Chaim Amalek Watches The Passion
Pursuing Love From A Parent
Like you, I had an imperfect upbringing. Despite this, it has never occurred to me since childhood to pursue love from a parent. Instead, I go elsewhere for love. Yet, Dennis Prager says on his show today, every women he has known well, has sought as an adult more love from a parent. But this is not rational. If your parent is cold and unloving, you are not going to get more love from the parent as you get older. A hug won't fix everything.
Dennis say it is emasculating when women have men sit down when they urinate.
I call author Stephen Fried Sunday afternoon, February 22, 2004.
Luke: "Have you noticed any arc in reactions to your book The New Rabbi?"
Stephen: "More people have read it now. The reactions are to the book and not to the idea of the book. I give a lot more talks now so a lot more people can have a dialogue with me. I speak to a lot of Jewish congregations and book fairs."
Luke: "Rabbi Jacob Herber, the young rabbi who took over Har Zion and then left?"
Stephen: "He stopped talking to me before the book was published. He was generous with me with his time for years. He told me that if I wanted to talk to him any further, I should talk to his lawyer. It was an Oneg Shabbat. The book was done. I had no interest in that. I was only interested in talking to him personally. In his defense, at that time, things at the synagogue had gotten very difficult. The atmosphere was harsh.
"Rabbi Herber is now at a synagogue in Milwaukee. I hear he is doing excellently there. He's at the synagogue that Rabbi Lee Buckman left (one of the candidates for the original Har Zion job)."
Luke: "How's Har Zion?"
Stephen: "I haven't been there. They have a new rabbi who just started, Jay Stein. They hired him last Spring, but because of a contractual snafu, his congregation wouldn't let him leave until recently. There was an interim rabbi through the high holidays. I spoke to him briefly before the book came out. He comes from a rabbinic family. His dad is well known in Connecticut and is well known in the RA [Rabbinic Assembly, rabbinic union for Conservative rabbis, the centrist movement in American Judaism].
"As a new rabbi, one of the first things you have to do is get up to speed on a congregation -- it's history, internal DNA, the high points and low points. Unlike most cases where you only get the anniversary book (pictures of who gave what from the big luncheons), now he has a solid history of the synagogue.
"The more I speak at synagogues and look at rabbi searches, I realize that understanding a synagogue's past is something that people don't take seriously enough. A lot of people in synagogues haven't belonged to them for that long. The things that people assume everyone knows, in fact, many people don't know. It's valuable to retell and reinvestigate its history. A lot of things that have happened are going to happen again. I don't think a lot of people at Har Zion knew that Har Zion had had a contentious rabbi search before. They didn't know that the search that led to the hiring of Rabbi [Gerald] Wolpe was every bit as contentious as this one was.
"A lot of synagogues doing rabbi searches do focus groups to find out from their congregants what they want. I've suggested they need some process whereby congregants can ask what has been happening at the synagogue in the past weeks, years, and decades, to clear the air. I was amazed by the number of old Har Zionites who had the most incredible disinformation about the history of their own synagogue. They had made decisions about who they liked and hated based on information that I could prove to them was wrong. Synagogues are bad at disseminating information unless it is news about somebody giving money."
Luke: "Have there been any changes in Jewish journalism as a result of your book?"
Stephen: "I'm sure a lot of people at Jewish newspapers look at the reporting in the book and ask themselves if there is a way to go further in what they do without having the world fall off its axis. Different papers are different in their level of access and bravery. I spoke at the Gralla Program at Brandeis University this past summer. It brings together Jewish journalists. There's a wide disparity in Jewish newspapers. Some papers aren't allowed to report anything but the party line. None of them can be as aggressive as The Forward. I get interviewed by a lot of these journalists and I get the feeling that they want to try to get behind the scenes at what is happening in various synagogues in a way that is not anti the Jewish community. There's always the danger that somebody is going to say that anything you print that they did not give you permission to print is lashon hara [Hebrew term for evil gossip]. It was clear that the journalists I spoke to at Brandeis had been through that before. We talked about whether we can create an idea of lashon hara that is also based upon rules of journalism. I do believe there is a Jewish way of doing journalism. I've had this conversation with Ari Goldman and Sam Friedman (authors and professors at the Columbia Scholl of Journalism).
"The quashing of people's legitimate desire to know more about their communities by saying it is lashon hara is bad. I've never met a rabbi that didn't gossip like crazy. I don't think it is more gossipy than any other profession. When people in the rabbinic profession talk inside baseball, I don't think they are above what anybody else does. I think they need to make some peace with journalism. American clergy are incredibly reliant upon journalism. They are voracious readers of The New York Times. They are some of the greatest readers I know. I just wish they would have a more open-minded view of the goals of journalism."
Luke: "Anyone come to you and say, 'I was wrong about your book. I initially had an emotional reaction against what you were doing but now that I've come to think about it, I was wrong.'"
Stephen: "No though I've had a lot of rabbi come up to me at talks (not the rabbis who invited me) who said that they now felt differently about the book having heard me talk about it. They saw how I answered their questions.
"Much of the laity was baffled about why their rabbis were upset over the book. To them, The New Rabbi romanticized the challenges of being in the American clergy. When they heard there was upset from the Rabbinical Assembly, their attitude was that the book made them out to be a smart bunch who predicted all the things that would happen.
"Jack Wertheimer, provost at JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary), wrote nice things about the book in Commentary magazine. I did have a meeting with Rabbis Myers and Schoenberg, the professional leaders of the RA. I can't go into the details. I'm teaching at Columbia University and so I'm in the neighborhood. My goal at this point is to have a dialogue with everyone who is still really angry so we can discuss the issues.
"I get around to a lot more synagogues (two dozen in the past four years, from Miami to Seattle, San Diego to Detroit, as many Reform synagogues as Conservative) than most rabbis do. I think they're curious about what I hear out there.
