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People and Events

So much for good will toward men.

Two unidentified young women with the holiday spirit in their hearts and a load full of free blankets in the back of their van showed up Friday near the Midnight Mission, hoping to provide a little comfort to downtown down-and-outers braving the chill air.

Word of the warm woolen blankets spread quickly, and within seconds, the van was surrounded by about 50 cold and desperate men. Even before the women could step out, several homeless men had opened the van’s back door and were grabbing frantically at the blankets. Then, one of them reached into the passenger compartment, snatched one of the women’s purses and sprinted down 4th Street.

He got about 15 yards before a homeless do-gooder collared him, tore the purse from his grasp and returned it to its owner.

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It was little consolation for the frightened women, however. With a few blankets flying out the back door, the van screeched away from the curb. It was last seen heading west.

It was another 22-egg Christmas for Los Angeles Police Officer Sam Theodora.

Each year for the last 10, Theodora has received eggs from the students of his boyhood friend, Al Ruffini, a biology teacher at Wayne Hills Senior High School in Wayne, N.J. The eggs come packaged in various ways--some cushioned in Styrofoam; others in Jell-O. One once came in a jar of mayonnaise; another in an elaborate web of rubber bands.

Ruffini uses the annual project to illustrate the often cruel laws of species survival--as well as the skills of the U.S. Postal Service, such as they are. Those students whose eggs make the 3,000-mile journey unbroken get an A. Those whose eggs crack and ooze through their packing onto Theodora’s desk at LAPD headquarters get a C. The project accounts for a small part of a semester’s grade.

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And with each egg--whether it’s splat or no splat--Theodora writes a report in traditional just-the-facts-ma’am fashion to let the kids know how his or her egg fared.

Theodora’s co-workers in the Police Department’s auto theft section have grown accustomed to the annual, ahem, egg-stravaganza.

“It is egg-ceptional,” observed Detective Bubba Hetrick, “but it isn’t all that egg-citing.”

That pulsating billboard heart along the Santa Ana Freeway seems to have suffered cardiac arrest.

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The realistic red latex advertising device, which is supposed to pump around the clock, was deflated and sagging on Christmas day. A sad sight, and certainly not the kind of message that Downey Community Hospital wanted to convey when it conceived the billboard to promote its new heart center.

Elaine Margheim, the hospital’s manager on duty Friday afternoon, said she was unaware that the heart no longer was in full rigor.

Maybe some big cardiologist can climb up a big ladder to administer some heavy-duty CPR? Margheim wasn’t laughing.

“I think the engineering department will be looking into it,” she said.

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Calling all gang members. Tired of shooting at each other? How about a shot at the stage?

Talent scouts are planning next month to hold an open casting call for all gang members--no acting experience needed--to perform in the return engagement of the critically acclaimed four-act play “Gangs.”

The play depicts two anti-gang police officers and a former gang member-turned-priest who try to establish a truce between two rival gangs. Playwright Harry Bey plans to fill his production with more than 850 genuine street gang members.

The tryout is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Music Center Annex at the corners of Temple and Grand streets in downtown Los Angeles.

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“Everyone should arrive early,” Bey advises, “so come prepared and be yourself.”

And, please, leave your guns at home.


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