“Whereas this week and throughout this season, college students across California will take a well-deserved respite from their studies to enjoy Spring Break; and Whereas Spring Break gives students the opportunity to recharge and return to their classes revitalized; and Whereas, as many students travel out of our State and out of the country during Spring Break, courteous and respectful behavior should be exercised at all times; and Whereas dangerous social activities, such as binge drinking and drinking and driving, can pose a serious threat to the safety of our students and others; and Whereas, as Californians, our students should remember that their behavior reflects upon our State and its people;
“Now Therefore, I, Gray Davis, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim March 22 to 28, 1999, as ‘Spring Break Safety Awareness Week,’ and urge all students to exercise caution and good judgement over the Spring Break period.”
And when did you first realize that the author of this proclamation was the Sacramento Stiff himself, our own Governor Gray? When you figured out that no one else would capitalize “our State” but not our “country”? When you detected in the phrase “well-deserved respite” that Davis compulsion to butter up everyone he even glancingly refers to, though he must know that he comes off sounding completely full of shit? When you saw that the document reflected not only a desire to please such worthy (and politically potent) groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but also a deep aversion to the Dionysian, a time-and-motion man’s disdain for frivolity, a plodder’s allergy to fun?
Then think again. The Gray Gov may harbor fonder remembrances of Spring Breaks past than we had realized. Check out the supermarket tabloid The Globe, issue dated March 23 (Day Two of Spring Break Safety Awareness Week). Turn to the tell-all tale of Cybill Shepherd’s own Stephanopolous, some disgruntled former Cybill-servant who dished all. And there discover:
“Cybill told the insider one of her earliest [sexual] encounters was at age 19 — with a future governor! She admitted to the source that she sneaked away during a family vacation in Hawaii to have sizzling sex on a deserted beach with Gray Davis, then a single 26-year-old — and now the married governor of California.”
Shepherd’s publicist denied the story. “They dated, had a crush on each other, but it was really never anything more than that,” said Heidi Schaeffer. “They were never lovers.” As for Davis, well, press secretary Michael Bustamante told the Weekly that “the Governor’s Office does not comment on the many affairs he had before he met his wife.”
Many affairs! Sizzling sex! Ah, Gray, so concerned with the conduct of California’s roving young ambassadors of good will: Did you recharge and return revitalized after your well-deserved respite? Or sinking ever deeper into Grayness, did you leave it all there on the beach?
A bright sliver of moon hung over the city last Friday night, like a wedge of lemon on an invisible drink. People were at dinner, people were at movies and shows and parties, but only a select group of people were at the Mackey Apartments on South Cochran Avenue to watch a human elevator in action. That’s right: a human elevator in action.
Arriving at the apartment building at 8 o’clock sharp, OffBeat was, of course, one of the select. Through the lowered window of our anonymous gray Saab, we blew smoke into the chill night air and surveyed the scene: arty, definitely arty. The building itself, a bright modernist box designed by austere Austrian architect Rudolph Schindler in 1939, set the avant-garde tone. Much techno music, much black leather and much people speaking German, ja?
Behind the house a crowd had gathered to watch a performance by one of the seven European artists living at the Mackey Apartments on a six-month residency from the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. The performance was called 1:1 Model Los Angeles, and consisted of the artist — a tall, slightly forlorn figure with her blond hair pulled back in pigtails — futzing around with a number of small, crudely executed paintings of various L.A. scenes. Shelves had been built into the garage doors, and the artist (Anna Meyer) was deciding which of her pictures should be “hung” on which shelves, like a painter working on a show in the privacy of her own studio. Except, of course, that there was nothing private about it. A cameraman was on the garage roof, and flashbulbs were popping in the audience. “Do you know her name?” OffBeat asked the woman next to him, a brunette with full red lips and mischievous green eyes. “I don’t,” the woman replied, with just a hint of sarcasm. “Maybe Hildegarde? Brunhilde?”
But now it was time to ride the human elevator. What did it look like? Well, muscular certainly, since 13 bodybuilders accounted for all its moving parts. Against the back wall of the building, scaffolding had been set up, with planks laid horizontally along the inside edges. The bodybuilders stood on the planks, two on one level, two on the next, and so on, all the way up to the roof of the building. To ride the elevator, you stood at the bottom, and raised both your arms. These were then grasped by the men on the first level, who passed you to the men on the second level, who passed you to the third level, and before you knew it you’d been hoisted to the top of the three-story building in a matter of seconds. All in all, about 60 people rode the elevator.
“I feel like I’m saving someone from a mining accident,” said the blond, Fabio-like weightlifter at the top of the scaffold as an earnest, bearded Austrian thanked him tremulously for a “very beautiful experience.” The Austrian was Ali Janka, one of the artists in residence. Fabio accepted the compliment and deposited the artist on the roof. Then he adjusted his belt, which had a red-and-yellow Superman logo on the buckle. Four levels down, another bodybuilder was taking off his shirt, revealing a sculpted, tattooed torso. The übermenschen were sweating, and the techno music was getting louder. Harsh and dissonant, full of splintered noises and broken glass, it sounded like a Grand Prix race crossed with a bottle-smashing festival.
But what exactly was the, uh, “point” of the human elevator, aside from being the final presentation of a group of art students? Janka, who, along with Tobias Urban, came up with the idea for the human elevator, said he did so because he wanted to know what it would be like “to be lifted by bodybuilders like a feather” to the top of a building. “It’s about because you have this height to let yourself go for a moment,” he told OffBeat in slightly shaky English. “It’s a supple sexual experience.”
Some Irish have the gift of gab — but with Irish-American Mayor Richard Riordan, it’s the gift of gaffe. His Hokiness had some of the 200-plus government, business and archdiocesan powers shaking their heads after his stab at topical humor at the St. Patrick’s Day launch last week of the Los Angeles branch of the Allied Irish Bank at the exclusive California Club.
First up was a videotaped statement from Cardinal Roger Mahony, which concluded with a standard “may the road rise to meet you”–style Irish blessing. Next came the mayor’s video presentation, a fast-paced montage of images of L.A. as a world-class Pacific Rim city. Riordan expressed pride in his Irish heritage, then stunned the audience with his cheery onscreen advice: “Enjoy your gourmet Irish meal of a six-pack and a potato.”
Ouch and saints preserve us, Your Honor. A simple “Erin Go Bragh” would have done nicely. Maybe even worse than the soused-bogtrotter imagery was the fact that the mayor got an already bad joke wrong. The lame quip actually goes, “What is an Irish seven-course meal?” A six-pack and . . .
The Mayor’s Office says it contacted an Allied Irish Bank official and he wasn’t offended. It wasn’t Riordan’s first skid across the thin ice of ethnic humor — in 1994 he insulted Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ staff when he repeated a Richard Pryor joke about African-American men that should have been left to the comedian. And even before he became mayor, he publicly joked that the difference between an Irish wake and an Irish wedding is one less drunk. World-class humor for a world-class city? You can just imagine the Mayor’s Office in damage control now — hmm, bad call on that St. Patrick’s Day thing, but we got through Kwanzaa okay . . . uh-oh, heads up — here comes Cinco de Mayo . . .