"We've been talking about this book since it came out. It seems like a long time. But people find books slowly. As soon as a synagogue has a rabbi search, people read the book. I hear from as many Reform rabbis as Conservative."
Luke: "Did you make any significant corrections to the paperback edition?"
Stephen: "I heard from a number of Reform rabbis who felt that some of the passing rhetoric about the Reform movement, which they understood came to me from my sources in the Conservative movement, was unfair and harsh. They urged me to look at certain things I'd said about the Reform movement. I ended up changing a number of words about Reform practice. I think my observations are fairer. I spoke at a lot of Reform synagogues. When you go to them and you realize that their services are as observant (except for more frequent use of musical instruments) and use Hebrew and are virtually indistinguishable from modern Conservative services.
"I heard from a number of different sources that certain things could be better and I tried to quietly make them better. I love that process."
Luke: "Did you make any change to that most controversial sentence in your book? From page 93: 'In Judaism, belief in God is optional...'"
Stephen: "It was the most controversial sentence in the book to you."
Luke: "No, you said it was the most controversial sentence."
On 1/5/03, Fried told me: "Those seven words have had more discussion than any other seven words in the book."
Stephen: "As time has gone on, the most controversial stuff that I hear is from the handful of rabbis who are really mad about a few sentences about them. I talked about that [God sentence] with people and I don't think I changed it. I thought about it. When I was going back over things, what I was really looking at were the sections in the book where I heard from people. That's why it is important that if people are mad about something, they should let the author know.
"For the paperback edition, I added a 16-page afterword. When I went back to Har Zion, things were rough. I hadn't been there. It was difficult to recreate what had happened. Most of the people at the synagogue didn't know. They knew [Rabbi Herber] was gone and the president had resigned but they didn't understand what had happened."
Luke: "Any changes in the way Conservative and Reform go about searching for a rabbi because of this book?"
Stephen: "United Synagogue (organization of Conservative synagogues) has wanted to play a greater role advocating on behalf of congregations [instead of being force fed rabbis by the rabbi union, the Rabbinical Assembly]. Currently the only people rabbinic search committees and candidates can talk to are the RA. The congregations want somebody who will be their advocate.
"The new United Synagogue leader for Eastern Pennsylvania is none other than Lou Graftman, the former president of Har Zion [who resigned when Rabbi Herber didn't take as the new rabbi].
"The movements are organized differently. The Reform movement is more congregationalist. The Conservative movement is driven by the rabbis. Even though the United Synagogue is its own entity, it still takes its lead from the Rabbinical Assembly. Reform rabbis are taught more about management and community relations.
"The new rabbis in the Reform movement want to be more observant. Some are finding themselves in difficult situations, such as they come to a synagogue where the previous rabbi would perform intermarriages. Now a younger Reform is more likely to be more observant [of Jewish Law] and not want to do that."
Luke: "Are you more or less optimistic about the future of Jewish community in North America as opposed to our first conversation over a year ago?"
Stephen: "I'm more optimistic. The enthusiasm that people have about their communities and synagogues is infectious. The difficulties that many rabbis describe in the Conservative movement are more among rabbis in general. As opposed to the great intellectual debates that make Conservative rabbis long for the good ol' days of the movement, when you go to a Conservative synagogue, Conservative Judaism makes perfect sense to the people in the synagogue. The idea of a pluralistic movement on the traditional side is not as difficult for people to deal with as some of the intellectual questions the rabbis are wringing their hands over.
"I've always felt there was a disconnect between the clergy and the congregants. That's true across American religion. The good news is that the situation in congregations might be better than people think while the situation for rabbis may be worse than people realize. The pressures on rabbis are growing and worse than ever."
Luke: "According to the old saw, Conservative rabbis practice like Orthodox rabbis while their congregants barely practice at all."
Stephen: "I don't agree."
Luke: "Isn't practice of Judaism the biggest disconnect between Conservative rabbis and congregants? Most Conservative rabbis are shomer shabbat and won't drive on Shabbos."
Stephen: "No. Many Conservative rabbis drive on Shabbos. Out here in the suburbs, most of them drive.
"The practice of Judaism is a disconnect between clergy and laity period."
Luke: "But not in Orthodoxy."
Stephen: "It is in Orthodoxy. You have many Modern Orthodox congregations that can not find Modern Orthodox rabbis and end up having Chabad rabbis who are more observant than them. People used to assume that having a rabbi more observant than the congregation was more of a Conservative problem, when the Conservative movement was the only pluralistic movement...has become part of all American Judaism.
"The younger Reform and Conservative rabbis are more observant than their congregants. The younger hardcore Orthodox rabbis are more observant than their Modern Orthodox congregants. The ability to find a rabbi who prays with his people at the same level of observance is more difficult. Every rabbi would probably find it easier to pray to a congregation where the majority of the people in the congregation were practicing Judaism the same way they were. This is an issue that now exists in every American congregation except for ultra-Orthodox congregations where everybody is on the same page.
"When I go to these synagogues, I am pleasantly surprised to see that the regular Shabbat group that does stuff together is not three people. Sometimes it is several dozen people of different ages. You see families getting their kids into it because it is their lifestyle.
"One of the disconnects between the clergy and the laity is the disconnect between the employee and the employed. Some of these are management and community issues, not Jewish issues. The disconnect between the observance of the rabbi and the congregation mostly comes up in situations where a prominent member of the synagogue is intermarried or something, so the rabbi must make a ruling about whether somebody can get an aliyah (an honorary call to the Torah before the congregation)."
Luke: "That's only in Reform, right?"
Stephen: "No. Conservative synagogues all the time..."
Luke: "Allow non-Jews to have an aliyah?"
