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Cathy Seipp Part One Cathy Seipp Roast

Cathy Seipp's daughter "Cecile Du Bois" writes: Cathy Seipp is perhaps one of the wittiest writers in America, yet she is not well known. She attacks the media under the guise of Margo Magee, yet she later took her guise and attacked the media with full flame. She harms no one and cracks the funny bones of all the educated people in America. She is a born New Yorker yet she stayed and built her nest in LA after ex-husband left her.

Jerry Journalist says she strengthened her exterior after the divorce. She did not grow colder, yet she grew more wary of the world, and did not let people scrutinize her. She wrote better, and was a "don't mess with me" type, yet she would show her soft sides when her friends were around her. She make numerous friends, yet few were true blue. I am a friend of a friend of Cathy, and have known her for almost 15 years.

With her "friends", the people who she was fond of, yet was not interested in, she would take them out to lunch or dinner for etiquette, and would survive 3-4 hours of them. She would later tell me and her other friends how they were not....interesting. I should not really say this, but she sometimes could be insensitive and not know it. Overall, she is a great friend to know.

Cathy has a cousin, who is close to her. Marion Rosenbaum is also a great friend to have. Sometimes I see her at parties, and she is always talking to someone. She is not as well-known as Cathy but she is also talented. She acts in improv plays, and does occasional comics for The La Times. Cathy loves her dearly and Mari comes over for dinner sometimes. She should be a fashion designer, with her vintage outfits and becoming shoes. I saw Mari in a movie about 15 years ago, she has this essence of an actress that is very enjoyable to watch. I wish I could see Mari again sometimes, but she always busy, acting in improv plays around Beverly Hills.

If you really get to know Cathy, or just meet her, she will change your life. With her blue eyes poring over your face, expecting an intelligible answer, she will begin reciting anecdotes that she has told at least 50 other people. I was her roommate for a while, when I got evicted from my apartment in Echo Park, and I would hear her always laughing hysterically until she had a coughing fit, and telling anecdotes about seeing a squirrel or a coyote, and I would laugh in the background, even if it were the umpteenth time. Its just nice hearing Cathy laugh and chat; its a very homey sound.

Her cooking is superb. I still remember the Egg Drop Soup she made on my birthday, and the turkey meatloaf on New Years. The spicy arugula on pasta, and the fresh squeezed grapefruit juice she concocted in the midsummer. I stayed with Cathy for six months, and celebrated special occasions with her. I may not be her closest friend, but I sure am fond of her.

An Interview With Ray Richmond

I speak by phone 12/20/02 with longtime entertainment journalist and current Hollywood Reporter TV critic Ray Richmond of Hollywood Pulse.

Ray: "I worked at the Los Angeles Daily News from 1978-85 (I wrote features and in my last year was a TV critic, then had a second go-round from 1992-96), where I first met Cathy Seipp. She wrote a column called Hot Tips. She was a breath of fresh air. I thought, Wow, she's as cynical and nasty as I am in her writing. I was impressed. We've had a mutual admiration thing the past 20 years.

"She's completely fearless as a journalist. When you meet her, you expect to get something different - this old cynical cigar-chomping bitch and she's completely not that way at all. She's very feminine in her way and gentle and dainty. It's like this whole other creature comes out in her writing.

"She has journalistic integrity. She knows that if you get too cozy with someone so that you can't write something negative about them when it is true, then you shouldn't be a journalist.

"I remember one time when I wrote a radio column in the Los Angeles Daily News. I said something nice about KIIS-FM in 1983 and the general manager Wally Clark sent me a case of Dom Perignon champagne. I'm in my early twenties, and suddenly this $800 gift arrives on my doorstep. I had to accept it but I felt so guilty I gave every bottle away and took to writing nasty things about them as often as possible to prove that I wasn't bought."

Luke: "How would you gauge the reactions to Cathy's columns among your media friends?"

Ray: "There's a mix of awe and confusion and hostility in equal measure. I don't know that many people now who read her UPI column. I'm on her email list. It's a shame that column doesn't go out to more people. UPI has been dying for 25 years. She gets paid so little compared to how good she is. She's the smartest and snappiest column-writer I've ever met. I've never met anybody whose prose so perfectly matches their conversational ability. She'd rather make less money and write the way she wants, even though she's a homeowner and mother."

Luke: "She turns out a lot of copy?"

Ray: "Yeah. She'll tell you too that it is never easy. It's not like she just whacks it out. She still feels it's like pulling teeth."

Luke: "Are there types of journalists who react to her differently?"

Ray: "The people who are hostile to her work have either been the recipient of her poison pen or they are uncomfortable with her brutal honesty. There are a lot of people in journalism who like to tiptoe around the minefields. She doesn't tiptoe. She stomps. She doesn't carry on a double-life. I respect someone who is the same way to your face as they are in print."

Luke: "What distinguishes her from the typical mealy-mouthed media criticism?"

Ray: "She isn't afraid to say what she feels in her head. She doesn't have a self-censor button. She takes pride in ruffling feathers. I have more fears in my writing than she does. I know that I sometimes tread carefully. Cathy says what is in her heart and then lets the chips fall where they may."

Luke: "Do you think this has come back to hurt her career?"

Ray: "I'm sure it has hurt her. I'm sure she can't get hired to do much at the LA Times because of that. I think there's something so wonderful about being able to speak your mind even if you are laying in the gutter with a bottle of Ripple because no one will hire you anymore but you know did the job as honestly as you could. That would be a career well-served and a life well-lived. There are few persons like her who will be able to look back and say, I followed what was in my heart and in my head.

"There are few people who I think are my equal in being able to write and she's unfortunately much better than me. I aspire to be as good as Cathy."

Luke: "Normally the way to play the game is to kowtow to those who can help you."

Ray: "Yes, and shift over to writing scripts. Entertainment writers are humping the leg of people they talk to."

Luke: "Doesn't (New York Times correspondent) Bernie Weinraub have scripts floating around? Peter Bart."

Ray: "Bill Carter at the New York Times. He wrote The Late Shift on HBO and Monday Night Mayhem on TNT. And he's the chief TV reporter for the NY Times writing about the institutions he has written movies for. It's mind-boggling.

"There are no sacred cows for Cathy. If she did have sacred cows, she couldn't be nearly as free and lively as she is. I have had sacred cows. I'm not proud of that. There have been forces I have kowtowed to. I have a column called "The Pulse" in the Hollywood Reporter every Tuesday. I was able to trash the sh-- out of Jennifer Lopez three weeks ago. I wrote what a media whore she was, what a marketing-created nothing she was. It was a trade saying she was a phoney, a Julia Roberts wannabe. I just thought, goddamn that's good. Cathy has those victories regularly.

Luke: "You have different constraints. You write for a trade. You're in-house."

Ray: "If there's anything you can do to not toe the company line of Hollywood promotion, you're a success. I throw the bodies around when I'm writing reviews. You're supposed to use kid gloves because the people who did the thing are reading it.

"Cathy likes me because I'm semi-fearless. She would've been like [gossip columnists] Dorothy Kilgallen of 50 years ago. Cathy's got this way about her that you want to tell her things."

Ray and I talk about the parties Cathy throws with Amy Alkon.

Ray: "I've never gone. I hear they are good parties. I've got three kids. I'm a big family guy so it's hard for me to get out to parties. It's also probably held back my career a little bit. I don't really do the meet and greet thing that much but I admire people who are good at it."

A Conversation With Amy Alkon About Cathy Seipp

I first met Cathy Seipp and Amy Alkon (along with Ross Johnson, Jill Stewart, Rick Barrs, the crowd from Reason magazine and former Buzz magazine editor Allan Mayer) in the fall of 2001 at one of their writer-get-togethers at a Beverly Hills pub.

I call Amy Friday afternoon 12/13/ to get some dish on her friend Cathy. Amy operates the website www.advicegoddess.com.

Phone rings.

Amy answers: "Bad girl!"

She reproves a barking dog. "Lucy, bad girl!

"Oh, I cannot believe this. As soon as you call, the world starts revolving backwards. I haven't had a moment to breath today. I have ADD today. "

Luke: "How do you know Cathy?"

Amy: "I was writing a column from Los Angeles for the New York Daily News. She was writing a column for the New York Press called "A Letter From LA."

"I'm mean and critical and think very little writing I see is good, but I thought her column was so funny, I wrote her [in 1999] a fan letter. That's how we got to be friends."

Luke: "How did you come to host the writer things with Cathy?"

Amy: "I missed my New York life where I'd go to a bar near my house and always meet some fascinating person to talk to. We held the first one at my house for Ron Rosenbaum's book, The Secret Parts of Fortune, a collection of his New York Observer columns. We put together my friends and her friends and it seemed like everyone had a lot to say. We tried to be coercive to get everyone to buy a book."

Luke: "Does Cathy's personality change when she drinks?"

Amy: "Does Cathy drink? No. I think she'll have a glass of wine. Cathy does not have a Sybil side. What you see is what you get. She's not different around different people. She's always Cathy."

Luke: "She's grounded."

Amy: "Yeah. Pragmatic. Honest. She wrote a column about American Idol. She didn't feel compelled to knock it in that phoney intellectual way so many writers would. She writes the smartest stuff about pop culture, plus there's always something absolutely unexpected and hilarious in her column. I only wish the general populace in LA could read her stuff in the LA Times. You have to get it on the net at upi.com.

"I have a short attention span and little patience and if it's not good writing, I can't read it. I'm the best acid test for good writing because I can't get through more than two paragraphs of most stuff...

"Both of us have written about LA for NY papers because we're both apparently persona non grata [with the LA media aka the LA Times].

"I was having problems meeting men. I work from home. The FedEx guy seems gay. The guy who reads the meters is 5' tall and married to somebody named Consuela. I thought, 'I'm an advice columnist. I have a problem. Why don't I solve it?' So I put an ad for a man in the LA Times. It was a display ad in the front section. I had to blackmail [editors] Michael Parks and Leo Wolinsky to get it in.

"I wanted to write this story about what happened from my ad. I had done one piece for them about my stolen car, which had won an award. The Times wouldn't take my story. I ended up writing a ten-piece series for the NY Daily News which won first place, beating the LA Times, in the California Journalism Awards."

Luke: "Are some people intimidated about meeting her because she is so acerbic in her writing? I know I was intimidated."

Amy: "She doesn't suffer fools gladly. I think people know that. So when fools see her coming, they scurry in the other direction.

"Cathy has a strong sense of justice. When people have bad manners, it makes her angry. When people aren't decent in the common ways... When things are absurd, she's perturbed. When things are unfair..."

Luke: "Have you guys gone on a double date together?"

