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Covello & Covello Historical Photo Collection.

Small-town, U.S.A.: It's Soquel, of course, on a Sunday in 1951, at the intersection of Center Street and Soquel Drive. If you squint, you can almost pick out Bargetto Winery. There's an Airspace trailer in somebody's yard. What you can't discern are the crop rows of apple trees, maybe grapes and other things growing on wires. Don't forget to take your visitors to the Museum of Art & History to see Carolyn Swift's exhibit of Covello & Covello's early Santa Cruz County historical photographs.

Bruce Bratton

FRIENDS OF THE DEL MAR. Now known as FODM, this nonprofit group is working in a similar way to the Friends of Parks and Recreation, or FOPAR. FODM is focused on restoring the historic and decorative elements of the Del Mar Theatre. Catherine Graham of the Sentinel is president, and Nancy Moore is vice president and secretary. The rest of the members are from UCSC, the Santa Cruz City Council, the Cultural Council, the Nickelodeon, Community Television and the business community. Graham and Jesse Nickell both told me that the Historical Commission voted unanimously to remove the three trees in front of the Del Mar. The recent winds caused the trees to break some of the newly installed neon on the marquee, and of course, they hide the soon to be brilliant marquee, which will add great brightness to that entire block of Pacific Avenue. Now the City Council will, we hope, agree on the tree removal so that we can see the Del Mar marquee, which is much older and way more endangered than those trees. Anyway, the Friends of the Del Mar are going to be working on the Gala Del Mar opening and other Del Mar projects in phases two and three of the restoration. If you want to get involved, call and leave a message at 426.7507 or email [email protected].

DARK PLEASURES. Behind Enemy Lines is one of the worst films ever made. Owen Wilson, the doofus who plays the lead, must have a some physical problem with his mouth. Not only can't he close it all the way, but it looks like it froze permanently when he was trying to say, "Duh." Gene Hackman just keeps on playing Gene Hackman, and that's getting very old by now. The faux-religious ending with snow, the holy statue and the Sylvester Stallone-style leap into space should not be seen to be believed. Sidewalks of New York, starring Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Aida Turturro and Dennis Farina, is a Woody Allen-type film about three couples with relationship problems. HBO's Sex in the City is much more fun and, I would add, insightful.

FRIENDS OF BARRY SWENSON. Just kidding, but I did have a long talk with Jesse Nickell, vice president of Swenson's and point man for most or all of the local projects Swenson takes on around here. First topic was the La Bahia project. As you know, Charlie Canfield owns the land, and he and Swenson want to develop the property as a joint venture. They have scaled back the project to rehabbing, rebuilding and restoring the existing La Bahia apartments and building a new structure as a top-price hotel. Rates will be about the same as the West Coast Dream Inn place. There'll be 119 rooms and 122 self-parking spaces underground. They'll be looking for a company to operate the hotel--someone better than Best Western or that level of class.

THAT DARNED LIBERACE. Regarding last week's historical photo: Glen Howard called to say that Liberace was his last name and his brother in the photo was obviously George Liberace. Richard McKenzie emailed to tell us that Liberace's full name was Wladziu Valentino Liberace, but we all called him "Lee." So now if everybody just calms down, we can proceed.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS. Nickell of Swenson's told me, and I must have forgotten, that Sun Microsystems was going to take over all of those big new buildings going up at Chanticleer and Soquel Avenue. Sun has since backed out of the deal. There are three businesses looking at the buildings now, but nothing's firm yet. Still no news on which restaurant business will take over Polivio's on East Cliff Drive. The entire future of that shopping center is being weighed. The Del Mar Theatre is coming along nicely and should be open about mid-February. Neighborhood ideas are being explored and listened to, according to Nickell, on the property at 17th and Brommer. So far, it appears that work-in/live-in apartments similar to the Sashmill places are the most viable.

KINKADE KICK-AROUND. There aren't many reasons to bring up Thomas Kinkade's faux-art franchises again. However, one reader was kind enough to suggest we look at the John Birch Society's website: www.thenewamerican.com.There we find the ever-huckstering and shameless Kinkade saying, "I create paintings that are being used by God." It was unclear how he knows that, but before you race out to buy God's paintings, consider what San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker said: "Kinkade is famous for having grown rich by mass-marketing touched-up facsimiles of his paintings." Kinkade covers that by saying on the Birch Society website, "I'm at odds with the critical establishment, which is anti-Christian and anti-moral." So there you are.

THE DEMOCRATIC WOMEN'S CLUB. They met last week to endorse some candidates. Notably, they endorsed Mardi Wormhoudt for 3rd District Supervisor by a huge margin. The guy running against Mardi got a poor five votes, and one of those voters told me she was only supporting him until last Sunday. What was disappointing was that supporters of the woman running against Mardi brought in 22 people that same night just to join the DWC and vote for their candidate. She was still defeated by almost double the amount of votes. It's the same tactic this woman used in Bonny Doon when she ran on a slate trying to take over the Rural Bonny Doon Association last January. She was soundly defeated there, too, by her friends and neighbors. It's too bad in a small community that what can and should be fair small-group elections are subject to unprincipled voting manipulations such as this woman attempts to use.

SAN FRANCISCO OPERA REVIEW. The only remaining performances of the San Francisco Opera's production of Janácek's Jenufa are Friday night (Dec. 7) at 8pm and Sunday (Dec. 9) at 2pm. If you ever wanted to see a truly brilliant opera that contains the most excellent of all of opera's many ingredients, see Jenufa. Soprano Patricia Racette sings the title role, with Kathryn Harries as her stepmother and Helga Dernesch as Jenufa's grandmother. The entire cast sings (in Czech) and acts beautifully. The orchestra is conducted by Jiri Kout, and Janácek's powerful and still folklike music never sounded better. The plot is tragic and sad and will bring you to tears, but unlike so many operas, Jenufa deals with the human condition, so we can all relate to it. Most importantly it shows how powerful an art form opera can be. Call 415.864.3330 or go to the San Francisco Opera's great website at www.sfopera.com, where you can actually look around the opera house and see what the stage looks like from the seats you're thinking about buying. It's amazing.

EXTRA NOTES. Fred Piper reminded me that 2002 is the 25th (or maybe the 26th?) anniversary of our Town Clock being rebuilt and redesigned in time for the Fourth of July 1976. I talked with Bob Darrow at the Grey Bear's Holiday dinner last Sunday. Bob was largely responsible for getting that clock and structure up and built. He agreed our community should do something special next July. Keep it in mind. I asked Jesse Nickell about that weird-looking wood-chip board we keep seeing on recent constructions around town. Jesse sez it's called OSB, which is short for Oriented Strand Board. It's stronger than plywood, and most importantly, it has more shear strength, which is very nice when you have your basic 5.9 earthquakes. It's also made from wood scraps and not from the horizontal slicing of trees like plywood, so it's more environmentally friendly. It also withstands water better than plywood, which means a lot lately.

Bruce critiques films every other Thursday on KUSP-FM (88.9FM). Reach Bruce at [email protected] or at 457.5814, ext. 400.

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From the December 5-12, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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