Monday, August 25, 2003

Beach party or forum?


Monday August 25, 2003

party or forum?

* It's a night of bikini babes and speechifying as gubernatorial candidates and the media check out Jim 'Poorman' Trenton's 'Governor's Ball.'

By Steven Barrie-Anthony, Times Staff Writer

Event organizer Cindy Rakowitz positions a gorgeous twentysomething in a bikini bottom and body paint outside the Backstage Cafe in Beverly Hills. Nearby, Jim "Poorman" Trenton -- the dreadlocked surferdude host of the TV show "Poorman's Bikini Beach" and sponsor of this evening's "Governor's Ball" -- gathers reporters and his posse of bikini babes and shows them some newly developed snapshots.

"I visited kitchens in L.A., and look! This is a kitchen in South-Central -- there's dirt under the sink!" Another kitchen, devastated by fire: "This is a person who has a home, and she can't afford to have her kitchen replaced!"

Trenton is running for governor, apparently on the "kitchen" platform, and he has invited all 135 recall candidates to the Thursday night party thrown in their collective honor. Not all of them make it.

A limo pulls up, and out jumps a wannabe Crocodile Hunter. "Bumhunter for governor!" he yells in an Outback Aussie accent. The reporters swivel.

"Everyone knows that the largest amount of bums on the street are those in Sacramento," "The Bumhunter" says, crouching and glancing side to side as if to avoid venomous L.A. wildlife. "If you elect me, I'm going to clean up those streets. I'm a homeless advocate!"

Paul Vann, a widowed financial planner from Irvine and a Republican candidate, talks to whomever will listen. "I want to fix worker's comp.... Keep no secrets from the people.... My children are proud of me.... I'm running to win."

A pit bull with wheels for hind legs enters the melee. She sniffs at Trenton.

"It looks to me like some people are running for governor," says Chris Cory, a writer-director-producer out walking his dog. "Her name is Coral. I think she should run." Coral wheels in a circle and snorts.

Let the speeches commence. Inside the bar, lights turn everything red. More than a few people get smacked by cameras or boom mikes or oversized L.A.-style breasts. Bartenders whir: For politicians and the media, drinks are on the house.

Ruben Raul Vega, a "personal bank officer" at Wells Fargo running as a Democrat: "In a nutshell, I want to expand the gaming industry."

Logan Clements, "Republican objectivist": "There are two things that this government is good for -- taking away money and taking away freedom."

Vann takes the mike. A bikini babe rubs his head seductively. "I'm not sure this is a serious stage," he says, smiling uncomfortably ... but he goes on to tell an anecdote about Sacramento inefficiency anyway.

"I am an artist from Venice Beach," says Trek Kelly, dressed all in blue. "I am running as an elaborate art piece.... I also have an advertising job because, until I stage my own death in three years, I won't make a profit from my paintings."

"It's about time we have average people running!" says Anthony Morman, an independent wearing a blue suit. All candidates, regardless of orientation -- or whether they're even on the ballot -- cheer one another on.

"And this is the most attractive candidate," says Trenton, introducing Reva Renee Renz, a Republican from Santa Ana and tonight's only female politician.

"As a bar owner," Renz says, "I hear average concerns every day. People say, 'Where did the money go?' I want to go to Sacramento and find out where it went."

The entire bar explodes. "Show me the money!" somebody screams.

"We ought to give a round of applause to the press!" Trenton enthuses. Reporters stop writing. Some actually blush.

"Are there any other candidates?" Trenton asks.

"I'll run!" says a man on a barstool. He swigs his beer, stands ...

Later, Trenton stands outside and gabs with reporters and fellow politicians. "At first, this was just publicity, but I was really moved by the fact that people own their own homes but can't afford to fix their kitchens. It makes me want to go and walk the streets. This process is changing me. I really care."

"Excuse me, but would you want to buy one of my paintings?" asks a passerby.

"Sure!" says Trenton, who ushers the man inside."Roxanne!" scream the Police from ubiquitous speakers. Everybody joins in. Black-suited Republicans ... "the Bumhunter" ... the bikini brigade .... "You don't have to put on the red light. Those days are over. You don't have to sell your body to the night."

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