I'm curious why Jim Romenesko won't link to this story.
R.J. Smith writes in the April 2003 Los Angeles Magazine: From the moment she started writing for the now-defunct New Times Los Angeles in 1997, Stewart has been a maximum-impact journalist, the most adored and execrated columnist in town. Invective, the more personal the better, fuels her writing and her notoriety. Senator Barbara Boxer is "Chief Prostitute of the Beltway." State assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg is a representative of "the gay Mafia" and "a dominatrix." City councilman Ed Reyes is "Reyes the Rat."
...Joel Kotkin, a fellow at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy and at the Milken Institute. "Middle-class Los Angeles has one great public advocate, and her name is Jill Stewart. If the L.A. Times had any liveliness to it, they'd hire her. But they won't, because she's alive, she's breathing, she's real—a Valley chick."
L.A. Weekly news features editor Marc Cooper quit New Times in 1999 rather than have his byline appear beside Stewart's. "I don't get the interest in her," he says, "unless it's as a freak show. She's a sideshow attraction. You pay money to see the bearded lady, but you don't pay her to watch your kids." She's an itch Cooper just can't scratch enough. He sums up: "If I had to say what she is, I'd say she was a rather conventional crank. She's like Howard Jarvis with freckles."
When Stewart was a metro reporter at the Los Angeles Times in the late '80s, her politics were left of center and she argued for more stories about the poor. But over time she became enraged at the way editors rewrote her stories and at the political correctness that flourished under former editor Shelby Coffey III.
Stewart has a propensity for writing about subjects in which she is personally invested, without coming clean. A longtime pal of Richard Riordan, she used her column to go after the mayor's enemies (Jackie Goldberg, Mark Ridley-Thomas) and advance his pet interests (replacing the school board, among others). She regularly blasted the Los Angeles Times for crimes against the Republic, but many readers had no way of knowing that she had quit the paper with a bitter taste in her mouth. Consider her piece of April 30, 1998, written as an open letter to then city editor Bill Boyarsky—you'd never know that he had been her mentor or the Times her tormentor. She decried: "As you know, Bill, for the past decade the Times has driven out journalists who show sparks of independence and leadership." Guess who?
She's half of a great columnist, inspiring meaningful outrage, braving provocation, effortlessly against the grain. Stewart might just be the best half-a-columnist living in Los Angeles.
Rachel Cohen writes LaExaminer.com : What a condescending piece! His biggest complaints against Stewart is that she's pals with Riordan and she was wrong about the color of the Rog Mahal! And boy, Marc Cooper's got a jealous bone--to use a Stewartism--what a weenie.
Ken Layne writes LaExaminer.com: I like what RJ Smith does, but he's a bit of a pussy, isn't he? Why make these softball-goofball jabs at Jill when you know they won't stick, and don't even make sense? Ah, all press is good press, etc., and Stewart looks lovely in the photo.
Matt Welch writes LaExaminer.com: Yeah, I really didn't get the whole "she doesn't come clean" bit. And he didn't seem too alarmed by his conclusion that one couldn't imagine a daily hiring her. Doesn't that say something pathetic about dailies -- that they can't imagine a place for the only L.A. columnist in a decade (or three) to actually get people excited about local politics & governance, on account that she has the bad manners to use words like "rat" and "weenie"? But, whatever. I know *I* won't be looking that good at 48....
TheRaven writes: I remember reading Ms. Stewart's analysis of what went wrong with energy deregulation (namely: it actually Increased regulation); it seemed rather well reported and well argued .... To imply that all she does is shout "liar, liar" and call people names, and is thus "half a columnist" ... well, "kinda lean" seems too kind ... Mr. Smith acknowledged that she made people care about local politics ... I doubt if she could've done that by simply shouting "liar, liar" and calling people names .... The only way she could've made people care about local politics is if she brought substance in addition to the style ....
Cathy Seipp writes LaExaminer.com: Jill says that she calls the thing yellow now in its completed form, not in some undertarp that some construction company told R.J. Smith was originally there, so he's the sloppy reporter on that one. Remember, lots of men are colorblind and practically no women are, so if Jill says it's yellow (which includes ochre), it's yellow.
Cathy Seipp writes on her blog: I think it's a pretty good piece...with the perfect hed ("Weenies and Creeps") for any story about Jill. Here's what I emailed Jill (who basically liked the piece) about it:
"Yeah, you can tell he doesn't agree with your point of view, and takes some potshots, but so what? It's well written, makes you sound like you (and even though I didn't know you chain-popped Altoids, I can totally see it), "Weenies and Creeps" is a totally great (and totally JillStewartian) hed, and, as you say, good publicity. In fact, great publicity. I just wish he'd gotten some quotes from some unabashed admirers, including maybe some teachers, and someone outside of the LA Times/LA Weekly matrix (like, OK, me. Or at least Matt Welch, or someone.) But you can't have everything. So, anyway, congrats!"
Jill, natch, was her usual good sport self. She told me: "Some people are mad, but my reaction is it's entertaining and great PR. The way I dish things out, I'm not about to complain when somebody throws it back at me. I say, have at it, baby!"
Jill Stewart Interview
I've read Jill Stewart for years in Buzz Magazine, the LA Weekly, New Times LA and other outlets. In March 2002, I went to a writer-party thrown by Cathy Seipp and Amy Alkon, where I met Jill for the first time. Nine months later I worked up the courage to take her to lunch. A few months later, I asked her for an interview.
I speak by phone with Jill 1/1/03.
Luke: "Laexaminer.com calls you the angriest woman in Los Angeles."
Luke: "I think it's meant as a compliment."
Jill: "That's funny. People when they first meet me, say [in a surprised tone], 'Oh, you're really nice.' I get all my angst out in my writing. I don't need a therapist."
Luke: "The other day my friend Fred called. He said, 'Hey, Jill Stewart just called here looking for you. Wow, if you talk to her again, tell her I am a big fan'."
Jill laughs: "I never know how people are going to react. I have a big gay following because they like how I dish, which is funny because I don't do any gay issues."
Luke: "Where did you grow up?"
Jill: "Kirkland, Washington, near Seattle. It was a town of 20,000 but now it's the Brentwood of Seattle and is packed with expensive condos. It's where all the Bill Gates millionaires decided to buy homes. It's a 25-minute drive across the bridge."
Luke: "What did your parents do for a living?"
Jill: "My Mom was a homemaker and my Dad was a pipefitter. I have three brothers and one sister. I'm the baby. My sister does customer care for Bank of America. My youngest brother runs an architectural supply store. My oldest brother is in construction and my middle brother passed away."
Luke: "What were you like in high school?"
Jill: "I was like an angry anti-education, anti-public school, this is stupid, ridiculous, we aren't learning anything. Why are we doing this? This doesn't work. I was the class treasurer and class secretary. I ran for various offices. I was in a mixed clique. One of my best friends was a hood, drug-person, so I mixed into that crowd even though I was the only person in the group who didn't take drugs. And I was in the cheerleader-class president crowd [even though Jill was neither].
"I went to an alternative college called Evergreen in Olympia, Washington. I majored in sociology and education."
Luke: "How did your interest in journalism develop?"
Jill: "In the fifth grade, we all had a favorite teacher named Trixie, Trixana Koch. She got us involved in this little class paper. Then we all had her for ninth grade. She was the best teacher any of us ever had. She was our friend. So later on in college, when I walked by the campus paper, I saw them all in there having a blast on deadline night, laying out the paper, editing each other's stories and having great conversations... It reminded me of ninth grade and all the great stuff we did. I popped in and I never got out of there again. I ended up being the editor of the college paper (The Cooper Point Journal) in my senior year.
"Then I went to Stanford for my Masters degree in journalism. They encouraged us to try to make money on a freelance piece to get into journalism in a real way. I got the idea of doing a straight business piece on the economics of the porn industry in San Francisco, with no morality in it and no discussion of the politics. The Mitchell Brothers were famous and they had these big theaters that were popular.
"I called them up. They thought it was charming that this young college student wanted to do a straight piece with no dumping on them. I met them. They gave me an interview. They hooked me up with all sorts of people to interview and I found some fascinating numbers on the money that was pouring in on all kinds of things, not just the big X-rated films they were making but these little loop movies that guys were going to see in these X-rated bookstores. I wrote a freelance piece that ran in the Sunday magazine of one of the Sunday newspapers and I got paid a lot of money for it. It was my first big journalism cash. I graduated from Stanford after nine months in 1979.
"One of the visiting lecturers in the program, Dick High, became the publisher of a paper in Casper, Wyoming, the Casper Star Tribune. He offered me a job. It was the biggest paper in the state with a circulation of about 90,000. I arrived in November. It snowed the first day I got there. It snowed every day I was there. It was the coldest winter since about 1880. It was nasty.
