Missing Warren Olney’s ‘Which Way, L.A.?’


On May 1, 1992, I staffed a weekend conference for the Anti-Defamation League in Palm Desert. A group of lay leaders were gathered to learn about and discuss topics relevant to their issues of concern, including intergroup relations, the media and the Middle East, among others.

The scholar-in-residence for the topics relating to intergroup relations and the media was Warren Olney, even then a fixture among local broadcasters, having been a newsman and anchor at several prominent stations and the host of news discussion shows that were weekend staples.

The weekend coincided with the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which began on Wednesday and spread across Los Angeles on Thursday. By Friday, the police and sheriffs were gaining some control over the situation, and they were aided by the National Guard, which arrived on Saturday.

The ADL retreat began as planned on Friday night, with but a few no-shows, and Olney was the star — someone with a breadth of knowtledge of Los Angeles and an ability to call upon that knowledge to help put the unfolding crisis into perspective.

As the weekend was ending, Olney said he would have to leave a little early on Sunday morning since he had just received a call from Ruth Seymour (then Hirschman), the general manager of NPR radio station KCRW, who wanted him to moderate a special later that week. She thought he could do some interviews to plumb what had just happened in L.A. Olney had to start preparing — thinking about things like guests, issues and format.

That was May 1992. As the Los Angeles Times has written in a profile of Warren, “I thought of it as one night of interviews,” Olney said of the program that became “Which Way, L.A.?” But Seymour, “without saying anything to me, thought of it as a sort of audition.”

The first show went so well, Seymour named it and brought it back for a week starting June 1, then the rest of the month, then through Labor Day. Toward the end of that summer, she said she asked Olney, “ ‘Are you ready to wind it up?’ And he said, ‘Why should we wind it up?’ ”

That one night became a decade, then two and now, 23 years later, after close to 5,000 shows, Olney is “ready to wind it up.” A unique chronicle of Los Angeles’ history — our triumphs, our crises, our travails and our failures — came to an end on Jan. 28. 

I recently looked through the “Which Way, L.A.?” home page and was struck by what an amazing resource it is. Virtually every significant event that occurred in Los Angeles over the past 2 1/2 decades is explored by Olney and his guests. Usually, they offered differing views on what had just happened or was imminent. From trials to riots to El Ninos to changing police chiefs and school superintendents to gentrification to local reaction to 9/11 — it’s all there and discussed in an intelligent, thorough and civil way.

He has done well over 100 programs dealing with the Jewish community and Israel. They ranged from benign topics such as Israel and desalination to more controversial issues revolving around terror, wars with Hamas in Gaza and 9/11. His interview with local Islamic leader Salam al Marayati on 9/11 and again the next day even made the 9/11 Commission Report. Warren was able to navigate the challenging issues involving intra-Jewish as well as intergroup matters with grace and sensitivity.

The program’s main focus, though, has always been L.A. — whether locally based issues or the local ramifications of national and international issues. The discussions are chock full of mavens of all kinds (his database of contacts has in excess of 25,000 names) and while the conversation may get contentious, it’s always civil. That is due, in no small measure, to Olney’s calm and fair demeanor. As Seymour observed, “Civility is really important in discourse. He invites guests on whose opinions are very different from each other. He does it in a way that invites a back and forth.”

As Warren himself has noted, “We’re supposed to have a democratic society and discuss things in a rational way. I want to help that process. At the same time, I also welcome and look for disagreement, because that’s what makes it run.”

In 2011, Community Advocates honored Warren with its Bill Stout Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. It was well deserved.

Warren will continue to host his nationally syndicated program, “To the Point,” but that has a much broader focus. 

Los Angeles will be the poorer for losing this extraordinary catalyst for self-examination and civil exploration of the issues that confront this city. Bravo to Olney for decades of serving this city in ways that few can match — teaching millions how to fairly, honestly and civilly explore tough issues and, in the process, learn what makes democracy work.

L.A. will miss “Which Way, L.A.?” 

David A. Lehrer is the president of Community Advocates, Inc., a Los Angeles-based human relations organization chaired by former Mayor Richard J. Riordan. For 27 years, he served locally with the Anti-Defamation League as counsel and regional director.

PBS documentary shows how Mayor Tom Bradley changed L.A.


Tom Bradley became Los Angeles’ first African-American mayor in 1973 by bringing together a multiracial coalition of Blacks, Jews, white liberals and Latinos in the years after the Watts Riots. He opened City Hall to people of all racial backgrounds, brought the Olympic Games to the city (again), and fought a racist and recalcitrant police department. 

And, as a new PBS documentary, “Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race,” explains, Bradley laid the groundwork for President Barack Obama to take the White House in 2008.   

The two filmmakers, Lyn Goldfarb and Alison Sotomayor, screened their work Aug. 10  at CSU Los Angeles. The film was followed by a panel discussion on Bradley and race relations that included Lorraine Bradley, the eldest of the late mayor’s three daughters; Rep. Judy Chu of the San Gabriel Valley; Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; former L.A. County Supervisor and City Councilmember Zev Yaroslavsky; and Maria Elena Durazo, the general vice president for immigration, civil rights and diversity at Unite Here. Radio host Warren Olney of KCRW moderated. 

“The most vexing issue in American society is the issue of race. It is persistent, and it defines significantly Tom Bradley’s tenure,” Ridley-Thomas said. 

The son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave, Bradley was raised in a tradition of African-American excellence in Los Angeles. As a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department — the highest rank an African-American could achieve at the time — Bradley resisted a violent police culture. 

As a city councilmember, he became a vocal critic of Police Chief William H. Parker and his alliance with Mayor Sam Yorty. 

After Yorty won re-election against Bradley in 1969 by appealing to racist tropes, Bradley spent four years building a coalition with Latino labor groups and Jews on the Westside and in the South San Fernando Valley, ultimately winning in a landslide in 1973. He served five terms and remains the longest-serving mayor in Los Angeles history. 

