L.A. Review of Books Features Article on Lionel Rolfe

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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Lionel Rolfe

The January 10, 2018, issue of the Los Angeles Review of Books carries a lengthy sketch of journalist, author, and Boryanabooks founder Lionel Rolfe. Anthony Mostrom, under the title, “Lionel Rolfe and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Coffee Houses,” begins:

“AUTHOR LIONEL ROLFE is a retired Los Angeles journalist who has written for nearly every newspaper and magazine that’s existed in or near the city in the last 50-plus years. Indeed, though a frequent traveler, Rolfe has never lived far outside of L.A. These days he lives in a small apartment in Atwater Village. He’s lived alone for almost a decade, since his third marriage ended in divorce. There were many women in his life, many friends and enemies, many loves and many hates.”

The full text can be found here:



Strand Owner Fred Bass Honored By Krugman, Talese, Lebowitz at Memorial

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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Mary Reinholz

First appeared in the January 29 issue of Bedford and Bowery, a New York magazine website.

Fran Lebowitz. Photo by Mary Reinholz

The late Fred Bass, longtime owner of the Strand Bookstore who died January 3 at age 89, is getting posthumous bear hugs from the City of New York, which is expected to name a bench after him in Washington Square Park. It has also named January 26 “Fred Bass Day,” said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who on Friday night presided at a public memorial for Bass at the iconic East Village store.

“Yesterday the family was told by the mayor’s office” about the city’s tributes, noted Wyden, who is married to Bass’s daughter Nancy Bass Wyden, now the sole owner of The Strand. She has been credited with modernizing the store starting in 2001 and now works daily with general manager Eddie Sutton in dealing with the store’s mammoth inventory of used, rare and new volumes.

Wyden did not mention that the Strand last week slapped the city, Verizon and Con Edison with a $160,000 lawsuit for negligence in the wake of a series of morning manhole explosions and fires that blew out front windows and damaged the independent bookseller last March, forcing a day’s shutdown. Read more

Dunga Brook Diary: Not Rocket Science

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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


By Vicki Whicker

Mother’s Day, 2011, 6 am. Central New York.

A breeze touches my cheek and I open my eyes to a room full of light and fresh country air. Outside, leaves flutter on the branches of giant old trees.

First thought—Home.

Second thought—Jim’s home.

Third thought—This is so not LA.

I’m wrapped like a mummy, wearing every bit of clothing I brought on this trip…leather jacket over down jacket, hat, scarf, fingerless gloves, two pairs of socks, and cowboy boots. Read more


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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Old habits die hard. Bob Vickrey enjoying his morning routine of coffee and newspaper in 1994.

By Bob Vickrey

Columnist Chris Erskine of the Los Angeles Times has become a trusted friend in recent years, although we’ve never actually met.

Reading his funny and gentle family-themed columns has become an addictive habit for me as I sip my morning coffee. Some people like sugar and cream with their morning brew, but I prefer a daily dose of “Erskine” with my coffee.

Before Chris, there were Al and Jim—better known in Southern California as the late L.A. Times’ columnists Al Martinez and Jim Murray. Those talented writers always helped connect me with the world-at-large with their personal and humane reflections about daily life.

Yes, I’m probably out of step these days with most folks, as American readers have slowly abandoned the traditional print version of the news and have opted for online access to the happenings of the day. In fact, when a young friend of mine catches me with my head buried in the sports section, she loves to tease me with her familiar refrain, “So, I see you’re once again catching up on yesterday’s news.” Read more


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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Palisades Drugstore Cafe, mid-1970’s

By Bob Vickrey

When I first walked into the Palisades Drugstore Café almost forty years ago, I thought I had stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting.

Jeff Kool, the longtime owner of the Palisades Bookshelf, had told me one of the best lunches in town was right down the street at the local drugstore. As I entered the back door and passed the pharmacy counter, I made my way toward the unmistakable buzz of lively conversation emanating from the busy lunch crowd seated around two adjoining horseshoe-shaped counters. Read more


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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


All photos by Barry Stein


By Bob Vickrey

During the closing credits of many television variety shows of the 1950’s and ‘60’s, the off-camera announcer would routinely remind viewers, “Hotel accommodations for tonight’s guests during their stay in New York City were graciously provided by the beautiful Waldorf Astoria Hotel.”

Since no one ever offered those same accommodations during my stays in New York, last month’s lunch club visit to the glitzy new Beverly Hills Waldorf provided my first glimpse into at least one version of the storied hotel.

The original New York City hotel was built in 1893 in two stages, as the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel, which accounts for its later dual name. The hotels were demolished in 1929 to make way for the construction of the Empire State building. The business reopened as the Waldorf Astoria two years later in its present location on Park Avenue, and quickly became known as one of the world’s most prestigious hotels. Read more

Honey does Dogtown

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February 1, 2018 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 


By Honey van Blossom


(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)



Dogtown. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

The history of Dogtown is not a cooperative subject. Its past is scattered through libraries and archives and some of it may be in library basements.  Internet and the linked-in library lending system allows some of these sometimes gleaming fragments to be excavated.  Information gleaned from books that were based on unintentional misreadings of history and from librarians’incorrect dating and location of information challenge anyone’s attempt to sequence what happened in Dogtown.

Dogtown’s history tells us several stories.

One story is that  — after the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railway to Los Angeles —  rich farm land along a beautiful river was gradually turned into what today looks an industrial wasteland from a Philip K. Dick novel set on the banks of a ghost river crowded with weird non-native plants, plastic bags hooked on those plants thrown from cars, treated sewage, non-treated street waste, industrial effluent and graffiti. Read more