When I wrote my first book on my family nearly 40 years ago—based on the key figure who was my uncle, Lord Yehudi Menuhin—I kept having a terrible time tracking down his name.
People had rarely heard of Yehudi’s last name, the Menuhins. They also had rarely heard of his first name, Yehudi, which mean, simply “The Jew.” He was one of the greatest violinists of the 20th Century. It turned out that Yehudi as well as my aunt Hephzibah Menuhin and mother Yaltah Menuhin, both concert pianists, were great musical prodigies as well. Yehudi was generally regarded as the greatest musical prodigy since Mozart. You can see my uncle, aunt and mother in the above publicity photo from the ‘50s. Read more
Sandra Levinson Photo by Mary Reinholz
BY MARY REINHOLZ
Sandra Levinson was working late that March night when the bomb went off. It exploded in the inside hall of the Center for Cuban Studies, a leftist non-profit she had co-founded eight months earlier in New York with documentary filmmaker Saul Landau and photojournalist Lee Lockwood.
Shards of glass showered Levinson’s third-floor office in a Greenwich Village building near Barrow Street. Her glasses were broken when a window fell on them. But Levinson, a former reporter for the now defunct Ramparts magazine and a one-time political science instructor at City College of New York, was wearing a heavy poncho and escaped what could have been fatal injuries.
The Iowa native believes that the perp was a Cuban exile opposed to the late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, possibly part of a group of violent extremists who regarded her as a hated Castro loyalist. Read more
The exterior sign overlooking LA. Photo by Barry Stein
By Bob Vickrey
Our monthly lunch club members decided that we had stepped back in time as we entered the time-honored Pacific Dining Car at the western edge of downtown Los Angeles.
You won’t find nouvelle cuisine or Asian-fusion on the menu at this 96 year-old LA steakhouse. This place is all about the meat. Vegetarians would likely starve at this old-fashioned eatery. Tofu and kale lovers need not apply.
This 24-hour landmark offers plenty of old-fashioned glory, featuring white linen table cloths, real silverware, and fine china. The waiters there even wear formal dinner jackets. Several dining rooms feature various themes, including the original Victorian-style dining car with crushed green velvet chairs, antique lamps, and overhead brass luggage racks—just in case you plan to stay for awhile. (And after eating lunch there, we wished we had brought our luggage so we could have stayed for dinner.) Read more
Last month we ran an obituary for long-time homeless woman Irene “Smokie” McGhee. She had been homeless since her husband died in 2004, and become a fixture in my neighborhood for some years before she gained worldwide notice as the recipient of Elvis Summers’ first tiny house. She parked the little structure on wheels on my street, Van Buren Place, a few blocks south of where I live. Sometime late in 2015, in response to complaints from neighbors, police asked Smokie to move a block to the east, to Budlong Avenue near Jefferson Blvd. She cried bitterly before she went. “Not Budlong,” she moaned. “It’s all drug dealers there.”
It was only one block to the east, but it is a different world. Van Buren is a quiet street of neat four-plexes and old houses. Budlong at Jefferson is anchored by Freeport-McMoRan’s Jefferson Oil Drill Site. A wide grassy margin between the sidewalk and the wall surrounding the pumping facility is home to a daily swap meet, a hangout for gang members and drug dealers mixing with the marginal vendors Smokie lasted there only a few months. Early in 2016 she disappeared. The word on the street was that she had fled drug dealers to whom she owed money. Read more
A prospect of events to come during Trump presidency; Cops, protestors and Trump protesters in Union Square:
Photo Credits 2016 to Mary Reinholz
By MARY REINHOLZ
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These famous lines from Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The Great Colossus,” composed in 1883 and engraved in a hall within the pedestal holding the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, have long been a siren song beckoning immigrants, refugees and exiles who believed in the promise of America as a land of freedom. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
The Walking Dead is no longer just television fiction. The real life version that walks among us every day is far more frightening.
As I took a stroll along the sidewalks of my neighborhood recently, I skillfully dodged an oncoming daredevil skateboarder, but realized that a greater imminent danger lay just ahead. Several weaving pedestrians approached me as they stared down at their phones while texting a message.
This familiar scene now plays out daily all over this country, as everyone seems to be impersonating those stumbling zombie characters from the television show. Whether they are walking or driving, these menacing figures seem eerily hypnotized by incoming messages received on their cell phones—which they hold in a virtual death-grip. Read more
Smokie, as her friends always called her, died November 8. She had won some fame as the first recipient of one of Elvis Summers’ tiny houses. The LA Times noted her passing with a photo of Elvis leaning over her casket. The Times said she was in her late fifties. She had told me in April 2015 that she was sixty.
I first met Smokie in 2013. She lived on the streets in my West Adams neighborhood, thin and frail. She had a bicycle and a shopping cart, and would appear on most days with one or the other, collecting recycling to sell, her main income. She often went hungry. She said she had been homeless since 2004, when her husband died of lung cancer. Sometimes I’d give her a dollar or two, once in a while a five. I had known her for a year or two before she would tell me that her real name was Irene. She was said to be a grandmother, but she did not speak to me of her children. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
The list of Texans that have spent their writing lives chronicling their roots is rather long and impressive, and includes names like Dobie, Webb, and Graves.
For many years J. Frank Dobie was considered the preeminent voice of Texas and Southwestern culture. Walter Prescott Webb was the esteemed historian whose books put the American West in a broader national and international perspective.
John Graves evoked the spirit of the land and its people, and capped his career with his beautiful elegy to the meandering Brazos in Goodbye to a River. Few American writers have fully captured the depiction of small town life like the late playwright Horton Foote.
Katherine Anne Porter, William Humphrey, Billy Lee Brammer, and Terry Southern were among other native sons and daughters who made their own indelible marks on the literary landscape. Read more
Homelessness has been increasing in our city and county year by year. It has spread outward from its confines in Downtown’s Skid Row throughout the county. There are now 28,000 homeless people in the city and 46,000 in the county as a whole. Tent camps are springing up in alleys, under freeway bridges, in empty lots, and on street corners everywhere. This is a human misery crisis for those living this life, a public health and livability crisis for everyone else. Only a major redirection of resources can stop this unacceptable situation from growing worse.
Short-term shelters, though they are of great value in providing beds and often meals, have little or no effect in reducing the numbers on the street. The one proven method, in many cities, is permanent supportive housing. This means some kind of small housing units, backed up with on-site professional case management. Some 90% of homeless who have received such housing in other cities remain off the streets two years later. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
Say it ain’t so West Hollywood! We’re told the venerable Barney’s Beanery restaurant is going to be displaced soon by a new upscale hotel.
The developers there are making singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell appear prophetic when recalling lyrics from her 1970 hit “Big Yellow Taxi.”
They’ve paved Paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and swinging hot spot
Plans call for the 89-year-old landmark to be completely disassembled and eventually restored on the same property during the construction of the five-story boutique hotel. But many longtime customers are skeptical about their favorite haunt returning as the same unconventional homey spot that it is today.
A recent Los Angeles Times’ story regarding the controversial addition of yet another hotel cited citizen concerns about traffic congestion and parking in the already-dense corridor along Santa Monica Boulevard. Read more