Stormy Tuesday

Night of the locust: Last week must have been a record-breaker for Sacramento, with all manner of protesters and interest groups taking to the streets in a single evening. Factor in a swanky movie premiere and torrential rains, and it felt like Sacramento had turned into a low-rent hybrid of L.A. and D.C.

A glutton for punishment, Bites spent Tuesday evening slogging around it all. Outside the Crest Theatre for the premiere of Be Cool, fans waited in the rain to glimpse movie stars, while angry medical workers held a simultaneous vigil protesting the governor’s rollback of nurse-patient ratios. Singing protest songs and trying to snag TV time from the celebs, the nurses later were joined by a large and noisy contingent of anti-Wal-Mart marchers, who already had paid a call on City Hall and now wanted a piece of movie-star politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At least five unions showed up, from merchant marines (!) to the Service Employees International Union, which congregated near the red-carpeted VIP tent hoping to say something hostile to Arnold. Ironworkers and Teamsters carried signs saying “Union Yes, Wal-Mart No,” nurses sported posters condemning “Arnold The California Kaiser,” and fans clutched homemade photo collages of The Rock.

Ticketed premiere goers—easily distinguished from both fans and protesters by their elegant dress—looked a bit worried by the angry “Arnold’s gotta go!” chants as they slipped behind a police barricade to enter the theater. After a series of light-rail trains made extended stops between fans and the Crest, obstructing their view of unidentified stars pulling up in sleek SUVs, the fans’ patience was rewarded when actors Vince Vaughn and The Rock crossed the tracks to shake a few hands. Posing for cell-phone cameras and pressing the flesh, The Rock proved especially charismatic. Almost gubernatorial.

But wait, there’s more: Meanwhile, across town, outside a little house on Marty Way, there may have been more flags than signs, but there was no less chanting and yelling. More than 300 people lined both sides of the street in a bizarre public demonstration sparked by the soldier’s uniform that once hung from the roof of Stephen and Virginia Pearcy‘s house (see “Under siege” by Bill Forman, SN&R News, February 17). Of course, the uniform itself had been stolen days earlier, but the candlelight vigil, organized by Sal Russo‘s Move America Forward, went as scheduled, with flag-wavers on one side, free speech activists on the other, and lots of cops and TV cameras in between.

Bites was particularly impressed by one man who managed to carry a huge sign, several flags and two candles, all the while explaining the wisdom of George W. Bush’s adventures in Iraq. Bites was barely able to get a word in edgewise, warning him about the proximity of one candle to a flag and just in the nick of time. “Phew, don’t want to set fire to my own flag!” he said as he rearranged his paraphernalia.

Across the street, Bites got to witness two men with extremely large flashlights (which they’d been training on the peacenik protesters) threaten a passerby who had to be in his late 50s. “If you were 10 years younger, I’d kick your ass; in fact, I might kick your ass anyway,” said one of the flashlight carriers, after the older man corrected him about the flags in the Pearcys’ windows (they’re Iraqi and Palestinian, not, as the flashlight guy insisted, Lebanese). “At the end of the day,” he threatened a moment later, “violence solves everything.”

So, this dog is hanging around a strip club: And, finally, from our “only at the SN&R” file, comes the heroic tale of Roundabout. Owned by an SN&R delivery driver, Roundabout is a nasty little dog who is named after a Yes song. His owner was making stops along Auburn Boulevard around midnight (while traffic is light, natch), when the truck was stolen from a strip-club parking lot—newspapers, dog and all. “I know that dog, and he’s a nightmare,” said distribution manager Michael Billingsley, recalling his reaction to the bad news, "and I’m thinking the first thing that’s going to happen is that dog is going right out the window." As luck would have it, Roundabout hung tight and saved the day. "The dog was hooked up to the seatbelt, and obviously the guy couldn’t figure out how to get him out," explained Billingsley. "So, he drove two blocks and left it running in front of a 7-Eleven with the flashers blinking."