"Fame is like a river, That beareth up things light and swollen, And drowns things weighty and solid." — Francis Bacon
Bill Ritter is a well-paid TV anchorman in Los Angeles. Larry Remer is a political consultant whose corporate clients include Southern California Edison. But Peter Bohmer is still a radical college professor.
Twenty years ago, Bohmer organized and inspired hundreds of young San Diegans — including Ritter and Remer — to oppose the Vietnam War and block the Republican Party from holding its 1972 national convention here. “Peter was unbelievably charismatic,” Ritter says of the then-27-year-dd economics instructor. “He was smart, funny, and remarkably articulate. He was to San Diego State what Mario Savio was to UC-Berkeley.“
Bohmer’s success in melding Marxist theory with street protests made him the target of bullets and death threats from the Secret Army Organization and other local right-wing extremists. He was arrested ten times for anti-war activities and served 50 days at Chino State Prison after being convicted of “aiding and abetting" a group of radicals who burned a pile of wooden railroad ties in Del Mar during a protest march. After being fired from the SDSU faculty in 1972, Bohmer ran the Center for Radical Education and worked at the Jackie Robinson YMCA in Southeast San Diego. But he says he tired of “trying to get by on $150 a month" and returned to the University of Massachusetts to finish his PhD in economics. (The judge who sentenced Bohmer in the felony case had also ordered him to complete his graduate degree as a condition of probation.) “Despite the irresponsible, even criminal actions of the police, editors at the Union-Tribune, and administrators at San Diego State, my reflections of San Diego are kind of positive, believe it or not,” Bohmer now says.
After finishing his dissertation in 1985, the New York native taught at Pennsylvania State University-McKeesport, where he also advised steel mill workers on how to purchase and operate bankrupt foundries. In 1987 he joined the faculty at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where he's preparing the syllabus for a 1992 course titled “Columbus: 500 Years of Oppression, 500 Years of Resistance." Bohmer also says he has devoted 70 or 80 hours a week to organizing protests against the Gulf War, which he sees as a cover for U.S. "efforts to establish a permanent military presence in the Gulf to control oil and the Third World." His anti-war activities have made the 46-year-old father of four the target of a death threat and prompted more than one state legislator to demand he be fired from his teaching post.
Franz Schnaubelt retired from Convair in 1970, a year after the original Star Trek television series was canceled. Had the TV show disappeared from memory, Schnaubelt’s golden years doubtless would have been predictable. But we all know what happened to Star Trek — the astonishing popularity of its reruns, the string of movies, the highly popular “Next Generation" series. What happened to Schnaubelt is that, at least for a few years, the Trekkie force field warped his life, quite pleasantly.
Schnaubelt never watched the original series; he thought it was silly. His daughter was an ardent fan, however, and when she was 15, he began accompanying her to various Trekkie functions. At San Diego State, Schnaubelt, who’d worked for 30 years as an industrial designer, found himself chiding the young people for their clumsy attempts to replicate certain items from the TV show. He helped them prepare three-view drawings of Star Trek-style “phasers," and soon the young fans were asking for his assistance in re-creating whole sets. In order to do that, Schnaubelt began studying the show’s reruns and ultimately put in some 1500 hours creating a complete set of blueprints detailing the starship Enterprise.
Urged to market the plans, he quickly sold 500 self-published copies, then signed a contract with Ballantine Books. Two years later, he also produced a Star Trek “technical manual" ("literally a Boy Scout manual for space." he says with a chuckle).
Both the blueprints and the manual "went like wildfire from their first publication," Schnaubelt states proudly. (More than 550,000) copies of the manual have been sold, while fans gobbled up some 385,000 sets of blueprints.) In the mid- to late-70s, newspapers all over the country wrote stories about the La Mesa resident, and he fielded invitations from numerous talk shows and Trekkie conventions (though his eye problems and his wife's ill health limited his ability to respond to them). Interested congressmen called him to chat, and Schnaubelt heard that the manual was being taught in at least one university-level class. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., turned the blueprints into a permanent exhibit.
He says the blueprints, alas, have gone out of print, and although a 1986 20th-anniversary edition of the manual still can be found in certain bookstores, the furor over the works faded years ago. Schnaubelt, who’s now 76, says he’s never watched a single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he has absolutely no interest in producing blueprints of the updated Enterprise featured in that program. He says the whole idea of blueprints for a 23rd-century ship is ridiculous. "The ship would be controlled and driven by a computer which could create and originate things," he says. "So the ships would be self-repairing and constantly changing."
On Thursday, June 24. 1982, viewers of the 5:00 p.m. newscast on Channel 8 were jolted upright when Allison Ross read a news story about Mac Heald, one of her fellow anchorpeople Ross reported that Heald was wanted in Los Angeles for child molesting. And so began one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of local television news.
Heald, 33 at the time, was a co-anchor of Channel 8’s noon news broadcast and a popular feature reporter on the ratings-dominant evening show. He had his own video segment. Mac Heald’s San Diego," one of the first of an eventual glut of such personality-based fluff features. Popular with co-workers and viewers alike, Heald’s career trajectory was angled upward. "He was a peach," remarks one of his former colleagues, "and very talented. He had a girlfriend. This was the most out-of-left-field thing you could imagine."
According to the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, on May 29 Heald was driving around East L.A. with a black bag of the type used by physicians. He stopped in front of a house where a two-year-old boy was playing and explained to the boy’s mother and grandmother that he was a physician engaged in a research project for UCLA. The project, Heald claimed, involved checking the blood pressure and searching for hernias of people under the age of 20. Heald was allowed to examine the two-year-old in the front yard, and in the process he learned that a 12-year-old boy was in bed inside the house, suffering from a sore throat. Heald, whose charming personality was legendary, persuaded the women to allow him to examine the 12-year-old.
