Whatever Happened To...
By Thomas K. Arnold and Tom Blair
Walter “Fast Eddie” Alexander
He gave himself the nickname, and it fit. In more than one way. “Fast Eddie” Alexander was a fast-talking TV sportscaster and even faster con man—the man Judge Earl Gilliam said could “sell refrigerators to Eskimos.” While anchoring sports at Channel 10, Eddie scammed investors in his various “business” enterprises, including a barbecue restaurant with cooked books. Convicted in 1983 of bilking investors out of $1.6 million, Eddie was sentenced to state prison. By then, he’d been fired by Channel 10. In 1990, while still on probation from the 1983 conviction, and while working in Oakland television, Fast Eddie pleaded guilty to violating his probation; this time, he was selling false securities in the Bay Area. After serving a
From 1975 until 1985, Marc Berman was the king of the local concert promoters. He took San Diego into the rock ’n’ roll big leagues, booking Cheap Trick and Heart into the stadium and turning SDSU’s Open Air Theatre into a hot summer concert venue. He also helped launch the Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay series. But following a series of unsuccessful concert ventures, Berman was out. After struggling, in vain, to reestablish himself here, he moved north and took a job with the Nederlander Organization in Los Angeles as director of operations for resort entertainment.
Stephen Bishop’s 1977 hit “On and On” established him as a songwriter’s songwriter, earning him the admiration of Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Sting, all of whom have recorded tunes by and with Bishop. The song had been turned down for radio station KGB’s first Homegrown album, even though the young San Diego tunesmith had changed the opening line from “Down in Jamaica” to “Down in La Jolla.” He changed the lyrics back and—voilà!—a star was born. Bishop had several later hits, including 1983’s “It Might Be You,” but since then Top 40 success has eluded him. Still, he continues to be a mainstay of the Los Angeles music scene. He’s just released his first album in six years, Blue Guitars, and penned a book, Songs in the Rough, published by St. Martin’s Press.
He was either a supreme overachiever or sadly underestimated, but Jim Bates’ election successes routinely confounded critics. First elected to the San Diego City Council in the early 1970s, and later the Board of Supervisors, Democrat Bates moved up to Congress in 1982. After seven years, he appeared firmly entrenched—until two female staffers charged him with sexual harassment. A 1989 rebuke by the House Ethics Committee preceded his reelection defeat by Republican Randy “Duke” Cunningham in 1990. “I like to think I’ve learned from losing—that I’ve learned humility,” Bates said during a campaign to regain his seat in 1992. But the voters weren’t forgiving. Today, at 55, Bates has left elective politics behind. Separated from his wife, he’s running an old family farm in Homedale, Idaho, and doing some consulting work.
The Garv was the star of the pennant-winning 1984 Padres, smacking a Lee Smith fastball into history to turn the Chicago Cubs into instant also-rans. When Garvey retired in 1988 after 19 seasons —his last five were with the Padres; before that, the Dodgers—politics seemed a likely next step; the GOP was said to be positioning him for a run at the U.S. Senate. But in early 1989, two paternity suits shattered the ex–first baseman’s squeaky-clean image, and he never recovered. There was a messy divorce from his first wife, Cyndi; then came tax problems. Garvey briefly hosted a radio talk show in San Diego and now, living in L.A., works as a sometime sports commentator and motivational speaker. Earlier this year his second wife, Candace, filed for legal separation, citing seven years of alleged harassment by the first Mrs. Garvey.
He was one of those TV rarities: an anchorman who actually broke news. He won fame in L.A. as an investigative reporter, exposing, among other scams, a strange new car called the Dale. The Dale never existed, but the car’s promoter existed in duplicate; he/she turned out to be a transvestite. In San Diego during the 1970s, Carlson anchored at Channel 8. Later, turning political, he waged a bruising, losing campaign to unseat indicted Mayor Roger Hedgecock. And then Carlson entered appointive politics. After serving as director of Voice of America and assistant director of the U.S. Information Agency during the Reagan-Bush administrations, he was appointed ambassador to the Seychelles. These days, back in broadcasting, Carlson and his wife, Patricia, live in the Washington, D.C., area, where he’s president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
While not exactly in the same galaxy as Garbo, Garland or Dietrich, she was a local star recognizable by one name only: Danuta. The name had marquee value in San Diego radio and television. A co-star of Channel 8’s Sun-Up from 1978 to 1983, co-hosting with Jerry G. Bishop, Danuta left San Diego for something like the big time when she joined the Christian Broadcasting Network, helping Pat Robertson and company heal goiters and other ailments on cable-TV’s 700 Club. Leaving Robertson in the late ’80s, she returned to San Diego and worked in talk radio on KSDO. Last year, she moved to Oregon and married Robin Pfeiffer, settling down at the Pfeiffer Winery in Junction City. But friends say she still dabbles in small-town radio at a station not far from the grapevines.
