A YEAR OF LIFE : Nifty Hed, Short OK : Sentence style deck; don't leave out articles; breezy, downstyle, with period at end, bullet, thin spaces at start. Three to four lines.


When last seen in these pages, Tina had a goldfish swimming in each breast and could be had for $3,000. Deanna Burski was counting the days to her wedding, and Mitch Thorson was the 21st-best professional surfer in the world.

But that, as someone once said in a bad movie, was then.

Through 52 weeks of publication, Ventura County Life has run roughly 1,000 stories-long, short, trivial, tragic-and to one degree or another, all have changed since the presses rolled. For this anniversary issue, we revisited 15 of them.

Ladies of the Livery

March 15: Sculptors M.B. Hanrahan and Michele Chapin had decided to collaborate, and the results were three wire-framed, larger-than-life female figures. They stood outside the Momentum Gallery in Ventura's artsy Livery complex.

Adrian, the first figure, was made of cooking utensils and hair curlers and stood as "a stereotype of a woman who doesn't exist anymore," Chapin told Ventura County Life. Barbara was topiary-based, made from drought-resistant plants and herbs. And Tina was a mermaid, her tail filled with non-recycleables collected at Surfer's Point on the west edge of town. She had fishbowls for breasts, and a single goldfish swam in each.

Update: They haven't sold, but they have traveled. Adrian has been seen in shop window displays on Santa Barbara's State Street and in Beverly Hills. (Hanrahan and Chapin also do window displays.) Now back at Art City, her birthplace, she stands next to the recycling bin.

Tina turned up for Earth Day on the beach in Ventura last year then ventured south for a stint in a Beverly Hills beauty salon. Since then, goldfish gone, she has taken shelter in Chapin's garage.

Barbara never left the Livery courtyard, but has sprouted new flowers and acquired a peace symbol. All three remain for sale at $3,000 each or for rent, price negotiable.

"They've more than paid their way," says Chapin.

A Gypsy Looks at 80

April 5: Garlic-gobbling, fig-toting, football-tossing septuagenarian Gypsy Boots had descended on Ventura County with blitzkrieg subtlety. In October, 1989, he moved from Los Angeles to Camarillo, and when Life caught up with him a few months later, Boots (real name: Robert Bootzin) had established a roving health-food business, working out of a van emblazoned with a 5-foot self portrait.

"Figs, apricots, prunes! Man's lifeblood!" he proclaimed. "It's unbelievable! I run around like a deer! I throw a football like Joe Montana! I stand on my head!"

Update: In August, Boots celebrated his 80th birthday with belly dancers and free bananas. He has expanded his health-food outlets, and can often be found at the Garden Fresh Restaurant on East Main Street in Ventura. On Saturday mornings, the man who five decades ago roved California as a vagabond can be found playing tennis with local businessmen near his Camarillo home.

"Gypsy's gone conservative!" says Gypsy. "What a story!"

By late February, he was preparing for the Los Angeles Marathon. And on March 3, he ran-or, rather, race-walked, hopped and generally cavorted through 26 miles, armed with a tambourine, a cowbell, and a bag of fruit. He finished in 6 hours, 20 minutes.

Foster Care For Five

April 12: Diane and Stacy Biggs of Oxnard, a pair of working parents with two children, wanted to help the county's beleaguered foster care system. In doing so, they gained five new family members and joined a growing number of volunteers who take abused or traumatized children into their homes.

The five children were siblings from the same Latino family. Life wasn't easy, the Biggses said, but there were the positive aspects to consider.

Their own children, Sean and Staci, were learning the importance of sharing. The foster children, who had been split up and sent to different families in the past, had some continuity in their lives. And athough all five were behind in school, Diane Biggs said, they were showing slight improvement.

Update: The Biggs family is still big. But after seven months in a drug rehabilitation program, the natural mother of the five foster children has started taking them on Saturdays. By the end of this month, if the mother has found an apartment, some or all of the children may go to live with her again.

"The kids have mixed emotions," says Diane Biggs. "They kind of want to go, but they also know they won't have the kind of life they've been living. They have their own rooms here. They love their school now, and almost all of their grades have gone up. They're not sure what everything will be like. This is a woman who hasn't parented for four or five years."

