Dog Bites

Fricke-Parks lawsuit; Jondi and Spesh CD release; Dot-com junkies

Obligatory Comment on the Fricke-Parks Lawsuit

Dog Bites has been sleepless -- sleepless! -- since Union City printing company Fricke-Parks Press filed its lawsuit against the Fangs. Could Grant Printing really have used part of the $66 million Examiner-purchase subsidy the Hearst Corp. agreed to pay its owners, the Fangs, to subsidize bids on printing work? Please, let it not be true!

Everything we've depended upon in our little world, it seems, has been thrown into doubt. Will the suit allow Hearst to be rid of the Examiner without paying the Fangs the subsidy? Will the entire deal just fall apart? Will the Fangxaminerdie unborn? Is Kid A just another CD we'll get sick of in a few weeks?

Oh, God!

At least we've had Chronicle President Steve Falk's memo about the lawsuit's implications to which to cling. "It is important for you to understand where we stand today regarding the ownership of the newspapers since some employees have raised this question," he wrote Friday.

"The San Francisco Chronicle is owned and controlled by The Hearst Corporation and we are all Hearst employees. The San Francisco Examiner is owned by ExIn and will be printed and distributed by Hearst under the terms of the transition services agreement until November 21, 2000.

"I will update you on further developments as they become available."

OK. It's nice to have everything laid out like that in times like these. Of course, Dog Bites is trying to update ourselves, without waiting to hear from more official sources. Basically how this works is several times a day we call Ted Fang's assistant, Bill Picture, and ask to speak to Fang. Picture assures us Fang will call us back in a few minutes. Of course, Fang never does call, though we cordially play along with the fiction that he will; after all, phoning his office is about all we have to do for amusement around here, and even so we sometimes get so bored we consider asking Picture if the Independent's refrigerator is running.

Actually, we're a little hurt. Dog Bites may not be a contender for the Emil Guillermo Big Wet Mwah! to the Fangs Award, but gosh! We're just trying to do our job, which is tough when nobody at the dailies is prepared to speculate -- at least, not on the record. The official line at the Examiner is much the same as it is at the Chron: Executive Editor Phil Bronstein said he had "no way of judging what the suit means." He sounded a lot like Falk when he added, "I don't think it changes the reality that Hearst owns the Chronicle and the Fangs own the Examiner."

But that's not necessarily the issue. One insider noted that this could be a convenient out for Hearst, which would have the paper it wants and be rid of the paper it doesn't want -- all without parting with $66 million. "Fang is operating from a very weak position," said our source. "Hearst could just say, "Sorry, the judge says we can't pay you. Here's the paper. See you in court -- in 2044.'"

Which way did our friend think it would go? No predictions there, so we called real estate tycoon and former mayoral candidate Clint Reilly, who -- for those who only read this column and are, hence, blissfully unaware of most current events -- was behind that antitrust suit challenging Hearst's purchase of the Chronand sale of the Ex to the Fangs. You know, the one in which Judge Vaughn Walker referred to the deal between Hearst and the Fangs as "malodorous." "I thought Iwas going to win," said Reilly. "But I think if it does go to trial [Fricke-Parks] has an excellent chance of prevailing."

Fricke-Parks' lawyer, Daniel Gerard, said his client "wouldn't have filed the case if we weren't prepared to see it through," and that Fricke-Parks is confident of its arguments. "We have no idea how [Grant Printing] is possibly going to explain the levels at which they were bidding," he said.

But though Gerard had argued -- successfully, as it turns out -- that the case should be reassigned to Judge Walker's courtroom, he said Fricke-Parks could care less about the fate of a couple of dailies in San Francisco. "They don't have any ulterior motive here," he insisted. "They're not looking for a vendetta with the Fangs."

Feel the Drums

The unrelenting pressure of doing nothing but writing a column is making Dog Bites somewhat crazier than usual: Now that we have five days a week to come up with amusing items, coming up with amusing items just seems harder.

Then again, as the Mercury News noted in the headline of the top story of its San Francisco section just last week, "Rains herald cooler days." And cooler days always seem to herald a busier social calendar, as those previously enervated by the merciless heat of the San Francisco summer begin to revive, and to invite us to parties and other events, thereby considerately giving us something to write about.

At least, that's the way we saw it this weekend, when Dog Bites, in a scenario no doubt played out in thousands of San Francisco households every Saturday night, was running around the apartment gulping echinacea and looking for our favorite lipstick while trying to watch City Desk. No, we don't know why we're fixated on the show; all we're going to say is we have this one friend who won't take calls during Cops and nobody thinks he's weird -- although, come to think of it, it would be really cool to see Ed Epstein and Rachel Gordon piling out of the back of an unmarked van wearing body armor and carrying 12-gauges while someone off-camera yells, "Go! Go! Go!"

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