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Neal Matthews and the Reader

Seahorse in Glorietta Bay, San Diego underground press, C. Arnholt Smith, Duke Cunningham, San Diego vice squad, Eric Show, OMBAC

Jack Prodanovich and Black Sea Bass, c. 1954. The disappearance of larger fishes first became evident during the war.
Jack Prodanovich and Black Sea Bass, c. 1954. The disappearance of larger fishes first became evident during the war.

How Matthews came to write for the Reader:

In the spring of 1978, San Diego’s gaslit journalistic parlors were electrified by the arrival of the Los Angeles Times, San Diego edition. The San Diego Union, long considered one of the worst newspapers in America, finally awoke to the imperative to improve. Among its first actions was to hire Paul Krueger from the Reader, probably the first journalist from the alternative press to crossover into the mainstream.

How could the Reader, circulation 30,000, hope to fill the giant footsteps of Krueger, one of the best journalists San Diego has ever seen (in the winter of 2019 he’s still a producer at NBC7)? He edited, wrote City Lights, an occasional feature story, and the extremely popular Press Passes column, punching above his weight on all matters related to the local journalism scene.

I was a third-year journalism student at SDSU, taking a magazine writing class. Our assignment was to get stories published, so I sent one to the Reader about buying booze below the border, and then another about the history of the Bottom Scratchers diving club. The Reader’s new editor, Jim Mullin, printed them both. Then he and publisher Jim Holman, along with Krueger, called me into the Reader's old offices at 635 State Street on a Saturday — and offered me Krueger’s old job. Just two or three City Lights a week, a cover story once a month, an inside feature every six weeks, plus the weekly Press Passes column. "No pressure,” Krueger said, and I thought he meant it.

No pressure! A week later I was looking to strangle Krueger.

Matthews' favorite stories he wrote for the Reader:

Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, March 12, 2015, in the rocks covering the outfall below the Pt. Loma sewage treatment plant
  • The little things in the ocean were most captivating

  • Swimming in San Diego Bay is a pathway to constant renewal. I always check under the buoys to track the growth of tunicates — sea squirts, sponges, and sea lettuce — through the seasons. In early summer off Stingray Point in Glorietta Bay, the marine growth is so thick it obscures the bottom of the yellow buoy. So one morning, I was surprised to see a bay blenny living belly-up and patrolling a sizeable clearing. (March 6, 2019)
  • Seahorse Dreams

  • I rolled onto on my back and spit out the snorkel, finally breathing deep and slow. I couldn’t stifle the high-pitched whoop of a monster in a seahorse’s dream, already second-guessing whether I should have touched her. The phantom pleasure of her ribbed strength still warmed my palm. (Dec. 21, 2016)
Congressman Bob Wilson, Richard Nixon, Smith c. 1960. I took him and Mrs. Nixon out on the boat several times when he had meetings in San Diego. We had a good-sized boat at that time, and I remember we’d take her out in the bay. We didn’t bother her, just let her sit and read.
  • C. Arnholt Smith, in his own words (parts 1 and 2)

  • After I got into the Bank of Italy, Johnny Alessio was still shining shoes and doing everything he could to make money. I was handling the banking relationships between the Banco Nacional in Tijuana and the Bank of Italy, and I knew the Banco Nacional was looking for someone who could speak Spanish and English. So I told Johnny to go on down there and apply. (March 19 and 26, 1992)
Cunningham (gesturing) and Driscoll (behind him) recounting the Col. Tomb battle, U.S.S. Constellation, May 10, 1972
  • Duke Cunningham's dogfight with MiGs over North Vietnam

  • "The first kill I had was against the MiG-21, and I could see the guy in the airplane when I went over him, as he died. I could see him almost thrashing around in the cockpit. The explosion had severed his tail, and the rest of the plane tumbled end over end. He couldn't punch out. Now that – if I close my eyes, mentally I can still see that. And I dream about it once in a while." (March 29, 1984)
"After my brother died, I started growing the beard and the hair."
  • Caliente Racetrack owner Jorge Hank Rhon discusses the murder of "El Gato"

  • "El Gato was such a corrupt son of a bitch, he could have been killed by anyone," remarks a chilango who knew Hank when they both attended a private school in Mexico City. "Zeta sells a lot more papers by claiming El Gato was martyred. But if people learned he was a declared homosexual and his ways of exacting things from people were very dirty, his martyrdom would evaporate." (May 10, 1990)
"I finally said, ‘Okay, ’Melo, let’s go for it then.’ ” Show and Martinez lunged at each other and had to be restrained by their teammates.
  • Eric Show, thinker with a sinker

  • “I know that I sealed my fate by going public about joining the John Birch Society in 1984.1 understand that, and I accept that. I’m not going to be a Steve Garvey type, a loved guy, ever.... Almost everything going on in this country, and in baseball, I don’t agree with. But I’ve tried so hard to conform. I want to be part of a winning team."(Aug. 10, 1989)
  • I Ran Drugs for Uncle Sam

