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— A concert promoter's suicide may have helped lead to the hasty departure of Wes Brustad as executive director of a big cultural festival in Memphis. Brustad, formerly of El Cajon, had been the executive director of the now-defunct San Diego Symphony from 1986 until 1993. Last year, he was lured to Tennessee to run the Memphis in May Festival, a weeklong extravaganza featuring everything from symphonic music to a world-championship barbecue contest. But Brustad quickly became known as "an aggressive and strong-willed leader whose ambitious plans to reorganize the festival were met with resistance and criticism from many," according a story last week in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Brustad also ran afoul of Bob Kelley, who refused Brustad's order to stop booking acts for the Beale Street Music Festival, which Kelley had founded years earlier. Despite Kelley's resistance, Brustad grabbed control of the Beale Street event, but when Kelley, 52, killed himself with a gunshot to the head in March, leaving a note that said he had reached a low point in his life, attendance at the subsequent concerts dropped by 35,000. "He [Brustad] is very businesslike, very demanding," the paper quoted Ruben Rosales, a Memphis in May executive committee member, as saying. "If that is construed as something negative, that is not Wes's fault." Regardless, Brustad submitted his resignation to the festival last week, saying that his daughters did not want to relocate from El Cajon to Memphis; he will soon be winging his way back to California.

Welcome to S.D., now pay up

Thanks to massive cost overruns at the Port of San Diego's new terminal complex, passengers in and out of Lindbergh Field may soon be paying $3 extra for the privilege. The port commission has applied to the Federal Aviation Agency to levy a so-called "passenger facility charge" on each human body that goes through the airport, now adorned with expensive art works and fancy chrome plating for the edification of passersby. Total revenue from the tax is expected to be $26.5 million, the FAA says. The fee, projected to begin in September 2000 and end in January 2002, is set for FAA approval on the 25th of this month, after the public comment period has elapsed. Of course, not many members of the public even know about the proposed airport tax, since local news sources have been conspicuously silent on the issue ... Also unreported in local media: those kidney-dialysis tubes blamed for dozens of illnesses and perhaps two deaths in three states were made in Tijuana. An outfit called Gambro Healthcare, operator of a twin-plant in the border city, shipped the potentially defective tubing to 31 clinics across the United States before problems showed up and the company was forced into a recall.

Born and bred

Former KGTV sportscaster "Fast Eddie" Alexander was a popular fixture of San Diego airwaves until 1983, when he pleaded guilty to mail and bankruptcy fraud for bilking investors out of $1.6 million in a scheme involving his Pear Blossom restaurant on Mission Bay. He got 18 months in prison. In 1990, Alexander was back in a San Diego federal courtroom, being sentenced to another five years behind bars for violating his probation. He'd moved to the Bay Area and began selling shares in a phony sports show, costing investors $200,000. Now the 51-year-old Alexander is back in hot water, arrested last week in the San Francisco suburb of Belmont, this time on suspicion of committing grand theft and defrauding investors of about $2 million, according to the San Francisco Chronicle ... The survivors of Chargers running back Rodney Culver and his wife, killed in the Florida Valujet crash two years ago, have settled their multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the airline.

Life after city hall

Two ex-staffers of city councilman Juan Vargas are squabbling over the rights to a failed magazine the two started in 1996, according to the Wall Street Journal. Xavier Reyes and Mary Hernandez launched Latinos magazine from a Gaslamp Quarter office in 1996. It folded in January and Reyes moved to L.A. Hernandez wants to start over here, but Reyes told the Journal, "I won't let her take the name."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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