HOPES FOR ECONOMIC TURNAROUND DEALT BODYBLOW BY FIRST REVIEW OF KNOTTS SCARY FARM 2012

Clowncrew13As long and dark through our economic tunnel California has been, Native Angelenos have clung to the hope that when there is winter, sooner or later spring must follow.  And after that must come summer. And then eventually, fall.  And with fall would come to the seasonal push our economy can always count on: the bounty we reap each year from our region’s Halloween mazes.

We may no longer make anything in California, but we haven’t forgotten how to be scary. This, after all, is the state whose film executives green-lit most of the Saw films and The Hills Have Eyes reboot.  Come each Halloween, when the world wants to be scared, and scared by professionals, it arrives on our doorstep, saying “Take us to your creepy mazes and we shall reward you with our lurcher.”

But now, on top of everything we’ve been through, these hopes may be dashed as well.

At the peak of the Southern California Halloween pyramid has always stood Knott’s Scary Farm; the pinnacle of Halloween maze terror. It is not too much to say that if our hopes to turn the state around rest on our entertainment complex and the entertainment complex rests on the horror genre and the horror genre revolves around Halloween and the capital of Halloween is at Knott’s, then the entire economic security of tens of millions of Californians rides on Knott’s being able to throw together some world-class scary mazes. And so it is not too much to say that tens of millions of California children should get used to a world without schools, healthcare, police protection and where toxic waste is dumped directly into their lunch boxes after they read this first early review of this year’s offering at Knott’s.

A post on the indispensable Creepy LA blog, their correspondent filed a first review containing the following, deadly, dream destroying, devastating descriptions:

this year’s pre-Haunt buffet dinner had some surprising and alarming differences from previous years. To wit: Disposable plasticware instead of sturdy buffet dishes, bright normal lighting and no real decoration, no monsters, and a drastically reduced lineup of food options. (Not to mention the “collectible” Snoopy drink cups that we were given, rather than commemorative Haunt cups we got in the past.

For several previous years, there was a trend of having “hot chicks in costumes vaguely writhing in a cage in one room of every maze.” Apart from one woman with a feather-stick in Dominion of the Dead and a desultory go-go bit in Endgames, that phase of the Haunt mazes is over! No more gratuitous female stuff anymore.

Endgames
It’s pretty much postapocalyptic MMA-meets-chop-‘em-up slaughterhouse horror… but even that is giving it a little too much credit.

Dominion of the Dead
This venerable old maze still puts on a good effort, but it no longer has any sexy decadence or very many scares in it. I’ll give it points for being quietly atmospheric, but it’s got that “played out” vibe from start to finish.

CLIFFORD CLINTON: THE CAFETERIA KID WHO TOPPLED CITY HALL

Clifford Clinton
Clifford Clinton

“In a city awash in sin and suffering, Clifford Clinton was a righteous man,” writes John Buntin in his book, L.A. Noir. 

In the 1930s, the City of Los Angeles was teeming with vice. It was controlled by what Buntin calls the Combination, a loose alliance between the underworld, the LAPD and City Hall, under the exceedingly corrupt leadership of District Attorney Buron Fitts, Police Chief James “Two Gun” Davis and Mayor Frank Shaw. And it was brought down by the most unlikely of crusaders: a 37-year-old cafeteria owner named Clifford Clifton.

He was born in Berkley in 1900, the third of ten children. His parents, Edmond and Gertrude, were missionaries, captains in the Salvation Army. Edmond owned a chain of restaurants in San Francisco, which gave the Clintons the resources to travel around the world and spread the word of Christ. They all lived in China for two years, from 1910 to 1912, volunteering at a Christian orphanage for the blind.

Clifford dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and went to work for his dad’s restaurant chain. Ten years later he was the supervising manager, and then a partner. He moved to Los Angeles in 1931, along with his wife Nelda and their three children, to start a new kind of cafeteria at 618 S. Olive St. in downtown Los Angeles.

John Buntin writes:

Cafeterias were to 1930s Los Angeles what coffee shops were to 1930s Seattle – ubiquitous, wildly popular, and very profitable… In 1931, Clinton took the basic idea and gave it a fantastical twist by opening Clifton’s Pacific Seas, which featured a giant waterfall, jungle murals, and a Polynesian grass hut inspired by his explorations of the South Pacific, as well as a meditation garden inspired by the Garden of Gethsemane.

Clifton’s (a portmanteau of Clinton’s own name) also became known as the “Cafeteria of the Golden Rule.” Clinton, after all, was a deeply Christian man who believed, above all else, in helping the poor. As the country plunged into what would be called The Great Depression, it was written policy at Clifton’s Cafeteria that “No guest need to go hungry for lack of funds.” In its first 90 days, it served 10,000 free meals. Author Ray Bradbury is said to have taken advantage of the policy, and Charles Bukowski mentions the restaurant, in his novel Ham on Rye, thusly:

Clifton’s Cafeteria was nice. If you didn’t have much money, they let you pay what you could. And if you didn’t have any money, you didn’t have to pay… It was owned by some very nice rich old man, a very unusual person.

