By Bob Vickrey
The two tall handsome gray-haired gentlemen stood staring each other down across the bookstore counter as if they were about to break out in a classic Burr and Hamilton duel.
Former Texas Governor John B. Connally and local Houston bookseller, Ted Brown, were trading sardonic barbs in their ongoing colossal battle of giant egos. They were both elegantly attired in expensive pin-striped suits and each represented that era of the male-dominated, testosterone-driven business world of the 1970s. Governor Connally was a regular customer at Brown’s Bookshop, the best-known bookstore in Houston at that time, and seemed to truly relish his encounters with the feisty Brown. Read more
By Lynn Bronstein
In the 1930s, America was trying to pull its way out of a depression that had devastated the lives of millions. From the slums of eastern cities to the Dust Bowl, people looked to the West, to California, and especially to that place, originally a highly religious little village near Los Angeles, that had become synonymous with the American concept of glamour and magic: Hollywood.
Not all of the people who relocated to this special land found the gold at the end of the rainbow. Those who did not make money right away, and those who never would make money or be discovered for their talent and beauty, would live out their lives in tiny bungalows or seedy apartment houses, working as extras, waiting on tables, selling dubious products door to door or surviving through shadowy activities. These were the people whose lives interested 1930s writer Nathanael West and it was these souls, “the cheated,” who were the subject of his bittersweet 1939 short novel The Day of the Locust. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
From my perch on the mezzanine level of festively decorated Santa Monica Place, I had a birds-eye view of the scene playing out below me as a forlorn-looking Santa Claus sat by himself watching scores of admiring children mob the famous children’s author at the opposite end of the mall.
With only two weeks left before Christmas, one would have assumed that Santa would have little problem commanding attention amidst the spirit of holiday revelry. However, poor Santa had met his match the day he competed with heralded children’s author, Bill Peet.
After having accompanied the former Disney artist and storybook mastermind in his many Southern California appearances, his winning the face-off with Kris Kringle was no great surprise to me. Mr. Peet’s unique storytelling skills and compelling artwork had connected powerfully with children for several generations—both on the big silver screen, as well as in his many picture books. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
As I entered the dimly lit restaurant on Melrose Boulevard, my eyes had not fully adjusted from the mid-morning Southern California sunlight and I could barely make out the images of the shadows inside Ma Maison.
I spotted a large imposing figure in a darkened corner booth with curtains that almost surrounded his table. The man appeared to be the only diner in the restaurant. His massive size had required the width of two benches placed together to accommodate his enormous girth. As my eyes began to adjust to the darkness, I realized the man with the well-trimmed full-gray beard was none other than film legend, Orson Welles. Read more
Lionel Rolfe and poet Julia Stein will hold a reading from their works at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, on Saturday, March 30, at 5 pm. Rolfe will read from his new book, The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn, while Stein will read from her What Were They Like? For more information see this link.
By Bob Vickrey
As I was chatting with Doug Dutton in his backroom office at Dutton’s Brentwood Books, the back door suddenly opened and a well-dressed entourage stormed into the room and introduced their special guest, alienated writer, Salman Rushdie.
Rushdie entered the room with several body guards in tow and proceeded to the front of the store where the staff had been assembled for this hastily planned drop-by visit to promote his latest book. Doug explained that a publicist from Random House had called to set up a private meeting with bookstore employees to talk about his new book. Rushdie had been forced to live covertly with 24 hour protection after Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini had issued a lethal fatwa after the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988. All subsequent promotional book tours had promptly been cancelled. Read more
By LIONEL ROLFE
& PHOTOS BY SUSAN MCRAE
Sonji Kimmons came–one of the greatest of the unheralded blues pianists and singers around town–looked out over her audience at MJs, the bar in Silver Lake next door to the Trader Joe’s last Saturday, and played her heart out. Read more
Sans hands, sans feet,
The truth buried in the news,
Overcast or sunny weather,
Who forged these chains to which we’re tethered?
The saint reviled as heretic,
Beware the man with a mission,
Find the child bloodied beneath the rubble,
What does it take to prick your bubble? Read more