"I had this assignment to go up Casper Mountain where a woman had gone over the edge of the road unbeknownst to anyone and had crawled slowly up the edge in 20 below weather, with a 20 below windchill factor added on to it, and had thrown her arm over the edge of the road and been seen by someone and had been saved, though of course she was going to lose fingers. I'm trying to write in 40 below and the ink freezes in my pen. I use my pen to scratch into the paper, ripping away, so I can at least keep track of a few things like her name. I'm wearing a city skirt from California and pumps. I was miserable.
"The best thing was I could do whatever I wanted. I spent about a month investigating this story I heard that you couldn't get an abortion anywhere in the state. It was a conservative place. It was legal to get an abortion but none of the doctors were willing to give abortions. None of the hospitals were willing to give abortions because the pressure from society was so strong that even if you agreed you should be able to have them, your hospital and practice would come under such pressure, you'd be spurned by the social mores of the area.
"Because it was such a small population, you could call every major obstetrician and every major hospital in the state and ask them. I found out that you couldn't get an abortion. All the women were going to Denver and telling their husbands they were going shopping. I wrote a big piece about it.
"That very week, the Associated Press called me from Los Angeles. I had taken the test there. It was about 20 below that day. The guy said, 'Hi Jill, it's Steve Loeper from the Associated Press. You did well on the test and we'd like to hire you to come to sunny California.' It was Friday. I said I would love to come. I could be there Monday.
"I left in a U-Haul and I was there on Monday. That Sunday, there was a huge layout in the paper on my abortion story with photographs and charts. They had a sit-in in the newsroom with women and children with signs from anti-abortion groups. I missed the whole thing. One of the big regrets of my whole career. I didn't get to see it. I didn't get to bask in the glory. Nothing.
"I worked for the AP for six months and then I moved to the Long Beach Press Telegram for almost six years, the first long stint of my career. I became good buddies with Dennis McDougal and Mark Gladstone. We all later went to the LA Times. I was at the Times from 1984-1991."
Luke: "And your experience at the Times was good, bad or indifferent?"
Jill: "It was good in the sense that I did well. They liked my work. I was destined for good things. It was bad in that I really hated my job and I was desperate to get out of there because they were sanitizing the news. They were over-managing reality. It wasn't honest and it wasn't right and I couldn't stand it."
Luke: "This was the Shelby Coffey era."
Jill: "I wrote about urban affairs, government, poverty, and affordable housing. I covered County Board of Supervisors and City Hall. There were common repetititive activities that happened on the City Desk and has only recently abated somewhat - the problem of taking out the best quotes. You come back from a major event where all sorts of controversial things have happened, accusations back and forth between government and people and between people and people in a poor neighborhood where they want to do redevelopment... Lots of hot-headedness and people grabbing microphones from one another. You'd come back with a good story about the drama of it all and the City Desk, as a matter of routine, would take out the best quotes. The most controversial, hot-headed stuff, stuff they don't think the public could handle. To me, this was the antithesis of what journalism was all about - their deciding that the general readership should not be exposed to the things that the journalists were exposed to. I found this to be outrageous, something that I've been assured by many people did not happen at the New York Times. That happened every single day.
"The other thing that happened every day was the managing of the news where you come back and tell them what happened and the City Desk would then tell you what they story was. The LA Times was an editor's paper, not a writer's paper. The City Desk would force you to slant the news. They didn't single me out, this was just an every day thing. The reporters were hammered down. The morale at the LA Times was as low as it could go. We would go across the street to the Redwood Bar and people would just talk in desperate terms about the condition of journalism in Los Angeles. But nobody ever quit. Some journalists didn't care. They didn't know that anything different was out there. They were followers rather than leaders. They figured the editors know what they're doing, which I found disgusting.
"Then one day, this reporter Keith Love quit and became a publisher of a small paper. He was the first person in that era, right in the middle of having a good career, to voluntarily leave the paper. I started thinking, 'Ohmigod, you can just quit the LA Times?' They called it the "velvet coffin." Keith Love's quitting got me thinking that I could make a new life and have a great career and it doesn't have to have anything to do with this awful place that is sanitizing and slanting the news and bending over backwards to special interest groups and sacred cows, and you can do real journalism somewhere. I fermented on it for many months and then finally walked in one day and quit and moved to Prague.
"One day, LA Times columnist Al Martinez had walked up to me and said, 'Prague. You've got to go to Prague. It's a romantic fantasy. It's a fabulous world from another era. It's the best.' I was thinking about moving overseas. He gave me some booklets. Eastern Europe seemed like a great idea because it was all changing rapidly. So when I quit, I walked over to Al and said, 'I'm going to Prague.' He said, 'Ohmigod, I had no idea I was influencing you like that.'
"So Norm [Jensen, Jill's live-in boyfriend since 1982, a screenwriter] and I moved to Prague. Norm said he was willing to go anywhere I wanted. He knew how unhappy I was at the LA Times. When I told him I was going to quit, he said, 'You should've quit a long time ago. That sucks.'
"I did some work in Prague for the English-language paper Prognosis. Mostly I goofed around, wrote a screenplay, and freelanced for LA Weekly and Editor & Publisher. When I realized it was only an 18-hour drive to Athens and you could see every country in between, I just traveled.
"After a year, I moved to North Carolina for a year and finished my screenplay and spent my 401K money. I don't have a title for my screenplay. I'm in the middle of redoing it. I moved back to LA in the middle of the riots and got a contract to write cover stories for the LA Weekly (edited by Kit Rachlis and then Sue Horton) and for the LA Times Sunday magazine."
Luke: "At a party a few months ago, you said you would never work for the LA Weekly. It's Stalinist."
Jill: "They used to let me write cover stories. I wrote a profile of Dick Riordan. I said this is an interesting guy who is going to be an interesting mayor. He's a weird liberal Republican. They would never publish that now. I don't even understand what they are doing now. It used to have more oomph."
Luke: "Do you think Kit Rachlis is doing a good job with Los Angeles Magazine?"
Jill: "I haven't read Los Angeles Magazine for a year or so.
"I freelanced for Buzz Magazine for five years. I did a column for them called Power Brokers. Editor Allan Mayer suggested that I take all the stuff I know about the city leaders and all the stuff I never got to say in the LA Times and just talked about over cocktails and put it in a column. I started writing my opinionated views in my Power Brokers column. My first piece was called "Ship of Fools," and it was a small thumbnail sketch of every single city council member. It was just vicious. It was poorly received in city hall. Nobody had ever written something like that. There was a discussion going on about bringing civility to political discourse in America and I had gone in the other direction."
Luke: "How did you learn to put on the armor and handle the backlash that your opinionated writing caused?"
Jill: "I've never really felt any serious backlash. I don't really care if I piss people off. I like that it makes people talk, discuss and argue. I get so much support. I get lots of phone calls and comments and it usually runs nine-to-one thank you. 'We need you. Have I ever told you that you make my day?' That sort of thing. The people who fume keep it to themselves."
Luke: "Did you hit your stride at Buzz?"
Jill: "No, that came later, because in the magazine world you have to be classy and you can't be calling people names. You can't be super-honest. Then New Times came along and you could be completely honest. If you could prove it, and if you could argue it, you could print it."
Luke: "Was that the most freedom you've had as a journalist?"
Jill: "Completely. New Times lasted just under six years."
Luke: "Do you already feel nostalgic for it?"
Jill: "I miss it horribly. Every day I think it's awful that I can't pick up a New Times and that it's awful that we're not going to have a Monday morning news meeting to figure out who are the biggest evildoers of the week."
Luke: "How did you develop your friendship with Richard Riordan, particularly considering that New Times knocked him around?"
Jill: "He liked getting criticized. He enjoys the give and take of politics. He has a good self-image of who he is. When he gets whacked, it doesn't really bother him. He doesn't like inaccuracies. That drove him crazy. But opinion that he disagrees with, he doesn't mind.
"At his cafe downtown, he got a C rating from the County on health issues. The Finger did a whole piece that the place was out of Bombay, India. The paper commissioned a good cartoon drawing of Riordan and a giant rat in a chef's hat serving up slop to a customer.
"Riordan called the morning after the paper came out and Rick Barrs, the editor, is wincing when he hears it's Riordan on line two. Riordan says, 'Listen, I want to get a hold of that artist. I want to buy that cartoon. Where is he? I want to find him. I love that cartoon. I need to reach him right away.' And he paid the guy good money and bought it.
"He's a real person. He's not running around trying to phony up his public persona. He screws up in public. I grew to really like him over the years even though I didn't agree with him on things like the environment. I went after him on several things like noise at the Van Nuys Airport, a big problem in the Valley. Riordan's policy was to ignore the problem.
"I lived 32 blocks south of the Van Nuys airport in Encino but my house, every morning, would shake from the aircraft leaving the airport. I thought it was an earthquake the first morning we lived in the house. And we're nowhere near the sound footprint. I called the realtors and asked, 'How come no one warns you when you move to Encino that the place has this huge airport noise problem?' And the realtor said, 'Encino doesn't have an airport and it doesn't have an airport noise problem.' And that's how Riordan operated too. So I just pissed all over him about that.