  • Plumlee worked as a plumber for the Erling Rohde Plumbing Company in La Jolla. Owner Mike Clancy made a deal with Plumlee when he hired him in 1985: “’As long as you finish the job you’re on, you can come and go.’ Sometimes, all of a sudden he wouldn’t show up, and the next day I’d get a call from Costa Rica. It’s Bob, saying, ‘Hey Mike, I gotta be down here for a few days…’ ” (Apr. 5, 1990)
  • Bob Hannibal was one of the good guys. Or so he thought

  • Hannibal and his vice squad cohorts hatched a plan to snare Compton in his own game. They decided to set up a phony outcall agency called Surfer Girls East and bait Compton into handling their supposed credit card business.... In the meantime, the cops started running ads for Surfer Girls East in the daily newspapers, alongside the "legitimate” outcall services. (Sept. 22, 1988)
  • Notes from Underground

  • San Diego's Free Press (later renamed the Street Journal) was defunct by the end of 1970; the San Diego Door came and went with the Nixon Presidency, 1968 to August 1974.The O.B. Rag fell silent in September 1975, after reporting the pullout of all U.S. forces from Vietnam. (Nov. 25, 1992)
Dewey Taylor owned a print shop in Sorrento Valley and was well known, or so claimed the other women tellers who worked with Joani at the California First Bank on Tripp Court in the valley.
  • The Final Days of Dewey Taylor

  • Dewey Taylor’s is not the typical Agent Orange story. His heart condition has never been listed as a common complaint among veterans who believe they’re victims of Agent Orange. And so far as his widow and his ex-wife and his brother and his best friend and his parents know, Dewey Taylor has never mentioned the words Agent Orange. (Apr. 16, 1981)
  • When Men Went Underwater

  • The three young men were venturing past the foaming combers of the Sunset Cliffs in 1932 in search of abalone, fish, and lobster. They wore vested swimsuits, swimmers’ goggles, and carried ten-foot poles topped by five-pronged spears. They took to attaching the horn shark's horn, a tooth-like appendage jutting in front of the dorsal fin, to the key pocket of their swimsuits. (March 30, 1978)
  • OMBAC: for big kids only

  • Things were a lot different down at Old Mission Beach in the late 1940s and early 1950s. (Old Mission Beach was that area roughly two or three streets either side of Redondo Court.) There were fewer people around then, so the group of anywhere from twenty to 200 kids who hung out on the beach at the foot of Redondo Court, which is near Saska’s restaurant, were pretty conspicuous. (Nov. 1, 1979)
OMBAC 1978. "The problem with OMBAC is they think that if something’s fun with ten people, it’ll be ten times as fun with a hundred people."
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Jack Prodanovich and Black Sea Bass, c. 1954. The disappearance of larger fishes first became evident during the war.
Jack Prodanovich and Black Sea Bass, c. 1954. The disappearance of larger fishes first became evident during the war.

How Matthews came to write for the Reader:

In the spring of 1978, San Diego’s gaslit journalistic parlors were electrified by the arrival of the Los Angeles Times, San Diego edition. The San Diego Union, long considered one of the worst newspapers in America, finally awoke to the imperative to improve. Among its first actions was to hire Paul Krueger from the Reader, probably the first journalist from the alternative press to crossover into the mainstream.

How could the Reader, circulation 30,000, hope to fill the giant footsteps of Krueger, one of the best journalists San Diego has ever seen (in the winter of 2019 he’s still a producer at NBC7)? He edited, wrote City Lights, an occasional feature story, and the extremely popular Press Passes column, punching above his weight on all matters related to the local journalism scene.

I was a third-year journalism student at SDSU, taking a magazine writing class. Our assignment was to get stories published, so I sent one to the Reader about buying booze below the border, and then another about the history of the Bottom Scratchers diving club. The Reader’s new editor, Jim Mullin, printed them both. Then he and publisher Jim Holman, along with Krueger, called me into the Reader's old offices at 635 State Street on a Saturday — and offered me Krueger’s old job. Just two or three City Lights a week, a cover story once a month, an inside feature every six weeks, plus the weekly Press Passes column. "No pressure,” Krueger said, and I thought he meant it.

No pressure! A week later I was looking to strangle Krueger.

Matthews' favorite stories he wrote for the Reader:

Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, March 12, 2015, in the rocks covering the outfall below the Pt. Loma sewage treatment plant
  • The little things in the ocean were most captivating

  • Swimming in San Diego Bay is a pathway to constant renewal. I always check under the buoys to track the growth of tunicates — sea squirts, sponges, and sea lettuce — through the seasons. In early summer off Stingray Point in Glorietta Bay, the marine growth is so thick it obscures the bottom of the yellow buoy. So one morning, I was surprised to see a bay blenny living belly-up and patrolling a sizeable clearing. (March 6, 2019)
  • Seahorse Dreams

