Diary

With the headline-grabbing horrors of the OJ Simpson trial and the Oklahoma bombing, the name of Lyle Menendez has happily faded from the memory. At least, it had.

Unfortunately, the American publishing industry has concluded that there's more gold to be squeezed out of his story, so once again this unsavoury young man is being eagerly pressed upon us. Thus, a book that sheds further light on the trial of Lyle and his younger brother, Erik, after they blasted their millionaire parents to death in their Beverly Hills home.

It's called The Private Diary of Lyle Menendez - In His Own Words, and confirms that, while a jury was unable to agree over his guilt, there's not much disputing his character, which is that of a vain creep. "Buy me a yellow sweater," he urged his friend Norma Novelli, a 55-year-old businesswoman whose tape recordings - reportedly made with his consent - form the nub of the book. "Ever see a violent man wearing a yellow sweater?"

"Trial Lyle", as he now calls himself, evidently has a high opinion of his courtroom skills, a view confirmed after a jury was unable to decide whether he committed murder or manslaughter. "You know, I just come across as this really, really nice kid."

For a man who many believe escaped conviction because of the skills of his female lawyer, he also has a surprisingly Neanderthal take on the opposite sex, boasting that women "love" him. "I'd like a woman to be a good cook, a prostitute in bed, not too independent and waiting for me when I get home." He is utterly convinced that shooting his parents to death with a shotgun will not end in a murder conviction, and promises to "beat the ass" of the Los Angeles District Attorney at his retrial, due to begin on 16 August. We'll see. The DA is taking an unusual interest in the tapes, and has already acquired a court order allowing extracts to be used in evidence. Perhaps this will include the Euphemism of the Year: Lyle graciously admits that shooting his Mum and Dad was an "overreaction".

Just when we thought that, like the Menendez brothers, Arianna Huffington was history, a new squall hits the radar screen. La Huff has been roasting Vice-President Al Gore for not disclosing how much he gives to charity. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, she jeered at him for taking the standard $6,350 deduction on his US tax return - concluding that this means his deductible charitable donations were therefore less than this.

Arianna subscribes to the quaint notion that rich people don't need to be taxed as they are naturally inclined to give their money away. It would be thoroughly mean to suggest that the $28m which her husband spent on his failed attempt to become a US senator last year would have been better given to charity. But isn't it a little strange that throughout his campaign - in which she was centrally involved - he rejected every request for information about his income tax returns?

Some time ago my wife and I bought second-hand bikes. It had something to do with a fantasy in which our Ford Tempo would remain in the garage while we cycled around this car-addicted city, gazing accusingly at all those smog-generating, fuel-wasting drivers around us. So far, I have made two trips, a combined total of about two miles. But I doubt I'll be going out again. Angeleno drivers have more respect for a crushed hedgehog than a fat man on a bicycle.

A solution may be at hand, though. A series of electric bikes called the EV Warrior are, according to their makers, due in the showrooms of LA this summer. Word has it that they are fluorescent, look like mountain bikes, and can whizz along at up to 20 miles an hour - which may not sound much, but is a damn sight faster than the freeways often are in rush hour.

It has a 20-mile range and can be charged up in about an hour and a half. You just wheel it into the office and plug it into the wall. And if it runs out of juice, you can pedal. Just another crackpot invention? Possibly. But the project has reportedly attracted some reasonably heavy-hitting investors, including Georgia Frontiere, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams football team, the novelist Sydney Sheldon and Malcolm Currie, the former chairman of Hughes Aircraft Co. It would be nice to think that Californians will be queuing up for the things (there are three models that cost between $899 and $1,499) and that the boulevards of LA will soon be like Peking's, only faster. But I have my doubts. You can't laugh at bicyclists if you're on a bicycle.

You would, however, have more time to admire Angelyne. People will go to extraordinary lengths to acquire fame in California, but few will better the efforts of this blonde actress. For the past few years her scantily clad figure has appeared on billboards across the city next to a request, usually in giant pink letters, urging passers by to call her. This flagrant self-promotion has paid dividends. Her movie career isn't great - a handful of undistinguished credits and an obscure screenplay called The Bra That Ate LA - but her name has become big enough to command an appearance fee of $4,000.

Now, however, a challenger has appeared on the horizon. Scores of billboards have popped up, uttering only one word, in big black and white letters. Some say "GUILTY"; the rest say "INNOCENT".

The OJ Simpson trial has spawned a multimillion-dollar publishing industry, so it's hardly surprising to discover that the notices are the work of an LA talk radio station, KFI-AM, promoting its trial coverage. They have alarmed Mr Simpson's lawyers, his prosecutors and his judge, Lance Ito. The jury is sequestered, to prevent them being exposed to anything which might sway their verdict. To ease the stress of life under guard, they are taken on outings, most recently to a baseball game. Now the police have to check their route with extra care before they are allowed to travel.

Billboard rows are not uncommon in LA. Not long ago a pirate radio station incurred the wrath of the Duke Ellington fan club after erecting a notice promising "Less Music By Dead Guys". Women's groups protested after a chicken restaurant boasted "The Best Breasts in LA Without Plastic Surgery". And when a chiropractor erected a sign featuring a three-dimensional mannequin hanging by its fingertips, motorists were so surprised that there were long traffic jams.

Not sure how the subject came up, but I found myself floundering when trying to describe a certain type of swimming costume to a roomful of strangers. You know the type - front but no backside, popular among women on the beaches of California and Rio. A lawyer came to my aid with a phrase which everyone seemed to regard as apt. I pass it on without comment: "Butt Floss".

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