1980 San Diego in review – long and short takes

Tom Metzger, Carol Doda, Reagan takes Ocean Beach, Springsteen disdains San Diego, Rod Page throws punches

The long view

Here is frenetic Golden Hall on an otherwise placid evening, the first Tuesday of June, 1980. It is the scene of election central for the first primary of the decade, and San Diego's political intelligentsia is present in all its spring glory. But something is not quite in kilter — a new presence of some kind. There's the usual surging crowd of dilettantes, searching in every passing face; and aides-de-camp, tight-assed and jittery; and hordes of self-important volunteers on their big night, superior for their support of their man or cause. The Registrar of Voters' election workers — as usual, pretty, young women, all of them — are preoccupied, oblivious to the fortunes of the winners and losers they delineate by tallying the incoming votes on huge chalkboards. Their periodic rush to the boards accentuates the intensity of the crowd. The television people jockey for interviews and smile and quip and give autographs. But there's something different tonight; the ritual is pocked by some foreign element. It's over to the left of the multiple doors leading into the hall, repelling and attracting like a magnet. You could feel the ominous tone contaminating the room even before you saw the source. And then there it was, the most indelible image left to me by 1980: the sight of the phalanx of security men, the goon squad protecting KKK Grand Dragon and Congressional candidate Tom Metzger.

Like some spoofy, nose-thumbing bastardization of the Secret Service they stood there, four, maybe five smug-faced men in a ragged formation around their charge. They wore coats and ties or pale leisure suits, and on their feet were scuffed boots with square toes and block heels. They also wore the gloatful look of the righteous trading in the currency of hatred, the glazed, slightly crazed look of the excluded parodying the game of the included. And in the center, close to the guard in the powder-blue suit who was obviously packing a gun under his jacket, stood Grand Dragon Tom Metzger, graciously receiving the endless procession of mediafolk. And I hated him and his goon squad for making me feel their hatred.

Like Metzger, the bums on the street are closer than most of us to the elemental emotions.

Like Metzger, the bums on the street are closer than most of us to the elemental emotions.

Metzger's current title, incidentally, is State Chairman of the Ku Klux Klan, not Grand Dragon. Klan Pooh-Bahs felt the traditional title might hamper Metzger's political trajectory. And these days the Klan is just another special-interest group anyway, and the primary qualifications for entrance into the political system, the special-interest sweepstakes, are a suit, a tie, an entourage, and a charismatic front man with something to say. Or so it must seem to the Klan.

So here they stand, the KKK, on June 3, 1980, embracing as many of the surface requirements as they need to in order to be in election central while the votes mount in a neck-and-neck battle with the decrepit local Democratic party, with reporters trooping past the goon squad and landing great quotes, with the crowd of people deflecting off the atmosphere in that corner of Golden Hall like a meteor shower, afraid that if they get too close, they may burn up.

As it turned out, Metzger and his foul protectors had the last as well as the first sneer that night. He won the Democratic nomination by just over 300 votes. It happened primarily because Metzger displayed something we're all starved for: honesty. He readily admitted loving to torch crosses (even made it sound like fun); he acknowledged being a racist; he asserted his acceptance of violence as a tool. “I don't think that [violence] is altogether bad," he told Union reporter George Condon. "If it means walking into a situation with a thousand communists trying to do me in and I have to wear a helmet and armor and everything else to have free speech. I'm going to do it." What's more, Metzger was proud of himself and his beliefs, and somehow we respected him for it. His brazen demeanor seemed to find resonance in the San Diego of 1980, and in some unexpected manifestations. The local derelicts, for example, echoed his bluntness.

Like Metzger, the bums on the street are closer than most of us to the elemental emotions, the gutterings in the bowels of the city's body politic. This year the derelicts' pitch for money became unusually candid and open, trustful of the citizen's newfound regard for ingenuousness. Sometime last February I noticed they were onto something. It was on Broadway, near Seventh or Eighth, and a bum appeared from a doorway and pitched me. "Hey, buddy, look. I'm not gonna bullshit you," he said. "I'm really going through some rough times. I'm an alcoholic and I need a drink, real bad, real bad. I need a dollar fifty-six for two bottles of wine just so I can go to sleep. That's all I want to do, just go to sleep. So could you spare a dollar? I just need to go to sleep." Slight variations on this earnest theme, which obviously was not just another spiel, were flung my way by down-and-outers at least four times out of the eight or so I was hit up this year. Two particularly pitiable strays went so far as to introduce themselves formally and press flesh before asking for a contribution.

