May 4, 1999
Fanatics make midnight run for 'Phantom' toysBy Jayson Peters
Sunday morning, Dan and April Wendt and their two sons were at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver, braving wet and windy 30-degree weather to feel the Force at the Star Wars Celebration.
By that night, they had joined about 300 other fans of George Lucas' saga in line at Toys "R" Us at 1617 W. Southern Ave. in Mesa, hoping to be among the first in the Valley to get their hands on the new line of toys based on 'Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace.'
"I want figures," Dan Wendt said. "Figures, ships, Legos. Anything I can find."
He wasn't disappointed.
With John Williams' soundtrack from the original Star Wars trilogy blaring, fans crowded the two narrow aisles devoted to action figures, vehicles, Micro Machines, puzzles, books, inflatable chairs and Jedi and Sith lightsabers, which created a frenzy in the Valley and across the nation when they went on sale Monday at 12:01 a.m.
Frenzy of fun
The Wendt family drove straight back to Arizona after two days at the convention, which they said was so packed it was nearly impossible to get in to see any of the prop and costume exhibits, hear the celebrity speakers or purchase exclusive merchandise. They stopped at their Chandler home only briefly to freshen up before joining the Toys "R" Us fray.
"You couldn't find anything at the celebration, unless you paid big bucks for it," said Dan Wendt, who has been collecting Star Wars stuff since 1977, when he was 8 years old. Now, he customizes and modifies action figures. Lucasfilm demanded that no 'Phantom Menace' merchandise could hit shelves before Monday, but some stores around the country and in the Valley put some items out for sale early. Fans and collectors have been grabbing them up. Wendt showed up in line sporting a Darth Maul baseball cap. His sons, 8-year-old Nick and 5-year-old Christian, wore Queen Amidala and Podracer T-shirts. The items were gleaned from a Chandler Kmart.
"One of the store managers saw us looking through the shirts," April Wendt said. "We found the adult Darth Maul shirt and we started to walk off, and he pulled two women that worked in the store over and said, 'We've got to get these out of here." I walked by five minutes later and the shirts were gone."
April said the family never passes a Toys "R" Us or Target store without at least stopping to check for new Star Wars stuff.
Tempe's Mike Amentler, 24, arrived at the Fiesta Mall Toys "R" Us at 4:45 p.m. Sunday, wearing a Star Wars T-shirt and hat. He was rewarded with the first spot in line. Amentler said he plans to repeat the feat May 17, lining up two days early at the Harkins Arizona Mills 24 Luxury Cinemas to see 'The Phantom Menace' when it premieres May 19.
But until then, he's out to get his hands on "anything and everything" he can that's related to the film.
Lucas Turnbow, 18, of Mesa said he found most of the 'Phantom Menace' figures early, but wouldn't reveal where or how. He said he only needed four more to complete his quest, but didn't find those particular figures at Toys "R" Us Monday morning.
Turnbow said he tries to collect one of each Star Wars action figure. He doesn't open them, however, instead thumbtacking them to his walls. "That's my wallpaper," he said.
Despite scattered Internet reports of chaos and mad rushes at Toys "R" Us stores across the country, a Mesa Toys "R" Us manager Bill Valley said there were no problems.
"Everything went pretty smoothly," he said. After the early morning opening to accommodate Star Wars collectors, Toys "R" Us stores remained open Monday until their normal closing time of 9:30 p.m.
Feb. 24, 1999
Senior spins wheels -- the healthy wayBy Jayson Peters
She could have spent retirement spinning her wheels. Instead, Inge Telzerow lets her bicycle worry about that.
"It's never too late to get into physical fitness," the 62-year-old Mesa winter resident said.
Telzerow will go for the gold next weekend in 5K and 20K cycling events at the 16th Arizona Senior Olympics. Opening ceremonies were Saturday at Arizona State University.
Events continue at locations across the Valley through March 7. All are free and open to the public.
Arizona Senior Olympics is a nonprofit organization that receives most of its funding from corporate sponsors. Created in 1984 by the Phoenix Parks, Recreation and Library Department, it seeks to get seniors involved in fitness-related activities.
At least 3,000 athletes are expected to compete in 27 events.
There are no residency requirements. Participants must be at least 50 years old and pay a small entry fee per event.
Telzerow first entered the Senior Olympics scene in 1996, taking home three silver medals and an invitation to train with a San Diego cycling team. In the following years, she won a total of three gold and three bronze medals in the Arizona Senior Olympics.
At the 1998 National Senior Olympics in Tucson, Telzerow won four gold medals. She already has qualified for the 1999 National Senior Olympics, to be held in October in Orlando, Fla. All she lacks, she said, is a sponsor to provide her with a better bicycle.
The German-born retiree also teaches aerobics to other residents of the Monte Vista Village Resort. Unlike her cycling events, the water and chair aerobics classes are not competitive, Telzerow said.
She said she developed chair aerobics after she was in an automobile accident in 1996.
"I was disabled for quite a long time, so I couldn't continue my water aerobics," Telzerow said. "I was sitting in a chair and I had to do something, so I developed a program called chair aerobics -- sitting in a chair and exercising."
Telzerow now leads four classes of chair aerobics per week in addition to water aerobics for Monte Vista residents. She also teaches classes back home in the Canadian province of Alberta.
"It's amazing after six months when I leave how much I have accomplished," she said.
Telzerow said she encourages people in her classes to compete in the Senior Olympics.