Amy: "Oh no. No one asks me out. The state of men and women in LA is so awful. That's why I put the ad in."

Luke: "I couldn't get anything from Cathy on her dating life."

Amy: "I couldn't tell you anything. Many of us in LA don't have one.

"Women who are accomplished and aren't looking for a guy with a house in Brentwood and a Mercedes, and they don't need someone to pay for everything and be daddy, it's intimidating to men. Some men feel safer with women who want them for the wrong reasons, like the cash and the car. Men know these women will stick around. If women are only with them because they like them, then the moment the women stop liking them, the women will leave.

"I was the person who passed the news of the Staples scandal [when the LA Times unannounced went into business with the Staples Center on a special issue in its Sunday paper] to Rick Barrs at New Times LA (after asking permission of the person at the Times who told me).

"I keep secrets so people tell me everything. I know which of my friends are cross-dressers [not Cathy].

"I'm a little bit angry that the LA Times hasn't changed that much with the new management.

"I introduced myself to Jon Carroll [LA Times editor] when he came to town as the person who revealed the Staples thing. I approached him again at that thing at the LA Press Club December 3rd. I told him I was disturbed that any editor would be 'content' with what they have [an LA Times editor told Amy not to send her any more pitches]. He responded by email along the lines of, 'Apparently you have sent query letters and pitches a number of times to our editors.'

"Isn't it your job as an editor to field stuff from writers? I told Carroll that I was disturbed that the LA Times did not value persistence.

"I gave Carroll some samples of my stories and copies of Maria Elana Fernandez's piece 'Single in the City' [printed in the LA Times], which is just crap. I wrote to Carol, if you tell me that my work is not better than what you are running, I will never bother you again.

"I criticized them for not hiring anyone from New Times LA when it folded, like Jill Stewart or Susan Goldsmith. They don't want writers who are a pain in the ass like me. They want docile writers. I pointed out that the paper sucks. I pointed out that David Shaw wrote about alternative papers [in his weekly column in Sunday's paper on the media] and used Pogo as a reference. Pogo is what Grandpa read as a child. I told Carrolll that anyone who wrote about the alternative press using Pogo as a reference should be put out to pasture with an LA Times cowbell around its neck.

"He sent me this weary reply. "Thanks, Amy. Yes, I know that not all our articles are brilliant. We're working on it. Regards, John."

"If people find Cathy intimidating, they don't know her. She's sweet and nice and generous. I'll talk about some prank I've pulled at one of our writergirl breakfasts and she will say, 'You should write that up. And here's who you should send it to.' When she had lunch with [the deputy managing editor in charge of features] John Montorio [in March at the Times executive dining room, the former Picasso room], she said, 'You should run Amy Alkon.' When she likes people and thinks they're good, she goes out of her way for people.

"Almost nobody does that. For most writers, it's all about them. But she's secure enough, she can do that.

"Marnye Oppenheim wrote the 'Bite Me' column for New Times LA. Cathy liked her work and recommended her for the new Dick Riordan paper."

Cathy Seipp On Amy Alkon's Dating Travails

Catherine Seipp writes for www.mediaweek.com: My favorite current example [about the blindness in LA media] is the aftermath of the small display personal ad Amy "Ask the Advice Goddess" Alkon placed in the Times a couple of months ago advertising (in a tongue-in-cheek way) her "large hooters, I.Q." and headlined "Advice Goddess Wants a Man."

Alkon, whose advice column runs in 70-odd alternative papers, had to fight with Times brass to get them to run the ad at all, and especially with that problematic business about "hooters."

So what happened after the ad ran? If this isn't a story, I don't know what is, but naturally the Times--along with our generally soporific other local media--dropped the ball. For the past six weeks, however, Amy's been serializing her dating adventures in the New York Daily News features section.

Dating troubles are universal, but Amy Alkon lives here. So why, as usual, am I reading an interesting L.A. story in a New York publication?

The Scoop On Catherine Seipp

I asked various journalists around town for their comments on Cathy Seipp. Picture (from Jewish World Review) Picture (from Written By, the WGA magazine)

Allan Mayer writes: "When I started Buzz magazine back in 1990, my goals included (1) showcasing writers with interesting sensibilities and distinctive voices, and (2) finding someone who could subject the LA Times to the scrutiny (and skewering) it deserved. Cathy came through brilliantly on both counts. Even though I didn't always agree with her conclusions, her fearlessness. honesty, and wit were (and still are) awesome to behold. There are very few things in my career as an editor of which I am more proud than the extent to which I was able to give this exceptional journalist a platform."

Los Angeles Times writers David Shaw and Robert Scheer did not answer my email requests for comment on Cathy. Author Greg Critser did not return my calls.

I pray that the subjects of their interview requests treat them with the same courtesy they extended to me.

LA Times' TV critic Howard Rosenberg writes: "I'll pass."

LA Times' TV columnist Brian Lowry writes: "I'm at best a casual reader of her work, there must be someone who has a stronger opinion."

LA Times' media writer Tim Rutten writes: "Dear Mr. Ford: I'm afraid I can't be of any help. I've never met her."

Though Rutten has never met her, it doesn't stop him from writing in his column about her writing.

Irene Lacher, who freelances for the LA Times, writes: "Thanks for considering me, but I think I'll pass."

LA Times editor Robin Abacarian writes: "Hi. I appreciate that you have a job to do, but I am very sorry, I won't be able to help you. Good luck with your story."

Author Daniel Akst, who's normally a chatty Cathy about Cathy, gave me a cold shoulder when I asked for an interview. He replies to my request: "Luke, I love Cathy, but I'm not sure what I could add to your comprehensive coverage."

I hope Dan Akst gets such answers when he makes interview requests.

Jeffrey Wells writes: "I don't know her at all, really. She's a good egg. She invites me to writer parties that she and Amy Alkon put on."

David Poland says: "Cathy is like the Glenda, The Good Witch Of LA Journalism... of course, we also get to see this Glenda when she's had a long day, her feet hurt and she's seen too much in her crystal ball."

James Romenesko writes: "I always liked linking to Cathy because her writing is so honest and passionate. I was saddened when she left Mediaweek because I lost an always-worth-linking weekly columnist. She's a rare one!"

Ross Johnson writes: "I first met Cathy Seipp when I wandered into Buzz magazine in 1995. The stars at Buzz were the columnists; Cathy, Sandra Loh, Jill Stewart, Holly Palance, Steven Gaines, etc. Cathy was the oxymoron, the "LA media critic." As Margo McGee, she took shots at the LA Times. If Cathy would have done the same thing in NYC to the NY Times, she'd be a household name. But in LA, it was a job akin to the Maytag repairman, where Cathy had to stand alone and take a lot of heat.

"What people forget about Cathy is that, not only is she a great writer and good person, she's a hell of a reporter. If she takes you on, you're in trouble, because she's no loose cannon. That's why people get so pissed at her. When she writes something snarky about you, it's usually true! And how can you not love a woman who gives you her Zoloft because she's too damn tough to get depressed?"

Journalist Nancy Rommelmann writes: "Cathy has convictions about everything, convictions that can startle you, even if you think they’re total hooey. Example: In 1997, we were at a Buzz contributors’ lunch, and I mentioned I was set to write a piece about how Vegas was becoming kid-friendly, and that a friend and I were going to take our kids there for the weekend. “But that’s a sin,” boomed Cathy from across the table, Moses decreeing over tuna tartar at Maple Drive. I thought this was hilarious—I actually thought she was kidding—but she was seriously indignant, and repeated, “It’s a sin.” Why? Who the hell knows why? I thought she was a fundamentalist, or had something personally against me, but no, she was simply having a conviction; if it weren’t kids and Vegas, it would have been the rye bread, or Tom Christie’s [the Culture columnist as Buzz, and is now Arts Editor/Senior Editor at the LA Weekly] shirt. I think Cathy is sort of like that friend of your parents’ who intimidates you when you’re little, but who, once you realize she simply doesn’t varnish things, you want to hang around with, because she makes the other grown-ups seem sort of mushy.

"I also think Cathy is true blue, and seriously has her friends’ best interests at heart. At lunch recently, when Cathy asked me about my health insurance status, and I admitted I hadn’t gotten around to it, she put down her fork and fixed the laser-beam blue eyes on me. “You need to promise me you will do this today” she said. I did."

Emmanuelle Richard writes: "This woman is awesome, she's a role model for me: she is so brilliant and funny, very self-reliant, sexy and feminine. A very good friend too. And she has a healthy self-esteem, in the sense that she's strong, she doesn't let herself be crushed by anything. With her, there's always a solution to everything. Pantry moths in our kitchen, problems to getting health insurance, wrist pain, you name it: you mention it to Cathy and she knows exactly where you should shop for moth traps, how and where you should apply for health coverage or which type of wrist-rest device you could use to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Not to mention work-related advice, like the ones she gave in her media column for Salon. Like this one about how you need to drop badly paid jobs to start making a living as a freelancer."

Matt Welch writes: I LOVE CATHY SEIPP!!!!

Actually, a key to understanding Cathy is that she grew up in suburban Los Alamitos, along the border between LA & Orange counties, a naval-weapons-station away from Seal Beach. Of course, I exaggerate the importance of that wildly, because *I* grew up not far away from that.

Cathy is one of the most faithful practitioners to journalism's key commandment: Thou Shalt Be Entertaining. I can't remember ever reading something by her that wasn't at least amusing, or provocative, or pleasing to the senses. On the occasions she has written about things of which I have somewhat intimate knowledge -- say, the "blogging community in LA," or whatever -- she has always gotten it right, both factually and in terms of tone. This is no small achievement, as you know yourself, being someone who has been written about a time or two.

For me, one of the best things about moving back to Southern California after eight years away has been getting to know Cathy Seipp. She's real generous with help (for instance, she's always getting on me about improving my health insurance), she's enthusiastic about getting out and meeting people, and she isn't the least bit cynical, which is rare among journalists older than me. She's also perfectly willing and eager to interview people she's criticized in the past, and let them pound on her if that's what they want to do. Many people who write critically are of the hit-and-run school; Cathy's number is listed, and she will evade no one.

Am I kissing her ass too much? Too bad. She's a good pal, and one of the best examples of a top LA journalist who does good work almost exclusively for out-of-state publications. One of the joys about plotting new publications here, is to imagine people like Cathy writing about her hometown, for her hometown.

The Best Of Cathy Seipp

I found this bio of Cathy Seipp on the Salon.com archives: Catherine Seipp who writes the Hollywoodland column every Friday for Media Circus, did not always live a life of semi-glamour. She was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and grew up in Los Alamitos, Calif., where the 605 and the 405 freeways meet. Because her mother did not believe in 12th grade (or so she said!), at age 16 Seipp was sent up the 405 to UCLA, where she worked on the Daily Bruin, wrote book reviews for the Los Angeles Times (still her favorite newspaper, at least west of the Rockies) and graduated with a B.A. in English.