"He had a complete blind spot about the environment. I argued with him about that all the time. Playa Vista. What a disaster. He was blind on that and I used to whack him all the time. I think public officials should just be thrown against the wall for the some of the decisions they take on these things and so that's what I do to them.
"Riordan would be pissed off but it's not like he holds a grudge. He'd say, 'Jill, I totally disagree with you on this. You're wrong. I'd wish you'd wake up. So you want to get lunch next week and talk about XYZ issue?' Other public officials might hold a grudge forever if you attack them. There are a lot of people who can roll with the issue and understand that you are just a journalist holding their feet to the fire on major things that will affect thousands of people.
"Another public official who can handle it is Zev Yaroslavsky. He's a Democrat. You can go after him on an issue but in a month, he'll give you an interview on another topic because he knows it's your job to hold his feet to the fire."
Luke: "Have you noticed other journalists criticizing you, using words like angry or spiteful?"
Jill: "I've heard that a number of editors at the Los Angeles Times have said that about me but no one has ever said it to my face. Apparently, they felt that the reason I often attacked the LA Times as a weak newspaper, which has sold out and had too many sacred cows and special interest groups that it was protecting, was that I was bitter about my experience at the LA Times. But I've never felt bitter about it. I just felt sad. Bitterness would be if you got screwed in your job."
Luke: "You don't object to how they treated you. You object to how they treat everyone."
Jill: "I was treated well. I was doing well in my career there. There wasn't any bad treatment or a glass ceiling. I enjoyed my assignments. I felt I was paid well and I got my merit raises, blah, blah, blah. It was my disgust. I guess they are trying to find a reason that makes them feel good that they are still there."
Luke: "Is the LA Times significantly better under its new ownership?"
Jill: "That's what I'm trying to figure out. I keep hearing that they are really changing it and I have seen some stories that would never have seen the light of day under Shelby Coffey. My friend Dave Ferrell wrote a profile of Gray Davis about a month before the election in which he talked about his obsession with his hair. How it's been one of his lifelong obsessions since college. How he has no personal friends. He dumped all his college friends the moment he got into serious politics and he hasn't spoken to many of them since. They all find him to be a freak. One of them said, 'We think of him as a cypher.' The article just went on and on about what a freak he is, what a bizarre, friendless, hair-obsessed freak the governor is. It was a short stiletto-sharp profile. Devastating.
"Dave was even allowed to put some commentary in. In the third or fourth paragraph, he put in how odd it is that a person of his stature has no close friends. I called Dave immediately upon reading it. I was lying in the bathtub. I picked up the phone. I said, 'Dave, this is unbelievable. How did you get this in the paper?' Dave said, 'I swear I didn't do anything. I just wrote it and it showed up in the paper.' We just sat there in silence. He didn't have to fight for it. He didn't have to pull any strings for it. I said, 'Maybe the paper's changing?" He said, 'Maybe it is.'
"I've seen some other evidence [that the paper is changing]. I've seen some riskier writing. They're starting to let the writers say what they saw. Not so much locally yet, but an example of more investigative, hard-hitting was the Harrier series. That was a blasting series, a major investigative slam. I thought it was beautifully done and head and shoulders above their usual investigative approach. I assume it comes straight from the new management."
Luke: "Do you sense morale is picking up there?"
Jill: "I've heard it is although everyone is worried now. They are going to do something locally. They're going to begin identifying deadwood and sending people to places like the Inland Empire. That's going to hurt morale because nobody knows who's deadwood yet. But I'd say morale has been building over the past six months because of the new emphasis out of Washington (the investigative team). That's exciting. It makes people feel better.
"After the initial shock, a lot of people like the new look of the paper. I like most of it. Now, supposedly, they are going to get around to fixing Metro, the weakest link in the paper. They know it."
Luke: "How are you liking talk radio?"
Jill: "I've been doing commercial radio, filling-in over at KFI. That's weird. I spent four years as a guest on Larry Mantle's show on KPCC. That's like a normal conversation with complicated sentences about complicated issues. You can talk as much as you want. Commercial radio is more like what you would say to your friends at the bar after your third drink. It's fast, quick and fun, not too much depth because you've got to move on. 'Ohmigod, we need to talk about cloning for an hour. We've got 20-minutes to prepare.' At best, you're doing entertainment. Doing NPR for four years doesn't prepare you in any way for doing commercial radio."
Jill Stewart's new new twice-monthly column launches Thursday, Jan. 9, in five weeklies (Pasadena Weekly, San Diego City Beat, Sacramento News & Review, V.C. Reporter) around California, and the tentative title will be Capitol Punishment. "I didn't think that up but I love it. I will have about 350,000 circ. in my new setup."
Here are some folks I need to talk to round out my Jill Stewart profile.
Enemies list - Jackie Goldberg, Ruth Gelernter. Mark Cooper of LA Weekly. Mike Davis.
Friends - Patt Morrison. Dick Riordan. Susan Goldsmith. Bob Hertzberg. Larry Elder.
Unclear - Steve Soberoff, president of Playa Vista.
Editor of the now-defunct Buzz Magazine, Allan Mayer, says: "Jill Stewart is one of those writers who makes it fun and easy to be an editor. You just tee her up and then get the hell out of her way. The fact that the L.A. Times let her escape all those years ago is one of the most devastating indictments of the old regime's mediocrity."
Ken Layne writes: "I barely know Jill, but I sure love her stuff. When I returned to L.A. in 1999, after many years abroad, her column and The Finger gave me a weekly crash course in L.A. politics. It's impossible to figure out what's going on from teevee news or the LAT. Yet I could read Jill's column and feel like I knew whatever was actually important. Not being able to work with Jill and the gang at New Times is one of my great regrets. (The paper was closed a few hours after I was talking to Rick Barrs about taking an editor job.)
"I hope I'll be able to work with her at a new paper. Meanwhile, she's doing one of the best radio shows in town on KFI-AM. Her writing is biting, smart, full of cheap insults and ultimately the best version of any local/state political story."
Jill's friend, author Dennis McDougal, mentions her in his 2001 book on The Los Angeles Times: When reporter Jill Stewart profiled Mayor Tom Bradley, she returned with a portrait of a politician who had probably been in office too long and owed too many favors to special interests.
"I was told to go back and star over," said Stewart. "I was told that the mayor was a great man and that was to be my starting premise, not that he might be a screwed-up man with problems. They said, 'This isn't about what you think; this is about what the Times thinks.'
"One revelation that none in the Bradley task force expected to find was a girlfriend, twenty-four years Bradley's junior, who had used her unusual relationship with the married mayor as leverage for a lucrative public relations business. The reporters ept months confirming every detail of the relationship and even softened the implication by referring to the woman who peddled access to the mayor as Bradley's "close personal friend" instead of his mistress.
"The Times lawyers cleared it for publication and the, the night before it was to go to press, Shelby called the desk from a skiing vacation in Aspen and ordered out every reference to this woman being Bradley's lover," said one of the reporters in disgust. "No one would ever admit it, but we all knew that it was because Bradley was black and his mistress was white."
A Chat With Susan Goldsmith
I talk to investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith (six years with New Times LA) by phone 1/5/03. She's out of breath from playing with her baby and sneezing from allergies (unexpected 80-degree days in the middle of winter). Susan's computer broke down and she's been off-line for weeks.
Goldsmith has won numerous national awards for investigative reporting. She speaks Spanish fluently. She's worked as a reporter in Los Angeles for twelve years, most recently at the now-defunct New Times LA.
Susan says: "Jill Stewart's a great one to profile."
Luke: "She's spunky."
Susan: "She's totally spunky. I consider her one of my best friends in the whole world. I think Jill is the most interesting, fearless journalist in all of Los Angeles. She's unafraid to take on anybody, liberal Democrat, black, white, latino, environmentalist, conservative. You name it - Jill will take them on and do it well and smartly.
"Jill brought me to New Times. The one thing I was happy about when New Times LA closed was that people would stop talking to me about Jill Stewart. Everywhere I go, people want to bitch about her. They want to praise her. Hello? Does anybody read what I do? She just knows how to work it. People picked that paper up and threw that paper down because of her. Everywhere I went, people would say, 'I hate Jill Stewart.' Or, 'Jill Stewart is my idol. She's the best journalist.'
"Even after the paper closed, I went to a party with my husband, and people were talking about Jill. I said, 'When does it stop?'
"Jill has a tremendous instinct for what's interesting, for what isn't being said that should be said."
Luke: "So many people hate Jill Stewart but I'm having a hard time finding any to go on the record, particularly at the LA Times."
Susan: "They call her 'Shrill Jill' over there."
Luke: "None of them will go on the record. They will snipe to me through anonymous email addresses about Jill and Cathy Seipp, but they won't put their names behind their comments."
