Thursday, June 24, 2004


The miles of yellow crime scene tape cordoning off the parking lot indicated something grim had just occurred. A lone SUV was surrounded by several individuals gesturing like methamphetamine freaks at a Sotheby’s auction. Ten Santa Monica Police Department("Serving Celebrities Since 1922") cars parked along the right angle at Wilshire and 11th Streets confirmed the serious nature of the episode. Gawkers and rubber-neckers were on tip toes trying to get a glimpse of whatever gore might be visible.

This corner of Santa Monica is home to a large and popular pet store, so my first suspicion was the doggie mob had scored a high profile hit on one of its members gone astray. Maybe “Sonny” the Pit Bull had knocked off “Big Maul” Dobermano. Perhaps the “Corgi-leone” family had unleashed its revenge on its long time rival, the “Poodlisi”; or the “Russian Wolfhounds” had staked out territory against the “Chinese Pugs”?

Regardless, it had to be something violent and gruesome to call out half of the SMPD, right?

It’s now been confirmed that no blood was spilled, no property stolen, no vandalism was sustained nor did any PETA person threaten self immolation on the store’s grounds (despite the fact it was getting cool in the early evening and a small fire might have been nice).

The reason for the ten car cavalry? Oh, yes, Brittany Spears had arrived to pick up a new pet pooch, ostensibly to salve the wounds of her recent knee surgery and canceled tour; simple enough under most circumstances, but this is Santa Monica and a celebrity was involved so trash the idea life might proceed in an uneventful fashion.

According to news reports, Ms. Spears was in her SUV and exiting the lot when a photographer emerged - from whatever designer shadows paparazzi hide in - to snap pictures of the pop star. Mysteriously enough, the top of photographer’s foot managed to kiss the tread of one or more of Spear’s tires and a distress call placed to the Santa Monica police. With the collective hope Ms. “Did it Again” might cast her next video with uniformed peace officers, ten (did I mention that 10 cars showed up?) SMPD cars made haste to the corner of Wilshire and 11th.

It’s comforting to know that the SMPD can be relied on to marshal this level of response when life, limb and film stock are in jeopardy. The next time I’m taking a picture of someone and my foot is introduced to the underside of the pavement by my subject’s automobile, I’m calling the SMPD, even if I’m in Bakersfield. Maybe I should have thought of this sooner.

Last year at this time, I was living in an apartment one block east of where last Sunday’s trauma played out. On a Thursday morning, I left to get a haircut and run some errands. Returning 90 minutes later, I discovered that someone, or several some ones, had entered through the bedroom window of my apartment and then exited with my laptop, briefcase, VCR, camera and (go figure) a beard trimmer. Three months of research, contacts, mailings and consulting work vanished with the laptop and briefcase; the actual project had only recently been launched, and with its theft, a significant revenue potential was instantly wiped out. Also, my sideburns have suffered unduly over the past 12 months.

My call to the SMPD was answered courteously and professionally and I was told a police officer would be out shortly. 4 1/2 hours later, my possessions surely fenced by now and the proceeds wafting though a crack pipe, floating through a junkie’s bloodstream, the SMPD showed up at my door. When I inquired about the half-a-day response time, an officer informed me that burglaries are low priority crimes; in part because they occur so frequently, in part because there is little that can be done once the culprits are out on the street. This, I understand, sort of. My two youngest brothers are cops in a major Midwestern metropolis and they told me I was screwed the moment the thieves left undetected. But having two siblings with a combined 30 years of service, I'm also aware that Sunday, when the name “Brittany” went out over the radio, every home, apartment and shop within miles was basically on its own, abandoned to the Holy Grail of uber-hot chick celebrity sightings.

I get it, really, I do. I’ve never slipped Madonna the tongue, worn a bustier, shaken my booty at millions of MTV viewers or discussed terminating my virginity with People Magazine. I’m not a 22 year old female pop icon with a world famous cleavage. I’m just a damn citizen and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal protection under not by the law.

But ten cop cars? Five would have been plenty. Come on guys, you don’t have to rub it in.

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