And the Biggses themselves?

"I've grown attached to them, but I also knew this day would come," Stacy Biggs says.

Diane Biggs says she wouldn't want to put her own two children through the year again-"I think they learned a lot, but they've sacrificed a lot, too... All that time we gave to the foster kids would have been their time with us." Still, the Biggses haven't ruled out the idea of another foster child later on.

"I'd just like a lot more support from the community," Stacy says.

The Candidate

May 3: Last spring, Mindy Lorenz of Ventura, the nation's first Green Party candidate for federal office, was registering voters, decrying "insane military spending" and suggesting a government ban on fluorocarbons. "I'm running to win," Lorenz told Life. But, she added, "realistically, we're prepared not to, and there are other reasons for running."

Update: In the November balloting for the 19th Congressional District, Lorenz ran a distant third behind U.S. Rep. Robert Lagomarsino (R-Ventura) and runner-up Democrat Anita Perez Ferguson. Lagomarsino got 59,787 votes. Lorenz, whose supporters had to write her name in, got 1,655. Pronouncing herself "very pleased" with her showing, Lorenz notes that she received one of the highest percentages of any write-in candidate statewide.

And she's still busy. For those weeks that this nation was at war, Lorenz estimates, she spent a third of her waking hours teaching art history at California State University, Northridge; a third on Green Party affairs; and a third on the peace movement.

County election officials, meanwhile, note that the number of registered Green Party voters has quintupled in the last year to more than 500.

Festival Seeks Friends

May 31: Organizers of Ojai Festival decided to reach for youth with their three-day musical gathering last year.

"This is music that a generation of listeners raised on American rock and jazz can relate to," said music director Stephen Mosko. Though 81-year-old composer Elliott Carter was the event's composer-in-residence, Mosko and festival executive director Jeanette O'Connor assembled several other composers raised in the 1960s and '70s on a diet that mingled classical and contemporary music.

Update: In the festival office these days there is both new management and new focus. Last year's crowds were smallish, and of those who came, many went home scratching their heads. Mosko went on to other engagements. O'Connor left to take a job in New York. And with attendance and contributions running far behind projections, boardmembers found their $350,000-a-year festival facing an unprecedented debt of just over $100,000. They hired Christopher Hunt, an English-born impresario with an international reputation as a canny programmer, and made him consulting director. They reduced staff costs. They scheduled special meetings to mend fences with local music lovers in Ojai. And just a few weeks ago, they disclosed that 1991's program would combine the work of contemporary composers Peter Maxwell Davies and John Harbison with 10 pieces from a time-tested crowd-pleaser-Mozart.

Whiz Kid

June 21: Seventeen-year-old Joel Villasenor, a junior at Channel Islands High School in Oxnard, had come a long way since his arrival in the United States from Mexico nine years before. At 8, he spoke Spanish and two words of English. At 17, he told Life, he had reached fluency in English and French, and was teaching himself Italian.

As a high school sophomore, he had been selected among an elite group of U.S. students to attend a Johns Hopkins University summer program in Geneva, Switzerland. After high school, Villasenor was hoping to get into Harvard.

Update: Harvard is looking more likely all the time. Though he doesn't want to jinx himself, Villasenor admits that the university will likely accept his application. Meanwhile he continues his education. Now a senior, Villansenor is studying German, economics, physics, photography (his new "passion"), calculus and music. Oh yes, and last summer he went back to Switzerland.

"It was better than last time. Indescribable," he says. "I learned Italian. Some very nice Italian girls taught it to me."

Wed, But Also Torn

June 21: In increasing numbers, Life found, women in their 40s were throwing elaborate, extravagant weddings and wearing full-length white wedding gowns-even on the second or third trip down the aisle. Deanna Burski, a 46-year-old Simi Valley bank manager, was one. She planned a large church ceremony in July. For the occasion, her second marriage, she decided on a full-length white gown with a cathedral train.

Update: Burski-and her dress-almost didn't make it to the altar.

