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Lastories

Culture Vultures

Quick who was the most influential cultural figure of the 20th Century?

That was the question posed when Time Inc. and CBS News gathered a panel at the Getty Center on May 4 to discuss the century’s most important artists and entertainers. Was it Elvis, Madonna, Steven Spielberg, Marilyn Monroe or Ernest Hemingway?

The winner was Pablo Picasso, according to panelists Rob Reiner, Time art critic Robert Hughes, singer Sheryl Crow and actress/playwright Anna Deavere Smith. The sole dissenting voice came from panelist Norman Pearlstine, Time’s executive editor, who argued for Duke Ellington.

Choosing the century’s most influential cultural figures may seem somewhat frivolous, but it actually is a lot tougher than, say, deciding the top political leaders, according to Walter Isaacson, Time’s managing editor.

Most everyone can agree on the stature of folks like Stalin and Churchill. “But when you get into Hitchcock vs. Spielberg, you really get people arguing,” Isaacson said.

Where’s Tagliabue?

For folks trying to bring pro football back to L.A., it was a telling moment.

L.A. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and backers of the New Coliseum Project last Monday unveiled a plaque commemorating former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

The timing was no accident the NFL’s top brass was in town to meet with backers of the competing proposals for a pro-football stadium. NFL President Neil Austrian and Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers and chairman of the NFL Stadium Committee, did show up for the ceremony.

But the big gun, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, was nowhere to be seen despite the fact that he now holds the post Rozelle made his own for nearly 30 years.

Ridley-Thomas insisted that Tagliabue’s absence was not a snub. “We never intended Mr. Tagliabue to be here,” the councilman said. “The fact that he is in town is pure coincidence.”

Tagliabue did, however, make time the next day for a meeting in the home of Michael Ovitz to discuss the former super-agent’s plans for a stadium in Carson. That was one meeting, apparently, that Tagliabue had no intention of skipping.

Free the Ferrets

Put bilingual education and managed care issues aside for a moment. “Californians for Ferret Legalization” have a pressing question for the state’s gubernatorial candidates: Where do they stand on the issue of legalizing ferrets?

A spokesman for the group said he has yet to receive a formal answer from the candidates. But the Al Checchi camp did respond, in a tongue-in-cheek fax to the media that reprinted the letter and employed such phrases as “no need to ferret out candidate’s views.” The friends of the ferrets were not amused.

“All we want to know is what the candidates’ positions are on this issue, or even if they have a position,” said Floyd Carley, a spokesman for the group, adding that there are more than 500,000 ferret owners in California. “California is the only state in the entire continent in which ferrets are illegal. It’s a farce.”

That’s Entertainment

Most shareholder meetings are dry affairs filled with charts, statistics and long speeches. Not so with the recent Occidental Petroleum Corp. meeting in Santa Monica.

In addition to the standard speeches and charts, the several hundred Oxy shareholders in attendance were treated to a song crooned in Spanish by Roberto Cobaria, which they loudly applauded at its conclusion.

Cobaria, however, was not at the meeting to entertain shareholders, but rather to implore Oxy to stop drilling oil in the Colombian Andes, where Cobaria’s U’wa people live.

Along with his song, a traditional U’wa chant honoring the Earth, Cobaria also gave a speech, translated by an interpreter, that included one statement that corporate chieftains particularly oil company executives may find hard to swallow:

“I have no authority to negotiate the sale of Mother Earth,” Cobaria said.

Only at Neiman’s

Thinking about a new suit for work? Neiman Marcus may have just come up with the ultimate: a made-to-measure suit that costs almost $10,000. The Brioni suit is made of finely woven Super 180 wool and comes with documentation to prove it.

“It is the finest fabric available in the world,” said Gilbert Anthony, manager of the men’s department at the Beverly Hills store.

Anticipating skeptics, Anthony said certification that the wool is in fact of Super 180 vintage comes in a leather pouch.

For $10,000, let’s hope it’s moth-proof, too.

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