Susan: "The cowardly LA Times people they always are... Look at the paper and go figure. What do they have to say about Jill? They think she's shrill and hysterical?"
Luke: "They think she's gotten where she's gotten through her good looks."
Susan: "Jill will love to hear that. That is wonderful. The thing I also love about Jill is that she is so thick-skinned. She doesn't let it ruffle her. Some journalists, they're so touchy about sh--. Jill loves it. She doesn't care. One day she came into an editorial meeting and said, 'I got the best hate mail today. They called me an attack dog with pretty hair.'"
Luke: "Did you ever see the hate get her down?"
Susan: "Never. I don't think it energized her. I don't think she was out to make enemies. She had people who loved her, who were sending her fan mail. You would go to the fax machine. I did investigative reporting for New Times, some expose on some horrific something. There'd be two letters. Jill would've done some column calling Grey Davis a scuzzball and there would be a hundred letters. 'Jill sucks. She's stupid. She doesn't know what she's talking about.' And, 'Jill's the only journalist in California saying the real stuff that needs to be said.' People would say mean stuff but she was thick-skinned about it. She felt like she was doing her job. Columnists who don't ruffle feathers should get out of the business.
"I love Cathy Seipp's columns. I think she's the best TV writer in America. I met Cathy through Jill. We're not really friends but I admire her and I email her regularly because I think she's the best. I loved what she did at Buzz Magazine."
Luke: "Jill told me that nobody chews her out to her face."
Susan: "Because they're afraid of her because she's smart. Jill has a lot of fans in high places, like Dick Riordan [former mayor of Los Angeles]. She was a fan of Dick Riordan even though she took him to task at times. He would call her from Serba-Croatia to ask her for her advice on stuff."
Luke: "Jill complains that the LA Times sanitizes news. Why do you think the LA news media is so lame?"
Susan: "I really don't know. We have the most fascinating news town in America. I thought New Times was fantastic. We called ourselves 'The gnat that roared'. Some of it was juvenile and retarded but a lot of it was well-written and fascinating and controversial. People had to pick it up. That never happens with the LA Times or the LA Weekly. No one feels like, 'Ohmigod, what's in today?' That's how it was with New Times. I think it is tragic that the LA Times and especially the LA Weekly wrote our obits. That they should be the ones that survive. That worthless pompous piece of sh-- newspaper [LA Weekly]. I don't know how the city has gotten to this.
"I thought Buzz Magazine was interesting."
Luke: "Far better than Los Angeles Magazine."
Susan: "Far better. LA Magazine. Amy Wallace writes a cover story about what it's like to have fake-boobs for two weeks."
Luke: "And I thought that was better than most of them."
Susan: "Yeah, like the Christmas gift guide. It's so dull. I had so many people call me after New Times closed. 'What are we going to do without your paper?' Were you a fan of New Times?"
Luke: "Some of it. I could've done without the 15th cover story on pederast priests. I liked many of the Mark Ebner cover stories. Peter Gilstrap was great. He did the best article ever on me. The stories on the Kaballah Center and that Long Beach professor with the kooky views on Jews."
Susan: "Jill is an amazingly generous person. She brings out the best in her friends. She's not jealous. She wants everyone to do their best."
Luke: "I've noticed her supporting other writers at the Cathy Seipp - Amy Alkon parties. Jill buys the books of our fellow writers."
Susan: "One year I won a bunch of awards at New Times. You might think other colleagues might be bummed that they did not win as much but Jill threw a party for me to celebrate."
When Will Luke Get His Balls Back?
XXX writes: Luke, you want to know my feelings on Jill Stewart? Well, let me tell you. My shotgun is loaded, and the next time they dry fire their chrome-handled .45 on me, I'm coming out blasting. I got a 350k life insurance policy on my head and I'm crazier than Mel Gibson in his lifts in "Lethal Weapon."
Before I get into Stewart, let me say this: All this Queen for a Day crap with Cathy Seipp and now Jill is getting a little boring. What are you now, Art F--king Linkletter? I liked you better when you were the psycho cyber-stalking Anita Busch, a good egg who doesn't deserve the sh-- you give her.
Re the c--t licking that's now going on per Cathy and Jill, who cares what the guys from the LA Examiner think about journalists in L.A.? Let them jack off with Dick Riordan on their prototype "New York Observer." You think Riordan has the stones that Carter does, the Carter who bankrolls the N.Y. Observer? Carter loses $5 million a year and will never make a dime with that paper. The first time an advertiser bitchslaps Riordan over a story, Riordan will punk out every journo within a five-mile radius to keep the money happy. If Riordan really wanted to run a paper, it would be up and running by now or at least he'd have an advertising guy laying the ground work for humping ads. And if Ken and Matt of the LA Examiner want to be Riordan's butt boys, fine. But don't waste server space hyping something that will be a joke if it doesn't get aborted in the first place.
I met Jill when I walked into Buzz, a magazine that survived for seven years when it had everything going against it. I watched her mature at New Times LA, a weekly that died after six years when it had everything going for it. Be that as it may, Jill delivers the goods. She's a hell of a columnist because she writes well, has an opinion, and ain't afraid to pick up the phone and call anybody anytime.
Before I get into more dry humping of Jill, one kernel of unreported truth. One thing no one ever says out loud about Jill is that powerful men dig pissing in her ear and getting slapped around by her because she's one hot babe. All that red hair, decent tits and great ass go a long way. You think Tom "I'll have another drink" Hayden spilled his guts to her because he liked her friggin mind? I'll bet ya my SUV that Hayden wanted tang from Jill. And if he got a little, hey, I never pay California state tax anyway.
True story: the first time I walked into a Buzz contributor's luncheon at Maple Drive, I said to Allan Mayer, "Not only are you one hell of an editor, dude, but you got fine taste in p---y."
Now Allan could get away with this sorta show because the men who wrote for him were either gay, chewed up like yours truly, or were Jerry Stahl, whose whole act was based on looking like he'd rather steal a woman's purse than f--- her.
Back when I was a stud, had hair, no wife and kids, and washboard abs, I saw Julia Roberts without makeup and buck naked. She's a great actress, but there's a good reason why she hated the real Erin Brockovich. You didn't want to run for the door when Erin got down to do the nasty. Meanwhile, Mayer's Buzz harem had natural beauties who were smart and could write and think.
Besides Jill, the top Buzz babes were Cathy Seipp, Sandra Loh and Holly Palance, who inherited daddy Jack's great bones. Now I love Loh, because at these Maple Drive Buzz lunches she made no qualms about pretending she was at some Algonquin Table. She was there for the great grub. She would wear a ratty black sweater that would highlight the food that fell out of her mouth. She ate fast and kept her head down while she cleaned her plate. A real man's woman. She was also great to the late Don Rawley, one of the late Buzz gay crew who was the bravest of us all.
Jill and I were the only ones who ever ordered hard liquor at these lunches - and the booze was free! That says a lot about Jill: if she wants something, she goes for it and she's not worried about being politically correct.
Now there's a lot of ugly women in daily journalism who are jealous of Jill, so don't hold your breath waiting for the L.A. Times to hire her. It's just a crying shame that New Times LA f--ked up and she lost her real estate.
New Times LA editor Rick Barrs had a murderers' row of alt journos: Jill, Tony Ortega, Susan Goldsmith, and one mean managing editor, Jack Cheevers, who was pissy and petty, but knew his sh-- and was perfect for an alt paper. But Rick ran the paper like it was an alt in Phoenix, not in L.A., and that's why Jill lost her job. Rick refused to suck Hollywood d--k, and if you want to survive in publishing in this town, ya gotta suck Hollywood d--k now and then. Look at the L.A. Weekly: they protect their political writers by giving the L.A. masses what they want: entertainment covers!
Somebody at New Times LA was so obsessed about not being the L.A. Weekly, they forgot that L.A. readers know entertainment stories are just the bullshit that brings them into the tent. Instead of having a kiss ass David Lynch story on the cover that would allow readers to enjoy Jill Stewart, Barrs would have to run a cover on some gang-banger band from East L.A. for his entertainment cover. Two problems with that sh--: nobody on the west side of L.A. gives a sh-- about that cover, and none of the Spanish speaking dudes on the East side who followed the gang-banger band on the cover knew what the f--k New Times LA was. I loved Rick Barrs, but is it any wonder that by the time he was running six covers in a row about sex scandals in the Catholic church, the only folks advertising in his paper were professional sex workers? (Note to Rick: I know Mike "Save the Whales" Lacey put you up to a lot of this s--t. Next time he reaches for a drink, sock him one for me.)
The point of all this, Luke? If you're going to lick these babes fine butts, there's gotta be a strategy that goes somewhere. If you're gonna cyberstalk Anita Busch, why not go after editor John Carroll at the L.A. Times or editor Laurie Ochoa at the L.A. Weekly and tell 'em you're going to go insane and take them with you unless they hire Jill and Cathy? I've got tons of dirt on Carroll and Ochoa that I'll gladly give you for free if it means that little redhead and flasher Cathy get their print real estate back.
