Brae Canlen and the Reader

Sam Spital, Stanley Siegel, UFO fans, Mary Kay, Scientology, Pernicano fight over Cole Porter, sea turtles, Elvis impersonators, flying bullets on India Street, our only member of Mega

Turtles at San Diego wharf, c. 1910
  • Turtles at San Diego wharf, c. 1910
  • Image by San Diego Historical Society

Brae Canlen came to the Reader after working as a newspaper reporter for the Rancho Santa Fe Review and the San Dieguito Citizen. At the Reader, she wrote news and feature stories through the late 1980s and early 1990s.

How Canlen came to the Reader:

At the age of 26, I entered a Reader writing contest and won honorable mention prize for a rather pointless story about living in Normal Heights. But my big break, the one that got me hired, came two years later, when I submitted a story about losing my best friend Maggie to Scientology. I wrote that from the heart, and I guess it touched a lot of people, because they wrote letters to me. This was in the pre-email world that I barely remember, although Maggie, she is someone I’ve never forgotten.

Canlen's favorite stories she wrote for the Reader:

  • Spital's law: Advertise, settle the suit, go to the bank

  • “There are some [attorneys] who are arrogant and think they're at a higher place in life," observes Spital. “They think they deserve to be more godlike in their behavior." Spital, who lives in Del Cerro with his wife and four children, says he doesn’t see much difference between a department store clerk and a lawyer. (Jan. 22, 1987)

The presiding judge of San Diego’s juvenile court, Judith McConnell, is on the show. Stanley calls her “Janet.”

The presiding judge of San Diego’s juvenile court, Judith McConnell, is on the show. Stanley calls her “Janet.”

  • Siegel slot

  • Some people dismiss Stanley Tonight as inconsequential drivel, and others consider it a good fit for San Diego. No one has given it cult status yet, but this, too, will be said. Stanley Siegel has been bludgeoning a niche for himself since last summer, when KUSI-TV hired him to host a local talk show. (May 28, 1987)

The object in Ramona was witnessed by six people for 20 minutes in broad daylight. It disturbed animals, affected a compass, and caused television static.

The object in Ramona was witnessed by six people for 20 minutes in broad daylight. It disturbed animals, affected a compass, and caused television static.

  • Maybe what you saw was a UFO. On the other hand, maybe you're a liar.

  • Some Orion members (Herr included) have never seen a UFO. Others witnessed an inexplicable object in the sky one day. A year and a half ago, Herr formed the Orion group by combing the membership lists from three national UFO organizations. He found 63 people living in the San Diego area. (Feb. 8, 1990)

Persuading someone to spend 46 dollars on the Basic Skin Care kit takes talent.

Persuading someone to spend 46 dollars on the Basic Skin Care kit takes talent.

  • John Pernicano fights ASCAP over Cole Porter

  • Pernicano, who opened the family restaurant in 1957, says he's no professional musician. “I never practice.” the sixty-seven-year-old restaurateur explains. “I just play. Whether (the customers] like it or not, they get to hear it." Pernicano keeps no entertainment schedule. Weeks pass and he doesn't touch ivory. “I play whenever I feel like it.” he says. “Instead of hassling my kids in the kitchen. I watch the dining room from the piano.” (Dec. 12, 1985)
  • Getting rich the Mary Kay way

  • Dee runs her training sessions with another Pacific Beach-based director, Suzy Tietjen. Suzy became a director two years ago. Her blue suit contrasts nicely with her long, creamy blond hair, her pink lipstick, and her pink cheeks. She has a flawless round face and resembles a very pretty baby who is wearing makeup. Suzy comes from a Mary Kay family: her mother, who lives in Minneapolis, has driven pink Cadillacs for the last fifteen years (March 12, 1987)
  • When friends say good-bye

  • Faye’s biggest news was that she had married Chris, the one who first introduced her to Scientology. He divorced his wife, whom he and Faye see, along with his children, every day. They got married four months after her arrival. The ceremony was performed in a neighboring dorm room by a fellow Scientologist who had a minister’s license. When I asked her why she did it, Faye replied that Chris had been bugging her to marry him and one night she just gave in. (Feb. 21, 1985)
  • Where did Chula Vista's sea turtles come from?

  • When Captain J.C. Bogart arrived in August of 1857, the San Diego Herald announced that he was carrying 40 sea turtles in his whaling vessel. A month later the newspaper reported that the turtles had broken out of their holding corral on the dock of Aspinwall’s Island (now North Island) at high tide. Captain Bogart sailed back down the coast, captured 120 more turtles, and returned to San Diego two months later. He built another pen but was plagued once again by design problems. Almost half of the turtles escaped. (June 7, 1990)

Jeff Ward:  “I just want to be a normal, everyday, typical type of person.”

Jeff Ward: “I just want to be a normal, everyday, typical type of person.”

  • The only San Diego member of Mega

  • Ward’s high score on the Mega admission test got mentioned in the 1986 Guinness Book of World Records, where he shares a page with three tribal women who have the longest necks ever measured. But his score has since been topped by those of the governor of New Hampshire ("he beat me by a point’’) and Marilyn Mach vos Savant, the smartest person alive, according to intelligence quotient standards. (Feb. 6, 1986)

  • Have another round

  • The San Diego Indoor Range would apparently like to forget the incident. This would explain why they haven’t responded to our polite and earnest telephone messages. But we did get some information from the San Diego Police Department. Public affairs officer Rick Carlson, who visited the range the day after the mishap, explained to us (several times, as we are sometimes dense) how the bullets got through the wall. (Oct. 1, 1987)

Robert Lopez, Eddie Powers

Robert Lopez, Eddie Powers

  • San Diego's Elvis impersonators

  • I turned up a Mexican Elvis, a New Wave Elvis, an Elvis who arrives in a limousine with bodyguards, an Elvis team (two brothers), an ex-Marine Elvis, an ex-cop Elvis, a midget Elvis, and the 1980 Minnesota State Vocal Champion. Just when I thought I had found them all, someone told us to go over to the county courthouse and look for a bailiff with a pompadour. (Oct. 25, 1990)

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Comments

I remember several of these stories fondly but never realized they were all by Brae Canlen - nice to have this selection compiled in one place, I enjoyed all of them, especially those new to me like the 1990 feature on local Elvis impersonators --

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