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Joltin' Joe and the Holy Man 

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In the Strange Bedfellows Department, we were struck by the recent pairing of Democratic politico Joe Cerrell with the Dalai Lama. Cerrell’s PR firm is representing the Dalai Lama on his Southern California tour this month. We wondered what the head of Southern California’s 19th largest public-relations company (according to O’Dwyer’s 2000 directory), loyal Sons of Italy member and Realpolitik adviser to every mainstream Democrat from JFK to Gore would find in common with the blissed-out Tibetan spiritual and national leader. Cerrell’s favorite books, perhaps (The Power Game, The Powers That Be)? Well, we hope the Dalai Lama has a chance to discuss the Buddha’s tenfold virtuous practice with Cerrell, or perhaps delve into some of his past lives. Bismarck, maybe?

Jack’s Lakers Moment

We were so not surprised when vandalism or violence — as the L.A. Times and CNN had it, respectively, in their post–NBA championship wrap-ups — erupted after the Lakers’ victory Tuesday. After all, the national taunts about L.A.’s flaccid fanmanship had flown so fast and furious, even a teary Shaquille O’Neal had to take time out from savoring his victory to defend L.A.’s honor — and to shamelessly flog the Staples Center. (Is corporate boosterism just a reflex for celebrities, or are they paid to say these things?) Only carousing and mayhem could restore our reputation. The media failed to make much of a point about this, but we couldn’t help but notice the vandals’ targets were the same as during the 1992 riots: a TV van and a police car. L.A. never really changes, does it? But for us here at OffBeat, the finest, purest moment at the NBA finals came when Jack Nicholson stepped forward to offer Larry Bird the first post-game condolence handshake. It wasn’t a Pacer or a Laker, or even Magic, but rather Jack Nicholson who stuck out his paw in sympathy, celebrity-a-celebrity. It was a beautiful thing. In response, we’d like to propose an honorary city position for the acting great: Jack Nicholson, L.A.’s Official Consoler.

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Pauper’s Grave

After years of homelessness and sleeping under freeway overpasses, 57-year-old Anne Marie Bates was off drugs and had an appointment to talk to a production company about her recently completed novel. But the sudden turn of fate for Bates, a self-professed vampire and research source for novelist Anne Rice, was too good to be true. In the early-morning hours of June 1, Bates suffered an apparent heart attack and died later at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.

That’s when Bates’ poverty came back to haunt her and her friends. Although her death was not considered suspicious, it was referred to the L.A. County coroner, as she had no family physician to sign the death certificate. And although Bates had a common-law spouse for 37 years, California law would not recognize his right to claim the body.

“If he is married to her, then he can go ahead and make arrangements, but since he isn’t the spouse he has no say in the matter,” said coroner investigator Joyce Kato. Bates’ boyfriend could gain custody of her remains only by permission of the probate court, and for a $197 coroner’s fee. He would also have to pay for the funeral or cremation. Fat chance. Bates’ boyfriend has been on welfare for years, and she left no assets behind, except for her manuscript.

If the boyfriend fails to come up with the cash, Bates’ body will be sent to the county morgue and cremated, one of 200 to 250 cases each year in which next-of-kin are not located. In another 250 cases families either refuse to claim the body or can’t afford funeral arrangements.

“It is really heart-wrenching, dealing with these people you know want to do something for them but can’t afford it,” said Doyle Tolbert, supervisor of the notification section at the coroner’s office. The opposite is true in too many other cases, said Kato. “Sadly, a lot of times family and friends show concern, but as time goes by, we just stop hearing from people and nobody seems interested.”

Bates’ ashes will be kept in a plastic urn for two years, unless a relative comes forward with $541 to cover transportation and cremation costs. The fee is discounted to $426 if the person dies in the county hospital. (Moving the body from the county hospital is theoretically less expensive.) Eighty percent of the time, the remains go unclaimed, and authorities scatter the ashes in a common grave located in a separate county cemetery next to the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Boyle Heights.

A nondenominational service is held, according to Sandy Bornhauser, supervisor of decedent affairs at the L.A. County Morgue. But the only memorial to the lives so unceremoniously and communally dispatched is a circular 5-inch cement marker noting the year of death. Inside the crematorium, which is on the cemetery grounds, is a ledger with the name, date of death and cremation of the deceased. This year, authorities will bury 1,200 people who died in 1995.

“We are only here for the indigent and the people with no families,” said Kenya Stephens, mortuary attendant of decedent affairs with the county morgue.

“Anne Marie was a beautiful soul,” said longtime friend Rick Wilder. —Christine Pelisek

Bear Hunting on Sunset

With all the ink spilled over the Rampart Division police-corruption scandal, it’s easy to forget about all the hard-working neighborhood cops who respond efficiently to calls for assistance. They’re out there, as a pal of OffBeat discovered when he was assaulted outside a Sunset Boulevard gay bar.

On Saturday, May 27, Silver Lake Bear (who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of his case) drove to the Detour bar on Sunset with an out-of-town guest. The two were walking from the car to the bar when a vanload of people drove by shouting, “Faggots!” and throwing eggs. One hit Silver Lake Bear in the face and neck. Egg matter dripped on to the black-leather interior of his brand-new car. Silver Lake Bear jumped in the vehicle to chase the van to a nearby parking lot, where he recorded the license plate. (He was dissuaded from confronting the perpetrators by his passenger, who was worried about his Prada shoes.)

The two men called Rampart and were transferred to the Northeast Station. Two Northeast patrol officers arrived promptly to take the report; Silver Lake Bear says they were polite and serious. The following week, Captain Charles Roper from Northeast phoned to make sure the complaint was being actively pursued. Northeast Division’s Detective John Tarankow, who was assigned to the case, traced the license plate to the family of a Marshall High School student; confronted at school, several kids allegedly confessed to the egging. Police said they were not gang members but basically “good kids” caught up in the typical mischief that accompanies the end of the school year. However, the combination of throwing eggs and screaming “Faggots!” elevated Silver Lake Bear’s assault to a hate crime. (In a phone interview, Captain Roper called the case a “wobbler” between a “hatred incident” and a hate crime, and indicated that the D.A.’s Office would make the call.)

Silver Lake Bear wanted the students to attend a hate-crimes awareness workshop, such as the one offered by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. But police said he would have to press charges to enable such a referral. Silver Lake Bear was reluctant to contribute to anyone getting a criminal record. His own arrest for a youthful indiscretion had come back to bite Silver Lake Bear recently when he applied for a professional license. After agonizing for days, Silver Lake Bear decided to go ahead with the charges.

“It’s the only way these kids can learn and be held responsible for their actions,” he said. Ultimately, a judge will decide the fate of “these good kids” who threw eggs and screamed “Faggots!” at two men in front of a gay bar. But as the case proceeds, Silver Lake Bear has nothing but kudos for the police. “Everyone I’ve spoken to at both divisions has treated me with respect, and this with the utmost seriousness,” he said.

—Sandra Ross

Edited by Gale Holland

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