LABJ's LA Stories

Flights of Fancy

Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, and 17 other House members want flights straight out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., to Los Angeles International Airport.

Los Angeles is the largest city in the nation without non-stop service to and from the airport, which is minutes away from Washington. The two other airports serving the capital are around an hour away.

But DCA, as it's known, has strict limits on long-distance takeoffs. Harman wants two of six slots available for new long flights set aside for LAX. She lists 17 other members of congress as supporters in her effort and has sent their signatures to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

Steve Silkin



Mud in Your Eye

Wonder what those science students at Caltech do for fun? Well, readers of the college's Engineering & Science journal latest edition learned recently: They have a Mudeo.

The students find a construction site this year it was the future home of the Pasadena campus' 700-space underground parking site north of the gym add lots of water, and voil & #341;: it's a sea of oozing muck, where they wrestle, run wheelbarrow races and play keep-away.

About two dozen students participated in the January event, said Doug Smith, managing editor of Engineering & Science, which proudly published a photo package of the Mudeo on the inside front cover of its latest quarterly issue.

The mudfest was organized by mechanical engineering senior Jeff Cox, making a return to the campus after a six-year absence.

"It's something we should do more often," Smith said.

Steve Silkin



Bookkeeper's Farewell

Vince Cummings went to visit his aunt, Miriam Call, as often as he could after she suffered a stroke in December. But he wasn't spending as much time at her bedside as her former employer L.A. bookseller Doug Dutton.

"He's not even family," Cummings said. "And she hadn't worked there for years. He's like a saint."

Call died in February at 92, and Dutton attended the funeral and eulogized his former bookkeeper as someone who always expressed sincere interest in everyone around her. She was, he said, a lover of books, literature, art and the Lakers and backed him in his all his efforts.

As a young woman, Call was a jazz singer, performing in Indiana speakeasies during the 1920s. She dated Bix Beiderbecke's bandmate Frankie Trumbauer, the saxophonist who influenced Lester Young. Dutton first met Call when she was a customer at his shop in the San Fernando Valley, and they became friends. He hired her for his Brentwood business in 1986, where she worked until retiring in 2001. She remained his confidante and adviser.

"I was the great beneficiary in that relationship," he said. "She was wonderful, intelligent, thorough and fiercely dedicated to me and what we were doing at the store. She was my best friend."

Steve Silkin



Hopping Sweets

Chocolate from Australia?

About 650 stores throughout Southern California, including 300 Ralphs and Albertsons, are now stocking Kangaroogold alongside European chocolates such as Lindt, even though Kangaroogold comes from Australia.

"It is a little bit of a paradox in a way," said Andrew Knight, the company's Oxnard-based sales director.

Kangaroogold launched in Australia eight years ago, and Knight, who grew up in Melbourne and went to school in England, was hired last year to crack the California market. Kangaroogold had about $100,000 in sales last year and Knight hopes for an increase of about 600 percent to 700 percent this year.

"We're going through the roof," he said. "The segment of the market we're in the premium chocolate sector is growing at about 300 percent a year."

The chocolate comes in six signature flavors: hazelnut praline, coffee, mango, wild strawberry, dark peppermint cream and "Aussie Delight."

Steve Silkin

The Roving Eye

Risky Business

Is it really just as dangerous to film in the United States as it is in Libya? Yes, if you go by a map of prepared by Aon/Albert G. Ruben Insurance Services.

Both the U.S. and Libya fall into the wide "medium risk" category, but on closer inspection it's clear there are differences. Libyan threats include street crime, kidnapping for ransom, disease and lack of medical care. In the U.S., street crime is assessed as the lone hazard.

"We used the United States as a baseline," said Chris Palmer, director of risk control at the company's film division.

The Risks in Global Filmmaking map is intended to help studios and producers select locations and plan for problems.

"Nothing in this map is intended to say 'You can't go there' or even 'You shouldn't go there,'" Palmer said. "Where there's an elevated threat, you need additional investment in security or contingency plans for evacuating."

Palmer relies heavily on intelligence gleaned from the State Department, which assesses dangers to diplomatic personnel. "They're one of my main contacts," he said. "They know more than the host government does. They have to keep their personnel safe."

He's been involved in several high profile foreign productions that have had serious security issues.

In a headline-making case, he learned Kurdish separatists were planning to attack high profile Western targets just as a James Bond movie was about to start filming in Turkey.

"It was decided that the safest course of action would be to relocate the film outside of Turkey, in Spain," he said. "We had placed political risk insurance on the film. The insurance paid for a large portion of the relocation cost."

Steve Silkin

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