11/15/2002 1:00AM

Hollywood can keep its family rating


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Sunday should be a good day at Hollywood Park. A mild Santa Ana condition has raised the temperatures and dried out the grass. Fast fillies will be tangling on the turf in the Safely Kept Handicap.

The smell of barbecued burgers will permeate the paddock, while up in the Turf Club, the public is invited to partake in a "lavish Sunday Brunch, the grandest buffet in town."

This is workaday horse racing at its best, honest entertainment for the entire family. A nine-race program, simulcasts galore, and Indian summer in Southern California. The last thing it needed was porn.

Hollywood Park dodged an X-rating this Sunday when their next door neighbor, the Hollywood Park Casino, agreed to cancel what was billed as the world's largest one-day, open-to-the-public adult convention. It was scheduled for the casino's third-floor convention space for Sunday afternoon.

For some strange reason, Hollywood Park management was uncomfortable with the idea of Hollywood Park's name attached to the site of Adultcon 2002, where, according to the promotional material appearing on the Adultcon website, visitors would be able to "experience ecstasy for the eyes & live the fantasy."

That would be porn.

An admission price of $25 (they reserve the right to refuse entrance) would have provided access to the third floor of the Hollywood Park Casino (site of past Breeders' Cup events), with its 25,000 square feet crammed full of "the ultimate in live adult entertainment."

Sharon Wild had a booth. So did Dru Berrymore, Aurora Snow, Violet Blue, Peter North, and those fine folks from the Frisky Kitty Strip Club.

Displays "for ladies only" were ready to offer siren make-up, exotic dance lessons, and Ballistic Body Wear. Cameras and autographs were being encouraged.

Hollywood Park, as owned by Churchill Downs Inc., acts as landlord for the operators of the Hollywood Park Casino. Beyond that, there is no relationship. The casino promotes betting on the races in its racebook environments. The racetrack does not directly promote the casino, beyond the obvious link of lending its name.

"In the past, they have come to us with promotions and projects they thought might concern us, and we worked things out," said Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker on Friday morning. "For whatever reason, that didn't happen this time.

"We have always operated in the past on the basis of good taste - on both sides," Baedeker added. "But in my opinion, in this case they exercised bad judgment. I personally find it repulsive."

So repulsive, in fact, that after consulting with the legal staff of Churchill Downs Inc., Baedeker was able to get Adultcon to take their act elsewhere.

"We do have language in the contract that's pretty broad, but that, we felt, did give us the ability to stop it," Baedeker said. "The casino management argued the point, but in the interest of preserving their relationship with us they decided to move it, or cancel it. We don't care, as long as it's off our property."

Whew, that was close. Add another chapter to the lore of California racing's most controversial building.

The Hollywood Park Casino began life as the Cary Grant Pavilion, unveiled as part of the inaugural 1984 Breeders' Cup. Grant was a member of the Hollywood Park board of directors at the time.

Before too long, however, the Pavilion earned the nickname "Grant's Tomb." Efforts to promote it as a luxury grandstand annex were a giant flop.

Hollywood Park management even sued the builders, alleging that the structure was improperly oriented to view action on the track.

Plans to add a shopping mall fizzled. It was tried as an off-track center in the fledgling days of simulcasting, but there was not enough action. Then, under the R.D. Hubbard regime, the Cary Grant Pavilion became the Hollywood Park Casino.

The last thing Rick Baedeker needed was a porn convention on his doorstep. Rain plagued the opening weekend of the Hollywood meet, eliminating attractive grass racing and thinning the muddy main track fields.

On Monday, the Veterans Day crowd was blindsided late in the afternoon by a power failure in a Southern California Edison transformer, located near the casino.

"Nobody can remember the last time that piece of equipment failed," Baedeker said. "It picked a bad time to have a case of Murphy's Law.

"We had meeting yesterday with some pretty high-level folks, who all but guaranteed us the problem is solved," he went on. "But it does kind of shake your confidence. It cost everybody business, through no fault of anybody on our side of the equation.

"They have invited us to submit a claim," Baedeker added. "We will, and we will press it. Right now we are tallying what it cost everybody, including the horsemen."

So a week that began in the dark nearly ended with the boss wearing a bag over his head in embarrassment. Now he can enjoy the sunshine.