“The coalition never really frayed. He was extraordinarily respected in the Jewish community, and he earned that respect over a long period of time,” Yaroslavsky said during the panel discussion. “Ultimately, he had that respect in virtually every part of the city.”

Although Bradley, known for his quiet and resolute manner, ultimately left office after watching the city burst into flames during the 1992 Rodney King Riots — the result of continued police brutality and economic oppression in Los Angeles’ African-American communities — Bradley’s legacy is evident in multiracial coalitions across the city, state and country, according to the documentary.

In addition to highlighting how they, personally, had benefited from Bradley’s legacy, the panelists highlighted the similarities between unrest in African-American and minority communities in 1992 and in the past year.

“We are very fortunate in Los Angeles to have a whole generation of multiethnic leaders who believe in group coalition building, who believe that that is the best way to address our issues,” Durazo said. “We have got to keep that going, but we have to expect more, as well. We have to demand more and expect more. We can’t hold off another 1992 rebellion unless we really use that strength and that coalition to address the poverty and the other issues of racism in our community.”

Calendar Picks and Clicks:


SAT SEPT 7

GOOD FOOD PIE CONTEST

“>kcrw.com.

“THE CLOTH PEDDLER”

Azerbaijan is at it again! It’s the one-night-only performance of the globally renowned comedy operetta. Considered the first operetta of the Muslim world, this 100-year-old tale tells a beautiful love story with classical music. Produced by American award-winning producer Michael Schnack and with the accompaniment of an L.A.-based orchestra, the program — in both English and Azerbaijani — will be a little present from the past. Sat. 7:30 p.m. Free. (310) 741-7405. SUN SEPT 8

“EVE2”

Catch it before it closes! It’s the last showing of the Bootleg Theatre’s sensual and surreal take on the story of Adam and Eve. Set in a hospital morgue that loses power in a massive electrical outage, the play explores time, space (their collision) and asks the “what if’s” about the Genesis story we all know. Sun. 2 p.m. $20 (general), $15 (students, seniors). Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 389-3856. MON SEPT 9

“SOUL MUSIC—A SELICHOT CONCERT”

The Sephardic Educational Center presents its third annual musical extravaganza. Some of the world’s leading Sephardic chazzanim unite for an uplifting evening of Selichot. You can’t have too much soul during days as holy as these — so whether it’s the music or the prayer, it’s the place for you. There will be refreshments and valet parking provided. Mon. 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. $15. Kahal Joseph Congregation, 10505 W. Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 272-4574. “>witzendlive.com.

TUE SEPT 10

“RACHMANINOFF AND GERSHWIN: ROMANTIC FAVORITES”

It’s a big night with even bigger (and longer) names. Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts the L.A. Phil and 21-year-old Danlil Trifonov (piano) as the Bowl celebrates classics and West Coast premieres alike. Audience members can expect Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” and music from “Porgy and Bess”; they’ll hear Trifonov — winner of the 13th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv — play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2; and be the first West Coasters to hear Adam Schoenberg’s “Bounce.” Tue. 8 p.m. $15.50-$114.50. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000. THU SEPT 12

“WOMAN TO WOMAN”

It’s better than a spa day. The JVS WoMentoring Leadership Network is having its inaugural event. Discuss, reflect and be inspired by speakers that include photojournalist Dana Gluckstein, New York Times best-selling author Lisa See and Oscar-nominated producer Amy Ziering. And if that’s not impressive enough, there will be leading female physicians speaking on topics like heart disease, oncology and women’s health. Thu. 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. $150 (single ticket), $100 (single ticket WLN member). Location available upon RSVP. (323) 761-8888, ext. 8891. FRI SEPT 13

“AFTERNOON DELIGHT”

When stay-at-home-mom Rachel decides to take stripper McKenna under her wing, hilarity and humanity ensue. Written and directed by Jill Soloway (“Six Feet Under,” “The United States of Tara”), the film is considered one of the highlights of this year’s Sundance Festival. Kathryn Hahn, Josh Radnor and Jane Lynch star. Fri. Various times. $11 (general), $8 (seniors, ages 11 and under, bargain matinee). Various locations and times. (310) 478-3836.

A jail as a mental hospital


James Coley and Robert Warfield, case workers for the Integrated Recovery Network, walked into the Twin Towers Correctional Facility with purpose and confidence, exactly the qualities needed for talking to some of the approximately 2,500 mentally ill inmates confined in the downtown Los Angeles jail.

They were seeking homeless men who, nearing completion of their sentences, would benefit from a unique recovery program that helps provide access to housing, medical care, counseling and jobs for such inmates. I tagged along, overwhelmed at times by the sights and sounds of the grim penal facility near downtown Los Angeles that Sheriff Lee Baca calls America’s largest mental hospital.

A jail as a mental hospital? That’s the sad state we’re in, with thousands of homeless arrested and jailed in the Twin Towers, which provides minimal psychiatric and addiction rehabilitation, then sent back to the streets to sicken or die, or to be arrested again for another minor crime. In fact, according to Marsha Temple, executive director and founder of the Integrated Recovery Network (who is married to KCRW’s political talk-show host Warren Olney), most of the mentally ill homeless are crime victims themselves, preyed upon by robbers, drug dealers, perverts or the vicious individuals who find sport in assaulting them.

There are few places for these potential victims to go unless they are arrested. Since California’s mental hospitals were closed down after passage of the ill-fated 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short reform law, the state’s government has built few of the community treatment centers that were supposed to replace them. In any case, state law makes involuntary commitment extremely difficult — even if there were a place to send the mentally ill. 

The failing system also affects those mentally ill fortunate enough to have homes and families. They go without care unless they agree to it. And most often, only the affluent can afford the level of continuing mental treatment needed for sick relatives, because insurance coverage is commonly so minimal. Most mentally ill live in unending limbo, receiving sporadic help at best.

