Diary of a Mad County

MONDAY, July 28 This has nothing to do with anything that happened on July 28, but for reasons of space and symmetry I'm going to tell you what used to be the best thing I ever heard at Disneyland. Two teenage girls, walking in front of the entrance, are immersed in a serious conversation when one says to the other: "I was watching this movie about the Nazis and it was soooo sad. They were being totally mean to these people, and the people weren't even Jews."

TUESDAY, July 29 I'm married, so I have no life, but if I did I'd be very excited that work began this week on James Raven's newest nightspot, Club Vegas. You may remember Raven from his other efforts: Atlantis from '93 to '96 and Tsunami at Aysia 101 in '99, which I'm told were very popular, though it's all clicks and whistles to me because I got hitched in '89. You may also remember a story that ran in the Weekly last December saying Raven was working toward getting his permits and planning- commission votes in a row, which Raven likens to "a Rubik's cube: everything has to line up." We received a few e-mails about that story, asking where the hell the club was. Well, Raven says the target date for its opening is Oct. 21, with the kitchen—which will serve steakhouse fare prepared by a Japanese-trained chef—opening in mid-November. Vegas, located on 19th Street in Costa Mesa across from Triangle Square, will be huge: 15,000 square feet of lush modern retro, designed not to imitate but rather communicate the feel of Sinatra's Rat Pack Vegas days, a time Raven says he's drawn to because of its "sense of optimism." It's not surprising Raven would be drawn toward optimistic times, given that he's been trying to put this club together since 1996. You can check out his progress, the club's menu, music and numerous artist sketches at www.clubvegas.us. And have a great time at the opening. I won't be there. By my calendar, Oct. 21 falls on a Tuesday. That's the night the wife and I watch Queer Eye and Sex and the City reruns. Party.

WEDNESDAY, July 30 A PBS show marking the 30th anniversary of Watergate reports former Nixon insider Jeb Magruder's charge that Richard Nixon not only knew about the break-in but authorized it during a phone conversation with John Mitchell. The Richard Nixon Library responds. We assume the response was written by Library executive director John Taylor, whose time is pretty much taken up answering new revelations regarding Nixon's racism/crookism/nuclear looneyism and making sure the gift shop is stocked with plenty of Nixon-Elvis T-shirts. Taylor questions Magruder's claim because the White House Daily Diary makes no mention of the Nixon-Mitchell conversation that day, March 30, 1972. Yeah—as any criminal will tell you, if you're planning on breaking the law, the first thing you want to do is write it down. Linked with the online response is a series of related, pro-Nixon articles, including one regarding Mitchell associate Fred LaRue, who claims the call never occurred and that Magruder is a "congenital liar." And who better to pass judgment on someone's credibility than LaRue, who did a stint in federal prison for being an administration bagman who paid people off to keep quiet about Watergate? On the bright side for Taylor, those T-shirts are hilarious.

THURSDAY, July 31 As if the John Wayne Airport's Mission to Mars takeoff procedure wasn't enough to cause significant pelvic retrenchment of one's tool, today the Federal Aviation Administration announces that JWA had the fourth-highest number of "runway close calls" from 1998 to 2002. Airport officials quickly counter that these near misses were low grade—which I guess means you burn slower. In fact, they say, 30 of the 31 near misses posed little chance of crash but, as Donald Douglasused to say, "near misses are like spermatozoa: it only takes one." Or maybe that was Karl Malone. Anyway, JWA blamed its problems partly on miscommunications between air-traffic controllers and pilots. (What—the controller says, "Now, ease the airplane onto the runway," but the pilot hears, "Ditch your screaming metal death machine into the ocean"?) JWA officials say controllers, pilots and airport vehicle operators have been required to take training classes to reduce runway incidents. Now, see, I would have thought that would have been the first class they ever took, followed by intensive study in "Avoiding the Mountain Ahead" and "Making Sure the Wings Don't Fall Off." By the way, if you're thinking you'll just avoid all of this by flying out of LAX, be advised that it was one of the three airports with more incidents than JWA. It's like I've always said: If God had intended men to fly, He wouldn't have busted the controllers union.

SUNDAY, August 3 Relatives were in town, so we took them to Disneyland because that is the law. It was the usual Disneyland experience—waiting in line and getting gouged for frozen lemonade—until, late in the afternoon, when I had a transcendent moment of America in all its disposable glory. While meandering around California Adventure, I spotted a tall dude and realized it was Randall Cunningham. A few years ago, Cunningham was one of the biggest stars in the NFL, a man whose success—NFL MVP with the Philadelphia Eagles, guiding the Minnesota Vikings to within a game of the Super Bowl—made it possible for other African-American quarterbacks such as Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair to be the best at what was once a lily-white position. A few years ago, while he was still playing, I bet Cunningham would have had a hard time taking a few steps without being stopped by ravenous crowds. But here he walked, and now—look!—sat on a bench, unencumbered. Well, I took care of that. I told my son, Jack, who that was and Jack asked if he could get Cunningham's autograph. Randall couldn't have been nicer, not only signing, but taking a photo with Jack. As he did, one of the groundworkers sidled up and said, "I can't believe no one knows who [Cunningham] is. Man, people forget." Naw, I think you can only care about so many people you don't know. So, like items in the fridge, you throw out a Randall Cunningham to make room for a Michael Vick or the Guy Presently Engaged to Jennifer Lopez. Anyways, as Jack was getting the autograph, I noticed the woman sitting next to Cunningham getting fidgety, wondering about the fuss. After we thanked Randall and began to walk away, I heard her say what is now my new best thing I ever heard at Disneyland: "Who are you? Are you famous? Are you a basketball player?"


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