Roy Rivenburg on Muck Rack

Roy Rivenburg

Southern California
Freelance Writer and Editor — Freelance
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A Town More Dead Than Alive LA Times

A Town More Dead Than Alive

COLMA, Calif. - Tina Turner's dead dog, wrapped in one of the singer's fur coats, is among the million or so human and animal souls resting eternally in the 15 1/2 cemeteries of this tiny town. So is newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, locked inside an expensive, unmarked tomb with a half-empty bottle of Evian. Nearby are dead clowns, Alcatraz inmates, a potato-chip king and lawman Wyatt Earp. Finding a resident who's alive is a little trickier. In Colma, depending on who does the counting, the deceased outnumber the living 1,000, 2,000 or maybe 3,000 to 1. It's the modern equivalent of an Egyptian necropolis.

Nov. 11, 1993 Go to Article

Newport's War on Sea Lions Los Angeles Times

Newport's War on Sea Lions

Think of them as amphibious sumo wrestlers. A pack of rowdy sea lions has invaded Newport Harbor, sinking a boat, thrashing docks and -- with their cacophony of barking -- turning residents into sleepless zombies. In a scene that has played out up and down the West Coast, the whiskered creatures are charming tourists but exasperating local officials, who are studying a far-flung set of strategies to thwart the federally protected mammals.

Sept. 14, 2005 Go to Article

Larger Than Life: The Phony War Stories of Michel Thomas LA Times

Larger Than Life: The Phony War Stories of Michel Thomas

If everything he says is true, Michel Thomas has led an astonishing, even miraculous, life. Dressed in a navy blue suit and sporting a silver pompadour of unknown origin, he opens a battered briefcase and removes a stack of old photos and documents as he recounts various exploits: He was the sole survivor of not one but three concentration camps in World War II; he talked his way out of being executed by Gestapo chieftain Klaus Barbie; he helped liberate Dachau; he rescued 40 tons of Nazi dossiers on the verge of destruction in Munich; he hobnobbed with princes and seduced starlets; he dropped acid in 1958 as part of a pioneering drug experiment; he beat the slot machines in Monaco.

April 14, 2001 Go to Article

The New Wrinkle in Polyester Los Angeles Times

The New Wrinkle in Polyester

America's most frightening fabric is trying to make a comeback. Wrinkle-free, dirt-repellent polyester--chief culprit of the leisure suit scare of the 1970s--has found new life as a stand-in for human arteries, polar bear fur and New York Marathon running surfaces. Polyester is also fashioning a new image among top clothing designers, who say modern versions of the stuff could revolutionize the apparel industry. Better dressing through chemistry has returned.

Nov. 24, 1992 Go to Article

In Fowl Territory: Chickens are taking over the world LA Times

In Fowl Territory: Chickens are taking over the world

Things the Colonel never told us about chickens: Some wear red contact lenses. Ancient Romans thought the birds were psychic. The male possesses such a voracious sexual appetite that its nickname is slang--in several languages--for a human sex organ. Also, and this is the alarming part, they might be taking over the world.

May 5, 1997 Go to Article

Quakes, riots, Lohan and now ... Carpocalypse! CNN

Quakes, riots, Lohan and now ... Carpocalypse!

Los Angeles is no stranger to big disasters -- massive earthquakes, riots, Lindsay Lohan. But closing a 10-mile stretch of freeway for 53 hours, as the city will do on Interstate 405 this weekend for a bridge demolition? That's a different matter entirely. It's Carmageddon. To help outsiders understand how a freeway shutdown could evoke such dread, the L.A. Department of Apocalyptic Scenarios has prepared this guide to the most frequently asked questions.

July 15, 2011 Go to Article

NASA diapers become topic No. 1 LA Times

NASA diapers become topic No. 1

It's the diaper that boldly goes where no incontinence product has gone before. The sordid saga of a love-struck, diaper-clad astronaut has transformed a somewhat obscure NASA undergarment into a cultural phenomenon. Comedians and bloggers can't get enough of the topic. "We will not be stopping for commercials tonight ... because I am wearing a diaper," Jay Leno joked Thursday. And David Letterman told his audience that when police nabbed astronaut Lisa Nowak in Florida, "she was wearing a wig and an adult diaper - and there was a lot of confusion because authorities originally thought she was Elton John."