It is tempting to draw parallels between political fundraising techniques and indigence here, but the salient point is this: we San Diegans have lost our shame. We can now give, unself-consciously, validity to all of ourselves, all of our wants and desires. The result may be a general decline in the incidence of hypocrisy, but the cost is a rise in self-importance and a kind of bold immodesty. . . .

— In December, 1978, County Supervisor Jim Bates says elected officials should set an example of austerity. In July, 1979, he says he won't accept all of a nearly $14,000 pay raise due him over the next two years. In January of this year. Supervisor Bates changes his mind and takes the full raise. "I need the money," he explains. "I'll still be underpaid [making $39,902 annually], but I work out of love, not money."

— Frustrated over bureaucratic inaction allowing the continued flow of Tijuana sewage into Imperial Beach, that city's mayor, Brian Bilbray, casts traditional political decorum to the smelly breeze and mans a bulldozer to try and construct his own dam. A muddy shove match ensues, but the point is made.

-r- A fourteen-year-old San Diego boy parlays his $1000 bar mitzvah windfall into a multithousand-dollar gold investment, commenting unabashedly, "This is my basic capital for going into business. I don't know what business yet — whatever will make me a couple million."

— Television anchorman Harold Greene, who would have us believe he's a real go-get-'em reporter, reveals his scrupulous journalistic principles when, concerning his talks with ABC about becoming a network correspondent, he explains to the Union's Don Freeman, "What I didn't know is that network correspondents make so much less than successful local anchor people."

— Padre outfielder Dave Winfield decides no more Mr. Nice Guy and demands what he thinks he's worth: $13 million from the club over the next ten years.

We do generally support people standing up for themselves and what they think they deserve, but we still have our limits. Metzger, of course, was defeated in the general election; Winfield is no longer one of us; and when the cops demanded binding arbitration and the firemen grubbed for more money, too, we nixed it. Conversely, there was Lionel Van Deerlin, who held his Congressional seat so long he felt he didn't need to stand up for what he deserved, and therefore waged virtually no campaign, and was trounced by a hustling Duncan Hunter. The San Diego of 1980 didn't lose its sense of proportion.

But the San Diego of 1980 did lose an important piece of its heritage. Like a primitive organ whose services are no longer needed or wanted, a part of us has become a lifeless old appendix: Ye Gods! What'd they do to Tijuana?

We've lost a part of Tijuana, and by extension a part of San Diego, because of a seepage of our values to the south. A dozen blocks along Avenida Revolucion have been reconstituted into some kind of twisted, Disneyland-inspired tourism mogul's dream of . . . Mexico-land! What was once a marvelous stretch of raw, real life in another country has become as sterile and phony as San Diego's new Seaport Village. And probably as rich.

Progressward! Mexicoland would not have garlands of lurid neon or splotchy signs dangling over crusty old cantinas. No, Mexicoland would not have skinny old sidewalks and chuckholed, despairing streets with every-car-and-person-for-itself four-way stops at the corners; Mexicoland would not look like a thriving remnant of a colorful culture's fading past. No, this is 1980. Mexicoland would have a clean, narrow, cobblestone main street, and wide, tree-lined sidewalks — just like Seaport Village! — and there would be traffic signals and signs on every corner; it would have fewer curio shops and bars, and if the bars could not be eradicated, at least the buzzing neon and grubby wooden signs could come down. To lure the tourist, the district had to be more seemly, the exciting dilapidation had to go. Avenida Revolucion would become a place where gringo moms and dads could feel comfortable, a place where they could feel at home, vicariously experiencing a manmade, authentic replica of another country. It must become . . . Mexicoland! A suitable place for the wife and dollars, a fantasy zone with selected features of somebody's idea of Mexico cemented in and painted up, a place that doesn't actually exist, of course, once you get behind the facade.

