Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why I won't be watching the Rose Bowl.

When I was a kid, the family would get up and watch the Rose Parade on New Years Day. I didn't much care about the football game that followed it. Truth be told, I still don't. I used to love the floats and equestrians. The marching bands were alright but, man those palm trees along Colorado Boulevard. And the cloudless skies. I was watching from a dozen or so miles west of Boston and invariably there was snow outside. The weather was frightful. I was jealous and confused. How could there be such a place?

Look at that mountain
Look at those trees
Look at that bum over there, man
He's down on his knees
Look at these women
There ain't nothin' like 'em nowhere


I moved to LA in 1980 and lived there for 27 years. My outlook changed when I watched the Rose Parade on TV from where I lived, in Encino or Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Larchmont, Pico-Robertson or Atwater Village. I would see the spectators in shortsleeves and moan. Shit. The yokels from middle America (similar in ways to middle earth, but not as earthy), are going to see the palm trees, see the clear blue skies and sense the warm temperatures. You can say, well, there's smog and yes, there is, but there is also a city edict on the books in Pasadena forbidding any brown particulates in the air on New Years Day. The San Gabriels are clear. The majorettes smile wide Ipana smiles. The world is a good place, from the vantage point of colorado Boulevard. They'll see it. They'll be there. They'll want to move...

From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day


So tomorrow, Oregon is playing Ohio State. A lot of folks from around here are driving, flying and otherwise truckin' down to Southern California for the "Big Game." New Years Day is tomorrow... a Friday. I imagine a lot of folks will stay for the weekend. They'll go to Farmers' Market and Rodeo Drive. They'll go to Malibu and Venice. And there are those that will insist on going to Disneyland. There's always that. They'll shed their outer layers and expose themselves to the sun and the momentary irresistability of Southern California. And why not. It is forecasted to be in the mid 70's tomorrow in Pasadena. Here it is predicted to reach the mid 40's and rain, rain rain. Maybe they'll even look in the paper and check home prices. Maybe.

When I lived there, I'd dread the out-of-towners being lulled into buying the California Dream on New Years Day. Tomorrow, I won't need to see the proof of eternal sunshine and blue skies... the temptation of Pasadena and places adjacent. I will look out the window and see rain outside and I will be dreaming right with them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Paying the debt to Mort Sahl in installments...

I've written about Mort before-- last may, in honor of his 82nd birthday. He is mostly forgotten and pretty much unknown to, say, Jon Stewart's audience. But Mr. Stewart owes almost everything he does to Mort. His influence is all over the map of political humor and satire. His only stage prop was a newspaper. I've extrapolated his routine to the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction... every day. Or to put it another way, I CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.

This line of thinking applies to almost everything that emanates from and represents Los Angeles. Take, for example, the story that ran in the Los Angeles Times that was picked up by the wires and ran in the Oregonian the day before yesterday, December 9th-- Buses will take tourists to the heart of L.A. Gangland. The article is about a company called L.A. GangTours, that had a "VIP preview last month" and "expects to open to the public in January."

Straight Outta Compton

Making a buck with a bus full of rubes from the Midwest is nothing new. Just spend a couple hours at the Farmers' Market on Fairfax some weekday in the fall when the busses filled with fans of the visiting college teams playing USC or UCLA pull up and open their wallets to bring home overpriced tchotchkies and trinkets, T-shirts of places they haven't been to and delicacies they don't need to eat.

The tourists who are savvy enough to rent a car discover that all Los Angeles has to offer invariably fall for the "maps to the stars' homes." About half the homes listed were the former residences of dead celebrities, who died of old age-- Lucy, Jack Benny, Cesar Romero and Lupe Velez. Never mind the other tours that take them to OJ's house, or the scene of "The Crime of the Century." The disappointment to some that learn that the house where Sharon Tate got butchered by the Manson girls was torn down is palpable. There are horror tours, noir tours, and cemetery tours. The Raymond Chandler Tour and a drive-by to the location where the Black Dahlia's dismembered body was found... on Norton Avenue, in what, up until recently was known as South Central. There is the Rock Walk of Fame and the famous Hollywood Boulevard of Stars, culminating with the hand and footprints of some of the biggest stars of all, right in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. To get to see them, the tourists have to fend off the costumed crackhead look-alikes. Fat Batman and out-of-shape Robin. Numerous Spidermen and Superman, Oscar the Grouch and Star Wars Storm Troopers. Wonderwoman and Catwoman. Popeye and Chaplin. Groucho and Conan. Joseph Wambaugh does a wonderful and pretty accurate send-up of these costumed losers in his book, Hollywood Crows (recommended).