During the late 1970s and early ’80s, she was San Diego’s celebrated Minister to the Me Generation. At her peak, Terry Cole-Whittaker drew droves of San Diego’s upwardly mobile to her trendy La Jolla Church of Religious Science. She was religious-chic, and she even flirted with Hollywood for a time (the National Enquirer had her engaged to The Love Boat’s Gavin McLeod—wrongly, of course). The title of her first book summed up her philosophy: Prosperity—Your Divine Right. Alas, prosperity eluded the author, and in 1985 it all came crashing down. The High Priestess of Yuppiedom abandoned her flock, citing burnout and $100,000 worth of debt. She surfaced occasionally after that—once with a short-lived TV talk show. These days, Terry works out of her home in Malibu, as an inspirational speaker with The Sacred Path—a group, says a friend, that “helps people get in touch with their spiritual path.”
Elected to the San Diego City Council in 1981 on a wave of community activism, Mike Gotch saw his popularity plummet five years later when he pushed through the council a deal to turn historic Belmont Park into a shopping center—built by his political fund-raiser’s husband. Vilified in the press, Gotch chose not to run for a third term. He failed in his first bid for state assemblyman but later served two uneventful terms before retiring in 1994 to the Napa Valley. He’s now a lobbyist for the Tribal Alliance of Northern California.
One of San Diego’s first football heroes, John Hadl spent 16 years in the NFL, the first 11 as Chargers quarterback. Arching passes to Lance Alworth in the 1960s, Hadl may not have been a classic stylist, but he was as competitive as they come. His tenacity was rewarded two years ago, when he was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for his deeds at the University of Kansas, where he was All-American halfback in 1960 and quarterback in 1961. While Alworth has remained in San Diego, on retirement Hadl returned to his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. He’s now an associate athletic director at his alma mater.
In 1963, “Rhythm of the Rain” made San Diegan Tony Grasso and the Cascades a household name. Years later, The Who would cite the infectious ditty as one of their all-time favorites. But Grasso and crew proved to be a one-hit wonder, although they continued to tour before settling in for a long stint at the Red Coat Inn in East San Diego. After unsuccessful stabs at regaining the spotlight with other bands, Grasso in the early 1980s gave up music to manage the service bay at the Chevron station in Santee. His old boss says last he’d heard, Grasso was in Tucson, laying concrete.
Once the fair-haired boy of San Diego newscasters, Mac Heald’s promising broadcast career here came to a swift end when he was arrested and convicted of child-molestation charges in 1981. Heald, who had joined Channel 8 three years earlier as reporter and anchor of the noon news, was known as much for his boyish good looks as for his charismatic, thoughtful delivery. His arrest, and subsequent firing, made headlines in the local press. Heald was packed off to Tehachapi State Prison for a three-year term; he now lives in Los Angeles and does freelance writing, voice-overs and production work. He’s also doing some on-air work for a Christian network on the East Coast.
The golden girl of the notorious J. David saga now lives in Montecito, near Santa Barbara, with her millionaire husband, Kenneth Hunter. In the early 1980s, Jerry Dominelli and his helpmate/roommate Hoover were the darlings of the social set and generous givers to all the right causes. But in February 1984, Dominelli’s financial empire crumbled, and a year later he pleaded guilty to bilking investors of $80 million through a Ponzi scheme. Shortly after Dominelli went to prison, Hoover married Hunter, a wealthy investor who reportedly poured $2 million into her defense. In 1990, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison but served only 30 months because she helped the government in a related case.
Harry “Happy Hare” Martin
Happy Hare was San Diego’s answer to Wolfman Jack—of a kinder, gentler persuasion. From 1955 to 1961, and again from 1969 until 1971, Hare reigned as our town’s most popular Top 40 deejay, catapulting KCBQ to No. 1. He brought Richie “La Bamba” Valens to town, introduced Elvis Presley on stage and even ran for mayor, dropping out when it seemed he might win. Martin later went into sales at country station KSON, but the lure of the airwaves ultimately proved too strong: He recently returned to the broadcast booth, hosting a nationally syndicated nostalgia show heard on 56 stations. He lives in Point Loma.
His partner was killed; Donovan Jacobs was shot, run over, left for dead. Sagon Penn admitted attacking the two white San Diego police officers during a racially charged confrontation in March 1985. But two years later, a jury acquitted the black martial arts student of manslaughter after a “racist cop” defense. Jacobs never regained the use of his right arm—and never forgave his superiors for their lack of support. Yet he stuck with the SDPD for six years while studying law. Then he retired from police work and opened a law practice in El Cajon. His specialty, appropriately enough, is representing police officers in personal-injury, wrongful-termination, defamation and discrimination suits.