Protruding Rectum Story
Cathy Seipp writes: "I did not know that you are in Australia! Have a good time, take in a Rolf Harris concert...but Luke, as a friend, can I suggest that you at least consider removing the protruding rectum story?"
My Memoir's A Winner
XXX writes: I think what works about your memoir is simply your willingness to present your report -- a sort of "going naked in front of the world" that is at the basis of all really good writing -- warts and all. I don't detect a lot of rationalizing or deep analysis.
And I think it's probably best that way. Unless you are selling a point of view, then it's actually good journalism to simply honestly report.
This is a LOT harder than it appears. We always want to forgive, rationalize, exaggerate our memories, when we were involved. As well, we upsize our triumphs and minimize our failures.
As it stands, you're just reporting. You pursued a story that had odd and bizarre consequences in terms of its "tainting" you in your "normal" world, and you lived in a "real" world of ---- that seems, at first blush, impossible.
So, the "truth" and the perception of that "truth" warred and you honestly report both. You are conflicted in the same manner as the society you report on and for and to.
Were I you (which I'm not) I would report my inner qualms, the qualms of friends and family without needing to resolve the infinitude of questions regarding "moral" behavior.
In other words, what you thought at that moment is legitimately part of the story, and what you think now about what you thought then ISN'T really that important. The reader will decide, and your honesty creates a terrific amount of ethos. Credibility.
This is a whole series of sore points for American society and none of them are resolved. It is perfectly appropriate to report on the environs of the wound without attempting to medically supervise its rehabilitation ... if you take my drift. I think if you keep your honesty -- warts and all, without either patting yourself on the back or flagellating yourself for perceived faults -- you have a winner.
Cathy Seipp writes: Miss Cecile insists that I write an entry in this journal she has set up for me -- even though this is what I do for a living so it is rather like a busman's holiday! OK, what I did today: 1. Wrote my UPI column, and the editor asked me to make a little change -- which they almost never do there, so I guess I didn't mind; 2. Went to the bank; 3. Walked dog (twice); 4. Prepared to watch Buffy; 5. Read the papers and the blogs. Well that is about it -- not too interesting a day...
Emmanuelle writes: "Hey Luke, Just mentioned Cathy's blog and your support. Had breakfast with her and she seemed to be getting excited about her blog. She was telling her usual great, very funny stories and suddenly realized: "Hey, I could blog it!!" Of course she could blog it. It will be interesting."
Cathy Seipp blogs: If I'd known that Luke Ford was going to link this thing I would have tried to sound more intelligent! And now I see that 15 people have already read yesterday's fairly moronic debut entry.
I live in the groovy Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, which as all Silver Lakeans know, is home to not only bohemians and gays and industry types priced out of the West Side, but an earnest creature known as the Silver Lake Dad. These are guys whose wives slave away at office jobs so dreamy artistic dad can pursue his dreamy artistic dreams.
Silver Lake Dads spend a lot of time with their children -- which they care for perfectly adequately, although never quite as fantastically as they seem to think.
The other day at Trader Joe's I saw one of these guys: bearded (natch) and wearing a faded t-shirt advertising some sort of worthy event. He was making a big fuss about some pork chops with his four-year-old son -- "OK, we'll bread them and bake them! We'll make a project out of it!" -- who was standing up in the cart like the warnings on the cart always say not to do.
Orthodox Jews Should Not Visit Lucian Freud Exhibit At MOCA
It is filled with nudity. And none of the subjects are hot looking. If you're going to sin, you should at least have fun.
When I went this morning, there was a large group of school children lined up to see this obscene display. None of them were white.
British painter Lucian Freud is considered Britain’s greatest living painter, one of the towering figures of realist portraiture.
The largest retrospective of Freud’s work has now come to Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the only U.S. venue for this exhibit. Organized in 2002 for the Tate Britain in London, this show gathers Freud’s work over six decades — paintings, watercolors, drawings, as well as new works for this exhibition — a powerful testament to one painter’s life’s work.
It is a demanding and challenging show. As I walked through the exhibit last week, I wondered, why L.A.? Why now?
Freud’s work, however, seems particularly compelling and relevant to our lives and to this moment in time. If you are not familiar with Freud’s work, be forewarned: Most of the portraits in the exhibit are not pretty — some could even be considered ugly.
These are not Degas’ pretty dancers, or Manet’s nude “Olympia” or Ingres’ “Odalisque.” Freud’s paintings are about the body as animal. Young or old, clothed or nude, awake or in repose, emaciated or obese, the portraits are filled with defeat and desire, humans alive yet in a process of decay.
The paintings of human shells saddled by their own corpulence are particularly striking — you stare, thinking as Shakespeare put it: “O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt.”
Perhaps it is this display that makes Freud’s work the perfect counterpoint to Los Angeles, a fleshpot so notorious that it dares to ask, as the philosopher Lorenzo Lamas put it so winningly the other night on TV: “Are you hot?”
My sister Elenne sent me to the doctors (neurosurgeon, psychiatrist) this week along with the following notes:
Dear Dr C--,
Thank you for agreeing to examine my brother, Luke Ford.
I suspect that Luke's problem is of a psychiatric nature - a narcissistic personality disorder. However, the family is concerned that he might have suffered some damage in a motor vehicle accident in September 1985 when he was 19 years of age. His behaviour seemed to gradually become more unusual after that event. Luke however, says he was merely conforming to family values for the sake of harmony prior to then and has gradually revealed to us his true self as he has grown older. I enclose a series of photographs - the approximate dates of which are recorded on the back of each photo. To us, Luke's face seems to have changed - a more square jaw line which we thought might be indicative of a problem with the pituatary. Luke however says that he has merely put on weight in his face.
I prepared this chronology of my life:
May 1966 - Luke was born the youngest of 3 children. I was 10 and my other brother 8.
April 1967 - our mother became ill with secondary bone cancer after having had a breast removed in 1963
May 1967 - November 1970 - Luke is cared for by a series of housekeepers, relatives and friends - sometimes hundreds of miles away from our mother and the rest of the family. During this period he also spent limited periods with our mother when she was home from hospital or receiving treatment in places where Luke could be cared for nearby. During this time my mother convinced my father that he would need to remarry and presented him with a short list of candidates one of whom was Gill, our stepmother. During the last 2 years of our mother's life Gill spent time with our mother and father and to a lesser extent the rest of us.
April 1970 - our mother died November 1970 - our father married Gill November 1970 the family moved to England where my father undertook a second Phd. I went to boarding school. Luke lived at home with my other brother.
Late 1972 - the family returned to live in Australia.
June 1977 - Gill, our father and Luke moved to live in California and have lived there ever since
1978 - 1979 - Luke completed 6 marathons - including the very hilly San Francisco marathon out of 8 attempted
June 1984 - Luke graduated from High School and came to Australia for a year to live with his brother Paul. Paul and myself didnt detect anything unusual about his behaviour - nor did our Aunt.
September 1985 - Luke had a car accident - hit the back of a stationary bus - seatbelt broke and he hit his head on the steering wheel - received 30 stitches but was not hospitalised.
March - May 1986 - Luke suffered from glandular fever
September 1987 - Luke stated a frantic schedule which included 21 hours per week of college classes, 20 -30 hours per week of paid gardening work plus body building workouts.
February 1988 - Luke awoke one morning with what felt like a bad flu. He felt ill for a year before he was diagnosed with CFS.
September 1988 - Luke went off to UCLA but was only able to finish one subject per quarter between then and June 1989
September 1989 - came to Brisbane and had various medical tests. Saw Dr Joan Lawrence who said he was normal. None of the other tests revealed any abnormality.
May 1990 - returned to California. An invalid until October 1993 when he started taking Nardil - which greatly helped - felt better overnight but still not back to himself. By March 1994 he felt 70% of normal health - stayed that way until July 1999 when he started improving further under a homeopath - taking snakes venom [vipera].
August 1993 - moved to Florida to live with a girlfriend. Moved to LA in April 1994 and has lived there ever since.
Luke: My stepmom wrote this for the docs:
Luke was born 1966 in NSW, Australia. His mother, Gwen, had had a breast removed 3 years prior to Luke's birth. When Luke was two months old, she began having pain in the ribs, which unbeknownst to her was caused by cancer which had metastasized to bone from the breast. She continued to breastfeed Luke and he had a great first ten months. She was given two weeks to live when Luke was ten months old and was taken out of the home for treatment to another state.
Luke was with his mother for some of the time (the rest of his family know those details better than me because I came on the scene later) but he was cared for by a number of mothers, maybe 7 or 8, in the next couple of years. He stayed for a while with his mother`s half-sister. She was going through a difficult menopause and in an unhappy marriage with a lot of shouting. Luke was used to a peaceful existence, and his brother Paul found him face down on the bed one day hiding his face (he was 18 months to 2 years old at the time). Photos at the time show him looking like a child from a prisoner of war camp (emotionally deprived). About age 3, he was particularly tied to one of the women who looked after him called XXX. She left because she felt Luke was too attached to her, but it was like losing another mother. XXX was very strict with toilet training.
