A Shirelles Shill Game Plays to Sell-Out Crowd

It's being called the Shirelles Sham--musical groups passing themselves off as the original Shirelles of 1960s fame, playing at nightclubs and in concerts from coast to coast.

Never mind that the real Shirelles split up in the 1970s and these imposter Shirelles are in some cases just half the ages of the originals.

The folks at the Sheraton Harbor Island East felt sure they had booked the real Shirelles for a New Year's Eve concert last Thursday night--even after they had watched the CBS News program "West 57th Street" earlier in the month, which reported that a host of bogus Shirelles were popping up across the country.

"Our agent told us we had hired one of the original Shirelles, and when a reporter from West 57th Street called me and said she wanted to film our concert, I said, 'How great!' I saw their broadcast and I was so glad we had the original group. Then she said we didn't," said Nancy Eckis, spokeswoman for the Sheraton.

Indeed, it turned out that none of the alleged Shirelles who appeared at the Sheraton last week was one of the three surviving members of the original group.

Three or four people who had bought tickets for the concert, co-sponsored by radio station 69 Xtra Gold, called the station and the hotel the day before the concert as word about the nationwide Shirelles Sham spread. Sheraton officials offered refunds, but apparently the balkers backed off and the concert--also featuring '60s soul singer Brenton Wood and headliner Mark Lindsay, formerly lead singer for Paul Revere and the Raiders--performed before a sell-out crowd of 900.

The station's program manager, Jim LaMarca, said: "I thought we had booked the original group, too, but really, it's not all that essential. Do you know how many groups calling themselves the Platters and the Coasters there are, touring around the country? On the same night we had Platters appearing in San Diego, Reno and Los Angeles.

"A few years ago I saw a group called the all-new Shirelles appearing at the Del Mar Fair and, quite frankly, they were better than the originals. But they must have been fraudulent because none of them were older than 25."

Luxury a la Truck

There are lunch trucks, and then there are lunch trucks.

Gentleman's Choice, which operates a couple of restaurants in North County, will now turn your luncheon or dinner party into a road show. The gimmick: It will pick up your party of up to 10 guests in a 35-foot motor home and take you to just about any location in San Diego County, while you acclimate en route with appetizers and cocktails.

Once you're at your destination, you can enjoy the view while a staff of seven will lay out a gourmet spread on linen tablecloths, complete with candelabras and sterling silver service. You eat in a "Safari Room"--a screened, covered (and heated, if need be)--enclosure alongside the vehicle. The price is upward of $100 per person.

Jack Dugan, who owns the restaurant, said dinner parties so far have gone to La Jolla Shores, Harbor Island and atop Palomar Mountain, to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and to impress business clients.

"For people who consider taking a limousine to a restaurant, we take the concept one step further," Dugan said.

Mixed Messages

No, that was neither a paid advertisement nor a public service message on that billboard along Interstate 5 where Interstate 805 splits in Sorrento Valley. That was vandalism, and a towering feat it was.

For several weeks the billboard had read, "San Diego Says No to Drugs." But last Thursday morning it bore the slightly modified message, "San Diego says No to Contras."

It wasn't a shabby job, concedes Frank Sanchez, who owns Martin Outdoor Services, the billboard company. "It looks like it was stenciled in nice, block letters. They did a pretty good job. It wasn't like a spray paint job.

"But whoever did it had to be crazy," he said. "The catwalk for that billboard is 130 feet off the ground. I almost drove off the road when I saw it had been changed."

There's no security preventing people from scaling the billboard posts, Sanchez said. "We just assumed nobody in their right mind would try to climb it."

Super Promoter

Bail bondsmen are no shrinking violets, as a lot. And one of the granddaddies of bail bondsmen in San Diego is George (King) Stahlman, ever the self-promoter.

Consider his matchbooks, which offer us such little ditties as, "If your loved one is locked up and you really do care, call King Stahlman--he'll always be there."

He's got his own line of bumper stickers, too, in which he has referred to himself as "the unofficial bail bondsman for the 1984 Olympics," and "the unofficial bail bondsman for the Miss America Contest."

And now (You guessed it!) his newest entry: "The unofficial bail bondsman for San Diego's 1988 Super Bowl."

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