City Files


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The Fast Man from Vista

Ask 75-year-old Skip Hedrich what it’s like to drive 300 miles per hour, and the first answer isn’t quite fit for print. “Let’s revise that,” he says, laughing. “The hair is standing up on my arms, and chills are going up and down my back. I’m elated. Accelerated. Exhilarated. I’m smiling.”

Hedrich set a land speed record of 323 mph in 2006 on the salt flats at Bonneville, Utah, driving his American Eagle, a gas-powered car shaped like a land torpedo. In 2009, he was again fastest on the salt—just over 331. He hopes to reach the Holy Grail of speed for a piston-driven gas engine: 400.

At age 8, California native Hedrich built his first racer, using the motor from his dad’s lawnmower. By the time he graduated from high school, he’d been to Bonneville three times. But in 1965, his Indy racing career was shelved after a motorcycle accident. His attention slowly returned to the salt flats. He built his first American Eagle streamliner in 1996.

This August, Hedrich has plans for another shot at the record in Bonneville. Predictions? “I’m not sure if we’ll get 400 mph this year,” he says. “But the year after, for sure we’ll get there.” He laughs again. “I’d better hurry up.”      —Dave Good

Talent Scout

Twelve years ago, Michelle Clark was on a rickety old bus in St. Thomas, squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder with reps from 30 radio stations on their way to the Hard Rock Café. It might not have been the most comfortable ride of her life, but she was a woman on a mission. And the dreams of nine bands were riding on her.

“The sound system at the Hard Rock was so bad, it almost blew up,” says Clark, an independent radio producer who created Sunset Sessions as an unconventional forum for putting musicians in front of record labels and industry greats. “But there we were—good friends and adventurous radio programmers, relaxing on the beach and bonding over great music. We knew then it was magical.”

The first artist of Clark’s new industry-only concert format was a blues sing­er/song­writ­er from Boston named Susan Tedeschi. She has since sold more than a million records and been nominated for four Grammys. Other Sunset Sessions alumni include Jack Johnson, Five for Fight­ing, Edwin MaCain, Colbie Callait and Ziggy Marley.

Like American Idol but without the fluff and commercials, Sunset Sessions shines a light on undiscovered talent. Last year, the Zac Brown Band opened the three-day event, then went on to win the Grammy for best new artist.

In February, Clark hosted her 13th Sunset Session, where she brought together 37 musicians at Rancho Bernardo Inn Resort & Spa. Golf carts—not rickety buses—whizzed leath­er-clad artists between Spanish-style guest­rooms and a packed 10,000-square-foot ballroom. The sound system was sharp. Deejays from KPRI sat on the terrace, broadcasting live over the three days. And Jason Mraz popped in after winning two Grammys to make the crowd swoon with nothing more than his guitar.

“We now have about 600 attendees,” says Clark. “Being able to take music I love and share it with other people is my all-time high. Then I watch James Blunt singing ‘You’re Beautiful’ on my stage, or sit at Chris Isaak’s feet while he sings ‘Wicked Game’ ... and I  can’t help but cry.”    —Sophie Kelley

[NewsBeat]

Endorsement Escapades

All three candidates vying to be the county’s next sheriff are Republicans. All three were eager to have the endorsement of the county’s Republican Party. All three were vigorously vetted and awaiting a decision.

All three were disappointed.

Party committee members recently voted not to endorse a candidate in the June primary. The party’s rules say if there’s more than one Republican running, an endorsement is issued only if one of the candidates receives two-thirds of the committee’s vote.

“It’s not a big deal from our end. The next sheriff is going to be a Republican, that’s the bottom line,” says party chairman Tony Krvaric. “We reserve the right to consider endorsement after the primary.”

Insiders say this benefits former Deputy Sheriffs Association president Jim Duffy the most. It’s more of a blow to the other two can­didates—Bill Gore (who had the backing of influential Republicans Bonnie Dumanis and Jerry San­ders) and former California Assemblyman Jay LaSuer. They were more likely to win the party’s support.

