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1981: the dim blue line part 1: police throw dead possums at black restaurant | James DePreist: The Maestro


Morrow County's Sunriver Farms declares bankruptcy in January, making it the largest farm failure in the history of Oregon.

WW reports on the burgeoning technology sector: "The world will soon be divided in two: those who know something about computers and those who don't."

Investigators probe state Sen. Dick Groener after the Democrat is spotted driving a Cadillac owned by lobbyist Bob Harris, an ex-con convicted of burglary and fraud. Turns out state Reps. Steve Kafoury and Earl Blumenauer also accepted favors from Harris, including campaign loans that were never repaid and use of vacation properties in Hawaii.

Neighborhood activist Margaret Strachan is elected to the Portland City Council, beating out front-runners Steve Kafoury and Earl Blumenauer, whose fortunes may have been dimmed by the Bob Harris scandal.

In a move to drum up publicity for his team and spark interest in major-league baseball, Portland Beavers owner Dave Hersh signs aging Boston Red Sox pitching ace Luis Tiant to a contract worth up to $178,000 a year.

Local bar band Seafood Mama, originally a swing band formed in 1978, trades up for the name Quarterflash and releases an eponymous LP on Geffen Records.

The Washington Public Power Supply System, which is building five nuclear power plants in the Evergreen State, is plagued by billion-dollar cost overruns, construction boondoggles, doctored quality-control reports, and drug use by engineers and craftsmen. Mired in debt, WPPSS (pronounced "whoops!" by its detractors) abandons plants 4 and 5 and never finishes plant 3.

WW describes KKSN as the most adventurous radio station in town, perhaps prematurely: A few months later, the station's gutsy playlist dumps Captain Beefheart and the Stray Cats for Barbara Streisand and Barry Manilow.

Jimbo Beckman, who will eventually become known as "the Mayor of NW Portland," tears his first ticket stub at Cinema 21. Jimbo's favorite flicks: Harold and Maude, King of Hearts and Casablanca.

Convicted cop killer Robert Christopher is released from prison after spectrum analysis reveals that the officer he killed was carrying illegal drugs to plant at the Outsiders Motorcycle Club. Prosecutors later identify a total of 58 drug cases that were tainted by officer misconduct. Investigators find that officers routinely lied to obtain search warrants, stole money and drugs from suspects and defrauded the city of evidence funds.

WW names Tony DeMicoli's new nightclub, Luis' La Bamba, Best Club of the Year.

A WW reviewer explores the newfangled video-rental business, with disastrous results: "I was almost driven to a frenzy of video-tape destruction and a trip to the small claims court."

Beloved rock club Urban Noize closes. The Long Goodbye becomes a leather bar.

Rolling Stones garage band the Malchicks disband; their charismatic leader, Billy Rancher, forms the Unreal Gods, which becomes a hometown favorite. WW calls it Portland's tightest, most danceable band.




  You're two young police officers working the Northeast precinct. Between radio calls, duty can get pretty dull. So what do you do? Toss four dead opossums in front of a black-owned Northeast Portland restaurant and touch off one of the most contentious disputes between the police force, the city and the public in years.

Wittingly or not, that's precisely what officers Craig Ward and Jim Galloway did in April when they pulled what some veteran police officers still call a stupid prank. Sure, the Burger Barn was a known hangout for shady citizens. But four maggoty critters on an African-American business'

front stoop evoked ugly Ku Klux Klan imagery: Portland'sblack and liberal activist communities marched through downtown and swamped the Police Bureau with protests.

Politics dictated that Charles Jordan, the city commissioner in charge of the Police Bureau, fire the two officers, sparking an angry counter-demonstration as hundreds of cops marched on City Hall. Although an arbitrator later reinstated the two officers with 30-day unpaid suspensions, their careers in the bureau were stunted. Meanwhile, the Burger Barn filed a $3.4 million civil-rights suit against the city but eventually settled for $64,000.

"It was the biggest mistake of my life," says Ward, now sheriff of Wheeler County. "I put the city through hell and brought discredit to the bureau. But it wasn't done out of meanness or racial motivation. It's my fault and I try to make amends for it every day."



  It's not often that an orchestra makes front-page headlines. But the Oregon Symphony did just that when it announced new maestro James DePreist, who finished up his first season with the orchestra in 1981.

A passionate orator who'd worked with Leonard Bernstein and Antal Dorati, the Philadelphia-born conductor had a presence that caught the imagination of symphony-goers. The fact that he was a black man in a largely white profession (in a largely white city) who'd overcome a severe physical disability (polio) only deepened the fascination.

Certainly to see James DePreist, aided by crutches, walk onto the concert stage, sit and, with a broad-shouldered sweep of his arms, bring the symphony to life is to see incredible grit and spirit. However, that driving spirit has meant much more than stirring music on the concert stage. DePreist is responsible for ushering the Oregon Symphony into the ranks of the nation's "Major Orchestras," a status accorded the symphony in 1982 by the American Symphony Orchestra League. In 1984, DePreist helped his symphony players win a long-awaited pay increase. Later that year, the orchestra moved from the Civic Auditorium to a newly renovated Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which allowed the players to practice and perform in the same undisturbed setting. Though there were many who fought for these changes over the years, DePreist's gift of diplomacy was the deciding factor in the debate. "It happened on his watch," says former principal second violinist Lajos Balogh, "and he deserves a great deal of credit for it."

The symphony players had an internationally recognized conductor, a rehearsal and performance space befitting their new full-time salaries, and Major Orchestra status. Now they wanted to be heard. DePreist's growing reputation secured a recording contract with the Los Angeles-based Delos label, and the Oregon Symphony's first compact disc, Bravura, was recorded in 1987 to excellent reviews. In 1988, DePreist and company recorded the theme music for high-school friend Bill Cosby's top-rated television show. Six CDs later, James DePreist and the Oregon Symphony are an established presence in the recording industry.

Yet it's the role of the arts in the regional community that has been James DePreist's leitmotif. "Jimmy's passionate belief," says current symphony percussionist Jeff Peyton, "is that what we do as artists is vital to the vibrancy of our community." That shows in the symphony's commitment to statewide touring since 1991, its participation in the Young Composer's Project in 1992, and its establishment of the "Symphony in the Parks" program of outdoor performances in 1996. But perhaps the most telling indication of DePreist's success is the fact that the Oregon Symphony has the highest per-capita season subscription rate of any symphony orchestra in the nation.

DePreist recently disclosed that he has been undergoing kidney treatment through dialysis. Consistent with his spirit, he has assured symphony-goers that his illness will not interfere with his performing schedule. Having announced his pending retirement in 2005, the symphony is already lining up next season's guest conductors with an eye toward a possible replacement. Needless to say, the city will be listening.


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