Stephen: "Want the rabbi to bend the rules. It's not like that when they call you to the Torah, everybody in the congregation questions if you're Jewish. The issue is often a quiet one that speaks loudly. Just because the main office in New York says this is Conservative practice [does not always hold]...
"To me, the worst thing that can happen in a community is if somebody who is in need does not get help. That's much higher up in the needs of a true loving community than some of these religious issues. These matters come down to Jewish Law, but also maladies, history, money, and timing and health. Health makes an impact on many decisions. There's a lot of human drama going on that the Torah is there to inform and help people with. It's not always a perfect solution or explanation."
Luke: "How have the Orthodox reacted to your book?"
Stephen: "I don't live much in the Orthodox community so I don't know. I haven't seen anybody speak to the press about it. I've gotten some letters from Orthodox people who say the book reinforces to them what Conservative Judaism is. You even said that to me. I guess what I would say to people who say that -- it is lucky I did not come do the book about your Orthodox congregation because I believe there would be a wide variation in observance. We have to get out of our heads that there was ever a good ol' days where there wasn't. There might've been more attendance but that is not observance."
Luke: "Did you find that people read the book you wrote?"
Stephen: "Yes, for the first time. The reviews of the book have all been of the book and not the subject."
Luke: "Have you been harassed or had any death threats?"
Stephen: "No. I spoke in Miami and Leonid Feldman came. I had never met him. I did not know he was there. He got up in the middle of the Q&A and started going off. People at the book fair were mortified but I thought it was great. During the book signing, the children of the synagogue president who was punched by Rabbi Feldman talked to me."
Luke: "What did Rabbi Feldman say?"
Stephen: "I think he just wanted to complain. Afterwards, he sat next to me while I was signing books and we talked for about 15 minutes. He seemed fine. He let me know what happened. He has an ongoing thing with the RA."
Luke: "How's Rabbi Gerald Wolpe?"
Stephen: "It's been a bad year. His wife Elaine had brain surgery. His son David had brain surgery but appears to be OK."
Frank Del Olmo, Behind the Scenes
By Tony Castro
A story making the rounds among those who attended Frank Del Olmo's memorial service Tuesday was about the circumstances surrounding the death of the Los Angeles Times associate editor and columnist.
According to a Times editor, when Del Olmo collapsed in the office in the late morning of Feb. 19, a call was immediately placed for paramedics. Nineteen minutes later, when Frank was apparently in full cardiac arrest, paramedics finally showed up and began administering treatment.
What took so long?
The paramedics had actually arrived at the Times downtown offices four minutes after being called. But in the age of post-9/11 security, were kept waiting by the newspaper's own security for almost 15 minutes before being allowed up to the editorial offices. All this, again, according to that top level Times editor.
Legal action in the aftermath?
The other story that came out, according to this Times editor and longtime Del Olmo associate, was that a post-mortem found that Del Olmo was in terrible cardiovascular condition and may have been unaware that he suffered from a congenital heart problem -- that doctors found he had three blocked arteries and, apparently disassociated from his father through much of his life, was unaware that when his own dad died at roughly the same age, it was reportedly because of the same heart condition.
Martha Goldstein, the Times' vice president for communications, emails that Castro's source was all wrong. "...Totally inaccurate and irresponsible. The fact is that a Los Angeles Times editor met the paramedics upon their arrival at The Times building and immediately escorted them to Frank del Olmo's office." Wouldn't be the first time that newsroom scuttlebutt turned out to be erroneous.
I Hate AMC Theaters
They play movies that degrade the human condition. Their theaters are small. And worst of all, they play ten minutes of commercials (a full ten of them) and then ten minutes of previews before the main feature. I hate AMC.
I also hate Westfield Shopping Centers. When it was the Century City Mall, I could park my 6'6" van in there. Now all the entrances top out at 6'4", so Wednesday night, in the pouring rain, I had to run a mile from my parking spot in Beverly Hills to see 50 First Dates (should be the title for my Los Angeles memoir dating Jewish girls), which was fun. And the company elevated my human condition.
I feel romantic when it rains, but I'm sure that shows.
Howard Stern Today, Luke Ford Tomorrow?
Skippy writes: All part of the post-"Passion" crackdown. You've been taking off after Mexicans of late, which is just as dangerous as insulting the Negro. You've put plenty of racist material up on your web site. I tried getting in to see "The Passion" today, but could not. Jewish protesters, Christian movie goers. The former were few in number, outnumbered by the TV camera crews and cops, the latter were a mighy horde.
here. Mr Ford was very tricky. If you read the site you will see that he has changed his name, age, and virtually all his biographical details. Yet if you look at the pictures you will see that yes, it really is our Mr Ford.
Don't you dare miss Luke's fashion page here.
I asked Rodger Jacobs, who produced a movie on this topic, what he thought of Val Kilmer's flick Wonderland. He replies: "I liked it very much, though it's not for all tastes now, is it? I feel that the film successfully revealed that no matter what scenario one subscribes to the bottom line is that John Holmes was the catalyst for the horrific events that went down at 8763 Wonderland Avenue on a July evening in 1981. Quite a contrast to "Boogie Nights" which, when all is said and done, was a cleverly crafted film but rather shallow social satire. "Wonderland" is the real deal."
I found the film so degrading and disgusting that I could not get into it, though I agree it gave a good representation of said events.
We chat about Frank del Olmo and his journalistic legacy.
Tony: "None of his disciples have produced anything. I don't know if that's telling or what."
Luke: "I'd never heard of him before his obituary came out."
Frank: "Maybe Frank will be remembered not for things he did as a journalist, but as a Latino journalist."
Luke: "It seemed strange to me that all the specific compliments given to Frank on his passing were for Latino activism."