The women escorted him to the boy’s room, but Heald asked them to leave while he pulled the youngster's pants down as part of the examination. Heald gave the boy an injection of some unidentified fluid, and when the women returned to the room, the boy was agitated and Heald’s face was flushed. As Heald hastily drove off, the women wrote down his license plate number. The boy later alleged that Heald had fondled him.
Heald’s surrender to Los Angeles police was delayed until he recovered from self-inflicted wrist slashes. In July 1982, he pleaded innocent. While awaiting trial, he was allowed to work at the television station as a news writer. Upon his conviction in April of 1983, he was fired. Then things got more bizarre.
Jim Holtzman, Channel 8’s news director, was a close friend of Heald's and decided to stand by the fallen anchorman. Holtzman resigned in protest of Heald’s firing but withdrew his resignation two days later, after receiving assurances from station executives that Heald might be able to return to work in some capacity. Then, while Heald was awaiting sentencing, Holtzman called together the 50-person newsroom staff and announced that the station was going to tell the judge that if Heald was given probation instead of jail time, he would have the job of executive producer of the Channel 8 news. Several staffers objected to such a plan. One person who was at the meeting says anchorman John Culea "went ballistic." and several others were similarly outraged. "Holtzman almost destroyed his own staff," says a reporter who worked at the station. Holtzman reportedly ended the meeting by stating, “Like it. lump it, or leave. And there’s the door." Reporter Gene Cubbison took the offer and resigned. He was quickly hired at Channel 39.
At Heald’s July 27 sentencing, Judge Gordon Ringer ignored Channel 8’s job offer and imposed a three-year prison sentence. The judge rejected defense psychiatrist claims that Heald was simply acting out a fantasy and that the 10 or 12 times he had played doctor with children had not resulted in sexual arousal. Neither was the judge swayed by Heald’s own testimony that he had a "Walter Mitty complex."
Heald was released from the state prison at Tehachapi in February 1985. For about two years, he worked for Steve Leiserson, a former Channel 8 cameraman who runs a business that makes medical equipment bags. “He wasn’t the same old Mac Heald, although a lot of the pizzazz was still there," Leiserson reports. "He’s a registered sex offender now, and his biggest problem was he couldn’t work in the industry he loved." Leiserson believes that Heald's interest in pretending to be a doctor was much stronger than his interest in sex with young children. “His parents had wanted him to become a professional, and he was acting that out," Leiserson says.
Jim Holtzman is still in contact with Heald, but he refused to divulge the former anchorman’s exact whereabouts or activities. "I don't think he’d want to talk to you about any of this," Holtzman declared. He did reveal that Heald is living and working in Los Angeles. Other sources say that Heald works part-time for Douglas Dalton, the Century City criminal attorney who represented him in court. Dalton's office confirms this, and a staffer there agreed to pass on to Heald a request for an interview. Heald never responded.
When 16-year-old Tiffany Chin placed fourth, just out of the medals, at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, local sports writers boldly predicted that she was a cinch for the gold at Calgary four years in the future. Chin lived in Scripps Ranch until she was 12 and began her training at the San Diego Figure Skating Club based at the rink then called the Mira Mesa House of Ice. In 1985, still officially skating for San Diego, she seemed to be right on course for Olympic glory when she became the national ladies’ figure-skating champion at Kansas City, the first local girl and Chinese-American to ever win American skating’s highest honor. After that came a bronze medal at the world championships and a feature in Sports Illustrated. A group of Scripps Ranch residents wanted to name a street after her, and ABC arrived to do an "Up-Close-and-Personal."
But as the achievements grew, so did the pressure. Chin’s annual training bill mounted to $30,000, and her top rival, the legendary Katarina Witt, came from East Germany, where the super-secret, state-sponsored training center was in another universe from San Diego s modest House of Ice. So Chin’s family moved to Toluca Lake, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb, where she was closer to John Nicks, a world-class coach from Costa Mesa. “I really hope people will understand," said Tiffany’s mother Marjorie about her daughter’s loosening ties to her home town.
As it turned out, Chin didn’t make it to the 1988 Calgary Olympics. There had been injuries that interrupted her training. And women’s skating styles were rapidly evolving away from Chin’s delicate spins toward athletic, flashy jumps that required extraordinary strength. Chin was no longer on the fast track to the gold, so in 1987, she turned professional. “I felt like, in amateur competition, I had reached my peak, and I didn’t want to go into another Olympics just for the sake of ‘well, let’s go, let’s try,’ ’’ Chin recalls. “If I were to go to another one, it would only be for a chance to win it."
Chin, now 23, is a junior at UCLA, majoring in business and political science. Her future plans call for going into business or law, she hasn’t decided which. Money from her professional skating career, pursued during vacations, is putting her through school. "I was second in the world cup last year, and I guess I’ll still plan to do that type of thing as long as I enjoy skating." In addition to professional competitions, Chin has performed in ice shows all over the world. “When you go abroad, it’s not the same ball game at all. You ’re playing to a different crowd, an international crowd; you don’t know what kind of backgrounds they come from nor what they are expecting from you.' These days, says Chin, the only time she gets back to San Diego is to appear in the summer ice show at Sea World.
The reporters called her Dotty and carried homemade press passes stamped with her cat’s paw. Some even slept in the living room of her Tierrasanta condo. During the 14 months that her husband Richard and 51 other Americans were held hostage in the American embassy in Teheran. Iran. Dorothea Morefield publicly expressed the emotions of all the hostage families.
In June 1981 — six months after the hostages were safely home — Mrs. Morefield unloaded on the US. State Department. "They didn’t give a damn" about the hostage families, she charged. “They failed me." Government officials botched every aspect of the ordeal, Morefield claimed, from withholding news about the captives to delivering government checks late and refusing to forward mail by special delivery because it cost an extra seven dollars.
