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On the Light Side

March 20, 1989

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ Those who doubted opera is for high-brows got a sharp reminder at a casting call for a production of Verdi’s ″Aida.″

About 2,000 people hoping to play soldiers, slaves and other extra roles in the extravaganza planned for next month began lining up in the rain at 6 a.m. Saturday for auditions at B.C. Place Stadium. Ads seeking extras had said the minimum height requirement for women was 5-feet-2 and 5-feet-8 for men.

But when the stadium doors opened four hours later, the women were told anyone under 5-foot-6 was out of luck.

″We started a mass rebellion,″ said student June Derlachter, who is 5- feet-4 1/2 .

After haggling, folks 5-foot-4 and above were told they could stay.

″A lot of short people cheated by wearing high heels,″ complained Ms. Derlachter, who made it inside but was not among the 503 people selected.

Production manager Serge Bilodeau said he could not explain how the mixup on heights occurred.

The two-day production of the opera about Aida’s romance during a war between Egypt and Ethiopia is scheduled for April 27 and 29.


HESSMER, La. (AP) - This town’s one-man police force says officials have idled his squad car because he won’t turn the town into a speed trap.

″Out of gas: mayor and city council refuse to buy gas″ reads a plywood sign on top of the car parked at Melvin Villemarette’s house.

″They’re wishing that I’d quit. But I’m too old in this game to quit that easy,″ said Villemarette, police chief and only officer in this central Louisiana village of about 800.

Villemarette claims Mayor Nathan Jeansonne and the Board of Aldermen want him out of office and have heated up a long-running feud over speeding tickets since he won re-election in October to a third term. He says he encouraged two part-time patrolmen to quit by giving them bad working hours after the board urged the officers to set traps.

″They’d park on the edge of town near the speed zone signs. A person from Marksville comes cruising in ... and they would stop that person, no questions asked. To me, that’s a big ripoff.

″Or they would be hiding in the brush waiting for a nice little family to come down. I don’t go for all that malarkey,″ the police chief said.

But Jeansonne said the board decided to allocate $50 a month for gasoline instead of reimbursing the chief an average of $275 a month because the squad car is driven much less.

″Most times, his car is parked at City Hall or the Baptist church,″ Alderman James Gauthier complained.

While the dispute simmers, Villemarette said, he will use his own car to answer police calls. And Gauthier said Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Bill Belt has agreed to patrol the town.

Update hourly