At February’s Republican Party meeting, attended by all three candidates just before the decision not to endorse, some Gore supporters were irritated that Krvaric repeatedly referred to their candidate as “acting sheriff.”

Gore was appointed by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to finish out retiring Sheriff Bill Kolender’s term, giving him the official title and the incumbent’s edge. Technically, Gore is the sheriff, not acting sheriff. But if he chooses to mention his position on the ballot statement, he’ll have to note that he was appointed.        —Kelly Thornton

Profile: Jeff Moorad

With pitcher Chris Young living a mile away, club president Tom Garfinkel a half-mile closer and general manager Jed Hoyer less than two blocks away, one might expect the San Diego Padres to be the team dominating conversation at Padres owner/CEO Jeff Moorad’s home in La Jolla.

Not exactly.

“One of my sons—my oldest, Justin—has a fantasy team,” Moorad, 54, says with a smile garnished by his closely cropped beard. “Oh, I get drilled all the time about certain players and their injury status.”

Dad fields Justin’s questions to the best of his knowledge, which is substantial. The husband and father of three’s experience includes 21 years as a sports agent. In 2004, he crossed negotiating lines to become CEO and general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

These days, Moorad, a native of Modesto, is embarking on a new challenge. In February 2009, he and his group of a dozen began an incremental process to take ownership of the Padres from John Moores. The transition, to be completed no later than 2014, will give Moorad majority control of what he calls his real-life fantasy team.

“I couldn’t be any happier doing what I do today,” he says. “It’s a dream come true to be running a Major League Baseball team in California. To be doing it in San Diego makes it all the more special. I love what I do. I love the work, I love the challenge, and I love the competition.”

Perhaps the only thing larger than Moorad’s love is his to-do list. So far, he’s made significant changes to the Padres’ baseball operations, including naming Hoyer general manager and Jason McLeod assistant general manger of player development. The organization’s farm system was upgraded last year with the trading of ace pitcher Jake Peavy and a draft frontlined by athletic high school outfielders Donovan Tate and Everett Williams.

This season, Moorad and his staff are expected to make a decision regarding Adrian Gonzalez’ expiring contract before the summer’s trade deadline. The All-Star first baseman could be re-signed to a multiyear deal or traded for an overhaul of prospects.

 “I’d love to see [Adrian] in San Diego for the rest of his career,” says Moorad. “That having been said, we won’t prioritize the signing of any one individual player over the interests of the club long-term. So I would expect Jed to engage with Adrian’s representatives at some point, and we’ll see if there’s a deal to be made. If not, our commitment remains to field the best club, as a whole, to represent San Diego in the future.”

Either way, his goal to build a consistently competitive product will fuel the decision.

“I’m excited about the future,” Moorad says. “There’s a huge amount of optimism in the organization about Padres baseball.”
And in one La Jolla neighborhood, in particular.       —Michaek Gehlken

Launch My Local

Akiko Yasuda spent her childhood in El Cajon with one specific dream: to be a fashion designer. With a little help from her grandmother’s sewing lessons, a wealth of creativity and a relocation to Los Angeles, Yasuda realized her dream in more ways than one. What started as a low-run T-shirt label blossomed into a full clothing line and celebrity wardrobe staple ­(see ­akikoonline.com). As if being a full-time mom, owning two clothing lines, operating five showrooms throughout the United States and landing the Akiko brand in Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s weren’t enough, Yasuda was selected by Bravo for its latest fashion series, Launch My Line, as the “fashion expert” for aspiring designer Kevin Black.      —Andrea Ebbing

How did you transition from T-shirts to fashion design?

I had been designing T-shirts for about a year and was wanting to expand into other things. When I started the company, I did not have much money, so T-shirts were the cheapest thing to produce. That became really successful and gave me the opportunity and funds to design ­dresses, tops, sweaters, et cetera.

How did you get involved in Launch My Line?

The producers called me and asked if I would be interested in being a “fashion expert” on a new Bravo series. It wasn’t something I sought out, but after they contacted me, I said, “Why not?” It was an interesting experience, and not one most people have the opportunity to do.