These strutting poseurs get in tourists' faces and insist on having their pictures taken with them... and then they demand the seemingly compulsory gratuity. Like it's not enough that these poor schmucks are all so disappointed that Hollywood Boulevard is not gentrified enough for their middle American sensibilities, or lack thereof. They may be heartened to know it will never be gentrified enough.

But back to the point of all this rambling... YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP.

photograph taken by me,
stating the obvious on a wall overlooking the L.A. River in Atwater Village

The gang tour is reported to be planning to include the sales of T-shirts "painted on the spot by a graffiti 'tagger,' but they have "decided against a plan to have kids shoot tourists with water pistols, followed by the sale of T-shirts that read: I Got Shot in South-Central."

cute.

Actually, everyone knows that the LA City Council and LAPD eliminated the gang violence and related crime in South-Central... by renaming the area "South LA."

Your friendly driver
for the early evening bus tour, Sgt. Rock"

According the LA Gangland Tour website (www.lagangtours.com), the tour plans to visit:

The Los Angeles County Jail
The Los Angeles River Bed
The Metropolitan Detention Center
Skid Row
Pueblos Housing Project
The Symbionese Liberation Army Shoot Out
Florencia 13
Birthplace of Black Panther Party
Florence District
Florence Avenue
Firestone Sheriff Station
Jordan Downs Housing Projects
Hall of Justice Jail
Pico Union Graff Lab (Graffiti Lab)

Skid Row! The SLA shoot-out location! the birthplace of the Black Panthers! Be still my beating heart!

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, back in the day

Bobby, today

A colorful stop on the LA Gangland Bus Tour. A definite photo-opp, but be sure to keep your head up. The sounds you hear are from a 9mm semi-automatic.

For additional fun on the tour,
a game of Musical Chairs is planned


It's all well and good to poke fun at this insane idea of trying to cash in on the notoriety of ground zero of gangs in America. But, truth be told, I don't find a lot of humor in it. I had done a little gang intervention when I lived in the Atwater Village neighborhood of LA. Our house was in a section that was bordered by two long-feuding gangs. The sound of gunfire and helicopters at night became mundane and often repeated. I worked with the cops on one hand and the gang intervention teams on the other. Gangs are not anything to hero-worship, gawk at nor emulate. Tagging is not art. It's bad enough that the music, the clothing, the language and the actions are now part of youth vernacular. But when the former chief of the LAPD is good with the busses, depending "on their intent and how they balance it (the tours)," it is truly time to be afraid. This is not something that will help reduce the influence of gangs nor the death and destruction they cause. It will only enhance their outlaw status and celebrate their criminal behavior.

All things being equal (and they never are), I am relatively happy to freeze in Oregon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And you thought the Boy Scouts were bad...

Jesuits in Northwest face more than 500 sex-abuse claims
By The Associated Press
December 06, 2009, 6:50PM

SPOKANE -- More than 500 people have filed claims accusing Jesuits of sexually abusing children across the Northwest.

The claims vary in severity and span decades and geography, from Native Alaskan village children to students at Gonzaga Prep.

People were required to file their claims by Nov. 30, a deadline imposed by the federal judge overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus. That organization includes Jesuits in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

The Jesuits have settled 200 additional sex abuse claims. Among them were claims by 110 Alaska Natives, who settled for $50 million last year. Insurers paid about $45 million of that.

The Jesuits say they have so far spent about $25 million from the province treasury. In bankruptcy documents, the Jesuits say they have $4.8 million in assets and $61.8 million in liabilities.

Many of the 500 claimants seeking settlements say the province remains a wealthy organization that misstated its financial standing in bankruptcy court records. They contend that the Jesuits control and own Gonzaga University, Gonzaga Preparatory School, Seattle University and other schools and properties.

Much like the parish ownership dispute that played out in the now-closed bankruptcy of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, the ownership of Gonzaga and the other schools could be the dominant issue in the Jesuit bankruptcy.

Attorney James Stang, who represented a creditors committee in the Spokane Diocese case, represents a similar committee of claimants in the Jesuit case.

He has won court approval to take limited depositions and conduct some discovery of internal documents.

"The judge gave us a toe in the door," he said. "We'll see what happens and if we can develop a viable theory" that Gonzaga and other properties are owned by the province and thus part of the financial estate available to pay claims.

Gonzaga University is fighting every attempt to link its fortunes to the province. The private college with 7,200 students, which was separately incorporated and registered 125 years ago, will not volunteer money or other resources to settle the bankruptcy, said Mike Casey, Gonzaga's corporation counsel.

"We are not willing to either participate in this bankruptcy nor help resolve it," he said.

