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Urban Legend Watch 

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OffBeat was on Melrose the other day and picked up a flier warning of a deadly new gang initiation. The rite involved gang hopefuls driving with their headlights off to entice innocent motorists to flash or honk at them, at which point the hoodlums would chase the drivers and fire into their cars. The flier ostensibly was put out by LAPD’s DARE, the school anti-drug program, but its contents sounded familiar, so we decided to investigate. We turned first to DARE, which got back to us double-time. "Speaking in a perspective of DARE, we are not familiar with an incident involving that," harrumphed Lieutenant Vince DiMauro in his best DARE-ese. Wow, no wonder L.A. school kids don’t use drugs!

Well, a few of them anyway. The next call went to the LAPD’s gang unit, CRASH, which confirmed that the initiation was an urban legend, and a hoary one at that. One Operations West Bureau officer learned of the hoax initiation a few months ago from his grandmother in San Dimas, who heard it on the radio.

Feeling a heavy weight of responsibility to you, the readers, OffBeat pressed on to the hood for a final word. Sure enough, former 18th Street gang member David De La Riva — now a community AIDS counselor — knew the whole story.

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Around the time of the Rodney King beating and the L.A. riots, when the city’s black gangs were enraged at the police, they sent the LAPD a missive about the initiation game under a gang letterhead, he said. (We’d love to see that letterhead logo — a red rag? an Uzi? a dead 2-year-old on a trike?) No such game was contemplated, but the Bloods hoped the story would incite panic in the department, De La Riva added. Now, whether this inventive bit of provocation worked, we don’t know. Certainly, the LAPD since the riots has been fraught with disorganization, petty politicking and general buffoonery — but panic? And all because of a 10-year-old note? Admittedly, not an ordinary Hallmark or Dilbert card, but a message on a gang letterhead. We’ll leave that judgment to you, dear readers.

—Christine Pelisek

Balloting Burlesque

 

Where is the best place to find 10th District City Councilman Nate Holden in the final weeks before his April 13 re-election battle? In a courtroom, it seems. The first of the month, Holden faces a trial-date-setting session in Superior Court in a lawsuit charging him with sexual harassment. On election eve, landlord Holden will face tenant Markhum Stansbury Jr. in Los Angeles small-claims court. Stansbury alleges that Holden allowed slum conditions to fester at his Ladera Heights apartment. And if the 12-year councilman still hasn’t got his fill of the legal system, he can run over to a Pasadena court for the April 19 criminal trial of daughter-in-law Michelle Holden, who faces charges of unlawful sex with her children’s baby sitter and another teenage boy.

Sexual harassment beefs, of course, are familiar to even the most casual observer of Nate Holden’s career. Holden has beat back one harassment accusation (the accuser pulled out before going to court) and two lawsuits, including a previous trial involving the current plaintiff, former council deputy Carla Cavalier. Cavalier’s 1993 trial was cut short by a judge who decided the deputy’s accusations didn’t rise to the level of illegal harassment. An appeals court disagreed, ruling last year that the alleged atmosphere" in Holden’s office, if true, was unlawful. Holden’s pricey lawyer, Skip Miller, dismisses Cavalier’s claims as "without merit."

Cavalier’s lawyer, David Fertig, has high hopes this trial will end differently. "Holden was actually putting his hands on her," Fertig said, adding that a jury rather than a judge will decide this case.

Tenant Stansbury is seeking $5,000 and court costs from Holden for allegedly failing to repair falling plaster and faulty electrical wiring, and to provide heat and hot water in the rental unit. Stansbury also accuses Holden of improperly using city staffers Deron Williams and Ron Mayberry to manage his private property; Madison Shockley, Holden’s strongest opponent, has called for an investigation. The April 19 trial of Michelle Holden has already hurt husband Chris Holden’s shaky bid to be elected mayor of Pasadena; he faces a June runoff after a distant-second finish in the March primary. (Michelle Holden, a 35-year-old mother of four, denies the charges against her; her family says she is the victim of a political smear.) Nate Holden also appears to be heading for a runoff; he edged his opponent in 1995, after a runoff, by a slim 1,378 votes. Charges of sex, lies and slumlording can’t help his chances.

—Eric Pape

limousine liberal

 

In our local civic cosmology, Eli Broad has emerged as the good billionaire — at least, by contrast to Rupert You-Know-Who. The man behind the NFL bid, the Democratic Convention and the Disney Concert Hall, Broad is fast becoming the linchpin of the new, enlightened civic establishment.

For a second opinion, though, you need go no farther than the grounds of the Westwood Federal Building this Thursday. There — across from the headquarters of Kaufman and Broad, the mega–home-building company that Broad co-founded — some sorely vexed Las Vegas construction workers will tell the tale of Willis Roofing, a K&B subcontractor that they say refused to pay them for overtime work and made them purchase their own safety equipment. (And, they add, which is resisting like crazy their efforts to form a union.) The workers have filed an unfair labor practices suit against Willis and its many general contractors, including K&B. Broad himself no longer has any executive functions at K&B, but he still owns nearly 5 percent of the company, and the board — from CEO Bruce Karatz to supermarket magnate Ron Burkle — reads like a who’s who of the city’s new, presumably liberal and union-friendly, establishment.

But it’s also a new labor movement that K&B will encounter on Thursday — one that will unveil, on the Federal Building grounds, its own model K&B bungalow, complete with some of the construction defects for which K&B has been taken to task over the past two decades. The workers also boast their own agitprop Web site, www.kaufmanandfraud.com. Speaking for K&B, general counsel Bart Pachino says, "We know that Willis has strongly denied these allegations and is defending the case aggressively."

Will the new establishment come to terms with new labor? Stay tuned.

—Harold Meyerson

hollywood heist

 

Writer Sarah Luck Pearson appeared to have hit the Hollywood jackpot when her award-winning article "Hollywood High Confidential" appeared in 1996 in the L.A. Weekly. Agents and production companies swarmed to get a piece of her riveting portrayal of educational malpractice at the campus where she went undercover for a month, posing as a high school senior. Next week, Pearson’s story hits the silver screen — but her name is not on the writing credits. According to a lawsuit Pearson filed in L.A. Superior Court, the company she chose to represent her, the Paradigm Agency, sold a similar story to another studio with different writers attached. The competing project turned into Never Been Kissed, starring Drew Barrymore, which opens next week for Twentieth Century Fox. Green-lighting of the Fox film killed all interest in Pearson’s project at Warner Bros., the suit contends.

Pearson learned of the Fox project in 1997 from a trade article, when she was in the midst of writing her film, the suit says. She confronted her Paradigm agent, Lucy Stille, who told her that a different Paradigm agent, Pierre Brogan, made the Fox deal without Stille’s knowledge. However, Stille said Paradigm did not want to cross Brogan, because he was an up-and-coming star in the business, the suit alleges. Stille said the Fox project was in the pitch stage and Pearson’s would beat it out the gate. In 1998, again from the trades, Pearson learned the Fox project was a go — and hers wasn’t, the suit says.

Writing-credit rip-offs are all too common in Hollywood, and copyright-infringement lawsuits are a tough bet. Pearson is doing something different, suing Paradigm, Stille and Brogan for breach of fiduciary duty and oral contract, as well as professional negligence. Pearson, 31, now a writer for Elle, Mirabella, Self and the Weekly, is seeking $1.5 million plus punitive damages. She and her lawyer, Gregory A. Nylen, declined comment for this article. Paradigm agent Stille also deferred a statement.

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