What was it like working with Kevin Black on the show?

Kevin was hilarious. I have no idea what he was doing on that show! He definitely made my job a little harder, since he wasn’t sure what he wanted to design and didn’t know how to sketch. It was like trying to be a psychic designer. I think he was thrown in for pure entertainment value, since he had the least knowledge of fashion among all the other “designers.” The producers were also ex­pecting that he and I would not get along and be big drama on the show—but they were sorely disappointed. We made a pact to not throw each other under the bus.
What were the best and worst aspects of working in an environment like Launch My Line?

The best part is that I really learned to appreciate the people who work for me and make my life a lot easier! I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since college, and all of a sudden I was in this race but was pretty rusty technically. The worst part was executing somebody else’s vision instead of my own. I’m used to doing what I want to do, and this put somebody else in the driv­er’s seat.

[NewsBeat]

Perturbed Police

The San Diego Police Department homicide team on call the weekend of the massive search for 17-year-old Poway High student Chelsea King was expecting to be summoned by the Sheriff’s Department. King’s car was discovered in a parking lot at Lake Hodges, in the city of San Diego. A shoe and a piece of Chelsea’s clothing with her alleged attacker’s DNA were found around the lakeside trails, also in the city of San Diego.

SDPD detectives, who knew there was little hope for a happy ending, were ready. But the call never came, even after a body was found.
“It’s been the talk of the station—why didn’t we take the case?” said a San Diego Police detective, two days after the body was found. “We’re all embarrassed. Everyone’s pissed. We’re all wondering who’s going to count it on their stats.”

Based on DNA evidence from Chelsea’s clothing, sheriff’s officials arrested John Albert Gardner III two days before her body was found a half-mile from her car. The protocol for determining jurisdiction to investigate crimes is generally related to where the crime occurred. King’s parents, who live in Poway, reported her missing to the Sheriff’s Department. The debate within law enforcement circles, however, centers on the premise that once her car and clothing were found in the city of San Diego, the San Diego Police Department should have assumed the case.

The official explanation is that sheriff’s detectives were already deep into the investigation, and officials decided to keep it that way. Conspiracy theorists in both departments see politics in the mix: Sheriff Bill Gore, facing a June election, wanted the attention; San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne wanted to deflect attention from the way an earlier attack in the same area was handled. Officials say both theories are false.      —Kelly Thornton

The Insider

Sweet skateboard, bro: Native son Tony Hawk was honored at the fourth annual Creations in Chocolate event benefiting San Diego Youth Services, an organization helping at-risk and homeless youth. The party featured local dessertiers crafting skateboards entirely out of chocolate—down to the trucks and wheels—in honor of the extreme-sports legend. Past honorees have included Tony Gwynn and Robin Leach.

Rainmakers: For the opening night of the flashy new Fluxx nightclub, highlights included beats from deejay Cobra, belly dancers, go-go girls writhing with live snakes and a touch of celebrity starpower. And it was a motley assemblage, to be sure, ranging from billionaire techie Ted Waitt (founder of Gateway) to Olym­pic skier Bode Miller. Other borderline-boldface names seen frolicking inside the capacious new club were ex–reality star Holly Huddleston (remember Sunset Tan?), linebacker Shaun Phillips and other assorted Chargers players. But the showiest star by far was footballer Reggie Bush, who asked for a magnum of Dom Rosé (menu price: $2,000) and a thousand dollars in singles, which he used to “make it rain” while the Fluxx light show illuminated his table. This came just weeks after Bush, a staple on the Gaslamp club scene, made a cameo at Stingaree, knocking back drinks with friends in the VIP area, conspicuously without girlfriend Kim Kardashian.

