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[Updated:] Cortines steamed over 'Bruno' photo shoot

June 29, 2009 |  5:13 pm

This is one of those only-in-L.A.-and-even-then-it's-a-little-too-weird-to-be-true stories.

The latest issue of GQ features a cover story about comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, in his new guise as gay Austrian fashionista "Bruno." What brought it to our attention was that GQ includes photos shot at L.A.'s Birmingham High School, featuring the barely clad Cohen cavorting with the Birmingham football team. An online slide show shows Cohen wearing shoulder pads, tight red shorts, an athletic cup and little else while engaging in "drills" with the team, in one case lying on top of a player he has evidently just "tackled."

At most, we're talking about a PG rating (for the photo shoot, not the new movie). But inasmuch as it did involve minors at a public high school, there are those who are not amused.

In particular, the stunt has incensed Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, adding fuel to a debate over whether Birmingham, in Lake Balboa, should be allowed to convert to a charter school. The charter conversion is up for a vote before the school board Wednesday. "This recent GQ thing has not helped matters," Cortines said today. "We’ve allowed our students to be used, and not in the most glamorous circumstances, either."

Daily News on Saturday quoted the superintendent as blaming Birmingham Principal Marcia Coates and Athletic Director Rick Prizant, both of whom have been among those spearheading the drive to remove the school from day-to-day district oversight and become a charter. But Cortines said today that Coates is responsible, not Prizant, and he has asked local district Supt. Jean Brown "to take the appropriate action." He did not say what that would be. (A mandatory viewing of "Borat," perhaps?)

Coates said she had been told not to comment on the matter, and Prizant said he similarly would not respond. Brown did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Mitchell Landsberg

[Updated at 5 p.m. with comment from Jean Brown and a clarification from Cortines:

Brown called to say that "Local District 1, on behalf of Birmingham, is very embarrassed by what has happened, and very disappointed in the judgment that allowed the students to participate in this activity.” She said she was attempting to determine who was responsible, after which "we'll decide what our next steps are going to be." She added that she was unfamiliar with Cohen and his movies but found the "nature of the poses" to be inappropriate.

Through a spokesman, Cortines called to say he hadn't intended to say that Prizant wasn't responsible, only that Coates was ultimately responsible.]