Although you would not think it to look at her, Seipp was once a fashion editor -- for the Daily News of Los Angeles, where she also wrote a popular seven-days-a-week column called Miss Hot Tips in the early '80s. She has freelanced for many magazines for many years and these days is particularly fond of Worth.

Before joining Salon, Seipp contributed perverse media and Hollywood coverage to the old Buzz magazine from 1992 to 1997. Her former monthly column there dissecting the Los Angeles Times means that, sadly, she is still unwelcome at the Times cafeteria, one of her favorite places. But now and then the cranky retired Timesmen known as the Old Farts Society break their no women rule and invite her to lunch.

Cathy Seipp writes 12/11/02 for UPI.com: "And how I wish Grandma were alive again, bringing me a big plate of macaroni and cheese out to the pool while I lazily read magazines in the sun, and that my five-years-older aunt (Grandma's unexpected late-life daughter) was still a snotty teenager refusing to go swimming with me, instead of bossily giving me sponge baths in the hospital like she did last summer, a place that at age 12 I never NEVER thought I'd ever spend much time."

Cathy Seipp writes 11/27/02 for UPI.com: "I tried (and, thank God, failed, but not without a certain amount of humiliation) to get my daughter into a prestigious girls' middle-school here in Los Angeles. Two years ago, I was making more money than I am now and was briefly deluded that my daughter, then 11, should go to Marlborough, an elite girls school in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles."

Cathy Seipp writes 8/7/02: "I find Drudge sometimes annoying, with the manners of a squid, for reasons I might as well admit right now because the bloggers have already noted it. "La tres persistente Cathy Seipp a suer pour obtenir une interview de Drudge pour Penthouse, sans succès," French blogger Emmanuelle Richard wrote on Emmanuelle.net a while ago, after hearing me complain about Drudge at a party -- and believe me, the whole story sounds better in French."

Cathy writes 4/24/02: My 7th-grade daughter is at the age where practically everything her father does seems unbearably dorky and exasperating. So I've gotten used to hearing her complain.

Still, I was taken aback the other day when she asked, "Why'd you marry Daddy anyway -- was it just because he was circumcised?"

"I'd never marry a man who wouldn't get circumcised," my daughter said firmly. "And also, he'd have to promise to eat salmon three times a week, for his arteries."

Cathy Seipp writes for New York Press: Madonna is exactly my age and therefore I’ve watched her closely over the years. My mother used to do the same thing with Angie Dickinson in the 70s, tuning in to Police Woman every week just to keep tabs on Angie’s figure. I was curious to see how my age doppelganger looked in real life.

Some time ago, my father and I were sitting on a bench outside a Los Angeles courtroom. We’d just finished testifying for my ex-husband in his custody trial with his #2 ex-wife.

"She’s a horny broad," my father remarked, about the #2 ex-wife’s lawyer. I could feel a headache coming on. "Why do you say that?"

"Because when she asked me a question I didn’t want to answer, I said, ‘Well, you know, I’m 70 years old, and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be.’

"Then she stared at me and said, ‘Hmm, you look pretty good for 70.’"

I closed my eyes, wishing I had a Tylenol. "Yeah, Dad, she wants your bod," I said. Obviously, she just wasn’t buying his Clintonian answer. But then my eyes snapped open again with a sudden thought. That lawyer looked like she was in her mid-50s. And the man shortage at that age being what it is... Probably, I realized, she did want his bod. And why should he not think so, given how Hollywood encourages this attitude? So far, he’s seen As Good As It Gets three times.

I could see my future, and it wasn’t pretty. I think that’s when I started my eyebag fund.

Cathy Seipp writes in Reason magazine that zero tolerance policies threaten the health of children with asthma. Many schools require students to leave asthma inhalers at the nurse's office, so they're not available in an emergency. Cathy's daughter had an attack in 5th grade. The teacher yelled at her for using the inhaler in class.

Cathy writes: "I spoke to Ivanhoe's (the school's) then-principal, Kevin Baker. He said I'd been "breaking the law" for five years by keeping the inhaler in the backpack instead of in the office, and that he would "confiscate" it if he found it there in the future. If the school had allowed this before, he said, it was an oversight. "So now what we need to do," he explained, in a sing-songy, Romper Room voice, "is set up a series of intervention meetings to help you understand our concerns about you breaking the law." My arguments about doctor's orders went nowhere. "When your daughter is at school," Principal Baker said, "I am the ultimate authority concerning her health.""

Cathy eventually got the school district to tell the principal he was out of line.

Why There Are No Gossip Columnists In LA

Catherine Seipp writes for UPI.com 1/16/02: Many years ago the Los Angeles Times had an excellent gossip columnist named Joyce Haber, but she's never been replaced.

"Someone told me that when news of Joyce Haber's death reached Morton's people applauded," said MSNBC gossip correspondent Jeannette Walls, who's written a book about the history of her trade called "Dish: The Inside Story On the World of Gossip."

"The main thing to remember is LA is essentially a one-industry town, so you'd have to be a complete masochist to be a gossip columnist here," Walls told me during one of her Hollywood visits. "It'd be a very dangerous game in this town. If you're going to go around beating hornets nests, it's fine if you don't live among the hornets."

There's also a deep vein of if-you-can't-say-something-nice attitude running through in Los Angeles journalism. If you doubt this, try saying something not-so-nice here -- something that wouldn't make anyone blink in New York or London -- and see how quickly you get called "mean-spirited."

"Ab-so-LUTE-ly," agreed Walls. "I feel like I'm an evil invader when I come out here. "And journalists are the most sensitive and thin-skinned of anyone. To think that Matt Drudge of all people took offense at how he was portrayed in my book..."

When Will Luke Get His Balls Back?

Chaim Amalek writes 1/3/03: Lay off the Jill [Stewart] and Cathy stuff already - it goes way past your usual gay slant and now seems stalkerish.

Re LA Journalism, please leave some droppings for your East Coast readers, who neither know nor care to know what the LA Times does or does not print. It is a commonly held belief out here that Hollywood controls LA publishing, and nobody here ever quotes the LA Times for anything. (But I'll bet lots of Hollywood Jews begin a sentence every now and then with "I read in the New York Times this morning that . . .")

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 LA? 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 LA Times to hire her. It's just a crying shame that New Times LA f--ked up and she lost her real estate.

Memories Of Jill Stewart, Sandra Tsing Loh and Cathy Seipp

Cecile du Bois writes 1/4/03: Dear Mr. Ford, I remember Jill Stewart floating on a raft in the Pasadena Ritz Carlton pool with Cathy and I, as we pulled her around the pool. Since she was very fair and had flaming red hair, we had to keep her in the sun. Cathy and I probably felt like ladies in waiting and Jill, our lady queen. She is smart and clever. She would tell us hysterical and nonsensical instances she heard of like when a principal nearly stepped on a child's head. I would pick up New Times weekly as I would tread out of shops in LA. With her fiery red hair and pale pallor over her humorous wit, I am fond of Jill Stewart.

Sandra Tsing Loh is also a nice witty woman. Mother and wife, she juggles changing diapers, entertaining her friends and touring on her hilarious one woman plays nationally. Her little cheery parties take place beside her backyard pool. Her loyal husband, Mitch*, a musician in his small band, along with her sister, Tonya* help her out. Cracking sarcastic jokes and anecdotes along with Cathy and some other friends, Sandra leads the party.

In response to Mr. X, no, she does not have horrendous table manners. She eats better than the queen of England of herself, and even better than you! Her language is so eloquent and stylized that if she heard of Mr. X, she would be astonished. Her aim is to entertain people and lead a healthy life, not to corrupt reader's minds with garbage. If it were the fifties, Sandra would qualify.

Amy Alkon, with her red curly hair, is your typical fresh in fashion Jew from Detroit. Her mid-west wit and and spunk make her unique and her language, sarcastic with sensitivity. Being around her is better than being well travelled. If you want to go to Paris, but just want the adventure, stay home and hang around Amy. She will tell you stories that will make you cry from laughter. She once had a boyfriend, Gaston* from France. He had a defiant look in his eye that seemed to challenge people with the message "Don't talk to me, I am haughty." But under that veneer, he seemed quite friendly. But, on the other hand, all he would offer was handshake, and a "How do you do?" Amy was quite a character.

Lukeford.net - Watching A Car Wreck

A Times Writer writes 1/4/03: Dear Mr. Ford:

As a reader of your site - albeit one who finds it to be the equivalent of watching an ugly car wreck - I find the recent postings by XXX and Cecile Du Bois hilarious. I don't know what XXX is doing posting on your site. This person actually knows something about the business of publishing. I find the crudity absolutely offensive and disgusting, and have a suspicion that the writer is a woman who is trying to hide her idenity by writing in a style that she thinks will make her appear to be a man. The information supplied was extremely inside about Buzz and New Times LA, and the only people mentioned in the diatribe who worked for both of those publications were Jill Stewart and Cathy Seipp.

In regard to Cecile du Bois, her allegation that your site is well written and the posting of XXX was beneath the quality of lukeford.net is an absurd statement made by someone who wants to stay on your good side. Your site is very poorly written. It is a disgrace not only to journalism, but also to the English language. You make Matt Drudge look like Herman Melville.

The only people in the world who would want to kiss up to you are Jill Stewart and Cathy Seipp, minor talents who have been slavishly praised on your site. I'm guessing that XXX, who overly praised Jill Stewart's physical charms, is either Jill Stewart herself or a husband/boyfriend/lover. Cecile du Bois is just the kind of pompous nom de plume that would come from Ms. Seipp, who, if I recall correctly, had a brief career writing wildly inaccurate gossip about the L.A. Times under the ridiculous alias of Margo Magee.

Luke says: If Cathy's Buzz column was so wildly inaccurate, how come she never had to publish a retraction on it? I've asked the Times writer to provide specific examples of Seipp's inaccuraces but I've yet to hear back on any. Like all of Cathy and Jill Stewart's critics at the LA Times, this Times writer insists on anonymity.

I know the people behind the monkers "XXX" and "Cecile du Bois". XXX is a male journalist. Cecile du Bois is not Cathy Seipp nor Jill Stewart.