Luke had bouts of frustration, for instance dumping his sister`s makeup and belongings on the floor one time (note by Elenne - I found him rubbing toothpastse, bootpolish and perfume etc into his hair/face etc so may just have been a normal baby thing) and food stuffs he found in the fridge on the floor another time, when he was about 3. He was away from home staying with a family in Victoria, Australia, for the year prior to his mother`s death (he was nearly 4 years old when she died). The lady where he stayed in the year before Gwen died (YYY) was very strict and when he sat for meals she had a ruler on the table and used to smack him on the hands to make him eat his vegetables. They also tried to get him out of diapers by restricting his drinking water from 4 p.m. and making him take a cold shower in the morning if he wet himself. But the husband in that home played with him a lot and was very kind.
He was nearly four when his father and I married. He came back home from Melbourne, was upset at the change and "wanted his sick mummy." Was very depressed, said he hated birds and flowers. At the time he remembered his real mother dimly; all he remembered on the surface was that she said she was kind and gave him scrambled egg. The family left immediately to fly to England. Luke was in diapers, but somewhere in that trip I told him one night it was hard for little boys to wake up in the night and get up and go to the toilet. He was dry the next morning and never wore another diaper. Great mind over matter!
I gave him lots of attention, read to him for hours because he loved it. He was very jealous of his father and repeatedly said he wouldn`t mind if daddy died! Stuck to me like lint. I was working helping his father with his Ph.D, and Luke would come between us and try to part us. He came up to me one day and said, I`m a lucky boy. Most children only have one mother, but I`ve had lots. But I don`t want any more.
Luke and I had a close relationship and in some ways I was pretty easy going with him in that I put no demands on him re: food. I gave him things he liked that were good for him, and I didn`t force him to eat what he didn`t like. My downfall was that I had bad PMS after going off the birth control pill and half the month I was normal and the other half I was out to lunch. Very irritable and unreasonable. The changeability was hard on all, including Luke. He used to sense when I was going downhill and would bait me, and usually got a hiding once a month. He was always a very smart, intuitive child with understanding beyond his years, and great company because he loved to chat and could understand abstract reasoning while very young.
When we had been married for about six months and I had to go into hospital, I told him about it but in a very lighthearted way. He became extremely upset on finding out I was going into hospital. He cried for hours and said he hated those doctors for putting me in hospital, and it was punctuated by sobs. I put him to bed to cry himself out. I found him three hours later still sobbing. When I came out of hospital alive, it was very therapeutic. I had to go into hospital a couple of more times in the next couple of years and he was bothered less and less. Didn`t notice the last time.
There was an episode when we were living in Manchester when he was out playing with kids and throwing dog manure at other kids. They threw some at him and he went berserk, red in the face. My husband thought that was terrible, but I don`t think that was a big deal. Who wouldn`t be angry after what had happened to him?
When the children`s mother died, she had been dearly beloved and it was a terrible loss. She knew Des and I were going to marry; he asked her about it before he talked to me (it was clear she was terminally ill a long time before she died). We had a lot of time together before she died, and she encouraged me to take care of Luke (he was then about 2.5 to 3) while she was alive, so he was familiar with me (that`s when he went away for about a year before Gwen died). The older children were not in on this marriage plan, and Elenne heard via gossip that I was after her father (it wasn`t true). She built up a great hostility towards me at that time that was understandable, but it never really went away.
Luke`s mother`s illness with cancer was horrible (she had constant exquisite pain, nausea and vomiting, and emaciation for 4 years after Luke born (was 60 lbs most of that time). She was ready to die, but her sister, the children`s aunt, felt she didn`t prepare the children for the loss (I don`t know whether that`s possible). When she died, it was sudden even though anticipated for a long time. I was away with the two older kids and handled telling them about their mother`s death very badly. Needless to say we got off to a bad start. All the adults were na‹ve. I had no life skills or experience to jump into a family suffering like this. I always felt the kids weren`t allowed to grieve. Their dad is big on acting right however you feel and tends to put a wall up to cover his feelings; is pretty mechanistic. Luke was affected by all this anger.
Though at times, he looked depressed as a child, most of the time he was the opposite. He seemed fine, perennially cheerful. He wasn`t a discipline problem. He wasn`t moody. In his teens, he came in and out like a door on a hinge. The expectations of behavior in the family were always understood even if not expressed. The ideals were impossibly high. Feelings were swallowed as unimportant. But he was a treated with great kindness.
When Luke got sick, as with the chickenpox which he had twice (once about age 7, once in his 20s with CFIDs, he would be REALLY sick. When he got the measles, he vomited and became dehydrated. He had more colds than the other kids who were never sick. He wasn`t used to eating sugar. On birthday parties, if I gave him treats with sugar in them, he would end up bringing them up. So a weak stomach.
The two boys found their father (a high achiever who was well known in their little world) a hard act to follow. Luke had the same interests as his dad but had trouble finding his own identity as an adult, especially after he became sick and could not fulflil his ambitions.
As a young teenager, he did not appear to see this as a problem. He said dad is one person, I am another. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and had his life planned out from the onset of high school. He planned every class of every year and knew he wanted to do journalism and economics and knew where he would do his college work and postgraduate work. He planned to go to London School of Economics. He was well liked though often considered a pain in the neck by his peers. As a journalist on the High School paper, he loved to stir and the football team threw him in a garbage can. You get the idea.
At age 12, Luke was small and thin. He seemed to go through puberty at age 15 and then grew to over 6 feet. He was gauche with girls, needled and teased them and annoyed them. He first showed signs of having extreme behavior at 12 when he began running 14 miles a day and then running marathons. I think from age 12 to 14, he finished 6 marathons, including the San Francisco marathon which is all hills! We never encouraged this running, but there was no stopping him. Luke always ran his own ship. He stopped, I think, because he got growing pains in his legs.
Luke will tell you when he had his car accident, I think it was in his early 20s, but it may have been as early as age 18 (Luke says he was 19 years old). He had been to Australia before that and his brother Paul said he was a perfectly normal adolescent then. The second time he went over to Australia (after the car accident), the family thought he was mentally ill). There was an incident when he was staying with his brother when he got sick of his brother`s dog barking at night. He took it and dropped it off a bridge, went down to the water and couldn`t find it. Then he went to a park, and next thing the dog trotted up to him with a pork chop in his mouth! My husband Des he knows this happened because the dog used to walk everywhere with him (Des) when he was there, but it wouldn`t approach that bridge! This event was shocking to me. Luke was extremely competitive and a sore loser at times. The family thought this was extreme.
The car accident happened when he was driving his VW bug near our house. He was blinded by the sun and hit a school bus from behind (they are yellow). The seat belt broke and he hit his head on the dash board. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and had 30 stitches to close the scar, which was right between the eyebrows.
I may have the timing wrong, but can only go by memory. The compulsive behavior that began with the marathon running seemed to worsen with the bang on the head. Luke did 21 hours p.w. at college (over a full load), worked up to 100 hours a week doing heavy laboring work (in the summer here it gets up to about 106ø F, over 40 Celsius). And came home and would do 100 pull ups and 1,000 push ups. He developed a magnificent physique. But he seemed unable to stop. Later made me feel he was like an out of control tank. Sort of manic. There was no giving him advice. He was impervious. I never had a chance to be a controlling mother. I felt he had the high energy (physical, nervous) of his father, but not the balance wheel.
I believe maybe about six months later, Luke got mononucleosis. His father and I were in Australia at the time on vacation, and he kept going to school, but went to bed early and slept a lot. Chernobyl was somewhere in there too. After that, he started getting the flu frequently (3 times a year, maybe more). It gradually descended into having CFIDs. He went to UCLA but was only able to do one subject a semester. He stayed there for one or two years. During those years, he went from being an atheist, to a Marxist, to a Jew. He became fascinated with Dennis Prager who is a Jew and who has the biggest radio show in Southern California. Dennis became his hero and he used to spend a lot of time at UCLA debating with Dennis over the phone on the radio. Dennis won the arguments and Luke converted. He became fascinated with Judaism and over the years became more knowledgeable than most Jews. Jewish friends urged him to become a rabbi.
During the CFIDS years, he spent about 8 years altogether doing very little but lying on the deck. Three of those years, after UCLA, he was at home. He was brave through the sickness but to me, it ruined his ambitions. He was so disciplined and had his life planned out, and it was ruined.
The fevered dreams he had during the CFS years said it all. He had violent dreams about snakes. As an example of one he told me, he was standing in line at admission at UCLA and he was given a snake sandwich to eat (he was a vegetarian all his life at that point). The snake was dead meat in the sandwich but came to life as he ate it. The dreams all ended the same. He fought the snakes, but always ended up overwhelming him and killing him however hard he fought. At night his eyes were unnaturally bright, he seem consumed with fever, though he had not temperature (low as in a virus). He said he felt fine while lying down. It was when he got up.
