Dog Bites has been sleepless -- sleepless! -- since Union City printing company Fricke-Parks Press filed its lawsuit against the Fangs. Could Grant Printing really have used part of the $66 million Examiner-purchase subsidy the Hearst Corp. agreed to pay its owners, the Fangs, to subsidize bids on printing work? Please, let it not be true!
Everything we've depended upon in our little world, it seems, has been thrown into doubt. Will the suit allow Hearst to be rid of the Examiner without paying the Fangs the subsidy? Will the entire deal just fall apart? Will the Fangxaminer die unborn? Is Kid A just another CD we'll get sick of in a few weeks?
At least we've had Chronicle President Steve Falk's memo about the lawsuit's implications to which to cling. "It is important for you to understand where we stand today regarding the ownership of the newspapers since some employees have raised this question," he wrote Friday.
"The San Francisco Chronicle is owned and controlled by The Hearst Corporation and we are all Hearst employees. The San Francisco Examiner is owned by ExIn and will be printed and distributed by Hearst under the terms of the transition services agreement until November 21, 2000.
"I will update you on further developments as they become available."
OK. It's nice to have everything laid out like that in times like these. Of course, Dog Bites is trying to update ourselves, without waiting to hear from more official sources. Basically how this works is several times a day we call Ted Fang's assistant, Bill Picture, and ask to speak to Fang. Picture assures us Fang will call us back in a few minutes. Of course, Fang never does call, though we cordially play along with the fiction that he will; after all, phoning his office is about all we have to do for amusement around here, and even so we sometimes get so bored we consider asking Picture if the Independent's refrigerator is running.
Actually, we're a little hurt. Dog Bites may not be a contender for the Emil Guillermo Big Wet Mwah! to the Fangs Award, but gosh! We're just trying to do our job, which is tough when nobody at the dailies is prepared to speculate -- at least, not on the record. The official line at the Examiner is much the same as it is at the Chron: Executive Editor Phil Bronstein said he had "no way of judging what the suit means." He sounded a lot like Falk when he added, "I don't think it changes the reality that Hearst owns the Chronicle and the Fangs own the Examiner."
But that's not necessarily the issue. One insider noted that this could be a convenient out for Hearst, which would have the paper it wants and be rid of the paper it doesn't want -- all without parting with $66 million. "Fang is operating from a very weak position," said our source. "Hearst could just say, "Sorry, the judge says we can't pay you. Here's the paper. See you in court -- in 2044.'"
Which way did our friend think it would go? No predictions there, so we called real estate tycoon and former mayoral candidate Clint Reilly, who -- for those who only read this column and are, hence, blissfully unaware of most current events -- was behind that antitrust suit challenging Hearst's purchase of the Chron and sale of the Ex to the Fangs. You know, the one in which Judge Vaughn Walker referred to the deal between Hearst and the Fangs as "malodorous." "I thought I was going to win," said Reilly. "But I think if it does go to trial [Fricke-Parks] has an excellent chance of prevailing."
Fricke-Parks' lawyer, Daniel Gerard, said his client "wouldn't have filed the case if we weren't prepared to see it through," and that Fricke-Parks is confident of its arguments. "We have no idea how [Grant Printing] is possibly going to explain the levels at which they were bidding," he said.
But though Gerard had argued -- successfully, as it turns out -- that the case should be reassigned to Judge Walker's courtroom, he said Fricke-Parks could care less about the fate of a couple of dailies in San Francisco. "They don't have any ulterior motive here," he insisted. "They're not looking for a vendetta with the Fangs."
Feel the Drums
The unrelenting pressure of doing nothing but writing a column is making Dog Bites somewhat crazier than usual: Now that we have five days a week to come up with amusing items, coming up with amusing items just seems harder.
Then again, as the Mercury News noted in the headline of the top story of its San Francisco section just last week, "Rains herald cooler days." And cooler days always seem to herald a busier social calendar, as those previously enervated by the merciless heat of the San Francisco summer begin to revive, and to invite us to parties and other events, thereby considerately giving us something to write about.
