Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Poor Bella, caught in the jaws of justice

Register columnist

Saar_1She totally didn't do it.

There is no way that the defendant in the latest trial of the century is any way guilty. I'm not just saying that because she's a well-heeled hipster. I happen to think most celebrities who take the stand are guilty as all get-out - I mean, you went back to the restaurant to get your gunbut you didn't do it? C'mon!

The celebrity in question in this case simply couldn't have done it. Wouldn't have. She's too mild-mannered. Too good-natured. Too waggly-wonderfully furry.

Bella, the 7-year-old border collie mix with the adoring doggy smile, is the latest defendant to fall into the salivating maw of a media all too eager to sink its bared teeth into a juicy story.

It is not enough that Bella's name has been besmirched in the L.A. County Court system; now she has to suffer her whole sordid story being told in print by everyone from well, OK, I'm the only reporter writing about it, but you get the point: Not even a sweet border collie mix can escape the celebrity-trial machine.

I have never shared a bed with Bella, but had I, she wouldn't have laid a paw on me. Nor could she have possibly injured the woman who filed a six-figure lawsuit against poor Bella on allegation of severe ankle biting.

Yes. Six figures.

The story goes something like this: A professional celebrity dog-walker strolled two Weimaraners past the Hollywood Hills home of dear, old Bella. Bella's human, Keith - one of the greatest men on the planet - was not home at the time, and the housekeeper was taking the girl for a walk. According to the lawsuit, Bella, "without provocation or reason," "viciously and savagely" gave Dog Walker's ankle a good crunch, causing the kind of damage that will require plastic surgery and, apparently, a decade's worth of dog-walking fees to ameliorate.

We're supposed to ignore the fact that Bella's covered under homeowners' insurance and therefore has some deep doggy pockets from which to pick. Dog Walker refused a settlement offer and has decided to take this thing to trial, even if that means hiring a doggy behaviorist to evaluate Bella's personality and - I'm not making this up - subpoenaing the Weimaraners to determine whether their jaws better match the wounds on her ankle.

"This is dog-biting 'CSI,' " said Bella's barrister, Laguna Beach attorney Thomas Quinn.

"I've had people transported from the men's colony in San Luis Obispo to appear for trial, but I've never had to look into subpoenaing somebody's dog," Quinn said. "When you take the totality of the circumstances surrounding this case, it's a little goofy."

Goofy? Bella has an attorney. No kidding it's goofy.

Not only that, but Bella has a character witness list two pages long that includes actors, the bartenders at Birds, Hollywood moguls and, if needed, my dog, Sketch. Sketch, who has been known to cavort and snuggle with Bella, refused comment for this column because she doesn't speak to the press. (Actually, she doesn't speak at all. But she can flop her ears in front of her eyes in a way that would make your heart melt. And that should be good enough for any jury.)

I know Michael Whatshisname and Phil Spectowhatever will likely dominate the news for a few more months. But next spring, when Bella's trial is set to start, the media will be looking for a new celebrity nose to rub in the stink.

When it invariably turns on poor Bella, just keep in mind that the sweet fuzz ball has never shoplifted, killed a spouse or participated in insider trading. I don't want to see her mug on "E! True Hollywood Stories."

I just hope that once this winds its way through the justice system and through the court of public opinion, Bella will no longer have to measure her every bark. She will be free to beg at a table without being construed as manipulative. She'll be able to bite the fleas on her bum without someone arching a brow.

She'll have her life back. She'll have her good name restored. And like every defendant who licks her privates in public, she'll have her dignity.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Coming clean about loathing baby showers

Register columnist

Saar_2Imagine you get an invitation in the mail that reads:

join a group of people you only kinda know for three excruciating hours
of finger food and small talk. Feign a smile as a woman you work with
eats melted chocolate out of a baby diaper! Other games include:
Peppering fertility-challenged women with insensitive questions!
Indulging the bug-eyed lady who insists on showing you her C-section
scar! Pretending to care as someone you spent too much money on opens
presents that she chose herself and basically made you buy! RSVP by May 19."

showers are weird. There's no getting around that. There is nothing
normal about sitting in a circle, passing around the pajamas of someone
you haven't yet met and cooing.

So I let everyone know early in my pregnancy that I don't want a baby shower.

You would have thought I told them that I plan to become a mermaid and raise my child to speak fluent flounder.

"What do you mean you don't want a baby shower?" every woman in my life has asked.

I want to answer: "Well, I mean that I - the person standing here in front of you talking- feel a lack of desire for - meaning a wish to avoid- a baby shower - which is a type of party that, if I'm not mistaken, you nearly always complain about having to go to."

I blame my superstitious Jewish heritage, in which we don't celebrate
anything that hasn't happened yet because, as a friend of a friend of
mine put it, we really are a gloomy people.

It's customary in
Jewish tradition to forgo baby showers, with all their
you're-just-asking-for-trouble anticipation. We have much more sane
baby-related gatherings. Like a bris, in which we invite our family to
nosh on chopped liver while a hairy man circumcises our sons. (OK.
Maybe I'll have to drop that argument.)

