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Carol Norman, a soft-spoken Lawndale city councilwoman,...

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

Carol Norman, a soft-spoken Lawndale city councilwoman, hasn’t been able to get the attention of her colleagues when she wanted to speak lately. So, near the end of the last council meeting, she pulled out a whistle and gave a shrill blast.

That got their attention.

“I think I did it tastefully,” Norman recalled. “Or as tastefully as you can blow a whistle.”

Three of her colleagues, with whom she’s battled frequently, condemned the action. But Norman, 57, said she resorted to the device because of a faulty electronic system in the chamber.

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“We push a button to signal the mayor when we want to talk,” Norman explained, “and a light in front of the mayor is supposed to go on. But my button has been broken for a number of weeks. I’d been assured that it would be fixed. I just got tired of pushing it and pushing it and never being called on.”

Norman said she was told that the city is going to put the button-repair job out to bid.

Whatever, she’ll be at tonight’s council meeting. And, she promises, one way or another, she will be heard from.

Val Rodriguez, a teacher at Banning High in Carson, says that when he was a boy, “the most I ever asked Dad for was maybe $1--and not very often.”

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What got him to thinking was a note that one of his students accidentally left behind in class. It said, in part:

“Mom,

“Do you think you can leave me the money to go buy my shoes. They cost $99.99, plus tax, so maybe leave $110. . . . “

Rodriguez adds:

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“I later asked him. He got the money!”

KFAC-FM, L.A.'s only commercial classical music station, breathed its last at midday Wednesday. But before Beethoven rolled over to give way to rock station KKBT, the workers at KCRW public radio paid a tribute of sorts.

“Our monitor system as well as all of the radios in the building were tuned in to KFAC this morning,” said Anne Berkovitz, a KCRW spokeswoman. “Unusual because it (KFAC) is a commercial station. You could hear the Mozart Requiem in our bathrooms.”

L.A. isn’t the place--at least, not for conventions, in the minds of a lot of groups. Sagging tourist business even led to the sacking of the head of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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The Freeway City did lure the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Assn. here recently. But the organization’s president advised the delegates to “never walk outside at night,” the Los Angeles Downtown News reports.

Nevertheless, as Marc Porter Zasada, the News’ managing editor, said in a speech to the group, there is an “elegant and interesting underbelly” beneath “the grim surface” of downtown L.A.

Zasada urged the writers to experience:

* Afternoon tea in the 67-year-old Biltmore Hotel amid its “restored Neo-Renaissance architecture.”

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* The two hidden Japanese gardens on the third floor of the New Otani Hotel.

* The Ten Ren Teashop in Chinatown--"pick out tea from the rows of shiny brass canisters.”

* The 96-year-old Bradbury building, with its elegant wrought-iron stairwells, open-cage elevators and skylighted inner court. (The lobby is still open.)

* The old candle shop on Olvera Street.

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* And, the Oiwake Karaoke Bar on 1st Street, where you can grab the microphone, get up on stage and warble along with a hit video for $1 per song.

Maybe even belt out, “I Love L.A.”

Sometimes it seems as though traveling the freeways, and eyeing the spillage, is like wending your way through a giant flea market:

Sighted on the northbound Hollywood Freeway near Alameda Street: A hot tub, sitting naked in one lane.

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