced by Eye's pioneering efforts, it won't be the first time. Remember that failed anonymous political insider column called "The Insider?" Rather than trust our memories on this, however, we queried the Tomster on whether Lopez should be credited with coining the term. "His first sobriquet was 'Mayor Moonbeam'--quite original, isn't it?" McEnery volunteered. "You can see why his novel was such a flop--but give him credit for writing it." Ouch. So we tracked down the author of The Sunday Macaroni Club (Amazon.com Rank: 177,502) and Third and Indiana (Rank: 785,576 hardcover/76,713 paperback), who now pens a column at the Los Angeles Times and asked him whether he referred to his fellow novelist as "the Tomster." "I don't recall doing that," Lopez replied. "I think once or twice Mayor Moonbeam." ... Finally, Rodriguez returned from a vacation and shared his recollections. "I remember reading it in his clip file a few years ago," he said. "I don't recall the date." ... "Most of his clips aren't in our computerized files, which go back only to 1985," explained Rodriguez, who helpfully offered, "Maybe somebody in our library can look them up for you?" before his reportorial curiosity prompted him to probe our motives. "Also, why do you want to know?" he probed. Well, Saint Joe--a clever fellow in his own right who contributed the moniker HizRonner to local columnland--has had two weeks now to check with the friendly librarians. Assuming that he can't back up his statement, we'll expect him to do the right thing and set the record straight on this matter of extreme historical importance.

Affair Grounds

Speaking of columnists, there are a couple new ones in Eye's sandbox. The aforementioned political gossip column that debuted in the Merc last week is the spiritual successor to the paper's old "Insider," which died unceremoniously in late 1999. That's when veteran scribe Scott Herhold--who began the column in 1987, two years after Eye was born--made a move to the business section. Herhold tells Eye he dropped it because he didn't have time for both "The Insider" and his new duties. When nobody wanted to take over, it was curtains for the unbylined Sunday feature. ... Former publisher Jay Harris, however, all but took credit for the column's demise last year while speaking at a Rotary luncheon. Pressed by assessor Larry Stone on the circumstances of the column death, Harris skewered Herhold's baby. "I think much of the resistance in the Mercury News was grounded in the fact that I didn't like the column that much," Harris said, drawing big laughs. "We aspire to be for this community the paper that it deserves, and while I would agree that at times "The Insider" gave all of us important insights into what was going on behind the scenes, in government and political life, at other times it was personally petty and gossipy, and I think that this community deserves better than that." Harris didn't say he cut the column, but implied as much. ... Now, with Harris out of the picture, a couple of fresh faces are taking a shot at muckraking on Mondays with the intriguingly named "Internal Affairs." The writers, Mike Zapler and Edwin Garcia, are both new to the City Hall beat. Zapler, a transplant from the San Francisco bureau, replaces Noam Levey, who's now sweating it out in the Sacramento bureau. Garcia moved over from the race and demographics desk to take over the SJ Redevelopment Agency beat from Barry Witt, who has given up dealing with imperious developers and cranky bureaucrats to pen a column about something slightly more soothing: golf.

Birthday Bash

Residents of the 15th and 16th Congressional Districts can rest easy: Their reps know how to party. Case in point: San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren treated West Valley Rep. Mike Honda to a surprise bash last week to celebrate his 60th birthday. It was Zoe's first fete in her new newly remodeled home in Naglee Park. Lofgren bought the 4,400-square-foot Mediterranean manse last year, but had to do some serious work on the 80-something-year-old joint before it was in any shape to party. ... Zoe told Mike he was coming over for a meeting. "He was actually really grumpy going up there," reports Honda chief of staff Jennifer van der Heide. "He was wondering why there were way more than 50 cars there, and he was kind of annoyed with me ... But he opened the door and he was totally blown away." About 200 guests showed up from around the state, from political backers to prominent members of the Asian American community to local electeds. Party-goers spilled out of the house and into the backyard, munching on burritos, taquitos and piña coladas. The birthday boy, backed by a 10-piece mariachi band, serenaded the crowd from a balcony and cracked that "the only time I could ever imagine this collection of people here would be at my funeral."

Oops, Eye Did It Again

San Jose City Council hopeful Judy Chirco never went to now-closed Cambrian High School, as Eye reported last week. That's because she went to the now-closed Camden High School.

Deal Time

Since we're overdosing on media, here's one that may have gone under the radar. Sandra Farris, publisher of Valley Scene, is getting out of the publishing biz, reportedly to spend more time with her family. Farris sold her fledgling publication to Silicon Valley Biz Ink June 22, but not before shopping it to a sister company of Metro Newspapers. Farris started the 43,000-circulation monthly four years ago, doing most of the work herself and distributing it by mail to wealthy ZIP codes in places like Almaden, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Willow Glen. Although the paper is made up almost entirely of snapshots from tony fundraisers and golf tournaments, Farris reportedly managed to clear $20,000 to $25,000 in ad revenue a year. Farris (who did not return a call) phoned David Cohen, publisher of Metro's six weeklies in the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers group, and left a message offering her paper for the low price of just $1. Cohen called her back, left a message, and the following day got a voicemail from Farris saying she'd sold to Biz Ink Publisher Armon Mills. Pestered about the terms of the deal, Mills said he agreed not to disclose the purchase amount, but assured Eye that it was greater than $0.

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From the July 12-18, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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