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Best Reader stories from 1999

Jesse Ventura, La Costa, amateur astronomers, beachside dwellers, TJ poets, father of jogging, Andrew Cunanan, Bompensiero, kidnapped at Coronado Cays

Club members have turned the Jacumba area into an astronomical haven. - Image by Dennis Mammana
Club members have turned the Jacumba area into an astronomical haven.
  • Was Jesse Ventura a SEAL or a UDT guy?

  • Well, I thought, Jesse certainly looks and sounds like many SEALs I’d known during my 16 years in the Teams. But I’d never known or even heard of him. Was Jesse for real or was he one of those politicians who sometimes fudge their military affiliation with elite units? I mean, maybe he’d only worked on a staff or been aboard a ship that once participated in an exercise with SEALs.
  • By Bill Salisbury, Dec. 2, 1999
From November 1999 Playboy. His controversial interview was littered with SEAL but not UDT references.
Tracy Bringas: “During that storm of ’88, I watched half of somebody’s house float into the ocean. Barbecues were floating away. My neighbor’s motorcycle floated away. I found a mackerel on somebody’s window sill."
  • Beach people who aren't bums

  • “I grew up in a beachside home. September was always the best month because all the tourists would be gone, and you’d have the beach to yourself. In the ’60s, there were only about 10,000 to 12,000 people in La Jolla. Everybody knew each other. You didn’t have to lock your doors. People were a lot friendlier. Scuba divers would leave their gear at the side of our house.
  • By Susan Vaughn, Oct. 7, 1999
  • Mobsters like to golf there

  • How much blood was spilled to build La Costa? So many bodies piled up over the years it's hard to keep track. The godfather of the place was Moe Dalitz, a mobster from Cleveland who got his start back in Prohibition days with Detroit's "Little Jewish Navy," running booze across the Detroit River from Canada. He traveled with Detroit's brutal "Purple Gang," until the Zerilli brothers arrived in town and things got too hot.
  • By Matt Potter, Nov. 18, 1999
  • Am I the first human ever to pay attention to that one star?

  • A lot of the socializing at these affairs takes place on two 220-foot-long concrete strips laid out in a brush-free quadrant of the property. Members back their vehicles up to the concrete and set up their equipment. On summer nights, when the stars are so bright they cast shadows, it’s not uncommon to find as many as 50 telescopes, says Laborde. Their owners usually stay awake until dawn.
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, Sept. 16, 1999
Crooks: “They commanded me to photograph them — ‘Hey, man, photograph us!’"
  • What distinguishes San Diego landscape to painters

  • In Coronado one day, after lunch with a friend, he went into a CD shop while his friend waited outside on a bench. When Crooks came out, he noticed his friend staring at an apartment house across the street. “Don’t bother me,” the other said, “I’m having a California moment.” Before them was Portico, bathed in a glowing, hyper real light. Crooks returned at the same hour the next day to photograph it. Perfect, he thought: One door is partially open.
  • By Thomas Larson, Aug. 26, 1999
  • Tijuana poets lost and found

  • The evening began a little after eight in the bar at Sanborn’s on Revolución where eight poets gathered for drinks and chisme (gossip). Around midnight one of them suggested we move on to El Lugar del Nopal, a café near Guerrero Park. When we arrived, the poets waded into the crowded, smoky room where, on a small stage surrounded by candles, a ponytailed folksinger strummed his guitar and sang in a throaty voice about love.
  • By Abe Opincar, Aug. 5, 1999
Alfonso Garcia
  • Father of Fitness

  • He’s a short, lean man who looks to be in his mid-60s, and God knows there are plenty of those around this town, fit retirees clad in running shoes and exercise shorts. Kasch, however, is 86. And he says when he first moved to San Diego in 1948, “I was the first and only person who was running here. In the whole town!”
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, July 8, 1999
Running shoes hadn’t been invented, so to protect his feet in the sagebrush west of 55th Street, Kasch donned leather track shoes that a cobbler in Norway made for him.
  • The murderous saga of Andrew Cunanan

  • When Vulgar Favors, Maureen Orth's book about the murderous saga of Andrew Cunanan, hit the best-seller lists last month, a national audience was offered a sinister portrait of San Diego, far different from the image of dumb and innocent All-American beach town concocted by the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The wealthiest and most celebrated men in San Diego would not even go into a gay bar," Orth writes.
  • By Matt Potter, April 22, 1999
Andrew Cunanan's apartment (shared with Eric Freeman) on Robinson Avenue. "I called Bad Habits, and the clerk who answered the phone said, 'My good friend is very close friends with Andrew's roommate.' I made contact with Eric Freeman, who told me that Andrew delivered briefcases full of cash."
  • Shot in the dark

  • Turn south off of Grand onto Lamont Street. Park along Lamont. Wander over to the gas station. The gas station on your right, as you face away from the traffic along Grand. Back in 1977, a pay telephone stood along the side of the station. It was an Arco station then. Frank Bompensiero made his last telephone call here. “Dialed,” someone told me, and then laughed a high-pitched crazy laugh, “his last number.”
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 11, 1999
Mickey Cohen, Frank Bompensiero (inset photo); Alley off Lamont St., south of Grand Ave. where Bompensiero was shot and killed.
  • No answer at Coronado Cays

  • “I’m sorry, sir, I can’t give any information.” Speaking from his Coronado Cays home, Miguel Crespo sounds tired and shaken. His wife, Georgina, was kidnapped over a month ago. “All the family are concerned about this,” says Crespo, “but we are being completely silent. Nobody talks about anything. I think we’re going to begin to know things next week. Maybe next week, if you call us.”
  • By Bill Manson, March 25, 1999
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Club members have turned the Jacumba area into an astronomical haven. - Image by Dennis Mammana
Club members have turned the Jacumba area into an astronomical haven.
  • Was Jesse Ventura a SEAL or a UDT guy?

