Dog Bites

From Boring to Born Again
Film Threat founder Chris Gore has bought back his magazine from Larry Flynt Publications and is moving it to San Francisco for an August relaunch. Gore, who started Film Threat in 1985 as a zine while a student at Wayne State University in Michigan, sold the publication to L.A. porn merchant Flynt in 1991 but continued on in an editorial capacity. Film Threat championed the offbeat and edgy cinema of filmmakers like David Cronenberg, David Lynch, and John Waters -- "when there wasn't a market" for these films, says Gore. Now, he claims, the market is ready for "quirky" films, as evidenced by the success of Pulp Fiction and The Usual Suspects.

Under Flynt's ownership, Film Threat grew from 20,000- to 50,000-circulation range. Gore intends to position it as an alternative to Premiere and Entertainment Weekly and build the monthly's circulation to 100,000.

Gore says he purchased Film Threat for the same price that he sold it -- zero -- and will assume its subscription liability and merge it into Film Threat Video Guide. Citing no investors, he plans to publish with revenues alone. Gore's company, the Gore Group ("Publishers of Fine Magazines"), will also produce another title Gore started while working for Flynt, Wild Cartoon Kingdom, and he promises a presence on the Web. He decided to headquarter the company in the city, he says, because it champions independent film. He plans to establish bureaus in Los Angeles and New York -- what he calls the two other culture capitals in the U.S.

Under Flynt, Film Threat grew so mainstream that the most recent issue has Mulholland Falls on the cover. Gore promises to recover the magazine's manic attitude. "We're gonna get medieval on Hollywood's ass," he says.

Taking the 'Kake on Three Strikes
Thanks to the state's "three strikes you're out" law, the courts in nearly every county in California are backing up like bad plumbing in a college dormitory. Primarily it's because criminal cases carry a deadline for prosecution. The resulting backlog means civil courtrooms are turned into criminal courtrooms, especially in Los Angeles.

But not in Baghdad. It seems that the Examiner's favorite "Kupkake," District Attorney Terence Hallinan, hasn't been bitten by the same prosecutorial zeal as his colleagues. The S.F. Court Clerk's Office has added another staff person, but not because of the need to rush three-strikes cases into court. The job is entirely one of handling paperwork on defendants in other counties who have a paper trail running through San Francisco.

Unsfafe at Any Speed?
When Dennis Tison, rowing his boat near the Bay Bridge last December, watched a man jump into the frigid waters, he dialed 911 on his cellular phone and waited with the would-be suicide until help arrived. For his heroism, CTIA, a Washington, D.C.-based organization promoting the wireless communications industry, is honoring Tison during Wireless Safety Week, a celebration of the 13 million Americans who own wireless phones and make 50,000 emergency calls daily.

The publicity, however, is targeted at people in cars -- not rowboats. Spokesman Bryan Preston acknowledged that CTIA was encouraging drivers to be responsible about cellular phones -- hands-free operation and speed dialing, no note-taking with the car in motion.

California Highway Patrol Officer Suzann Ikeuchi confirms that cellular phones, though not linked conclusively to accidents, "contribute to the problem of inattentive driving." She adds that punching in a phone number in a dark car hurtling down a highway is like reading a road map under similar conditions. The only safe way to do either, she points out, is when traveling "0 mph."

By Jack Shafer, Lisa Davis, John Sullivan

 
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