Los Angeles Stories: Unleash the beach - but not for the Warner Bros PR attack dogs

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The Independent US

Anybody walking their dog around the streets near the beaches in Santa Monica nowadays is likely to be approached by ladies juggling clipboards, petitions and usually several dogs on leads.

Anybody walking their dog around the streets near the beaches in Santa Monica nowadays is likely to be approached by ladies juggling clipboards, petitions and usually several dogs on leads.

Their aim - which, as a dog-owner myself I fully support - is to gather enough signatures to persuade the powers-that-be to relax their strict anti-dog laws - currently dogs are not allowed on any beaches - and to open up a section of the shore for residents to exercise their four-legged friends. The city council is mainly supportive, and we in the pro-dog Unleash the Beach movement were reasonably optimistic.

But we had not reckoned on the implacable opposition of the state parks superintendent, a Mr Ron Schafer, who is determined that no dogs will set paws on the beaches of Santa Monica. "Dogs are predators," he says firmly. "They grab birds." Admittedly my dog Harry likes to chase birds, but he has never caught one yet.

We dog-lovers are undaunted, however, and at a meeting the other night we learned that we have the support of an ally who we believe will be too powerful even for Mr Schafer. Bobby Shriver, a newly elected city councilman and also a dog-owner, is on our side. He is a man who has a certain amount of pull with the state authorities: he was recently appointed chairman of the State Parks Commission by his brother-in-law, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"We are talking to the right people," an Unleash the Beach official reported.

Life in Los Angeles revolves to a great extent around the film industry, and even those who aren't involved in it want to be. Most waiters and waitresses are would-be actors, and nearly everyone who can string two sentences together has written a script.

All the same, I was somewhat surprised to be waylaid the other day by my postman. Because he delivers the Hollywood "trade" newspapers to me, and had seen film studio logos on some mail, he wanted to know if I was "in the industry". He was disappointed when I told him I was an observer of it. "Pity," he said. "I've written a musical, and I was hoping you could help me find an agent."

In Hollywood's so-called Golden Age, publicists were larger-than-life characters who would go to any lengths to snare space in newspapers for the films they were promoting. They freely admitted they were paid to lie, and many people had their favourite publicist-inspired story - a herd of elephants parading down Hollywood Boulevard; audience members paid to faint with fright at a horror film; even a series of spurious romances with glamorous starlets invented for the resolutely gay Rock Hudson (below). The more column inches the better.

No longer. Publicists nowadays would never admit to lying, and are for the most part a humourless, stuffy bunch of corporate yes-men whose prime motivation is to exercise control over what is written and by whom. I speak from experience, having just been barred by the Warner Bros publicity department from a visit to the set of the latest Harry Potter film in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, to talk to the young stars and director Mike Newell.

The reason? Apparently I wrote "too much" about a set visit to another Warner Bros film, Batman Begins. Too much? I hope the old-time publicists are spinning in their graves.

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