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— It's just what local convention-center boosters don't need to hear right now: a big software outfit based in Fairfax, Virginia, has canceled its San Diego conference for 1450 analysts and customers. WebMethods, Inc., an e-business concern, told the Washington Post that travel budgets of its customers have suddenly dried up and therefore the event, set for next month, has got to go. "It became apparent in the current economic environment that many companies are severely restricting employee travel and that while there was high interest in attending the conference, many customers wondered whether there were alternate and less expensive ways to learn about our new offerings," Phillip Merrick, the company's chairman and chief executive said in an e-mail. Instead of the two-day, multimillion-dollar San Diego event, WebMethods plans to hold a downsized one-day gathering for partners only. Customers will get their information via webcast. San Diego city hall is counting on taxes collected from bigger and bigger convention business to help finance an array of projects, including the downtown baseball stadium and its attendant development. If the tourists don't come, observers expect the city council to eventually slash library budgets and other so-called "nonessential" city services to pay for the ballpark ... Speaking of travel, the Liberian-registered cruise liner Infinity coughed up a record toll of $201,531.69 to travel through the Panama Canal on its March maiden cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to San Diego, says the Latin American Newsletter ... The economy isn't getting in the way of San Diego's Jaycor Tactical Systems, which makes the Pepperball Launcher, billed as the latest in "nonlethal and self-defense technology" for police and prison guards. South Carolina's Charleston Gazette reports that the device, which shoots up to 180 spheres filled with blinding pepper spray, is a big star at the fifth annual "Mock Prison Riot" being held this week at a former penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia.

Blushing rocker Soul singer Gladys Knight got married last week at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel to William McDowell, the ex-manager of La Costa's men's spa. "The intimate ceremony was attended by 80 family members and close friends, all of whom donned white or cream-colored clothing for the seaside nuptials," says a news release issued by MCA Records. "The ceremony was followed by a reception where the menu included Caesar salad, rack of lamb, sea bass, and apple tarts with caramel ice cream, as well as traditional wedding cake and a sparkling-cider toast to the bride and groom. Gladys and William first met about ten years ago at La Costa, one of Gladys's favorite spa/resorts. In January of this year, Gladys and several girlfriends met at La Costa to plan a friend's wedding, and Gladys saw William again. William asked Gladys to join him for a movie, and they had a great time. He then asked her on a second date, and they went to a beautiful private beach, where they gazed at the stars and talked about life. Since then, the couple has been inseparable, and they vowed to remain chaste before their marriage. Gladys and William haven't yet celebrated with a proper honeymoon. After the ceremony, the family returned to Las Vegas (Gladys's 'hometown'), where they celebrated Easter with the family traditions of an egg hunt for Gladys's 11 grandchildren and a big family dinner. Since the wedding, Gladys and William have spent cherished moments together, between Gladys's Smokey Joe's Cafe performances."

Cosmetic politics The deputy general manager of the Del Mar Fair, Bradley Gessner, will become head of WestWorld, a financially distressed equestrian special-events venue in Scottsdale, reports the Arizona Republic. Owned by the city, the center hosts such blue-blood events as the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Show and the All-Arabian Horse Show ... Campaigns and Elections reports that the clients of San Diego political consultant Chris Crotty, one-time aide to ex-mayor Maureen O'Connor, include Sempra Energy, General Motors Advanced Technology Vehicles, and the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association.

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