‘‘The fallout was terrible," Mrs. Morefield said recently, as she reflected on the impact of her widely publicized comments. "But I said what I felt, and I still feel it." The government officials she criticized "are nice to me, but I avoid them whenever possible." And Mrs. Morefield says the observers who predicted that her outburst would harm her husband’s State Department career were wrong.
After recovering from his 444 days in captivity, Richard Morefield was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Guadalajara, where the couple lived until 1985. Mr. Morefield then retired from the foreign service, and the couple moved to Virginia, where he currently works part-time as a State Department consultant Mrs. Morefield has also kept busy. Though she never followed the advice of some local politicians that she run for public office, she served as office manager for the embassy narcotics unit in Mexico, helped out at the National Organization for Victim Assistance, and worked for Amnesty International in the Philippines. She was also a member of the wedding party when her favorite reporter, Barry Petersen of CBS, was married in San Francisco.
A graduate of Hoover High School in East San Diego, the 57-year-old Mrs. Morefield says she’d like to return to the West Coast when her husband leaves his consulting job. “I don’t think we can afford to live in San Diego, but at least we can come to California."
Four years ago this spring, Brian Batey made the pages of People magazine in a section called “Trouble." Then 16, Batey had long been accustomed to showing up in national headlines and on tabloid television shows. His divorced parents, Betty Lou and Frank, fought a nasty public battle over who should have custody of the shy, lanky teen-ager. Because Frank was gay and Betty was a religious fundamentalist, a horde of reporters had followed the case ever since 1982, when Mrs. Batey took Brian, then 11, into hiding with her rather than allow him to live with his father. Eventually, both she and Brian resurfaced, and child-stealing charges against her were later dismissed.
The matter seemed finally settled in the mid-1980s, when a San Diego judge dismissed an appeal of Frank’s custody of his son and Brian moved into his father's Palm Springs home. But in July 1986, Frank died of AIDS, and Betty Lou quickly acted to regain custody, triggering yet another frantic round of national publicity. At the memorial service for his father, Brian made it clear that he wanted to stay on in the Palm Springs house with Frank's lover of 12 years,Craig Corbett. If his mother was awarded custody, Brian told a reporter for People, “I guess I’ll just have to take off and get a place by myself. I like where I live. I wish she’d just leave me alone.”
Corbett, who had known Brian since he was four years old, took up the battle, proclaiming, “Now that Frank is gone, I’m the best parent he’s got left.” The fight between Corbett and Betty Lou contained as much bile as all of the previous legal tangles over Brian put together. Betty Lou's lawyers, paid for by Concerned Women for America, a group run by El Cajon Fundamentalist Beverly La Haye, challenged Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell who heard the case. They charged that McConnell's father had been arrested in Nebraska for soliciting sex from a soldier in a public rest room and had subsequently resigned as editor of the Lincoln Journal. After weeks of hearings, during which Brian’s 26-year-old half-sister Tammy Kron screamed at reporters outside the courthouse for “reporting lies” and had to be physically restrained, Corbett was finally granted custody of Brian.
Today, speaking by phone from the same house in Palm Springs he and Brian’s father once shared, Corbett reports that he last heard from Brian four months ago. “He doesn’t keep as closely in touch with his family as I wish he would,” says Corbett. “Although that’s not surprising, given that he was in hiding for so long with his mother. He got used to avoiding people.” According to Corbett. Brian never graduated from high school and left home to go out on his own as soon as he turned 18 in 1989.
“Brian had been having all the decisions of his life made by the court. He had received $2300 from the death of his father, and he took that money and went off to seek his fortune. He went up to Northern California and worked with his aunt and uncle, learning the drywall trade.” After more time on the road, according to Corbett, Brian headed back to the San Diego area, where, Corbett says, he is currently employed in the landscape business and stays out of the limelight. “He is an extremely well-adjusted kid. He's totally straight, always has been, and always will be, I’m sure.”
Alex Drehsler will return to Mexico this month, but not as a journalist. “I no longer have to be a so-called objective reporter,” he said recently. “When I visit an area now, I can be an advocate. I can say. ‘Damn it, this has to be done.’ ”
As a reporter for the San Diego Union from 1978 to 1981, Drehsler also got things done. His stories on government corruption in Baja California (written with former Union investigative reporter Jon Standefer) led to the indictment of a top Mexican law-enforcement official and the return of numerous stolen vehicles that had been appropriated from their north-of-the-border owners. Press freedom in Tijuana was aided by Drehsler’s coverage of the Mexican government’s efforts to muzzle that city’s most aggressive journalists, and his dispatches from the battlefields of Central America won a coveted Overseas Press Club award.
The Union's unwillingness to subsidize his continued coverage of the El Salvadoran civil war led to Drehsler’s resignation in 1981. When the paper cut off the expense account that fed his free-spending travels, the German-born reporter resigned. Though Drehsler initially said that the decision to freeze his travel budget was unrelated to his sometimes sympathetic coverage of leftist guerillas, he now acknowledges that his reporting might have offended the political sensibilities of Copley executives, who run “one of the country’s most staunchly conservative papers.”
After covering the gruesome slaughter of refugees by government troops near the Honduras-El Salvador border, Drehsler decided to “stop being a reporter and take up a rifle” to fight alongside the guerillas. The commandant declined his offer, but Drehsler’s obsession with the civil war continued for three years, during which time he and two partners produced In the Name of the People, a documentary film about the Salvadoran guerillas that was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1984 he covered the civil war in Sri Lanka and helped raise money for that country’s Tamil minority. Two years later, the high-school-educated journalist enrolled at San Diego City College and paid his school fees by working as an investigator on the defense team of now-convicted murderer David Lucas.