"I had five minutes to get to the church and I was running out the front door with flowers in my hands, and the door closed on my veil and dress. I was stuck there and I didn't have a key," says the former Burski, now officiallly Mrs. Richard Brees.

After considerable tugging by her maid of honor, Brees managed to dislodge her veil, although it was torn in the process. The bottom of her dress ended up with grease stains before Brees remembered she'd hidden a key to the door under a flowerpot.

Though she was "incredibly nervous the whole time," Brees says, the rest of the wedding, which included a sit-down dinner for 125 people and strolling musicians, went without a hitch. The tab was about $10,000.

Would she do it again? Brees hesitates.

"I don't think so," she says. "My husband is such a sweetheart and it was a very spiritual ceremony, but the question you ask is: Was it really necessary? It's really not. It can get so elaborate.

"We were originally thinking of being married at Lake Tahoe with just close friends and family. If I had it to do again, I think I'd do it that way," she says. "We could have had more money to do other things later."

Out the In Door

July 5: While most people have been talking about Ventura County's runaway growth, Life found that thousands of Ventura County residents have been leaving every year. "I would love to raise our son in Ventura," said former Venturan Tracy Werth, now of Phoenix, Ariz. But, she went on, "we know it's an impossible dream. He'd be in daycare while I work to help pay $1,000 just to rent some dump." In the year ended June 30, 1989, state Department of Motor Vehicles records showed, 32,357 transfered their licenses out of Ventura County, almost as many as the 35,170 drivers who arrived.

Update: The trend has turned a corner. Figures for the year ended June 30, 1990, showed 35,141 licensed drivers moving in-not quite as many as the 35,789 moving out.

Detox and Postscript

July 26: For a year and a half, Oxnard's Primary Purpose operation had been detoxifying about 50 alcoholics and drug abusers per month, usually charging $72 a day. A non-medical facility that keeps addicts for three to five days, it was, and is, the only place of its kind in the county. When a pair of veteran drinkers began their stays at about the same time, Life followed them.

Wayne was 44, subdued when sober, five days out of County Jail, shamed by his last binge of schnapps and King Cobra, among other things. Marilyn was 52, an out-of-work waitress living in her car and drinking a quart of vodka daily. Both were career drinkers.

Update: Wayne and Marilyn each went into treatment programs for at least a week after their detox days, but after that details get sketchy. Primary Purpose officials say they have heard no bad news of Wayne, but they haven't seem him at local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings either. He has no listed phone number.

Marilyn returned to the detox house on Jan. 13. Her intake report shows she was again drinking a quart of vodka daily, and that she was homeless at age 52. "She was in such bad physical condition that she nearly died. We sent her to the hospital," says counselor Cathy Mullins. After the hospital visit, Marilyn returned to detox for four days, and moved on to a three-month recovery program elsewhere in the county.

Surfboards, Balance Sheets

August 2: Mitch Thorson, Ventura County's only high-ranked professional surfer, had been suffering job stress. Ranked No. 21 in the world, the 25-year-old Thorson told Life about the anxieties of competition, the strain of constant global travel, the fickleness of an industry in which a $30,000 oceanwear endorsement deal can dry up overnight. He also explained an extreme new raw-foods diet and exercise regimen that had left him 25 pounds lighter. More agile, he said. More fragile, warned others on the pro circuit.

In his first chance to test his new approach, a July tournament in Oceanside, he finished out of the top 20 and carried home just $850 in prize money. "I'll be a lot better prepared next time," he promised.

Update: Thorson tied for 17th in his last two tournaments of 1990, and finished the year with a ranking of 30th in the world--the bottom rung on the commercially critical leaders ladder maintained by the Association of Surfing Professionals. In late January, Thorson headed for several weeks in his native Australia. But when the tournament circuit begins again later this month, father-in-law John Herrick of Ventura says, Thorson will again be on the pro tour. "Business as usual," Herrick says.

At the Counter Again

August 16: Caroline Hebert, 68, had retired from her management position at a Moorpark bank at age 62, believing she finally would have time to read books in her Oxnard home, do gardening and enjoy a life of leisure. Instead, she became restless and eager to get involved again. She took a job with the Bank of A. Levy in Camarillo as an eight-hour-a-week teller, and spoke with Life about seniors who re-enter the job market.

