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Best Friends: : Bosom Buddies in San Diego Explain Secrets of Friendships and What They Like the About Pals

Times Staff Writer

Friendship is Love without his wings.

--From “L’Amitie Est l’Amour

sans Ailes,”

a poem by Lord Byron

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Maybe people only ask you how you’re doin’, because that’s easier than lettin’ on how little they could care. But when you know that you’ve got a real friend somewhere, suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear.

--From “The Late Show,”

a song by Jackson Browne

Dave Winfield, the power-hitting outfielder for the New York Yankees, once said that San Diego was a cultural cul-de-sac, its own little corner of America where everyone did pretty much their own thing without the rest of the country knowing or even caring.

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The remark felt unusually harsh at the time because Winfield was then an outfielder with the San Diego Padres. He clearly wanted to flee, and did.

Despite its gruffness, Winfield’s comment is interesting in the context of friendship. Yes, friendship. So many people in San Diego hail from so many places other than San Diego. Do any two native San Diegans really know one another--if, that is, you can find two?

Native or not, who are the friends of those who live here? Who are their best friends? Did you move to San Diego because a best friend lived here? Most likely, no.

Many will say even now that while they live in this cultural cul-de-sac, doing pretty much their own thing, someone somewhere cares, in the way that only a best friend can. Unfortunately, the best friend of all too many San Diegans lives in Akron, Beacon, Bangor or Boston, as opposed to Julian or Lemon Grove.

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Nevertheless, many are quite content to be here and remain here, Dave Winfield notwithstanding. They live here partly because of a best friend, as opposed to tolerating San Diego in spite of a close chum living elsewhere.

For San Diegans like the following pairs, the best friend they hope to reach out and touch is but a warm embrace--rather than a phone call--away.

Linda Vandevere, 23, and Lori McDermott, 24, both petty officers second class, North Island Naval Air Station:

Vandevere: “One reason I think Lori and I like each other is that we’re normal. We find it difficult to find normal people like us. There’s so many screwed-up individuals in the world, with so many diverse problems. We don’t have drug problems, we’re not overweight, not depressed about too many things . . . We have good families, we’re close to our brothers and sisters; we share a lot of experiences that way. We have similar values and beliefs.”

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McDermott: “I like everything about Linda. In Florida, she introduced me to the man who became my husband. We like to shop, we like to eat and cook. We run together. We have basically the same ideas about everything. Our morals and values are very similar.”

Vandevere: “Lori is my biggest backup system next to my family. We also live together. I live with her and her husband. We met in (Navy) school, in Orlando, Fla., in 1984. We’ve been in close touch ever since.”

McDermott: “Because of our Navy assignments, we’ll be separated again in May of 1988. I suppose we’ll have very large phone bills. Linda is like my sister, so I know we won’t lose touch. Linda is always somebody to lean on.”

Vandevere: “My husband and I are going through a divorce right now. I wouldn’t have made it without Lori. It’s a godsend she’s here. Financially, there’s no way I could have handled my divorce without the love of her and her husband. Lori picked me up out of the pits of depression and desperation. There were so many times I was crying so hard. We’re never at a loss with each other. We don’t shut up sometimes. We’re like a couple of cackling hens.”

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Eric Sievers, 29, and Pete Holohan, 28, both tight ends, San Diego Chargers:

Sievers: “We met each other at the East-West Shrine Game our senior year in college. We thought we’d end up on other (professional) teams, or never be drafted at all. We just didn’t think we’d see each other. So then we were drafted by the same team (the Chargers), at the same position. Incredible. We really don’t feel competition from each other, since our roles are so different. I’m much more of a blocking tight end, Pete a receiving tight end.”

Holohan: “If it is competition, it’s healthy competition. We work out together in the off-season and push each other like crazy.”

Sievers: “We’re always asking each other how the other one looks, how the other one’s playing on the field. It’s always positive reinforcement--we’re always watching out for each other. We were both a little worried when the Chargers drafted Rod Bernstine No. 1 this year. ‘Oh, no,’ we said, ‘ another tight end.’ We were worried over which of us was gonna go. It wasn’t a secure spot. There’s not a lot of security in this business anyway, so we share that fear. But both of us have endured seven years, playing the same position on the same team. Incredible.”

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Holohan: “I realized the other day I see Eric a lot. We room together on the road and in training camp. We report for work every day at 7 a.m. and stay here until 3 p.m. In the off-season, we see each other five days a week. I can tell Eric anything.

“It’s hard to make friendships of any longevity in sports, because of the insecurity and the transient nature of the business, but Eric and I have a lasting friendship. Still, you know, you worry--it is insecure. Sometimes, you think, ‘Could this be it--am I on the next train to Buffalo?’ You don’t like to think about that. Heavens no. Worst of all, you wouldn’t see your friend. To be without a best friend just wouldn’t be fun.”