Two recent murder cases point up this situation. One involves Michael Rodney Kane, an elementary school teacher charged with stabbing his estranged wife, Michelle Ann Kane, to death on a San Fernando Valley street on June 15. All the circumstances of the case have not yet come out, but newspaper accounts say he had been hospitalized, according to his deceased wife, for suicidal thoughts and stress and was also a heroin and methamphetamine addict. 

The other case involves John  Zawahri, who shot and killed five people and wounded others in Santa Monica on June 7 before being gunned down by police. When  Zawahri was in high school, a teacher spotted him looking for assault weapons on the Internet and turned him in to the principal. Zawahri ended up in the UCLA psychiatric ward but was released.

The Integrated Recovery Network focuses on homeless inmates receptive to being helped. Executive director Temple, an attorney, has built a system that features recovery programs tailored to the needs of each inmate, rather than the one-size-fits-all methods of many other rehabilitation programs. “It is very individualized. That is the secret of our success,” she said. The first priority is finding housing for the inmate after he or she is released, either in a home, apartment or group facility, with the rent paid for through government and other aid programs. Then ex-inmates are steered into treatment for addiction as well as mental illness. Of the first-time offenders in the program, only about 20 percent commit another crime. For veteran criminals, that figure rises to 50 percent to 60 percent, Temple said, but that is still below Los Angeles County’s recidivism rate of 70 percent.


Marsha Temple, executive director and founder of the Integrated Recovery Network, which works with mentally ill inmates.

I found it enlightening to watch Recovery Network caseworkers Coley and Warfield, both 30 years old, as they interviewed inmates in the Twin Towers on the afternoon of June 13. I was impressed by the way they talked to the inmates we saw during the day. Coley and Warfield were neither too tough nor overly sympathetic but spoke directly in a straight-on manner that was both supportive and respectful.

We went into the nine and 10 side-by-side buildings. The cellblocks were crowded, with cots in day rooms designed to give the inmates some open space. With the cots packed together, these mentally ill men are forced into constant close contact with one another. 

The case workers asked to see one Recovery Network client who was back in jail on what seemed to me to be trumped-up, or at least improbable, charges of stealing a Pepsi from a convenience store. He suffered from bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders, the latter the result of his time in state prison more than a decade ago on a robbery charge. He was African-American. The overwhelming majority of the inmates are African-American or Latino.

A marijuana possession charge had originally sent the man to the Twin Towers, years after his state prison time. One day, Coley, on his rounds through the jail, asked, as he always does, if anyone needed help with housing. The inmate said he did. “James told me to write a short essay with five long-term goals and five short-term goals” and describe what triggered his lawbreaking, he told me. “We came up with a plan.” 

By completing the essay, he helped convince caseworkers Coley and Warfield that he would be a good candidate for housing and treatment. Upon release, the man moved into housing found by the Recovery Network, enrolled in a political science class at Trade Tech, and then “I ran out of gas,” he said. Walking home from the store with two bags of groceries he had purchased, he stopped at a convenience store and bought a Pepsi. The security guard accused him of stealing it. The man denied it, and slugged the guard. 

Back in jail and facing a possible third-strike charge, which could land him with a lifetime sentence, he found that caseworkers Coley and Warfield hadn’t abandoned him. His public defender is overworked and hasn’t pushed his case. But Coley visits him and tries “to get on top of the lawyer.” The inmate said, “The Integrated Recovery Network hasn’t given up on me. It makes you feel they are in for the long haul.” Or, as Coley told me afterward, “If they fall down, we don’t shun them.”

Coley and Warfield stopped by another cellblock. There was something that bothered Coley and Warfield about one inmate who asked to speak to them. He said he had been jailed for jaywalking, which the caseworkers felt was unlikely. And he had teardrops tattooed under an eye, a tipoff to gang membership. To Coley and Warfield, it is important that their prospects be honest with them, and this man didn’t seem to meet that standard. But they asked him to write an essay, and they said that if he had done so when they returned the following week, they’d talk to him more.

Another man, who said he was in for possession and sales of drugs, seemed a better prospect. He said he suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and stress. He wanted out of his old life — and to enter a drug program.

We walked through other parts of the jail. On the seventh floor of one of the towers, the severely mentally ill were under heavy control, handcuffed when they were taken from one place to another, restricted to one-man cells, with doors locked 20 hours a day. Guards check the cells every 15 minutes. In another area, reserved for even more destructive inmates, the prisoners wore special mesh clothing they could not rip off. I heard screaming and banging on the doors. Some inmates, drugged, were curled up on their cots or in a corner of their small cells. Some of the cell doors had red signs warning that the inmates were potentially violent. Inmates on this floor are too dangerous and sick for the Integrated Recovery Network to help.

Over the years, I’ve watched the state’s mental health care system deteriorate to this — a jail as a mental hospital. As a young reporter in Sacramento, I visited state hospitals where the mentally ill and disabled were warehoused and forgotten except by relatives who often had to make long drives to distant locations. I thought it was good idea to replace those with community centers closer to home. Then I watched as those centers were never built, the victims of budget-cutting and misplaced priorities by Gov. Ronald Reagan and his successors. Finally, with the hospitals closed, I saw the mentally ill take to the streets, where we see so many of them today.

As James Coley and Robert Warfield make their rounds in the Twin Towers, they and others like them are trying to pick up the pieces of this shattered system.


Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Pro-Sherman mailer labeled ‘despicable’ may have ties to Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto


A pro-Brad Sherman mailer sent out in October to Republican voters in the San Fernando Valley’s new 30th Congressional district features a shadowy and ominous-looking image of Rep. Howard Berman, Sherman’s Democratic opponent for Congress, shown alongside Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).  The mailer, which the Los Angeles County Democratic Party has called “despicable” and “divisive,” was created by a Super PAC that appears tied to Sherman’s former district director, Democratic Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, the Journal has learned.

“If you love these politicians, then vote for Howard Berman,” the mailer says, before going on to claim that Sherman “has been endorsed by every Republican elected official in the Valley.”