Drehsler moved to Washington, DC, in 1987 with plans to complete law school at American University but decided that pursuing a master’s degree in international studies would be “a lot more exciting than sitting in a corporate office doing law.” He and several graduate students have since formed a nonprofit agency that counsels native Latin American tribes on how to market their crops and protect their environment. That effort has taken Drehsler on two trips to the Peruvian Amazon — on one visit he carried along a wheelchair as a gift for a 16-year-old paraplegic tribal member — and on his recent trip to Baja he counseled five Indian tribes on how to obtain development loans from the Inter-American Development Bank.
Inmate number 08278-098 in the federal prison at Lompoc used to be the main sports broadcaster at Channel 10 in 1981. “Fast Eddie” Alexander, the station’s answer to the flash and dash of Channel 8’s Ted Leitner, came to town with a single mission: to chisel down Leitner’s ratings. Alexander turned out to be a chiseler, all right.
It wasn't as if the brain trust at Channel 10 didn’t have fair warning that Alexander was a high-risk investment. His sports broadcasting stints at KABC in Los Angeles and KDKA in Pittsburgh both ended abruptly in mutual agreements not to discuss the reasons for Alexander’s exits. In both cities, the fast-talking sports guy had run up debts he couldn’t cover, and in October of 1979, he had filed for bankruptcy in Pittsburgh, listing 89 creditors and $1,208,906 in liabilities. Upon his arrival in San Diego in August of 1981, Alexander said he was a changed man who would not get involved in fiscal adventures outside his broadcasting work. "I’m not gonna so much as take a taxi without permission," he vowed. “No way in the world am I gonna stub my toe again."
No. he didn't stub his toe; last July, as the judge said in sentencing him to five years for violating probation. “Mr. Alexander kind of had his head in the lion’s mouth, and he pinched the lion." Alexander was on probation after doing jail time for a 1983 mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud conviction. Upon leaving Channel 10 in 1983 — under strained circumstances involving the alleged forgery of station manager Clayton Brace’s signature on a document Alexander needed for business purposes — Alexander opened Fastman’s restaurant in Marina Village on Mission Bay. He was able to convince investors that a restaurant built around his image and offering everything from sushi to Louisiana gumbo could survive and thrive. Well, it couldn’t and it didn’t. Backers of this and other Alexander schemes were out $1.6 million, which eventually resulted in a 37-count indictment for fraud.
Alexander went to jail, got out, and set up shop in the San Francisco Bay area. Again he was able to attract suckers, who contributed at least $200,000 to a sports program called One on One, in which Alexander interviewed sports celebrities. He claimed to the investors that the show would be syndicated on 117 television stations nationwide and that major advertisers, including Coca-Cola and Wendy’s hamburgers, were sponsors. Last January, two days before his probation on the 1983 conviction was to expire, the state charged Alexander with fraud, grand theft, and making misrepresentations in the sale of securities related to his TV show in the Bay Area. The filing of these charges amounted to violation of probation, a federal offense, for which he received a five-year sentence last July. This was in addition to the two years and eight months he received after pleading guilty to the state charges.
Alexander’s name still elicits guffaws from local sports fans, who remember his one and only broadcast of a Chargers’ preseason game in 1982, which he botched in spectacularly hilarious fashion. That game may be the last time Chargers fans had reason to smile. Chargers executives take note: Alexander becomes eligible for parole in March of 1992.
The Watergate break-in toppled a president and launched a publishing boom. Five shelves in San Diego’s downtown public library are crowded with the literary output of various Watergate reporters, pundits, and participants — some of them locals, like Copley Newspapers executive Herb Klein, who ran Nixon's public relations operation. But one account of San Diego’s role in Nixonian history never made it to the best-seller lists and has been forgotten by all but a few confirmed news junkies who happened to be in town back in 1971 and ’72. At the time, Nixon was seeking to bring the GOP convention to San Diego, which he considered his “lucky city,” and a 33-year-old reporter named Robert E. Cox had been hired by the San Diego Union to cover politics here. At first, Cox recalls, he was wary of then-Union publisher James Copley and his close friendship with Nixon; but the veteran UPI reporter was reassured that Copley’s well-known custom of interfering with the paper’s news coverage was over “We were told that the San Diego Union had changed its ways and was no longer going to be the president’s house organ."
As 1971 unfolded, Cox could hardly believe his good fortune. From his tiny desk in the old downtown Union newsroom, it seemed to him he was suddenly at the center of American politics. Although Nixon wanted the convention in San Diego, local taxpayers balked at the $400,000 subsidy the Republicans required from the city to stage the event. That obstacle had vanished when the ITT Corporation, owner of three Sheraton hotels in San Diego, suddenly volunteered the money. San Diego Congressman Bob Wilson, a Nixon crony (“aided by the Copley newspapers” Herb Klein later was to write), quickly announced that the deal had been accepted and that the Republican convention would indeed be held in San Diego that coming summer.
But in February 1972, a bombshell from Washington went off over Nixon’s favorite city. Columnist Jack Anderson reported that he had obtained a memo written by Dita Beard, a hard-boiled ITT lobbyist. The memo, according to Anderson, revealed that ITT’s $400,000 donation to San Diego was in essence a bribe paid by the company in order to obtain dismissal of an anti-trust case brought against the company by Nixon’s Justice Department. For reporter Cox, the timing couldn’t have been better. He happened to be in the Washington office of Bob Wilson.
"I had been working on a story for the ‘Union’, which was just a story about how the hell did we get the convention in San Diego,’’ Cox recalls today. "I had an interview scheduled with Wilson, who had played a major role in the events leading up to it. The Anderson memo had just come out, and he was casually saying, Yeah, Dita told me she had written this memo’ and that [William] Merriam, Dita’s boss, confirmed he had received the memo. He said. ‘Dita's a tough old broad.’ Wilson wasn’t hiding anything or conspiring, [because] he didn't realize what he was saying.”