Cathy Seipp writes Luke: Thanks for removing the pic of me, and the 10-yr-old pic of my ex-husband, to the "more profiles" page. I think I've been on your main page enough. But I would like to state that for the record, I, like the anonymous Times writer who wrote you, also find the crudity of "XXX"'s postings absolutely offensive and disgusting. That this Times writer thinks it could possibly have come from either Jill Stewart or me -- or indeed from any woman -- shows that this person has a tin ear bigger than Master Cylinder. Ditto for the notion that I (or in fact any adult) is "Cecile du Bois," who may have a big vocabulary and be a lot more observant than this Times writer but is nevertheless just 13 years old.

I realize that no one ever claimed Spring Street was exactly running a brain trust. Still, such ideas make me wonder. I guess the only answer is the one Elaine famously said at the end of "Seinfeld" to one of George's opinions: "Well, that's because you're an idiot."

Cecile du Bois writes: Dear Mr. Ford, Responding to the woman who called me pompous: Dear Miss/Mrs. Doe, or whatever your surname is, I don't think myself of "pompous". I got my first name from the writer Cecil Adams. My surname is adopted of the writer Henri Pene Du Bois. I merely thought it would help the readers of Mr. Ford's website picture Stewart, Loh, and Seipp more vividly.

I wrote the paragraphs you called "pompous" for fun. I am sorry you did not like it. Mr. Ford's weblog may not be the best written pieces in the world, but you must admit, (I assume you are a journalist of some sort obviously since you are interested in Ford's website), that you are also not the best writer in the world.

Also, keep in mind, that most of the content on Ford's front pages that you probably read are interviews, quotes, and email responses from readers like you. All of the other content, under his links, are articles or essays from his friends, family, and occasionally himself. Therefore, your groundless indication that Ford is a lousy writer can be true to you and to others, but have you read any of his articles? His essays? No, or not enough. Most of the stuff you read are posted on his site and occasionally edited or recited from his perspective. If you ever want to look at his writing and then say that he is a bad writer - with some ground, I encourage you to click under Luke Ford.

Anyway, since I am only 13, as Miss. Seipp said, I must go lollygagging off to bed. Happy New Year, for the sake of it.

Why Must Amy Alkon, Cathy Seipp Act Like 14-Year Old Girls? Is This The Torah's Way?

After much prompting, I finally got Cathy Seipp to spill on her battle with Alex Ben Block, former editor of the Hollywood Reporter and director of the Los Angeles Press Club.

Cathy replies to my inquiries: "Oh...nothing really worth mentioning. As you may have noticed, Amy and I have a collective maturity level of about 14 yrs old when we get together. Alex Ben Block was giving Amy a hard time about sending our party invites to the LA Press club list -- apparently there was some glitch in their email system and he couldn't be bothered to fix it or figure out what was wrong -- so I just sent it out to everyone @lapressclub.com. It worked. But since I didn't wanted to be personally bothered with all the Press Club RSVPs, I did it under a new screen name I created called Alexbenblockhead@aol.com. Apparently this made Alex stomp around a while and threaten to sue "whoever did it" -- as if he didn't know it was me. Anyway, that's all there is to that story. Except that I guess Alex isn't going to be Press Club director anymore as he just got hired as an editor at Electronic Media and good for him!"

Alex Ben Block writes: "Dear Luke, I am not going to suggest that there was not a flap, as a result of a misunderstanding to which I contributed, but I have already agreed to put it behind me after receiving apologies. I don't think there is value at this time in digging it all up again. Thanks ABB"

2/26/03

Debbie Gendel, who introduced Cathy Seipp to her now ex-husband Jerry, writes: When I met Jerry on a press trip (junket) to Finland, he was handsome, energetic, virile and smart. I told Cathy I thought she might like him, but warned her that he was sort of fat. She went to meet him expecting him to be a blimp, so seeing a handsome, husky guy was a big relief. (Good advice: when you set people up on a blind date, understate their qualities!)

[Jerry responds: "WHAT?!?!?! How dare she call me energetic! The nerve!..."]

Cathy's mom once told her that since I'd fixed her up with her first husband and it hadn't worked out, I owed it to her to fix her up with another one. I only tried it once, with a TV writer/actor/comedian my husband worked with. He was offbeat, talented and Jewish. So we set up this whole brunch, and the guy shows up with a starlet on his arm. He was a total jerk -- too cool for the room. But get this -- instead of being pissed off, Cathy observed that the starlet was really smart and funny. She really does not possess a conventional brain.

3/6/03

Thursday. 12:25PM. Cathy Seipp turns off Beverly Blvd at 8250 and finds her way blocked by a big rusting grey van. Traffic snarls. Eventually the van parks in a ponderous fashion and guess who gets out - Luke.

Cathy, wearing green, and I, wearing my trusty black suit and a green shirt, walk to the Italian restaurant Pane e Vino, 8265 Beverly Blvd and find, sitting in the back, our date Debbie Gendel, a convert to Judaism, freelance writer and mother of three daughters (aged 30, 20, and 14).

By virtue of paying for lunch, I compel Cathy and Debbie to sing for their supper.

Cathy thought RiShawn Biddle was exceedingly patient and good humored with me during our interview last week when I suggested improper things about the very proper Tim Ferguson, former Los Angeles bureau chief for Forbes.

Cathy's daughter Cecile is disappointed I don't update my site more often.

I ask Debbie about meeting Cathy for the first time in 1980 at the Los Angeles Daily News.

Debbie: "We'd just been bought by the Chicago Tribune [who now own The Los Angeles Times]... There was real benevolence. We used to get two-weeks pay for our Christmas bonuses."

Cathy: "I remembered when I was hired [to write on fashion for Debbie Gendel at the Daily News], I was making $200 a week [writing for a trade fashion rag]. [An exec at the Daily News said,] 'I think we can do better than that.' And it was doubled."

Luke to Debbie: "Was Cathy a real fashion plate then?"

Cathy laughs. Debbie: "Oh God, no. None of us were."

Cathy: "Debbie looked good. It was just a job."

Debbie: "People don't understand that about journalism. You only pretend to be a fashion plate. You're just a reporter. I remember when I was assigned to cover fashion at the Daily Breeze because I was the only one who could match my shoes to my outfit."

Cathy: "It's easy to be the most attractive and fashionable woman in a newspaper office. They would pick the prettiest one [to cover fashion]. If you've ever been in [a newspaper office] and looked around, it's sad."

Debbie: "It's not true today."

Cathy: "She says tactfully."

Luke: "Who are the best dressed female journalists in Los Angeles today?"

Long awkward pause.

Cathy: "Huh. Do we even see any? Emmanuelle is always nicely dressed but she's French and she doesn't count because she isn't a fulltime employee of some newspaper. The freelancers often look good. Hillary Johnson, Nancy Rommelman always look good."

Somebody overhearing the conversation challenges whether Hillary and Nancy are journalists. XXX says they are writers.

Cathy: "Amy Alkon always dresses fashionably."

Luke: "How come there aren't more fashionably dressed journalists? You'd think they'd get better stories."

Cathy: "The men don't look so great either."

Luke: "But no one cares what men look like."

Debbie: "In defense of the dozens of women I've worked with, I think they are all well-groomed, and look businesslike. That's all you need to get a good story. As long as you are clean, I think the way you look should be secondary to the mind you bring."

Cathy: "I've seen people dressed inappropriately. I go twice a year to the TV critics meetings. I look across the room and they are all fulltime newspaper people and I see some of them just dress inappropriately."

Luke: "Like wearing sweats and sunglasses [Maureen Dowd of The New York Times]?"

Debbie: "Could we break new ground here?"

Cathy: "I'm annoyed at her for that because she's attractive and makes a lot of money and cares about clothes, so she could dress better."

Luke to Debbie: "How is Cathy the same and how is she different?"

Cathy: "We are not going to have another Cathy-fest."

Debbie: "She's a lot older. I think she's exactly the same."

Cathy: "Just fatter."

Debbie: "She was always the funniest person I've ever met."

Cathy: "Ray Richmond was at the Daily News also."

Debbie: "He was funny."

Cathy and Debbie go into hysterics remembering Morgan (Debbie's husband) imitation of a retarded man.

Debbie: "Unlike most women, Cathy really doesn't care what anybody thinks."

Luke: "Debbie, how come nobody at the LA Times would give me a quote about Cathy Seipp?"

Debbie: "I think there were a lot of residual hard feelings about that Buzz column. Or, it could just be that they had nothing to say."

Cathy: "Some just don't know me."

Debbie: "There were people who thought she was being malicious."

Cathy: "Now, we know that's not true. Can't people have a little bit of fun?"

Luke: "But why did you have to write about people's private sex lives?"

Cathy astounded: "When did I do that?"

Debbie: "That's you."

I blush.

Luke: "You called that editor [Noel Greenwood] to ask if he had been having an affair with [Carol Stogsdill] at The Times."

Cathy: "One time. I had to. People were telling me that the reason Carol Stogsdill got the job was because she was having an affair with Noel Greenwood.... But it's not like my big interest. It was not a picture I wanted to have in my mind.

"Let's talk about Jerry."

Debbie: "I said he was virile. I don't know what made me say that."

Cathy: "You were being nice."

Debbie: "I was putting myself in the past, in the time machine..."

Cathy giggles: "When you overwhelmed by his virility."

Luke to Debbie: "Do you feel guilty about introducing Cathy to Jerry?"

Cathy and Debbie say in unison: "Noooooooooooooooooo!"

Cathy giggles: "Why should she feel guilty? It's the only marriage I've ever had. And look at my daughter. Sometimes she'll make these expressions and she will look exactly like Jerry. She'll say these things, words that I would never use."

Debbie to Luke: "How did you come to meet Cathy?"

Luke: "From reading Buzz magazine. I always thought media criticism had to be boring."

Cathy: "Now, don't go saying anything mean about Tim Rutten. That can not be said."

Luke: "Why? Because he praised your writing in his review of the LA Examiner prototype?"

Cathy: "Yes."

Debbie: "She had a change of heart."

Cathy: "That's very perceptive."

Debbie: "Tom Rosenstiel, David Shaw, and these horrible journalism professorey types."

Conversation twists and turns.

Debbie: "I have a hard time picturing you riding a bike."

Cathy: "Cecile still doesn't know how to ride a bike."

Luke: "Why is the LA Times so dull?"

One observer says: "Not enough Jews. Too many Gentiles. It misses that competitive combative Jewish element."

YYY: "Did you see that stupid column by Mary McNamara: L.A. Centric, about the power of one. One lonely woman at the federal building protesting the war."

XXX: "The LA Times publishes all these first-person piece wherein the writer pretends he's on the side of the angels."

Cathy: "I don't think I write about how wonderful I am."

Debbie: "Turn that off!"

Later, Cathy quotes herself.

Cathy: "You know you're getting old when you quote yourself.