Tony: "The last 20 years, he didn't do a great deal of reporting. When I came here in 1978, he was writing a weekly opinion piece. Even the time he spent in El Salvador, was not where you could point to this story or that story as being on the news pages.
"You wouldn't have noticed him for his reporting and his op/ed pieces were dry and uncontroversial and not very moving until he started writing about little boy [with autism].
"When Frank was a young reporter, there may not have been more than one or two Spanish-surnamed reporters on the staff. And those that were there, were probably doing features, like Al Martinez.
"Frank ended up bringing in George Ramos and some of the other Spanish reporters on the staff."
Luke: "So what did he do the last 20 years except write his column?"
Tony: "He advised the paper. He was in editorial board meetings. He wrote editorials in the early '80s under Janet Clayton. For a long time, he had an odd title, assistant to the publisher. That changed to associate editor.
"At the Times, even some of its premiere reporters don't do a lot. You have people who have the luxury of spending weeks on a story."
Luke: "What was the quality of your friendship with him?"
Tony: "It's not like I have a lot of quality friends around me. I have sportswriter friends but in the news media, only a handful of friends. Frank and I would talk regularly. A lot of his work the past 20 years was ceremonial. You would see Frank at numerous activities but you may not see anything come out of that. I don't want to say that he was [figurehead for] community representation for the Times, but he was. He became highly visible at various media, community, functions. You wouldn't see copy coming out of that.
"Frank and his wife along with other Latino power couples put together the Latino Fund, which I did not know existed until a few months ago. He was involved with a group called Hispanics for the Opera and the Dorthy Chandler Pavillion."
I have to go off to another interview but I call Tony back in an hour.
Tony: "Luke, of all things, we were just sitting here with another reporter talking about the Chicano News Media Association."
Luke: "You've never been a member?"
Tony: "They probably wouldn't have me."
Luke: "Have you ever joined an ethnic-based news organization?"
Luke: "Why not?"
Tony: "I don't know. I didn't grow up in an environment that fostered that kind of thing. I wasn't a fraternity man. The only thing I've been a member of is the Roman Catholic church, and that may not have been by choice."
Luke: "What is your precise ethnic heritage?"
Tony: "My family is from Mexico. My dad's side of the family is from Mexico and my mom's side from Spain."
Luke: "Have you felt as a Latino that you have had to battle prejudice and bigotry every where you go?"
Tony pauses for almost ten seconds: "No. For me it wasn't quite like that. Maybe I was sheltered? I'm 57 years old. I was born in 1946. I grew up in Waco, Texas. In the 1950s, that was right in the heart of the Bible belt. There weren't a lot of Latinos or African Americans in Waco. I grew up around poor white kids and a smattering of poor African-American kids and one or two other Latino kids. I was aware of being Hispanic or Latin, but I didn't run into the kind of open discrimination that many other Hispanics have run into. I did the whole middle class number -- Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Little League, Teenage League, everything else that was going on that you could possibly do. My dad's frame of reference for his priorities in life was God, family, the Dallas Cowboys, and baseball, and unfortunately, in the reverse order. There was a great deal of sports growing up. My dad worked at the big VA hospital. He was one of those proud Latino WWII veterans.
"The thing that I grew up most aware of was anti-Semitism. One of my best friends was Jewish and she was always talking to me about this."
Luke: "In your professional life, have you had to constantly battle bigotry against Latinos?"
Tony: "I've seen it. I've probably made a career, to some degree, on it, unwittingly. When I graduated from Baylor college in January of 1970 with a degree in journalism, I had dozens of job offers from newspapers in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. I thought it was just because I was such a great college journalist. I had no idea that they wanted to hire me because I happened to have the right surname and speak Spanish. I was naive.
"The grape boycott and the grape strike had gone on... I had read about them but it was not something that had reached me."
Luke: "Let's say you were in a meeting with four Mexican-Americans, and your boss came on the speaker phone and said, 'Bring your Mexicans and come in here.' How would you react?'
Tony laughs. He laughs often and easily. "I would probably not be happy."
Tony: "I came to Los Angeles in 1978. This was around 1980. I get a call from Frank del Olmo and George Ramos (once a reporter, he's now chair of Cal Poly Pomona's Journalism department). We have lunch. They tell me this crazy bizarre tale about how they had gotten into trouble at the Times in a meeting with the new publisher, Tom Johnson. He headed up LBJ's radio station in Texas and then became a suit with the LA Times.
"The publisher was invited to a CCNMA (California Chicano News Media Association, ccnma.org) meeting at La Fonda on Wilshire. Johnson thought he was going there for a get-together. He gets there and, according to del Olmo and Ramos, things got out of hand. You had these journalists rabidly critiquing the Times hiring policies, history, and just bitching at the publisher. It became such a confrontational thing, it became embarrassing.
"A couple of days later, Johnson talked about it to his brass and the story got down to the city editor and he calls del Olmo and Ramos. It was not a happy time. Del Olmo and Ramos contacted me [at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner] to do their dirty work. They knew I was always looking for a story. I remember that thing, 'Round up your Mexicans and get in here.'
"Years later, when I recalled that for those guys [Frank and George], they were uptight about it. You have to go back to the history of Latinos in Los Angeles. This doesn't emotionally get to me in the way it does many Latinos because I did not grow up here. I guess the papers in Los Angeles in the '40s and '50s didn't deal with a number of civil rights issues in the best of ways. They were insensitive to Latino rights and not as fair as they could have been. They offended a lot of people, among them del Olmo's mother. He did a piece on how his mom refused to subscribe to the LA Times even after he was in the premiere position he was in. He quotes her saying, 'Mijo, let me know when you've written something and I will buy it at the newsstand.'
"She was part of that whole generation that felt the news media in their coverage of the Zoot Suit riots and the Sleepy Lagoon murders...had unfairly targeted Hispanics."
