Fireworks Flare; Music Underwhelms

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August 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 



Hyla Douglas, left, my daughter, along with Mayya Isaeva, our friend from Bulgaria,

waiting the lastly few moments before the fireworks go off.




As the light faded on July 4, the Queen Mary’s stern deck grew increasingly crowded, terrifyingly so. The revelers waited for the fireworks. It was quite fancily awful—terrible rock music filled the darkening air. It filled the darkening air and the crowds were overwhelmed with tired faces and they all seemed to be going slower and slower.

As I said, it was the this month’s Day or Independence and perhaps it was appropriate that the British ship was a launching pad for our nation’s independence. The warm, terrible rock music gave the darkening air an odd feeling—the sea of tired faces were surreal. The musicians, if you want to call them that, had a DJ and Beach Boy music and it was terrible.

If you stood inside Sir Winston’s on the ship’s stern and looked out the windows, you could see revelers were descending into in a silliness maelstrom.

There had been somewhat more appropriate music along the mid deck. There was rodeo, County Western, HiP HoP, New Orleans country music, and other kinds of identity music. There also was a classic American dance musicale—all shapely women in snaky outfits, in a large dining room. The music was traditional and standard, a little too old fashioned. It had a certain jazzy quality, but without any wildness. A pair of dueling pianist played on two attached white piano bodies that were actually only electronic devices. Read more


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August 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 
Photo by Barry Stein

Photo by Barry Stein

By Bob Vickrey

It happened just about the same time as our waiter was asked by several young tourists at the adjoining booth, “Can you tell us where we could find this Hollywood sign that everybody’s talking about?”

Upon overhearing the innocent question, I let out a laugh at the very moment I bit into my fried egg sandwich, which in turn, dislodged the runny egg from the rest of the sandwich and then mysteriously disappeared from sight. I checked my lap to see where the missing egg had landed, but decided it must have hit the floor instead. My dining partners had a good chuckle about my clumsiness, which I quickly blamed on the three teenagers who had disrupted the timing and intricate dexterity it takes to handle a sandwich that was almost six-inches thick. Read more

The Bridge To Nowhere

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August 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

This is a special video documentary about horses in Burbank and paradise in Hollywood produced by Alexander Gall. The film is produced by Alexander Gall. Music is by Beethoven. Doug Weiskopf is one of the talking homo sapiens as is Les Zador.



Community Scores Major Win as City Rejects Oil Company Plan for Gas Burner

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August 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 
24-foot-high CEB 800 gas burner with human figure to show scale. Zoning Administrator ruled that it belongs in an industrial zone, not next to homes and an AIDS clinic.

24-foot-high CEB 800 gas burner with human figure to show scale. Zoning Administrator ruled that it belongs in an industrial zone, not next to homes and an AIDS clinic.

Leslie Evans

A three-year fight ended with victory for a West Adams community when Los Angeles Associate Zoning Administrator Charles Rausch on June 30 said no to an oil company’s plan to install a massive gas burner in a residential neighborhood. The case involved the Murphy Drill Site at 2126 W. Adams Blvd., owned by the Freeport-McMoRan Oil and Gas Company, a subsidiary of the world’s largest copper mining company.

The Murphy site operates 22 active oil wells on 3.25 acres of land leased from the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The drill site is surrounded by a convent, an AIDs clinic, an apartment house, and a string of single family homes. Read more

We Are An Inferior & Superior Beast

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July 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 



Cousin Kron Menuhin, a rural kingpin, in his field in Australia; 

Lionel Rolfe, Kron’s citified cousin, speaking from the streets. Photo by Gary Leonard


I know of someone who had almost nothing to recommend him. You wouldn’t really want me to write about this person, but I am doing it anyway. He was a very ugly and dreary man who lived in a rural section of Melbourne.

We had driven onto his strange old farm and were immediately met by big nasty dogs. Luckily we were in my cousin’s car. With an angry snarl, the man came forth. I was in a car driven by the man who had sold him his ranch house a while back and they were supposedly good friends. But when my driver, cousin Kron, got out of his car, one of the dogs came up and bit him. Not hard, but hard enough. Kron got back in the car.

The man’s effect on my mood was enormous and immediate. The doors to his house looked like they were the entrances to a shriveling but gigantic dirty shed. The man himself look like the appurtenances to his shed-house. I should also explain that the “shed” was actually a large building, but I doubt it had any living areas in it. At one point, I looked through a door leading to the kitchen. The kitchen though never looked like a kitchen. I suspect he used it to make dead rats into dinner—whatever he was cooking there, I had no desire to look further. I suspect the rats were seasoned with cockroaches. When my cousin Kron owned the house, I’m sure it was a lovely Australian abode—but it no longer was. Read more

Good night, Sweet Prince

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July 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 
Good night, Mark.... Mark took the picture of Mary in Big Sur in 1964, about five months before the marriage in Las Vegas. The picture of Mark was taken in Kobe, Japan in the 1990s.

Good night, Mark…. Mark took the picture of Mary in Big Sur in 1964, about five months before the marriage in Las Vegas. The picture of Mark was taken in Kobe, Japan in the 1990s.


The last time Mark Shechner and I exchanged emails, he accused me of having gone through “a string of men” after our mini–marriage broke up in Berkeley. That is true. But then single girls do date even after they get knocked up, married in a quickie wedding chapel and discarded like a wad of used tissue two years after an abortion as I was by Mark, my distinguished ex from long ago. He died unexpectedly last October at age 75.

