“It’s a crack security force, I guess,”...

<i> From staff and wire reports</i>

“It’s a crack security force, I guess,” mused Dr. Jan Acton, a Rand Corp. research director. “Or maybe I should say a crack janitor.”

It was the janitor, after all, who first noticed the mysterious device on a shelf in Acton’s office at the Santa Monica think tank, where people try to find solutions for matters so deep that most folks don’t even know what the problem is. Security is pretty tight.

When spotted by the janitor late Monday night, the thing was on a bookshelf, in front of some of Acton’s family photos and a coach-of-the-year mug. The janitor alerted Rand security people, who immediately summoned help from Santa Monica police headquarters across the street.

What the cops found were five red highway emergency flares attached to a 1.5-volt battery, a 3-inch-diameter glow-in-the-dark digital clock and some coiled wires--all held together with black electrician’s tape.


Acton, 44, was called at home. He explained that it was not an infernal device, but a clock assembled for him by an 8-year-old boy he had coached in soccer.

“It’s been there for nine months,” he said.

Apparently nobody noticed it before.

Jamal Abdull, 37, earned a little money Wednesday for the first time in a while. He got $5 for sketching Yvette Wellrich and her 2-year-old daughter, Haleigh. Wellrich, a modeling instructor, was on her way to get a passport when Abdull offered to draw her picture.


His studio was the open air in front of his tent on the lawn at 1st and Spring Streets in the Los Angeles Civic Center, where the old State Building has been replaced by a small encampment of homeless people who generally sit or lie in the sun waiting for time to pass.

As he sketched, Abdull said he once worked as a hotel security man in New York but has been homeless for seven years. He said he prefers his tent to the hotels he can afford. Those are full of fights and drugs and “are run like jails,” he said.

Abdull said he looked for two years for a security, sign-painting or housekeeping job, “but no one would employ me out here.” Nor, he added, will shopping mall operators allow him to sketch their customers.

“This,” he said of the sketch, “is my first one.”


Things did not go well for an unidentified man who was spotted driving an allegedly stolen car through downtown Los Angeles. When police tried to pull him over, they said, he took off at high speed on the Santa Monica Freeway.

Officers said he stopped near the La Brea Avenue exit and ran, leaving a woman and small child in the vehicle. He hopped a fence into a junkyard--where a guard dog attacked him. Then, said Sgt. Bill McDaniel, the police K-9 dog found him and “he got bitten again.”

He was taken to the County-USC Medical Center jail ward.

Anyone who likes to make chili and who is planning to drive from L.A. to Las Vegas to get married might consider stopping off in Rosamond on Oct. 30.


There will be a mass marriage ceremony at the World Championship Chili Cookoff in that desert town on that date. The sponsoring Newport Beach-based International Chili Society is looking for chili-cooking couples to take part in the big wedding to be conducted by a justice of the peace while an estimated 20,000 “chiliheads” look on.

One of the couples will be selected for a free honeymoon at the Balboa Bay Club.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Christian E. Markey Jr. is retiring to become general counsel (and vice president) for USC. He leaves the bench best remembered, perhaps, for his ruling in a case that was far from the most significant he ever handled.

In nearly 15 years on the bench, he has conducted countless family law and divorce cases. He has presided over thousands of personal injury suits and has been a member of the Johns Mansville Settlement Board, which was charged with working out procedures for putting to rest more than 100,000 asbestos cases totaling more than $3 billion.


But the one that got him the most publicity was the case of model Vicki Morgan, who in 1982 filed an $11-million palimony suit against Alfred Bloomingdale after the latter’s wife cut off monthly payments that the ailing founder of the Diner’s Club had agreed to make.

Bloomingdale, 66, then died and Judge Markey subsequently threw out the bulk of Morgan’s suit, calling her 12-year affair with Bloomingdale “adulterous, immoral and border(ing) on the illegal.” The jurist said the relationship was “no more than that of a wealthy, older, married paramour and young, well-paid mistress. . . . “

Morgan was beaten to death by a male companion a year later.

The case “wasn’t all that significant,” Markey says, “but it happened to be very high profile, very newsworthy. It literally made every newspaper in the world.”