"Hey Debbie, I've never done this and I had a really good time. I went to a bar on Friday night with some friends and I had a drink. It was the Red Lion on Glendale. It's a German sausage and beer place. You've met Brian Doherty? He's an editor at Reason. He had a book contract to do a book on the Burning Man Festival. He said, 'I'm going to be there from 8-11Pm and I will buy you a drink to celebrate my book contract.'

"We went and ohmigod. It was filled with young people. I had a good time. It felt like being in New York. There was a whole scene of people going out and having a good time. It's cubby and it's not like a sleazy singles bar. God, I'm sleeping better at night. I don't need to take naps during the day anymore."

Debbie: "Cathy is the greatest guest. She appreciates anything you make for her."

Cathy: "You have people come in your house who are not appreciative?"

Debbie: "Yeah, if they want to be vegans or Seventh Day Adventists or Orthodox Jews."

Cathy: "The up part of being sick is getting gifts."

Marc writes: Cathy sounds like the hottest woman alive.

5/4/05

Cathy Seipp Busts Nikki Finke For Lying

I've long thought that Cathy was too harsh on Nikki. I just couldn't account for my friend's venom and I chalked it up to meanspiritedness on Cathy's part.

The two disagreed so strongly about their past interactions it was clear that somebody was lying.

Cathy blogs:

I see Nikki Finke just said to PR Week in an interview that "I am every PR person's nightmare." No argument there. Many years ago, a publicist told me that Nikki (then a feature writer at the L.A. Times) called her the c-word over the phone for mistakenly sending a press release to other Times staff writers. I guess that was a violation of press release exclusivity rules known only to Nikki, but that's no reason to start screaming See You Next Tuesday at someone. Nikki's editor made her call the publicist back later and apologize.

Until it was spelled out in Cathy's blog, I never knew what the phrase "See You Next Tuesday" represented. C-U-N-T.

Nikki Finke responded (and Cathy has long contended that Nikki left anonymous posts on Cathy's blog) under her own name:

For the umpteenth time, Cathy, you have published something about me that is false. I never called a publicist the "c" word, nor did an editor ever make me apologize to a publicist for doing that. (How convenient that you don't even name the publicist.) You must have a rich fantasy life since you never seem to muster one correct fact when it comes to me. Let me see, the last time you printed something about me, you were raving on and on about how you thought I had left some evil comment about you under a pseudonym. As I emailed you at the time, when I have something to say to you, I identify myself. Like now. And then later you made a reference to a conversation with "one of Nikki's Wellesley classmates" -- again unidentified -- who supposedly told you something about my personal life. And when I emailed you to say it was untrue, you lost your cool. But never, never, do you ever correct your blog. What I can't figure out, Cathy, is why you seem so bizarrely obsessed with me. Either your world is that small, or you're very desperate for attention, or you don't mind looking pathetic.

Davidlo then wrote: "Ms. Finke just won by a knock-out."

Legal Eagle writes:

I see everything as a potential lawsuit because I am a lawyer. But Cathy's continuous comments about NF seem of a very personal and obsessive-like nature, which could spell trouble. Cathy, you should read this article from National Review Online.

Even though from 2002, it is very relevant. It quotes Sandra Baron, the executive director of the Libel Defense Resource Center in New York, and says bloggers are "unaware of the risks of libel and invasion of privacy, and don't realize that what they're saying on these websites could set themselves up for libel lawsuits from individuals and entities from around the world."

Cathy Seipp then notes that the IP address for Legal Eagle, Davidlo and Nikki Finke is identical: IP: 70.33.122.132. So while Nikki claimed she never commented anonymously, it is clear that she does. Cathy writes:

At first I thought "davidlo" meant Nikki won the bad PR contest by a knockout. Then I realized "he" was just Nikki again, suggesting that she won her fight with me by a knockout. If you say so, Nikki!

I didn't know you were a lawyer now, Nikki! Congratulations on passing the bar.

In an exchange of emails, Cathy wrote me: "I don't know why it wasn't perfectly clear to everyone before that Nikki is an obvious liar. I mean, claiming that we'd never met -- when she's known me for years and once made me buy her an extra chicken salad (to go, for dinner later) at lunch? What was that all about? She didn't bother denying it after I reminded her, but admitted "How rude," and then added that really, I have to understand -- she once lived with a man for six months and didn't recognize him later. Which means she's either very forgetful, or a liar, or both -- not exactly reassuring qualities in a journalist. I don't trust her and never have."

Jan 25, 2007: The Los Angeles Times Must Be A Great Newspaper

I walk an hour to visit Cathy Seipp in the hospital. She's been there since Saturday because she's in extreme pain from her lung cancer. I don't know if she's going to get out.

I sit with her for three hours and the whole time she clings to her favorite newspaper as though her life depends on it.

Cathy's moaning in pain the whole day, clutching her left side.

She's not very spiritual though the cancer thing has really slimmed her.

Amy Alkon camps out in Cathy's room and provides for all her earthly needs that are sanctioned by the Torah, such as coffee, juice, gown, walks and milkshakes.

I've let both of them know that it is never too late to become a Torah Jew.

I know that Amy strikes many of you as an opinionated bitch, but her tender motherly side allows me to sit all day on my bum and read my Anthony Blunt book by Miranda Carter and still believe I'm a good friend.

I reprimand Cathy for deleting Lewis's blog (there's no wifi at the hospital but Amy goes on dial-up for five minutes) about Sandra Tsing Loh cooking a dog.

"If you think he's so funny, then put him on your blog," Cathy snaps.

She doesn't have a lot of patience these days and is really not much of a party host.

She says she doesn't want to entertain people and doesn't want to deal with any visitors beyond her closest friends and her daughter Maia.

Maia is our main topic of conversation.

When Cathy and Amy ask me what is going on in my life, I pull out my appointment book and scan through it.

After a minute I close it and say, " There's nothing I can boast about."

The sad thing is that the most exciting thing in my life right now is that Luke Ford Fan Blog has updated.

Cathy usually finds it hysterical, particularly the pictures.

We move into the family room on our floor and everyone else moves out.

"I told you that if we moved in," says Cathy, "everyone else would move out."

Amy takes Cathy for a walk around her hospital floor.

Cathy must drag her drip set-up everywhere.

Every couple of hours the nurse comes in and gives Cathy a pain injection.

Cathy wears these stern black schoolteacher glasses that I haven't seen before.

Emmanuelle Richard arrives at 2 p.m.

She nods at my paunch and giggles.

We sit in the sun and gossip about writers Mark Lisanti (he doesn't go to parties so he doesn't meet people he writes about), Marc Cromer, Richard Rushfeld, Hugh Hefner, and Matt Welch.

As I get up to leave, I pull out my Sony Walkman.

Emmanuelle points at me and giggles: "How cute! A Walkman!"

On the long walk home, I drown my sorrows in a power-sized protein-boosted chocolate moo'd from Jamba Juice.

Nick emails: "Thanks for the update on Cathy's condition on your blog. Perhaps you could leave a note on her site for people going there for information on how she's doing. Lewis Fein is very talented, but I think he's lost the plot."

January 28, 2007, 4:46 PM Stopping By Cathy Seipp’s On A Cloudy Sunday Afternoon

Silverlake. 2:20 p.m. Seipp home. Cathy's up to 123 pounds from a recent low of 108. Her normal weight is 135 though I remember a 2003 lunch at the Cat & Fiddle on Sunset Blvd with Matt Welch and Emmanuelle Richard when Cathy threatened 150 pounds.

I say what a great nurse Amy Alkon was and Cathy reprimands me for not helping Amy move a chair Thursday.

Amy does not need that kind of help. She's more of a man than I am.

Cathy says that the nurses that come to your home seem to have lower IQs than the nurses at Cedars. Her nurse Sunday kept getting lost and repeatedly providing directions is not Cathy's idea of a good time.

Kate Coe has been hanging out most of the day. Kate was on a try-out for a VH1 gossip show with my ex Tiffany Stone, who was recently on a Paris Hilton movie set.

I've been studying Torah all day so I let Kate and Cathy know that I'm hungry.

Coe provides me with tapioca pudding and then I rip into two different bags of chocolates.

I drift off as Cathy and Kate go on and on about women's fashion and society column ideas for the LA Weekly.

The last thing I remember was a tentative column called "Ask Emmanuelle."

It's hard for me not to be the center of attention.

NPR's Day to Day correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates stops by and I have to stuff more chocolates in my mouth to prevent myself from saying, "I thought you were black?"

If Karen's black, then I'm black, and you, dear reader, have unknowingly slept with this black man.

Without enough attention paid to my delicate ego (Cathy's cataonic in her chair, a pain pump plugged into her arm, she's listening to Kate and Karen discuss Rodney King), I leave at 3:30 p.m.

Feb 14, 2007: Visiting The Sick - A Guide To The Perplexed

I spent six years of my life bedridden. From 1988-1994, I spent more than 20 hours a day, on average, in bed because of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

These were the loneliest years of my life.

Prior to getting sick, I was never much for visiting the sick and after being sick, I've made more of an effort though I've hardly been a saint.

It does not come naturally to me to hang out with those below me. My drive is to connect with those above me. The sick, the old and the feeble frighten me for, among other reasons, they remind me of myself and of how close to the precipice I feel.

There's nothing I can add to the numerous prescriptions given (by Judaism and others) for visiting the sick. But just as religion gives great attention to the sin of gossiping and little attention to developing the fortitude of overcoming the pain of being gossiped about, so too there's little attention paid to the moral responsibilities of the sick.

Being sick is no excuse for being a jerk. I've been around a lot of sick people and I've noticed no correlation between their suffering and their treatment of others. Many people with trivial complaints are horrendous to be around and many people who are dying are saintly. For instance, Rabbi Israel Salanter said on his deathbed to the man guarding him, "You should not be afraid of spending the night with a dead body."

With her no-nonsense dedication to meeting her responsibilities (to her family, friends, work and self), Cathy Seipp sets a good example of an adult approach to illness. Because of the way she's led her life, she has no lack of people wanting to rally around her in her time of need.

I believe there's no group of persons who's exempt from moral demands including the sick. Illness is no excuse for treating other people badly and piling demands upon them. There's no disease that renders one ungrateful and unkind.

The sick have a moral responsibility (according to their ability) of conveying genuine gratitude to those who visit them. Just as visitors should keep in mind the comfort of the sick, the sick, according to the best of their ability, should keep in mind the comfort (physical and emotional) of those who visit them. It's often awkward visiting the sick and young men in particular are not predisposed towards doing it well.

I'm not arguing for the sick to wait hand and foot on the visitors. I'm arguing that nobody is off the hook when it comes to decency.

