TUESDAY, JANUARY 8
The returns are in from the New Hampshire primary—on the Democrat side, it’s 39 percent for Hillary Rodham Clinton and 36 percent for Barack Obama; on the Republican side, it’s 37 percent for John McCain—and these tallies pose a question: Can a middle-aged white guy still get elected president in this country?
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9
Terrence Fancher, the guy who oversees finances at Hollywood Park, says he may decide to tear down the famous old horseracing track in Inglewood if voters pass the Indian-gaming propositions—Nos. 94, 95, 96 and 97—that will allow certain Inland Empire tribal casinos to increase the numbers of their slot machines from 8,000 to 25,000. Fancher has been trying for years to get racetracks the right to have slots, and along with the proliferation of other forms of legalized gambling, he says increasing the number of Indian casino slots is going to kill his business. Instead, he says he’ll just put mixed-use development projects where the 70-year-old racetrack now stands. I get kind of sensitive when it comes to demolishing Southern California icons, but you know what? Go ahead. To me, Hollywood Park is less a landmark than a skid mark. Besides, horse racing is cruel—and not only to the horses. That place has a lot of my money.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 10
A jury in Riverside County Superior Court returns a guilty verdict—actually, hundreds of them—against Daniel W. Heath, 51, and two co-defendents in a $190 million investment fraud trial on charges that included selling false securities, selling securities without a license, grand theft and theft from the elderly. It’s been nearly four years since the offices of D.W. Heath & Associates—including one in Hemet—were shut down by a federal court. The trial finally began in August and lasted three months. The jury deliberated for another month. Through it all, Heath’s investors have had to delay retirement, or work longer than planned or even live with friends or relatives because they’d lost their homes. Is it finally OK to call the guy a fuckin’ crook-bastard-scumbag?
FRIDAY, JANUARY 11
Back in court with Heath & Crookery, where a day of reading even more verdicts against Daniel W. Heath finally concludes with this tally: 400 guilty, 1 not guilty. The only count for which he is off the hook is one in which jurors decided one defendant is not old enough to be considered a victim of theft from the elderly. Speaking of old people, Heath’s octogenarian dad got nailed on 52 more counts. Another associate, Dennis T. O’Brien, received still another 70 guilty verdicts. The whole lot of them will be sentenced over the next few months—O’Brien’s date is Feb. 29 . . . Happy Leap Year!—and Daniel Heath is facing up to 117 years in prison. And as much as his victims might like to kill him, in the long run that’s really going to be a lot sweeter.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 12
Is there anything better than spending the day gardening while listening to radio broadcasts of NFL playoff games? Of course there is. But not today.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 14
The field is announced for the 49th Bob Hope Chrysler Classic Hosted by George Lopez—really, that’s the tournament’s official name—which will be played this week around Palm Springs. All you really need to know is that the list of professionals doesn’t include Tiger Woods. Too bad. On the bright side, the list of celebrities doesn’t include Bob Hope.
MONDAY, JANUARY 14
Palm Desert’s 1,127-seat McCallum Theater is packed—it’s been sold-out for a week—for tonight’s show by the New Christy Minstrels, who robustly strum and sing and grin their way through a special brand of what-the-fuck folk that for four decades has been paying tribute to a kind of music that never really existed. That’s not to say the evening isn’t full of toe-tappin’, hand-clappin’, sing-along happiness. I am saying this whole genre of polished-shiny odes to ever-ramblin’ and always-roughhousin’ Americana—with the occasional ever-drinkin’ Ireland-icana tossed in—is a very guilty pleasure. Fortunately, that’s my favorite kind. On the other hand, what’s with the name? New Christy Minstrels? This has been bugging me since I first saw the group, while I was a-ramblin’ and a-roughhousin’ with my brothers in front of the living-room TV while they were a-tappin’ and a-clappin’ on The Andy Williams Show in the 1960s. I check it out and discover they named themselves after Christy’s Minstrels, an enormously popular 19th-century blackface minstrel group founded by Edwin Pearce Christy. See, now that just makes me feel guilty, no pleasure whatsoever . . . well, except maybe for the part about how Christy got despondent when he figured that the Civil War might screw up his racial mockery act and killed himself in 1862 by jumping out a window.