Clinton got involved in politics almost by accident. In 1935, LA County Supervisor John Anson Ford asked him to investigate food operations at County General Hospital. Clinton’s report was shocking: patients were being served low-grade, often spoiled food, while, according to Buntin, “waste and favoritism were costing the county $120,000.”

All of a sudden, Clifton’s Cafe was hit with random health inspections and food poisoning complaints. Outraged, Clinton resolved to fight back. In 1937, he got Ford to get him appointed to the county grand jury. Buntin writes:

The county grand jury was the wildcard in Los Angeles politics. Every year, the county’s fifty superior court judges appointed nineteen people to the jury, which had broad leeway to investigate wrongdoing.

Of course, many of the grand jury members had been appointed by judges that were in the pocket of the Combination. They wanted nothing to do with Clinton’s crusade. And so Clinton went rogue. D.J. Waldie writes:

Clinton responded by taking the reform fight directly to the public, rousing enough reaction that Mayor Shaw reluctantly allowed Clinton to assemble a committee of his own to examine vice in Los Angeles. He found it: 600 brothels, 1,800 bookies, and 300 gambling houses.

But Mayor Shaw had made a tactical error. Clinton now had the resources to expose the bribery, kickbacks and systematic abuse that flourished at City Hall with the connivance of Police Chief James Davis, District Attorney Buron Fitts and the editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times.

The grand jury refused to publish the report, but Clinton had an ally – Judge Fletcher Bowron (who had appointed Clinton at the urging of Ford), who overruled the grand jury. And so the report was hastily published. Buntin writes:

The report was scathing. It found that “underworld profits” were being used to finance the campaigns of “city and county officials in vital positions.” In exchange, local officials from all three of the principal law enforcement agencies in the county, the district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s department, and the LAPD, “work in complete harmony and never interfere with the activities of important figures in the underworld.”

The grand jury foreman, John Bauer, called Clinton “out of control” and “Public Enemy #1,” and derided him as the “Cafeteria Kid.” The LA Times followed suit.

Things soon turned violent. When a notary named Frank Angelillo appeared before the grand jury to testify that Bauer was a Shaw crony, Bauer and District Attorney Buron Fitts showed up and Angelillo’s house flanked by a squad of detectives, who proceeded to beat the poor notary so badly he had to be hospitalized.

On the night of October 28, 1937, a bomb exploded in the basement of Clifford Clinton’s home at 5470 Los Feliz Boulevard. Miraculously, no one was hurt. The LAPD suggested that the bomb was planted by Clinton himself to get more publicity; according to Buntin, “a car seen speeding from the scene had license plates that tied to the LAPD’s intelligence division.”

Two and a half months later, on the morning of January 14, 1938, a private detective named Harry Raymond started up his car. It exploded. Raymond was a former vice squad officer who’d had a falling out with one of Mayor Shaw’s minions. After he uncovered evidence linking the Shaw administration to the underworld, Raymond tried to blackmail the Combination. Big mistake.

Except that somehow, despite suffering 186 shrapnel wounds, Raymond survived (the Combination’s assassins were clearly incompetent). He took his story to the Los Angeles Examiner and placed the blame on LAPD Captain Earl Kynette, who’d been spying on Raymond. The DA was forced to open an investigation. In a letter to Senator Hiram Johnson, chamber of commerce director Frank Doherty described the situation thusly: “a near psychopathic district attorney is investigating a crooked police department.”

Kynette was arrested for attempted murder. The trial got underway in April of 1938. Buntin writes:

The evidence against Kynette was damning. He had personally purchased the steel pipe used in the bombing. The trial also revealed that Kynette had been running a secret spy squad – on that routinely used wiretaps and dictographs to gather information on opponents of the Shaws’ political machine. Among its targets were county supervisor John Anson Ford (who had run for mayor, unsuccessfully, against Frank Shaw in 1937), Judge Bowron, Hollywood Citizen-News publisher Harlan Palmer, and fifty other prominent Angelenos.

When Police Chief James “Two Gun” Davis took the stand, he defended the intelligence program. When pressed as to why certain men were surveilled, Davis admitted that some of them were simply “attempting to destroy confidence in the police department,” which was presumed a crime worth investigating. Kynette was convicted, and Davis was disgraced.

