Media Life: Reluctant Pilot Hill cheerleader pens a Penguin novel

Auburn sidewalk treasure missing; Christian Valley fiddler goes high-tech; Karaoke king Chadd Perry warbles to win; Vultures descend on Placer High
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Golden Sierra High School students from the early Reagan era may remember her as “the reluctant cheerleader,” newly published author Shana Mahaffey recalls with a laugh. Mahaffey said she survived all those gridiron clashes, as well as Catechism and cat-scratch fever, to emerge from some long-term writer’s block with a novel that heavyweight publishing house Penguin has picked up for its New American Library roster. Her first novel, it hit stores Tuesday. Mahaffey, who now lives in San Francisco, reported that she has seen “Sounds Like Crazy” already named as one of the notable books for the fall by that city’s Chronicle newspaper. The book is described as a darkly comic and ultimately healing story of an Emmy Award-winning cartoon voiceover performer who has actual voices in her head that help boost her career and shield her from a terrible secret in her past. Mahaffey, who has a mother and a sister in the Auburn area, will be on home turf for a book signing and celebration at Downtown Auburn’s Winston Smith Books from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. A 1982 Golden Sierra graduate who also attended Northside Elementary School in Cool, Mahaffey has set “Sounds Like Crazy” in New York City but is already at work on a new novel that she says will likely have more of a Northern California focus. COMPASS TO RETURN Auburn’s version of the Big Dig dug up a piece of history underfoot this week. The decades-old compass etched into the sidewalk at the old Central Square crossroads in Downtown Auburn disappeared as a crew moved up High Street to dig up pavement. But have no fear. The compass was carefully removed and will return as work progresses, Media Life has been assured by the city. The compass actually marks the halfway point between the Placer County Courthouse and the former rail depot – now the Auburn Chamber of Commerce office – on Lincoln Way. NEW AND OLD “Some Like It Hot” is the classic movie being shown at the State Theater this coming Thursday but the opening act – violin player Jason Marsh should provide some heat of his own when he plays live before the Billy Wilder comedy lights up the screen. Marsh will be combining high-tech know-how and old-fashioned musical smarts in the theater atrium during a pre-movie celebration from 5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. The movie starts at 7 p.m. While Tsuda’s Old Town Eatery will be selling food plates and the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center will be serving adult beverages, Marsh plans to provide a multi-faceted musical performance that will see him turning on and off sound loops he creates as he plays – essentially backing himself with his own instrument. The fiddle itself is a classic – a century old violin probably made in Germany – but the score will be pure 21st century computer magic. Marsh, a Christian Valley resident and Berklee College of Music degree holder, switched from the life of a pro jazz player to Apple employee in the early 1990s. Marsh, who now is guiding a startup working on software for hospitals, will be melding sounds as diverse as Stephane Grappelli and Jimi Hendrix into some atmospheric soundscapes. HIGH ENERGY SHOW Media Life caught the final countdown for Auburn Sings on KAHI 950 AM last Sunday and the show turned out to be a pleasant surprise – including co-emcee Mary Jane Popp’s spirited rendition of Bette Midler’s “The Rose.” Chadd M. Perry was the judges’ choice as winner in the karaoke contest, wowing the State Theater and over-the-air crowd with a high-energy version of Michael Buble’s “I’m Your Man.” Steve Lord was runner-up, turning on the Elvis for an emotional “American Trilogy.” Cecile Woods took third place. Mike Remy, KAHI general sales manager, said the show was such a success, he’d like to see the event take place again next year. In the meantime, the two-hours-plus live program from the State is available for listening to on the KAHI Web site. And don’t expect co-emcee Dave Rosenthal to match Popp’s high notes on the Web version. Whatever musical talents “That Guy” in the afternoon has are being kept in the shower for now. But there is always next year. FLYING HIGH The Placer County Courthouse swallows may be getting some competition. Check out the sky above Downtown Auburn around sunset most nights and you’ll see perhaps 40 or 50 turkey vultures soaring and circling in the air. The spectacular air show ends with most of the birds perched on the branches of two evergreens near Placer High School. Their presence poses more questions than answers at this point for the biologically challenged Media Life? Have these birds been soaring in a lofty swarm around Auburn for a long time? Or is this something new? Will they be staying in the area or migrating somewhere else? And finally, why are they circling around Downtown Auburn? Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or call 530-852-0232.