The claimants and their attorneys are employing what Casey called the "big tent theory," which uses the threat of big-dollar payouts against organizations with any hint of liability to coerce smaller payments.

"Creditors have run this play before with success. But not this time," Casey said. "Sorry, but we won't fall for it."

The university denies any liability for the actions of Jesuits who sexually abused children, including former university President John P. Leary, who sexually abused boys until Spokane police gave him a 24-hour ultimatum in 1969 to leave town or face arrest.

Leary fled and the Jesuit hierarchy relocated him.

It took the Jesuits 37 years to reveal the scandal and coverup. Leary died in 1993, and the Jesuits have acknowledged paying money to settle allegations brought by his victims.

On a separate legal front, the Oregon Province is engaged in a dispute with insurers regarding the scope of policies.

It has hired James R. Murray, who was widely credited with wringing $20 million from insurance companies to help settle the Spokane Diocese bankruptcy.

That money, together with $10 million from parishioners, the sale of diocese assets, bank loans and promissory notes collateralized by parish property, brought the diocese bankruptcy to a close in 2007.

-- The Associated Press
- - -
What currency did the bankruptcy involve... monetary or moral?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What was I thinking? (part 2)

Balloon Boy Hoax: Falcon Spills the Beans.


Clearly, I am no Perez Hilton or Michael Musto. I don't work for Harvey Levin on TMZ nor the fictional Sid Hudgens, editor of LA Confidential. I am not plugged into the ways of public scandal, titillating tales from Tinseltown, DC party-crashers or your run-of-the-mill celebrity meltdowns and train wrecks-- I simply do not have the celebrity radar to have foreseen that the Tiger Tale had more legs than merely a report of smashed up Escalade, fire hydrant and a wife-wielding golf club.

You can bet your life I will follow this story with all he rabid fascination of, well, a tiger on the scent of its prey. I'll just do it on my own time-- in between trying to learn more about Tareq and Michaele Sahali, and their White House invitation.

The healthcare debate? The troop build-up in Afghanistan? The real-estate market and jobless rate? Too dull and depressing. The travails of the highest paid athlete in the world chasing tail... now, that's an uplifting story. Something to give us a smile.... kick up our collective cynicism a notch... or at the very least, amuse us. It's funny-- I was at friends' house last night for dinner and they had Entertainment Tonight on the tube. Following the extended coverage of the Tiger Woods saga, they had a brief segment of some recently discovered film showing Marilyn Monroe toking on a doobie and passing it on to some eager hemp-head off-camera. What? She's been dead for over 47 years. Cue Elton and light the candle. On second though, that is just too melodramatic and faux somber. Drop a quarter into the Wurlitzer and punch in G4...

Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers
In everybody's pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry

We can do the Innuendo
We can dance and sing
When it's said and done
We haven't told you a thing
We all know that Crap is King
Give us dirty laundry

Kick 'em when they're up
Kick 'em when they're down
Kick 'em when they're stiff
Kick 'em all around
Don Henley

What began innocently enough (or at least below the aforementioned radar) is turning into the outing and undoing of a certain professional athlete named Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods. By comparison, Ron Artest's admission that he swigged from a bottle of Hennessey during halftime has hardly caused a blip on the screen.The text of his warning call to Jaimee Grubbs is currently on countless websites. His own site is peddling Tiger merchandise. Hmmm. Maybe, in some twisted way, his caps with the TW logo will become the new fashion accessory for cocktail waitresses and beautiful people wannabees.

As of this moment, Gloria Allred can't seem to get Rachel Uchitel to spill the beans on Le Tigre. This does not bode well for the spotlight loving lawyer, particularly in light of the fact that at least one of the other implicated women, (Jaimee Grubbs) is releasing phone messages and emails like they were canap├ęs at a private party at the Forge.


TW: Hey, um... it's Tiger--
JG: Who?
TW: Tiger. You know, Tiger Woods. The golf guy. You remember... I told you I was going to wear you out...
JG: Can you hold on a sec? (away from the phone), Okay, that'll be two Heinekens, a Bud, a Fuzzy Navel and Sex on the Beach?
(laughter in the background)
JG: Sorry. I'm working, you know...
TW: Yeah, right. Hey, listen... I need you to do me a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone? My wife went through my phone and may be calling you. So if you can, please take your name off that. Just have it as a number on the voicemail. You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. Bye.
JG: Hello? Hello?

The third "other" woman, Kalika Moquin
(seen here talking on her cell)
is for the moment, not talking.