Booted out of office a decade ago for charging lavish personal lunches and dinners on his city credit card, former San Diego Councilman Uvaldo Martinez keeps a low profile these days. He’s president and chief executive officer of TWTel Inc., a local telecommunications firm that just hit the market with prepaid cellular phones. Martinez was appointed to the City Council in 1982 and elected to a full term in 1983. Three years later his promising political career came to an end when he was indicted on 28 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds and falsification of public documents. He resigned in November 1986 and, as part of his plea bargain, reimbursed the city $607.
In March 1995, Chuck Muncie, former star running back for the Chargers (1980-1985), signed on as executive director of the Boys & Girls Club in the Ventura County community of Port Hueneme. It had been 10 years since he was suspended by the National Football League for drug use and five years since his release from federal prison, where he had been sent in 1988 for trying to sell cocaine to undercover drug agents. After he got out of the clink, Muncie worked as doorman for the Old Ox restaurant in Pacific Beach. He later moved to Arizona, where he became a partner in a water-sports firm, joined the national youth group as a volunteer and subsequently transferred to the California club.
He was hired out of Cincinnati to be city manager here under an embattled mayor who described Sylvester “Sy” Murray as “an enigma.” Thirteen months later, after Mayor Hedgecock’s resignation, San Diego’s first black city manager tendered his own resignation. A vote of “no confidence” by new Mayor Maureen O’Connor and the City Council greased the skids. Councilmembers cited conflicts with Murray’s management style. But it was his mouth, more than his management, that did him in. In an interview, Murray had told a reporter he got “an orgasm just being a boss of police.” With that, his reign was effectively over. Today, 10 years later, he’s back in Ohio, out of government and into the quieter environment of academe. But still talking. Murray directs Cleveland State University’s public management program in the College of Urban Affairs and lectures in the classroom.
Nearly 10 years ago, an intense young black man named Sagon Penn was found not guilty in a highly volatile case involving the death of one San Diego cop and the wounding of another (see Donovan Jacobs). But the acquittal did not end the troubled Penn’s battles with the law. He was later arrested several times in cases involving girlfriends, ex-girlfriends and a wife. Penn—who for a time took up hairstyling and took the name Meecee Parks—toyed with a possible career in law enforcement. (He picked up an application for a job with the SDPD in 1987, though it was never filed.) But Penn seemed destined for the wrong side of the law. In 1993, he was sentenced to two years in prison in another battery case involving a former girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Since his release, Penn has been uncharacteristically quiet.
Another San Diego broadcast star who hit the big time was Channel 8’s bubbly Sarah Purcell, who left local news for network fame. In 1979, she was chosen by NBC to co-host a new prime-time series called Real People. The show ran for six seasons, often landing in the Top 10. In the early ’90s, Purcell went syndicated with Gary Collins to co-host The Home Show, which had a brief run on daytime television. One episode earned scare headlines after a guest doctor accidentally injected Purcell and Collins with the same needle while demonstrating a flu shot. (Collins, tested for HIV, came up negative.) Out of the network glare now, Purcell still turns up on the tube occasionally in infomercials.
Only one college athlete a year wins the coveted Heisman Trophy. Only Johnny Rodgers, the Nebraska running back who played for the Chargers, won the Heisman, lost it and got it back. After his playing years, Rodgers published Tuned In magazine, a local TV Guide clone bankrolled by developer Tawfiq Khoury. When Tuned In folded, Rodgers drifted. In 1987, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. The conviction was overturned, but he was found guilty of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. At that time, Rodgers’ attorney took custody of the Heisman, claiming it as collateral. Three years ago the trophy was returned to Rodgers, now back at his alma mater in Lincoln, Nebraska, where his life has turned around. Now he’s pursuing a master’s degree, marketing his own line of Cornhuskers activewear, tutoring young athletes and enjoying life with a new wife, Jawana.
He was the romantic rock Romeo of the late 1960s. With his band the Union Gap, Gary Puckett consistently topped the charts with soulful hits like “Woman, Woman” and “Young Girl.” In 1968 they sold more records than anyone except the Beatles. But fame proved fleeting for Puckett, who had once delivered parts for a downtown foreign-car shop. The hits stopped coming, and after a decade of introspection, Puckett in 1980 launched a comeback attempt as a new-wave rocker. It didn’t work, so he turned to the solid-gold circuit, which he continues to ply to this day. Now 54, Puckett lives in San Marcos with his artist wife, and recently entertained Republicans at a convention beach party.
Larry Sacknoff, the perky ex–Channel 10 sportscaster who gave Ted Leitner a run for his money, still lives in San Diego and is battling for his life. Sacknoff quit his job in 1992, citing stress, three years after he suffered a massive heart attack. In 1994, he was back in cardiac intensive care at Scripps Hospital due to blood-thinning drugs that caused internal bleeding. He briefly pursued voice-over work and acting, appearing in a TV-movie with former San Diegan Raquel Welch and an episode of Beverly Hills 90210. But he’s now resting at home pending a heart transplant. “People didn’t understand why I left a six-figure job,” Sacknoff says. “No one knew how bad off I really was.”