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Frank Shaw
Mayor Frank Shaw, left, with a boy scout troop, sporting a Hitler mustache back when that was ok (1933)

Clinton and his band of reformers demanded that Shaw cut Davis loose. Shaw refused. Without Davis, the City Hall/underworld alliance would fall apart. And so Clifford Clinton went after Shaw himself. Under City Charter, a mayor could be recalled by gathering enough signatures and calling a special election. It had never been successfully done before – not in Los Angeles, not in any major American city. Despite constant police harassment, Clinton and his band of reformers gathered 120,000 signatures to put the recall on the ballot.

To run against Shaw, Clinton turned to his old ally, Judge Fletcher Bowron. In September, Bowron defeated Shaw in a landslide, 233,427 votes to 122,692. Bowron forced Davis to resign. The mayor’s brother was later convicted of 63 counts of selling civil service appointments and promotions. Fitts was defeated in the next election. The Combination was smashed, and organized crime figures fled to Las Vegas en masse.

Although Bowron was hailed by many as a reformer, he was a disappointment to Clinton, who decided to run against Bowron (after serving three years in the Army during World War II, working in mess halls) in 1945, losing badly. Bowron would serve as mayor for another two terms until he finally incurred the wrath of the Chandler family and the rest of the business establishment by trying to build public housing in Chavez Ravine. The Chandler-backed candidate, Norris Poulson, defeated Bowron in 1953, and instead of public housing, a Chavez Ravine became the site of Dodgers Stadium. Today, there’s a square named after Bowron catty-corner from City Hall.

Clifton's CafeteriaClifford Clinton stayed involved with politics, if only at the fringes. He continued to open cafeterias, and he founded Meals for Millions, a non-profit dedicated toward feeding hungry people around the world. On November 20, 1969, Clinton died peacefully in his Los Angeles home.

His cafeterias would close one by one until finally, only the original Clifton’s on Olive street remained. It is currently undergoing major renovations.

A CITY STANDS IN SHOCK AS PHIL ANSCHUTZ PUTS AEG UP FOR SALE

FarmersFieldSomeone get me a Drudge Siren: in quite possibly the biggest news to hit this city since the Pantry was closed by health inspectors for one day in 1997, the Wall St. Journal is reporting (behind a pay wall) that right ring Christian billionaire Phil Anschutz is selling AEG, the monumentally large LA-based company that owns the Staples Center, L.A. Live, Coachella, the LA Kings, the LA Galaxy, half of the LA Lakers, half of City Hall, and probably the very ground beneath our feet, or at least half of it.

All of that is now for sale.

As Dr. Raphael Sonenshein, Executive Director of the Pat Brown Institute, once told me:

One of the things I’ve been trying to explain to people is that the business structure of LA is really just AEG. And then Eli Broad gets out of bed from time to time and issues a pronouncement, and then people have to go to the opera. They really want to go to Laker games.

tim leiweke smiling
Tim Leiweke

So many unanswered questions.Just who will buy such a monstrous company? Will it be broken up into pieces? Is there a buyer already?What about the great and powerful Tim Leiweke, CEO of AEG, who has a direct line to the mayor and every city councilman? Will stay on as the head? Did Leiweke and Anschutz have some sort of falling out? Was it over the proposal to build a football stadium in the heart of Downtown LA? And why now, when everything was going so well, the proposed stadium cruising through City Hall and Coachella rapidly expanding?

While the city stands in a state (and cities usually are in states) of unadulterated shock and fear, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appeared unperturbed at the news of the entire business establishment being offered up for sale like so many used sweatshirts on eBay. Dakota Smith reports in the Daily News:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was aware “for some time” that AEG was going up for sale. In a statement released by Villaraigosa’s office, the mayor stated that he speaks regularly to Anschutz Company head Phil Anschutz and AEG President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Leiweke.

“I have the commitment from both of them that this won’t affect plans for an NFL team to return to Los Angeles in the near future,” Villaraigosa said, “And so will not affect my support for moving ahead with Farmers Field and the Convention Center site.”

Asked if the mayor should have told the public about the potential for a sale, the mayor’s spokesman, Peter Sanders, said that Villaraigosa stood by his statement.

Yes, what did the mayor know, and when did he know it? The people have the right to know the truth.

Over in the opinion section of the Daily News, columnist Vincent Bonsignore speculates that the sale has to do with Anschutz’s supposed ambivalence at buying a team in the NFL, alike with a lot of socialist ideas like profit sharing. But wouldn’t it have just been easier for Anschutz to tell Leiweke no, rather than selling off god knows how many stadiums and teams and toys?

Hold on tight Los Angeles. Shit’s about to get sold.

MEET THE BRAINS BEHIND FAKE NIKKI FINKE!

Screen ShotEd’s Note: For months now, Twitter has been rocked by a pair of fake accounts mimicking the wit and wisdom of Hollywood’s mad aunt in the attic, Nikki Finke.  The life of the first – which brilliantly replicated her name spelling – was cut short after complaints from the Queen of All Sham Journalists herself, complaints that inadvertently led to Twitter at first shutting down Nikki’s own account. Since that fake account was dismantled, the crusade continued on the account @fake_nikkifinke, which daily delivers a wonderful simulacrum of NikkiSpeak.  

