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Hoping to Laugh All the Way to the Bank

There’s always a local angle.

The takeover attempt of National Lampoon Inc. is being guided by La Jolla junk-bonder David Batchelder. He was the master strategist behind raider extraordinaire T. Boone Pickens before moving here last year from Amarillo, Tex., to open Batchelder & Partners.

Among the renegade investors backing Batchelder is Glen Bell Jr. of Rancho Santa Fe, who owns 40,000 shares (2.6%) of the company, which publishes the bimonthly (money-losing) humor magazine and has produced the (money- making) movies “Animal House,” “Vacation” and “European Vacation.”

Bell knows a bit about making money through mass marketing.

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He founded the Taco Bell restaurant chain, sold it to Pepsico in 1978 for $125 million and now is involved in real estate and venture capital. Bell’s interest in National Lampoon is strictly monetary, not satiric, says his accountant.

“We’re looking at long-term investment,” said Elliott Broidy, who also serves as president of Bell United. “We feel if the magazine could get a positive cash flow position and more theatrical ventures could be undertaken, the stock could be considered significantly undervalued.”

Translation: The way to the bank is paved with more movies, less magazine.

One of the takeover leaders is Tim Matheson, who played Otter in “Animal House” and is now an independent film and television producer.

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Kids Welcome Again

The holiday season is over, so unescorted shoppers 16 and younger are again welcome at The Sharper Image, the adult toy store (pocket calculators, exercisers, attache cases, hand-tuned mahogany wind chimes, etc.) at North County Fair in Escondido and on Prospect Street in La Jolla.

A spokesman at corporate headquarters in San Francisco says the no-kids-without-an-adult policy applies to all 65 stores during the shopping season “to ensure a quality shopping experience for our valued customers.”

Crooks Get the Picture

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Score one for high-tech.

The latest innovation at the San Diego Police Department--a $1,300 Lum-a-Phone by Mitsubishi--is already paying off. With the use of mini-cameras, it allows cops at one location to look at mug shots displayed by people at another location, then get a printout.

In the first week since being installed at police headquarters, the Lum-a-Phone provided pictures of a child-molester suspect in San Diego and a fugitive wanted for murder in Sacramento. Both were arrested within the hour.

Two other local police departments also have a Lum-a-Phone: La Mesa and Chula Vista. So does the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento (whence the picture of the suspected child molester).

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“Until now, we might ask an out-of-town agency to send us a picture and it could take a week to arrive,” said Marty Duitz, a detective with the fugitive apprehension unit.

Nose News Good News

Score one for (four-footed) no-tech.

After not having a police dog for more than a year, the Fallbrook station of the Sheriff’s Department got Baron, a 2-year-old German shepherd owned by Deputy Jay Sheffield, who recently transferred to Fallbrook.

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The pair was dispatched near midnight just before Christmas to search for a confused 85-year-old man who had wandered away from his home in Rainbow during a freezing rainstorm. Baron was given some of the man’s clothing to sniff.

The dog made a quick search of the 14-acre grounds and found the man curled up on the wet dirt near a cactus, disoriented and unable to stand. The man was treated at a hospital and released.

“I’m almost sure that, given the rain, the cold and the darkness, we couldn’t have covered enough ground fast enough to find the man alive without Baron,” said Lt. Ernie Klevesahl. “Baron definitely earned his biscuits that night.”


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