Waters is black, Frank is gay, and Boxer is known for her advocacy on women’s issues and environmental legislation, and the Berman campaign immediately called on Sherman to denounce the mailer, calling it “offensive to women, minorities, the LGBT community and Valley voters.”

The involvement of Super PACs in the race between Berman and Sherman has been the subject of a heated argument between the candidates since the campaign’s earliest stages. On Jan. 5 of this year, Sherman called on Berman to sign an anti-Super PAC pledge for their contest, aimed at reducing the impact of the outside groups. Super PACs can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions and businesses as long as they do not coordinate their activities with any candidate or candidate’s committee. Sherman has since repeatedly criticized Berman for the independent Super PAC monies supporting Berman’s candidacy.

Asked by Warren Olney about the recent mailer in a debate broadcast on KCRW on Oct. 29, Sherman said he didn’t know who sent it.

“I got an email about it somewhere certainly, and I haven’t seen it, but it’s certainly not our campaign,” Sherman told Olney. When asked by the Journal on Nov 1 to comment on Gatto’s possible involvement, the Sherman campaign declined to comment.

The mailer states that it was “Paid for by Californians for Integrity in Government” and was “not authorized by any candidate, candidate’s agent, or committee.”

But according to an individual involved in running campaigns who spoke to The Journal only on condition of anonymity, Gatto had mentioned to him that he was chairing a Super PAC that would be backing Brad Sherman. This individual speculated that Gatto likely had oversight over the controversial mailer.

Mike Gatto in 2010

“If it’s Gatto’s money at the end of the day, he would have to OK it,” the campaign professional said.

After repeated requests for comment from Gatto on Wednesday and Thursday with a member of the Assemblyman’s district office staff, as well as on the voicemail of a member of his campaign staff, a text message from a member of Gatto’s campaign staff was sent to a Journal reporter stating: “Mr. Gatto has no official relationship with the entity you described on my voicemail.”

Gatto worked for Sherman for five years in the early 2000s, including almost two years spent as his district director and a stint as his acting chief of staff. He has maintained close ties to his former boss since his election to the Assembly in a special election in June 2010. Gatto is currently running for reelection against Greg Krikorian, a Republican member of the Glendale School Board.

Multiple donors to Californians for Integrity in Government, the Super PAC named on the mailer, have also supported Gatto’s election campaigns, according to records obtained from the California Secretary of State.

Of the 12 individuals, businesses and union groups that have donated to Californians for Integrity in Government, at least eight have also given to Gatto’s campaign committees in the past four years. Those same donors have also given to Sherman’s campaigns.

The two largest single donations to the pro-Sherman Super PAC came from the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which donated $225,000 to the group in May, and S&S Business Holdings, a Thousand Oaks-based company that gave $100,000 to Californians for Integrity in Government in September.

According to records obtained from the California Secretary of State, S & S Business Holdings, LLC is located in Westlake Village and has a “Susan A. Mallhicoff” (sic) listed as its agent for service of process. An online phone book listing for Susan A. Malchicoff shows that she lives in Westlake Village with her husband, Sheldon A. Malchicoff, who is CEO of DEX, a supply chain corporation headquartered in Camarillo. According to data obtained from the Secretary of State, a “Scheldon(sic) Malchicoff” from Westlake, who was described as the CEO of Data Exchange Corp., donated $1,000 to Gatto in February 2010.

The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which represents 65,000 union carpenters in six states, has endorsed both Sherman and Gatto in their races this year and supported Gatto monetarily in both of the last two election cycles, donating $7,800 to his committee in 2010, $1,000 in 2011 and $3,900 in 2012.

A request for an interview with Sheldon Malchicoff on Wednesday got no response, as did a request for comment from the Carpenters union group on Wednesday afternoon.

Records from the Federal Election Commission show that even as Sherman publicly pushed Berman to reject Super PAC support, Californians for Integrity in Government was setting up shop and raising money on Sherman’s behalf.

The group’s first filing to the FEC is dated Jan. 3, two days before a debate at which Sherman presented a poster-sized reproduction of his pledge before Berman and two other candidates.

On Feb. 6, Sherman’s campaign put out a press release challenging Berman to sign the Super PAC pledge. Californians for Integrity in Government received its first donation later that month. By the end of May, the pro-Sherman Super PAC had raised $270,000, all of it from donors who had also given to Gatto’s campaigns.

On May 7, the Sherman campaign submitted a formal complaint to the FEC alleging that Berman had illegally coordinated activities with one of the pro-Berman Super PACs.

Californians for Integrity in Government’s first donation of $25,000 was made in February by a Montebello-based business called PF Heritage, LLC, which had donated a total of $100,000 as of Oct. 31. According to records obtained from the California Secretary of State, the registered agent of service for PF Heritage is Igor Pasternak, who is also the founder and CEO of an airship manufacturer called Aeroscraft, which is located at the same address as PF Heritage.

Pasternak, who lives in Tarzana, inside the new 30th Congressional district, donated $2,400 to Gatto in 2009. Aeroscraft’s CPA, Carrie Cass, also donated $2,400 to Gatto that year.

Messages requesting comment on Wednesday left at Aeroscraft’s offices for Pasternak and Cass received no response.

There is no evidence that Sherman or his campaign have coordinated efforts with the Super PAC or Gatto in a way that would violate election law.

In its initial filing, Californians for Integrity in Government did not describe itself as a pro-Sherman Super Pac. It described its mission as supporting more than one federal candidate. If the group had been formed to support or oppose only a single candidate – as the Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman, a pro-Berman Super PAC, was – the group would have had to specify which candidate it was set up to support.

Such a disclosure might have drawn attention to the group earlier in the race, and might have given Berman information to respond to Sherman’s frequent mentioning of the pro-Berman Super PACs in debates and public appearances. Absent that disclosure, no one but the Super PAC’s organizers could have known of the group’s existence and its primary aim – to support Sherman and oppose Berman – until September, when it began spending in large amounts the money it raised over the preceding seven months.