Today, for the first time, the genius behind these accounts has decided to lift the mask and tell the world the story of what led him down the path to being Fake Nikki. 

Fake tweeting is, in a sense, a kind of method acting for lazy people who might not want to deal with the physical effort involved in things like studying and observation. We would much rather just Google for research.

As with any form of parody, there are multiple manners of approaching a fake Twitter account—broad (@SarahPaIinUSA), specific (the 14,000 increasingly niche Hulk parodies), and flat-out bizarre (@CNNNewsUSA). However, I would argue the successful Twitter parody is a confluence of all these qualities, along with some resemblance to the vague quality that defines the subject being mocked.

All of which makes someone as controversial as Nikki Finke who has the skills of a great journalist while lacking the ethical sense for those skills to mean anything – the perfect fodder for a lampooning 140 characters at a time. Despite popular belief, I am not the first person to make a fake Nikki Twitter. Or the second. Or the third. While they all burned out after a few days, I would mostly attribute my success to mere opportunism.

Although the anti-Nikki movement had been around for years, the recent fallout from her tiff with Bret Easton Ellis and his agency seemed like the first time Finke was genuinely vulnerable. Finke’s unsavory practices had long drawn the ire of fellow trade journalists and various members of the Hollywood community, but last month was the first time a genuine power player in that community wielded the legal, financial and social capital to push back against Nikki’s well-documented histrionics.

Presumably, the reason I never received any variety of legal threat through the anonymous email address associated with the account is Nikki was not entirely sure who I was. I know for a fact that she did, however, threaten people who wrote about my fake Twitter account, so I imagine there will be a bizarre tirade of dubious standing in my inbox within a half-hour of this post going online.

I am also lucky that “The Onion plus Hollywood trades” is somehow a relatively unexplored combination, which allowed the account’s fake headlines to appear somewhat novel. Not to mention that writing Onion-esque headlines seems like an ideal outlet for anyone born in the past thirty years who ever aspired to do anything humorous.

Plus, some of the headlines are genuinely things I want to see—Nic Cage starring in a Joe Biden biopic, Kanye West and Ariel Pink in buddy cop comedy directed Spike Jonze, and a talk show hosted by Werner Herzog. Part of me hoped I could at least inspire a Funny or Die sketch based on one of those ideas.

And Nikki’s antics made for some brilliant, if unpredictable, entertainment. The episode where Nikki Finke accidentally removed her own account because she couldn’t discern the difference between my account’s original handle and her own was probably more entertaining than anything I had actually tweeted.

Finally, thanks to the brilliant Richard Rushfield and Molly McAleer for inspiring the account. And aside from deciding to work with Nikki and using the site’s obnoxious in-house style, I have no qualms with most of Deadline’s writers—Mike and Nellie are genuinely talented trade reporters.

Alex Litel is a self-described “freelance human being.” Also, he sometimes tweets.

The LA Times Terrorist Attack

On October 1, 1910, at 1:07 am, a suitcase bomb packed with 16 sticks of dynamite went off outside the Los Angeles Times’ building on 1st and Broadway. The explosive was actually supposed to have been triggered at 4:00 am when the building was empty, but the timing mechanism had failed, and the bomb went off early, while there were still 115 people inside working. Making matters worse was the presence, unbeknownst to the bombers, of a natural gas line under the building.

The resulting blast could be heard from 15 miles away. Printers’ metal became shrapnel; the entire building was soon engulfed in flames. 21 employees died, most of them burned to death.

General Harrison Gray Otis, the owner of the Times, and the head of LA’s powerful business elite had no doubt as to who the perpetrators of the attack were: unions.  He wrote this in his paper:

O you anarchic scum, you cowardly murderers, you leeches upon honest labor, you midnight assassins, you whose hands are dripping with the innocent blood of your victims, you against whom the wails of poor widows and the cries of fatherless children are ascending to the Great White Throne, go, mingle with the crowd on those street corners, look upon the crumbled and blackened walls, look at the ruins wherein are buried the calcined remains of those whom you murdered…

General Otis loved a good fight.

The bombing of the LA Times was but the latest incident in an all-out war for the soul of Los Angeles between capital and labor. First, there was a typographers strike. Then, in 1894, a railroad strike brought all inter-city commerce to a halt. Six infantry companies were called in to restore law and order.