Feb. 9, 2007 Go to Article



In the quirky world of pew sales, companies pose their products in front of Yosemite Falls, engage in church-seat espionage and offer tubs of corned beef to island chieftains. They also conduct important pew research on such topics as the relation between bench comfort and sermon attention spans. And, in the eternal quest for pew perfection, they pioneer such technical breakthroughs as the talking pew and the reversible chair. "The average person doesn't think about where pews come from," said Durand Overholtzer, whose church furniture company, based in Modesto, Calif., is one of the giants of pewdom.

July 15, 1994 Go to Article

The Ex-Wickedest Town in the West Travel & Leisure

The Ex-Wickedest Town in the West

Forget about gravity and other facts in Jerome, Arizona. The town's creaky houses and crooked sidewalks hover inexplicably over perilous slopes. And its residents tell tall tales about mysterious fires, wayward women and a Rough Rider president. Once billed as the wickedest city in America, today Jerome is an artists' colony, ghost town and architectural curiosity.

How pit bulls became the 'bad boys' of the dog world LA Times

How pit bulls became the 'bad boys' of the dog world

Before being branded as the Al Capone of dogs, pit bulls reigned as one of America's most beloved pets. Petey, the canine sidekick in the "Little Rascals" comedies, was a pit bull. So were the mascots for RCA Victor and Buster Brown shoes. Even the White House welcomed pit bull offshoots under Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. But there were hints of a darker side. Roosevelt's bull terrier almost created an international incident by biting off a French ambassador's pants at a White House function. And Nipper, the bull terrier mix immortalized by RCA, reportedly earned his name by frequently nipping visitors' legs.

June 19, 2015 Go to Article

Jay Leno's Alter Ego Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine

Jay Leno's Alter Ego

We are camped out in Jay Leno's den in the dead of night, listening to him test jokes for "The Tonight Show" and witnessing a rather alarming transformation.

Feb. 22, 1998 Go to Article

MANNEQUINS STRIKE BACK San Francisco Chronicle


"Attack of the Mannequins" might sound like a horror film title, but one woman insists it could be a documentary. Diana Newton of Westminster (Orange County) sued J.C. Penney Co. Inc. last month after being thwacked on the head by a department store dummy. The 51-year-old said she was ambushed by a legless female mannequin at the Westminster Mall, an altercation that left her with a bloodied scalp, a cracked tooth, recurring shoulder pain and numbness in her fingers. Most of the cases involve mannequins toppling over onto customers, but an Indiana woman said she caught herpes from the lips of an American Red Cross CPR training dummy. When a clerk tried to remove the garment, the dummy's arm flew off and struck Newton's head, according to her lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.

Aug. 18, 2006 Go to Article

Psst, Clooney, we found your cash Los Angeles Times

Psst, Clooney, we found your cash

With proof of identity, Jesus Christ can collect a $28 check from the state of California. Mick Jagger is eligible for $919. Maria Shriver can pocket $258 in mystery loot. And Ben Affleck has a $1,598 bonanza awaiting pickup. These and other celebrities are on a list of 6 million "lost" Californians who qualify for a cut of the $3.9 billion held by the state's bureau of unclaimed property.

Oct. 8, 2004 Go to Article

Santa vs. superheroes

Santa vs. superheroes

He doesn't fight crime, wear tights or hang out in a Batcave, but Kris Kringle has superpowers that rival those of any comic book hero. So says Michael Dennin, a University of California, Irvine physics & astronomy professor who teaches the science of superheroes. Based on careful scientific analysis, Dennin believes Santa has an edge over traditional caped crusaders. "His only weakness is cookies and milk, but it doesn't debilitate him like kryptonite," Dennin notes.

Dec. 9, 2015 Go to Article

Reality Shapes Disney Garb Los Angeles Times

Reality Shapes Disney Garb

It's not such a small world after all. As Disneyland celebrates its birthday, the park is grappling with a harsh reality of middle age: Mickey Mouse's entourage has put on a few pounds. To accommodate the ballooning bodies of American workers, the Magic Kingdom is redesigning some of its costumes for ride operators, shop clerks, waitresses and other employees.

Feb. 8, 2006 Go to Article

There once was a poet from L.A. Los Angeles Times

There once was a poet from L.A.

Lightning crackled in the night sky, West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes buzzed in the distance, and a woman with a camel puppet roamed the hotel lobby. It was the eve of the Famous Poets Society convention, and things were just starting to get weird. I would soon learn that poetry, once the noblest of human endeavors, had become a cutthroat enterprise, replete with poetry spies, IRS investigations and a once-bankrupt Shakespeare scholar.

Nov. 24, 2002 Go to Article