Luke: "Do you know if del Olmo had any relationship with Alisa Valdes Rodriguez and her famous flameout where she accused the LA Times of committing genocide against Latinos?"
Tony: "No. I will tell you this -- every Latino or Latina who has been hired at the Times has been approved by these guys. There's a reporter at the Washington Post since 1987, Reuben Castaneda, who grew up in El Monte, California, and graduated from USC around 1983, a time when the Times was looking right and left for bilingual Latino journalists with a knowledge of East Los Angeles. Reuben has no real sins against him except maybe he's a bad dresser, could never get hired at the LA Times. Reuben worked at the Herald Examiner for several years, left a year before its closing. He's wound up as a reporter of some note at the Washington Post. He's probably made a number of applications over the years to work at the LA Times. But he could not get approval from this Mexican Mafia that included Frank."
Luke: "I really want to tie Alisa's flameout to Frank."
Tony: "I don't know if you can. Those flameouts happen to people, sometimes good people. It's sad. She needs to deal with some issues."
Luke: "This Mexican Mafia. They weren't just looking for Latinos, they were looking for the right kind of Latinos, those Latinos who share their worldview."
Tony; "The excuse they finally used with Reuben was that he did not dress very well."
Luke: "Who were the other key members of the Mexican Mafia?"
Tony: "Anybody who worked there who was there for a length of time. Frank Sotomayor."
Luke: "Is the LA Times an ethnically balkanized place?"
Tony: "I was told that it was. You have an African American faction that at one point was stronger than the Latino faction."
Luke: "You said Frank had a love/hate relationship with the Times. What did he hate about the place?"
Tony: "That whole thing about, 'Bring your Mexicans in.' They were not happy campers about that. Remember how Frank threatened to walk off when the Times endorsed Governor Wilson? Frank was not happy when they canned George Ramos's page two or three column in the mid '90s. It was a curious choice of this veteran reporter to write this column. I remember Frank coming to me, 'George is about to lose his job.'
"I remember in the 1970s, Frank and I wondered if we were tokens, stuck in a little room as a Latino journalist. I was reporting a great deal on Latino affairs for the Dallas Morning News and for the Washington Post."
Luke: "Was Frank as obsessed with ethnicity as the tributes portray him? He seemed to be primarily about -- is it good my group."
Tony: "I don't know if it was like that consciously. He had a tremendous interest and involvement in those things. If you look at his columns from the time he started writing columns, that is all he ever wrote about. I don't think you can find a column [that wasn't about Latino concerns]. I think that possibly answers your question about how much of it was ethno-centric."
Luke: "Did he break any big stories?"
Tony: "He might have back in the seventies. He was a columnist and editorial writer when I came to Los Angeles in 1978."
Luke: "A columnist can break stories."
Tony: "Yeah. I thought his best work were the pieces on his son."
Luke: "Did you read the 1984 series on Latinos that won the Pulitzer Prize?"
Luke: "Did it contribute anything?"
Tony: "What was most monumental about that series was that the Times had never devoted that much space concentrated over that period of time to Latinos."
Luke: "Were they breaking stories or were they interminable like the New York Times series on race a few years ago?"
Tony laughs: "It was in that genre."
Luke: "A series to gain a prize, but it was hard to read."
Luke: "How long do you think we will have this ethnic balkanization in major American newspapers? Will we grow out of it in another generation?"
Tony: "A couple of generations. I think it will grow worse. What happened with Jayson Blair has made for some retrenchment of positions...
"I did a column on Frank around 1981 when he was picked as one of the guest [journalists] on Meet the Press. I think the issue was immigration. He happened to be the first Latino journalist to appear on that show. Frank was always living under the shadow of Reuben Salazar but here was something Reuben had never done. I don't know of too many other Latino journalists on Meet the Press. I can't think of one. It's not like you can look at the national political press and say there's one hispanic journalist who stands out. It's not like we've had a Carl Rowan [late black journalist on TV news and syndicated columnist]."
Luke: "Do you think Frank and the Mexican Mafia would've hired a Latino journalist who was a conservative Republican?"
Tony: "Hire is probably the wrong. If you went and asked them, they would say, 'We have no role in that. Except if someone is interviewing a potential hiree and comes to us and asks, 'Do you know so and so?'' But the reality is far beyond that. Would too many editors in this country in a hiring position hire someone who was a conservative Republican?
"When Robert Scheer was a young journalist covering a campaign, they would look upon him with a particular look because he didn't hide his leanings. And yet, after hours, he'd find these guys at the pub drinking, and once they'd had a few drinks in them, they too were pontificating about what was right and wrong. Scheer says this whole thing about objectivity in the media is bogus. You have these political reporters who have feelings that they think they are somehow submerging.
"I don't know too many conservative Republican journalists. Looking back on my career to the early '70s, I can only think of one. Jim Atkinson who was a political reporter at the Dallas Times Herald and helped found D - the magazine of Dallas. He writes for Texas Monthly. I don't know if he was a conservative, but he was a Republican.
"It used to be that almost any article on Latino issues was written by a Latino. But the best reporting I can recall on Caesar Chavez was by Roy Aarons, [a white Jew who now teaches at USC]. In the '70s, he was the West Coast reporter for the Washington Post.
"I published a book in 1974 by Dutton, Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican Americans. One of those books I haven't been able to live down. It's painted me into this corner. When I did the research for the book, I found the best stuff was by Roy Aarons.
"He was one of the first journalists, a few years ago, to come out of the closet.
"There was a group of young journalists who learned a great deal from him because he traveled throughout the Southwest. I remember meeting him when he came to Dallas and befriending him. The bottom line is you don't have to be Latino to do the definitive pieces on Latinos, just like you don't have to be black to do the definitive pieces on blacks, though you will get a lot of arguments there. The best quoted tract on American democracy was something written by a Frenchman [Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1830s]."
