By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Seems like every week OffBeat discovers that another seemingly benign pastime could be hazardous to our health. But yard sales? That’s what we hear from Deputy District Attorney Bob Savitt, who dubbed a murder and second-degree robbery in West Los Angeles in February "Yard Sale Gone Bad."
"Theoretically, it is a death-penalty case," Savitt said of the homicide of 80-year-old Edward Joseph Brennan.
Part-time antique dealer Diane Jean Wood, 33, was attending Brennan’s yard sale when the pair got into a squabble over the price of an antique plate, Savitt said. Wood offered $3, but Brennan insisted on $5. Wood attempted to flee with the plate, but Brennan stepped in front of her car. Wood nudged him with her bumper, then backed up and gunned forward again, knocking Brennan to the ground. The elderly gentleman died at the scene; Wood spent the rest of the day in the desert, gambling at an Indian casino, Savitt said.
Wood’s attorney says his client has a long history of schizophrenia and has been in and out of mental hospitals since the age of 19. "That this would constitute a robbery and murder is an incredible stretch," said Deputy Public Defender William Sadler. "She clearly didn’t mean to hurt this person. Everyone knows it. She feels terrible that this occurred. She has suffered a lot from this disease and is not a criminal."
Still, OffBeat plans to keep our distance from yard sales; we once watched two competing bargain hunters go psycho over a bubble light fixture. Wood is being held without bail in the women’s unit at Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles. A preliminary hearing is pending.
FLUNKING DR. LAURA
Now, OffBeat enjoys political organizing, especially when it’s combined with brunch and boutique-ing. So we jumped at a chance to join the Dr. Laura Schlessinger protest this week outside Paramount Studios, which plans to air a fall TV show featuring the noted radio counselor and homophobe.
But imagine our amazement when, amid talk of Rigoletto, Jackie Goldberg and the new Prada ads, a member of OffBeat’s brunch posse revealed that he’d flunked Schlessinger’s 1979-80 "Human Sexuality" class at USC. And yep, this self-described "disgruntled former student" of Schlessinger is a "friend of Dorothy’s" — which makes Dr. Laura the wicked witch of this tale.
"Her course was basic plumbing — the nuts-and-bolts sex ed with an emphasis on science. [Schlessinger’s degree is in physiology, not psychology.] Under no circumstance could the class be considered erotic or titillating, so lots of students were disappointed," said former Trojan Vern.
"It was taught in Bovard Auditorium, which is huge. She wore fake Chanel. She must have had about 20 teaching assistants, who all acted like acolytes to the high priestess. The mainly male corps of TAs stood around like attendants or ushers. At the end of the lecture, Schlessinger would be spent, practically crippled. One of her TAs would wrap her up like a baby and lead her away," an image our pal associates with David Bowie’s Cracked Actor character, an exhausted rock star overwhelmed by his talent and fame.
While Vern was out and proud during college, he doesn’t remember Schlessinger saying anything overtly homophobic — his attendance admittedly was a bit spotty — although he does recall a withering putdown of a student who asked a question about homosexuality.
Some 400 men, women and children marched Tuesday against Dr. Laura; 50 pro-Schlessingerites staged a counter-demonstration (sample slogan: "Children Against Anti-Species Propagation"). The controversy is unlikely to go away; Schlessinger inflamed opposition with her recantation last week of her earlier tepid apology for calling gays, among other things, "biological errors."
"It’s not about freedom of speech — it’s about corporate responsibility," said Robin Tyler of the StopDrLaura.com coalition. "Corporations need to understand that we’re no longer asking for acceptance. We’re demanding respect, the same respect that should be granted to all minorities, which includes not being vilified in light of religion."
"It’s obscene that she’s making money off the very people she says are ‘biological errors,’" said Vern, who carried a pink-glitter-lettered sign during the march. He was kind enough to offer some fashion tips to his former teacher, however: "Get a gay hairdresser. She also needs to lose the Sophia Loren eyewear. It’s a look that doesn’t work for Sophia Loren." —Sandra Ross
CASTAWAY GETS GORED
These are buen días for voters, or at least that is what the presidential candidates would like to have their amigos believe. Just look at the slew of candidates speaking español in key states such as California, Texas and Florida — and not just about anything. They’re speaking out on Latino issues. And what might those be? Well, apparently, "little Elian Gonzalez," at least in Florida, where presidential hopeful Al Gore recently waxed voluble on the fate of the 6-year-old caught up in a bitter international custody battle. Florida’s powerful Cuban conservative community wants to keep Elian, whose mother died during their desperate ocean journey from the island. Elian’s father in Cuba wants him back.
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