The overwhelming majority – more than 99 percent — of the Super PAC’s spending has been targeted to support Sherman’s campaign against Berman.

Of the $460,000 spent by the group as of Nov. 1, only $5,000 was spent outside the 30th district, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. On Aug. 31, Californians for Integrity in Government informed the FEC that it had paid a campaign consultant to make an unspecified number of live calls on behalf of Gloria Negrete McLeod, a Democratic State Senator who is running for Congress against incumbent Democratic Congressman Joe Baca, in California’s new 35th district.  

Every other expenditure made by Californians for Integrity in Government has been directed at the 30th district race, all in the form of either pro-Sherman or anti-Berman mailers. The group has spent $263,000 on mailers opposing Berman and $191,000 on mailers supporting Sherman.

Gatto’s name does not appear on any document associated with the group. Shawnda Deane, the committee’s treasurer, reached by phone at her office in Sacramento on Wednesday, declined to answer questions but offered to send a link to a Web site for the group and to pass on a message to the people behind it.

No email was ever received by The Journal, nor did any other person affiliated with Californians for Integrity in Government contact the Journal.

Gatto is known to still be very close to Sherman. In 2011, Gatto followed his former boss’s lead when he introduced legislation in Sacramento that would have protected the rights of parents to circumcise their male children. He is also listed as one of Sherman’s endorsers on Sherman’s campaign Web site.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who has spoken out very publicly on Sherman’s behalf, donated $5,000 to Californians for Integrity in Government in September. The founder and former president of The Israel Project, a pro-Israel advocacy organization, has commented publicly on the race, and about the recent media coverage of the controversial anti-Berman mailer.

When a gay news Web site drew attention to the pro-Sherman group’s use of “race baiting [and] gay baiting” in its mailer, Mizrahi came to Sherman’s defense.

“Any suggestion that Rep. Sherman doesn’t support equal rights, civil rights, marital rights, healthcare fairness and dignity is false!” Mizrahi wrote in a comment on the story at Queerty.com.

In an interview on Oct. 31, Mizrahi would neither confirm nor deny that Gatto had been involved in soliciting her donation.

“He may have been,” Mizrahi said. “I think everyone knows that I’m a Brad Sherman supporter, so when there was a pro-Brad Sherman group established, I was an obvious person to call.”

KCRW’s Ruth Seymour Offers Rich Legacy to Jewish Community


For a woman who says she has never been much involved in the Jewish community, Ruth Seymour has probably introduced more people to an appreciation of Jewish stories and music than any other Los Angeles media figure.

But not only Yiddish aficionados mourned when Seymour announced last November that she would retire from her post of 32 years as general manager of radio station KCRW-FM (89.9) at the end of February.

Listeners, however, hope that her spirit and sensibility will continue through her successor, Jennifer Ferro, who had served as assistant general manager since 1997.

Ruth Epstein (the first of Seymour’s three surnames) was born in the East Bronx to Russian-Polish immigrants, who transmitted their secular, socialist and Yiddish worldview to their daughter.

She deepened and broadened this ideology and culture at the Sholem Aleichem Folk School and, later, at the City College of New York, where she studied under the great Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich.

When she joined KCRW as a consultant in 1977 under the name Ruth Hirschman (her husband was poet Jack Hirschman, whom she would later divorce; she adopted the name Seymour in 1993 in honor of her paternal great-grandfather, a rabbi), the station was housed in two old classrooms at John Adams Junior High School. Later, it moved to more modern quarters at Santa Monica College.

In slowly transforming KCRW into one of the country’s most innovative public broadcasting outlets, Seymour reached back to her roots to create “Philosophers, Fiddlers and Fools.”

The three-hour program became an instant Chanukah hit, serving a bilingual mix of folk music, Isaac Bashevis Singer stories, old Second Avenue songs and a memorial tribute to Holocaust victims.

“I always broadcast the program on Friday evenings, so I could bid my listeners a gut yontif,” Seymour recalled in an interview.

The Chanukah potpourri was complemented by the program “Jewish Short Stories From the Old World to the New.”

After 28 years as host of “Philosophers,” Seymour abruptly shut down the program but followed it with “Only in America,” a series on American Jewish history.

In parallel, Seymour created a host of general cultural, musical and political programs, which appealed to her predominantly liberal Westside audience and brought to the station such notables as Tom Schnabel and Warren Olney.

Such Seymour legacies as “Which Way L.A.?,” “To the Point,” “Left, Right and Center” and “The Politics of Culture” all have established faithful followers who can be counted on to pitch in during annual fundraising drives.

When big news broke, KCRW showed that it could cover the stories as well as, and usually in more depth than, the commercial stations.

In 1992, when a jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the beating of African American motorist Rodney King, KCRW covered the ensuing riots around the clock. The radio station showed the same tenacity in reporting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center.

Seymour’s announcement of her retirement triggered an avalanche of reminiscences and tributes by listeners and the media, but she took the watershed event in her life quite calmly.

“At 75, I don’t want to go through the rest of my life regretting what else I could have done,” she said. “I am committed to living inside the moment.”

KCRW gives us ‘The Business’


In an underground office on the campus of Santa Monica College, Claude
Brodesser-Akner is working with his producer, Matt Holzman, and
associate producer, Darby Maloney, to describe the current status of
the Oscar broadcast — and work in a pun.

Finally, Brodesser-Akner says, with some satisfaction, “The Oscars are mired.”

Welcome to the world of “The Business,” a half-hour syndicated radio program
devoted to the nuts and bolts of the entertainment industry (pun
intended), hosted by Brodesser-Akner each week since June 2004.
Produced by KCRW-FM 89.9 in Santa Monica, the show is distributed
nationally to public radio stations.

