By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
There is probably a very good reason Strickland failed to show, and that reason is most likely fear. What is so scary about debating in front of a small gathering of mostly elderly constituents smack-dab in the middle of a district that stretches from the northeastern side of Ventura County south into West Hills, Northridge and Chatsworth? For an answer we have to go back a few weeks to Leisure Village — a neatly manicured retirement community in Camarillo — where Masry and Strickland met on the evening of September 13 to debate for the first, and probably the last, time.
On that night the two candidates sat side by side onstage at the community rec center. Strickland seemed confident at the outset. Camarillo is a pretty conservative little burg, and the seniors at Leisure Village tend to have sizable checking accounts — the kinds of checking accounts that can afford leisure and favor Republicans.
Masry, whose name is on the November ballot as the result of an unprecedented grassroots write-in campaign, introduced herself by relating her personal history — her childhood in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, her schooling in Egypt and her eventual decision to move to America in order to escape the oppression of her home country. Strickland, who is the wife of current 37th District Assemblyman Tony Strickland, took a less personal approach, clinging tightly to the ultraconservative rhetoric her husband has wielded over the last six years, and simultaneously bashing the Democratic leadership in Sacramento.
The more Masry explained her positions (pro-life, pro–stem cell research, pro–medical marijuana, etc.) the more the audience clapped and smiled. The more Strickland talked the more the audience stiffened in their seats. When she claimed to support George Bush’s attempts at Medicare reform, a few Village residents snickered audibly; when she said she opposed seniors’ efforts to procure cheaper prescription medicine from Canada, a low growl rose from the crowd.
But the moment where everything went seriously wrong for Strickland was during her brief closing statement. Again she took a stab at the state’s Democratic leadership, but this time a collective noise rose from the rec room floor — a raucous combination of laughter and heckling. Strickland tried to talk through it, and for a few painful seconds she pantomimed the posturing of a politician but struggled futilely to make a sound. At that point the diminutive, silver-haired MC kindly stepped in, asking the Leisure Village crowd to behave, which allowed Strickland to sputter quietly to a close.
Quaint little gatherings with seemingly well-mannered audiences are not always what they seem to be. Strickland learned that lesson the hard way and no doubt feared that even the predictably peaceful residents of Ojai might turn similarly hostile. Masry took the opportunity to speak clearly and persuasively about education and affordable health care — two issues that are the foundation of her campaign. "We need a change," she said. "I want to represent the people, not only the Democratic Party or only the Republican Party. I want to see everyone represented." It was, of course, an easy political statement made even easier by the fact that there was no one there to compete with it. Judging by its response — applause, a few whoops and a whistle — the audience didn’t seem to mind at all.—Stephanie Kinnear
When Beauty Attacks
The attack came from the right. The team of trained experts — a man in a striped shirt, a pretty blond, a pretty brunette, a girl in a black smock and a woman with a video camera — converged on the chosen victim.
"Hey, Punky Brewster! Wait up!" said William Whatley, the man with the stripes. He was the loud, extroverted one, the one who made you either laugh or cringe. "Would you like a makeover?" He’s what they call in the business a "rock & roll" stylist.
"No. No, thanks," said the woman, edging away. "No." The woman had puffy red hair and pale skin.
"Where are you from?" asked Whatley. "Texas? Really? Okay. Since I like your accent, you can keep your hair."
It was an overcast Friday afternoon when I met with the makers of Fox TV’s Ambush Makeover. A small legion of stylists, makeup artists, wardrobe consultants, producers, managers, executives and publicists had gathered at today’s chosen field of battle: Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. Their enemy: unflattering tops, bulging bottoms, hideous haircuts, overgrown eyebrows and scary dye jobs. Their modus operandi: Grab the unfashionable off the street. Do their hair. Do their makeup. Film it and show it on national television. It was simple, as far as plans went. But the execution was proving much more difficult.
We stood in a cluster scanning the crowd. Sizing people up. So this is what it felt like to hang with the popular kids in high school. Yes, they were going to be cruel. Whatley called it taking people out of their comfort zone.
"Let’s get real," said host Gigi Berry, the brunette. "What we’re doing? It’s kinda mean. It’s embarrassing to have a bunch of people walk up to you and tell you that you need a makeover. But there’s a way to do it graciously."