Cox himself didn’t fully understand the importance of what Wilson had revealed to him until a week or so later, when the White House began trying to cover up the Dita Beard story. Richard Kleindienst, Nixon’s nominee for attorney general, was up for confirmation by the Senate, and his role In the ITT anti-trust case put the nomination at risk. By early March, Dita Beard had been whisked out of Washington to the Rocky Mountain Osteopathic Hospital in Denver, where she issued a statement calling her memo a “forgery” and a “hoax." Other Nixon supporters emerged to say Beard was a crackpot and a drunk.
"There were different stories being told as the days and weeks rolled on,” says Cox. “A denial that the memo had been written, some denial about the amount of money involved, a denial from Merriam that he had received a memo. And I’m sitting on this thing, and I’m saying, ‘Hey, I got a problem.’ I knew by then that had I written that story, the paper wouldn’t have printed it. Based on some prior experiences I’d had, the paper obviously was not inclined to print anything that would be of detriment to Richard Nixon.”
Cox says he remained frustrated for weeks; but when a visiting reporter from Baltimore arrived in San Diego to check out the Dita Beard story, Cox saw an opportunity to get the Bob Wilson interview into print. "I was instructed by [then Union city editor Charles] Ross to cooperate fully with this out-of-town visiting fireman and to give him all the assistance he needed. So I let him listen to this tape, and his eyes got bigger than full moons.” Cox and the Baltimore reporter each agreed to write their own stories about the Wilson revelations and then submit them simultaneously to their editors. At the agreed-upon hour, Cox turned his copy over to Union city editor Ross.
"I wrote my story, submitted it around noon, and everybody disappeared and went upstairs. I waited around to 5:30 or 6 o’clock and split, because I had to go up north. I don't know what happened after that, except when I came back the next morning, the guy who lived in the apartment across from me said, ‘Your phone’s been ringing all night long.’ ” Overnight, Cox says, he had become a media sensation.
“I went back to work the next morning and was called into the editor’s office. As I recall, somebody from NBC news was camped out on the editor’s doorstep, and they apparently had received lots of calls from the East Coast.” As Cox had planned, the San Diego Union had finally been forced to run his Dita Beard story, but only after the Wilson interview first appeared in the Baltimore Star four hours earlier. “They didn’t print my story in the first, the second, the third, or how many other editions they had; but with calls from the East Coast, they had to, I guess, print my story in the final edition.”
But before using it, Union editors made some changes to the story, and even today, 19 years later, Cox can’t prevent a tinge of bitterness from creeping into his voice as he describes them. “The story was pretty much as I had written it, except that high up in it, they had gotten in touch with Wilson and quoted him as saying that I was some young reporter who didn’t know what was going on. My newspaper printed that without an explanation of the fact that I had been in the business 15 years. It pissed me off.”
As a result of the ensuing national publicity about Beard and her memo, the Republican convention was yanked out of San Diego, forever dashing Jim Copley’s dream of hosting pal Richard Nixon in his lucky city. "From then on, I was basically persona non grata and spent a few more months at the paper,” says Cox. “I had very little if anything printed and finally left with my middle finger raised high at the managing editor over some issue.” He returned to his home state of Colorado, where today he publishes the weekly Lakewood Gazette. “I’ve got to get back and visit San Diego someday. Have they changed any?” Told that Herb Klein still works for the Union, he laughs. "God, Herb Klein? Come on. That’s an old boys’ club over there, and it’s unfortunate That paper could have done a lot of things.”
When Ed Gillet climbed into his 21-foot-long kayak one summer morning in 1987 and paddled westward, he knew that the next time he stepped upon land, he’d be famous. His destination Hawaii, some 2200 miles distant, and no one in modern history had ever made that crossing alone, powered by muscles. Nonetheless, when Gillet finally reached western Maui nine weeks later, he wasn't prepared for the reaction that greeted him. “I was flabbergasted by it,” he says today. "Shocked. The distortion of the whole thing was really disturbing.”
Gillet had never seen the trip as a publicity stunt. A thoughtful man who once studied linguistic philosophy in graduate school, he envisioned the trans-Pacific paddle more as a work of conceptual art — a complex, difficult challenge that could be safely mastered through careful planning and hard effort. He'd had plenty of experience with long-distance kayaking, having once paddled the entire western coast of South America. For the Hawaii odyssey, he loaded his slender vessel with everything necessary to sustain him for six weeks in the open ocean.
As the voyage developed, currents and winds crippled his progress. He ran out of food and lived off fish for a while but spent his last three days paddling around the clock to escape starvation. When, haggard and exhausted, he finally pulled his kayak up on the beach, he bought some snack food and a Time magazine, then happily settled down under a palm tree. Moments later, he got a rude surprise when a passing reporter recognized and pounced upon him.
Gillet learned then that for several days his presumed "disappearance" had been bruited all over America. His father, who had always thought the trip was crazy, had panicked when Gillet failed to show up around the time he was expected. The father tried, unsuccessfully, to get the Coast Guard to mount a search and even begged the White House to intercede. In the media explosion that followed his arrival in Hawaii, Gillet came across as a daredevil whose foolhardiness had gotten him lost at sea.
When he appeared on the Johnny Carson show, he looked somewhat dazed; a month later, feeling both exploited and misunderstood, he was angry at the press. Today those feelings seem to have subsided, and he’s busy with other projects. He and his wife Katie own a Point Loma kayaking store, and every year Ed leads about 40 kayaking trips along the coasts of Baja.
He says he doesn’t like to talk much about the Hawaii trip; he even occasionally feigns ignorance of it in casual conversation with strangers. Although he once vowed he would never do so, he sometimes shows his slides from the trip, "but I keep it light," he says. "I keep it on the level of the Johnny Carson show." He wrote one article about the adventure for the National Enquirer but decided not to write a book. "What people would want to hear and what would sell is not what I would want to write," he says. "I learned a lot, but it’s personal lessons. I really want to keep it very personal, to hold onto it emotionally, and never release it.”