General Otis (he was technically a brigadier general, but more of a self-styled general) led the fight on the side of the capital. As David Halberstam writes in his absolutely majestic book, The Powers That Be:

After the railroad strike ended in 1896, he united all the town’s business and industrial leadership in one group, the Merchants and Manufacturers Association, or M&M as it was known, whose basic pledge was to employ no union man, to break all unions, and to make Los Angeles the greatest open-shop city in the world. Any employer who dealt in any way with labor, who employed union men, or who seemed even partially sympathetic to labor’s cause, came under total pressure. Owners were first urged and then threatened; the banks, who were, of course, central to M&M, cut off credit. All of this was the work of Harrison Gray Otis. He loved it; this was a battle; this was life. From 1907 to 1910 a state of war existed in the city. At the height of the struggle, Otis took to riding around Los Angeles in a huge touring car with a cannon mounted on it.

When Otis’ headquarters was obliterated by terrorists, he immediately accused the unions. The unions said it was a gas leak, or perhaps the work of Otis himself – a frame-up job. The crime gained national attention, and Otis went on a country-wide lecture tour.

Seven months after the attack, a private detective named William J. Burns (working on the promise of a $75,000 reward – $25,000 from the city and $50,000 from the M&M) and his son tracked down Iron Workers union member Ortie McManigal and J.B. McNamara to the Oxford Hotel in Detroit, where they were arrested under false pretenses. Unfortunately for them, police found dynamite, blasting caps and alarm clocks in their hotel room.

Burns took the two of them to the home of a Chicago Police Sergeant proceeded to put the screws to them. McManigal broke first, and in exchange for a lighter prison sentence accused McNamara of the bombing and McNamara’s brother J.J. of supplying the equipment. J.J., who just so happened to be the secretary-treasurer of the Iron Workers. J.J. was arrested, and the McNamara brothers were taken by train to Los Angeles to stands trial.

The national labor movement was galvanized in defense of the brothers, who had been, after all, illegally arrested and, in the mind of many union leaders (including Eugene Debs) framed by Otis. American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers convinced the greatest labor attorney in the country, Clarence Darrow, to defend the McNamara brothers, for which he was promised $350,000 (or $7.4 million in 2007 money).

There was just one problem. The McNamaras were guilty. Halberstam writes:

Darrow had a spy in the prosecution camp and became intimately knowledgeable about the case that was building against his clients. He sent his own hired investigators to check out the prosecution’s evidence and each time he did he was appalled by how well the prosecution case stood up; there was evidence and it was very strong. The Burns detectives had been trailing McManigal and McNamara long before the Times explosion. One day Darrow, dejected and dispirited, walked into the McNamaras’ cell and said, ‘My God, you left a trail behind you a mile wide.’

But Harrison Gray Otis had a problem too. This was an election year. Mayor George Alexander was being challenged by a socialist – a socialist! – named Job Harriman, who just so happened to be Darrow’s assistant in the upcoming trial. The average working man was starting to think the whole mess was Otis’ dark plot to destroy the labor movement; public opinion was undeniably tilting towards Harriman. Dangers abounded– Darrow, after all, was a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom. But even if Darrow lost and the brothers were hanged, they could become martyrs, rousing the labor movement and throwing the election to the socialists – the socialists!

Enter Lincoln Steffens, the legendary muckraking journalist, author of The Shame of the Cities, in town to cover the trial. Steffens spoke with the McNamara brothers and became convinced they were guilty. Steffens then began to broker peace talks between Clarence Darrow and General Otis’ son-in-law, Harry Chandler.

Whereas Otis was an angry, spiteful man, always looking for a fight, Harry Chandler was a businessman, “a pirate visionary,” in the words of Halberstam. He writes:

He had come to the General first as a young circulation distributor, quietly taking over the General’s circulation lists without the latter knowing it, until he had one made the General an offer he could not refuse, at which point he became the business manager of the paper. Thus a dynasty, conceived in no small way, in a kind of commercial blackmail. Shortly afterward, in the way that these things are sometimes done, Harry Chandler also became the General’s son-in-law.

Darrow, convinced of his clients’ guilt, wanted to spare them the death penalty. Harry Chandler, worried about the election of an actual socialist as mayor, wanted the whole thing to go away quickly. Through Steffens, Chandler and Darrow worked out a deal: the brothers would plead guilty – before the election. J.B. would get a life and J.J. would get 15 years. To sweeten the pot, the AFL would agree to end their strike against Los Angeles employers.

When Chandler told Otis of the grand bargain, the old man was apoplectic. “Over his dead body would there be a deal,” writes Halberstam. “He would see those sons of bitches hanged for what they did.” But Chandler calmed him down, convinced him that the plea bargain would paint the labor movement as terrorists, would turn the public’s sympathies away from labor and away from Harriman. Otis relented – a kind of passing of the torch, the beginning of a new business elite in LA, softer, shrewder, and more powerful than ever.