Since his release from federal prison three years ago, convicted money-launderer Richard Silberman, ex-husband of Mayor Susan Golding and a confidante of former Governor Jerry Brown, has been living in San Francisco and consulting for the Mountain Mike’s Pizza chain. Silberman was once one of San Diego’s biggest movers and shakers. He bought and sold banks, chaired the downtown redevelopment agency and helped found Old Town’s Bazaar del Mundo. But in 1989, Silberman was busted in an FBI sting for laundering $300,000 in what he believed was Colombian drug money. He was convicted a year later and sentenced to 46 months in prison. While in prison, he and Golding quietly divorced. Friends say Silberman, 68, is now engaged to Lisa Lane, a 40-year-old marketing executive from San Francisco.
Sam Spital was the best-known lawyer in these parts. Never mind that he never personally tried a case. His savvy TV marketing—“Let Sam Do It!”—lured thousands of clients to his booming law office. But that was before a $7.5 million malpractice judg- ment led Spital into personal and corporate bankruptcy. The malpractice case against Spital was handled by attorney Patrick Frega, now a defendant in a high-profile (and unrelated) court-corruption case. Spital later sued his own insurance company. But these days, Sam is pretty much letting other lawyers do it. He works out of a one-man law office near San Diego State, handling just a few clients. Mostly, he does something he’s a natural at: business marketing consulting. “It’s less contentious,” he says wryly.
Rabbi Michael Sternfield
As senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, Michael Sternfield was the spiritual light of San Diego’s Jewish community. His followers included the late M. Larry Lawrence and Mayor Susan Golding. But in 1993, he was forced to resign after confessing to an affair with a younger, married female rabbi. Sternfield fled San Diego, first to South Africa and then to Sacramento, where he was named chief deputy director of the California Conservation Corps by Governor Pete Wilson. Last year, Sternfield redonned his robes and moved to Illinois as the new rabbi of the Chicago Sinai Congregation. He briefly returned to San Diego last December to wed Deborah Bard, cantor for Beth Israel.
Bree Walker-Lampley, the ex–San Diego radio vamp who became a big-time TV news anchor, now runs her own production company in L.A. with her husband, sportscaster Jim Lampley. The comely blonde burst onto the local broadcast scene in 1979 as Bree Bushaw, the buxom “lip girl” who doubled as deejay and pin-up girl at rock station KPRI. In 1980, she moved to television for six years at Channel 10, a hire hailed by advocates for the disabled (Walker-Lampley was born with deformed hands and feet). She subsequently anchored the news at two of the biggest TV stations in the country, WCBS in New York and KCBS in Los Angeles, before leaving television to briefly pursue a career in acting.
He called himself the “Great White Face.” And whether you detested mime or merely hated it, in terms of staying power the name fit. Mark Wenzel arrived on the scene in the 1970s and took his internship on street corners. But it wasn’t long before Wenzel turned mime into a full-time gig, earning billing as “The Official Sea World Mime.” In the ’80s, he gained a wider fame, appearing on television with Dinah Shore and touring China with Kate Jackson and Ben Vereen. Mime lost much of its glow in the ’90s, but Wenzel is still slapping on the whiteface and working the circuit. He lives in Pasadena with his actress-wife Barbara Murray, but he gets back to San Diego occasionally. This past summer, he played the Del Mar Fair.
Long before there was Heidi Fleiss, there was Karen Wilkening. San Diego’s notorious “Rolodex Madam” was busted in 1987, and rumors of several prominent local clients in her card file led to shocking headlines. (A long and frenzied San Diego Union newspaper investigation turned up next to nothing.) Wilkening fled the country and lived as a fugitive in Manila for two years. She was extradited in 1989 and subsequently spent two years in prison. Paroled in 1991, Wilkening became a motivational speaker and later formed a fast friendship with Sidney Biddle Barrows, serving as a bridesmaid for the Mayflower Madam’s 1994 wedding. She now runs her own editing business, Expert Editing, Ink.
Certain, uh, indiscretions with prostitutes put an abrupt end to the promising career of Judge Lewis Wenzell in 1982. Police raided a call-girl outfit and nabbed Wenzell’s credit-card receipts, along with detailed descriptions of his sexual preferences. The case made headlines—“In the Tribune, the biggest since V-E Day,” Wenzell recalls—and prompted his hasty resignation. The former judge now has a law practice in Ocean Beach. He works primarily for other attorneys in complex criminal proceedings—including the case of ex-Councilman Bruce Henderson and two tax activists in their legal challenge to the city’s plan to expand the stadium without a public vote.