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[whitespace] Austin Powers,  Larry Stone
$2,000 A Year? But It's a Cottage, Baby!: Austin Powers with his sidekick, County Assessor Larry Stone.

Public Eye

Funds A-Plenty

As befits Camera Cinemas' dedication to cinema high and low, the crowd of about 500 invitees who previewed the newly unveiled Camera 7 in the Pruneyard Thursday night had a choice of films--either a showing of the latest AUSTIN POWERS cavalcade of dick jokes, or a free show of the CATHERINE KEENER movie Lovely & Amazing. Before showtime, invitees helped themselves to pizza, sandwiches, champagne and Corona, and inaugurated the carpet with the first load of spilled popcorn. Attendees had nary a clue that hammers hadn't started pounding until three months before the opening. Camera Cinemas owners JIM ZUUR and JACK NYBLOOM had been eyeing the place, but when the Pruneyard's owners said they had other theater operators interested, they had to move fast to line up the $3 million needed. And starting in January and February, Jim and Jack made presentations to local investors to raise $2 million of it. PR guy DAN ORLOFF, who's been doing publicity for the Cameras for years, says they did it by asking potential partners for $50,000 or more, and tempted them with the promise of free admission to the theaters and free pizza for life. To illustrate this point, Orloff, who is also an investor, pulls a gold card out his wallet that identifies him as a pizza-and-movie beneficiary. "See that?" he says, pointing to the expiration date, which reads: "Life." Not only did Zuur and Nybloom raise the money in 30 days, they also had to turn away several interested investors. But to open the theaters in time to catch the busy summer movie season, Orloff says the owners had to get started before the money was lined up. "We had the construction permit before we finished getting the investors." The architects carved seven theaters out of a space that used to hold two--the long-defunct UA Pruneyard--including a cinema-themed cafe. Willow Street Pizza does the cooking, and patrons can get something to eat before an encounter with some plush Miramax JUDI DENCH vehicle, a beautifully photographed tale of woe from Iran, or the latest French head-scratcher. The seventh house in the Camera 7 is the VIP theater, a 60-seat room that will be sometimes used for special events. KEN KARN of the Camera Cinema Club plans to move the club there during the course of the summer. But first, he and his long-time collaborator SASHA PARISOT are going to Prunedale for three weeks to shoot a full-length movie in super-16 mm, Skin Deep. The Spanish co-production will star JENNIFER WILSON of Mad TV. "No one's ever shot a movie in Prunedale," Karn adds.

Polling Eye

Something wasn't right. The survey taker who called during The Simpsons said she was from California Opinion Research, but she wanted to know how Eye thought things were going in "San Hose" (rhymes with nose) and Santana County. "Where are you calling from?" Eye inquired. "Philadelphia," she said. She asked what Eye thinks about expanding the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, if Eye wants to tax out-of-towners to do so, and whether Eye trusts, among others, Mayor RON GONZALES and someone named TOM MAC-ERNIE. The Simpsons ended. The interrogation continued. Several questions probed whether or not Eye would be more likely to support hiking the San Jose hotel tax, a Convention and Visitors Bureau plan Gonzales recently said he'd back on the fall ballot. Eye's interlocutor tested the guises in which the measures may appear on the ballot: the San Jose Downtown Improvement Act, the Safety, Jobs and Economic Improvement Act, the San Jose Convention Center Safety, Repair and Expansion Act. How to choose? They all sound so good! But why, Eye wondered, all the questions about safety? Is the convention center in danger of collapse? Nope. A few responses later, the answer was clear: They wanted to know if Eye would go for the tax hike if the expanded convention center doubled as a disaster shelter in the event of an earthquake or terrorist attack, or if Eye wanted to see some of the money go to safety and security at the center. So will the Convention and Visitors Bureau be pushing the expanded center as the cure to terrorism, natural disasters, economic malaise and unemployment? Eye checked in with bureau CEO DAN FENTON, who confirmed that his organization was one of the groups doing the poll. But Fenton said it was still too early to talk about strategy. So what about all these questions on the mayor's credibility? Ron's trustworthiness has been polled and polled, from Measure A to the re-election race. Are they still worried about it? Fenton again pleads ignorance. Someone, however, must be curious about how much voters trust the mayor. Interestingly, California Opinion Research is an arm of the mayor's pollster, Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin & Associates. By the way, Eye had been hearing that Gonzales Deputy Chief of Staff DUSTIN DeROLLO would be running the campaign, but instead he'll keep his day job. Political consultant DEBORAH HERRON will run the campaign. The council will decide next week whether or not to put the tax increase on the ballot.

Botch Watch

EYE get a serious case of déjà vu last weekend when reading the Merc's coverage of the State Medical Board's blistering new charges against embattled former Santa Clara County Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. ANGELO OZOA, whose five stormy years at the helm ended in 1998 after a grand jury called for his resignation. State authorities are accusing Ozoa of gross negligence, incompetence, unprofessional conduct and acts of dishonesty or corruption while performing a 1995 autopsy on the wife of Palo Altan NELSON GALBRAITH, the subject of Metro's cover story in December 1999 ("Death Botch--Digging Up Buried Bones"). The story was the first to investigate the details and tangled evidence in Galbraith's wife's apparent suicide, along with Galbraith's arrest for homicide (based on Ozoa's report), his acquittal and subsequent $10 million lawsuit against the coroner and the county for malicious prosecution and fraud. Galbraith's suit, which was initially thrown out of court by a federal judge, is now pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Among the items that the Merc missed in its catch-up coverage, however, is the fact that the federal judge who threw out the lawsuit the first time around was former County Counsel Spencer Williams. This, according to Galbraith's family, raises the specter of a possible conflict of interest. Case investigator TED MAURINO, the state's most senior medical board sleuth after 31 years on the job, told Eye he's never seen anything quite like it. "As long as I've been here I've never had a case alleging gross negligence by a coroner's pathologist; it's rare because most are very conscientious ... If you're going to make a recommendation that a case is a homicide you should at least have done your homework and can document how you formulated your conclusions" ... Eye called now-retired Ozoa, as scrappy as ever, who responded, "I'll only say I'm denying all those complaints. I believe I performed as well as I could and I stand by my report." The state's charges should bolster Galbraith's lawsuit against the county, but what the Merc also sidestepped is fresh info that the DA's office withheld evidence from the defense, a new twist the Galbraith family is pursuing. "You can't sing like that in court without being directed by the prosecution," says son DICK GALBRAITH, referring to former Deputy DA and now Judge Linda Condron. "The corruption here smacks of conspiracy." CHARLES NEWMAN, Ozoa's own former chief investigator (who told Metro in its story that he believed the death was a suicide), is delighted with the new charges against his old boss. "It's good to see that the medical board's got teeth," says Newman, now San Francisco's administrative medical examiner. The long-term effects on the county coroner's office will bear watching, he adds, as people start questioning other autopsy findings conducted under Ozoa's watch. That sits just fine with the Galbraiths. "A light has to be brought back to the medical examiner's office," says Dick Galbraith on behalf of his ailing, 83-year-old father. "If it happened to our family, what's to stop it from happening to yours?"

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From the August 1-7, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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