Halberstam writes:

On December 1, 911, four days before the election, Darrow, never telling his deputy Harriman of what was happening, pleaded the McNamaras guilty in court. Overnight Harriman’s campaign ended; the next day the streets of Los Angeles were littered with Harriman buttons and badges; he was beaten by 30,00 votes.

Job Harriman’s political career was over. The labor movement in Los Angeles did not recover until the 1950s.

Clarence Darrow was pilloried by labor as a sellout. Even worse, he was indicted on charges of jury tampering for allegedly trying to bribe a juror in the McNamara trial before the plea deal was struck. When Darrow asked Samuel Gompers for financial assistance, Gompers turned him down. Darrow was eventually acquitted, and would later reinvent himself as a criminal attorney, going on to become the most famous lawyer in America defending Leopold and Loeb, and later John T. Scopes in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Another 55 members of the Iron Workers were arrested on conspiracy charges for helping to transport the dynamite used by the McNamara brothers. 38 of them were convicted, including President Frank Ryan.

J.B. McNamara was sentenced to life in prison at San Quentin. After the trial he was quoted as saying, “You see?… The whole damn world believes in dynamite.” He never filed a single request for parole, and died on March 9, 1941. His brother, who did 15 years in San Quentin with him, died almost exactly two months later on May 8. He had rejoined the Iron Workers as an international organizer.

Otis Chandler died in 1917, at the home of his son-in-law.

As for Harry Chandler, he established a dynasty that would rule over Los Angeles for the next half century. He played a central role in the plot to bring water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles, as dramatized in the film Chinatown. He built an empire of unimaginable wealth that included investments in almost every sector of the L.A. economy — banks, tires, aerospace, oil, agriculture, shipping, railroads and the largest land holdings in Southern California. His daughter-in-law, Dorothy, became the feudal lord of LA culture, while his grandson, Otis, turned the LA Times into one of the top national newspapers.

LA NEIGHBORHOODS: AN INTRODUCTION FOR BEGINNERS

So you’ve decided to move to Los Angeles. Congratulations. But your biggest decision lies ahead of you: which neighborhood to move into to. LA, after all, contains multitudes, hundreds of neighborhoods each with their own identity that will stick to you like a bad odor.  Plant your flag in Silverlake, Marina Del Rey or Thousands Oaks and whomever you are sitting next to at your next dinner party will think they know everything there is to know about you.  Here’s our guide to picking where you are in fact meant to be.

LA Neigh

The Valley
If LA is the place people come to chase their dreams, the Valley is the place those people go home to get away from it all. It is said that the valley is at least 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the city. It feels like 30.

North Hollywood: Referred to as NOHO on t-shirts and coffee mugs, and home to a growing Artists District that has yet to include Artists.

Reseda: A lesser income section of the West Valley, it’s often said those in Reseda look guilty. Described in a Tom Petty song, Free Fall’n: “It’s a long day, Livin’ in Reseda. There’s a freeway, runn’n through the yard.” The freeway is the 101, and it actually runs through Tarzana.

Studio City: There was a time when people moved here because it was affordable and could be thought of as living in LA or Hollywood ‘almost pretty much’.

Burbank: Home to a Big Boys and Warner Bros., there is an airport here, the Bob Hope né Burbank Airport, which is the preferred airport for anyone living on the East Side. It is small, quick, and looks like an airport would look in Toon Town.

Woodland Hills: The pornography capital of LA. They say the worst part of a porn set is the smell. Lots of good deals on air conditioners and STD testing.

East Side
A rich tapestry, land of the hipster, the Mexican, the city lobbyist.

Downtown: Looks exactly like New York when you film it. In real life, it looks more like this one block in St. Louis. Big buildings, subways, smells, walking, “lofts.” The words ‘Skid Row’ first gained fame here. The words ‘Urban Renewal’ is taking over.

Echo Park: There are 347 definitions of the word Hipster at Urban Dictionary, and next to each one is a picture of someone who has lived in Echo Park, from artists and independent thinkers to trust fund bohos and delusional space cadets.

Silverlake: An urban paradise built by gays and Hispanics, has weathered the hipster invasion pretty well. Echo Park’s richer, quirkier Aunt.

Los Feliz: A more bourgeoisie version of Silver Lake with strollers, etc. A real melting pot for casual drinkers and alcoholics alike.

Hollywood: Hollywood is the most obvious and least-survived place to first move into. There are tourists, but only on a few main streets. Most of Hollywood is made of Hills and Canyons full of ghosts and the people who speak with them, believe in them, or want to be them.

Hancock Park: The mayor lives here.

Koreatown: Cheap, lawless and intensely treeless. Street parking is but a rumor.

Boyle Heights: Hasn’t changed a ton in the last decade or so. Gigante Mercados and Mariachis for hire in Mariachi Plaza who don’t give a shit if you hire them ironically. They’re just looking for a good time.