On the show, Brodesser-Akner explores, surveys and comments on all
facets of the entertainment business, reaching out to executives,
producers and artists, as well as other journalists, that he might not
otherwise know, deepening his — and in the process, our —
understanding of what is occurring in Hollywood on a weekly basis.

Between drafts of the script for this week’s broadcast, which involves
a lot of cutting and arguments among Brodesser-Akner and his producers
about meaning, nuance, as well as the insertion and deletion of more
puns, Brodesser-Akner and I repair to a side office to hear his story.

Long before his 2006 marriage to Taffy Akner, the former West Coast
director of education for mediabistro.com, and taking on a hyphenated
last name, Brodesser, 35, grew up in Centerport, Long Island, a good
Catholic boy. The son of German immigrants, he attended parochial
school at St. Phillip Neri in Northport and St. Anthony’s High School
in Huntington.

At the liberal-arts-oriented Skidmore College, he led a peer-to-peer
writing program that taught expository writing, and after graduation,
took on a gig teaching English in China as part of a sister school
program founded by a former Shakespeare professor.

Returning to New York — by his own account, he “washed ashore,
indigent,” Brodesser launched into a series of internships that, in
hindsight, each “presaged the imminent demise of editors.” Kurt
Andersen departed New York Magazine shortly after Brodesser arrived;
arts editor Karen Dubin exited The Village Voice the week he started;
and at the Charlie Rose public television program, the woman he was
supposed to report to never appeared, even on his first day.

Nonetheless, in 1996, Brodesser landed his first paying job at
Mediaweek magazine, covering TV broadcast stations at what turned out
to be an interesting time.

“It was just after the telecom bill was passed,” a period that saw a great agglomeration of local stations and outlets.

Brodesser’s next stop was at Variety’s New York edition, where in
keeping with his internship experience, the Broadway editor left
shortly after his arrival. Brodesser was given the beat, which he took
on, not as a fan of Broadway musicals, but as a reporter — “Just a guy
with a pad asking questions.” Broadway was a small community, and he
sought out The New York Times’ Frank Rich, who became a mentor and
advised him to be fearless.

Variety got aggressive, breaking daily stories.

“It was great fun,” Brodesser recalled.

In 1998, as the call of the Internet made a thousand ventures bloom,
including sites that hoped to transform entertainment industry
reporting (and make its reporters a fortune), such as inside.com and
creativeplanet.com, Variety lost most of the members of its film
department.

Brodesser moved to Los Angeles to cover film and found it different
than New York, where, as he recalled, he could attend a party at Tavern
on the Green and walk up to the dean of theater agents, George Lane,
and then wander over to playwright Edward Albee — with the
understanding that with a drink in one’s hand, all comments were off
the record.

At Brodesser’s first Hollywood premiere in 1999 for the Martin
Lawrence-Luke Wilson action-comedy, “Blue Streak,” he approached Drew
Barrymore, introduced himself, explained his “drink-in-hand” rule; and
they started to chat. He asked her about rumors he had heard concerning
the production of “Charlie’s Angels.” She answered and then wished him
well. Brodesser was delighted to have had a Hollywood moment.

Within minutes, several beefy bodyguards surrounded him.

“Your night is over,” they said. “You threatened Miss Barrymore.”
Despite protestations that he was a member of the press, they picked
him up and tossed him out — literally.

Gossip columnist Mitchell Fink wrote about it, and the incident got
some play. The next day, Peter Bart, editor of Variety, called
Brodesser into his office.

Brodesser feared that Bart was going to fire him. Instead, Bart was
tickled pink (and here Brodesser slipped into a British/patrician
accent): “That’s how you do it,” Brodesser recalled Bart telling him,
referring to the ruckus he caused. “….That’s the way we should do
it.”

And that pep talk informed his next seven years at Variety.

Still nothing could have prepared Brodesser for the call he received in
2003 from Akner, who was then director of education programs for
journalism site, mediabistro.com. She called to ask him to teach a
workshop. Little did either of them know this call would lead to love,
marriage and the baby carriage — not to mention circumcision,
conversion, separate dishes for meat and dairy and a hyphenated last
name.

As he recounted to me recently, Brodesser was someone who thought he
might never get married or have children, but, as he put it, “I met my
wife and it was kapow!”

And so, as reported in a New York Times article about their wedding,
former Catholic school boy Brodesser, the son of a “father conscripted
at age 14 into the German army near the end of World War II,” and
former yeshiva student Akner, the granddaughter of “a survivor of the
concentration camp at Dachau” and whose concerned mother, Daniela
Shimona, prayed for her daughter at the grave of the late Lubbavitcher
Rebbe Schneerson, only to have a change of heart when she saw a video
about conversions at the nearby Lubbavitch center, were married in 2006.

Brodesser-Akner told me that the thought of raising a child with Akner
inspired him to convert. He studied first at the University of Judaism
(now American Jewish University), which he felt did a great job of
organizing 5,000 years of history and learning into a syllabus. But, he
says, “I wanted more.”

He wanted a conversion that would be accepted by the Orthodox, and his
journey led him to Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David-Judea, who
became his sponsoring rabbi, performed the marriage and to whose Modern
Orthodox congregation the family now belongs.

He says his wife jokes that “her punishment for dating a Catholic boy
is living an Orthodox life.” They are Sabbath observant, keep kosher
and Brodesser-Akner now sports a multicolored kippah.

He says that although being observant is not always easy, “it is worth
it.” As someone who used to work all the time, Brodesser-Akner is
grateful for the respite of Sabbath. But it is the feeling of community
— of belonging and caring — that he has experienced as part of B’nai
David-Judea that seems to have most deeply impressed him.

Brodesser-Akner explained that although he has lived in a great variety
of neighborhoods in Los Angeles and was a very social person, it was
only as part of his temple that he experienced a deeper level of
community, where each member is cared for. Brodesser-Akner spoke
movingly about the visitation schedule organized for a sick elderly
congregant and about the attention and care he and his wife received
recently in the weeks after their first child was born.