The photographer from US magazine had a great idea: Would Mercy Hospital psychiatrist Thaddeus Kostrubala and his young fiancée climb into a hot tub? After all, what could be a better pictorial setting for this California archetype — the shrink who urged people to take up long-distance running for their mental health? Unfortunately, hospital nuns were less than impressed when the resulting photo and accompanying profile appeared in December of 1977. They fired the doctor from his $60,000-a-year position, stating that the picture did "not reflect favorably on a Catholic institution."
Kostrubala had undergone a considerable transformation from what he was when the nuns first hired him six years before. Upon his arrival in San Diego, he'd been a fat, sedentary, borderline alcoholic whose face was masked in a dense beard and mustache and whose arteries were pounded by high blood pressure But fear of a coronary had jolted him into joining an exercise program, in which he shed 50 pounds and grew increasingly religious. He shaved off all the hair on his head. He also began running with his psychiatric patients, and it was these sessions that convinced him running actually promotes sanity.
Kostrubala recorded his own experience and his provocative psychiatric theories in a 1976 book called The Joy of Running. An instant best seller, it led to the US magazine interview and many others. After being fired by the hospital, Kostrubala eventually sued the nuns for $4.75 million — an amount calculated to include the loss of his salary and the "shame and humiliation" he suffered.
The lawsuit was finally settled for an undisclosed sum of money several years ago, by which time Kostrubala had left town, moving first to Northern California, then to Hawaii. Most recently, the 61-year-old physician relocated to a small town on the coast of North Carolina, where he's working in a community mental health clinic, the only full-time psychiatrist serving a population of 95,000 people. He and his fourth wife Teresa (she of the hot tub photo) together have a ten-year-old son and a daughter, aged three.
Ironically, Kostrubala had to hang up his own jogging shoes seven years ago, when he severely damaged one of his knees. He walks for exercise but states that the emotional and neurophysiological benefits aren't as great. "I would rather be running," he says wistfully.
Reporters at the Union and Tribune love to complain about publisher Helen Copley. Meinhart Lagies put words into action when he sued her for slander after she publicly criticized his reporting of a 1977 story about her then-escort, financier Richard Silberman. That lawsuit eventually cost Lagies his job at the Tribune and, he claims, his career as a journalist. "It destroyed me here professionally and led to the breakup of my family," Lagies now says. "If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t, because the cost was too high. But I’m glad I did."
Lagies, a native of Germany, was the paper’s best investigative reporter in the 1970s, a decade in which hard-edged journalism thrived at the afternoon paper. His stories about corruption in the county marshal’s office led to Marshal William Howell's retirement, and former Police Chief Ray Hoobler resigned after Lagies reported that Hoobler had repeatedly misled the city council. Lagies even wrote stories about how his fellow U-T reporters routinely had their parking tickets fixed by a municipal court judge. (He now recalls that "the only negative response I got was from some of the lesser lights — sports reporters who asked me. ‘Meinhart, how could you do that to a colleague?’ My feeling was. 'Fellow, you’re no colleague of mine.’ ”)
Fired from the Tribune in 1979 for “gross misconduct” and “denigrating [his] superiors,” Lagies was unable to find another reporting job. “It’s obvious I was blacklisted.” he says. So he worked as a corporate researcher and “finder-outer,” whose clients included book publisher William Jovanovich. In 1986, Lagies was given three assistants and a secretary and told to produce a four-volume children’s encyclopedia for Jovanovich’s HBJ Publishing. He worked on that project for a year, but cost-cutting at HBJ killed the encyclopedia.
Lagies stayed on as an editor and “special projects” expert, but when the company’s debt soared last year, he says he told Jovanovich that he’d become “a luxury the company couldn’t afford.” Though he’s still on contract with HBJ. Lagies is again searching for a job in journalism. “I miss the satisfaction of beating the clock and beating the competition,” he says. “I’m just a newspaper man. That’s all I am.”
It wasn’t the first time in American history a judge consorted with prostitutes or a newspaper editor ran a political campaign. But when Municipal Court Judge Louis Wenzell was caught performing prurient acts with several ladies of the night and Tribune editor Neil Morgan paid for a recall effort against him, it was front-page news all over California.
Wenzell had been appointed to the bench in 1978 by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat often criticized by the Tribune as a soft-on-crime liberal who was stacking the state courts with lax judges. In the spring of 1981, the hapless Wenzell, in the habit of paying for his carnal pleasure with a credit card, was arrested by vice cops who had discovered his indiscretions in records seized during a raid on an Ocean Beach outcall service.
After police announced that testimony from call girls and madams would assure conviction, Morgan jumped into the case with a vengeance. His usually affable local gossip column was suddenly filled with attacks on Wenzell (whom Morgan called a “whoremonger”) and repeated calls for the jurist’s resignation. Wenzell refused to step down, instead issuing a defiant statement vowing to fight the charges, which he claimed were politically inspired.
Some Wenzell supporters, many of them defense lawyers from whose ranks the judge had come, thought he had a point. Thousands of credit card records and telephone numbers had been seized during the raid, but Wenzell was the only person indicted. The district attorney denied any bias, and Morgan struck back by running item after item featuring lurid details of Wenzell’s sexual practices. So great did the ruckus become that Wenzell’s trial was moved to Orange County, where a jury convicted him of five misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitutes. But the case was far from closed.
After the conviction, Wenzell, who had been barred by his fellow judges from hearing cases after his indictment, clung to office and immediately appealed. In June 1982, a three-judge panel threw out the verdict on the grounds of improper jury instructions. The move infuriated Morgan, who hastily embraced a Wenzell recall campaign, which, until the newspaperman got involved, had made little headway in raising the necessary signatures to get on the ballot.
