Bob Adelman, 85, Is Dead

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May 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Bob Adelman, with marchers in Lowndes County on March 24, 1965 during the Selma-to-Mongomery march. ©Bob Adelman


The first news stories out of South Florida were sketchy. They raised troubling questions about the passing of renowned photographer Bob Adelman, a friend of this reporter for many years who was found dead March 19 at his home in Miami Beach. He was 85 and had been living alone for a month since the departure of a long time live-in girlfriend, a source said.

Adelman, a twice divorced native New Yorker, was best known for his pictures of the early civil rights movement, especially an iconic photograph he took of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his 1963 “I have a dream speech” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He went on to chronicle a wide swath of American society over the next six decades, ranging from the world of high concept pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to the seamy underground scene of hustlers and sex clubs in Manhattan.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his “I have a Dream” speech in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. ©Bob Adelman

According to early reports from the Miami Herald, police cordoned off his art deco house with yellow crime scene tape and began interviewing neighbors after he was discovered unresponsive by a friend at 3 pm in the afternoon. He had a head wound, which fueled speculation of foul play. Other reports stated he had died of natural causes. Read more


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May 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 







Chapter 1

Uh-h-h-h, Where’s my robe? And my slippers?… as I stumble out of bed and down the hall to the kitchen to teaspoon out the last of the coffee grounds for maybe two mugs of espresso. I’ve woken up to the cry of hungry wild birds outside my bedroom window, along with Pauli, one lovable stubborn goat, loudly head banging on the back door for his crackers. I open the front door to warm sunshine and there’s Charli, my very own field cat usually not here until dusk, pushed up against the screen door meowing for crunchies. “O.K. guys, I’m heading down to the mail box.” and get followed by a gang of hummingbirds buzzing for nectar usually dangling from the eaves. Pinkles, our cocker spaniel, is dancing at my heels for jerky as I sort though the mail for my check but it’s not here. God, it’s not here and I’m wondering how the hell we’re going to make it through another day of automatic debits for the lights and gas with literally only one nickel left in my wallet. I’ve been able to ration one lone roll of toilet paper and enough food to last through this morning; we’ve got meat in the freezer but are running out of everything else. Oh the angst…..I have a knot in my stomach so big I’m sure I’m going to be constipated for a week and now just hearing on the radio that only 62 individuals hold the wealth of half this world’s population, I can no longer hold back a flood of pensive tears. Without the money you need, when you need it, you’re frozen mute, deaf, paralyzed to wait and think about the lack of it or what’s left to sell and what did I possibly do to deserve this?! Even if I do find a couple bucks, last night’s trip to the hospital ate up all the extra gas in the car. My partner, sick and disabled but with a Michigan boy’s will of steel, is finally resting comfortably in bed after yet another ordeal of waiting hours in ER only to be butchered, doped up and sent back home by Medicare’s version of health care. Having lived most of my life as a musician, I know what it’s like to live on the edge but this feels more like a slow tortuous death than simply running low on cash. Yeap, this is what it’s like living check to check. And this is what it’s like growing old, low income in America today. This is also November in southern California where frankly, since global warming, at least winter here in the high desert is the most beautifully tropical season I’ve experienced since arriving on Sunset Beach during the summer of 1978. But today, I’m slumped on my porch chair wondering how I got here?! Why do I feel like a victim with ever growing feelings of helplessness, anger and guilt, guilt about, “what if I’d only….. done this, did that, I’d have more money for……..” and man, that kind of thinking will drive you NUTS! But, here I go again, ‘falling’ into a wonderland of ‘what ifs’ and chasing that damn rabbit…… Read more


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May 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Spago sign

Photo by Barry Stein



When our monthly lunch group entered the posh setting of Beverly Hill’s best-known restaurant, I was swept back in time 35 years earlier when I had visited the fashionable Melrose Avenue bistro, Ma Maison.