In this last year, Brodesser-Akner also joined Advertising Age as Los
Angeles bureau chief, reporting on the entertainment industry (he left
Variety in 2005 and worked for FishbowLA, a mediabistro blog, and wrote
for Los Angeles magazine, before being poached for the launch of
TMZ.com in 2006, where he lasted a year).

He finds himself at Ad Age at a moment when the industry is in turmoil
and the worlds of advertising and entertainment are increasingly
converging. To what end, it is hard to say — but that gives him plenty
to report and comment upon.

For example, Brodesser-Akner views the Writers Guild strike as
“disastrous,” not because the writers’ cause is without merit, but
rather because they are so overmatched by the conglomerates that own
the studios and networks that he “doesn’t see this ending well.” He
notes the folly of an industry that claims it can’t afford to pay
writers, while remaining hostage to star salaries and profit
participations.

As for the Oscars, Brodesser-Akner reminded me that last year, fewer
than 11 percent of the audience had seen the nominated films. Evidence,
he feels, of the disconnect between mega-audience movies and films
winning honors.

On the taping of “The Business” that I watched being produced, which
aired Jan. 14, the discussion focused on a growing trend to loosen
copyright protection on music, as well as an acknowledgement that
independent films, such as “The Kite Runner,” might suffer at the box
office without award shows, such as “The Golden Globes,” for promotion
and publicity.

At the start of our conversation, Brodesser-Akner joked that he had
converted to Judaism for the heavy food and self-deprecating humor. But
let me take a more Jesuitical — I mean talmudic — approach: Perhaps
he did it for the questions. Because, the only thing we know for sure
about the entertainment business, based on the past, is that whatever
occurs, there will be plenty of questions.

So, beyond the strike and the Oscars remain the questions: Where is the
culture going? What will we watch, listen to or play? And on what will
we see and hear it? How will it be financed? What will pay for it:
hedge funds, product placement, advertising sponsors or Internet ads?

If these questions intrigue you, then the answer is simple. Tune in to Brodesser-Akner for “The Business.”

Tom Teicholz is a film producer in Los Angeles. Everywhere else,
he’s an author and journalist who has written for The New York Times
Sunday Magazine, Interview and The Forward. His column appears every
other week.

KCRW’s gift — five days of ‘Only in America’ Jewish history


For a certain nostalgic segment of the Jewish community, Chanukah wasn’t official until KCRW-FM general manager Ruth Seymour narrated her lively “Philosophers, Fiddlers and Fools” program at this time of the year.

This noble tradition has now come to an end, but KCRW (89.9) has come up with a worthy replacement in “Only in America,” which will air over five days in one-hour segments, Dec. 3-7 at 2 p.m.

The series on the Jewish experience in this country has as its starting point 1654, when 23 Jews from Brazil — four men and 19 women and children — arrived in New Amsterdam, on the lower part of Manhattan, and asked permission to stay.

Peter Stuyvesant, governor of the colony, would have none of it. In a letter to his superiors in Holland, read by actor John Lithgow, he petitioned the directors of the Dutch West India Company “that this deceitful race … be not allowed to further infest and trouble the new colony.”

Fortunately for all of us, a number of Dutch Jews were major stockholders in the company, and the attempt to strangle Jewish life in America before it even began was rejected.

The producer of the ambitious program is Larry Josephson, a native Angeleno now settled in New York. The concept, he said in an interview, struck him four years ago when he heard about plans to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in the United States.

“My great-grandfather came here from the Ukraine in 1900, but I realized that I knew nothing about Jewish history here between 1654 and 1900,” Josephson said.

Even more historically minded listeners will be impressed by the presentation’s color and detail, interspersing the jokes and songs of an era with eyewitness accounts and scholarly analysis.

There is a reading of George Washington’s letter promising religious freedom to “the children of the stock of Abraham” and shocking descriptions of New York’s sweatshops, but also Al Jolson belting out songs from “The Jazz Singer” and Philip Roth observing that “God gave us Irving Berlin, and Berlin gave us ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Easter Parade.'”

In chronological order, the Dec. 3 broadcast on “The First Jews” traces the struggle of the pioneer Jews, from the initial arrival through the American Revolution and the adoption of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The ironically titled “The Streets Were Paved With Gold” program, on Dec. 4, introduces the mass arrival of Eastern European Jews and their settlement on the Lower East Side, where they retained the old language and customs while their children assimilated as fast as they could.

They voice their problems and frustrations in the Bintel Briefs in the Yiddish Forvertz, asking, “Will I die if I eat a tomato?” and “Is it okay for a socialist to go to Rosh Hashanah services?”

One woman writes, “I am a Russian woman, and my daughter just married a Hungarian, and now she’s putting on airs. Now that she’s a first-class Hungarian, she laughs at the way I talk, at my manners, even the way I cook…. I therefore want to express my opinion: that Russian Jews and Hungarian Jews should not intermarry.”

“Becoming Americans,” on Dec. 5, opens with the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, in which 164 young Jewish women died, and covers the struggle to unionize, the rise of the Yiddish theater and, ultimately, the exodus to fancier neighborhoods.

“White Christmas,” airing on Dec. 6, is the first of two segments on “Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood” and celebrates the careers and songs of Israel Baline, the immigrant cantor’s son who changed his name to Irving Berlin, and of George Gershwin and Harold Arlen.

In the second part on Dec. 7, “Over the Rainbow,” we meet Eastern European immigrants Louis B. Mayer, Adolph Zukor and Samuel Goldwyn, who invented Hollywood and created the screen image of the Wild West and small town America. Jon Stewart and Mel Brooks are among the commentators.

Due to scheduling problems, KCRW is unfortunately not broadcasting one vital segment, “No Dogs or Jews Allowed,” which chronicles the less-uplifting story of the strain of anti-Semitism that ran through much of American society from colonial days to World War II and beyond.