  • I rolled onto on my back and spit out the snorkel, finally breathing deep and slow. I couldn’t stifle the high-pitched whoop of a monster in a seahorse’s dream, already second-guessing whether I should have touched her. The phantom pleasure of her ribbed strength still warmed my palm. (Dec. 21, 2016)
Congressman Bob Wilson, Richard Nixon, Smith c. 1960. I took him and Mrs. Nixon out on the boat several times when he had meetings in San Diego. We had a good-sized boat at that time, and I remember we’d take her out in the bay. We didn’t bother her, just let her sit and read.
  • C. Arnholt Smith, in his own words (parts 1 and 2)

  • After I got into the Bank of Italy, Johnny Alessio was still shining shoes and doing everything he could to make money. I was handling the banking relationships between the Banco Nacional in Tijuana and the Bank of Italy, and I knew the Banco Nacional was looking for someone who could speak Spanish and English. So I told Johnny to go on down there and apply. (March 19 and 26, 1992)
Cunningham (gesturing) and Driscoll (behind him) recounting the Col. Tomb battle, U.S.S. Constellation, May 10, 1972
  • Duke Cunningham's dogfight with MiGs over North Vietnam

  • "The first kill I had was against the MiG-21, and I could see the guy in the airplane when I went over him, as he died. I could see him almost thrashing around in the cockpit. The explosion had severed his tail, and the rest of the plane tumbled end over end. He couldn't punch out. Now that – if I close my eyes, mentally I can still see that. And I dream about it once in a while." (March 29, 1984)
"After my brother died, I started growing the beard and the hair."
  • Caliente Racetrack owner Jorge Hank Rhon discusses the murder of "El Gato"

  • "El Gato was such a corrupt son of a bitch, he could have been killed by anyone," remarks a chilango who knew Hank when they both attended a private school in Mexico City. "Zeta sells a lot more papers by claiming El Gato was martyred. But if people learned he was a declared homosexual and his ways of exacting things from people were very dirty, his martyrdom would evaporate." (May 10, 1990)
"I finally said, ‘Okay, ’Melo, let’s go for it then.’ ” Show and Martinez lunged at each other and had to be restrained by their teammates.
  • Eric Show, thinker with a sinker

  • “I know that I sealed my fate by going public about joining the John Birch Society in 1984.1 understand that, and I accept that. I’m not going to be a Steve Garvey type, a loved guy, ever.... Almost everything going on in this country, and in baseball, I don’t agree with. But I’ve tried so hard to conform. I want to be part of a winning team."(Aug. 10, 1989)
  • I Ran Drugs for Uncle Sam

  • Plumlee worked as a plumber for the Erling Rohde Plumbing Company in La Jolla. Owner Mike Clancy made a deal with Plumlee when he hired him in 1985: “’As long as you finish the job you’re on, you can come and go.’ Sometimes, all of a sudden he wouldn’t show up, and the next day I’d get a call from Costa Rica. It’s Bob, saying, ‘Hey Mike, I gotta be down here for a few days…’ ” (Apr. 5, 1990)
  • Bob Hannibal was one of the good guys. Or so he thought

  • Hannibal and his vice squad cohorts hatched a plan to snare Compton in his own game. They decided to set up a phony outcall agency called Surfer Girls East and bait Compton into handling their supposed credit card business.... In the meantime, the cops started running ads for Surfer Girls East in the daily newspapers, alongside the "legitimate” outcall services. (Sept. 22, 1988)
  • Notes from Underground

  • San Diego's Free Press (later renamed the Street Journal) was defunct by the end of 1970; the San Diego Door came and went with the Nixon Presidency, 1968 to August 1974.The O.B. Rag fell silent in September 1975, after reporting the pullout of all U.S. forces from Vietnam. (Nov. 25, 1992)
Dewey Taylor owned a print shop in Sorrento Valley and was well known, or so claimed the other women tellers who worked with Joani at the California First Bank on Tripp Court in the valley.
  • The Final Days of Dewey Taylor

  • Dewey Taylor’s is not the typical Agent Orange story. His heart condition has never been listed as a common complaint among veterans who believe they’re victims of Agent Orange. And so far as his widow and his ex-wife and his brother and his best friend and his parents know, Dewey Taylor has never mentioned the words Agent Orange. (Apr. 16, 1981)
  • When Men Went Underwater

  • The three young men were venturing past the foaming combers of the Sunset Cliffs in 1932 in search of abalone, fish, and lobster. They wore vested swimsuits, swimmers’ goggles, and carried ten-foot poles topped by five-pronged spears. They took to attaching the horn shark's horn, a tooth-like appendage jutting in front of the dorsal fin, to the key pocket of their swimsuits. (March 30, 1978)
  • OMBAC: for big kids only

  • Things were a lot different down at Old Mission Beach in the late 1940s and early 1950s. (Old Mission Beach was that area roughly two or three streets either side of Redondo Court.) There were fewer people around then, so the group of anywhere from twenty to 200 kids who hung out on the beach at the foot of Redondo Court, which is near Saska’s restaurant, were pretty conspicuous. (Nov. 1, 1979)
OMBAC 1978. "The problem with OMBAC is they think that if something’s fun with ten people, it’ll be ten times as fun with a hundred people."
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