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Checchi on the Cheap

With all the money megamillionaire Al Checchi is throwing around in his bid to be California's next governor, you'd think the former airline exec could pay for his own rent-a-cops to act in TV campaign ads touting his tough-on-crime stance.

But no. Instead, Checchi, the self-proclaimed self-made man, plied his political connections with a former MTA commissioner to get at least two on-duty MTA police officers and an MTA black-and-white radio car to appear in two anti-crime spots the Checchi campaign has been airing throughout the state.

Both spots feature the same shot - a jerky pan across an MTA radio car, lights flashing, parked on a residential street with two officers sitting inside - followed by a shot of two more officers leading a domestic violence "suspect" to the car in handcuffs. The MTA logo has been digitally removed from the car door and the officers' uniforms, but officers on the force - which has since merged with the LAPD - identified its distinctive shape. One officer on duty that day, Vincent Albano, said he recalled at least two officers and the car being assigned to the Checchi campaign shoot.

Checchi campaign spokeswoman Elena Stern said the officers were arranged as a "favor" from former MTA commissioner and newly elected Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, one of the first politicians to endorse Checchi. Villaraigosa spokesman Richard Zeiger, in turn, said the Speaker made a call to then-MTA Police Chief Sharon Papa, who handled subsequent arrangements.

Both flacks insisted that only off-duty officers were supposed to have been used for the shoot - which fails to explain how an MTA radio car and the on-duty officers assigned to it got involved. What does Papa have to say about on-duty officers under her command appearing in a political campaign ad? MTA spokesman Ed Scannell said Papa told him she "didn't recall anything about that." Papa didn't return subsequent calls.

All of which suggests that for a candidate who bills himself an "outsider" (and who doesn't these days?), Checchi seems to know his way around the public trough, and is showing more than a passing facility with how to get deals done at notoriously nepotistic agencies like the MTA. There may be hope for him yet.

Ray Gun RulesWith his flagship monthly Ray Gun (circulation 125,000) and generation-next style zines Bikini and Sweater, Santa Monica publisher Marvin Scott Jarrett has positioned himself as an influential arbiter of synthetic street hip.

But among writers who contribute the tiny, 8-point print to Ray Gun's post-textual page design, Jarrett is developing a somewhat less savory reputation as a deadbeat publisher. With Jarrett, says one ex-Ray Gun writer, "The check is never in the mail."

A former Ray Gun editor puts the number of writers who have been stiffed by Jarrett's publications "in the dozens, if not a hundred or two." In fact, it has become something of a rite of passage for up-and-coming music journalists, who swap stories of the latest excuse offered up by the company's agile accounting department.

Not everyone who writes for Jarrett winds up working for free. One writer who threatened a lawsuit got paid. Another let Jarrett know that he and his friend the gun were fixin' to come collect. He too got paid. And presumably there are more living, breathing, paid-in-full freelancers out there (though we had a hard time finding any).

But as often as not they give up, which accounts, says another former Ray Gun staffer, for the brisk turnover at the Santa Monica- based outfit. "Writers and editors eventually get disgusted with [Jarrett's tightfistedness], especially when they see Marvin driving around in a Porsche and living in Beverly Hills or thereabouts. He's throwing lavish parties, yet he can't pay the minuscule amount that it costs to keep writers happy."

Jarrett's proclivities may in fact augur deeper financial problems at Ray Gun Publishing. Two Ray Gun titles - music mag huH and a snowboarding book called Stick - have gone under in the last two years, and the remaining titles are not exactly teeming with ads. Jarrett did not return repeated calls for comment.

Bring Back the RackA while back OffBeat brought you word of Representative Bobby Moak (R-Miss.) and his "Smoke a Joint, Lose a Limb" legislation under which, as the name suggests, pot smokers and other dope fiends would be punished by amputation of an appendage of the doper's choice. Finger, toe, hand, whatever.

We always suspected Moak was in bed with the prosthetics industry. But how then to explain other recent outbreaks of reefer madness among some of Moak's brethren politicians?

First to Kansas, where 38 Republican lawmakers are backing a bill that would impose a mandatory life sentence on people convicted of growing marijuana plants. That's life without parole, more than you'd get for murder in the Jayhawk State. From Congressman John Linder, a Georgia Republican and chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, comes an even better idea: He's writing a bill that would quarantine drug users at old military bases so that they "don't infect" others.

Moak's bill isn't going anywhere in Congress. But he seems to have tapped that nexus of barbarism and headline-making value (remember Daryl "Casual Drug Users Should Be Taken Out and Shot" Gates?) that inspires ever more harebrained schemes to "win the war on drugs."

-Edited by Sam Gideon Anson