She was happy to be back at work and had no intention of quitting. "I don't know what I'd do with myself if I did," she had said. "I can accomplish just as much as anyone younger."

Update: A few months ago, one of Hebert's full-time co-workers was transferred to another branch. Hebert applied for the job and got it. Now Hebert works five days a week.

It may look like she's climbing the corporate ladder, Hebert said, but that is not her goal. "I climbed it once, and so I don't want to go too high," she says.

"I'll be 69 in December, and I'll probably retire at the end of the year, even though I don't know what I'd do," she says. "Then again, who knows? I haven't written anything on paper yet."

Life Below Deck

Sept. 13: In more than 400 boats at Ventura and Oxnard harbors, fishermen, nautical devotees and families make their homes. They put up with cramped quarters, mildew, and a lifestyle described by some as little more than camping. Life wondered why.

For the Farinacci family, it was the love of sportfishing--a love strong enough to keep them in their 41-foot trawler even after the birth of their two sons.

For the Crane and Breedlove families, the decision was a strategy to stash away money to pay for months-long cruises. The Cranes planned to aim their 41-foot sailboat toward the Sea of Cortez this summer. The Breedloves, taking a longer view, envisioned a 1993 trip to Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal and on to the east coast.

Update: Land ho. The Farinaccis are trying to sell their boat and get back into a conventional house. "The real estate market is so slow now, it's an excellent time to get back into the market," says Dan Farinacci, a real estate appraiser. He says living with two small children in cramped quarters wasn't the problem.

As for the Crane family plan, "the Internal Revenue Service is going to delay that a little," says Diana Crane. She and her husband have bumped their departure date back a year, while they pay off the capital gains tax they were socked with when they sold their house to live on the boat.

The Breedloves are still planning their trip, though Connie Breedlove notes that "we have no definite date."

The Mat and the Cloth

Sept. 27: Ojai's Bill Olivas, one month into his novitiate year in the Order of St. Augustine, told Life of his past career as a professional wrestler.

Formerly known to many as "The Wild Man of Borneo" and "Elephant Boy," and a veteran of 13 years as a deacon in St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Olivas hoped to become Father Olivas by August, 1991.

Update: Olivas, who will be 70 years old on the 26th, remains on schedule. He recently spent a month in Wisconsin studying religious history and his order's regulations.

"The church is always changing," he says. "It helped me look at how we'll handle the future as we approach the 21st century. Hopefully I'll live that long."

The Championship Season

Nov. 8: Rivals Thousand Oaks High School and Westlake High School were in the closing weeks of banner football seasons. Neck-and-neck in the race for first place in the Marmonte League, the two teams faced off to decide the division championship.

Westlake had Todd Preston, a highly touted quarterback expected to win scholarship to a major university. Thousand Oaks had a longer tradition of winning and quarterback Scott Peterson, a scrappy player with less impressive numbers. Life watched the week of preparations and the game itself-an excruciating 41-41 tie. For many, it was the most exciting game of the year, but it left the championship undecided.

Update: Westlake (8-2-1 overall) fell into second place and closed its season unhappily, routed 52-13 by Pasadena Muir in a playoff game at Pasadena College. Quarterback Todd Preston, named the league's top offensive player, later signed a letter of intent to play football for the UC Berkeley.

Thousand Oaks High School (7-2-2 overall) took the league championship, but fumbled six times and lost 31-27 in its first Southern Section Division II playoff game against Lynwood High School. For quarterback Scott Peterson, however, there have been compensations. On Feb. 6, he signed a letter of intent to play football for the University of New Mexico.

Losing Numbers

Jan. 10: Consulted by Life, Ojai numerologist Ed Brough predicted a peaceful settlement to the Persian Gulf crisis, following long, tough negotiations.

Update: The problem, Brough says, is that he didn't know Saddam Hussein's birthdate at the time, and therefore wasn't able to factor it in. Brough now knows that Hussein was born on April 28, 1937.

Brough says the month of April, represented by the number four-April being the fourth month-is a month of trust. "But every number has another side to it. Hussein's just living on the wrong side of his number. That's all."

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