Saturday, June 24, 2006

My first assignment: Make 'Em Laugh

I've sought sanctuary in L.A. this weekend to escape Phoenix's 113-degree heat. My good friend from college and old roommate, Sunanda, was kind enough to host me. I'll also get to see her parents who plan to serve me a dish they've dubbed "Terry's chicken." In a funny coincidence, when I arrived, I met Sunanda's friend, Terry Pang. Spooky! But in her case, Terry is short for Puhterry. I soooo wish I were kidding, but I'm not. And if anyone tries to call me that, I will have to hurt you.

So, shortly after my last entry, where I said it was a sloooow week and nothing was going on, that's usually when the tide, of course, turns a bit.

Warning: the following paragraph gets a bit gory. This job may be the only one I ever have where my boss asks me if I want to look at body parts. Thursday afternoon, I hear my boss, Ed, ask the news desk supervisor if he wants to look at a picture but alerts him that it's pretty graphic. Then Ed said "You can look at it too if you want, Terry. It's a picture of heads." For a second, I wasn't sure what he meant. Could be heads of lettuce, ya know? Then I can hear the two men in Ed's office. Basically, a few days ago, three Mexican police officers and a civilian were ambushed in some area outside of Tijuana and beaten and decapitated. The AP San Diego bureau was covering it and thought that one of the dead men was from Phoenix. So, the photographer sent Ed a picture and the e-mail subject line was something like "Picture of four heads -- gruesome!!!!" I went back and forth about whether to go look. Then our head I.T. guy went to look at it. Finally, the Pandora in me went to look. It was pretty disturbing, all four were on a table . And a card with a number was next to each one. This isn't as callous as it sounds but Ed said "It's like a line-up." It's really terrible that there are barbaric people out there who could do that. I, surprisingly, did not have nightmares that night.

Now, you're probably wondering why the title of my post is "make 'em laugh." Well, a real story assignment fell into my lap. This woman had been calling me off and on about how the family of Donald O'Connor (if you have not seen this man sing and dance the number "Make 'Em Laugh" in Singing In the Rain opposite Gene Kelly, then shame on you!) will be selling off items in his estate. She sent me a fax on Thursday. Donald lived in Sedona for about nine years, up until his health declined -- he died in September 2003. A co-worker and I were talking about how much we would love to go this sale -- I mean it's essentially a celebrity garage sale. Ed heard us and told me to look into doing a story on it. So, yesterday, I interviewed Donald's widow and daughter over the phone. And then I tracked down this guy who owns an auction house in L.A. to talk about if this kind of sale is rare and what determines a celeb item's worth. We had such a nice chat, that he invited me to come tour his auction house whenever I'm in L.A. He said it's like a celebrity museum. He deals with a lot of funny stuff ; they just sold off a belt Elvis wore in a Hawaii concert for $66,000 and William Shatner's kidney stone went for $25,000. The things trekkies buy!

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