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Priceless Prizes for Some of the Dubious Newsmakers of ’94

Robin Abcarian's column is published Wednesdays and Sundays

H appy New Year, here’s mud in your eye, have a couple of aspirin with that screwdriver and welcome to the first You’ve Got to Be Joking Awards, commemorating some of the loonier gender-specific news events of 1994. We only hope that 1995 brings such a bounty of absurdity. And the winners are:

Washington State Trooper Lane W. Jackstadt. Last July, when Jackstadt, 34, stopped Deanna Thomas, 18, and Justin Cooper, 20, for speeding, the couple explained that they were rushing to an abortion appointment. The trooper told the pair that he was a devout Christian, gave them a stern lecture about the evils of abortion and, according to court documents, told them “he would see what he could do about taking care of the speeding ticket if they would agree to come with him to meet with people from his church.” Two weeks ago, Jackstadt was charged with unlawful imprisonment and official misconduct. We send our prayers for a speedy trial. Prize: a lesson on the separation of church and state.

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The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Tysons Corner, Va., and Total Audio Visual Services Inc. (TAVS) of Atlanta. Last March, Licia Joy Galinsky, a TAVS employee based at the Ritz-Carlton, was fired for sporting a mustache. And her boss said he was fired for defending her. After they filed federal sex discrimination complaints--and the case hit the media--they were reinstated. “I am proud of my mustache,” said Galinsky, who may be taking the culture’s current emphasis on self-esteem just a little too far. “We are profoundly sorry this incident ever happened,” said hotel general manager Larry Sternberg. We bet. Prize: a sense of proportion and a case of mustache wax.

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State Farm Insurance Officials. Last spring, the insurance giant disclosed that it denies life, health and mortgage disability insurance to battered women . . . for their own protection. “There is some fear that if the beneficiary is the batterer, we would be providing a financial incentive . . . for him to kill her,” said a State Farm representative. “We don’t want to do that.” Weeks later, after a flood of bad publicity, State Farm reversed its policy. “We’re just not the kind of company that wants to make victims out of victims,” the representative said. Especially when the press is watching. Prize: a delicious meal of crow and a bottle of antacid.

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The Men of Spain. This fall, Spain’s Social Affairs Ministry in Madrid unveiled a publicity campaign to persuade, as one report put it, “the usually macho and inherently recalcitrant Spanish male” to do more work around the home. “Don’t just talk,” urged the television ads, “a home is a shared responsibility.” We can just imagine how the usually macho and inherently recalcitrant Spanish male responded: “We don’t just talk, sometimes we slap them around too.” Prize: copies of “The Feminine Mystique.”

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IRS Special Trial Judge Joan Seitz. Last April in Washington, Seitz ruled that exotic dancer Chesty Love’s implants, giving her a whopping 56FF bust line, could be written off as a business expense, since they were only for the purpose of making money. At 10 pounds each, the breasts are so large and cumbersome, the judge found, that no personal benefit could be derived from them: “They were so large that they ruined her personal appearance, her health, and imposed severe stress on her personal and family relationships.” Prize: a Wonderbra and some common sense.

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California State Senators. After killing the measure twice, the Senate finally approved a law that bars employers from prohibiting women employees from wearing pants to work. Now if they could only legislate polyester and blue eye shadow out of existence. . . . Prize: calendars on CD-ROM, to remind them that this is the 1990s, not the 1890s.

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The oversight committee of Santa Clarita’s Placerita Baptist Church. Last September, the all-male committee gave notice to the operators of the church’s day-care center that they would have to find new quarters, because according to the Bible, children should be reared at home. Church officials said they were not singling out mothers, but that “biblically, we believe in male leadership and male authority over the family.” One mother said her child attended day care at the church because she was putting her husband through law school. “What was I supposed to do? Say, ‘No, I’m going to stay home because that’s my responsibility?’ That probably would have led to a divorce.” Prize: new hearts, because their old ones aren’t working so well, and subscriptions to Working Mother magazine.

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Mary Stratford, the principal of a Roman Catholic school in Cincinnati. In April, on Take Our Daughters to Work Day, Stratford refused to allow one little girl to stay home with her mother, a homemaker and mother of six who wanted to teach her child about tending a large family. “The principal . . . stated to my wife that being a housewife is not an occupation,” the woman’s husband said. Stratford later changed her mind. Prize: a dinner date with the oversight committee of the Placerita Baptist Church.

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Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Cahill. Cahill sentenced Kenneth Peacock, 36, to 18 months in jail for killing his wife, Sandra, hours after finding her in bed with another man last February. Cahill did not want to sentence Peacock to any time at all, but did so, he said, “to make the system honest.” Said the judge: “I seriously wonder how many men . . . would have the strength to walk away without inflicting some corporal punishment.” Yes, and we wonder what possible incentive they now have for doing just that. Prize: a roadside lecture by Washington State Trooper Jackstadt on the judicial application of the Old Testament phrase “an eye for an eye.”

Abcarian On-Line

* Missed one of Robin Abcarian’s columns? There’s always a collection of recent ones available through TimesLink, the on-line service of the Los Angeles Times. Sign on and “jump” to keyword “Abcarian.”

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