He was not the only man to suggest that I was what used to be called a loose woman, somewhat like Marilyn Monroe to his Arthur Miller, a slutty and nutty blonde babe who had wed a serious man of letters. (“Mary has her lucid moments,” he would say in his patronizing manner after we had a blowup.)

A few factoids: Mark and I tied the knot while he was a lowly graduate student at UC Berkeley, working on his doctoral dissertation, a psychoanalytical interpretation of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” It became his first book, “Joyce in Nighttown.” As for our bizarre and brief 1964 marriage, he said in our electronic correspondence that it was part of a relationship “that was not built to last.”

“I saw you as the golden shiksa,” he wrote in one of his missives, trying to answer my question as to why he had proposed to me in Los Angeles at his father’s apartment.
. “There was more brass than gold,” he said of me, “but I didn’t know the difference back then.” And then: “Why did I marry you? I didn’t want to disappoint you. What did you expect?”

He acknowledged that our idyllic Big Sur vacation, where we made love under a beach blanket as people in bathing suits strolled by on the white sand, was one of the high points of his twenties and led to his popping The Question. He even sent photos he had taken of me in that West Coast paradise, some standing against a redwood tree. He had kept them all those years.

“Shock and awe, Mark,” I emailed him back repeating the words ascribed to George W. Bush’s carpet bombing campaign of Baghdad in 2003. “Shock and awe.” I was stunned by the pictures of the young girl I once was and saddened by what could have been had Mark and I stayed together. For starters, he had economic security. I did not. Read more

“The Georgian” On My Mind

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July 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


By Bob Vickrey

I doubt if Ray Charles had The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica on his mind when he recorded his classic hit song in 1960, but I found myself humming his famous tune as our monthly lunch group made its way through the canyon to our destination on Ocean Avenue.

When we began our lunch club venture last year, our intention was to visit some of the most famous Los Angeles restaurants, but somewhere along the way, legendary Southern California hotels became an integral part of our itinerary. We’ve visited the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Bel-Air, the Chateau Marmont, and most recently, the Culver Hotel, which all occupy splendid chapters of Los Angeles history.

The Georgian opened its doors in 1931 when Santa Monica was a little-known beach community, and the colorful art deco hotel became a seaside getaway for Hollywood A-listers. It became one of L.A.’s first speakeasies during prohibition and hosted the famous and the infamous, such as Gable and Lombard, Fatty Arbuckle, and Bugsy Siegel, who enjoyed martinis and jazz on the hotel veranda. Read more

Palestinian Human Rights Activist Says Corruption and Failure to Invest in West Bank Economy Are Biggest Obstacles to a Palestinian State

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July 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 
Bassem Eid

Bassem Eid

Leslie Evans

“The Palestinian Authority has failed to lay the groundwork for a state,” Palestinian journalist and human rights activist Bassem Eid told a Los Angeles audience June 16. He was completing a national speaking tour that began last fall and included some 27 college campuses. “It is counterproductive for European countries to recognize a Palestinian state when the elements of such a state do not exist. Even if such proposals had legal weight, they would give us not a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but a three state solution. In addition to Israel we would have Hamas’s Islamic emirate in Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas’s small empire in the West Bank. But in any case the economic infrastructure has not been created to sustain a state and the Palestinian leadership is deeply mired in corruption and undemocratic practices.”

Bassem Eid was born in East Jerusalem in 1958, when it was part of Jordan. He spent his first 33 years living in the Shuafat refugee camp. Today he lives in Jericho in the West Bank, “under the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction,” he points out. Read more

Remembering J.F.K. conspiracy theorist Mark Lane and the sex scandal that wrecked his career in government

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June 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Mark Lane with Village author Susan Brownmiller, center, and Rose Rubin on Fire Island circa 1963.

This photo appeared in The Villager, where Mary ran an earlier version of this piece.



Some of the death notices picture him as a gadfly. But for me, a writer who got to know him a little in Los Angeles decades ago, Mark Lane played David versus Goliath, tilting up against seemingly impossible odds. The activist attorney and author kept sniping away at government agencies like the CIA up until the time of his death on May 10 in Charlottesville, Va. He was 89.

As his obituaries note, Lane gained international fame challenging a report by the Warren Commission–established in 1964 by Lyndon Baines Johnson– that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of his predecessor, President John F. Kennedy, on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. He made that claim in his best selling 1966 book, “Rush to Judgment,” and again in a documentary by the same name. His 1974 feature film, “Executive Action,” covered similar terrain, starring Burt Lancaster. He wrote it with help from Donald Freed and the formerly blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Lane became a towering figure in the counter culture of the era, nurturing a cottage industry of conspiracy theorists and amateur detectives. His celebrity came soon after a crushing blow to his political ambitions in New York, an episode that will be explored as we go along. As he once told me during an interview, “The past is prologue,” quoting from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Read more


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June 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


By Bob Vickrey

Everyone always knew where they could find my father.

Most days he could be found in the backyard leaning on his garden hoe in a relaxed, contemplative pose. His tranquil demeanor revealed a man who appeared to be at peace with himself and the world.

He maintained the even, steady temperament of someone content with his life.

His innate kindness was palpable – people sensed that about him immediately.

He was known for his patience and never seemed to be in a hurry. For a man who was once the fastest sprinter in East Texas – and had the state track medals to prove it – he moved at his own pace regardless of the situation.

He had a deep and abiding love of nature and a genuine appreciation for the land. Read more

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