Atwater Village: Like a small-town version of Silver Lake. Reminiscent of early Spielberg films. Bad things don’t last there. Not much is open late.

Eagle Rock, Highland Park: The Valley with a splash of Silver Lake.

Glendale: There are so many Armenians here. They work everywhere – at the mattress stores and restaurants and Macy’s and Car Dealerships.

Pasadena: Pasadena is its own thing with its own freeways. The Rose Bowl, Santa Anita, and the Huntington Gardens are all very pretty places to take your mom when she comes to visit.

The West Side
The old and new money rich live on the West Side, the cars and buses are nicer, and there is an ocean. Steve Martin’s LA Story was based on the West Side, where a walk is laughable, rush hour is impenetrable, and magic definitely has its place.

West Hollywood: Two neighborhoods in one – the first, known affectionately as “Boy’s Town”, is dominated by incredibly muscular gay men; the other is block after block of old, disgruntled Russian Jews. A great place to play backgammon and buy nitrous.

Culver City: Famous restaurants and designer stores open their second or third locations here.

Beverly Hills: Everything I needed to know about Beverly Hills I learned from Beverly Hills Cop. It’s very nice and the people can be charming, but everything is either unaffordable, not worth having or concealed by hedges.

Bel Air: Land of such enormous wealth, that the Welcome To Bel Air sign is written in Pink Neon.

Westwood: Home to UCLA, Westwood is a popular training ground for chain restaurant employees and all you can eat specials. The 4th meal was invented here. The students are annoying and impossible to distinguish from the ‘townie’ residents.

Brentwood: OJ Simpson vs Nicole Brown Simpson – one of many love stories from this working-class town. It’s the kids who suffer.

Santa Monica: Maybe the most stereotypical idea of LA. There is a beach, a pier, an ocean, an outdoor mall next to an indoor mall next to massive free parking garages. The street signs are Blue, the bus is called Big Blue, it’s a very coordinated community. A California Über Alles.

Venice:  There are canals and paintings of Jim Morrison and a beach where any kind of lowlife is free to rollerblade, play music, or sell marijuana-themed everything out of a beat-up radio flyer. It’s the ends of the earth here, where you can safely say that walking into a stranger’s home and using their sex swing by yourself or with a partner would be totally cool.

Malibu: Malibu has beaches and canyons and horses and ranches. A little like Beverly Hills on the coast, except that the people are so rich, and the estates are so massive and impossible to get to, they don’t even bother putting up fences or hedges to keep us out.

Southside
The part of LA least like Hollywood and most like Baltimore.

Inglewood: Referred to as “the Sticks” in Pulp Fiction, because it’s neither central nor convenient to give people rides to.

South LA: Used to be called South-Central, it’s since been re-branded South LA. Potholes the size of Volkswagens and great Barbecue. You will know if you are on the street too late at night because the locals will tell you.

El Segundo: I left my wallet there. Psyche. I never got out of the car.

San Pedro: There is a good harbor here and a great fish market and a so-so aquarium.

Long Beach: The 2nd busiest port in America. Home to a University, a cheaper Jet Blue option at John Wayne Airport Long Beach Airport, and lots of punk rock.

Torrance, Redondo, and Manhattan Beach: I have cousins in each of them. I see the ones in Torrance the most. The ones in Manhattan Beach appreciate my style. The ones in Redondo have the most kids. Hawthorne Blvd cuts through all three and is a Mecca for street racing.

CALIFORNIA POISED TO FORK OVER EVEN MORE MONEY TO PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS

Have you heard? California is broke. Its cities fall into bankruptcy one by one. Its growing pension liabilities threaten to sink us into the cold black pacific ocean. And so the California Legislature has bravely decided to take the bull by the horns and…

No, that’s not quite right. But they’re at least holding the line by… wait, what?

Assembly Bill 2451, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan (is this a twilight zone episode?) support in the legislature, awaits its final vote in the State Senate.

The bill would, in all seriousness, fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to the surviving relatives of public employees who die of natural causes.

I swear I’m not making this up.

Let’s say a firefighter, policeman or prison guard dies from a heart attack. As the law stands now, if he’s still employed, his surviving family is entitled to compensation. The statute of limitation is 4 and 1/2 years– so if he dies of a heart attack 4 years after retiring, his family still gets the money. AB 2451 would remove the statute of limitations– i.e., the cop or firefighter dies of a heart attack or cancer at age 95, the state will still pay out like a slot machine– we’re talking $250,000 to $300,000.

Nary a mention of any of this, by the, by, in the LA Times. Here’s the Sac Bee’s editorial:

Its practical effect is to give every police officer, every firefighter, every prison guard or park ranger a taxpayer-funded life insurance policy. To pay for that extraordinary benefit, services will have to be cut. In some jurisdictions, even police and firefighters could be laid off to pay for it.