Under Morgan’s sponsorship, the Tribune ran copies of recall petitions on its news pages, urging readers to fill them out and send them back, with return postage paid by the newspaper. According to campaign disclosure statements later filed by Morgan, the Union-Tribune Publishing Company spent $2431 during its efforts to unseat Wenzell. The editor boasted that he had raised 30,000 signatures against the judge and laughed off Wenzell’s assertion that the recall effort had, in part, been a circulation-building stunt. “If we sell more papers when we communicate with our readers, I think it’s wonderful.” Morgan told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
The saga stumbled to a close in August of 1982, when Wenzell finally stepped down from the bench, one day after the Morgan-sponsored recall qualified for the ballot. The DA tried to reinstate charges, but a judge ruled that time had run out. Today. Wenzell, 48, practices law out of a large house overlooking the water in Ocean Beach and says he’s better off being a private citizen. “I never had any bitterness about it,” he now insists. ”1 don’t think the district attorney’s office had any choice but to prosecute, and if I had been in his position, I would have done exactly the same thing. Absolutely. I made a mistake in judgment.”
The former judge says he got a certain amount of revenge on Morgan several years ago, when he sent the columnist an anonymous letter alleging that Wenzell was writing an expose of the local establishment. “He printed it in his column as fact without ever trying to find out whether it was true, and then the judges and the public went into a real uproar,” Wenzell recalls. “He didn’t notice the letter was dated April 1 “
How could the founder of fabulously successful Fotomat ever go wrong? Rueful investors, many of them wealthy and prominent Republicans, like then-New York Congressman Jack Kemp, as well as a few rich Democrats, such as local banker Murray Galinson, quickly found out in 1985. Back in the ’60s, Clifford Graham had cooked up the novel idea of building drive-up photo-processing booths in busy parking lots. The idea clicked, and Graham reaped a fortune when he sold Fotomat in 1971. In the dozen years after, the well-connected Rancho Santa Fe resident operated a host of modestly successful ventures, including a chain of health food stores.
Later, when Graham announced he had discovered a way to extract gold from desert rocks, gilt-edged investors from Michigan to La Jolla lined up for a piece of the action. After all, Graham wasn’t just talking. He had actually built a 35-foot-high prototype of what he called the "magnetic metallurgical extractor" somewhere in the wilds of San Diego's back country and was busily providing tours for friends, investors, and skeptical reporters. One old Graham pal, former Congressman Bob Wilson, who had prospered as a Washington lobbyist, ponied up $100,000 for his small share. "I’m a gold bug from way back," Wilson enthused to a Tribune reporter. His modest investment, Wilson said, would eventually be worth "billions, not millions." Other big names reportedly attracted to the deal included wealthy yachtsman Malin Burnham, Jean Vick Trousdale of Trousdale Estates fame, and local socialite Helen Anne Bunn.
The biggest name of all was Herbert Henry Dow II, a director of the Dow Chemical Company and long-time Graham friend, who reportedly sank a cool $1.3 million into the venture, called Au Magnetics. Graham capitalized on the prominence of these investors when recruiting money from the not-so-famous. "He’d tell you Jack Kemp and Bob Wilson and Herb Dow were investors," one backer told the Tribune. “If it was good enough for them, why not you?"
The answer began to emerge in June 1984, when 14 investors filed a $37 million lawsuit, alleging that Graham had defrauded them of $10 million and sold illegal securities. Graham counter-sued, claiming that disgruntled investors held him prisoner while they rifled his office files. But in 1986, his gold venture in shambles and investors out untold millions. Graham was indicted on federal charges of mail and wire fraud. He failed to show up for a hearing in September of that year and remains a fugitive to this day. The Rancho Santa Fe rumor mill has it that he took off for South America with plenty of cash, but a spokesman for the U.S attorney’s office won’t say whether Graham has ever been sighted. “There could have been periodic reports here and there. We’re prepared to prosecute as soon as we get him.”
Larry and Geraldine McGilvery
Larry McGilvery was quickly booked and released from city jail on November 17, 1961. Then he waited outside county jail with his infant daughter while deputies deloused his wife Geraldine. Their crime? Selling a copy of Henry Miller ’s Tropic of Cancer to a police cadet who had posed as a literature student researching a term paper on censorship.
The McGilverys weren’t trying to challenge state obscenity laws when they sold the paperback at their La Jolla bookstore, the Nexus. "We told him no and tried to sell him Of Mice and Men” Larry McGilvery recalls "But he was insistent, and we were young and naive.’’ McGilvery says police "targeted” the Nexus because of false rumors that he and his wife were selling “hard-core pornography.’ ’ And he claims that Police Chief A.E. Jansen figured he could win the upcoming sheriff’s election if he "went after those miscreants in La Jolla.” But the McGilverys and the First Amendment prevailed.
Aided by civil libertarian Harvey Furgatch, who gave them moral support and helped pay their legal bills, the couple was acquitted after a 15-day trial, in which the book was read aloud in the courtroom. Though the jury agreed that the novel had "redeeming social importance" law enforcement officials continued to insist that it violated obscenity laws and threatened to arrest anyone who sold it. The Junior Women’s Club also denounced the jury’s decision and condemned the book. Those threats didn’t deter the McGilverys, who sold nearly 300 copies of Tropic after the trial. “We had a monopoly on it.” McGilvery recalls.
Police Chief Jansen was defeated when he ran for sheriff, and McGilvery got 13 write-in votes in that election. He and his wife kept the Nexus open until 1966. “Our lease had expired, and we were just tired out,” says the 58-year-old McGilvery. He turned his attentions to out-of-print art books and also did some small press publishing. The couple still lives in La Jolla.