Jerry Stratton, 27, and William Jeffers, 43, both officers in the San Diego Police Department:

Stratton: “Bill and I have a similar sense of humor, and we think alike. We’re Capricorns. We’re partners, we work together--we suffer and laugh together. We ride in the same car, on the 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift: Beat 423, Southeast San Diego. It has a lot of drug activity. We spend most of our time trying to curb that. Danger is something we encounter together often, almost nightly.

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“We just got into this amazing high-speed chase together. The guy ran into a palm tree and jumped out of the car. And then he tried to get Bill’s gun. Bill ended up cutting his thumb on the guy’s teeth. (Laughs.) Our relationship goes beyond danger, though. I really like his family. He has a wife and two daughters. They’re real fine people.”

Jeffers: “He’s an awful lot like me. He has a warped sense of humor like me. We like a lot of the same things--'50s music, scuba diving . . . We just went on a three-wheel (all-terrain vehicle) trip in the desert together. We depend on each other. I took this test in skin diving. I didn’t think I could make the 200-yard swim, but he egged me on. I made it. I have him to thank.

“We share everything--our personal lives, our fears about the job. He probably knows more about me than my wife does. If you have a partner you don’t like, it’s miserable. When he’s behind me, I never have to watch my back. I mean that literally and figuratively. He’s a cop’s cop, one hell of a great guy.”

Jerry, (not his real name) 45, AIDS victim, and Lance Clem, 37, volunteer, San Diego AIDS Project:

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Jerry: “I recently suffered the loss of my lover to AIDS. We had lived together 18 years. His passing was devastating--the worst thing I’ve ever been through, much worse than having the disease myself. I was in the hospital for a month with pneumonia. No one thought I would make it. I pulled through. I have two wonderful doctors, and now I’m on AZT (azidothymidine). I feel better than I ever have before, but you don’t want to get too hopeful. I’ve had to do a lot of readjusting--particularly on death and dying.

“It’s great how a friend stays by you. Lance has done that with me. He has to be strong too. He has a lot of friends who either have AIDS or have tested positive. My fear about this thing is not the dying, it’s being incapacitated, feeling the helplessness and the pain.”

Clem: “Jerry has taught me a lot about life. I have to look at life now in the here and now. There’s no guarantee that he’ll outlive me, even though I don’t have the disease, nor have I tested positive. I’ve learned more about appreciating friends, about living for the moment. Some people who have AIDS have an incredible insight into the beauty of life. We can learn from people like that.”

Jerry: “We met in Denver in 1979. Two minutes into the conversation, I just knew Lance had to be a Libra. Just knew. See, I’m a Libra too. We had this immediate rapport. We clicked. I moved here about seven years ago, and a short time later Lance settled here by coincidence.”

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Clem: “I got involved in the local AIDS Project around 1985. Jerry has known many of the ups and downs of my life, the moving, the readjusting, the relationships . . . He’s been a true friend through everything.”

Nancy Hafner, 31, associate vice president of university relations, United States International University, and Wendy McBride, 31, private investigations, Bowers and Associates:

Hafner: “Quite honestly, I don’t remember how we met. I don’t remember ever not knowing Wendy. We went to the same junior high school, then knew each other through (Mar Vista High School) but didn’t become best friends until after college (San Diego State University). We just started doing things together and found we liked doing the same things.

“There’s always been this unspoken communication between us. We can speak in half-sentences and generally know everything the other one’s thinking or planning to say. That’s part of what being a best friend is. You don’t always have to talk to get your points across.

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“In the last year or so our activities and work have not allowed us to spend as much time together as we did in the past. We used to travel together, shop together, play racquetball together, go to concerts and movies together. We get together when we can, but that’s part of what being a best friend is. You can drift in and out and drift back in, like you’ve never been apart. When our schedules finally calm down, we pick up as though there’s never been a gap.

“I never get tired of being around Wendy. She’s intelligent, with high energy. She’s lots of fun. We’ve done so much growing up together. We have lots of stories, lots of sworn secrecies. Maybe when I’m 65 I’ll tell everyone else, but for now, it’s only Wendy.”

McBride: “I went to high school with Nancy, but back then, we weren’t really the closest friends. After college, we reconnected and started rooming together. We have a lot of fun together. We like a lot of the same things and think the same about a lot of issues and morals. We laugh a lot. I guess she’s my friend because she’s loyal. We have a long history together. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be around more.

“We even feel the same about being career women. We’re both very motivated as far as work is concerned. We share a lot of those concerns too. I don’t know what I’d do without Nancy.”

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