In Australia, (his second trip), he had an endocrinology work up and they were looking for hypothalamic failure; similar to a girl with anorexia, though he ate like a horse. An endocrinologist over here felt the same thing (CCC). He advised us to have him committed, and Luke fired him as a physician. The endocrinologist I work with felt Luke could have had a stalk resection from the car accident.
While Luke was at home, he became what seemed to us eccentric. He wore tefillin and had his hair uncut as a Hasidim (strict Jewish sect). He seemed to lose his sense of boundaries, his ideas of what was appropriate and what wasn`t. At one point, he did a Jewish conversion and wanted to do the strict Hasid one. He wouldn`t cut his hair. He would only hug me or his sister if she came to visit. Wouldn`t shake hands with my friends, couldn`t touch other women. You would see him hug trees. The next door neighbor thought Luke was mentally ill because of the way he talked and behaved around him. It seemed to me that when Luke went on Zoloft (my suggestion to a doctor neighbor), he suddenly became sexually manic. He put adverts in the Jewish single papers and a host (60 almost immediately) of professional Jewish women began to call and visit him. My neighbor and I were amazed that they couldn`t see that Luke had a problem.
As an example of the sort of bizarre thing he did (there are many, but I don`t have time to tell them), he had one girlfriend in the Bay Area who visited him a couple of times. He had another in Florida. He used to get on the phone and talk to her about sex. He, we found out later, was having sex with girl #` and then the following weekend #2 came up and he had sex with her and put her on the phone with #`. Also tried to get in me on his cunning plots to toy with these women. This was after being unable to touch women at all!
He left home with #2 and lived with her in Florida for a while. He sent transcripts of his sexual exploits and intimate conversations with her to a number of our friends. He looked mentally sick at the time. In Florida, he went on Nardil and said it was the only thing that ever helped him, but it didn`t stop this type of strange behavior.
Another time when he was home, he had written a letter to a church publication. He talked about his father and presented his father`s views in a way that agreed with his father`s enemies (politics in the church). It was a very subtle letter in which Luke seemed to deliberately use words that meant a certain thing to his audience and he skewed the meaning to make his father look bad. When I faced him with this, he gave the most insane laugh. That was the first time I had heard it.
Now Luke uses that voice all the time and giggles this same type of insane laugh when on the phone with me. He says he has more than one personality. His counselor calls this character Hee hee. I know this sounds bizarre, but I`m just reporting what I see.
The thing I am trying to say, is I have seen Luke in consult with physicians, and he sounds so mature, intelligent, so honest about his defects. But there is a part of him that is really off the wall. And it is like an evil two year old trying to cause mischief. Intelligent friends of Luke`s and ours have noted similar things. Many people have noted that Luke is attacking his father. He went into Judaism, a religion that is very stringent to outdo his dad in doing. But people also believe he doesn`t have an real belief in Judaism. He has been excommunicated from one synagogue in Los Angeles for abusing their women and taking advantage of their hospitality.
Luke seems obsessive, compulsive, manic, to have a double identity at times. But the best "label" is narcissism. He fits it very well. His hero Dennis is an extension of his personality. Dennis has threatened to sue Luke for stalking him and for putting stuff about his son on his website. Dennis has written to Luke and told him he is either sick or evil. Luke has his biography on the website and also sections on what Luke`s friends think of Luke.
Luke has his own website which we think is sick. Any child can get into his site and see this stuff. Also a photo where he had what looks like a penis in his mouth (I think it`s fake). Claims to be homosexual. I don`t THINK he is, he tells his brother it`s a joke. Pictures of him with a gun which he has bought because people get so mad at him they hit him. Wherever he goes he is under threat. He is in litigation for slander by several people and cannot win because he lied on the website.
I am sending you an opinion by someone who calls himself Luken. I have corresponded with him. He uses the name lukeford because he wants to be anonymous. Sorry, I have to go because I haven`t packed and it`s nearly 11p.m. and I have to leave at 6:00 a.m. for Australia. This is disjointed, but it may give you an idea. Regards, Gill Ford
Luke: Here is the note from Luken I took to my docs:
Luken writes: I think it might help you and your site to clarify your personal and professional identity for your reading public. I first saw you on Foxfiles and assumed you were a legit journalist.
Are you a journalist? No, since you make up your stories, do not verify sources,and do not profess any journalistic standards(do you?)
Are you a business news reporter? No, you are completely unreliable and have no standing as a journalist, period.
Are you a tabloid journalist? Yes.
Are you a gossip columnist? Yes.
Are you a credible source? In no way and in no industry.
Are you a pathological liar? Yes.
Do you have any feelings? None that are discernible in your writing. Your pat reply (see Rolling Stones interview) is "I do not care," when asked about issues that would curdle anyone else's blood.
Anyone posting on your site should recognize the real reason you post their material is that you do not care. Controversy is your only standard.
How can anyone be a writer without feelings? They can fool people, and write insignificant verbage, or make it up as they go along to make it interesting.
What is your specialty, what is it that you are best at? The people of the industry, and specifically your specialty is gossip, again, not news of any variety.
Did it ever cross your mind, Luke, that someone set you up on XXX, realizing full well you would publish it without verification, unable to resist a chance at a story? It's obvious to anyone reading your site that you are a sitting duck for this sort of setup. Just send it to Luke, and he'll publish it regardless of any damage done to any individual's reputation...he truly does not care.
You might check with a specialist at the University of California to see if you genuinely suffered frontal lobe damage. The book Descarte's Error, by Antonio Damasio, a neurologist, is all about a man who suffered frontal lobe damage. Check it out!
I'd also like to comment on the 2 phrases you use that drive me craziest: I do not care.......means I have no feelings. I do it for the money....means there is no other feeling reason to do or justify anything in your empty life, brother. Do me a favor and whenever you catch yourself saying "I do not care" say "I have no feelings" instead. Same thing for "I do it for the money"...."I have no life." Try it till you understand what you're trying to tell yourself.
And when was the last time you contacted your mom and dad? How about doing so while they're still around. Make a script of questions prior to each call asking about THEM, so you don't forget to. [Luke: I call home about once a week.]
I strongly suggest you get that frontal lobe checked out at a neurology clinic. Again, you can be referred by Univ of CA. If nothing else, it may put you on to the reality that you may be suffering from an emotions deficit, a hallmark of frontal lobes damage. The people who write to you might also examine their consciences and egos.... Good luck in life, Luke!
Alan Watts aka Luken aka Andy Griffith writes Luke Wednesday: I'd like to tell Luke's family what he did. Your son had the joking audacity to write me and say "Thanks for all this"! As if to say "Thanks for the fine mess I'm in"!
As your family well knows, Luke, this may be their one and only chance to ever confront you and impress on you what soulful agony and human suffering you are inflicting on them by your totally thoughtless, pretentious, absolutely unnecessary, selfishly willful choice to remain in Hollywood despite the real-life everyday consequences and pain for each of them which you can now so plainly see right before your eyes!
Luke, look at your family and, in these remaining days, face the sheer amount of human pain you are inflicting on each of your parents and family members. Can you see it?
CAN YOU TRY TO SEE IT FOR WHAT IT IS AND ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR INFLICTING SO MUCH PAIN? THEIR PAIN, THEIR SUFFERING, IS REAL, LUKE.
Ask yourself: IS YOUR LIFESTYLE WORTH THIS MUCH PAIN?
You must accept FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR CHOICES, INCLUDING THE HUMAN PAIN YOU ARE INFLICTING ON YOUR PARENTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS. THEIR PAIN MUST BE FACTORED INTO YOUR DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR CAREER.
THIS IS REAL PAIN, LUKE, NOT A CARTOON, NOT A CARICATURE, NOT A SATIRE: REAL HUMAN SUFFERING RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE! ARE YOU BLIND, OR CAN YOU SEE THEIR PAIN AND ACCEPT THAT THIS PAIN GOES ALONG WITH YOUR CHOICE TO REMAIN IN HOLLYWOOD? IS IT WITH INFLICTING THIS MUCH PAIN ON YOUR FAMILY, LUKE?!!!
Get over yourself, man, and see the very real cost which is being exacted in human suffering each of your remaining days with your family. You say you are interested in humanity, Judaism, etc, and you overlook the UNBELIEVABLE COST YOU ARE PERSONALLY INFLICTING IN HUMAN SUFFERING ON YOUR OWN LOVED ONES.
When you get back to homebase, are you going to write off your family's deep agony as nothing more than a sick joke? I hope not.
If there's a moral or ethical bone in your body you should take their agony into account in deciding whether you even continue in Hollywood. You started as a writer, and now you're just an attention addict. Everyone can see it, you can see it, but what you don't see is the huge, unacceptable amount of DAILY HUMAN SUFFERING your family endures because of your silly "career" choice to be in Hollywood.
