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For a Trendy, Last-Minute Present, Try a Living Ham

Stuck for a last-minute Christmas gift for the spouse or kids?

Want to be a trend-setter? Maybe a Chinese potbelly pig is just the thing.

Since arriving from China and Vietnam about six years ago, the pint-size porkers have become popular in both Northern California and Los Angeles.

A bit part in the movie “Air America” helped; so does a co-starring role in one of Cal Worthington’s car commercials.

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If Pete Hupp, a former Encinitas resident now living in Butte County, has his way, San Diego County will be the next hot spot. To test the market, he shipped two of the mini-swine to a friend in Encinitas, who is advertising for buyers.

For $1,000 you can get either Lotus or Pearl, stout and covered with bristly black hair. Maximum adult size: 20 inches tall, 80 pounds, belly almost dragging the ground.

In Sacramento, ads buying and selling potbellies fill a column in the Sunday newspaper. In Los Angeles, a Southern California Potbellied Pig Assn. has formed to ensure that they’re treated as pets rather than livestock on such matters as zoning.

“We think the San Diego market is ripe for potbelly pigs,” said Hupp, 38, a nurse. “They’re clean, affectionate and smart.”

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And a good investment maybe. In Sacramento, a brood sow with good bloodlines goes for $3,000 or more.

Hupp sees the potbelly as the ideal modern pet, even for condo-dwellers: quieter than a dog (a soft grunt), more solicitous than a cat, more intelligent than goldfish.

True, the potbellies do share a characteristic with their behemoth brethren. On warm days, they like to roll around in water or mud.

“You can easily take care of that need with a small wading pool in your back yard or porch,” Hupp said.

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He figures that’s a small price to pay for love and loyalty.

Role-Playing Psychologist

Movie madness.

* There’s always a local angle, even in “Godfather III,” which opens on Christmas.

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La Jolla psychotherapist Linnda Durre has a bit part in a scene where Al Pacino summons other Mafia dons to Atlantic City.

Durre plays a floozy cocktail waitress, dressed in gold lame top and stockings, tangerine miniskirt and sequined bow tie and hat. Filmed in Cinecitta studio in Rome.

Durre, who had gone to Italy for vacation, got the part through a friend. She has studied acting, written a television pilot and attends a comedy workshop in Los Angeles.

In between, she does family and marriage counseling.

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* Depending on your taste, this is either good or bad news.

For many years, one of the busiest X-rated movie theaters in San Diego was the Capri on Park Boulevard in Hillcrest.

Then Great American Savings Bank, which had a branch next door, got annoyed with its steamy neighbor. It bought the property and booted the operator.

The theater reopened as the Park, showing foreign and artsy fare.

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Now San Diego-based Great American has been bought by Wells Fargo. Rumors spread that Wells, based in libertine San Francisco, might allow the return of more profitable skin flicks.

But a Wells spokesman says no: The theater will remain high-brow.

Betty-Watchers Wait for Bargains

There are plenty of people interested in buying a transcript of Betty Broderick’s first murder trial. So far, though, no sales.

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Prosecutors, defense attorneys, journalists and the CBS entertainment division have shown interest. But nobody wants to buy the first copy and pay full price.

The first copy of the estimated 3,000-page transcript will cost about $6,720. Subsequent copies are about $2,520.

By law, the transcript is owned by the court reporter. The amount that can be charged per page for a transcript is set by court regulation.

For budget-conscious Betty-watchers, a transcript of just her three days of testimony should go for around $500, once the first full transcript is sold.

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