Pat Derby, Savior of Elephants, Dies

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March 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on Pat Derby, Savior of Elephants, Dies 



Pat Derby, founder of Ark2000, a 2000-acre refuge for elephants in the Mother Lode where at least one of the alleged pachyderm victims of the Los Angeles Zoo lived out her last days in happier refuge, has died.

Pat Derby died Friday at 69 from throat cancer, with her long-time companion Ed Stewart at her side. She was born June 7, 1943 and died Feb. 15.

She and her former husband Ted Derby were famed animal trainers in Hollywood and after working a stint in the late ‘60s with movie animal trainer Ralph Helfer who had a place in an isolated canyon north of Newhall, they opened up their own place, first in Placerita Canyon in Newhall. Read more

KCET Interviews Lionel Rolfe on His New Book, “Ari Mendelsohn”

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March 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on KCET Interviews Lionel Rolfe on His New Book, “Ari Mendelsohn” 

KCET’s Mike Songsen both reviews Lionel Rolfe’s new book, The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn, and interviews the author, along with some musings about a fatal shooting just outside Songsen’s door, in a February 22 column in KCET’s online feature Departures.

Songsen concludes that “The book is chock full of self-deprecating jokes, while still possessing life-affirming passages like his early days as a journalist in the Central Coast or his quirky romance with a Bulgarian woman. A hybrid of Rolfe’s earlier books, this new collection reads quickly. The blend of humor and pathos within were clearly cathartic for the author and paint a fascinating account of the last half Century in Los Angeles. ” For the full story, see


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February 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on EAST AND WEST PUBLISHING CONVERGE ON THE SUNSET STRIP 

The Aquarian Consiracy


                                                 By Bob Vickrey


After years of publishing books of a rather staid and provincial nature like the good New Englanders they were, the folks at Houghton Mifflin decided thirty years ago to add some spice to their yearly catalog when they enlisted a successful Los Angeles publisher of mind, body, and spiritualism titles to their annual mix.

Jeremy P. Tarcher and his idiosyncratic West Coast taste for alternative lifestyle books seemed at once to be quite an odd fit for a venerable old Boston publishing house, which had published the likes of Emerson, Longfellow, and Churchill. Read more


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February 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on HANGING WITH BRUBECK ON THE QUEEN MARY 

Dave and Iola Brucbeck

By Bob Vickrey

I struck up a friendship with a book publicist in Los Angeles shortly after our two publishing companies joined forces in the 1980s. Lucinda worked for J.P. Tarcher Company, the most successful publishing enterprise on the West Coast.

She had met many great musicians during her earlier years as a young publicist for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and formed a long friendship with jazz legend Dave Brubeck. When he appeared at the Long Beach Jazz Festival in 1987, he invited her to join him and his wife, Iola, for dinner before his performance that evening. Read more

The Controversy over America’s Oil Future

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February 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on The Controversy over America’s Oil Future 

Leslie Evans

For the last decade there has been growing concern among petroleum geologists, energy specialists, the Defense Department, investors, and environmentalists over the radically rising price of oil. A 44 gallon barrel of oil that sold for $12 in 1998 is going today for $95, and that understates things, as that is the American, or West Texas Intermediate, standard. This is what many in the Midwest pay, but on both coasts and much of the South, oil is going at the European Brent price, which is now at $111 per barrel.

Unlike climate science, where the professionals have reached overwhelming consensus that global warming is caused by human use of fossil fuels, the constituencies concerned with America’s energy prospects remain divided. Those who think this finite, precisely “fossil,” material is running short of world demand are proponents of the peak oil thesis. They advocate strict conservation of fossil fuels and crash investment in energy efficient technologies and renewable energy sources. Their opponents call them doomsters, while the peak oilers refer to the deniers as cornicopians. The cornicopians maintain that there are large enough untapped resources still in the ground to delay indefinitely any need to change our high energy standard of living or our economy, which depends on perpetual growth. They got a huge boost last fall when the prestigious Paris-based International Energy Agency, the 28-nation consortium that reports to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, on November 12 released its World Energy Outlook for 2012, predicting: Read more

California Road Scholar: Pastoral Era Writing

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February 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on California Road Scholar: Pastoral Era Writing 

Carlotta--from Hitchcock's "Vertigo"


By Phyl van Ammers

If people today think at all about the pastoral era in California, which is just about never, they think of a movie character: Carlotta Valdes in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”  Valdés is a surname of Asturian (Northern Spain) origin.  Both in North and South America the spelling Valdez is very common.  Juan Valdés is a fictional character that sells Columbian coffee on television.  There is a city of Valdez in Yolo County.  No Californio woman named Carlotta Valdes lived in San Benito County near the San Juan Bautista mission during the pastoral era.

