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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Feb 4 1998
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We were amused to receive a memo from pollsters Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates informing us that in a poll of 600 Minnesotans, only one in nine would support former Northwest Airlines Chairman Al Checchi in a run for governor.

The poll revealed that while 71 percent of Minnesota Democrats recognize Al's name, only 7 percent have a favorable opinion of him, compared with the 38 percent who, uh, don't.

Pollster Paul Maslin says, "The results are stunning, and represent one of the most complete rejections of a public figure -- political or corporate -- I have seen in 20 years in the polling business."

The Minnesotans also didn't buy the Northwest story Checchi is trying to sell voters in the California gubernatorial race -- you know, the one about how he turned a struggling company into one of the best-managed airlines in the country. Instead, they insist the correct version is that Checchi "took over a profitable airline, loaded it down with billions of dollars in debt, fired thousands of employees and nearly drove it into bankruptcy," and that Northwest "was only saved by its workers, who gave up millions of dollars in wage cuts, and by a taxpayer-financed bailout approved by the Minnesota legislature."

Maybe Al should rethink basing his campaign strategy on increasing voter recognition.

Lipstick Traces
According to Vogue, San Franciscans have browner lips than other Americans. The latest issue of the magazine surveyed department stores across the country to find the top-selling clothing, accessories, and makeup in major cities -- and here, it seems, everyone and her monkey is wearing M*A*C's Twig, a sort of brownish mauvish shade. Far be it from Dog Bites to get into one of those complex analyses of fashion trends and the economy -- the quasi-natural look signifying boom times, or something like that. All we're comfortable extrapolating from this news is that San Franciscans are thick-skinned enough to endure the ritual of being snubbed by icy, improbably made-up sales clerks at M*A*C counters.

Oddly enough, in allegedly minimalist New York, the top-selling lipstick is Estee Lauder's All Day Frosted Apricot, an iridescent peach shade. But things could be much, much worse: In Dallas and Miami, the top-selling lipstick is Chanel's Jubilee, a brilliant pink-coral.

Still, let's not be too smug about our tasteful neutrality. At Nordstrom, a helpful sales clerk at the Stila counter explained that the really hot new lipstick won't even be released until March. "But everyone's already asking for it," she wailed. Just so you know, it's called Cynthia, and guess what: It's fuchsia.

Bugged by El Nino
As if the rain weren't depressing enough already, Dog Bites has learned the wet winter may speed the spread of an appalling little insect responsible for infecting SoCal's oleanders with a deadly bacteria.

The bug first turned up in the state around 1989, presumably introduced from the Southeast, and so far has spread as far north as Ventura. But all the extra rain means the insects can breed like, well, insects -- so there are more and more around carrying Xylella. The bacteria has a number of different strains, one of which has been destroying grapevines throughout California for years.

The insect carrying the latest Xylella strain is the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a type of leafhopper that feeds by sucking on plant juices. It's begun to infest trees in Southern California in such numbers that, according to researchers, "the residue from its excrement gives the trees ... a whitewashed appearance." Eeeew.

But things could go from a little gross to a lot expensive. Oleanders, until now considered indestructible landscaping plants, line over 2,100 miles of California highways. If the infection spreads throughout the state, as agricultural experts think it will, Caltrans estimates the cost of replacing the shrubs will be around $52 million.

Stoned on Stone
Has Sharon Stone finally found true love with the Examiner's Phil Bronstein? An article in the latest Harper's Bazaar might suggest so. An excerpt:

I: You've dated more people than Catherine the Great...
SS: ...and with less success.
I: Until now?
SS: [smiles] Yeah. I realized it was time to hang up my heartache.
-- Laurel Wellman

Dog Bites welcomes tips, especially those pertaining to disgruntlement. Write to Dog Bites, c/o SF Weekly, 185 Berry, Suite 3800, San Francisco, CA 94107, or e-mail dogbites@sfweekly.com.

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Laurel Wellman

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