The truth is, there are
plenty of Jews who have baby showers. I just don't want to be one of
them because: 1. A large part of me is legitimately superstitious; 2.
Baby showers suck; and 3. Baby gear is creepy.

I know I'm
supposed to outfit my house with Binkies and Boppies and Lord-knows
what-elsies. But try spending an hour at Babies 'R' Us and tell me you
don't break out in a cold sweat. Maybe I saw "Rosemary's Baby" at too
young an age, but baby strollers seem to portend evil. Mobiles are like
little circular horror movies complete with their own soundtracks. And
highchairs look like they could come alive in the night and kill your

Hubby and I have long wanted a baby. But neither of us really wants baby stuff.

know we're being unrealistic. Babies need stuff. They need a place to
sleep, clothes to wear, colorful dangly things to activate their

We get it. We are excited to provide it. We just
don't want to get it all before there's a baby around to employ any of
it. We don't want it to sit in our house with its maniacal
cheerfulness, like a porcelain clown doll calling out to us from
another room, "I want to play a game. If you don't play with me, I will
make up my own game."

Now, the pop psychologists out there will
likely write me all kinds of letters saying I'm simply projecting my
anxiety about impending motherhood on inanimate objects. Maybe they're
right. But I ask you to consider, just consider, the possibility that
I'm right. That baby fetishizing smacks of foreboding, baby showers are
interminable and baby stuff is eerie. I mean, even women who don't much
like me have offered to throw me showers. That right there tells me
there's an element of sadism in these things.

Sit with that for
a little bit. Contemplate it. Let it gestate. If you still think I'm
wrong, gift-wrap some onesies, break out the Huggies and pop that
Snickers in the microwave. Just don't expect me to show up to the party.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Facing a future without the Force


Register columnist

Saar_3Just a few precious years ago, our posse gathered at the Big
Newport to see "The Phantom Menace." We were giddy. Darth Maul showed
up with beach balls. Obi Wan stood in line with Storm Troopers. We
didn't camp. We didn't dress up. But we were jazzed that other people

Now, six years later, no one wants to see the new "Star
Wars" film with us. Steve moved to New York. Rick swore he wouldn't go
even if he were in town, which he won't be. Chris and Jean are not into
it. Brill and Eric didn't even return my call. And Lisa B declared that
George Lucas owes her restitution. 

Husband is deeply saddened
by what he sees as a serious crack in his sense of self. See, Hubby has
this theory. This theory of a collective unconsciousness defined by
media. Stuff every 30-something read or visually ingested, according to
The Theory, shaped us into a national family the way wars shaped - and
are shaping - the generations around us. 

But something's
happened to that family, something to make us question ourselves and
our world of commercial slogans and sitcom theme songs. That something
is George Lucas.

He makes bad films. And it's not just his
films. A man who introduces Jar-Jar Binks to the world is not a good
man. I know I'm going to sound like a flag-burner to my contemporaries,
but Garanimals killed creativity, "Silver Spoons" blew, the Snoopy
SnoCone Machine never worked right, and George Lucas has destroyed our

How else to explain this phenomenon? Our geek posse has
been together for every Big Geek Movie Event since the re-release of
"Star Wars, Episode IV." We cheered and whooped at Mann's Chinese one
night and then drove to meet friends from across the country at a
theater in Vegas the next. We were there for the opening nights of the
last two "Matrix" films. We got fantastic seats for the first showings
of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy at the ArcLight.

This is
religion to Hubby. I walked down the aisle to the "Star Wars" theme.
The sounds of Jawas and Jabba still punctuate our speech like cleansing
mantras. But the church is in shambles. And it's George's fault.

"I couldn't be less interested," Rick said.


"Remember the last two movies?"


"That's why."

browbeat Leslie into going, appealing to the USO gal she must have been
in a past life: "Do it for the greater good of the group."

and JR are going for the same reason. Same with Jeff and Heather.
Kevin's going, but I think that's only because we promised that after
the movie, we'd all get pie.

Lisa B, however, remains unmoved. 

'Star Wars' kinda ruined the joy of the geek posse for me," she IM'd.
"I want to walk out and be like, 'HOLYCOWOHMYGOD! YOU KNOW THAT PART
PART!!!!' "

"Yeah, but"

"So when you walk out and go, 'Oh well, at least there's pie,' that kinda sucks."

She's right, which does little to console Hubby.

is the last "Star Wars" film. That's it. The end of our glimmering,
shimmering, feathered-haired youth. There's no Second Chance. No "Star
Wars: Episode III 1/2: Attack of the Revenge of the Return of the Hope."

waking up to adulthood, eyes stinging, the dry sand of Tatooine in our
throats. There are people camped outside Mann's Chinese Theater out of
habit. The film isn't showing there. When we started getting into
R-rated movies, we had no idea we'd have to give up our PG dreams.

trying not to lose hope. Maybe the film will totally rock. Maybe it'll
restore our faith in Hubby's theory. Or maybe, just maybe, someone else
will come along to mine our collective unconscious for another gem. 

The other night, Hubby called me after a press screening of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

  "How was it?" 

"Awesome," he said. "You're gonna love it."