YOU'RE RIPPING THEIR HEARTS OUT, YOU BASTARD! TRY TO FEEL SOMETHING FOR THEIR AGONY IF YOU CAN!
No, Luke, you cannot be in Hollywood if it causes them so much pain. You must leave Hollywood, and make a choice that doesn't make VICTIMS of your mom, dad, and the rest of your family members, who love you, and so desperately just want to get through to you in whatever way they possibly can. You are destroying their lives!
Come on, Luke, you know I'm right, leave Hollywood and find another way to make a buck that doesn't hurt your family so terribly. They are the ONLY people in this world who truly care about you and what happens to you, the rest of the world doesn't give a damn, and why should they?
Luke Gets Mail
Goddess writes: Luke, do yourself and your readers a favor. Next time you go on vacation, go to DisneyWorld. I'd much rather hear about your experiences in "It's a Small World" than the "It's An Insane World" ride that you're on right now.
Rob writes Luke: Please tell me your entire month's "vacation" is not going to be consumed with medical / psychological tests. This trip so far has not seemed to do much to rejuvenate you, in fact, the opposite seems to have occurred. I can understand your parents' concern and, truth be told, I am more than a little envious of their sincere, loving efforts to help you. However, after all the tests are run and analyzed the bottom line still comes down to the individual. Are you truly happy with the life you lead? Take some time alone to reflect on this tricky question and I am confident you will find your answer.
Alan Watts writes: I'm glad to hear the news that you are reading books and thinking about yourself while you do so, Hee-hee.
By the way, the most remarkable thing happened today, which I must tell you about. I actually got the opportunity to talk to Larry Flynt since my last e-mail to you. Really a nice guy, Larry, makes a nice appearance on camera. Got to ask him if he's a pornographer. Said no, he's in the publishing business.
This made me think you two might have a lot in common. Since you have become very open about personal issues and such of late, how about publishing your contractual agreement with FANTASTIConline on your site? It would be a very nervy thing to do. Shows some balls. Where is the money coming from, anyway?
Well, Luke, do you dare, or are you really just a scaredy cat, as I believe? So far, Luke, the most stunning revelation has been that you stalked Dennis Prager to the point of being threatened with an injunction, and that you were also obsessed with his son. Pretty shocking stuff, Luke! (I'll be damned, you still have some surprises for us, don't you, my boy?)
So now we can all go back to pretending you are normal but disturbed, and continue playing our silly little web games as always...RIGHT!!!! I'M OUTTA HERE!!! GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME YOU DAMNED STALKER!!! OR I'LL CALL THE POLICE!!!! (Why you are one sick fucker after all, aren't you?)
You ARE an ass, Luke, and a very entertaining one at that. Just keep doing what you are best at...BEING AN ASS, and the whole world will follow along to your psycho-nut tune. And OK, OK, I even give you my permission to be FAMOUS, since it's obviously such a big damned deal to you.
DoneDone writes: Luke- What is all this psycho talk about you? Therapy? Shock Treatment? Cmon guy, get over it. The bottom line is you like attention. But the fact of the matter is, you are smart enough to get over whatever it is that is messing with you. Enjoy the sun and blow off the therapy sessions. You are in Australia for god sakes, not Bellevue.
Peter Hayes Puts His Oar In
British journalist Peter Hayes writes: The last couple of days I have read a lot about the life and times of Luke Ford and his curious - and sometimes schizophrenic - life so far. As it is open season let me have my say.
For a start Luke is an inexperienced journalist. This shows in a lot of his work. The recent farce over adult check not excepting credit cards was a typical example. Why not pick up a phone and confirm the story? That is what any self respecting journalist would have done - but not Luke, he waits for the company to write in and tell him the story is false. This is piss poor journalism - nothing less.
How many independent people has Luke written for? I am waiting to find out. OK he has written a book that was generally too big for a first time writer. But my guess is that Luke’s C.V. is shallow - has he been out in the field in Brazil, Germany or Holland (as I have) trying to keep editors at home happy?
By inexperienced I don’t mean that he cannot write, only that he has not written enough for third-parties. His work has not gone through the editing mill enough. He lacks the ability to break a difficult story down and often fails to develop a narrative at all. He also has no moral credibility.
Luke is a floating moralist, because he wants to get the best angle for any story. Promoting one minute (even casting call details!) and a critic the next. Depends on what side of the bed he gets out of or what he has eaten last night. Luke may think this constitutes a feature.
Sure we are all hypocrites now and again - however I don’t celebrate mine. However to defend myself (and probably Luke Ford) I am not a paying consumer. The industry is built on people that do.
Often this column is called Luke Ford but contains no Luke Ford writing. It is a clip and paste job of other people work. There are stories out there, but how much work is Luke prepared to do? What did LF write about Lolo Ferrari? Nothing. He clipped from Reuters and called it a day.
People say that Luke should quit writing about the industry. I disagree. He should try to get better at what he does and become a better writer. He should develop consistency and do more research. I don’t think Luke is a bad person, far from it, he comes across as quite nice person on TV, but he is a man alone with a rudderless column that reflects his confusion, whims, lust and mood.
Alan Watts writes: Allow me to thank British journalist Peter Hayes for extending himself on your site and making some frank journalistic and personal assessments about Luke yesterday. He knew there was no payoff in it for him, no possibility of ever getting anything back from any of us in return, and yet he went out on a professional limb nonetheless and tried to talk sense to Luke.
Peter Hayes, you are a true hero, one of the few/only we'll ever see here on Lukeford.com. It was awesome to have you step in like that and bring some genuine professionalism, realism and sanity to all the smoke and mirrors that are a regular feature on this site.
Luke Gets Mail
Grady writes: Dear Luke: I started reading your site several months ago at the recommendation of a friend. I was impressed with some of your writings about Judaism. Recently, however, I've noticed a shift in the tone and focus of the site. The latest example of this would be the "You Know You've Gone Hollywood When..." column by Tiffany Stone. Forgive me for saying so, but isn't this just one step away from Jeff Foxworthy's stale, dull "You Might Be a Redneck If..." routines of the early '90s? The list simply wasn't funny, nor does it seem to be relevant to...well, anything, really. I'm curious as to why there has been such a sheer flood of articles by Miss (or Mrs.?) Stone recently? While she's not entirely without talent, she doesn't seem to fit into what your website usually stands for.
You Know You've Gone Hollywood When...
“Gone Hollywood*” is when you…
-Drive a Mercedes SLK
-Have a Hummer/SUV with a “no war for oil” bumper sticker
-Live in a plantationesque house with fountains in Bel Air
-Initiate loud name-dropping cell-phone conversations at THE IVY, etc.
-"Do" lunch instead of "have" lunch.
-Have a power lunch
-Wear a uniform of designer jeans, t-shirts, $400 sunglasses and highlighted hair
-Send your assistant to Starbucks/Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to pick up your half-decaf/nonfat-soy/sugar-free/double-foam cafe mocha with a shot of expresso and caramel. Send your assistant back, because there isn’t enough foam
-Go through new assistants monthly
-Have your assistant buy all your personal gifts
-Make your receptionist get you drugs (from their drug dealer) during his/her lunch break
-Have your shrink, colonics person, and massage therapist critique the script you are producing
-Your children hug their nanny before hugging you
-Send your kids to the shrink du jour to learn therapy speak
-Think Botox is a panacea
-Say you had a deviated septum when asked why your nose is three inches smaller
-Adopt so you won’t ruin your figure
-Say you are an "independent producer" when asked what you do
-Talk your friend into writing a filmic novel
-Go to the Kabbalah Center or Agape to network
-Wear a red string on your wrist because Madonna does
-Pretend to be sober around people on-the-wagon. There is that fabulous AA meeting in Hollywood, after all.
-Only associate with celebrities
-Air kiss VIPs that you HATE
- Eat at restaurants where you loathe the food, but want to be "seen"
-Tell reporters you are skinny because of your fast metabolism, cocaine habit
-Spend your vacation going to Promises ($14,000 for a 2 week minimum) rehab center in Malibu.
-Have a life coach
-Go to yoga in full-makeup and hair
-Fuck your yoga teacher
-Wear a 4 karat+ ring to the gym
-Pay $140 a month to workout at Sports Club L.A., plus an additional $75 a session with a personal trainer
-Hire a publicist
-When you're 34, hire a publicist to finally get you onto the Hollywood Reporter's 35-and-under "Next Generation" list
-Only read “The Hollywood Reporter” and “Variety
” -Think "Us" magazine is a news publication and “Access Hollywood” is news
- Believe "The Real World" is the real world.
-Can’t remember the last time you had a friend who would bail you out of jail. Managers and agents don’t count.
-Threaten people constantly with defamation of character lawsuits
-Say you are “in the business,” when asked what you do
*This is only a partial list