The Story Of That Marvelous Hero

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December 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Dalton Trumbo



A few days ago, Judith Aller, a prominent concert violinist and conductor in Europe and America, wrote me a note saying that her now dead husband’s film about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was going to be premiered–and asked me if I wanted to go.

I had known Bruce Cook before I knew her, and they did meet at a party at my house, as I remember. Bruce was a wonderful and grand fellow–he was book editor of the Los Angeles Daily News and he gave me lots of room to write for him there. He had also been book editor at USA Today and a senior editor at Newsweek. He even wrote a novel about a Latino private detective in East Los Angeles.

He married Aller in 1994. It’s no accident that he was particularly proud of having written one of the first books on American beatniks–The Beat Generation in 1971. And, I hate to mention it, I had once given a book of his about Bertolt Brecht a bad review in the LA Times–I hope he never saw that review, because he was an old fashioned gentleman who wrote with passion and caring about those who stood up to power. Read more


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December 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Chateau Marmont Hotel

By Bob Vickrey


Barry Stein is the only native Angelino in our monthly lunch group, and he prides himself on knowing every back road and alley in all of Southern California.

His job as driver commands such respect that other members of the group have been instructed to call him “The Driver” when he picks us up for our trips to some of the oldest and most famous restaurants in the city. He often reminds us to capitalize the “T” when designating his role as “The Driver.”

Barry is a photographer whose finished works are so secretive that few of his friends have ever seen his photos. Only employees of Pricewaterhouse, the accounting firm that protects the secrecy of the Oscar ballots each year, have allegedly seen his work. Read more

Book Review: The Last of the President’s Men

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December 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


“The Last of the President’s Men”
by Bob Woodward
Simon & Schuster

by Doug Weiskopf

When Richard Nixon was forced to resign as president in 1974 after a House Committee voted for articles of impeachment and Nixon’s friend in the Senate, Barry Goldwater, informed him that he faced a certain vote of expulsion from office, people thought they knew the worst of the man. He had allowed a cabal of White House aides to become involved in a myriad of illegal activities against American citizens and then took part in a massively organized cover-up of their crimes. It was further learned through the Senate Watergate Committee that Nixon had for years engaged in a large scale secret bombing campaign in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

This year, however, new damning information has come out against Nixon, showing him to be not only the ‘crook” he so famously denied he was, but also arguably was clinically insane, according to Alexander P. Butterfield, who worked in closer proximity to Nixon than anyone for most of his presidency and ended up providing the fatal testimony to the Watergate Committee of the existence of the Oval Office taping system that ultimately brought Nixon down. In Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Last of the President’s Men” Butterfield’s life story and how he came to be Nixon’s chief office aid is examined.

Earlier this year we had already been given a glimpse into the mental pathology of Nixon from the HBO broadcast, “Nixon By Nixon: In His Own Words”, where newly released White House recordings taped between 1971 and 1973 were played, revealing Nixon as sounding quite paranoid and easily enraged at all whom he considered his mortal “enemies” (remember, he even compiled a secret “enemies list” of all those he believed were out to get him). Woodward’s latest book gives greater context to how Nixon became increasingly crazy-acting and affected all those around him to become corrupted, to the point where when what they did to serve their Commander In Chief came to light they ended up serving prison sentences. Read more


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December 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


The Polar Express- 1985

By Bob Vickrey


When I was a young boy growing up in the suburbs of southeast Houston, every Christmas Eve I would sneak out onto our screened front porch and stare into the night sky as I tried to spot Santa’s sleigh as it arrived from the North Pole.

In our community of Galena Park, the bright lights of the refineries that lined the banks of the Houston Ship Channel lit the sky each night, so it did not require much imagination for a restless boy to envision Santa’s sparkling red sleigh and reindeer moving swiftly across the horizon amid all those flickering lights.

Many years later as an adult, I worked in the book business for the venerable Boston firm Houghton Mifflin, which published Chris Van Allsburg’s landmark Christmas classic, “The Polar Express.” Read more

City Takes Some Steps to Confront Homeless Crisis

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December 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

42nd st e Flower n side 11-5-2014_resize

Leslie Evans

Five months after the Los Angeles city government began to debate new ordinances to confront our deepening homeless calamity, the City Council on November 18 announced its first steps. The L.A. Times in an editorial the next day declared the effort “a start, even if some of the measures are anemic.”

In September the Council had promised to raise $100 million to abate homelessness in the city. The county supervisors pledged their own $100 million fund. As of the November 18 announcements the kitty contained only $16 million. Specific proposals were to set aside vacant city buildings as winter shelters and to seek out parking lots where people living in cars and RVs could camp at night, possibly with porta potties supplied by the city. These are promising beginnings, but Council members pointed out that many bureaucratic hurdles stood in the way of assigning buildings to such uses and nothing was likely to happen until the new year. One L.A. Times report suggested that the parking lots under consideration were those of churches and not city property. Read more

California Dreaming: Hollywood Witch Hunters Fought Reds First, But Mike Salisbury Says He Finished The Job With Sex, Drugs & Rock

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November 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

By Mary Reinholz

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity, but they’ve always worked for me.” — Hunter S. Thompson

By Mary Reinholz

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity, but they’ve always worked for me.” — Hunter S. Thompson

When Mike Salisbury was art director at Rolling Stone and known to colleagues as Mad Dog, he encountered famed gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson in a darkened North Beach theater where Bob Marley was to perform.