Glenn Dody, 75, spends the warmer months in Colorado Springs, Colo. He and his wife, Dorothy, spend winters at the Brentwood Southern Mobile Home Park in Mesa.
Dody, a U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force veteran, runs the 400- and 800-meter dash in the Senior Olympics. He said he started running in elementary school and has continued because it keeps his quality of life running high.
"I'm a physical fitness nut," he said. "Some people like to swim. I just happen to run -- you tend to do what you do best."
Dody, who taught physical education to high school students, said he hopes he can inspire younger people to work harder to stay in shape.
"I've never put my exercise and my conditioning second," he said. "It's always been a primary thing to me."
Telzerow said while she teaches mostly seniors, she wants younger people to value their health and take steps to maintain it. She said she hopes they will invest more in their health than in "houses or fancy cars."
"Because if you are not healthy, you don't enjoy anything after you retire," she said. "If you can hardly walk, what do you have to look forward to?"
Feb. 17, 1999
Tempeans protest self-serve gas stationBy Jayson Peters
Tempe residents spoke out against a proposed wave of the future at Thursday night's City Council meeting.
A plan, currently under consideration by the council, would permit Gary Williams Co. to build a gasoline station near the intersection of Guadalupe Road and McClintock Drive that would be totally self-service: It would be automated with no on-site employees.
That's too close for comfort for some residents.
"It's a traffic free-for-all out there," said Catherine Fuller, a Tempe resident and homeowners association president who lives near that intersection. "(The gas station) would make an already dangerous traffic situation much worse."
Fuller cited a 1997 study by The Tribune that named the intersection one of the five most dangerous in the city.
"I don't think this situation has been ameliorated in any way since that article," she said.
James Quinn, another area resident, urged the council to consider other options for the Fry's shopping center, which is already home to the grocery store, a Taco Bell and a Yoshi's Restaurant.
"For anyone who goes through there on a daily basis, it's a disaster," he said. "It's just going to add to the disaster. Consider other businesses, but certainly not a high-car business."
Dan Clayton, a real estate manager for Gary Williams, said he understands residents' concerns about added traffic near their homes. But he defended the plan to build.
"We've taken the traditional gas station (and) used technology to break fueling (down) to its simplest form -- getting back on the road," he said.
Thursday night marked the first public hearing on the plan. Clayton and an architect for Gary Williams will meet with neighborhood representatives Monday, and the final public hearing before the City Council will be Feb. 25.
The company has 16 totally self-service gas facilities in nine states, 15 of which share properties with Wal-Mart stores.
Mesa has a Gary Williams station in the Wal-Mart shopping center near Main Street and Alma School Road.
The company has patented a machine that returns change for cash used at its unstaffed gas stations.
Dec. 19, 1998
Pastor goes Hollywood in Advent
Films in sermons help show Christmas' meaningBy Jayson Peters
December is a time of celebration, family gatherings and a flurry of Christmas movies on television.
Amid shopping countdowns and holiday stress, the pastor of Tri-City Alliance Church in Tempe is using Hollywood's holiday staples to stress the true meaning of Christmas to his congregation.
Each of Dennis Miller's Advent sermons is based on a classic Christmas film. He shows a brief clip from the movie in the middle of each sermon. On Dec. 5 and 6, it was the closing scene of A Miracle on 34th Street.
Miller said this is the first time he has used movies in his sermons, and he expects some disapproval from the Christian community for injecting so much Hollywood into his preaching.
"There would be some churches who would say this is a terrible thing I am doing," he said.
But his Dec. 6 sermon received a warm welcome on a cold day from Tri-City members.
Duane Eckert watched A Miracle on 34th Street on a cable TV channel the night before Miller's sermon.
"It's probably the third time I had seen it, so I was familiar with what I was seeing," he said. "And yet the message was refreshing."
Miller said he did not know when he chose the film that it would be shown locally the night before. He selected it because it shows the Christmas spirit thriving when retail titans Macy and Gimbel shake hands and people direct each other to better buys at other stores, he said.
Miller said A Miracle on 34th Street, in which a lawyer proves a department store Santa to be the real thing, is about faith and looking past appearances.
"It's not about Santa Claus," he said. "People feel warm as they watch these fantasy movies because miracles do, in fact, happen in our lives. But we have to have a heart to comprehend them."
Paul Lithgow, who leads a Tri-City course on "Spiritual Aerobics," also said Miller's sermon helped bring the meaning of Christmas home for him.
"I enjoyed today because there are miracles that happen all around us when we don't even see them," he said.
Miller said using the film was a way to put a more Christian spin on familiar holiday elements that people already enjoy.
"I want people to watch Miracle on 34th Street now with an understanding of the miracles that surround us," he said.
"People walk away from the church with a vivid remembrance instead of saying, 'What did he preach about'"
Miller said he sometimes thinks people see God as "almost an adult version of Santa Claus."
"I think that people desire to control God, to put him in a box," he said.
"They desire to come to a God that will make them rich and answer their prayers the way they want them to be answered, not according to his will."
Another sermon was based upon Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
Miller's sermon today and Sunday will be based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
"What I want to convey to the congregation is that this is the time of year for people outside the church," Miller said.
"(Ebenezer) Scrooge was way outside of charity. It was the very nature of the Christmas celebration that drew him in and changed his life.
"Christmas is, in fact, for Scrooges."
Services are 6:30 p.m. today and 10 a.m. Sunday. The church is at 1945 E. Guadalupe Road, Tempe. Call (480) 831-2514 for information.