Who's The Number One Latino Journalist In US Today?
With the passing of Frank del Olmo, does the baton pass to Geraldo Rivera?
Hundreds Mourn Times Editor Frank del Olmo
The only person who has done more than Frank del Olmo to promote racial sensitivity in Los Angeles is Jesus Christ, who is starring in a great new film by Mel Gibson.
Frank del Olmo and Consciousness Raising
Rodger Jacobs writes Luke: "You want another lawsuit? Screwing around with Del Olmo and the L.A. Times is professional suicide, especially when you don't have anything except your own racial bias and hatred to fuel your "reporting". I don't know lately whether you need a good slap upside the head or an adjustment in your meds. Maybe both."
Tony Castro writes:
Robert Light writes:
Heather Mac Donald Update
Luke writes: "My friend Chaim says I must have an IQ of 185 if I carry on conversations with you... I'm concerned about your spiritual and physical welfare in that freezing city of great depravity. I think it is time you move to a more wholesome environment, like LA."
Heather replies: "Your friend Chaim must be counting in base 4. You have the NYC threat all backwards, though your concern is delightful: NY is only tolerable when skiiable. There have been little pinpricks of snow all day, but I am disconsolate that nothing has accumulated. Too darn warm, I guess. So you're right, there's absolutely no reason to stay here when the rain-drenched greening hills of S. Calif. beckon. I'm glad you have given me back a salvageable moral sense, despite your natural law theorist's friend's doubts. California is much more like a state of nature to try it out in."
Frank del Olmo And His Mexican Mafia
I never heard of Los Angeles Times' editor Frank del Olmo until I read his obituaries last week. I was taken aback by them because they clearly portrayed him as primarily a Latino activist in the guise of a journalist.
So I made some calls to people who know Latino journalism. Nobody can remember the last story del Olmo broke. Nobody can remember the last interesting column he wrote (with the possible exception of the ones on his son). Frank wrote regular columns for the Times for more than 20 years and virtually every one centered on Latino issues. He had little to say beyond his own ethnic obsession.
Frank del Olmo was essentially a Latino figurehead that the Times trotted around town to various civic events to make the paper look multi-cultural and diverse. He didn't actually do anything aside from run a Mexican Mafia in the paper that had veto power over new Latino journalist hires. Only those who suited Frank and the gang got hired. That meant a certain grace with clothing and manner, a left-of-center political ideology, and a shared obsession with Latino activism.
There's an even stronger Black Mafia at the Times that has veto power over the hire of new black reporters. They also must share the ideology and style of the ruling powers.
Why young women are exposing themselves: Part two
Mexican-Americans - Biggest Threat To Traditional American Identity?
The Hispanic Challenge
My accountant calls. "Congratulations on your big year. You will owe $6200 in federal taxes and about $2000 in state taxes."
Then we realize she's double-counted my income. Instead, I'll get a $2200 federal tax refund.
My date Monday night was excited to see President Bill Clinton speak at the University of Judaism speaker series at the Universal ampitheater.
As we walked in, we encountered extra long lines. The place seemed more packed than usual and I noticed Clinton excitement in the air.
Why Clinton and Roosevelt are so popular among Jews, I do not know.
I tell her to regard my long-running chastity and poverty as signs of my spiritual growth rather social ineptness. Knowing me for almost two years, she says I seem OK on my current medication levels. She enjoys how I try to provoke her, though occasionally I bring on a, "Stop being a boob" remonstrance.
David Poland, David Rensin and my date like my new hair color and length. "I've grown three inches," I boast.
My date says I will never marry.
The program starts 40 minutes late (normally it is 15 minutes). There are three interminable introductory speeches. The worst as usual is given by Dean Dina Shechter who drags in all sorts of inappropriate academic jargon. You can feel the place drain of energy.
Then Bob Dole comes on. Nobody stands to applaud him. He's funny. All his jokes hit. One of my least favorite Republican politicians along with Nixon, he conveys no insight.
Bill Clinton walks on. Ninety percent of the audience stands and welcomes him wildly. Then he starts speaking and he's a big fat bore. Few people are moved. Many people seem to have trouble staying awake.
He reminded me of the Clinton who went on and on at the 1988 Democratic convention.
Bob Dole steals the show.
My date, a huge Democrat, is greatly disappointed in Clinton's poor performance.
If I had my way, I would not have attended tonight or any of the speaker series (but I always do what a hot woman says) because I don't expect to learn anything from these guys that I can't read. I would go to see a great rabbi speak in person because I want to experience the holiness. Politicians I don't care about.
We leave early.
The REAL Luke Ford, as told to Chaim Amalek
I have known this man for many a year. Trust me. This is the straight dope on the man.
Luke Ford Fact File
Marital Status: Forever single but still looking (frantically)
Policy Positions: Abortion (by white women): Against
Luke Ford Fact File
Christian Name: Luke
El Shaddai writes:
Hollywood, Interrupted Interview With Authors Mark Ebner, Andrew Breitbart, Part Two
Mark: "I was laughing at Nancy Rommelman who juggled both parties (LA Weekly and LA Press Club). Johnathan Gold at the LA Weekly said that our party was where the libertarians were. Come on. You saw who was there [few libertarians, a politically mixed crowd]. We had a melting pot soup better than anything served up at Kate Mantilini afterward. Everybody was there and it was awesome. That little sniping from the LA Weekly. Come on guys, look out the window. There's a billboard overlooking your office. We don't care if you hype our book but you might like to read it."
Andrew: "I don't think our publisher, Wiley, understood how the Hollywood entertainment press worked."
Mark: "Luke, Wiley is where you are doing your book."
