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Cracked Elvis 

Wednesday, Mar 4 1998
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Barely a year after an emergency face-lift, Elvis Presley's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is cracking again - the latest victim, critics say, of MTA subway-tunneling mayhem.

Last December, in the wake of a front-page article in the Daily News about the Elvis star's sorry state, the plaque - one of the most visited sites in Los Angeles - was completely refurbished by the Hollywood Historic Trust, with new terrazzo, metal framing, the works.

But alas, over the last few weeks a series of new fissures have appeared, forming a rough pentagonal shape linking the star's interior points. It's no mystery what's causing the cracks, as well as the severe buckling of the sidewalk nearby, says longtime MTA critic John Walsh: "Hollywood Boulevard is still sinking. And undulating and warping and cracking. And it will keep doing so as long as the MTA continues its negligent tunneling." The Elvis star is located just east of the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, and across the street from an MTA construction site.

MTA spokesman Ed Scannell, however, contends the cracking "is the result of a nearby ficus tree," a species, he says, that "apparently has quite long roots." This, presumably, is the same tree that gored a sinkhole the size of a blimp into the boulevard a couple of years back.

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This Land Is My Land

If would-be immigrants were gumballs, we could pack them all into a big glass jar, ship it off to the Third World and be done with it.

In Roy Beck's view, such a move would solve sprawl and congestion, stop pollution in its tracks, and generally restore us to a land of milk and honey. The former journalist turned population-control evangelist has packaged this jeremiad into a handy 22-minute infomercial, Immigration by the Numbers, which, using a jar of gumballs as a prop, outlines the wrack and ruin inevitable without an immediate end to immigration.

Short of that, Beck would settle for a majority vote among the 550,000 members of the Sierra Club, in support of an anti-immigration initiative now on the club's mail-in ballot. And to that end, Beck - working in conjunction with a coterie of population-control groups intent on seizing control of the nation's oldest environmental organization and forcing immigration to the top of the movement's agenda - has been shipping the video to as many club members as a second mortgage on his Virginia house affords.

The tape features Beck, bespectacled with teacup ears and a ready smile, presenting his studio audience with a giant glass jar jammed full of colored gumballs, each of which, he says, represents a million potential immigrants. With frequent cutaways to his increasingly worried audience (suitably multi-ethnic, of course), Beck continues pouring gumballs into this massive jar until it overflows and loose balls clatter loudly to the floor. "There can never be any hope for the people in the Third World except here," he declares, jabbing at the engorged vessel, "where they live."

Riveting stuff, really. So much so that OffBeat encourages as many readers as possible to get in touch with Beck ASAP via e-mail at www.NumbersUSA.com and request your free copy of Immigration by the Numbers. Tell a friend.

Panic at King-Drew

A recent string of unusual and unexplained patient deaths - including the possible poisoning of dialysis patient Blanca Maldonado - may have brought the troubled King-Drew Medical Center under the microscope of the national agency responsible for hospital accreditation.

A team of officials from the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations descended on King-Drew last week for an unannounced two-day top-to-bottom survey of the hospital's much-maligned operations. Typically, such a survey is performed every three years, with appropriate advance notice. However, a surprise evaluation usually follows a serious complaint about an institution's performance. Julia M. Roberts, a spokesperson for the Oakbridge Terrace, Illinois-based agency, said that she could not disclose what triggered the unscheduled visit to King-Drew.

Word of the probe sparked such a scramble among downtown county health department officials that, according to one witness, "You couldn't find a parking place around K-D" on Thursday or Friday, when the survey took place. A hospital staffer said King-Drew had brief advance notice of the review.

Long the problem child of the county's public-hospital network, King-Drew has come under repeated public criticism for its promotion policies and $100-million-a-year cost overruns. But the current audit raises the stakes considerably. If King-Drew is found not to be in compliance with requisite operational standards, the facility risks losing accreditation - a move that could make getting federal funding for the public hospital extremely problematic.

Newton's Law

OffBeat was moved to philosophic insight last Saturday after reading the banner headline in the Times Metro Section topping a Jim Newton story on Mayor Riordan's Asian trip. (Newton's minute-by-minute accounts of Riordan's jaunt read a bit like the tales of Benjamin Franklin's conquest of Paris, but we note this emerging plausibility gap only in passing; it is as nothing next to the larger issue here.) The headline, in its entirety, read:

"As Mayor's Trip Proceeds, Knowledge Increases."

Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, posited that knowledge increased as a result of paradigm shifts. A lot he knew! Now we have Newton's Law: "The farther Mayor Riordan is from Los Angeles, the more people know." Given the mayor's interest in improving public education, it also suggests a new reform strategy for our local schoolmaster-in-chief: Hit the road, Dick, and don't you come back no more.

-Edited by Sam Gideon Anson

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