Housewives leave the roost: Real Housewives of Orange County star Gretchen Rossi (a.k.a. The Hot One) was spotted checking in at the Hard Rock Hotel recently with boyfriend and Housewives alum Slade Smiley. The pair noshed at Island Prime and later partied at the Hard Rock’s 207 nightclub, where Smiley drank Patron while hostess Rossi danced, sipped champagne and chatted with fans, who overheard her saying she’d decided to skip the Oscar party circuit this year. While we’re kinda skeptical about just how many Oscar-night invites were rolling in for the Real Housewives cast, you gotta give the girl credit for being able to see past a name like Slade Smiley ... Also descending from her O.C. lair was Housewives star Vicki Gunvalson (a.k.a. The Insanely High-Strung One), who was in town for a book signing at the Little Italy Inn to benefit the San Diego Symphony.

Twittering for Chelsea: Celebs including Dane Cook, Wyclef Jean, De­nise Richards, Fred Durst, Tori Spelling, Shannon Tweed, Jared Leto, Alicia Keys and Alyssa Milano were among countless people who helped get the word out about Chelsea King’s disappearance via Twitter. After King’s body was re­covered, a heartbroken Marlee Matlin lamented, “It happens every day in America. It must be stopped.”

Access Grant-ed: Actor Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show) and radio deejay Geena the Latina were among the guests at the wedding of R&B star Frankie J at the U.S. Grant Hotel recently. Valderrama continued the revelry at an after-party at Side Bar before retiring to a room at the historic downtown hotel.      —Rachel Zenn Sachs

Catching Up With Tom DeLonge

2010 is a busy year for Poway native Tom DeLonge. His latest band, space rockers Angels & Airwaves, is on a 42-city tour (playing here at the House of Blues May 27), and releasing a full-length, science-fiction film companion to the third album, Love, which was available free via the band’s Modlife Web page on Valentine’s Day. Meanwhile, his first band, pop-punk legends blink-182, reunited last year and plans to record a new album later this year. The frontman of two bands, owner of Macbeth Footwear, husband, father and funnyman sits down in his Carlsbad studio to discuss the music biz, life on tour, burritos, movie­making and more.       —Adam Elder

What’s the strategy behind giving away an album for free?

The whole idea is give away a record and let the platform that powers our Web site make money in all these inventive ways—like pay per view, subscriptions, advertising, movies, VIP meet-and-greets and ticketing packages. That became more exciting than trying to track down a couple hundred thousand people to buy a record.

What’s the best part of touring?

Having incredible lights and sound systems that give people a visual and a sonic experience is really, really cool. It’s an adrenaline rush, but even more than that, it’s an emotional rush, because the audience feels what you feel.

Do you get cravings for things from San Diego when you tour?

Like Mexican food? We used to have people FedEx us burritos. They would buy a burrito from a local taco shop and wrap it in a lot of foil, put it in a box with a bunch of ice packs and overnight it. We’d be somewhere on the other side of the country.

How’d it taste?

Exactly the same. We always had this theory that when you buy a bean burrito, you need to let it coagulate. You have to let it sit for at least 20 minutes. It’s like wine. It ages well.

When touring, do you get much time to explore each city?

No. We see ... parking lots. I could pull into all these cities blindfolded and just show you around a parking lot. Fortunately, I’ve had a long enough career in music that I’ve had a day off in almost every city.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when the tour ends?

Gear up to write a blink-182 record. That’s literally in conjunction with scoring the film.

What’s making a movie like?

It’s been hard. Almost anyone can grab a lap­top computer and an instrument and make some kind of song in their living room. Or a movie. But when you make an actual motion-picture feature film, it takes scores of people and planning, and it’s difficult. But we’re really excited. We’re the first band in a long time to have done this.

You were voted homecoming king in high school. What other titles since then have compared?

When [blink-182] won an MTV Video Music Award, it was almost as good as homecoming king. And when I got plaques for selling 10 million records I was like, ‘This is almost as good as homecoming king.’ But I didn’t get sex for becoming homecoming king. And I didn’t get sex for the other ones, either.

And in high school, you had plans to be a firefighter?

Yeah, I was in a cadet program in high school. It all kind of ended when they started calling me at work and yelling at me. I just wanted to ride those big fire trucks, get a few days off a week and help some people.