It's early on a cool October evening, and Revolucion is mostly deserted. The peculiar life and bustle of the real Tijuana has shifted over to Avenida Constitucion, to the west. The taxi drivers at every corner solicit my ridership, and one perks up when I inquire if all the shoe-shine stands are closed. "Si, sefnor, the stands close at night. Is that all you looking for?" he asks as I continue on. "Don't you need some poontang?"

My destination is the Corona Bol, where I figure on a nice, solitary beer and a look at the World Series game on television. Hah! The series, at least at Corona Bol, is the biggest event down here since Cinco de Mayo. After shoehorning my way through the door, I see something just short of a full-tilt riot. A large-screen projection system at the far end of the bar has about thirty patrons packed in front of it on folding chairs, and they're wailing at each other, calling for drinks, whistling and clapping on every play, stomping one and all for the Pheelees. The street end of the room is peopled by about sixty rowdy Mexican baseball fanatics all screaming and clattering and drinking and cackling, and there are no empty seats. Intermittent chants of "Phee-Iees, Phee-lees, Phee-lees" bang around the barroom, and though I was pulling for the Royals, I chicken-heartedly desert for the Phils when a drunken fan, embracing me, asks in splintered English who I'm for. The waiters have refused service to several walleyed patrons, including my affectionate compadre, and it looks to be just too much effort to try and get a draught of Te-cate. So I elbow my way out and cross the street to the old and venerable Long Bar, which isn't marked by a sign anymore.

A little snowy screen at the distant end of the bar displays the game, but no one among the sparse clientele is interested in it. I order up a draught of Corona from the unctuous bartender and repair to the end seat and silently watch the Royals lose. After three beers, I've taken a liking to the glass, which is shaped like an old squat wooden barrel, and I plot to steal it. The bartender turns away and I make my move, cupping the glass against my outside thigh. "Hey, hey, hey!" he yells as I near the door. I bring it to the bar, red-faced, and ask how much he'll sell it for. "Not for sale, not for sale," he snaps as he jerks the glass away.

Exiting to the wide, prim, and empty street, it's evident to me that in 1980 it has become awfully easy to let our basest instincts grab for everything we can get, including quaint beer glasses. Through the sharp aroma of barbecued inner tubes,

I stroll solemnly back toward the border and San Diego.

– Neal Matthews

Short Takes

Boy. what a gal

A twenty-year-old woman, who used to be a man before a series of operations In Sweden, was refused entry as a contestant In the Miss Pacific Beach beauty pageant last February. Her qualifications? “I am stunning In a formal gown, she said, but then admitted, “I would have a little difficulty in the bathing suit competition If revealing bikinis are required.

Gone but forgotten

The KGB Homegrown album.

Get that camera outta my pasta!

Who are the TV restaurant critics trying to kid? Does Jack White of Channel 10 actually expect to be served anything less than the best a restaurant can offer when he seats himself In a local bistro for purposes of review? And the only people who don't get to see Channel 8’s Unknown Eater are the people at home who suffer through his banal reviews. The camera crew he drags with him surely must Indicate to the alert maitre d’ that this is not a typical diner. In reviewing a local sit-down dell, the Unknown Eater crowed, “The turkey Is real turkey. So Is he.

Beautiful downtown Luther

upervisor Roger Hedgecock was explaining to the other supervisors last August that a staff-written report wasn’t complete. "But if staff were willing to graft a few Items ‘Luther Burbank-style,’ I’d be willing to vote on It,” he said, referring to the American horticulturist. Supervisor Paul Eckert looked perplexed, then asked Hedgecock, "Who’s Luther Burbank and what’s he got to do with this?”

Disease of the year


Don’t forget to take the pennies on their eyes, you ghouls

When an elderly Mission Hills couple was killed in a collision with an Amtrak train near Old Town last February, the newspapers ran their address. The next day prospective home buyers were cruising the block, seeking Information on the dead couple’s house.

Heir to the leisure suit

Designer jogging outfits will surely be to the 1980s what white belts and white shoes were to the 1970s.


