Normandy It Isn't, But Any Port Is OK on D-Day B-Day

Surfers, take heed. The Lane Victory is ready to make the Santa Monica Bay safe for democracy.

You may have heard about the Lane Victory, the San Pedro-based cargo ship staffed by retired merchant marines. The ship set sail April 29 for D-day celebrations in France--a 9,000-mile odyssey--but was forced to return to Los Angeles Harbor just days later after developing a leak in its boilers.

But the tale does not end on that sad note. The French consulate in Los Angeles has invited the ship and crew to take part in a commemorative D-day re-enactment June 1 in Santa Monica.

"Naturally, we're elated," said Joe Vernick, 81, president of the U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans of World War II, which organized the ill-fated voyage to France.

The Lane Victory's participation in the Santa Monica ceremonies would be more symbolic than nostalgic: Vernick said only a couple of the ship's 55 crew members participated in the June 6, 1944, invasion, when Allied troops stormed Nazi strongholds on the beaches of Normandy, turning the tide of the war in Europe.

So can the ship make the 30-mile trek from the harbor to the shores of Santa Monica?

Vernick believes repairs should be done in time for the "invasion."

So instead of being greeted with shouts of "Bienvenue!" the crew just might hear, "Gnarly, dude."

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MIRACLE ON MARKET STREET: Yuletide cheer settled on the Venice boardwalk in recent weeks at least for those who happened to notice the Christmas decorations between Rose Avenue and Market Street.

In Venice, where oddity is always in season, most folks didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.

The decorations, it turns out, were props for an as-yet untitled Nora Ephron movie that began shooting along the oceanfront in mid-April. The comedy, which stars Steve Martin, Rob Reiner and Juliette Lewis, takes place on Christmas Eve at a suicide prevention hot line in Venice, publicist Betsy Sokolow said.

But extras, leave your Santa suits at home. The shooting wrapped last week and the garlands and wreaths have been removed. Watch for the movie to open around Thanksgiving.

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CAMPAIGN FOLLIES: Ever notice that there's an inverse relationship between the number of new initiatives a politician sponsors and the number of days till the next election?

We were reminded of this again this week, when West Hollywood Councilman Paul Koretz faxed a "media alert" concerning his latest proposal, a neighborhood patrol program for West Hollywood with citizen volunteers.

Koretz's fax machine seems to have been overheating ever since the Democrat found himself in a crowded race for a seat in the state Assembly representing the 42nd District. Among his proposals this year: new gun-control ordinances and a measure that would make West Hollywood the first city in the country to require all new buildings to be equipped with outlets for recharging electric cars.

Alas, the latest proposal is not quite original. Nancy Greenstein, West Hollywood public safety administrator, said a proposed community watch project fell into limbo earlier this year because of residents' apathy.

Koretz said the program, if implemented, could help combat hate crimes against the gay and lesbian community and could be modeled on a successful program in San Diego.

The primary is June 7.

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