CHP Chief Serves Rocky Stint on Front Lines

Times Staff Writer

You figure a guy nicknamed “Spike” is never going to be completely happy being out of the action. And CHP Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick often complains that he misses the roar of the asphalt and smell of the exhaust, and is always looking for a chance to leap out of his civvies into uniform.

The other day, 57-year-old Helmick joined about 500 CHP officers on riot-control duty in Sacramento, where the world’s agriculture ministers were meeting on matters of food production, including controversial genetically modified eatables.

At one point, as cops tried to make arrests, and protesters outflanked them, Helmick got knocked to the ground.

Yeah, he did go down, Helmick admits, but because “I lost my footing on wet grass.” What isn’t in question is that he got doused with an anarchist’s salad dressing cocktail of battery acid and vinegar. The Spikester has the burns and blisters to prove it.


Helmick, who was a rookie 34 years ago, before some of his underlings were born, says he went “because I wanted to be there. I was proud of my guys. They worked 12 and 14 hours straight with people shouting and cursing at them and throwing things.” He got his share of razzberries too: “They laughed at me. They think I’m too old for this stuff.”

L.A./O.C. Airport Feud Takes Off

Toro! Toro! Toro! No longer just the cadence-count for the precision lawnmower team in Pasadena’s Doo-Dah Parade, but the new battle cry between the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles and a Democratic mayor in Orange County.

It’s resuscitating some of the same imperialistic furies that provoked Orange County into seceding from Los Angeles County in 1889.


L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn first revved the engine with the suggestion of relieving the region’s crowded skies -- including L.A.'s -- by building a commercial airport at the Marine base in Irvine formerly known as El Toro, the very thing Orange County voters said they did NOT want the place to become.

Irvine’s mayor, Larry Agran, scolded Hahn in a letter last week for promoting a “secret” plan without tipping off the Orange County politicos most closely concerned. “We are not,” he fairly sputtered, “a land-use colony to be exploited by Los Angeles.”

On KFWB radio’s “Ask the Mayor” program, Hahn sounded breezily dismissive of Orange Countians who would thwart an El Toro airport, all but characterizing them as unpatriotic and narrow in thought. “It’s a national asset. It just doesn’t belong to the people of Orange County. It belongs to the people of the United States of America, and I think it would be a shame to throw that away,” Hahn said.

Quackenbushes Draw Attention in Hawaii

Hawaii’s Republican governor has eased quarantine laws for traveling cats and dogs, reducing from a month to five days or fewer the time animals must spend in the pet slammer before entering paradise.

One crusader for this change -- and guest at the governor’s election victory party last year -- was Chris Quackenbush, whose husband, Chuck, resigned as California insurance commissioner in a jump-or-be-pushed scandal that boded impeachment and criminal charges.

The Quackenbushes have drawn attention in their new island home not only for her work on the quarantine but also about a possible Republican role for him in the Democratic-dominated state. The Honolulu Advertiser editorialized about them as the kind of malihini newcomers “who have fallen in love with Hawaii and want to improve it by making it more like where they came from.” The difference, it pointed out, is the “respectful, collaborative approach” in Hawaii, and the “ ‘take no prisoners’ style so prevalent these days on the mainland.”

What’s ‘Punching Bag’ in French?


Franco-American relations have been strained since some nut case decided to name a brand of canned noodles “Franco American spaghetti.” It must have stung when California passed La Belle France as an economic power, and then there’s that business about the war in Iraq that sent tourism and French wine sales plummeting.

Now Carl’s Jr. has just wrapped up its 2 1/2-week TV ad campaign in San Diego, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Fresno and Sacramento.

The screen fills and the voice intones, “Waterloo -- the French surrender ... the Franco-Prussian War -- the French surrender ... World War II -- the French surrender.” Then the image of the chain’s new, larger chicken-breast sandwich appears. “Don’t be a big chicken,” the announcer says. “Eat one.”

Spokeswoman Caroline Leakan says the response to the ad from viewers has been “pretty mixed” -- in other words, comme ci, comme ca.

Points Taken

* People you never expected to see in the same news release: Angelina Jolie and Dianne Feinstein. Both called on the U.S. Senate to approve legislation reforming treatment for unaccompanied alien minors, including refugee children, in federal immigration custody. Feinstein is California’s senior senator, Jolie the actress who is goodwill ambassador for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

* Corn dog time approaches in Orange County, which means another fight among Republicans over who still holds appointments by a Democratic governor to those very juicy seats on the county fair board. Last year, Gray Davis pulled the plug on former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle’s board seat, but let him stay until the fair was over. Pete Wilson’s appointee Emily Stanford won her battle to keep her spot, so 80-year-old Orange County Democratic godfather Richard O’Neill takes the place of the late and beloved GOP lobbyist Randy Smith. Davis has tilted the board from GOP to Democratic, which one fan predicted would mean “better rock ‘n’ roll bands.” On this year’s lineup: Steely Dan.

* On C-SPAN, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was telling Chicago Democrats associated with Jesse Jackson all about how he’d traveled 2,000 miles on Californians’ behalf to acknowledge Jackson’s life’s work. Jackson, accepting with thanks, added, “I only wish you’d given it to me before you went bankrupt.”


* Former Assembly Speaker and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle has been named to the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission. The gamblers express would run from Anaheim to Las Vegas in 86 minutes, at speeds of up to 300 mph. No word whether Bill “Book of Virtues” Bennett, a freewheeling gambler, will be invited to cut the ribbon.

* Reform Partyer and former Laguna Niguel City Councilman Eddie Rose is running for Orange County Board of Supervisors, and has issued a long list of who isn’t supporting him, including Ozzy Osbourne, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, unindicted billionaire Kenneth Lay, indicted billionaire Martha Stewart and Irvine Co. billionaire Donald Bren.

You Can Quote Me

“This is hotter than Harry Potter.... All the Democrats are bugging me for them.”

Allowing for enthusiastic hyperbole, and the fact that in Sacramento in the summer ANYTHING is hotter than Harry Potter, Bakersfield Republican Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy crows about the bipartisan popularity of souvenir T-shirts from the GOP’s answer to the Democrats’ two-day “Save California” tour -- its black, white and red T-shirts mocking the “Democrats Tax & Spend Tour, Summer 2003.”


Patt Morrison’s columns appear Mondays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is This week’s contributors include Carl Ingram, Patrick McGreevy, Jean O. Pasco and Nancy Vogel.