The Last Picture Show: The Bal Theatre Finally Closes; Mayor Dean Wants to Run Again, Maybe 

County Superintendent of Schools says she feels threatened by board member Jerry Wiggins

Despite vehement protests from some area business owners and residents, the Hayward City Council voted last week to extend its redevelopment area to cover the length of its aging downtown. Mission and Foothill boulevards, which are currently used as an alternate route for north-south I-880 commuters, are lined with small hobby shops, trophy stores, and other relics of a bygone era. But quaint these days means decrepit, and the little stores just aren't going to cut it for Hayward anymore. The city is hoping to spruce up downtown to stay competitive. But residents quail at the thought of eminent domain, which means the city can forcibly buy their properties. Councilmember Bill Ward , who voted for the plan, understands their concern. "People are worried, and rightfully so," Ward says. "In many parts of the county, redevelopment has had a history of displacing people from houses and businesses that they have occupied for many years." But, he says, the city will go slowly and with plenty of community input. And in other redevelopment areas, Ward says, "we have successfully negotiated 95 percent of properties that the city has acquired. So probably there's a five percent or less chance that the city will acquire property through eminent domain, particularly residential property." No word on when the city will determine exactly what needs to be displaced. But this project, coupled with Caltrans' delayed Route 238 bypass--a freeway ramp to relieve commuter traffic through downtown--means that there could be a whole lot of displacing goin' on.

Weird things happen in the name of charity, but last Thursday night at the former M&M bar--the legendary San Francisco hangout of the Chronicle's formerly hard-drinking staff--has got to take the cake. It was a benefit for the Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer walk, and some of the prizes were, shall we say, unusual. The prize that drew a horde of hooting and hollering women (mostly) was a calendar titled "Men of the Chronicle" including a bare-chested shot of the uniquely proportioned Rob Morse . (The originals of the prints were snatched up by Morse's wife for a cool $1,200, and, as he commented in his column, are probably already on the Internet.) It being a newspaper, the whole bidding process was lubricated by a free beer vendor who did an outstanding job as barker, probably assisted by the fact both his parents were Methodist ministers. The pitch for the calendar with the hunky Chron men was, however, not very Methodist: "Specially coated for easy cleaning," he cried in a low and insinuating voice to the glee of the assembled and by now inebriated hacks.

Other gifts included a free day off work "so that you won't have to lie to your boss again," tickets for shows at Bimbo's and Slim's, as well as an Ivy League LSAT prep course (for those sick of the trade and desirous of work in a more ethical field). But the most unexpected and fabulous prize on offer had a reptilian edge. It was a guided tour of the San Francisco Zoo hosted by none other than the less-than-fleet-of-foot Chron Editor Phil Bronstein of the Komodo Dragon incident. Bidding was hot--even out of control. $200, $250, $500, $1,000, $1,500, $1,700--and sold to the man in the blue shirt for $1,750. The high bidders? Jerry Roberts , the Chron's vice president and managing editor, and John Oppendahl , the publisher. Granted they care about breast cancer, but $1,750? All was later revealed when we were exiting the men's room and Roberts was entering, saying, "Anything to keep out it of the public domain!"

It looks all but certain that Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean will seek re-election next year instead of running for the Assembly seat being vacated by Dion Aroner (D-Berkeley). Dean pals say the mayor doesn't like her chances in what promises to be a free-for-all primary. "I haven't ruled [running for the Assembly] out entirely," Dean says, "but I think it's the dimmer possibility."

Dean could very well go head-to-head against her nemesis, Councilman Kriss Worthington , who is toying with the idea of campaigning for the citywide throne. Of course, Worthington is also quietly hoping the masses will beg him to run for Assembly and carry the progressive torch against Peratista Jane Brunner and ladies' man Charles Ramsey . In one of her better quotes, Dean sniped to a local fishwrap, "I think it would be good for the city of Berkeley if he left his council seat for the Assembly." Worthington cattily retorts, "She hasn't signed up to volunteer yet."