Cathy Seipp emails:

For Gods Sake, that visiting the sick thing is kind of silly You don't need to do anything special. Just don't raid the fridge, bring food at least for yourself if you're going to be hungry, clean up your dishes, and don't expect to be entertained like a normal visitor. Help out, like lifting Amy's chair etc. Otherwise, forget it. I'm not mad at you, but i do lose patience with excuses that such things don't come naturally to young men, especially from one who is no longer that young.

I reply: I did not touch anything in your fridge and only ate the biscuits you said were fine to eat. Nor did I use any dishes nor leave any in your sink. I ate the pudding that Kate Coe gave me in its container.

I am sure Amy is stronger than I am, given the tendonitis in my elbows, and is perfectly capable of lifting her own chair.

Not all my posts are about you. I visit a lot of sick people.

March 21, 2007

Cathy Seipp died of lung cancer (pneumonia in the lung that did not have the cancer) at Ceders-Sinai Wednesday, March 21, 2007.

It was only after Cathy told me in October of 2002 that she had incurable lung cancer that we did our first interview and became close.

Cathy called me her Boswell.

Family and friends and doctors didn't expect her to make it to 2007.

After I got the call from Maia Wednesday afternoon, I looked away from my computer and turned up the Carpenters and thought about Cathy.

Then, just as I started to cry, I got a phone call and had to return to work.

Work is good.

Luke and Cathy on Luke's 40th Birthday May 28, 2006 Luke and Cathy in the summer of 2004 with Matt Welch in the background Luke and Cathy (photo by Emmanuelle Richard) Cathy, Luke, Cheryl at my 40th birthday party Cathy, Luke, Cheryl Cathy, Luke, Cheryl

Over lunch in 2003, after talking about my broken relationship, I said to Cathy, "You've spoiled me for other women."

“"You don't know how true that is," replied Cathy. "I'm not kidding."

Cathy never liked any of my girlfriends. She never liked any of the girlfriends of us unmarried male friends around her age. The more beautiful the girl, the more Cathy hated her.

Emmanuelle Richard emails:

Hey Luke:
Thank God for all your research and this lengthy profile of Cathy. Glad you too met. You made her laugh so much with your antics, and by being you a funny guy. It's sad, and the end was awful, but the Catholic in me believes in life after death there's no way such a soul can disappear forever.
Especially after all this hard work at becoming Cathy Seipp! Even on her deathbed, she kicked ass and defied predictions.

Jill Stewart emails: "As we friends and family say goodbye to our dear Cathy today, I noticed that it's the first day of spring. She was all about the zest for life and facing it all with verve. So it seems she is making a statement, even now."

Nick Gillespie, Editor of Reason magazine, emails: "Cathy was an immense inspiration as a journalist and, more importantly, as a community-builder. Please send condolences from all the Reason crew, who will miss her greatly."

Kate Coe emails: "Cathy Seipp is at Technorati #2 and take it from me, nothing would make her happier than being # 1. For a writer who disected pop culture while beings passionate about it, this would be a true memorial. Every little link helps. If she's # 2, the terrorists win."

Cathy was competitive and she carefully monitored her traffic and the number of links she received as measured by technorati.com.

She regularly Googled her name to see what people were saying about her. That's how she met Matt Welch. She noticed he'd mentioned her on LAExaminer.com.

March 22, 2007

It's only appropriate that our last interaction was a fight. I don't even feel bad about it, and I bet she didn't either. The last time I heard from Cathy was February 14. She emailed me in response to this posting of mine:

For Gods Sake, that visiting the sick thing is kind of silly You don't need to do anything special. Just don't raid the fridge, bring food at least for yourself if you're going to be hungry, clean up your dishes, and don't expect to be entertained like a normal visitor. Help out, like lifting Amy's chair etc. Otherwise, forget it. I'm not mad at you, but i do lose patience with excuses that such things don't come naturally to young men, especially from one who is no longer that young.

I guess the .... will drive over... at some point later this month, and maybe you can stop by then too. If .... doesn't like it then ... can stay home, or you guys can all work out a convenitne time.

They need to realize to print out a map for directions and not depend on me to help them get here by picking up the phone, which isn't going to happen.

The last thing I said to Cathy was this email I sent in reply to the above:

OK. I did not touch anything in your fridge and only ate the biscuits you said were fine to eat...nor did i use any dishes nor leave any in your sink...

I ate the pudding that Kate Coe gave me in its container. I am sure Amy is stronger than I am, given the tendonitis in my elbows, and is perfectly capable of lifting her own chair.

Not all my posts are about you. I am an active member of a visit the sick committee in my shul...

Despite my protests, my posting was in large part inspired by Cathy. My last two visits with her were disappointing. When I did not jump up with sufficient alacrity to help Amy Alkon move a chair, Cathy proceeded to ignore me, either burying herself in the newspaper or chatting with her other friends. It was as though I wasn't there.

After those two bad experiences (which left Cathy complaining about my doltishness), I gave up visiting her and I gave up emailing and calling her. I don't feel bad about this. I don't think I had anything to contribute to her in her final days. I knew Cathy didn't lack for friends willing and able to take care of her, and so I left her in their more sensitive hands. I'm not the world's greatest nurse (though I sure appreciate those types when I'm sick).

Cathy Seipp was a bulldozer. She had forceful opinions on many topics, including the type of fruit juice one should drink (recalls her ex-husband Jerry) and other things she didn't know much about. She rarely admitted mistakes and rarely apologized. She saw nothing wrong with some forms of cheating, such as claiming Maia as a child to get a discounted ticket.

While single and in her twenties, she had an affair with a married man that lasted for months. Afterwards, she didn't feel guilt. I never recall Cathy exhibiting guilt over anything. She had an unshakable belief in her own righteousness. After her divorce, Cathy never had a boyfriend (or lover?). I suspect that she was so afraid of getting hurt again that she closed herself off.

Cathy explained to me that she didn't date because she was too busy raising her daughter. When she put a profile on JDate circa 2003, Cathy lied about her age (by six to eight years). I believe Cathy had plastic surgery on the bags under her eyes but wouldn't talk about it publicly. Until Cathy told me she had a severe form of lung cancer, I was afraid of her.

We became close because I devoted to her the attention of a biographer. Cathy often had excellent advice for me but frequently I did not want to take it. If I didn't do what she said, she'd often get mad. About half the time that I knew her, Cathy was mad at me. I got the silent treatment regularly. It would usually last a week or two. I found myself not doing things so I wouldn't have to endure her icy remove. A key to getting along with Cathy was to let her feel like she won.

The anger thing between Cathy and I went strictly one way -- Cathy would get mad at me. I was never mad at Cathy because I never expected anything from her. I was grateful to be in her life but that was it. Cathy wanted me to be more than I was or wanted to be. Cathy and I quickly fell into a comfortable pattern of behavior. I'd constantly tease and provoke her. This would never make her mad. What would make her mad was when I wouldn't live up to her expectations (to be a chivalrous gentleman, etc)."You guys should have your own reality show," our friends often said in response to our public bickering.

Whenever Cathy and I got together in public, we'd usually try to verbally one-up each other. We both enjoyed this form of fighting and we both played within the rules (we rarely brought up things that the other person was sensitive about, such as age for Cathy and source of income for me).

I was with Cathy so much that folks such as Jewish Journal Editor Rob Eshman asked if I lived with her. "Big compliment to you," Cathy said later. I never remembered Cathy's birthday and this hurt her. "What's a girl got to do to get flowers?" she said to me on her birthday in 2003. "I only send flowers and cards to women I sleep with," I replied. "Well, if that's what I've got to do," joked Cathy.

The most sensitive topic with Cathy was her age. I once referred to her as middle-aged and she let me know in no uncertain terms that I was never to do that again. Cathy hated that most men preferred younger women. The only time I saw a sexy side to Cathy was when she dressed in some slinky outfit for a Halloween (?) party at her home in 2003. It was my first time in her home. For years afterwards, I fantasized that Cathy, Maia and I would take a vacation together. That we'd drive up the California and Oregon coast. The only thing was that I wanted to do it without spending money.

I mentioned this once to Cathy (in 2006) and she gave a non-committal response. I told Cathy that I discovered her in Buzz magazine in 1994, shortly after I moved to Los Angeles. "If only you'd written to me then," she said. I never spent money on Cathy (aside from holding up my end on the lunch buys, which is more than I usually do). The biggest thing I ever gave her was my extended blogging about her. Cathy loved to give and I loved to take. It bothers most men when the woman takes charges and gives and gives but it never bothered me. I think I'm God's gift to the world and there's nothing wrong with people spoiling me. I once asked Cathy if she'd be willing to talk to a journalist friend of mine (who Cathy knew) with breast cancer. Seipp went right down my throat, vehemently explaining that most people with breast cancer get over it and lead full lives while people with her cancer die. Even in her cancer, Cathy was fiercely competitive.

She was inordinately proud of the number of comments she received on blog posts and was dismissive of blogs that received few comments. Cathy complained a lot (or shared her feelings, depending on your perspective), but rarely about her illness. Of that, the most she said to me was, "It's so stupid."

Cathy's complaints in the descending order of frequency (and intensity) that I heard:

* Her ex-husband
* Her sister
* Freelance writing
* Her daughter
* Me
* Her dad

Cathy was not happy with how well her ex-husband Jerry Lazar came across in his interview with me in early 2003. It grated on Cathy that she was not more successful in her career. She would've loved to have had a job at The Los Angeles Times, particularly as TV critic.

It grated on Cathy that there was not more financial demand for her services. When I mentioned job offers I received for $1,000 a week to write on the porn industry, she'd say, "I wish somebody would offer me $1,000 a week to write."

Neither Cathy nor I would put up with much guff from our employers and if they gave us too much aggravation, we'd quit. Cathy believed she only wanted the best for other people but there were significant exceptions to her magnanimity. She rarely seemed pleased when I, her sister or her ex-husband got into a relationship.

Cathy was my best friend. She connected me to a better crowd of people (professional writers such as David Rensin, Amy Alkon, etc). I always knew that Cathy was smarter than me. I've never scored above 135 on an IQ test while Cathy's score was about 170. I didn't mind this. I've always liked to surround myself with people who are not only smarter and more accomplished than me, but who are also finer and kinder.

A friend emails: "Dear Luke: So sorry for your lose. Looks like a good friendship between you. I found your stories about your squabbles extremely moving. In a way you were her family too: She tried to guide to do "the right things" and got mad when you did not mind her... Luke, you said that she was very smart. I guess that's why she picked you to be her friend and invested in you. She saw your talent and gift. Now, you need to keep your end, by taking care... and she will keep mentoring from above."

