Troubles Come to a Head as Whale Washes Ashore

A WHALE'S TALE: John Heyning, a marine biologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, had his hands full trying to remove the head from a dead humpback whale that washed up at Venice Beach over the weekend.

Scientists intend to study the head for clues about the feeding habits and evolution of the humpbacks, an endangered species.

But Heyning was kept busy with another bizarre life form--boardwalk denizens eager to find out what the fuss was all about. Throughout the day, passersby strolled down to the water's edge and ventured past the yellow police tape for a closer look at the dead cetacean.

Some even got into the act.

One scraggly bearded man, dressed in an overcoat despite the warm weather, introduced himself as a member of the beach patrol and warned that the beached leviathan might "still have two or three creatures inside." (According to police, the man is a boardwalk regular and has nothing to do with the beach patrol.)

"We've had some really interesting characters out here today," Heyning said, shaking his head.

Meanwhile, the Navy acknowledged that one of its destroyers may have rammed the whale. Lt. Cmdr. Frank Thorp said sailors on the USS Callaghan felt a thud and spotted blood in the water and a shape that appeared to be a whale as the ship entered Long Beach Harbor on the afternoon of Feb. 27.

"We're out there with whales a lot," Tharp said. "When ships are operating out there with wildlife, it's unfortunate, but these things can happen."


ROLL 'EM: The bomb squad doesn't only go after suspicious suitcases. How about a suspicious rock? A 300-ton rock, at that.

The huge boulder, big as a pickup truck, rolled free Monday as part of a landslide that dropped a 100-ton cousin smack in the middle of Malibu Canyon Road.

The bigger rock is still poised on a hillside 100 feet up, but experts say it may roll again at any time and it's got to go before the two-lane blacktop can be cleared.

Los Angeles County Public Works officials are working with the sheriff's bomb squad to ready the road for a big rock-clearing bang, which could rip holes in the asphalt below. Public works officials said they are also worried about protecting nearby electrical wires.


I F ONLY DOGS COULD TALK: A foot-square rendition of Judge Lance A. Ito's courtroom is drawing packs of visitors to the Carole and Barry Kaye Museum of Miniature Exhibits on the Miracle Mile. Everything is there, from minute glasses of water on the counsel table to teensy-weensy copies of Ito's hourglasses and coffee cup, not to mention Marcia Clark in a miniskirt.

And who's on the stand? Why Kato, of course, and we don't mean Brian (Kato) Kaelin, the world's most famous house guest. Instead, the featured witness in doll maker Glenda Hooker's mordant fantasy is none other than Kaelin's furry namesake, Kato the Akita.


MORE O. J: A visit to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, that well-known indicator of popular sentiment, shows that the trial of the millennium has not lost its appeal. Wait--weren't O. J T-shirts already marked down 40%?

Yes, but new entrepreneurs are trying to cash in every day. The latest effort is "The Zoodicial System," an audacious rendering of the courtroom in the style of Grandma Moses, with the jury depicted as well-dressed members of several animal species.

The central figure, a well-known Brentwood resident now staying Downtown at county expense, is shown with ball and chain.

Purchasers may choose among four variants of the poster, each one featuring a different member of the "Dream Team" lineup of defense attorneys. Cost? $14.99 each, or get 'em all for $50.

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