At least, that's the way we saw it this weekend, when Dog Bites, in a scenario no doubt played out in thousands of San Francisco households every Saturday night, was running around the apartment gulping echinacea and looking for our favorite lipstick while trying to watch City Desk. No, we don't know why we're fixated on the show; all we're going to say is we have this one friend who won't take calls during Cops and nobody thinks he's weird -- although, come to think of it, it would be really cool to see Ed Epstein and Rachel Gordon piling out of the back of an unmarked van wearing body armor and carrying 12-gauges while someone off-camera yells, "Go! Go! Go!"
What? Oh, sorry -- lost our train of thought there for a second.
We did eventually make it out the door and down to Loöq Records' extremely successful CD release party for Jondi and Spesh's We Are Connected, featuring -- well, "We Are Connected," plus lots of other tracks those who frequent the pair's Wednesday after-work will recognize. Dog Bites gives it 3 1/2 stars!
As Supervisor Mark Leno has pointed out, those who are dancing do need water, and Jondi himself was kind enough to hand us a bottle. Somehow, we got talking about a local band which may not be local too much longer; Dog Bites (always working!) asked him what he thought about all the recent evictions in the local arts scene. "It will be interesting to see if it's character-building -- or if it just means everybody has to move to Richmond," he answered.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space
Boy, it's sure lucky we never have to put in any 10-hour days, the way some poor, doomed dot-commanders do. You start working hours like that, next thing you know you're ... shooting heroin.
Or actually, maybe the sequence is that you start working hours like that, you buy a bunch of Spiritualized CDs, and next thing you know you're shooting heroin. But either way, Dog Bites found the Guardian's depiction of the dot-com junkie lifestyle a real wake-up call. We mean, forget all this stuff about how the schools can't produce enough qualified workers for all our high-tech jobs: The real problem is keeping the workers we do have from ODing in their cubicles.
The lurid cover feature "Diary of a Dot-Com Junkie" was marred by the publication's usual problem of being somewhat untethered from reality -- which, just between you, us, and the lamppost, seems to be a definite top-down flaw at the Guardian. And having (more or less) read the story, Dog Bites has to admit we much preferred the Lifetime Original movie Chasing the Dragon, starring Night Court's spunky Markie Post as Gwen, a single mother who, while working (according to Lifetime's Web site) "strenuous hours at a computer software firm" -- this can't be coincidence! -- turns, quite naturally, to heroin. We particularly liked the dramatic way Post was able to convey her character's decline by somehow making her hair flatter and flatter; it's not often you see a dedication to craft like that.
Still, "Anonymous," the story's putative author, has to qualify for some sort of award for this lead: "I'm just like you. I have a pretty secure job at an e-commerce site that pays me extremely well. I have stock options that should make me rich. I have a hip apartment in Nob Hill. I have a cute girlfriend, who also works at a dot-com."
No way! Hey, does she have a Prada backpack? Drive a black Jetta? Is she kind of whiny? 'Cause we swear we've seen her at Whole Foods!
That's Seagram's and 7UP, OK?
Cosmopolitans, Lemon Drops, Mojitos -- it's so tough to know what's trendy to order right now. May we suggest ... a Seven and Seven? For several moderately unhappy years, Dog Bites had been under the impression the beverage was unknown outside our country of national origin, and was thus pleasantly surprised to learn that the high-level talks being conducted between the Examiner and Chronicle management teams over how to merge the staffs of the two papers are called Seven and Seven Sessions.
Each paper is supposed to be represented at the ongoing planning meetings by seven of its top managers and editors; however, at the first session we hear the Ex mistakenly showed up with eight representatives, which threw the Chron team for something of a loop.
There's the whistle! Too many men on the ice!
Despite initial consternation, talks did eventually get under way. So far, we don't know if anything's being accomplished; we do, however, hear trust-building workshops haven't been ruled out.