At this point, this story is so out of spin control, beyond a train wreck that Michael Bay is planning on basing his 2012 sequel on it. It once again, shows why fiction writers have such a hard time of it... who could make this shit up? It has gone miles past HUSH HUSH and on the QT.

Thus far, my favorite line spoken about this was by Keith Olbermann, who said that Mr. Woods "was having a problem with his putts."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ALLRED ALERT

Believe me when I say that I was perfectly happy to let the Tiger Woods story run its course as I would with a case of the flu. Antibiotics may help but they don't necessarily alleviate the symptoms. Bed rest, plenty of fluids and a lozenge or two. Ah, but this little touch of media infection has now developed complications. While the story has not reached the critical mass of, say, code blue, it has, as of yesterday, reached an ALLRED ALERT.

Oy Vey.

The biggest yenta in Hollywood has now entered the fray. Call Barnum and Bailey-- the circus is in town. Gloria Allred is an attorney to the stars, sometimes, whether they want her or not. In another time, she would have graced the cover of LA CONFIDENTIAL magazine-- HUSH HUSH and strictly on the QT. She doesn't possess the dignity of a Jerry Geisler, nor the hang-dog tenacity of Mark Geragos. She does have all of the chutzpah, but none of the charm of the late Johnny Cochran. If her face was plastered in the tabloids instead of her clients of the last few years, she'd pretty much be the most recognized woman in America... let's see: Ms. Allred represented Nicole Brown Simpson's family in the OJ trial. She represented Paula Jones in the sexual harassment case against former U.S. president Bill Clinton. She represented Amber Frey while a "witness" in the Scott Peterson murder case. In 2007, she represented Tony Barretto, a former bodyguard of Britney Spears in the child custody case with K-Fed. And when she's not getting a retainer for flapping her legal choppers, she gets "pro-bono" air-time. She spoke out against the King of Pop. After Michael dangled his child outside a Berlin hotel window, Ms. Allred fired off a letter to the Child Protective Services, asking for a an investigation into the safety of Jackson's children. Asked for his opinion of her intrusive concern, Michael Jackson was reported to have said, "Ah, tell her to go to hell."

Rachel Uchitel, with Gloria Allred in tow (left)

And now, it seems, Rachel Uchitel has hired Allred to represent her amid allegations that Uchitel and Tiger Woods had an affair. Your intrepid reporter has tried doing some research into who this comely, swollen-lipped, alleged seductress is. All I seem to find is that she is a sometimes bartender and has run "the velvet ropes from Las Vegas to the Hamptons." Blackbookmag.com calls her a VIP Diva. She claims that "The Four Seasons in Thailand (Chiang Mai) is my favorite place in the world.” Since Celine, Diva has dropped down a notch or three from any significance. MEEEYEOW!

Rachel Uchitel, working the ropes.

Ms. Uchitel sounds like a real piece of work. The beautiful people just aren't that pretty anymore. I've seen better legs on the trans-gender mayor of Silverton. In one report, Ms. Uchitel vehemently denies ever having an affair with Tiger, and in another claims she's been sleeping with him. Maybe they've just been sleeping... you know, with pyjamas on. She has also been reported to have been sleeping with David Boreanaz, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame (?), while his wife was in the family way. HUSH HUSH and on the QT.

Why so glum, Chum?

Nothing makes the rumor mill move like the silence of those involved. This Tiger chum is staying mum, even to the point of bowing out of his own golf tournament in T/O (Thousand Oaks to the uninitiated). Wait, that's not too far from where Ms. Allred and Ms. Uchitel have been kibitzing. Enquiring minds want to know...

And while minds are enquiring, let's ask about the former Swedish model, Elin Nordegren. She and El Tigre were introduced to one another in 2001, when she was working as an au pair for Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik.

Now, maybe Mrs. Woods can't cook worth a damn. Maybe she has a gutter-mouth and swears like a Swedish sailor. Maybe she wastes her sunny Orlando days getting wasted on Punsch. Whatever. She sure looks damned good in very little, hip-deep in water...

And so. dear reader, we can enquire all we want. We can wonder why the former Ms. Nordegren would stand alone in the pool with only her skivvies and a tank top, while her hubby is AWOL. For the moment, all we have are scant facts and conjecture... El Tigre smashed his Caddy Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree in his neighbor's yard, in the exclusive gated Florida community where he lives with his wife and kids at around two-thirty in the morning after Thanksgiving. His model wife comes running out of the house, "to help him" by smashing the windows of the Caddy with a golf club. El Tigre was rushed to the hospital with his lips cut... alcohol was not involved. On the advice of his agent and attorneys, all is HUSH HUSH and on the QT.

Oy vey.

(with apologies to James Ellroy)