Andrew: "I knew that it would be an uphill battle to do the book the way we wanted to. Everybody wants gossip and everybody wants to distill this book down to gossip. If a person finishes this book and thinks that it is about gossip, their reading comprehension skills are not high. For all of its famed journalistic integrity, [Hollywood entertainment journalists] don't want to put this book out there for wide consumption because they are going to look bad. The LA Weekly crowd can be bitchy about Hollywood, but it is go along to get along."
Mark: "They've got Nikki Finke on board. There's a plus."
Mark: "When we were selling this book, we had offers that could've been richer coming to the table. After my first experience with Warner Books, we were not going to go with some conglomerate-owned publisher. Who's the woman doing the books with the porn stars? Judith Regan. There was interest there that would've been a helluva lot more than Wiley would've been willing to shell out. But look at what Judith Regan is doing. She's doing Jenna Jameson's books. Traci Lords' book. That's all well and good. You and I have been around the same circles for ages now. I have no problem getting into the mix with porn people. I think they're at least bare-boned honest about what they do.
"What Judith Regan succeeded in doing is branding pornography like MTV is. Jenna Jameson is a pundit now. Those books aren't even selling."
Andrew: "People who have a problem [with the gossipy nature] of our book have no problem with the Jenna Jameson books or putting Heidi Fleiss on CNN's Crossfire. They have no problem helping to redeem Heidi and allowing her to spew her nonsense. She said on that show that 99% of men are unfaithful, from my experience. Yes, in your industry, it is close to 100%."
Mark: "Coming out of the mouth of a whore... Of course.
"Kelly Preston, without rebutt, can get away with that soundbyte, 'Scientology rocks.' Our big news people are sitting there and not saying, "What rocks about it? What about that dead girl in Florida?'"
Andrew: "Scientology now goes before Congress and gets a lot of publicity about their anti-psychiatric medication campaign. They constantly frame this as the benevolent works of these celebrities. Scientology has positioned itself in a war against psychiatry and it uses celebrities as its pawns. The media will not tell you that part of the story. It's an insidious part of celebrity in news. The news world is not giving you the full picture."
Mark: "What would you rather do? Be on the couch of a psychiatrist or be hooked up to an E-meter? Americans need to know where the bodies are buried. One of them was strapped to a bed in a Clearwater hotel and starved and dehydrated to death."
Andrew: "The media held Kathy Lee Gifford accountable for her connection to a sweatshop in Central America. When something creepy goes on in Scientology, such as suing the Cult Awareness Network into bankruptcy, then Scientology takes over the Network. Now when somebody calls up the Cult Awareness Network, and says, 'My kid's in Scientology, what should I do?', and there's a Scientology person on the other end of the phone... That is worthy of a Prime Time Live hour-long investigation. But they will put on Anne Heche selling her book Call Me Crazy.
"Scientology has a place called the Celebrity Center. They admit they treat celebrities as a higher class."
Mark: "They are operating on the doctrine of a fat, college-dropout, adulterer, black-magic-practicioner, plagiarist, fat, balding, dreck named L. Ron Hubbard."
Andrew: "Is he overweight, Mark?"
Mark: "Kirsty Alley. Quote her. There's no such thing as a fat cell."
Andrew: "I swear to God, Mark, that you are setting your hefty coworker and you up for a killing if he uses this fat stuff. I don't want Luke making fun of my belly."
Mark: "I think he gets it that two fat Jews are sitting here railing against fat people. You know who would do that? Jeff Wells."
Luke: "How did you come to choose primarily political blurbs for your back cover?"
Andrew: "The last thing I wanted to do was to put this book out there and say, 'Please do me a favor and write the blurb.' I just sent this book out to people and said, 'I don't want you to give me a blurb because I know you. I only want you to do this if you are absolutely behind this book. The people who are most clued in to this situation are people who see it from a sociopolitical vantage. The people in Hollywood are not removed enough to have a perspective. I just knew that [the blurb writers on the back cover, including Mickey Kaus, Ann Coulter, Glenn Reynolds] in the light of the success of Bernard Goldberg's Bias, would say that we've taken on bias in media, let's take on the problems we have in Hollywood."
Mark: "This is the least log rolling you'll see. When this book was sent out, that's how they responded. There was no pleading. We sent it to 13 people and 12 weighed in. The 13th is a Hollywood producer. She didn't get past the first chapter. 'Ohmigod, what these guys are saying about abortion. F--- them. I'm not going to say anything.' One Hollywood lefty. Jane Hamsher."
Luke: "She wrote that one book about her producing that ended her career as a producer."
Mark: "She did get legs. She's still in From Hell (2001)."
Andrew: "We made fun of From Hell in the book. She was hit from a few different angles, but the very idea that we broached the subject of abortion in Hollywood. We didn't write from a pro-life vantage. Angelina Jolie's comment that she was pro-choice because her mother couldn't get an abortion when she was pregnant with me."
Luke: "You guys resemble the old Spy magazine. How come we've moved from a Spy magazine to a Vanity Fair [that sucks up to powerful celebrities]?"
Mark: "Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen [former editors of Spy] are the guys I started with. Graydon Carter has become the person he used to love to mock. Witness his annual bash at Mortons. I have to do Mapquest to stay out of the traffic on that night."
Andrew: "It's shocking to me the degree to which Graydon Carter became a star f-----. When I graduated from college, I saw no greater calling than Spy magazine. When I met Mark and found out he was writing a Spy magazine cover stories, and the most controversial ones such as infiltrating Scientology... I hope we move towards that ideal. Because of Graydon Carter's getting to the place where he apparently always wanted to get... He used Spy as a means to get to the top. When you get to the top, you start acquiescing."
