This is a sequel to The Fat Man on The Left: Four Decades in the Underground, published in 1998. The first book came about when author Lionel Rolfe wrote about Rush Limbaugh in the San Francisco Chronicle, before Limbaugh was particularly famous. From there it traced many curious byways of the newspaper business and characters that business comes in contact with. The new volume is a series of essays focused on the Bohemian life and literature of California. It tells about musicians and actors, writers and poets, but also politics, philosophy, city planning, and the ugliness of human beings toward animals—everything from elephants to birds. Here you will find keyboard pioneer George Duke, Yoga teacher Indra Devi, dying Sierra glaciers, the coffee house scene of the 60s in Venice, labor organizing, Echo Park bohemians, the decline of the Los Angeles Times, the once-famous L.A. Free Press, and other matters of great import. Rolfe also squarely faces his own left wing politics, and admits it hasn’t changed him during the decades of his life. At the end, he returns to our brutal treatment of the animal world—“Are We Really The Smartest Creatures on Earth.”
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Sold out crowd at NYU’s Skirball Center auditorium
From left, Lydia Polgreen, Huffington Post; Jacob Weisberg, Slate; Borja Echevarria, vice president and editor- in- chief of Univision and David Remnick, The New Yorker
CNN’s Brian Stelter, moderator
Photos by Mary Reinholz
By MARY REINHOLZ
Article 12, Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776: “…The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”
He has demonized reporters as among “the most dishonest creatures on earth.” Stephen K. Bannon, his rightwing chief strategist, has called them the “opposition party” and said they should just “shut up.”
Donald J. Trump’s long running war against the traditionally Democratic press grinds on. But five days into his first term as Republican president of the United States, the former real estate mogul turned commander in chief got some fierce blowback from a group of top journalists meeting on stage at New York University’s Skirball Center auditorium in Greenwich Village.
They had gathered there for a panel discussion, titled “Not The New Normal,” on how to cover America’s new president in a changing media landscape pockmarked by fake news, “alternative facts” and outright lies, many emanating from the White House, they said. Read more
Trump says if you don’t have borders you don’t have a nation. That’s wrong. A nation is not geography, it’s a group of peoples with a common culture who agree to be a nation. There are no borders in nature. Look at a rainbow. Red blends into orange, blue blends into green, and so on. Borders are like children drawing a chalk line on the playground and play fighting over the line. Great fun when applied to football games; deadly when applied to reality. If there are no borders, there are no border wars. As John Lennon said, “Imagine there’s no countries, it’s easy if you try.”
John Owens raises an understandable discomfort with national borders in the era of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Their unfeeling extremism and ultra-nationalism are reprehensible and contrary to more widely accepted American values.
Our country has gone back and forth on this issue for a long time. The massive wave of immigration from Russia and Eastern and Southern Europe from the 1880s led to the extremely restrictive rules of the 1924 Immigration Act, which set quotas that virtually excluded everybody except from the major West European countries like Germany and France, and from Great Britain.
The 1965 revision opened the gates pretty broadly, especially with its family reunification provisions. Nevertheless, even that liberal reinterpretation did not simply throw the doors open to all comers.
Nations are not at all just groups of people who think alike and chose to live together. Great Britain is the result of centuries of warfare with the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh. Spain, France, Germany, and Italy, are all states that were formed through the forcible unification of many rival principalities. Read more
BY BOB VICKREY
Photos by Barry Stein
From the moment our monthly lunch club entered the Spitfire Grill restaurant in Santa Monica, I began envisioning a place like this in our own village.
This informal neighborhood bistro and bar across the street from the Santa Monica Airport felt immediately like home as we were escorted to our table—and as I simultaneously began helping Rick Caruso plan his Palisades Village Project with an excellent restaurant choice for his consideration.
The “Spitfire” had its roots in the old Lindaire Coffee Shop that opened on the same site in 1954 by a young Air Force Lieutenant who had grown tired of the complaining by his fellow pilots at Douglas Aircraft about having nowhere to eat in the airport area. The restaurant quickly became the favored dining spot and hangout for the aircraft workers at Douglas as well as for the employees of nearby Clover Field. Read more
In November the City Council adopted a revised law restricting living in vehicles on city street. The revised law took effect January 7, 2017, but police are holding off enforcement until early February. The change takes the form of a revision of Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) 85.02 – Vehicle Dwelling.
A previous total ban was struck down by a federal court in 2014, on the grounds that it was too vague. That law defined a violation as being seen sleeping in a vehicle or a car filled with household goods, which the court ruled could apply to anyone.
The new version of 85.02 prohibits living in a car or RV within one block (500 feet) of licensed schools, pre-schools, daycare facilities, or parks. It also prohibits living in a vehicle at night on any residential street. The new rule is a test. It is scheduled to expire on July 1, 2018, at which time it will be reviewed by the City Council and a more long-term decision made. Read more
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