How time flies! This is my last column of 2010, and looking back I realize there were a few stories that got away or weren't able to be followed closely to their end point. Other stories have had some interesting developments that we just haven't been able to get in the paper. As the year closes, it's a good time to "catch you up" on some of these stories.
Fred Karger for President
In April, I wrote about gay activist Fred Karger, who fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to save the landmark gay bar, the Boom Boom Room, and to secure same-sex marriage rights in California. Setting his sights on the highest office in the land, Karger had decided to look into becoming the first openly gay man to run for U.S. president. I talked to him over lunch at the Cottage and at the time he was getting very excited about a trip to New Hampshire and the launch of this enterprise, which he termed "exploratory." At the time, he said he was encouraged to run for president (in 2012) because of all the support, monetary and otherwise, from his Californians Against Hate campaign, which has taken on the Mormon Church's efforts to overturn same-sex marriage rights in states where it exists, and provided much of the funding for Proposition 8, which took away same-sex marriage rights in 2009.
Update: Karger is still running, and just last month released his "first" Iowa commercial and announced his fifth trip to that state. Here's what he said about his progress: "I made huge strides this year, since I began testing the waters the end of February. I visited New Hampshire 10 times and Iowa 5! Have spoke to thousands of people at candidate forms and at colleges throughout the U.S. Have made the first two commercials of any possible 2012 candidates for president (which have been very well received). I have hosted Meet and Greets all over New Hampshire and one in Iowa. I have hired a State Director in Iowa, Nathan Treloar, who was the communications director for the Iowa Republican Party during last Presidential elections in 2008 and two part time college coordinators in New Hampshire at U. of New Hampshire and Dartmouth." He's gotten coverage from CNN, the Sacramento Bee, CBS News, the New York Times, Fox News, and others. He has a full time research director and also a content management director for his web site, http://www.fredkarger.com. Go, Fred!
Michael Jason Wilson
Laguna Beach resident Wilson, 16, was arrested on suspicion of three counts of aggravated assault in an alleged stabbing incident involving several other minors on March 11. In an unusual move, Wilson is being tried as an adult in the case. The case involves an allegation that the suspect was bullied via Facebook.
Update: A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Jan. 18.
Damon Nicholson murder
This tragic incident happened in 2009 but the murder case against two Lake Forest men, Jacob Anthony Quintanilla and Matthew Thomas Dragna, has dragged on all year. Dragna and Quintanilla apparently met Nicholson, a longtime Hotel Laguna employee and a well-loved person in town, over the Internet. Nicholson was found bludgeoned to death on Oct. 23, 2009 after an apparent robbery at his home.
Update: The defendants, charged with murder, are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Jan. 13, according to the district attorney's website.
No story generated as many twists and turns as the one about the Halliburton House. My Feb. 19 column that mentioned the landmark Halliburton (aka "Hangover") House as a stop on a shoreline historical cruise contained the tidbit from local historian Eric Jessen that the legendary adventure writer Richard Halliburton was a relative of Erle Halliburton, who founded the oil services company we hear about in the news so much. This generated comments from folks who appeared to know what they were talking about when they said "no way" were the two Halliburtons related. It took a few months, but I finally heard a credible report from a Halliburton historian who said that Richard and Erle Halliburton were, indeed, from the same family, as Jessen reported. (No proof yet of my personal contention that the cliffhanger house itself, built in 1937 of poured-in-place concrete, was fabricated by the very Halliburton, or his employees, who pioneered the system of pouring concrete to stabilize oil wells. But I remain convinced of it.)
After the flurry of interest in the history of the house, and seeing it from afar, I toured it with real estate agent Paul Benec when it was put on the market for $5 million, and wrote about it in the March 5 edition. Among the fascinations of the home is that it has had one owner since Richard Halliburton went missing in the Pacific in 1939. It was purchased by the Scott family in 1942 for $9,000 and kept virtually intact, a veritable shrine to the once-renowned adventure writer. It even has in the living room the original cartoon drawings that apparently depict the hard-drinking Halliburton climbing tipsily up a rocky cliff to the house, and New Yorker covers from 1929 to 1936 line a bedroom closet. It is a time capsule.
This second "Halliburton" column elicited an e-mail from Robert Gibbons of Missouri, who wanted to know if anyone had found some Halliburton memorabilia he had lent the Laguna Beach Historical Society back in the 1980s, including Halliburton's boots and other personal items. It was Gibbons who cleared up the mystery about the Halliburton family, but the mystique of the house and the legendary writer who built it lives on. Still no word on the whereabouts of Halliburton's boots, however.
Update: According to Benec, some local history buffs are looking into cataloguing the house to record it for posterity, and it is still for sale, at a reduced price of $3.5 million. (It would be a real shame if this house were to be razed, but that is a possibility, of course.) If interested in the home, contact Benec at McMonigle Group, (949) 734-6217.
Happy holidays, and may 2011 mark a year of recovery from 2010!