Janet Wiscombe : Independent Journalist | Writer | Editor

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An American Tragedy
One Spur Posse mother struggles to understand
Los Angeles Times

In the years since the Spur Posse sex scandal propelled her family into the headlines, Dottie Belman has gone from feeling like a total failure as a mother to feeling pretty good about her life. With an ebullient grin, she gestures at the view from her $67,000 Lakewood condo: a garden of connecting ponds and gurgling brooks. "Look at this place," she effuses, "I feel like I live in Disneyland."
The exuberance is short-lived. The smile fades. The face tightens as she recalls the horrors that have befallen her family since her youngest son was arrested for sexual misconduct during his senior year at Lakewood High: the visits to another son in jail, the end of the 25-year marriage, the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Ashes to Ashes
Suppose America Just Said No to Tobacco--What Then? Here's a Hypothetical Look at the Probable Impact on Everyone and Everything From Smokers and Farmers to Tax Coffers and the Tobacco Companies Themselves.
Los Angeles Times Magazine

Linda Nuckolls, a likable middle-aged woman who looks her age, unapologetically lights a generic cigarette. From her perch on a bar stool at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, she contemplates the awful scenario: a nation without tobacco. The smile fades.
A look of horror pierces the smoky blue cloud. "Ugly," she surmises. "It would be real ugly. It would be war between the smokers and the 'You're Bad and I'm Good' people. There would be a huge underworld. There would be fighting in the streets."

Sand Storm
Forget About the Glory of Beach Volleyball at the '96 Olympics. It's Barely Hanging on as a Pro Sport--and the Players Get Most of the Blame.
Los Angeles Times Magazine

Kent Steffes, bronzed beach god, Olympic medalist, towering millionaire, is furious. From his aluminum chair, he roars about the stupidity and improbity of his fellow athletes, top players whom he blames for the rotten state of professional beach volleyball. "I want to find the truth," he declares. "One way is to depose people."
It's the second day of a three-day volleyball tournament in Seal Beach in July featuring the most famous male players in the country. An army of roustabouts has worked all week to pitch tents, erect bleachers, install revolving sponsor banners and inflate gigantic plastic soda and beer cans. Video cameras whir. Hip-hop explodes from mega speakers.

Mind Over Matter
Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)

For a thousand days the father had lived in a psychological grave, buried alive by his own daughter.
That's the way it felt when his first-born, Melody Gavigan, accused him of sexually abusing her as a child. At the time she made the charge, Nov. 29, 1989, she was a patient at the Los Altos Hospital and Mental Health Center. She had called her mother to say that, after 35 years, she was suddenly recalling memories of being molested by her father when she was a year old, and sodomized when she was 4 or 5 or 7 - she wasn't exactly sure of the age.

The Sunday Profile: Riding the Waves
Commercial swordfish harpooning has dwindled off California's coast. Those who persevere, such as Jerry Cicconi, must contend with technology, competition--and diminished fish stock.
Los Angeles Times

The determined captain stands erect, looking straight beyond the pitching plank of his 10-ton fishing boat. From under gray hair, Jerry Cicconi's eyes fix on the vast, heartless sea
His mad purpose is to harpoon big fish.
Earlier in the day, he had talked about the feeling of closing in for the kill, of aiming the 12-foot tool and thrusting the deadly dart into the creature's flesh. He had spoken passionately of the pressure to get the job done in one shot, the necessity of a surgical strike, the adrenaline rush, the racing heart, the trembling knees.

The Identity Crisis of a Young Man
Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)

In May, Alan Montgomery celebrated his 20th birthday. That same month, he arranged for his own cremation.
He's had more than his share to cope with this year, he says. But today he feels good. He's just gotten off work, a temporary office job he's had for two weeks, and he's got a million things on his mind.
Time is running out.