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Black and White Film: Surfing screenwriter Matt George was honored--sort of--for his screenplay 'Soul Alley.'

Public Eye

Color Blind

MATT GEORGE didn't read the fine print. The San Francisco screenwriter, who grew up in San Jose, entered his script in a competition called the Gordon Parks Independent Film Award. Organized by the New York-based Independent Feature Project and named for the photojournalist and director of Shaft, the contest recognizes emerging African American directors and writers. George entered his screenplay Soul Alley, which is based on the life of his godfather, Navy Capt. BUDDY PENN. George says it's a love story about Penn, the first black squadron leader in the Vietnam War, and his efforts to help children in the Philippines during the war. . . . But when George showed up at the award ceremony last month, IFP brass noticed just moments before giving him his award that their recipient is, well, white. George says everyone was nice about the whole thing, and that he didn't mind that the award--and the $10,000 prize--went to another screenwriter. "They took me off to the side just before the announcement and the directors of the IFP informed me the award was for African Americans," George recalls. "And then I realized I'd made a mistake." "I feel nothing but pride to have been able to write a script that was able to cross the color lines that separate too many people in this country." . . . Learning about the mix-up, George says he didn't have a problem with letting the award go to another nominee, though he says Penn, who now works on homeland security at the Pentagon, told him the IFP made a mistake in not giving him the award anyway. Penn and George's dad served together as fighter pilots during the war. But for George, missing out on the award doesn't mean his screenplay is wasted--the 42-year-old screenwriter says he's already negotiating with Miramax to make the film for release next year. George wrote and starred in the 1998 film In God's Hands, about a group of extreme surfers who travel the world to find giant waves. He's also a professional surfer and the senior editor at Surfer Magazine. . . . One IFP organizer says the group doesn't have any hard feelings about the mix-up. "We assumed everyone submitting considered themselves to be African American," says IFP Executive Director MICHELLE BYRD, who notes that George was the only nominee who didn't send in a photo for the event program. "I'm assuming this is a misunderstanding." That wasn't true for one judge on the panel, though. "I really pissed off SPIKE LEE," George reports. "He was a little miffed."

The Man from FEMA

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be feeling a little extra flattered these days. On Oct. 18, a guy named KENNETH MARSH showed up at the scene of a call near Fire Station 29 in north San Jose, wearing a FEMA uniform. According to a police report, he drove a marked SUV with a red emergency light and he carried a FEMA badge and business cards identifying himself as a FEMA agent. A high-ranking fire department spokesman said he acted like an official, showing up at a Haz-Mat scene and even following fire trucks to a call with his red light on. One firefighter spotted him at the scene wearing a blue jacket with yellow FEMA lettering. . . . But something about the heavy-set guy with a mustache didn't look right, and firefighters alerted the arson bureau when they got back to the station. Arson investigators reported that a similar character had posed as an officer before, and had also been spotted hanging around other fire departments. The next time Marsh returned to Station 29 early Saturday morning on Nov. 3 (with a box of doughnuts) and offering to help write a grant for a new radio system, firefighters called police. According to the police report, Marsh admitted to officers that he wasn't a FEMA officer, then refused to answer any more questions. Police arrested Marsh on a variety of charges, and during a vehicle search found several types of firefighter-type identification, shoulder patches for fire departments in other cities, and a handcuff key. . . . JIM ACKER, an arson investigator with the SJFD, said he couldn't confirm details of the case until he finished investigating. Though police alerted the FBI, a spokesman for FEMA told Eye that the regional office in San Francisco wasn't told about Marsh. Contacted by Eye, Marsh refused to comment and referred questions to his attorney.

Where's Wald-Chew?

Eye, like many San Jose residents, didn't pay much attention to the collage cover of the new Inside San Jose, the publication the city sends out to 300,000 households twice a year. More interesting than the front was the back cover, which boasted a pic of a giant rodent called a Capybara. . . . But perennial mayoral candidate BILL CHEW skated by Metro's stately downtown office the other day to show off his butt, which graces the mag's cover. . . . Near the bottom of the cover, a tiny Chew is clearly visible in his usual unmistakable outfit--snug white jeans, white shirt, white cowboy hat--peering into the downtown construction site of the new joint library. . . . While a candidate can't buy that kind of exposure, Chew says there's more to his cameo than meets the eye. "I don't think that the photo was intentional, but using it was," Chew surmises. "I definitely don't think so," says CATHY KENNY, the city staffer who usually puts the publication together. She says an outside consultant took over for her while she was on maternity leave. Sorry, Bill.

New Friends

In a little-noticed proposal, developer Divco West announced plans in September to build a 17-story office building across the street from the Tech Museum at Market Street and Park Avenue. A prospective tenant is Calpine Corp., which is headquartered in San Jose and currently occupies four floors in the Knight-Ridder building at 50 W. San Fernando St. and leases space in another downtown office. . . . Calpine spokesman BILL HIGHLANDER confirms that the energy company has had some talks with the developer and that "we did have a lot of interest in the Divco project." . . . An interesting footnote to the prospective deal, however, is that Divco was one of three partners (along with Cisco and developer Gibson Speno) that make up the Coyote Valley Research Park LLC, which fought against Calpine's plan to build a power plant right near the spot where Cisco once planned to erect its headquarters.

Embracing Elaine

Assemblywoman ELAINE ALQUIST is sporting a new chief of staff these days. TERRY LEVEILLE started in Alquist's Capitol office Nov. 1. Leveille worked for ex-Santa Clara County Supervisor ROD DIRIDON SR. before moving to Sacramento to work as a spokesman for former state Sen. DAN MCCORQUODALE. For the last seven years, Leveille, 55, has published a trade newspaper for the recycling industry. Though Alquist has burned through staff in the past, the assemblywoman tells Eye her ex-chief, BRUCE ROEBECK, left last month to become a lobbyist. Eye could not track down Roebeck by its deadline.

A Fuel-neral

Fuel, one of the strongest havens for the hip in downtown San Jose for the past five years, will have its final farewell this Sunday in the De Anza Hotel at 8pm. The double-punch of the economic free-fall of Silicon Valley and some rent-raising by local landholders put the popular arts and culture venue on the skids earlier this month. Fuel proudly showcased music before its time including Ozomatli, Sex Mob, PETE ESCOVEDO and Los Lobos; as well as introducing music talents from many genres, including Latin, Cuban, broken beat and that crazy West London music. Owner CHRIS ESPARZA and company are holding a Fuel-neral for all patrons and friends.

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From the November 15-21, 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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