Anyone who has seen the film thinks of Carlotta’s portrait.  An unknown artist, possibly a movie studio artist, painted a fair- haired woman posed next to a marble column.  The ambiguous background is comprised of ominous teal sky over what could be dry hills and dark olive trees and a reflective poo..  She wears a low cut violet satin dress and an elaborate ruby and gold pendant hangs from a thin gold chain. She carries a bouquet.  Her expression is wary.   Hitchcock placed the portrait in San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor.

The California pastoral era lasted from 1769 to 1854.  (Hubert Howe Bancroft, Volume XXIV, published in 1888 by The History Company.  Victorians wrote Bancroft’s history. (This chapter is available free on-line at

Read more

Veteran Journalist Spills His Guts About California Journalism In New Book

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February 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on Veteran Journalist Spills His Guts About California Journalism In New Book 


Phyl Van Ammers recently talked to Lionel Rolfe, the Los Feliz-based author whose most recent book is, “The Misadventures of Ari Mendelsohn: A Mostly True Memoir of California Journalism.” It is available on Amazon, both in paper and on Kindle. He will be doing a signing at Skylight Bookstore in March.


Q:      The Misadventures of Ari —  does the title suggest a relationship to Saul Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March?


A:       Oh God no. I never could read Saul Bellow. He was everything I don’t like. Academic, heavy handed, establishment in the worst kind of way. He might have even been a good writer, but I just couldn’t read him. What I could read just got on my nerves–badly. Also, I take my California identity seriously. I’ve made a career out pointing out that most of this country’s best writing came from California, from Mark Twain to Jack London to Steinbeck. Not from the James brothers from Boston, or wherever.  That’s what my book “Literary L.A.” was all about. The real soul of California’s contribution to world literature was born in its Bohemian roots, and then it metamorphosed into something more apocalyptical after World War II. I don’t see Bellow as summing up anything big and stirring–just pompous and stale academia and equally pompous and stale New York publishing. Bellow is in the tradition of James’ parlor room writing.  I’d point out that the best American writer in recent years certainly wasn’t Bellow, it was Bukowski. And no New York publisher ever touched him. I got to admit I do like Philip Roth on occasions. He had a certain bawdy appeal. Bellow sucks. If my book draws from anything–the picaresque novel sort of thing–think Henry Fielding and Mark Twain. I loved Henry Fielding. Read more

CHARLES BUKOWSKI: The Poet as Entertainer; An Excerpt From Joan Jobe Smith’s New Book,“Charles Bukowski: Epic GLOTTIS: His Art & His Women (& me)”

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February 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on CHARLES BUKOWSKI: The Poet as Entertainer; An Excerpt From Joan Jobe Smith’s New Book,“Charles Bukowski: Epic GLOTTIS: His Art & His Women (& me)” 

By Joan Jobe Smith  



Unbelievable to think that here I am, in 2012, half of my lifetime

plus two years later, rewriting this piece I first drafted in August 1975,

when I was a law student. Seventeen long years later, after I dropped

out of law school, received a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing

from the University of California Irvine and married the poet Fred

Voss, a portion appeared in Sure—The Charles Bukowski Newsletter #4,

1992. In the spring 1994 issue of Chiron Review, “The Poet As Entertainer”

was published in toto as a column I wrote called “Swimming in

the Word Stew.” Read more

My Uncle Yehudi, Ravi Shankar & The Mystic East

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January 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on My Uncle Yehudi, Ravi Shankar & The Mystic East 

Menuhin (left) and Shankar (right)

Album cover

By Lionel Rolfe

The death of Ravi Shankar last week made much mention of his close friendship with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who happened to be my uncle, with whom he made three albums, “East Meets West” in the ‘50s before Shankar hooked up with the Beatles.

Yehudi says that George Enesco, who was one of Yehudi’s earliest teachers, could perform great feats with all kinds of music. He could play any opera, symphony or chamber piece “in the most inspired fashion on the piano using various auxiliary means such as whistles, grunts and singing to convey the full impact and breadth of the score.” He orchestrated the horns with his grunts, the violins with his singing and whistles. Read more


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January 1, 2013 · Posted in Commentary · Comments Off on THE SECOND COMING OF A SILENT FILM STAR 

Baby Peggy

By Bob Vickrey

When I received a phone call late last year, there was no mistaking the rich and resonant voice of my longtime friend Diana.

She was calling me from Northern California to tell me she had been invited to make a special appearance at the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival in Los Angeles. She wanted to make sure we arranged some time to spend together while she was in town. I informed her that I would try to work her into my very busy (retirement) schedule, which in turn, triggered that deeply intoxicating laugh I had remembered so well through the years.

My 94-year old friend, Diana Serra Cary, has seemingly lived three distinct lives. She was once a child movie star who earned millions of dollars in the 1920s. She later enjoyed a long career as a bookseller, and then while in her early sixties, launched a successful career as a writer and author. Read more

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