Thompson happened to be sitting in front of Salisbury. He offered him a tab of LSD with a line print in blue of Mr. Natural.

“Take it, Mad Dog,” Thompson said, according to an entry in Salisbury’s blog, “One Hell of an Eye,” posted a few years after Thompson’s 2009 death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Woody Creek, Colorado, and again on Facebook more recently.

Salisbury, who now lives in Venice and is an occasional guest speaker at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, told me he kept Thompson’s gift for years until it “melted” in his wallet. “I never dropped that acid,” he explained in his blog. “I never actually dropped any. A Mad Dog needs no help. And the tab was my seal of Hunter’s approval.”
Not much has curbed Salisbury’s stride since that long ago time when he redesigned Rolling Stone and before that West magazine, the Los Angeles Times’ defunct but still widely admired Sunday supplement that supported the New Journalism of the era. (Full disclosure: This writer was on retainer for West for a few years but barely knew Salisbury, then or now.) Read more


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November 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


There are some who would say that Bohemia is a state of mind, but they should add it also has to have a particular time and place. In the case of this book, the time and place is the southern half of the Golden State over the last century or so, and the state of mind is Bohemia—in all its many multitudinous variations. The book almost makes  you believe that the true home of Bohemia was not, as so many thought, the left bank of Paris or the coffeehouses of San Francisco that Mark Twain and Herman Melville frequented during the Gold Rush,  but Los Angeles and environs.

True, the counter culture was created in Los Angeles, and it was a distillation of bohemianism. A couple of things document this—the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, which still goes on since. It was created in 1963. The “Los Angeles Free Press” went into business about the same time—and it had a definite impact at the time. It was the first and largest of the Underground press of the ‘60s. What its effect is today can be debated forever.

The first faire was in the backyard of a house in Laurel Canyon. The faire was thrown as a promotion for Radio Station KPFK. And Art Kunkin did a prototype “Freep” to promote the faire and station.

The first faire’s organizers were Ron and Phyllis Patterson. Kunkin threw in his lot with them and thus did both faire and paper become pillars of the counter culture community. The  counter culture was defined mostly by its support of civil rights and it opposition to the Vietnam War. Read more

Can the Broad Museum Threaten the Tate Modern?

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November 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

MARXThe weird Karl Marx sculpture


I have to admit that as a partisan of so-called “classical music” and great writing as summed up by the likes of Mark Twain and Beethoven, I’ve never been particularly impressed by modern art or grants-supported “serious music,” forms of art mostly appreciated by the academic world.

When my friend Anthea Raymond, the famed broadcaster (she ran KPCC for a while) and editor, invited me to see the Broad Museum on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles with her, she was expecting to see my antediluvian ways.

Raymond surely wanted to introduce me to the Broad Museum even before I had my “minor stroke.” I assured her I was coming, despite the weakness and pain. I was curious if the Broad could at all compare to the Tate Modern I saw in London right after the Millennia. Read more


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November 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Harrison- Michael & Sue-2

Michael and Sue Harrison return to Birmingham, England

By Michael Harrison

 Gertrude Stein once famously described her childhood home of Oakland by saying “there is no ‘there, there’,” but our family certainly did not find that to be the case in returning to our native Birmingham, England last month.

My wife Sue and I decided to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in the church where we were married at Erdington Abbey in Birmingham. The trip represented the first time that we would be in England with all three of our sons at the same time. Our eldest son Sean brought along his girlfriend Jeanine, while Ian was accompanied by his eight year-old daughter Isabel (Izzy). Youngest son Neil was there with his nine-year old daughter Ava.

Unfortunately, a goodly number of those that had attended the wedding a half-century earlier are sadly, no longer with us. Both sets of parents are gone, some siblings as well, but a sister, numerous nephews and nieces, and their attendant offspring are still living there. We felt there were several family members who would be joining us in the celebration of our 50-year odyssey. So off we set on our search for Stein’s elusive “there, there.” Read more

Drastic Flaws Revealed in City and State Oversight of Urban Oil Drill Sites

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November 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


AllenCo Energy oil drill site in West Adams’ University Park neighborhod. Closed since September 2013, the company is asking to resume pumping oil. Note the immediate proximity of residential housing just over the drill site’s back wall. Hundreds of people were sickened before the operation shut down.

AllenCo Energy oil drill site in West Adams’ University Park neighborhod. Closed since September 2013, the company is asking to resume pumping oil. Note the immediate proximity of residential housing just over the drill site’s back wall. Hundreds of people were sickened before the operation shut down.

Leslie Evans

The AllenCo Energy company, whose 21-well urban oil field at 814 W. 23rd Street in the University Park neighborhood just north of USC sickened hundreds of people from uncontrolled fumes, is now pressing to resume drilling operations, shut down since November 2013. This has brought some serious media attention, revealing a shocking systemic failure of both Los Angeles and California state oversight of such urban oil operations.

The state’s regulatory agency, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), under pressure for failing to turn in reports for several years, released an audit of its work on October 8. This revealed that the agency has not conducted its required annual review of “most oil projects” in the Los Angeles area since 2007. The L.A. Times summarized: Read more

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