I had come there representing my publishing firm to meet the young chef and part-owner of the elegant Westside establishment who had completed work on his first cookbook, which was to be released later that year. A youthfully energetic and smiling Wolfgang Puck burst through the swinging kitchen doors and greeted me warmly as he whisked me away toward his private office. “Follow me. I’ve got big news.”

Puck closed his office door and announced he was leaving Ma Maison and would soon be opening his own restaurant on the Sunset Strip. He was excited about the future of his bistro that he would call “Spago,” and we celebrated the impeccable timing of the publication of his new cookbook—Wolfgang Puck’s Modern French Cooking. Read more


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May 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Norman Berg (rt) with Harry Lee (All That Heaven Allows)

Norman Berg (rt) with author Harry Lee (“All That Heaven Allows”)



Best selling author Pat Conroy’s recent death brought back memories of the late Norman Berg, a former book salesman, who had been instrumental in the writer’s success early in his career.

Berg had been a longtime publisher’s representative who developed a legendary reputation in the South for being much more than a salesman. He had worked behind the scenes for decades as a mentor of young authors, and helped shepherd them through the publishing process. In previous decades, he had also been a pivotal influence in the careers of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Margaret Mitchell.

Berg held the distinction of being known as a demanding taskmaster of writers, including Conroy, whom he sought to teach a stronger discipline and dedication in his writing. Shortly after Conroy’s divorce in the early 1970’s, Norman moved him into the guesthouse on his 15-acre estate outside of Atlanta, where he could better focus on finishing his first novel, The Great Santini. Read more

Los Angeles Homeless Update

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May 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 
Former Westminster Senior Center. Venice residents are divided over Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s proposal, supported by City Councilmember Mike Bonin, to turn this vacant city-owned building into a storage facility for homeless property.

Former Westminster Senior Center. Venice residents are divided over Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s proposal, supported by City Councilmember Mike Bonin, to turn this vacant city-owned building into a storage facility for homeless property.

  Leslie Evans

Mike Bonin Gets the Ball Rolling on Aiding the Homeless in Venice

Mike Bonin, Los Angeles City Council member for District 11, which is centered on Venice, tabled four motions before the council April 15 calling for specific actions to aid Venice’s homeless. The City and County in February each adopted ambitious plans to end homelessness. But as these would cost several billion dollars that doesn’t exist in the current budgets, nothing has so far been done. Mike Bonin has moved to change that with four low-cost initiatives that can make important improvements in the lives of those still living on the streets.

There are currently a little more than 1,100 unsheltered people living in Venice, including about 60 families. Read more


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April 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


By Bob Vickrey

When best-selling author Pat Conroy was once asked by his literary agent why there was not more sex in his novels, he responded, “Because my grandmother is still alive.”

When he told that story at book signings and speaking events, there was always an eruption of laughter and applause in the room. Everyone in attendance fully understood the precarious minefield a writer navigates when it comes to family matters.

Nevertheless, after more than four decades of writing about family, there are legions of his loyal fans who would attest to the boldness of his work. His novels, The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, were bothfictionalized chronicles of the tumultuous Conroy family household that endured the tyrannical behavior of their Marine Corps fighter-pilot husband and father.

When news of the author’s recent death was announced, an incredible outpouring of tributes ensued in the days afterward. Conroy died March 4th in Beaufort, South Carolina after having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several weeks ago. When the announcement was placed on Facebook shortly after the diagnosis, two million responses were posted on his site within the first two days. Read more

Are Things Really Changing?

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April 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 




I woke up to yet another morning pondering whether this is the way you go out when time is passing you by. Yeah, I am old, a bit worn out in spirit and in body, beaten by my job as a wire service journalist as well as a whole world that is passing me by.

All the young ones insist they have it down right. To me, their music sounds alike and trite and pitiful, but they tell me it puts Bach and Beethoven to shame. I know of one modern young woman who insists that Heavy Metal is modern Beethoven — I’m afraid I sneered at the notion. And I know she is wrong.

I might have worked in journalism for at least half a century, but they tell me that they got that down as well. To me, their writing all reeks of what we used to call “headline journalism” — short and pithy ways of saying nothing. Spare me the nonsense.