In the infancy of the franchise, back in the days when the Padres were losing 100 games a season, Randy Jones emerged as the first hard evidence that there was actually a major-league baseball team in San Diego. After the catastrophic 1974 season, in which the Padres finished 42 games out of first place and came within hours of being jerked out of San Diego and replanted in Washington, D.C. — a year in which Jones lost 22 games— the home-town nine desperately needed a star player. Willie McCovey was in his declining years, Johnny Grubb was popular but just a shade above average, and Dave Winfield was still trying to gain control over his magnificent limbs. It was portsider Randy Jones who, in 1975 and 1976, demonstrated to Padres fans that greatness was possible here.
Using an agonizingly slow, dead-fish sinker, Jones confounded the game’s best hitters to post a 20-12 record in 1975, with a league-low 2.24 ERA. His rubber face and permed ’do brought fans out in record numbers, even though the team finished in fourth place. 37 games back. Then in 1976 he did it again, leading the league with a 22-14 record and earning the franchise’s first Cy Young Award. Still, the team rattled around the cellar in fifth place. And on the last day of the season, something popped in Jones’s arm, and his glory days were suddenly behind him. Jones left the Padres (for the Mets) in 1980 with a record of 92 wins and 105 losses. He retired in 1982.
Then real life closed in around him. He had been the prototypical rich bumpkin, with more money than judgment. Bad financial advice led him into tax shelters with leaky roofs. He put a lot of money into game shows and sitcoms that never made it onto the tube, and the IRS disallowed the tax writeoffs. What he had been told was a $70,000 tax assessment turned into more than a million dollars, once the IRS looked into it. “And it ain’t getting any smaller,” Jones said recently from his home in Poway.
And this wasn’t the famous home in Poway, the custom-built one on Jones Mountain. “That’s the first thing they took,” Jones sighs. He filed for bankruptcy in 1987. Lost everything. Land in Rancho California, apartment buildings, car washes. Now he works for his sister’s company, selling pizzas to military commissaries, and he travels a lot putting on baseball camps at military bases all over the world. “I’m doing great,’’ he insists, almost convincingly.
He’s 41 now and “on the incline’’ His daughters are 16 and 14, and he gets to spend large amounts of time with them and his wife of 21 years. He also gets plenty of time on the golf links. And he’s plotting a return to the Padres in some public relations capacity. “There have been an awful lot of changes in the team,” he drawls, "and for the older fans, it might be a good time to bring in a liaison like me, to bridge the gap.” He’s pushing that idea pretty hard with the new Padres management, but if it doesn’t work out, "I’ll probably tour the Pacific military bases again, like I did in ’89.’’ organizing baseball camps. Either way, Jones seems impervious to his tribulations. “You can’t cry over it," he declares. “The sun came up the next morning, and I went to work.”
It’s no surprise that Edward Lawson can't be found. Even when he visited San Diego regularly in the mid-1970s, this imposing black man with the dreadlocks and resonant voice was an apparition. He’d walk the streets late at night, sometimes crouching behind cars or ducking into alleys when police spotted him. When the cops stopped Lawson and asked him to show some identification, he’d refuse.
Police in Chula Vista and San Diego, sheriff’s deputies — even highway patrol officers — detained Lawson at least 15 times from March 1975 through late 1977. Every citation against Lawson invoked the state vagrancy law, which required any person “who wanders upon the streets” to produce identification when requested by a peace officer. Lawson launched a seven-year legal challenge of the statute and, with some help from the ACLU, eventually persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to nullify that aspect of the vagrancy law.
The high court’s favorable ruling came in 1982, and Lawson appeared in federal court here the following spring. This time he was the plaintiff, and. acting as his own attorney, he hoped to win financial damages from the police agencies that had detained and cited him for vagrancy. According to one newspaper account, Lawson told the jury how his arrests were “a miniature Holocaust” and “a series of horrors.” He talked so much to the press that the judge gagged him. “You’ve gotten millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity,” the judge told Lawson. The jury apparently thought that was enough; after a brief trial, they refused to award him any money damages.
Court records show that Lawson filed a notice of appeal on that verdict in January 1984. He avoided filing costs by declaring himself a pauper. But Lawson never followed up on the appeal, and none of the attorneys for the various police departments have heard from him since. Though an ACLU lawyer recently invoked Lawson’s name while commenting on a similar ID law proposed for the Northern California city of Chico, that lawyer doesn’t know Lawson’s whereabouts. His San Francisco phone number listed in court records has been disconnected, and mail to his post office box there is apparently not being delivered.
Dr. David Reuben
Who was Dr. David Reuben?
A native of Chicago who moved to San Diego County in 1961 and set up a successful Spring Valley psychiatric practice, he burst upon the national scene late in 1969 with a flippant, funny question-and-answer manual entitled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). More than a million hardcover copies of it were sold, followed eventually by more than eight million paperback volumes. In the early days of promoting the book, the owlish physician was ubiquitous, appearing in numerous news articles and on a host of national television programs.
Did he ever write anything else?
Did he ever! He followed up the first book with Any Woman Can! and yet another sequel (How to Get More Out of Sex Than You Ever Thought You Could) in 1974.
Is he living happily ever after in San Diego?
Although in 1971 Reuben told a San Diego Union reporter that he had “everything I could... possibly (want) in life, right here,” by the mid-1970s he moved on — to Costa Rica— and churned out diet books (The Save-Your-Life Diet, 1975; The Save-Your-Life High-Fiber Cookbook, 1976; and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition, 1978).
Finally, in 1982, with sales of 33 million sex and diet books (in 37 languages) under his belt, he produced Dr. David Reuben's Mental First-Aid Manual — Instant Relief from 25 of Life's Worst Problems.
How can you top that?
Apparently, Reuben couldn’t. He's been virtually invisible in recent years, though he occasionally pens a preachy article (e.g., on the evils of smoking or suntans) for Reader's Digest.
What does he have to say about life?
Nada. Contacted by telephone at his home in Costa Rica, the 58-year-old author declined to offer any comments about anything.