Tourists Trapped

Japanese tourists with expensive cameras dangling around their necks had always been as easy to spot at Disneyland as lines around the Matterhorn. But thanks to the Asian financial crisis, those sightings are becoming more rare. "Attendance has been somewhat softer this year," Magic Kingdom spokesketeer Roy Gomez told the San Diego Union-Tribune for its Nov. 22 edition. "But a lot of hotels and resorts in the area are saying they're feeling the impact of fewer visitors from Asia." Tourist-industry observers say nearly a quarter of Disneyland's annual guests comes from foreign countries, and about one-third of those countries are Asian. Meanwhile, the Union-Tribune reports that another Asian phenomenon has cut into the Big D's Canadian and Latin American guest lists (the park's two other biggest foreign draws): the Asian flu. This lost biz would have been more profound had it not been for the opening of the new Tomorrowland, which prompted more Southern Californians to get off their butts and push through the turnstiles at 1313 Harbor Blvd. Still, those folks generally stay a day, which hasn't done much for surrounding hotels and retail establishments. As a result, hotel occupancy is down in OC-a worrisome condition in a region that ranks tourism as its third-largest industry.

WE WERE SURE THIS ONE WOULD LAST Nine days after his marriage to [cough, cough] "actress" Carmen Electra, pro basketball player/sometime Newport Beach resident/one-man freak show Dennis Rodman filed annulment papers in Orange County Superior Court. The Worm tied the knot with Electra in a Las Vegas chapel at around 7 a.m. on Nov. 14 after a night of hearty partying. However, according to his attorney, Rodman had not acted out of a "sound mind." (Insert your own smart-ass rejoinder here.) Electra, who followed in the mammoth footsteps left by Jenny McCartney on MTV's Singled Out before bouncing around the syndicated jiggle-show circuit, "mutually agreed" with Rodman to end the marriage, according to her peeps. So who gets custody of the wedding dress?

LOOK OUT! The 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana ruled on Nov. 23 that a Newport Beach attorney, who was left a paraplegic after a skiing accident in which he collided with a sign that read "Be Aware-Ski With Care," can sue the ski resort that planted the marker. John M. Van Dyke, an experienced skier, was on his first visit to Bear Mountain in Big Bear in November 1994 when he crashed into a signpost that showed the direction to a chair lift and the fateful message. He fractured several vertebrae and is permanently paralyzed from the waist down, according to his attorney. Van Dyke contends the sign was posted in such a way that it was nearly impossible to see until it was too late, but an Orange County Superior Court judge dismissed his original suit, reportedly finding "the risk of impacting a fixed object on a ski run is a risk inherent in the sport of skiing." That seems to echo a 1992 state Supreme Court ruling that found sport participants knowingly undertake the inherent risks of the activity. But the appeals court ruled the law does not treat all fixed objects equally and that the sign Van Dyke plowed into may not fall into the same category as rocks, trees, icy conditions, lift towers or snow-making equipment. Putting a sign in a ski run that is not visible from all sides "significantly increases the risk of harm without enhancing the sport," said the unanimous opinion penned by Justice Edward Wallin. Van Dyke can now take his case to trial, but Bear Mountain attorneys are mulling an appeal.

FALL INTO THE GAP A survey of 20 big metropolitan areas-Orange County included-found that blacks, Hispanics and other minorities remain victims of unfair home-lending practices, according to a study released on Nov. 24. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that after a few years of progress starting in 1994, the gap between minorities and whites being denied home mortgages widened again in 1996-1997. And much of the new lending that was granted to blacks came from subprime mortgages-loans with higher interest rates-the coalition discovered. The findings, which were based on information supplied by banks, thrifts and mortgage companies, were consistent with a government survey this past summer that showed financial institutions are turning down blacks, Hispanics and American Indians for home mortgage loans more often than whites, no matter what their income. Ain't life grand?

 
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