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Vengeance Is Marty’s 

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When you attack a prince, said Machiavelli, you had better kill him, for there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded prince who can still retaliate.

Machiavelli, meet Marty Martinez.

One of the dimmest bulbs in the Democrats’ chandelier, Martinez is a congressman from the San Gabriel Valley whose 18-year term is distinguished by — well nothing, really. (This may overstate the case: Martinez was one of a tiny handful of NAFTA opponents who switched and supported the free-trade “fast-track” proposal of 1997. And there’s his opposition to gun control.)

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This March, voters ousted the longtime incumbent by an overwhelming 69-to-31-percent margin, installing challenger Hilda Solis, a state senator with backing from unions and other key Democratic constituencies. Well, they voted to oust Martinez. Because the primary was held in March rather than the usual June, Martinez had 10 more months in office before he’d actually have to go. Ten months, it’s now clear, in which his only agenda is sticking it to the Democrats, the unions, his own constituents — all those ingrates who wanted him out.

So, when the House voted on June 28 to help seniors pay for prescription drugs, Martinez was one of just five House Democrats who voted for the sham Republican plan — which includes an annual deductible, plus a higher co-pay and a lower annual maximum than the Democrats’ proposal. (The Reeps’ plan passed by a 217-to-214 vote margin.) The Democratic plan would have helped far more seniors in Martinez’s working-class district — but there were a lot of those damn seniors, not to mention their goddamn kids, who must have voted against Marty, goddammit.

As the venerable Machiavelli noted, there are times when the purpose of politics is payback. But payback, in Mac’s more innocent time, was directed against a small group — the Doge and his buds. Martinez is wreaking vengeance against the entire 31st Congressional District. Borgias, Shmorgias — Marty’s really pissed! —Harold Meyerson

An Asshole by Any Other Name

In the hallowed halls of the L.A. Times, the poor ñ has long gotten even less respect than former Times publisher Otis Chandler received from his newspaper-owning family. For years, this misunderstood letter of the Spanish-language alphabet was banished from the paper’s pages because the powers-that-be had determined that it might be misused by non-Spanish speaking writers and editors. Besides, some at the paper argued, authorizing the ñ could open the door to French and German accent marks, a slippery style slope that no Times muckamuck was prepared to tackle. Under former editor Michael Parks and his predecessor, committees were formed to ponder the problem, and a special dispensation was made for El Niño. But all other ñ’s inserted by determined reporters were ferreted out by the copy desk.

That is, until new editor John Carroll came on board. Four days after his installation by the new Tribune Company management, Carroll met with Team Latino, a group of reporters charged with improving coverage and understanding of L.A.’s largest single ethnic group, who explained the problems created by the ñ ban. The common surname Peña became Pena, Spanish for “pain, chastisement or grief.” And last year, in a November story on the Miss Zacatecas beauty pageant, a candidate earnestly proclaimed in italicized Spanish (sans ñ), “Tengo 18 anos,” which translates as “I have 18 anuses.”

Within days, Carroll had approved the use of ñ. Next year’s Miss Zacatecas has Carroll to thank.

—Sara Catania

Death Trip

While we’re on the subject of celebrity death, why not make a day of it with a free, self-guided tour of Snuff Spots of the Rich and Famous, courtesy of the Glendale-based City Morgue Gift Shop? Since October, the online shop (citymorguegiftshop.com) has been peddling such necrobilia as celebrity death certificates (special 2-for-1 deal on now for Phil and Brynn Hartman!) and a miniature working guillotine (“Not suitable for children”). But the real genius of the site are the freebies, including a virtual photo gallery of celebrity gravesites and a two-hour driving tour, which takes you from the Viper Room sidewalk where River Phoenix lost it to John “Speedball” Belushi’s Bungalow No. B-3 at Chateau Marmont. Click on the Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door link, and print or download detailed driving instructions for 30 spots where celebrities died or where dead celebrities used to live. (Both Elvis and Telly Savalas once called 144 Monovale Dr. home; who knew?) And it’s totally free; you’d pay up to $100 to be shown similar landmarks by a professional tour operator. “We’re just trying to make the tour as efficient as possible,” says Mark Chiavaroli, 34, a former mortuary transport driver, who launched the site with his wife, Jennifer, a licensed embalmer on leave from Pierce Bros. Mortuary. L.A.’s most popular dead celebrities? Marilyn Monroe, Richie Valens and murdered Playmate Dorothy Stratten, Chiavaroli says.

Put Another Candle on the Birthday Cake!

Fans of the “Black Dahlia” murder case will have a chance to dress up as their idol — and to hear competing theories of the unsolved homicide — when the Museum of Death, in Hollywood, presents its “Black Dahlia Look-alike Contest” later this month.

“Dahlia” authors Mary Pacios and John Gilmore will read from their books, which present divergent, but equally unsubstantiated, theories on the death of Elizabeth “Bette” Short, whose severed torso was found in a Crenshaw-area field in 1947. Short’s jet-black hair and monochromatic clothing — and, some would say, her vamping at Hollywood watering holes — earned her the “Black Dahlia” moniker and an enduring place in the annals of L.A. crime.

Pacios, who as a child knew Short in their hometown of Medford, Massachusetts, posits in Childhood Shadows: The Hidden Story of the Black Dahlia Murder that the late actor/director Orson Welles killed Short. In a phone interview, Pacios said eerie similarities between the crime scene and a publicity still from Welles’ film The Lady From Shanghai convinced her that Welles is “a viable suspect.” (“I’m not saying he killed her but that he should be considered a viable suspect,” she says.)

Gilmore, on the other hand, says Arnold Smith (a.k.a. Jack Anderson Wilson) divulged details of the crime to him — and him alone — before perishing in a downtown hotel fire in 1982. Gilmore’s Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder is best-known for its gruesome autopsy photos and claims about Short’s supposed anatomic anomaly, underdeveloped sex organs.

Pacios helped Gilmore research Severed, but the two authors prefer not to share the spotlight, which is why their readings are set for successive evenings. (Pacios is slated for Saturday, July 29, which would have been Short’s 76th birthday; Gilmore is scheduled the following evening.)

Asked if she would attend the pageant, Pacios said that she would love to be there “to see if anyone captures Bette. She had a special walk and a signature curl over her forehead. I will be bringing photographs of her, including the signature page of my brother’s yearbook.”

Although reluctant to discuss her differences with Gilmore, Pacios said she was more qualified than he to judge the contest. “I would judge from knowing her,” she added. Contestants will compete for best all-around look-alike, best crime pose and best reading from a “Black Dahlia” novel. Application forms, available now at the museum, allocate one and a half lines for thoughts on why entrants “feel connected to the ‘Black Dahlia’ case.”

Other “Dahlia” authors are not expected for the fete, including fiction writer James Ellroy and Janice Knowlton, who claims to have discovered through repressed-memory therapy that Daddy Was the Black Dahlia Killer. Pacios dismisses this “Daddy Dearest” theory, sniffing, “These were ‘recovered fantasies,’ not ‘recovered memories.’” —Sandra Ross

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