There's an increasingly good chance that Dean could volunteer for Worthington. He sadly informs us that would-be Assembly candidate June Jordan , the radical poet, who floated a trial balloon not too long ago, probably will stick to writing while she battles cancer. Worthington and other progs thought she'd be the most electable lefty candidate because of her formidable name ID and admirable hygiene.

Things are so tense between county Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan and Board of Education member Jerome Wiggins that the former asked for a police escort to last week's board meeting. A few days earlier, Jordan filed a report with Hayward police alleging that Wiggins--who is highly critical of Jordan's performance--made threatening comments to her assistant over the phone. Apparently, Wiggins was upset because Jordan refused to give a board consultant access to a district computer. Jordan told the cops that Wiggins shouted at her business manager Mike Lenahan , "Do you want me to go crazy? ... I'll make an appointment and get my baseball bat and no one will have computers." Jordan tells 7 Days that during her two years as county schools' chief, Wiggins has grown increasingly abusive toward her. In fact, she says, female pals she has consulted on the matter have told her his behavior "is the mark of a domestic abuser." She also points out that it isn't the first time Wiggins has been accused of going off the deep end: On Election Day in 1988, Wiggins allegedly slugged landlord-backed Berkeley Rent Board candidate Tom Klatt and chased former Rent Board Chairman David Bryden off his lawn wielding a rake. Klatt and Bryden, who belonged to an opposing political faction, had just dropped off campaign literature at Wiggins' home. The J-Man says he can't recall if he brawled with Klatt, but assures us he never brandished a rake. As for the more recent events, he steadfastly denies making any threats against Jordan or anyone else in the district office. "I think Ms. Jordan's trying to divert attention away from the matters at hand," Wiggins sniffs. The matters at hand include two consecutive budget shortfalls on Jordan's watch, which Wiggins and other board members blame on the superintendent's fondness for spending money on administration.

It's final--San Leandro's Bal Theatre is closing. The second-run movie house has struggled with waning attendance ever since theater operator Brady Ferguson was busted last January by the SLPD during a late-night screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at which the cops found a bevy of intoxicated and scantily clad teenagers. Ferguson is still embroiled in legal actions resulting from the raid; he was slapped with three misdemeanor charges including allowing minors to drink and encouraging lewd behavior. In order to keep his business license, Ferguson struck a deal with the city in which he promised to adhere to San Leandro's liquor and nudity laws, enforce the Motion Picture Association of America ratings system, and close the theater by midnight. Ferguson complained heartily about the new strict rules and what he claims was overly zealous policing; he believed that the city was refusing to support nonmainstream cultural events and making it hard for small-business owners to turn a profit. In order to save money, Ferguson cut back on the theater's community-minded programs like screening open-captioned films for the hearing impaired and hosting charity nights to raise money for local causes. One of the revenue-boosting solutions Ferguson was considering was renting the space out to private promoters. Times seemed penurious, if calm.

Then in a last-reel surprise ending, last week San Leandro cops launched a second raid on the theater at 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning. They entered the theater by breaking a window in the locked front door and found about one hundred people, 25 of them juveniles, drinking, dancing, and watching Disney movies. (Police dubbed the event a "rave," Ferguson calls it a "private party.") Although police found no drugs, they say they were tipped off by a caller who complained that the partygoers were using marijuana and Ecstasy. The police sent everybody home and arrested party promoter Daniel Britt , who was held on $125,000 bail for 25 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, although the city's district attorney later refused to file charges against him. Ferguson, who wasn't even in the theater the night of the so-called rave, decided that after losing about $25,000 of his own money investing in the Bal, it was time to close shop. "I don't recommend San Leandro as a destination for any new small-business owner, especially if you're interested in providing any type of entertainment to the community," reads a blistering press release Ferguson sent out last week. "City staff and documents may point to small-business growth, however if you aren't bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars in through sales tax, the support or backing you receive from the city will be limited." Ferguson shut down operations at the Bal last Tuesday, and says he now has plans to return to his alter-ego as a computer network administrator and pursue a "normal life," which should not be too hard to find in San Leandro.


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