Frank Howard is in for Jerry Coleman; Paul Silas for Gene Shue; and Doug Scovll for Claude Gilbert.

I’ll bet the fire chief s mother doesn’t live in one

The fire department refused last month to disclose the names of twenty-four high-rise buildings In San Diego which do not meet basic fire-safety codes, even though some of the buildings are residential.

Shake your beauty

This year’s sexist prize goes to the board of directors of the county fair, which Is in charge of the Fairest of the Fair contest. The board disqualified seventeen-year-old Debbie Parry of Fallbrook last May because she was selected to represent her town on the basis of talent rather than beauty.

Surfers for Ronnie

Ocean Beach long has been considered the last enclave of political radicalism In the county, but no more. Ronald Reagan carried this beach community by 800 votes over Jimmy Carter.

Not tonight. I’ve got a headache

Several concerts scheduled to play San Diego this year were canceled (some so the band in question could play an extra night in L.A.). Donna Summer, Foreigner, Jefferson Starship, Rita Coolldge, Bruce Springsteen, the Knack, and Ian Hunter were sorry they couldn’t make It, but suggested we get together for lunch real soon.

Gott im Himmel

Larry Himmel, the disc jockey turned Channel 8 commentator, has the most simpering, unconvincing delivery of anyone currently on local television (Bob Dale notwithstanding). His simplistic, patronizing discourses on “the contemporary scene" are trivial at best and grounds for never watching Channel 8 again at worst. And would somebody please, please, teach him how to tie a proper half-Windsor knot in his wimpy tie ... preferably very tight.

At least in Texas it’ll keep the dust outta your’n hair

Why otherwise Intelligent, sensibly dressed San Diegans would top off their wardrobe with a peacock-feather-bedecked, snakeskln-banded, ten-gallon Stetson cowpuncher’s hat will probably remain one of the oddest mysteries of the year.

Raw deal

Southern California, the land of eternal summer, was spawning ground for one of the most useless business ventures imaginable... tanning salons.

Dorothea Morefield. personal friend of mine

Television news reporters, who have been trying to claim a special relationship with Dorothea Morefield so as to enhance otherwise worthless reports with a prominent local angle, hit the depths of shoddiness with pieces on holiday dinner with the Morefields.

Molar power

As gold fever reached a frenzy last January, reports started coming in that relatives were asking for the gold fillings to be removed from the teeth of their deceased loved ones, and that mortuaries were making a killing (er, financially) by removing the fillings themselves and pocketing the profits. “Oh my goodness,’’ said one mortician when he heard this. “What's next?”

The $700,000 bone call

BillWalton's foot still doesn’t work.

In the land of the Tumbleweed Snowmen

The holiday decorations In downtown San Diego are surely the most embarrassingly pathetic In any major American city. The ornaments consist mainly of tinsel garlands, plastic lanterns, and circular pieces of cardboard bearing a vague likeness of Santa Claus. If these things represent Christmas — humbugl

Diet time

Dick Carlson and Ted Leltner.

Are you trying to say he's a name dropper?

Jerry Herrera, successful nightclub owner and failed writer, knows a whole bunch of people by name, most of whom wouldn't give him the time of day If he didn’t own a nightclub. He calls them VIPs and they Include Ibm, Nancy, Nino, Douglas and David, Big M.R., Larry, Claude, Greg, Beachie, Steve, Amy, Ron, Kim, Marc, Ibny, Chuck, and oh there's no more room so until next time. Thanks AIIII

Please don’t pay the animals

The combined budget for the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park is $30 million. Officials of the Zoological Society claim that more than half the money is required for salaries. Admission fees at both the zoo and the park will be Increased in January to generate more income. Zoo officials denied rumors that the man who cleans the gorilla compound Is paid $29 million a year.

Soon to be a major emotional picture

Jimmy “Round Eyes” Bronson, the South Korean-born son of American military parents who abandoned him there, sold the rights to his life story last March to the folks who brought you Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo – Hanna-Barbera Productions. Bronson, 26, who was brought to this country last year by a Spring Valley woman, bought a new compact car with the advance provided by the film company.

