For all the hand-wringing about American Idol flunker William Hung perpetuating Asian stereotypes and being exploited, the bottom line is that the dude is getting paid. But Oakland's Bubb Rubb didn't even get a dime for his fifteen minutes of fame.
Maybe you don't remember Mr. Rubb, real name Lynell Griffin, or his catchphrase, "Woo-woo." But for a while, the woo-woo was everywhere. Bubb's insta-fame was just as spontaneous and unlikely as Hung's. It all started about a year ago when KRON-TV did a news story on the controversy in Oakland over so-called whistle-tips, noisy car accessories popular with the young hoodlum community that have since been outlawed. KRON's reporter went to an auto shop and bumped into two very stoned-looking locals having a whistle-tip installed on their hoopty. The screen graphic identified the man wearing a Raiders headband and jersey only as "Bubb Rubb" and his companion as "Lil' Sis." When the reporter asked what the devices sounded like, Bubb explained, "What, you wanna woo-woo? It's that woo-woo, y'know what I'm sayin'?" Bubb and Lil' Sis then demonstrated the whistle-tip, peeling out of the garage in their car and flying through a stop sign, almost hitting parked vehicles. You kinda have to see and hear it to get it. Woo-woo!
Radio stations played remixes sampling Bubb's woo-woo. He was profiled in the Oakland Tribune. Web sites dedicated to him boasted ten thousand hits a day. One fan site, BubbRubb.com, sold -- and still sells -- merchandise including the Bubb Rubb mousepad and the Bubb Rubb thong. The proprietors of the site came from out of state to Oakland to film an interview with Bubb, which resulted in the $13 Chillin' at the Mansion DVD.
But the woo-woo came and went faster than you can say "She bangs." The thirty-year-old Oakland resident says he made bubkes off all the merchandise. "All that with my face on it and I get nothin'," Bubb complains, adding that he was "gonna do some suin'" but never got around to it.
So what is Bubb Rubb up to now? He says a producer pal of his helped him record a Whistle-Tip rap. As his many fans could have predicted, he has had run-ins with the law over the past year. Last July, court records show, Bubb was arrested in West Oakland along with some friends after cops pulled them over and found five cough-syrup bottles with codeine -- what the youngsters sometimes call "Robo" -- and a suspicious amount of cash. According to the police report, the female driver caught patrollers' attention when she suddenly started the car and peeled out. "As it started moving," the report noted dryly, "the tires spun, losing traction with the ground."
Oakland has its own horndog-by-reputation in Jacques Barzaghi, Mayor Jerry Brown's personal ego-fluffer. But what in the name of Jacques is going on in the East Contra Costa port of Pittsburg, a suburb one-seventh the size of Oakland? Earlier this month, a former Pittsburg City Hall employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit accusing department heads and police brass of behavior so churlish it could be retold in all its lewd detail only on cable -- or in this column.
Erin Janes went to work full-time for the city of Pittsburg as an administrative analyst in December 2001 at age 22 after graduating from Saint Mary's College. Soon thereafter, her suit claims, she began getting unwanted attention from older men in the office. Janes alleges, for instance, that police Commander William R. Hendricks whispered "I want to fuck you" in her ear. She also claims that redevelopment chief Garrett Evans pressured her to go out with him and his buddy, who supposedly ended up coming on to her all night and trying to get her to take "illegal drugs." She accuses then-Finance Director James Holmes -- now the city's elected treasurer -- of putting his arm around her and fondling her right breast at an after-work cocktail party in August 2002. Finally, she claims, at a funeral last April for a slain police officer, Recreation Director Paul Flores asked if Janes was cold; she said yes. According to the suit, he then opened his jacket and pulled her next to him from behind so she "could feel Flores' erect penis." She claimed she never reported the funeral incident because her co-workers had called her a "troublemaker" and a "gold digger" after she'd complained about Hendricks.
Sure, it sounds crazy. But there is some corroboration at least for Janes' complaints about Hendricks. In November 2002, court papers say, Assistant City Attorney Carol Victor launched a sexual harassment investigation of Hendricks after she saw him touching Janes in a way she considered inappropriate. Hendricks, a 27-year veteran of the police department, was forced into retirement.
In his own counterclaim against the city, Hendricks said he had known Janes' father for 25 years and that she often came to him for advice on "very personal issues." As for the event that triggered the harassment investigation, he insisted he was merely playacting, as if he was going to handcuff Janes as a joke. He said she was laughing and didn't seem offended.
Feeder attempted to reach the involved parties for comment, but as of deadline, no one was breathing (or heavy-breathing) a word about the lawsuit.
The Other Examiner
The San Francisco Examiner may be de-Fanged, but family matriarch Florence Fang still has a personal interest in the Ex. The Contra Costa Examiner, that is. The upstart tabloid-format daily with a modest 25,000 circulation is scheduled to hit the racks in cities along the I-680 corridor this week.
The new paper has no ties to the other Examiner, which Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz bought from the Fangs in February. The CoCo Ex is the product of John Foley, the crusading former editor of the Martinez News-Gazette, a community newspaper in Joe DiMaggio's hometown that he took over in 2002.
Foley says the new Examiner's roots go back eight months, when two local investors -- whom he declined to name -- approached him with the idea of starting a paper. Foley says he and his backers initially worked out a deal to be affiliated with the Fang-owned San Francisco Examiner, but that unraveled when the Fangs sold the daily, he says. Foley remained at the News-Gazette until as recently as three weeks ago. He was canned shortly after he wrote a sarcastic editorial in which he said that the publisher threatened to shoot him if he didn't redesign the paper to look like the Benicia Herald, which Foley obviously didn't find aesthetically pleasing.
So is there any chance Ms. Fang could fire him for not making the new Examiner look like The San Francisco Independent? Nope, says Foley, the new paper's publisher and managing editor. Fang is only a "very minor stockholder," he says. "And I don't think she'd threaten to shoot me."
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