The chapter takes its name from an interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in which she recalls, “I was driving through Pennsylvania, and there was a bed and breakfast with a sign outside that said, ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’ I’d never seen anything like that.”

This chapter, as well as an additional segment on Ginsburg’s career, and “Never Again,” with Elie Wiesel and ADL national director Abraham Foxman, are available on an eight-disc CD set. It can be ordered by calling (212) 595-2920.

For more information on the KCRW program go to www.KCRW.com and/or www.onlyinamerica.info.

Hooker to the stars is a saucy satirist


Svetlana Maksimovsrskaya is a Russian prostitute whose high-profile clients include George Clooney, Rick Santorum and Al Gore.

Featured on KCRW-FM 89.9 every Monday at 4:44 p.m., she comments on whatever comes to mind — movies, politics, popular culture, her clients.

During the first segment, on June 18, she said, “Paper is killing tree, plastic does not decompose, using a Mexican boy is exploiting labor, I give up, hand me my produce and my Milano cookies and I will carry everything to my car in installments; I will make 14 trips back and forth, just so I don’t feel guilty. It’s Al’s fault for all this nonsense. I told him, Gorki — he likes it when I call him Gorki — what you lack in charisma you are making up with your slide shows and guilt trips.”

She recently recapped her ” target = “_blank”>”Social Studies” is also available online as a live stream, a podcast and a transcript.

Radio Yiddish


When she was 16, KCRW General Manager Ruth Seymour was captivated by her studies with the Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich. “Yiddish is magic,” he told her. “It will outwit history.”

Seymour took his words to heart. Of late, she has been doing her part to help the mamaloshen survive. In 1995, she and KCRW teamed up with the National Yiddish Book Center to create “Jewish Short Stories,” a National Public Radio series read by actors such as Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum. The program was a peculiar excursion in time-travel: back to the days of golems and rebbes and schlemiels all living together in the shtetl. Yiddish, apparently, worked its magic: At least half the NPR network ran the program, including markets as unlikely as Coos Bay, Ore., and Bozeman, Mont. KCRW sold well more than 1,000 cassette sets of the series.

This year, the program is back by popular demand, and because Seymour wanted to bring the series into the postmodern era.

“This is a darker, edgier series,” says Seymour, adding that a Sholom Aleichem story explores the suicide of one of Tevye’s daughters.

Once again, celebrities agreed to work for the union base rate of around $11 an hour — perhaps because of the Yiddish yearnings latent in Ashkenazi DNA. William Shatner, Richard Dreyfuss and Ed Asner signed on, as did directors Arthur Hiller, Jeremy Kagan and Claudia Weil. “Chicago Hope” star Hector Elizondo, of Puerto Rican heritage, said that he was drawn to the series because he has converso blood.

The 18-part series, dubbed “Jewish Stories from the Old World to the New,” includes stories and novel excerpts by authors such as Bernard Malamud, E.L. Doctorow, Saul Bellow and Max Apple. It also includes a number of works by women writers: Allegra Goodman’s “The Four Questions” humorously explores the conflict between three generations of American Jews; Pearl Abraham’s “The Romance Reader” focuses on a restless Chassidic woman; Leslea Newman’s “A Letter to Harvey Milk” examines the friendship between an elderly Jewish man and his lesbian creative-writing teacher.

Ironically, Seymour, who has created Mexican and Korean short-story programming for KCRW, says the only critics of “Jewish Stories” have been…Jewish. “Some people fear that publicly celebrating our Jewish heritage will excite anti-Semitism, which is ridiculous,” she says.

To buy a CD or audiocassette of the series, or for programming information, call (310) 450-5183 or (800) 292-3855.


Radio Yiddish


When she was 16, KCRW General Manager Ruth Seymour was captivated by her studies with the Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich. “Yiddish is magic,” he told her. “It will outwit history.”

Seymour took his words to heart. Of late, she has been doing her part to help the mamaloshen survive. In 1995, she and KCRW teamed up with the National Yiddish Book Center to create “Jewish Short Stories,” a National Public Radio series read by actors such as Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum. The program was a peculiar excursion in time-travel: back to the days of golems and rebbes and schlemiels all living together in the shtetl. Yiddish, apparently, worked its magic: At least half the NPR network ran the program, including markets as unlikely as Coos Bay, Ore., and Bozeman, Mont. KCRW sold well more than 1,000 cassette sets of the series.

This year, the program is back by popular demand, and because Seymour wanted to bring the series into the postmodern era.

“This is a darker, edgier series,” says Seymour, adding that a Sholom Aleichem story explores the suicide of one of Tevye’s daughters.

Once again, celebrities agreed to work for the union base rate of around $11 an hour — perhaps because of the Yiddish yearnings latent in Ashkenazi DNA. William Shatner, Richard Dreyfuss and Ed Asner signed on, as did directors Arthur Hiller, Jeremy Kagan and Claudia Weil. “Chicago Hope” star Hector Elizondo, of Puerto Rican heritage, said that he was drawn to the series because he has converso blood.

The 18-part series, dubbed “Jewish Stories from the Old World to the New,” includes stories and novel excerpts by authors such as Bernard Malamud, E.L. Doctorow, Saul Bellow and Max Apple. It also includes a number of works by women writers: Allegra Goodman’s “The Four Questions” humorously explores the conflict between three generations of American Jews; Pearl Abraham’s “The Romance Reader” focuses on a restless Chassidic woman; Leslea Newman’s “A Letter to Harvey Milk” examines the friendship between an elderly Jewish man and his lesbian creative-writing teacher.

Ironically, Seymour, who has created Mexican and Korean short-story programming for KCRW, says the only critics of “Jewish Stories” have been…Jewish. “Some people fear that publicly celebrating our Jewish heritage will excite anti-Semitism, which is ridiculous,” she says.

To buy a CD or audiocassette of the series, or for programming information, call (310) 450-5183 or (800) 292-3855.


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