A friend emails: "Your grief comes through even though I think you tried to put it in as understated a style as possible. (And I've always admired your fearlessness in telling the world you like groups like Air Supply and the Carpenters. If people could see what I've got on my iPod, I'd be laughed at by all the "pure rock" snobs out there. I'd rather listen to one-hit wonder Mungo Jerry happily crooning "In the Summertime" than to a raspy old Dylan "classic" any day. Dylan never makes me happy (well, maybe "Lay, Lady Lay" from Nashville Skyline," but that's Dylan in his most un-Dylan period); Mungo Jerry does. Case closed." Cathy hated chewing gum. Since she died, I've been chewing it like crazy.

Robert J. Avrech blogs: "Cathy was endlessly curious about Orthodox Judaism. It wasn't for her, she freely admitted, but she was always respectfully machine-gunning questions at me. Cathy kept me on my toes. Around Cathy, I could never be intellectually lazy about my Judaism, and that was refreshing."

Cathy peppered me too with endless questions about the reasons behind various laws and rituals in Orthodox Judaism. I'd start to explain and then she'd cut me off with, "That's stupid." I gave up trying to explain things to her by explaining, "There are some mysteries that are only available to those in the dance."

I introduced Robert to Cathy and Maia. Before we all met in Starbucks that afternoon in 2004, I kept telling Cathy, "Don't extend your hand. Truly Orthodox men don't shake hands with women (not related to them or married to them) and Robert is truly Orthodox."

As soon as I said, "Cathy, this is Robert," she stuck out her hand. Robert shook it.

As I berated her, and Cathy apologized, Robert said, "That's OK. It didn't kill me."

March 23, 2007

Mt. Sinai. 90068. 9:45 a.m. I drive up. There's a crowd outside the chapel of assimilated Jews and goyim. This is definitely the place for me to advance my social prospects.

Attendees include Matt Welch, Emmanuelle Richard, Denise Hamilton, David Rensin, Luke Thompson, David and Julie Scott, Eugene Volokh, Larry Miller, Robert and Karen Avrech, Cathy's ex-husband Jerry Lazar, Andrew Breitbart and his wife, Tim Cavanaugh, Moxie, Ruth Shalit, Jill Stewart...

Wilshire Boulevard Temple Rabbi Karen Fox presides over the funeral. Cathy Seipp met with her Nov. 29 to plan the thing. Because Cathy belonged to the temple, there was no charge to have a rabbi officiate at her funeral. But if one does not belong to a synagogue, the Los Angeles Board of Rabbis has set the fee for a rabbi to do a funeral at $500.

Judaism does not believe in having an open casket, nor an expensive casket nor flowers. It's not a Jewish tradition to have the family sitting off to the side hidden from the attendees, but that is what is done Friday. Jewish funerals rarely take place in synagogues. Only for extraordinary religious leaders such as Ariel Avrech.

It doesn't appear that any of Cathy's family knows the words to the mourner's kaddish.

Cathy's aunt Jill, publicist Allan Mayer, author Greg Critser and humorist Sandra Tsing Loh speak.

My audio from the third row starts with the rabbi, then Jill, Allan, Greg and Sandra. Video of the crowd after the service. Video. Cathy Seipp's Final Ride. Cathy Seipp's Final Resting Place. A longer view. Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Maia, Jerry Lazar, Cathy and Michelle Seipp Cathy Seipp on her wedding day Cathy Seipp on her wedding day Cathy Seipp on her wedding day Cathy Seipp Cathy Seipp on her wedding day with her sister Michelle Cathy Seipp on her wedding day Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Cathy Seipp with baby Maia Cathy Seipp with baby Maia

Eliot Stein's wife writes:

Hi Luke, I am writing this anonymously.......but I must tell you, Cathy Seipp was a bitch! She invented a horrible, vicious, cruel lie about someone in my family. It was a hurtful lie and it did terrible damage to my entire family, but she never apologized. In fact, she kept perpetuating that lie to everyone right until she died. I'm shocked as I read the blog comments about Cathy. People are saying "She's now an angel in heaven" and "She's smiling upon the face of God." Others are saying "The world is a colder place because she's gone." What bullshit!

My God....they never knew the REAL Cathy Seipp, did they? She was a selfish, malicious woman who obviously had borderline personality disorder. The damage she did to my family was horrendous beyond belief. And what's really pathetic is....she taught her daughter to be the same kind of cruel bitch that she was. I actually laughed when I read her final blog comments.....she complained because caring and compassionate people brought her soup, she bitched because well-wishers brought her the "wrong" kind of food. Instead of saying thanks, she criticized them.

I'm not surprised that she was rude to you when you visited her in the hospital. I read a quote of hers....that cancer didn't make her a better person. That was certainly true! Often, when people know they are dying, they become kind and compassionate. But Cathy remained a bitch to the very end. She didn't know the meaning of compassion. Those who are praising Cathy on various websites and blogs weren't libeled and slandered by her, as my family was. That's the Cathy I will always remember. I don't think she's "singing with the angels!"

Sincerely, .....a Los Angeles resident [Eliot Stein's wife] who was tormented by Cathy Seipp.

Cathy only mentioned her mother to me once or twice and it was only when I pushed. Aside from her ex-husband, there was nobody Cathy was more cutting about than her sister Michelle. The one person Cathy asked me not to interview was Michelle.

Friday evening, Michelle had had enough of guests at the home where Cathy lived with her dad Harvey, and so Moxie and others were asked to leave.

Much of Cathy's family remembers Cathy as a difficult and domineering woman. I was a friend of Cathy but I was never a Cathy partisan. I had no illusions about how difficult and domineering she could be. I was lucky in that I never needed her nor depended on her. I could walk away when she got mad at me. After a week or two, she'd always get over it and we'd be friends again.

Maia's having hallucinations that she's seeing Cathy.

Chaim Amalek writes:

Luke: Elizabeth Irwin and I (all of us here in New York) would like you to extend condolences tomorrow on our behalf to the Seipp/Lazar family - especially to Maia, who lost a mother, and to Harvey, who buries a daughter. Sigh . . . this is so sad. Elizabeth feels herself to be truly at wit's end, with no place to go. I know you miss her (I do, and I only met her on two occasions), but consider yourself very, very lucky to have gotten to know Cathy Seipp and to have counted her as a friend. Most of us could go through fifty lifetimes without being lucky enough to ever meet someone like Cathy, let alone be able to look to such a person for advice. (In the future, will not her fans often find themselves asking, "What would Cathy have done/said/written?") When the time is right, you should suggest that her friends collect a sampling of Cathy's work into a "The Best of Cathy Seipp" anthology.

March 25, 2007

There were all sorts of battles fought around Cathy in her final weeks and now that she has died, some of these old battles have relaunched with a new ferocity while new ones begin between old friends. What else can we expect from the passing of someone as divisive as Cathy?

My attitude about writing on Cathy after she has died is the same as when I wrote about her before she died — to tell the truth to the best of my ability and to quote all perspectives on her. I don’t believe in speaking any differently about the dead than the living.

Over the past 16 hours, I’ve received from friends numerous phone calls, emails, blog comments and IMs concerned about the negative things I’ve posted about Cathy and the effects such postings have on Maia. At the same time, I hear from people with mixed to negative views of Cathy who are glad for my less sanitized portrait of her. I don’t blog to get the approval of any crowd except for that crowd that most values the striving after truth about those such as Cathy who put themselves in the public eye.

Though Cathy was my friend, I was never a Cathy partisan (I don’t think of myself as a partisan to anyone or anything) and I will not be one in my writing. I think she’s a great story, and I don’t care where that story, or any such story, goes.

Where is Cathy’s daughter Maia Lazar in all this? After I explained my intentions, she said Sunday that she does not care what I write, be it negative or positive, about her mother. And even if Maia did care, I’m not going to soften my approach to a public figure such as Cathy to spare anyone’s feelings.

Cathy was magnificently polarizing. She was easy to love and hate. That she was overwhelmingly wonderful to me does not change how I will report on how others’ felt about her.

March 26, 2007

Fox News report.

About two years ago, Maia Lazar had a journalism advisor at Ribet Academy named Eliot Stein, a resident of the San Fernando Valley.

Mr. Stein says that when his journalism class revolted against Maia their Editor, he called her at home to try to resolve the situation.

Maia became upset. She had various issues with Mr. Stein.

On the advice of her mother Cathy Seipp, Maia did not go to Mr. Stein to try work things out with him, but instead she complained to the school and blogged about her teacher (without naming him).

There was a big fight.

When Ribet tried to suspend Eliot Stein for one day, Mr. Stein walked away from the school.

“"The clash was not with the teacher, it was with the students,"” Mr. Stein told me March 26. "The students found Maia condescending and arrogant. They loved me."”

Mr. Stein says he's ready to give up the domain name cathyseipp.com and to abandon this feud if both sides to it (he and Maia) will sign a non-disparagement agreement.

I believe people, even 14 year olds, should always try to work out their problems directly with the person who's causing the problem, before they go to those in charge.

If you are old enough to blog, then you are old enough to learn that whenever you blog something negative about somebody, that person may devote the rest of his life trying to make you miserable. Even when you are right in hurting someone (exposing their bad behavior to protect the innocent) through your speech, you are usually going to be hurt in return.

When you go over someone's head, there's a high likelihood that that person is going to lash back at you and hurt you, even if you are in the right.

I don't agree with infantilizing teenagers and treating them as incapable of resolving their own problems. I've always despised kids who ran to the teacher or to the principal to complain about another kid without having first tried to resolve their problem with that kid.

Eliot Stein bought the domain name cathyseipp.com and used it to write negative things about Cathy, Maia, me and our friends.

“"What do you expect?"” I said to Cathy when she solicited my opinion. You got rid of him. Of course he's going to be angry. Yes, it sounds like he did things that made Maia uncomfortable, but it makes sense to me that he would want to attack you and your daughter. It's your fault for not owning your own domain name.”

Cathy was disgusted by my view and I didn't bring it up again.

Over the past week, there's been a concerted effort by friends of Cathy to shut down cathyseipp.com and the anti-Cathy, anti-Maia writings of its owner Eliot Stein. My friends have gone to enormous lengths, called in their friends in the media, law and investigation for help.
I disagree.

It's wrong to memorialize one First Amendment warrior by shutting down another's writing.

Elliot Stein's website about Cathy Seipp and Maia Lazar and me and others is free speech. We as journalists/bloggers/writers should be the last people to try to shut down someone's mockery of Cathy. The site was not nice, but so what?

Maia and Cathy probably contributed to Stein leaving his job. It is not surprising that Mr. Stein would want to lash back at Cathy and Maia. I don't think Maia deserves special legal protection against internet mockery just because she is in grief.