Five on the floor

It was a tough year for car dealerships, a number of which went belly up. Among them: Baron Bukk, Harrison Chrysler-Plymouth, Bittner Lincoln-Mercury, Pascal Dilday Lincoln-Mercury, and Flat Motors.

State of the Union

The following San Diego Union reporters and editors resigned this year and left for greener journalistic pastures: Michael Graham, Carol Pemiso, Paul Krueger, Denise Carabet, Cecil Scaglione, Carl Cannon, Margaret Warner, Donald Harrison, and Bill Furlow; editorial cartoonist Lee Judge was fired this summer for not drawing In the conservative Copley party line; Helen Copley banned all birth-control advertising from her papers In January, but then modified the policy In the face of overwhelmingly negative reader response; the clipping/research library was closed to the public last October, forcing students and other researchers to rely on the notoriously incomplete files at the downtown public library.

Hop in

Hitchhiking prostitutes thumbed it up and down El Cajon Boulevard.

Disease licked

if you’re a dog and you’re reading this, congratulations. You have survived this year’s Parvo virus scare.

Nostalgia sure isn't what it used to be

With shouts of “Hell no. we won’t go, and “One, two, three, four, we won’t fight your unmentionable war,” 2500 students and supporters tried to recapture that old 1960s radicalism by marching at UCSD last February to protest draft registration. The post-pubescent students, many of whom were still In grammar school when the last draft was curtailed, caused activist David Harris to observe, “God, they’re so young, they almost make me feel old.”

Schizoid skaters sadly skirt certain ''safe-zone'’ sidewalks

Finally it is possible once again to walk unhindered through most of Balboa Park without having to dodge obnoxious roller skaters, who have been banished to the area west of Cabrillo Bridge. The Infantile skaters have proved themselves to be the rudest, most arrogant show-offs in the city.

Worst coffee in town

Carl's Jr., next to Horton Plaza. Runner-up: Jack-ln-the-Box, In the Spreckels Building.

Soon to be the most popular lie of the decade

“Don’t blame me. I voted for Anderson.”

Calling all cars

Police chief Bill Kolender got tough with his sneaky officers last March and ordered them to account for the whereabouts of their official vehicles. It seems the cops were picking out their favorite cars and hiding them In nearby parking lots or a few blocks away from the station on Harbor Drive.

Worst musical development

Urban Country.

Best musical development

The imminent demise of Urban Country.

Whatakidder! What? A congressman?

BUI Lowery had them fooled, all right. He fooled them coming and going. In October of 1979, City Councilman Lowery went to a series of Republican Party seminars designed to teach ambitious people like him how to be a congressman. But when asked if he would run for Congress, he declined comment. In January of this year, Lowery tried to dissuade Councilman Fred Schnaubett from running for the Forty-first Congressional seat. Why? So Lowery could run Instead? No comment from BUI. Boy, was he smooth or what? That same month GOP bigwigs pledged $90,000 to Lowery for a political race. So he could run for Congress? 01’ tight-lipped Lowery kept mum. On January 19 Lowery was voted “vacationer of the year” by the Young Americans for Freedom. When the YAF went to his council office to present the award, the peripatetic politician was visiting Israel. Now if that isn’t the behavior of a future congressman, what is? Right? By now the political writers were getting suspicious. Then it was learned that Lowery was losing weight on the Scarsdale Diet. So he would look good on political TV commercials? No commentl Then, later In January, Schnaubelt and Assemblyman Jim Ellis said they were willing to let Lowery carry the Republican banner into the Congressional fray. But did Bill even say thank you? No comment. Wow, what an operator! A real smoothie. Then on January 30, the Republican National Committee announced its endorsement of Lowery for Congress. Lowery’s reaction? “I have not yet decided to run,” he sniggered. Finally, on February 28, Lowery surprised everyone with the unexpected announcement — guess what? — that he was running for Congress! Boy, is this guy going to make a great congressman or what?