Mark: "Remember when Kurt Andersen launched Inside.com? I wanted to his launch party in the middle of the tech boom. He gave this press conference. I got up in the back row. Keep in mind that I inherited the Celia Brady [notorious Spy magazine column dishing the dirt on Hollywood]. I wrote Usual Suspects and the industry column. Celia, whoever that may be, started something great, and I put my own stamp on it.
"I said, 'Hey Kurt, are you going to bring back Celia Brady?' And he started waffling. I realized, Inside? Inside my asshole. I knew it right then he was going to play ball with the inside. It wasn't going to be inside outside. It was going to be inside, you rub my back, I'll rub yours. He failed and he should've failed. He writes good books."
Andrew: "The problem with this book is that people are going to begin to ask, what is the solution? And that is so far above our pay grade, I can't begin to answer. The problem is bigger than we are describing it. The best analogy I can give you is that there isn't a checks and balances. In Hollywood, it is all about going along to get along. That includes the press, the movie studios, the record studios, the TV studios, the synergy... In Washington, you have journalists who are adversarial. They have two daily papers with distinct editorial positions, the Washington Post and the Washington Times. Could you describe to me the difference in the editorial position between the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The Los Angeles Times? They are just just playing up what could be advertisements - so-and-so got promoted. There's nothing that remotely resembles adversarial journalism.
"In the old days in Hollywood, the adults were in charge. If there was a celebrity with issues, the studio knew that it was in the best interest of the star and the studio and society at large not to promote said celebrity's excesses. Now studio brass don't care about how celebrities behave. They're promoting reality television shows that highlight the worst of human behavior. With fewer places to do three-act plays, the celebrities are now competing with the reality stars to show how low they can go."
Mark: "Look at the myth recreation. Graydon Carter produced 'The Kid Stays in the Picture.' [A documentary on producer Robert Evans.] It's a myth recreation. Oliver Stone did his Fidel Castro thing and allowed Fidel final cut."
Andrew: "Rich powerful people are promoting the absolute worst of human nature, including communism."
Mark: "Luke, if you were a Premiere magazine editor who was interviewing me now, you'd probably say, 'Mark, America loves its myths. Why do you guys want to rain on the party? Do you think people really want to see these myths shattered?' Whether they want to see it or not, here it is. Do you know what a relief it is to finally tell these stories? One day we will sit down and I will show you my kill file. I'll show you everything that never got published for one reason or another. It's all back channeled. You've got some jerkoff named Peter Herbst at the helm of Premiere magazine. He came over from Family Circle. He doesn't know Hollywood. The milquetoast, Jim Meigs, lived in Scarsdale or Westchester County [outside New York]. He wasn't working the beat of Hollywood. Why don't you just buy a billboard and fold your advertorial magazine?
"Thanks to Wiley, we were able to get this book out the way we wanted. You know what would've happened if this had been a Simon & Schuster imprint or Warner imprint."
Andrew: "The same thing as happened with Deborah Norville. Or like The New York Times did with us today. Wow, this book isn't light and fluffy gossip. Even the NY Times has become accustomed to that. It's so dark that nobody wants to look at the elephant in the middle of the room. Every one of these outlets is compromised."
Mark: "We assail the media for their very complicity. Are we frustrated? Not really. We're having a ball. That party last night was witness to that."
Andrew: "We could've done this book and taken out the media complicity stuff. We could've just done a laundry list of the celebrity misbehavior. But the real story here is how the media plays into it. They like dishing the dirt on the stars... We think there's an alternative media out there, the Internet and talk radio, who will force the subject to percolate into the mainstream media."
Luke: "I can't find anything in the New York Times about your book."
Mark: "You will find a blurb over the weekend [nope]. They were going to do a big thing on it but they deemed it too political.
"Luke, remember the publisher of New Times Los Angeles? Mike Lacey. He came to LA and started New Times with the edict, 'I don't want any stories about sex or religion.' He moved to the Hollywood Hills, got a house, lived here for two months, and he started ordering up sex and religion stories. That's where you've been, Luke, the entire time. He realized what you get. You have the freedom to do it on whatever shoestring you're pulling. Look what happened to New Times. Poof, in a backdoor agreement with the LA Weekly.
"Andrew has been drilling me to come to the Internet. I'm still on AOL."
Andrew: "It's embarrassing, isn't it?"
Luke: "You didn't take on the gay mafia in this book."
Mark, who wrote a famous 1995 piece for Spy magazine on that topic: "After what happened... It wasn't substantial enough. The reason I've been so cagey about that this whole time (I've asked Mark a dozen times over the years for a couple of that original article and he's never come through)... The editors at Spy magazine lopped off my last thousand words, which were my thesis: Wouldn't it be great if everybody were out of the closet? There would be no gay Mafia There would be no glass ceilings in Hollywood. Spy's edict was -- we're taking it out because we are not an apologist magazine. So I felt, this comes off like a homophobic rant and that's not who I am. I took it to Michelangelo Signorile (famous gay activist and columnist who has led the way in outing closeted homosexuals as part of his agenda to normalize homosexuality) and I issued an apology for what was printed. My point was obscured.
"We didn't need to take on the gay Mafia We needed to take on the people who had been paying my rent for the last 20 years. Media complicity."
Andrew: "My only regret with the book is that we didn't cover the executives, the Sumner Redstones of the world. This is the world they've created and not many people hold them accountable.
"Susan Sarandon claimed in 1991 that she did not get nominated for an Oscar for her opposition to the first Gulf War. Her movie was White Palace, that piece-of-s--- with James Spader where she played a waitress. The media didn't hold her accountable then. There's a difference between 1991 and Internet talk radio America 2004. Celebrities are now hearing some feedback for their outlandish points of view."
Mark: "They think we're all asshole. No, we're just working journalists in search of an outlet."
Andrew: "Challenging the entertainment class is just as important as challenging the political class."
Heeb — A Slur Of A Magazine