It is Cathy's fault for not registering her own name as a domain name. Mr. Stein saw open property and he bought it and that is fair and it should now belong to him to do as he wishes.

I think I oppose all libel laws.

Yes, on moral grounds, I think that much of Mr. Stein's anti-Cathy, anti-Maia writings were objectionable. They were a little too cruel. But Eliot Stein has every legal right to be cruel to Cathy and Maia, to be cruel to Cathy and Maia on cathyseipp.com (or any dotcom) and to be cruel to Cathy and Maia on cathyseipp.com on the week Cathy died.

I similarly disagreed with Cathy on the Sandra Tsing Loh - KCRW affair when Sandra got fired for saying fuck” on the air (it was the engineer's fault for not blanking it out of the pre-recorded segment). If I had been in charge of KCRW, I would not have fired Sandra, but if KCRW wanted to fire her for it, they should have every legal right to do so (perhaps Sandra should've listened to the segment before it was to be aired to make sure her obscenity was bleeped). Sandra can find other outlets for her talents.

Harriet emails:

Hello,

I started reading Cathy's World after her diagnosis–although I didn't know it at the time–when I was anticipating a move to Los Angeles. From her blog, I was able to glean some really valuable insights into my soon-to-be adopted home, and for that I am grateful.

But all along, I knew something was amiss in Cathy's world. The total opposition to differing point of views, the dressing down reserved only for those she disagreed with it all rankled. And the sicker she got, and the stranger things sounded (that bizarre fight over Maia leaving out some teabags), the more heartsick I felt.

I know something about parents who insist on strict adherence to a truth that they've determined, and I feel some anxiety for Maia, surrounded by people who–seemingly, at any rate, hold one, uniformly positive perspective.

So from my distant observer's point of view, I am grateful to you for exploring the contradictions inherent in Cathy's personality. When I am gone, I would much rather be known for both my flaws and my strengths (the more impressive for my having overcome the flaws), than only for some fabricated, falsely positive mask, and I think you do Cathy a service.

If it calms Elliot Stein's nerves at all, you can tell him that at least one of your readers had already assumed much of the Cathy's version was deeply flawed. His response was embarrassingly over the top, but I suspect his judgement is warped from interacting with the bizarro rules of Cathy's World.

March 31, 2007

The Cathy I knew was much more vulnerable than her writings suggest. After listing off her complaints one night, she said to me, “This is where you say something supportive.” Cathy Seipp was just as needy for tangible gifts on her birthday, such as flowers, as any woman. After we attended a party thrown by The Atlantic magazine (featuring Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis), Cathy laughed about how intellectually out-classed she felt. She felt the same way after hanging out with Dr. Nick Gillespie.

April 1, 2007

Though most of her friends advised her against it, Cathy agreed to give me an interview. "I'll do the interview," she told her friends, "but I'll never let him know where I live." A few weeks went by, and Cathy invited me to her home Sunday morning for pancakes. "I can't make it," I told her. I was working on my memoir and couldn't allow myself to leave the house for unnecessary reasons. It was another six months before I made it to her home -- for a Halloween party. She was at her most beautiful that night, dressed in some stunning slinky black number.

"We'd get married," I confessed to my closest friend, "if only things had worked out a little differently."

If only I had emailed her when I first discovered her in Buzz magazine in 1994, shortly after I moved to the city. "If only you would've written to me then," Cathy once said after dinner. She remembered the first time I emailed her. It was 2000 and I had just enjoyed one of her weekly columns in MediaWeek. I mentioned that I had a website -- lukeford.com. She looked at it and was appropriately creeped out.

During my first few drives to her place in late 2002, I'd regularly get lost and end up whining into my cell phone, "Help! I'm stuck in some third-world hell hole."

Cathy never approved of my racism. She told me it was un-American.

After I blogged about my fears of the black man (his long muscular arm reaching into my van and taking me places the holy Torah forbade me to go), Matt Welch would tell me that Silverlake was a better neighborhood than where I lived in Pico/Robertson.

I often had the fantasy that Cathy, Maia and I would drive up the coast of California and Oregon. The closest we came to this was a Memorial day weekend at Andrew Breitbart's vacation home in Palm Springs. As I took control of her Volvo to begin the journey, I promptly knocked into another vehicle (my van has a tiny front end unlike the Volvo).

Our Palms Springs adventure was filled with children. "Luke's good with kids," Cathy assured the parents present. I invented a combination baseball/cricket contest, promptly breaking the home's broom (not quite as embarrasing as the time I broke off the child-protector on Eugene Volokh's toilet). We all played in the pool for hours. I'd have to struggle to lift Cathy up in the water. She was at her pinacle of about 150 pounds.

One of the many things that impressed me about Miss Seipp was her ability to get in and out of the loo more quickly than I. In numerous ways, Cathy was more of a man than me.

I don't want you to get the idea that I only took in my relationship with Cathy. After an HIV-breakout in one of the San Fernando Valley's biggest industries in the Spring of 2004, she insisted that I explain to her (on a drive to some lofty meeting of intellectuals) the meaning of "double anal." It was a trope in our conversation for days afterward.

One of the reasons Cathy liked me accompanying her to parties was that I made her seem mannered in comparison. I regularly outraged more people than she did, usually with some innocuous inquiry about whether Brokeback Mountain was "a universal love story or just another gay cowboy film." (Yes, I steal many of my best lines from Mickey Kaus.) When I finally saw the film I had long mocked, I loved it (the first half was slow but the ending was devastating).

In the Spring of 2004, Cathy was due to come to work for me. I was the Editor of sex-oriented website and I was employing some of our friends at $100 - $300 per article. Then my boss pulled two of my articles (out of fear of lawsuits) and I quit in a huff (and have struggled financially ever since).

Cathy read my memoir XXX-Communicated. Like every woman who's read it, she thought I came across badly. She said the only convincing female character in it was Kendra Jade and she "couldn't understand why I didn't end up marrying her."

May 2, 2007

In the wake of my tasteless comments on Cathy Seipp's unfortunate demise, it seemed I'd lost all my friends.

Without Cathy's protection, I felt like a stray dog with rabies headed for the pound.

With trepidation, I stepped into Wednesday night's L.A. Press Club/Reason Magazine party for John Stossel's new book.

"Luke, what are you doing here?" said a friend of nine years. "Aren't you afraid that someone is going to push you in the pool?"

Well, darling, if you will talk to me, then no, I don't fear. After you've been knocked around by Mike Albo and dropped off in Boyle Heights, these press clubbers don't seem quite so intimidating.

After that initial connection, the party was like old times. Sure, it may be a while before I can shnorr off Mox, Ray and Jackie, sure, a few more people will pass me by on the information superhighway without tossing coins into my virtual cup, but there are always new suckers coming down the WWW who'll think I'm trustworthy.

June 10, 2007

A group of Cathy's best writer friends met for dinner at Rob Long's home Sunday evening.

After we ate, Rob and Sandra Tsing Loh gathered us (Jill Stewart, Anne Thompson, Luke Thompson, Debbie Gendel, Kate Coe, Moxie, Ruth Shalit and hubby Rob Barrett, Amy Alkon, Mr and Mrs Tim Cavanaugh, Roman Genn) in the living room and we each said a few words about Miss Seipp. Listen here.

My recording missed the first five minutes of introduction by Rob and Sandra.

One freelancer said Cathy was a model of courage who near the end of her life encouraged her to trash Amy Wilentz's new book on California even though Amy's husband Nick Goldberg was the Op/ED Editor of The Los Angeles Times.

I never knew Tim Cavanaugh was an Orthodox Jew. If he technically is not one, then he certainly breeds like one.

Debbie Gendel remembers: "I was inside The Times and Cathy was always revealing things I had said to her... We had a shared disappointment in the promise of this urbane society where everybody would be so witty and everyone was so square...and that's why we made fun of them."

Rob Long: "I saw her on the Friday before she died and she was still giving me s--- about living on the West Side."

Jill Stewart: "She was an insecure writer. I remember her calling me up [circa 2003] and asking how come Allan Mayer was always asking me out to lunch and he never asked her out..."

"We were too embarrassed to ask Allan why he kept asking me out to lunch so we never found out."

One bloke at the Times: "We're always testing the editorial hierarchy at The L.A. times on the web."

There was a vigorous discussion at The Times about putting Cathy's death on the front page. She did end up there online.

Ross Johnson: "At the time Cathy was diagnosed with cancer [May 2002], I was going through a severe clinical depression... She said, 'Find someone really insane to write about and no one will even notice.'"

Ross did, taking on the Anita Busch - Anthony Pellicano story.

Anne Thompson: "Cathy taught me about blogging. I took it up late and it ended up being the most fun, the most gratifying thing in my career."

I shared that I remember two of Cathy's favorite sayings were, "That's stupid!" and "You know I'm f---ing right!"

Gary McVey (American Cinema Foundation) remembers when Cathy said to him, "I can't decide whether you are a master of euphemism or you're just dishonest."

We remember when Gary's ACF had to bring in security to calm down Mickey Kaus's worries that the presence of Little Green Footballs webmaster Charles Johnson would trigger attacks. Cathy was ridiculously proud that she figured out the plainsclothed security guy (who stood about 6'10").

Cathy's father Harvey lives in Cathy's house. "I still feel like she's there...in the backyard and upstairs, sitting in her lawn chair, laughing, talking to her friends."

"As I read her articles, I wish that I could've discussed them with her."

"Her dog Linda survives and gets confused... I hear the dog talking to her. One day I was talking with Maia and the dog was staring at Cathy's chair. We went in and I got the feeling that there was something paranormal there. I think Cathy would've been very skeptical of that."

"I'm carrying a little book now called 'Why God permits evil and how to rise above it,' [by some guy with a Buddhist-sounding name]... I find some relief in it. There's magic there, which I don't think Cathy would've liked. Somehow I'm not willing to give up on her."

Ross: "Harvey, I want to thank you. You passed on the gift of honesty."

"Cathy was the most honest woman I ever met."

Sandra Tsing Loh: "That makes me think of Luke. You wrote on your blog that you and Cathy were like a married couple. You weren't like a married couple. You would say things to each other, and I'd go, I can't believe they said that, and then you'd have a snack and be friends. I was amazed. Your relationship was amazing."

Moxie wears a dress with the color of Cathy's blog. "She was a big rescuer of animals and strays..."

Moxie gives me the look.

Rob Long says Cathy should've smoked and he imitates the forceful Bette Davis way she could've snubbed out a cigarette while writing.

I remember Cathy as the most competitive woman I've ever met.

Cathy's daughter Maia Lazar remembers that her final discussion with her mother was an argument.