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Dog Bites 

Ken, Ken, Ken; Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Boring Clothes Have Got to Go!; This Week in Lavish Dot-Com Parties

Wednesday, May 3 2000
Ken, Ken, Ken
Sometimes readers write to us to complain that we haven't been mocking some local media figure as frequently as they would like. Look, we always want to answer, if we keep doing that, how will we ever get another job in this business? But while sheer self-interest is often enough to keep us from attacking, for instance, the frighteningly well-connected Jon Carroll, we do occasionally feel our responsibility to cull the weak from the herd must supersede our own petty career concerns -- though come to think of it, we probably won't feel that way a few years from now, when we're working in PR or something.

Anyway, our feelings for Ken Garcia are genuine. Because quite frankly, we've been a little worried about the Chronicle's Native Son (of Orange County, we keep thinking, though we know that's wrong), whose ongoing identity crisis (is he mean-spirited? is he statesmanlike? is he satirical?) recently manifested itself as a bewildering series of changes in the photo that runs at the top of his column.

Original Ken's manically grinning countenance, making its usual thrice-weekly appearance on the first page of the paper's Bay Area and California section, was, while perhaps frightening to some younger readers, at least consistent. But last week a new, glum, rumpled Ken replaced him, prompting Ken-linologists to begin calling us to report the change and ask whether the new photo might mean Ken had been thrown into a depression by rumors he will be replaced by the Examiner's cheery Rob Morse when the Fangs finally finish scratching out that check for $100 and the Ex's staff flees to the Chron.

Glum Ken ran for a few issues -- even once in color, in a paper Dog Bites is now saving in hopes we can one day produce it with a flourish for our open-mouthed descendants -- before inexplicably disappearing in favor of Self-Actualized Ken, fresh-faced and civic-minded as an Eagle Scout, and once again looking well-groomed in a tie.

Finally, tipped by Dog Bites' repeated anxious phone calls to the Chronicle's photo department, Garcia wrote a column Saturday explaining his series of transformations, ruminating on the fact that "being a columnist unfortunately involves image" -- Oh, God, does it ever! -- and fretting about his troubles with his "rather abundant mass of hair," among other things. We read it over a cup of tea at the laundromat, interrupted only once by the dot-commer at the next table, who suavely leaned over and asked if we could watch his stuff (laptop and Palm V) for a minute while he went up to the counter for another tall double nonfat, or whatever. Unfortunately, right around that point Ken made a sort of compositional leap in which he seemed to be comparing himself with Herb Caen, and his problems with his "feeble photo" with Caen's FBI file.

After the man at the adjacent table returned and we had settled with ourselves whether or not he was cute (eh), we went back to the column and read over the transitional sentences several times, trying to figure out where we'd lost the cable car, as it were, of Ken's thoughts. Sure, he'd managed to work in a manly usage of the term "G-men," but we felt we were missing something. Ken went on to mention J. Edgar Hoover's cross-dressing habits and finally concluded, speaking of Caen: "Who needs pictures, when you can string together those kinds of words."

Uhh ....

Actually, we rather enjoyed the column, though it did bring to mind what Samuel Johnson famously said -- "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" -- because these days certain columnists (not actually scoundrels) who are perhaps struggling with their material do seem to fall back on invoking the ghost of Caen, which over at the Chron is more or less the equivalent of wrapping yourself in the flag. But we're glad Ken likes his new picture, and would like to join our voice to what is no doubt a general chorus of congratulations on his having finally met the right person and settled down.

Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Boring Clothes Have Got to Go!
Whites folded, we ventured out into the usual sunny, freezing weather to run some errands at Laurel Village and found the tony shopping strip the site of a demonstration. "Hey shoppers! Beware! The Gap is unfair!" chanted a motherly looking woman with a bullhorn outside the Baby Gap store, while a man dressed as a tree attempted to pass out tracts to tots, and the drivers of Mercedes SUVs circled carefully around the whole scene, as though worried someone might ask them for money. Good Lord! we imagined them thinking. What's next -- anti-IMF protests in the doorway of the Charles Schwab?

"Save the Redwoods! Boycott the Gap!" read the pamphlets, and Dog Bites was forced to approve. We think everyone should boycott the Gap, and Banana Republic too, though it must be said our objections are less on ecological than aesthetic grounds. First of all, Banana's pants are cut with the butts way too big, and the photographs in the company's catalogs are, like, really pretentious.

"Your comments on how horribly people dress really hit home -- just the prior evening a musician friend and I were discussing the marked lack of imagination and gross insecurity that goes into the bulk of San Francisco's clothing choices," writes a reader identifying herself as Huge Fan Heather. "Please! With the Gap already! How frightening are their ads? 'Everybody in ....' Hey America, let's all dress the same. What is this, Communist China?!"

Much later on Saturday, Dog Bites attended a party -- which could in retrospect only be described as a kegger -- and found the uniform of choice for women was tight black ankle-length pants, black low-heeled mules, and jean jackets. Why? Why? Why? It makes us want to move to Mendocino County, build a platform in a redwood tree, and refuse to come down until the sinister plot to get Americans accustomed to all looking the same is brought to the light of day -- before some huge consortium of biotech companies starts releasing the first human clones, fatal mutations occur, and we're all doomed to die out within a generation due to loss of genetic diversity. Actually, wait -- that was an old Star Trek episode. But the dystopia is coming! Just you watch!

This Week in Lavish Dot-Com Parties
For those who, like Dog Bites, weren't invited, the dot-com party of the week was the one thrown by AskJeeves at Ruby Skye, where Elvis Costello played. "And guess who was in his band?" an excited friend asked us. We had no idea. "Nick Lowe! He only sang one song, though."

Friends had invited us along to try to crash the event after stopping by City Hall for the Industry Standard's anniversary celebration, but the door was heavily guarded and the hoi polloi were being turned away in disappointed droves. Man, we're never going to get into Ruby Skye; it's like it's 1977 at Studio 54 and we're not Margaret Trudeau.

Meanwhile, at another popular venue, a local specialty e-tailer was holding an event for its employees, who became somewhat, uh, bumptious as the evening wore on. The company had only rented the place until 10 p.m., so DJ Kelli Macalaster was startled when a company VIP ordered her to turn off the music at 10:30 so he could make an announcement that there was wine at a table in the corner. When she didn't immediately do as he said, she says, he asked her, "'Who the fuck are you?' Then he called me a pseudo-artist and said 'excuse [him] for interrupting the flow of my artistic creation,' but he had $3 million so nothing I said meant anything to him," adds Macalaster, who described herself as "very depressed" after the encounter. "My friend who was there with me was like, 'Are you OK?' I was so close to just packing up my records and leaving."

Macalaster says she has lots of friends working at various dot-coms. "You have a few guys like this who give everybody a bad name. If I worked in that industry I'd want people to call them on their behavior. Say I had this company and I knew one of my employees had behaved that way -- they would be in so much shit. Money can't buy you cool, or class, or good karma."

Dog Bites' calls to the company in question were returned by the VIP's assistant, who said she "couldn't imagine" he'd made the comments.

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail

About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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