  • Well, I thought, Jesse certainly looks and sounds like many SEALs I’d known during my 16 years in the Teams. But I’d never known or even heard of him. Was Jesse for real or was he one of those politicians who sometimes fudge their military affiliation with elite units? I mean, maybe he’d only worked on a staff or been aboard a ship that once participated in an exercise with SEALs.
  • By Bill Salisbury, Dec. 2, 1999
From November 1999 Playboy. His controversial interview was littered with SEAL but not UDT references.
Tracy Bringas: “During that storm of ’88, I watched half of somebody’s house float into the ocean. Barbecues were floating away. My neighbor’s motorcycle floated away. I found a mackerel on somebody’s window sill."
  • Beach people who aren't bums

  • “I grew up in a beachside home. September was always the best month because all the tourists would be gone, and you’d have the beach to yourself. In the ’60s, there were only about 10,000 to 12,000 people in La Jolla. Everybody knew each other. You didn’t have to lock your doors. People were a lot friendlier. Scuba divers would leave their gear at the side of our house.
  • By Susan Vaughn, Oct. 7, 1999
  • Mobsters like to golf there

  • How much blood was spilled to build La Costa? So many bodies piled up over the years it's hard to keep track. The godfather of the place was Moe Dalitz, a mobster from Cleveland who got his start back in Prohibition days with Detroit's "Little Jewish Navy," running booze across the Detroit River from Canada. He traveled with Detroit's brutal "Purple Gang," until the Zerilli brothers arrived in town and things got too hot.
  • By Matt Potter, Nov. 18, 1999
  • Am I the first human ever to pay attention to that one star?

  • A lot of the socializing at these affairs takes place on two 220-foot-long concrete strips laid out in a brush-free quadrant of the property. Members back their vehicles up to the concrete and set up their equipment. On summer nights, when the stars are so bright they cast shadows, it’s not uncommon to find as many as 50 telescopes, says Laborde. Their owners usually stay awake until dawn.
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, Sept. 16, 1999
Crooks: “They commanded me to photograph them — ‘Hey, man, photograph us!’"
  • What distinguishes San Diego landscape to painters

  • In Coronado one day, after lunch with a friend, he went into a CD shop while his friend waited outside on a bench. When Crooks came out, he noticed his friend staring at an apartment house across the street. “Don’t bother me,” the other said, “I’m having a California moment.” Before them was Portico, bathed in a glowing, hyper real light. Crooks returned at the same hour the next day to photograph it. Perfect, he thought: One door is partially open.
  • By Thomas Larson, Aug. 26, 1999
  • Tijuana poets lost and found

  • The evening began a little after eight in the bar at Sanborn’s on Revolución where eight poets gathered for drinks and chisme (gossip). Around midnight one of them suggested we move on to El Lugar del Nopal, a café near Guerrero Park. When we arrived, the poets waded into the crowded, smoky room where, on a small stage surrounded by candles, a ponytailed folksinger strummed his guitar and sang in a throaty voice about love.
  • By Abe Opincar, Aug. 5, 1999
Alfonso Garcia
  • Father of Fitness

  • He’s a short, lean man who looks to be in his mid-60s, and God knows there are plenty of those around this town, fit retirees clad in running shoes and exercise shorts. Kasch, however, is 86. And he says when he first moved to San Diego in 1948, “I was the first and only person who was running here. In the whole town!”
  • By Jeannette DeWyze, July 8, 1999
Running shoes hadn’t been invented, so to protect his feet in the sagebrush west of 55th Street, Kasch donned leather track shoes that a cobbler in Norway made for him.
  • The murderous saga of Andrew Cunanan

  • When Vulgar Favors, Maureen Orth's book about the murderous saga of Andrew Cunanan, hit the best-seller lists last month, a national audience was offered a sinister portrait of San Diego, far different from the image of dumb and innocent All-American beach town concocted by the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The wealthiest and most celebrated men in San Diego would not even go into a gay bar," Orth writes.
  • By Matt Potter, April 22, 1999
Andrew Cunanan's apartment (shared with Eric Freeman) on Robinson Avenue. "I called Bad Habits, and the clerk who answered the phone said, 'My good friend is very close friends with Andrew's roommate.' I made contact with Eric Freeman, who told me that Andrew delivered briefcases full of cash."
  • Shot in the dark

  • Turn south off of Grand onto Lamont Street. Park along Lamont. Wander over to the gas station. The gas station on your right, as you face away from the traffic along Grand. Back in 1977, a pay telephone stood along the side of the station. It was an Arco station then. Frank Bompensiero made his last telephone call here. “Dialed,” someone told me, and then laughed a high-pitched crazy laugh, “his last number.”
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 11, 1999
Mickey Cohen, Frank Bompensiero (inset photo); Alley off Lamont St., south of Grand Ave. where Bompensiero was shot and killed.
  • No answer at Coronado Cays

  • “I’m sorry, sir, I can’t give any information.” Speaking from his Coronado Cays home, Miguel Crespo sounds tired and shaken. His wife, Georgina, was kidnapped over a month ago. “All the family are concerned about this,” says Crespo, “but we are being completely silent. Nobody talks about anything. I think we’re going to begin to know things next week. Maybe next week, if you call us.”
  • By Bill Manson, March 25, 1999
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