Richmond Republicans Line Up for the Dole 

Street Talk

Richmond Republicans Line Up for the DoleUtopia Cafe CrumblesEx-Richmonder To Be Plugged in TV GuideChesterfield Celebrates Sesqui-Huh?Hotline Helps Men in Throes of DivorceRichmond Republicans Line Up for the Dole

t was the opening event of the season.

Looking almost too Richmond, too conservative in her dark blue suit, matching pumps and no-nonsense 'do, Elizabeth Dole trooped into town last week to find more friends and funds with which to make a respectable go of it against George W. Bush in Virginia's Feb. 29 GOP primary.

With his boyishly shy smile, Reynolds Metals Co. vice president and Dole finance committee member Bill Reynolds played the quietly gracious host at his River Road-corridor home. Upwards of 100 paying guests sipped, nibbled and milled expectantly beneath a large tent on the driveway in front of his open garage as Reynolds explained he met Dole when he was an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. in the '60s and she was a lawyer defending indigent clients.

Then she came. Oh, the pesky TV cameras and reporters wouldn't leave her alone. Finally she made her way down the driveway, accepting hugs and kisses en route to the tent.

The entrance won approving smiles. For those willing to part with at least $250 each to be here, it should have. But she mingled all too briefly as the Rene Croan Trio played straight-ahead jazz, and caterer Annie Chalkley's simply prepared shrimp, salmon and roast beef were followed by scotch, white wine and (according to one bartender) "a lot of double vodkas."

Then Linwood Holton (Virginia's governor from 1970-74) took the stage to "put my stamp of approval on this candidate." Later, munching a small sandwich, Holton convincingly explained that his fellow "moderate" Republican will have plenty of time and opportunities to win the hearts of Virginia's less well-heeled voters.

And where were you?

— Rob Morano

Utopia Cafe Crumbles

Coffeehouses come and go, but some sure go in a hurry.

Such was the case with Utopia Cafe and Infoshop at 402 N. Harrison St. in the heart of VCU. The now-defunct caffeinery touted itself as the place for activist meetings, alternative literature and spoken word jams to benefit such groups as Food Not Bombs.

But participation in these First Amendment exercises never got off the ground. And more important, profits weren't brewing.

"You can have all kinds of ideas but you have to pay the bills," says building owner Birte Christensen, who says she sold her four-year-old Coffee and Danish business in late June to a couple whose son was to run the new business. "They abandoned it," Christensen says of the owners, whom she declines to name.

But in its brief incarnation Utopia was a haven, if not an ideal world, for grunge kids who read slick magazines not likely found on grandma's coffee table. And here, they read and sipped coffee while soaking in minimalist light.

Christensen has been in the neighborhood since 1972 and also owns the Carriage House Book Shop building next door. Christensen, in hopes of collecting her money and finding new tenants, now finds herself wrangling through the fine print of a five-year lease signed by Utopia owners. "I'm not very happy about the situation, but that's life," she says. But Christensen still has high hopes for the shop as a coffeehouse, even if it's not Utopian. "I think it should be another alternative space where people can go and read in peace and quiet, and not smell like smoke when they leave."

— Brandon Walters

Ex-Richmonder To Be Plugged in TV Guide

Leslie Bibb would be a sure thing in a popularity contest — even in L.A.

And studio execs at the WB network hope this translates to high scores in ratings. This season Bibb plays a hip blonde 18-year-old on "Popular," the newest in the line of teen-bent programs, that aims to be like the network's other winner "Dawson's Creek."

In just seven years, Bibb has graduated from being a senior at Saint Gertrude High School in Richmond to being one of the more sought-after young actresses in Los Angeles.

So says the TV Guide issue that hits newsstands Oct. 23. The issue highlights 10 young actresses to watch — actresses who could, if they're lucky, flourish like a Jennifer Love Hewitt or Sarah Michelle Geller.

Bibb got her first big break when she won a modeling contest on the Oprah Winfrey show. Since then, she's dropped out of U.Va. to pursue an acting career, has moved to N.Y. then L.A., taking acting classes on both coasts.

"She's made it, she's hot," Bibb's mother, Betty Sulzbach says happily from her home here in Richmond. "She's putting in 14-hour days."

She's been shooting, too, in Canada for "Skulls" a movie about a group of college kids in D.C. that's due out this February.

Bibb, 25, is taking advantage of her youthful looks, playing teen-age parts while she can. It's a trend these days in Hollywood. "Apparently there are not a lot of Claire Danes," says Sulzbach, about the twenty-something star who can still pass for a teen-ager. And at least until Bibb starts to show her age, that's what her publicists like to hear.

— B.W.

Chesterfield Celebrates Sesqui-Huh?

Question: What is "sesquiduplecentennial?"

A. 250 years

B. 300 years

C. 350 years

D. The technically incorrect but creatively maddening slogan for Chesterfield County's 250th anniversary.

First of all, sesquiduplecentennial is a made-up word. It cannot be found in any but Chesterfield County literature, including unabridged dictionaries. And Mike Roundy, an editor at Merriam-Webster in Springfield, Mass., who won't admit he's smart, but is, says the word does not appear in his database.

The word appears on only five Web pages, too, according to the AltaVista search engine, all — you guessed it — at www.co.chesterfield.va.us.

That leads to attempting to make sense of the word's constituent parts — always a perilous undertaking. In English, "sesqui" means one and a half; "duple" means two. A centennial is 100 years. Now, it's how they are put together that matters, but in neither possible construction does the word amount to 250 years.

The first way is to multiply "sesqui" (1.5) by "duple" (2), which equals 3. With "centennial," that makes 300 years. The other way is to multiply "duple" by "centennial," which equals 200 years, and then to multiply that by "sesqui," for a total of ... 300 years also. Roundy, whose background is in science, of which math is a subset, verified these results.

The Richmond Public Library, the final authority on all matters, concurs. Researcher Lynn Papas came up with the correct word for 250 years: "semiquincentennial."

A Chesterfield County spokesman, possibly in hiding, did not return calls for comment.

— R.M.

Hotline Helps Men in Throes of Divorce

Divorce can be ugly business, not to mention costly.

All the accusations, screaming and endless pleas for money — and that's just from your lawyer.

But now, men may find help at the other end of the line, just 10 digits away.

Maybe you've seen the company's ads that target men in the throes of divorce and offer over-the-phone counseling and legal advice. The heavy-text ads have appeared almost daily since the call-in service became available in Virginia two weeks ago.

The six-month-old Men's Divorce Help Center, Inc. of Swanton, Vt., which has already set up business in that state and Maine hopes to get Virginia men up to speed with just which tactics work and which don't when going through a divorce.

"We've been doing research for four years," says Danny Gauthier, president of the 18-member, all-divorced group. Gauthier says that "99 percent of men don't know their rights."

If the caller agrees to subscribe, he gets four 50-page reports that outline four topics: strategies for child custody; how to find and manage a lawyer; how to cope with the emotional stress of divorce; and how to protect your money and assets. Four audio tapes that detail the reports are included, too. And after a month's membership, legal advice from the staff's attorneys is just a phone call away. So how much does all this cost? A year's subscription will set you back $248.

Gauthier says, so far, Virginia business looks promising. Between 20 and 25 phone calls a day have been placed to the Men's Divorce Help Center. Gauthier says, too, that most questions are about custody issues and assets. "They don't want to lose their shirt," he says. Eventually, Gauthier hopes men will connect to the Men's Divorce Help Center from all 50 states. Still, it's hard to imagine this divorce hotline will offer as much relief as a good old pint of Ben & Jerry's.

— B.W.

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