Seeger’s banjo was lost, but now it is found

For 55 years, Pete Seeger had his banjo by his side. Then, he went to a political rally in Rosendale, N.Y. on Aug. 8, and his beloved instrument disappeared. The call went out and, on Monday, Seeger and his banjo were reunited. The folk singer thought it had been stolen, but he said Tuesday, “In my carelessness, I put it on the roof of my car. And I U-turned and went back, and it went into the ditch.” Self-employed painter Gary Schneeweiss Jr. noticed the green banjo case beside the road the same day it was reported missing. He tried calling Seeger’s number attached on the case, but it was temporarily out of order. Then Schneeweiss went on vacation, which explains why Seeger didn’t get his banjo until this week. “There it was a little muddy, but quite all right,” the singer said.

The 31-year-old Schneeweiss didn’t expect a reward from “whoever Pete was I saw Pete Seeger’s name on the case, but it was just another name to me,” he said. “It’s all a shock to me. I still don’t really know who he is.” He got a $500 reward for his trouble.

NOT I, SAID THE SURVIVOR TO THE SPY: You know, Canadian-to-American translations can be sooooo tricky. Why, just a few weeks ago, it seemed that “Survivor” competitor Jenna Lewis told a Toronto newspaper that it was just a matter of money to pose in Playboy the more to provide for her twin daughters.

Now, asserts, Tony Giunta, mayor of Franklin, N.H., Jenna will never, would never, ever drop her sarong for public viewing consumption. Giunta says he got this news from Jenna’s father, who used to be mayor of Franklin, which is where Jenna used to live before moving to San Francisco.

“He said that she told Playboy no way’ to their $500,000 offer and, when the magazine upped the ante to $750,000, she again refused,” Guinta said. “She told him, I’d rather work my fingers to the bone at a 7-Eleven than to take money from Playboy to pose nude.’ ” Then again, wasn’t there a Playboy issue full of 7-Eleven babes after the parent corporation banned the magazine? Anyhow, Franklin city officials plan to proclaim Sept. 3, 2000, Jenna Lewis Day when she visits now that she’s decent again.

CALLING A SPADE A RACIST DIG: Here is a mystery of physics: Dead air is a radio no-no, but Los Angeles morning airheads Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps have their contract extended through next August. The mystery deepens, given that Walt Disney Co. has agreed to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit over the duo’s radio promotion called “The Black Hoe.”

The lawsuit centers on a promotion in which black plastic gardening tools dubbed black hoes were given away as prizes. Judy Goodwin, an employee at the time, filed the lawsuit last August in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that Disney and ABC violated anti-discrimination laws by running a “racist and sexually degrading” promotion based on the slang pronunciation of the word “whore.”

At first Disney dismissed the claims. Then it paid one of its civil rights critics, the Congress of Racial Equality, $5,000 for a two-hour diversity training seminar. Now it’ll cough up $2 million to Goodwin. Two other African-American employees, Carla Woodson and Leslie Childs, also filed racial discrimination and harassment lawsuits. The latter is mulling an offered $250,000 settlement, but Woodson reportedly has rejected a $750,000 offer. Meanwhile, Mark and Brian continue to dig it higher and deeper, without missing a beat.

A RODENT LAWYER SHOCKING CONCEPT: Lawyer-bashers, begin to salivate. Kelsey Grammer will be producing an animated web series called “Gary the Rat” in a deal with Gary is a high-powered New York lawyer who wakes up one day as a 6-foot rat and finds he has become even more appealing to his clients. Grammer will provide Gary’s voice. The episodes also feature “Johnny Bugz,” Gary’s nemesis exterminator. Paramount Network Television may turn the series, which debuts in the fall, into a TV show.

MIGHT AS WELL START A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: Marshall Mathers III, otherwise known as Eminem, probably isn’t a lot of fun at family reunions. First, mom sues. Now it’s the wife, who wants $10 million over his on-stage antics and for the lyrics to “Kim,” which she said “depicts horrific domestic violence against the wife, resulting in her grisly murder.” Last week, the rapper filed for divorce from Kim Mathers and sought custody of their daughter. She claims he is unfit even for partial custody.

Today’s People Column was compiled by Vera H-C Chan from staff and wire reports. Comments? Write to us c/o the Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Or call 925-943-8262, fax 925-943-8362, or e-mail


Role undertaken: By Daryl Hannah, who’ll star in a London stage revival of “Seven-Year Itch,” in the role made famous by Marilyn Monroe. The West End stage production, which opens in October, won’t re-create the 1955 movie’s legendary scene in which Monroe’s skirt billows as she stands over a subway grate.

Birthdays: Movie director Robert Mulligan (75), actress Vera Miles (70), political satirist Mark Russell (68), actress Barbara Eden (66), actor Ronny Cox (62), actor Richard Sanders (60), ballet dancer Patricia McBride (58), former Surgeon General Antonia Novello (56), country singer Rex Allen Jr. (53), actress Shelley Long (51), actor-singer Rick Springfield (51), country singer-musician Woody Paul of Riders in the Sky (51), Queen Noor of Jordan (49), actor-producer Mark Hudson of The Hudson Brothers (49), rock musician Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots (39), actor Jay Mohr (30).