In a year in which three California cities have already filed for bankruptcy protection and more are at risk of insolvency, when the governor is begging voters to approve a tax increase and seriously contemplating cutting the school year, this bill represents a gross overreach by the state’s most powerful unions.

This is happening because:

a) California lawmakers don’t care how much things cost years from now, long after they’re termed out

b) California lawmakers are completely in the pocket of public employee unions, who rule this state like a workers’ Soviet

c) California lawmakers just aren’t really paying attention most of the time, are not very good at their jobs

d) All of the above

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cry.

LA Or Bhopal: Wilshire Boulevard

Curbed reports that Wilshire Boulevard is in such bad shape, the city is going to have to repave it twice.

First it will spend $800,00 just to repave the right lane from Wilton to Fairfax. Then once they have that looking post-war (and not post – apocolyptic), next year, they’ll spend $30 million to repave the whole thing and add a bus line.

LosAngeles

This is a good moment, therefore, to inaugurate our series, LA or Bhopal?  Be sure to include an address. But please! Be careful out there. Some of those craters go down pretty deep.

Bonus episode after the jump.

OK, let’s play… LA or Bhopal?

If you guessed LA… then you’re right! Dave Z. spotted this one on the 100 block of West Cesar Chavez.

Be careful Dave!

Raunchy Details Emerge From Ramon Cortines Lawsuit

The Courthouse News Service has all the raunchy details emerging from the Ramon Cortines “sexual battery” lawsuit. Former LAUSD employee Scot Graham makes the following accusations, according to the lawsuit:

  • Days after hiring him, Cortines tried to grab Graham’s penis, then proposed the two of them go to Cortines’ office to have sex.
  • Years later, after Cortines had become Superintendent, he invited Graham to a getaway at Cortines’ ranch, where he once again attempted to grab and grope Graham, and tried to kiss him on the mouth.
  • That night, Cortines entered Graham’s room, naked as a jaybird, his penis erect. He got into Graham’s bed and started masturbating. He then grabbed Graham’s penis and stated, “you’re not getting hard.”

SexualHarassment

But perhaps more shocking is the coverup.

Graham says he told higher ups about the incidents but they were never investigated due to LAUSD’s ”culture of sexual abuse, stealth and secrecy.” From CNS:

He says he reported the incidents to his supervisors and to the district’s general counsel, David Holmquist, but no action was taken.
Holmquist, a nonparty, told him to “‘forget’ about the incident with Cortines,” Graham says.
“What is the point of ruining a man’s career … what are you going to accomplish by complaining?” Holmquist allegedly asked.

Who else was protecting Cortines?

“It appeared that Cortines had an inner circle of individuals whom he had appointed to positions of authority in order to insulate himself from the consequences of his sexual exploits,” Graham claims.

Shock Study Reveals 4 out of 5 So Cal 20′somethings Live on their Own

The extent to which the region now stands on the precipice was brought into stark relief by a study noted in the Times today stating that a full 80 percent of area 20′somethings live without parental supervision.

The Times reported:

Nearly 1 in 3 25- to 29-year-olds in Southern California lived at home at some point between 2007 and 2009, according to the report released Wednesday by Ohio State sociologist Zhenchao Qian. That compares to 19% for that age group nationwide.

Young people across the country, especially those just entering the workforce, were hit hard by the recession, which ended officially in 2009 but whose painful effects still linger.

Qian’s research, based on an analysis of census data, shows that the trend of young adults staying with their parents occurred across the U.S. but was strongest in large metropolitan where high living costs and high unemployment came as a double whammy. The top 10 metropolitan areas on his ranking included New York, Miami, Honolulu and El Paso.

We can only presume that Health Department officials are springing into action to deal with the potential for a toxic meltdown  from the critical mass of millions of unwashed dishes in such a concentrated area.

LivingOnYourOwn

Not addressed in the article, but in need of follow-up, the questions of, without parental supervision for these at risk millennials:

  • How are they notified at regular intervals of the need to change their socks and/or underwear – averting another public health nightmare?
  • Who is on hand to remind them that they are special and that the rest of the world needs to treat them much better or they are going to be hearing from us?  Does the area have even a fraction of the counselors available to deal with a self-esteem crisis of epic proportions of these young people are cut off from their reassurance mechanisms?
  • Living away from their ancestral residences, the 20′something if not properly supplied are cut off from their caches of now-ironic t-shirts, sweatshirts and sneakers from their 5th to 8th grade years.  Deprived of these resources, many millennials might be forced to don grown-up clothes, thereby setting off a region-wide mass identity crisis the consequence of which we can only begin to forsee.

The study however, does provide some reassurance in the news that 1 out of 5 20′somethings are indeed accounted for under their parents roof,  providing the basis to repopulate the species should a mass die-off occur among the underparented.