Oscar for Dubya

Photo by Anne Fishbein

Although you didn’t hear it from the corporate media, many Americans are still rather rip-shit over what they perceive as George W. Bush’s illegitimate ascension to power. One of the more vocal proponents of this position is 58-year-old Floridian Bob Kunst, the founder of OralMajority, and a 30-year-plus veteran of activist causes, such as the Florida-orange-juice boycott that cost anti-gay actress Anita Bryant her citrus-industry-spokeswoman job in the ’70s. Kunst has flown banners proclaiming that Bush stole the election over the Super Bowl and at Daytona 500 Week (his post-coup protests total 68). Now, he’s bringing his angry road show to the Oscars, where his crew will set up March 25 in front of the Shrine Auditorium with banners and stickers (like the priceless “Bushit”) to show Hollywood that “a new era of McCarthyism is coming,” says Kunst on the phone from Miami.

“We want to nominate Bush for an Oscar — Best Performance in a Coup,” the longtime agitator adds. “We want stars who have said that they are part of this movement, the Alec Baldwins of the industry, to join us on camera . . . The response [to earlier protests] has been overwhelmingly positive, even in backwoods Southern towns, where we get . . . many more thumbs-up than middle fingers.”

—Johnny Angel

Flesh Eaters

Bryan Mann says cooked steak used to give him body odor, and he was unable to gain weight. Three years ago, he went on Malibu raw-food guru Aajonus Vonderplanitz’s Primal Diet, and with a daily regimen of a pound of raw meat and a liquid concoction of six or seven raw eggs mixed with raw cream, he has gained 15 pounds and banished his hypoglycemia. “It was like getting out of prison,” says Mann.

Mann is one of 3,000 Southern Californian devotees of the 53-year-old Vonderplanitz, a former soap-opera actor and “nutritional” palm reader at the Venice Beach boardwalk. In his book We Want To Live, Vonderplanitz spells out remedies for everything from bed-wetting to multiple sclerosis. The nutritionist counsels avoidance of cooked and processed foods, and endorses daily doses of raw fats, cream, raw meat, cheese, stone-pressed olive oil and at least half an avocado. His clients claim to have been cured of terminal cancer, chronic-fatigue syndrome, arthritis and emphysema, he says.

“This diet reverses the cancer,” Vonderplanitz insists.

Public-health officials advise caution. “Until the 1900s, we had a huge number of people dying early. A lot of it had to do with bacterial infection” from undercooked meat, says Dr. Shirley Fannin, L.A. County director of disease-control programs.

The only thing harder to swallow than a pound of raw flesh is Vonderplanitz’s account of how he discovered his miracle cure. After a diagnosis of terminal blood and bone cancer, Vonderplanitz says, he went to an old Indian burial ground to die. Awakened one night by a coyote who motioned him with his head to follow, Vonderplanitz hiked to a clearing, where a pack of coyotes offered him a freshly killed jackrabbit. Vonderplanitz ate, awoke revitalized, and after expanding his diet to include scorpions, tarantulas and snakes, and later raw milk and eggs, returned to L.A. to spread the word.

Vonderplanitz has encountered some skepticism (Oprah canceled a 1997 booking, he says) but has had few problems finding clients to shell out the $300 fee for his one-and-a-half-hour consultations. “I am neither rich nor poor,” the Malibu resident says. “You have to know that a weird diet like this has to work or people wouldn’t be doing it. It is catching on like crazy.”

—Christine Pelisek

Ain't Art a Bitch?

At the age of 2, artist Tillamook Cheddar has already had three solo gallery shows in New York, has sold 40 works for up to $250 each to patrons like collector Enzo Sperone and artist Tom Sachs, and has hosted openings with guests including the musician Moby and the painter Damien Loeb.

Yet there was Tillie, dragging her four feet around L.A.’s gallery scene, salivating for someone to host her West Coast debut. You see, Tillie is a dog, a Jack Russell terrier to be exact. With assistance from her owner, cheese-loving Brooklyn writer Bowman Hastie, she makes Cy Twombly–esque art by mounting a mat board covered in colored transfer paper and then vigorously ripping and biting at the blue, red and yellow surfaces.

“I thought L.A. was ready for her,” the bespectacled Hastie said, explaining Tillie’s visit to the Left Coast a couple weeks back. With a sack of Tillie’s artwork in hand, and a scattering of dog hair on his shirt, Hastie’s first stop was in front of the rather severe-looking man behind the desk at the Roberts & Tilton Gallery at 6150 Wilshire Blvd. “Can I tell you about this artist?” Hastie inquired politely, gesturing down to Tillie, who was doing her part by straining forward with her tail wagging. “Only if first you see Sophie,” the man replied, placing a framed photo of the gallery owners’ own Jack Russell terrier on the desk between them. A display of Tillie’s work drew a “Very talented dog!” and an invitation to follow up with the gallery owners next week.

Next, a drive downtown to the hipster art-gallery enclave on Chung King Road garnered coos of “Oh wow!” and “She’s good!” from the woman at Goldman Tevis. A Weimaraner from the gallery across the way panted through the window at Tillie. Tillie panted back. The woman at Goldman Tevis said a show wasn’t likely, though. “I gotta tell you, my artists would kill me,” she said apologetically. “Not that it’s not valid — but this is their life.”

“I sincerely want her to show her work,” Hastie explained. “Look at it — it’s beautiful! There are a lot of problems in talking about Tillie’s art — because she can’t talk about it.” While cats have ventured previously into the animal-as-artist territory with Why Cats Paint, Hastie said he understood the book was a hoax.

At the end of the day, Hastie and Tillie stood on a Chinatown sidewalk with nothing to show for their efforts but a barrelful of cockeyed optimism. Tillie was yawning. “I feel like Tillie’s just barely scratched the surface,” Hastie said. “And she would just love to meet Sophie.”

—Susannah Breslin

When At First You Do Deceive . . .

Wanton, self-serving political lies ought to have an expiration date, like canned soup. Since they don’t, they can go on endangering citizens for years.

Case in point: Mayor Dick Riordan’s resurrection of an old political canard during the announcement last month of his appointment of former Ethics Commission executive Rebecca Avila to the city Police Commission. Riordan avowed that before Avila took over the Ethics Commission in 1995, the agency “never got any respect from anyone . . . it leaked things to the press.”

Riordan was referring with what I took to be some pride to what may go down as the single most unprincipled act of his political career. That was his underhanded ouster of former Ethics Commission Director Ben Bycel, who had run afoul of Riordan by doggedly insisting that the Mayor’s Office was subject to the same ethics laws as the rest of the government. Riordan justified the canning by charging Bycel with leaking information to the press. The press-leak accusation originally was fomented by a handful of hack Pete Wilson appointees on the state Fair Political Practices Commission, whom Bycel from time to time had chided for foot-dragging. Not a single concrete instance of leaking was ever cited to back up the charge. And the leaks were entirely invisible to the reporters of that era, who presumably were in the best position to know whether Bycel’s office was a media sieve.

To this day, Bycel considers himself bound by his former oath of office from discussing details of his ouster. Rebecca Avila herself cites Bycel’s work as the foundation she built upon during her Ethics Commission tenure. None of this has stopped the mayor from repeating the baseless leaking charge on every possible public occasion. Or from rewarding the henchperson who wrought his venal will in Bycel’s expulsion. For at the February 26 news conference, the mayor also commended new Police Commission President Raquelle de la Rocha, whom Riordan six years ago appointed to the Ethics Commission to rid himself of the pesky Bycel.

—Marc B. Haefele


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