What’s kept you in San Diego?

I’ve traveled everywhere, and there are more beautiful places—but there is no more beautiful weather. When you wake up and it’s sunny outside, it makes you a happier person, no matter what anyone says.

Last time you were in our pages was a feature for our At Home publication.

That was probably my wife. Not me. I’m not really known for that stuff. And if I am, I’m doing something wrong.

(Asked by the photographer, looking for a different pose.) Do you ever walk around without your shoes?

Well, I own a shoe company, so I’m kinda in shoes a lot. Are you trying to undress me?

Full Circle

Michelle Martin lights up like a kid at Christmas when she talks about the nonprofit she founded in 2008, Karuna International. “Our goal is to increase cross-cultural awareness in young adults and inform, inspire and empower them to be leaders of social change,” she says. “In the process, we are strengthening our local and global communities and creating partnerships for development.”

Begun in Barrio Logan, Karuna’s My First Passport program enrolls local high school students from low-income communities in an eight-week global education course. At its end, a handful of students are granted scholarships that fund volunteer work abroad. The students produce an event upon their return to raise awareness of their experience, as well as funds that are reinvested into their community in the form of a social change project.

The first group of students traveled to Costa Rica, where they worked hands-on beside local students on various public works projects. After working in an impoverished community that lacked an emphasis on education, the students adopted elementary classrooms in Barrio Logan, where they bought books and read to the kids.  

“It’s amazing to see the ripple effect that happens among our students,” says Martin. “Not only do they get the opportunity to travel abroad for the first time and open their eyes to the world, they come back and continue to impact their families, fellow students and their community.”
Karuna’s next fund-raiser is “The Classy Challenge,” through May 31, in which supporters are encouraged to raise money in ways ranging from pub crawls to dodgeball tournaments, with prizes for the top three earners. 888-949-8658, karunaintl.org.      —Wendy Rasmussen

Mama’s Kitchen Turns 20

Before widespread awareness campaigns, before Magic Johnson and before HIV was so much a part of the public consciousness, Mama’s Kitchen set up shop in San Diego in 1990 help victims cope with HIV and AIDS. The weapons: culinary know-how and a small army of volunteers.

“In those days, the disease brought out both the best and worst in people,” says Alberto Cortés, executive director at Mama’s Kitchen. “HIV was still a fairly stigmatized disease thanks to its connection to the gay community.”

The volunteers, however, sidestepped any divisiveness. Originating as an offshoot of the AIDS Assistance Fund to help low-­income and emotionally devastated individuals who were too sick to prepare their own food, Mama’s Kitchen delivered home-cooked meals to down­town’s terminally ill daily.

Many in the gay community, familiar with the disease’s potential to ravage society, were among the earliest on board. But Mama’s Kitchen really gained traction when key players in San Diego, coupled with changing attitudes, helped galvanize broader support. 

As the number of HIV and AIDS cases began to wane in the late ’90s, one question loomed for Cortés: Do we shrink as an organization as HIV shrinks?

The answer was simple: No. Instead, Mama’s Kitchen continued evolving, attracting more vol­unteers and resources to deal with the chang­ing nature of HIV and AIDS. In 2006, the organization added people with other critical illnesses to its delivery routes. Efforts include the Children’s Nutritional Health Program, which provides food for malnourished children whose families have been affected by HIV.

The charity has never turned away anyone qualified for its services since inception, says Cortés. Last year, Mayor Jerry Sanders recognized the nonprofit’s commitment by commemorating its 5 millionth meal.

To celebrate 20 years of service, Mama’s Kitchen is enlisting 70 of San Diego’s top chefs for the 19th annual Mama’s Day on May 7. As testament to the organization’s widespread appeal, many of San Diego’s biggest names and companies will join the fund-raiser.

Going forward, Cortés envisions the volunteer-driven organization adapting but never losing its core message. “We’ll be based on a foundation of nutrition and heart, of a strong sense of humanity,” he says.       —Jared Whitlock

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