Hey kids, you simplify to meaninglessness, and pretend it is profound. You use algorithms that force simple words to sound profound. I’d like to say this is just an electronic rediscovery of penny journalism from the days of Pulitzer and Hearst. But electronically created phrases are still no better than Pulitzer’s “Go West Young Man.” And Hemingway and Shakespeare also wrote some simple old ‘grafs, as fine as any of them to be found with the help of algorithms. Read more


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April 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 
All photos by Barry Stein

All photos by Barry Stein

By Bob Vickrey

In the last year, our monthly lunch club has visited several of the oldest Southern California hotels in our ongoing quest to dine in some of the areas most famous and historic restaurants.

One of the city’s often-forgotten gems is the 92 year-old Culver Hotel in downtown Culver City. The six-story red-brick flatiron landmark was built by real estate developer and philanthropist Harry Culver in 1924, and was designed by the same architectural firm that drew the plans for the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

When the hotel opened, the nearby Culver Studios was a burgeoning center of the film industry, and it played host to movie stars like Buster Keaton, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, and Judy Garland. In fact, cast members of Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz stayed at the Culver during filming of both 1939 pictures, including more than 100 of the actors portraying the famous “Oz Munchkins.” Read more

Opposition Mounts over Los Angeles Seizure of Tiny Homes for the Homeless

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April 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 
One of Elvis Summers' tiny houses, taken from a homeless man on the 42nd Street bridge over the Harbor Freeway.

One of Elvis Summers’ tiny houses, taken from a homeless man on the 42nd Street bridge over the Harbor Freeway.

Leslie Evans

Seizure by city workers of three Tiny Houses from homeless people February 12 has led to an outpouring of protest, ranging from the prestigious Los Angeles Times to a demonstration at City Hall and a lawsuit filed in the federal U.S. District Court, as well as widespread support for the Tiny House efforts by a wide range of homeless activists and their supporters.

There can be little question that if you are living under a tarp that one of these 6X10 foot wooden shed-type structures, with a lock on the door and solar panel for electricity, is a huge improvement. To date, 37 of them have been built, at a cost in materials of $1200 each, by Elvis Summers. He has raised more than $100,000 for the project from a GoFundMe appeal, and has distributed them over a wide area, from Van Nuys to Compton and Inglewood.

The city government has insisted that the little houses are not needed because it plans to construct housing for all of the homeless in the county. Those plans, however, lie in a vague future at least ten years away and to even get on the drawing board are dependent on passing multiple ballot measures that require a two-thirds majority and may not even be scheduled for a vote before the spring of 2017. That does nothing for someone living on the streets now. Read more

America’s Tiny House Villages for the Homeless

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April 1, 2016 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Leslie Evans

The debate in Los Angeles city government over what to do with the tiny houses for the homeless, being built and distributed by Elvis Summers, needs to include awareness of the nationwide experiments taking place in cities across the country in establishing small villages of these kind of structures as one additional tool in reducing homelessness. They are a transitional step between the streets and permanent housing, while permanent housing for all of the homeless remains a distant dream. This is the obvious alternative to the positions currently dominating the debate: either to leave the little houses on the streets or to destroy them and expel their residents.

No one imagines that there will be enough of these kind of shelters to end homelessness or that they would be ideal if there were. But as it sinks in that providing real homes for such multitudes is at best relegated to the far future, city councils and even the federal government are beginning to see the tiny house movement, adapted to the homeless, as contributing to getting people off the street and restoring their dignity by providing a dry, secure, stable place to live, and privacy that is impossible sleeping under a tarp in an alley.

The typical pattern for these settlements is to find a piece of land, preferably an acre or two. Some cities have used existing prefab wooden sheds, commonly 8 X 10. To work best, the place needs a central building with running water and electricity, for toilets, showers, and communal cooking. Building codes for housing are often sidestepped by classifying the villages as campgrounds or putting the houses on wheels and rating them as trailers. Read more

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