When smoke gets in your eyes

National City residents Donald and Barbara Smith were awarded $600,000 by a jury last January In a gruesome court battle with their neighbor, the La Vista Memorial Park. The Smiths

said flames from the La Vista crematory lit up the couple’s living room, and that the odor was nauseating. The ashes, said Mrs. Smith, were “stlcky-llke. I always wash my table before we eat.”

Here they are, Carol Doda

Veiled In white and looking thirty pounds overweight, San Francisco's aging silicone sweetheart fluttered about the stage of Pacers topless club during a four-day engagement last September. One of the kinder comments regarding Miss Doda’s act was, “I paid five bucks to see this?”

Let’s talk shops

Seaport Village opened to enthusiastic crowds; Marina Village Is open to suggestions; and Glasshouse Square isn’t open yet.

With an Old Friend like him, who needs enemies?

Radio personality Rod Page was fired from radio station KOGO last May after he allegedly punched out the producer of his evening sports/talk show during an argument over Page's continual tardiness to the studio. This wasn’t the first time Page has lost his temper. In August of 1979, Page slugged an off-duty bartender outside the Imperial House restaurant, and in December of 1977 the rotund broadcaster was placed on probation for battering an employee of the Sound Company stereo shop on Sports Arena Boulevard.

Maybe he didn’t know you can only vote once

We didn’t vote for Tom Metzger. You didn't vote for Tbm Metzger. So who voted for Tom Metzger?

Funny, I have a shirt just like yours that my wife just hates

The proliferation of “recycled” clothes stores shows no sign of abating In the near future. They sell us back the old clothes we trashed ... at three times the original price.

Welcome back Harold

Tuned In magazine awarded its first annual readers’ poll for best newscaster to Paul Bloom of Channel 39. Viewers also voted Bloom the worst in San Diego. Referring to his closest competition. Bloom commented, “Poor Harold, he can't win a thing.” “Poor Harold” later called Bloom and threatened to alter his views, if not his face. The final chapter in the Incident saw Bloom searching the Channel 39 newsroom for the appropriate penal code that would apply to the threat.

Stupidest fad of the year

Pyramid parties.

Wrong tern

Sheriffs deputy A.D.Martin, pilot of a sheriffs helicopter, landed safely at North Island after a least tern (a sea bird on the endangered species list) crashed through the copter’s Plexiglas canopy. The bird, which was unhurt, was so angered at the unexpected accident that it began pecking furiously at the feet of Martin’s partner, deputy Frank Bird (really).


Within six months, Newsline publisher Larry Remer will suspend publication of his muckraking weekly and will take a job selling real estate with Jack Walsh and Associates Realty

Fangs for the thoughtful gift

Channel 8 weatherman and staff announcer Doug Oliver (whose famous commercial taglines Include, “At theaters and drive-ins everywhere,” “Batteries not included,’’ and “Void where prohibited”) received a live rattlesnake In the mall last May from a mentally deficient jokester. Although he was not Injured, the affable Oliver sounded hurt when he muttered woefully, “Who could have done this to Old Dad?”

Slosh, slosh

Mission Valley flooded again this year.

The crime fits the punishment

Betty Jean Drayner, 36, was found guilty in January of running the city's only known sadomasochistic massage parlor, where, according to one law enforcement officer, “sick people came to have sick things done to them.” Drayner later sued the county, alleging that a sheriffs deputy beat her. (Or is that he refused to beat her?)

A sign of the (L.A.) Times

Photo essays that take up half the front page of the local section don’t disguise a lack of news stories.

Born to be wild

The strangest scene at Election Central this year — held at the Holiday Inn Embarcadero — was the handful of leather-clad bikers who came to help Councilman Bill Lowery celebrate his successful bid for Congress. Dressed in full regalia, members of the Modified Motorcycle Association of San Diego/Imperial counties commandeered Lowery’s private victory suite upstairs, tilting all the liquor in sight and casting suspicious glances at the rest of the astounded crowd.

And no doubt an ABC movie of the week will follow The next literary fad will be reminiscences about the late John Lennon, with such titles as “Lennon and Me,” “He Called Me the Fifth Beetle,” and “Lennon: His Dentist Remembers.”

Most tasteless headline

“Transcript Bared In Molesting Case” (Evening Tribune, January IS)

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