A Cambridge, Massachusetts, cop’s dopey contention that Mexican-Americans are resistant to pepper spray because of their supposed high chile intake brought to mind similar spoutings that have marked police history right here in L.A. In the 1980s, former Police Chief Daryl Gates asserted that African-Americans were dying from police chokeholds because their carotid arteries reopened more slowly than "normal" people’s. Four decades earlier, an L.A. Sheriff’s captain explained the arrest of 300 Mexican-American youths in connection with the Sleepy Lagoon murder case by saying that Hispanics love knives and bloodletting because of their Aztec heritage of human sacrifice. (Seventeen people were convicted of murder or assault, although the Sleepy Lagoon victim most likely died in a car crash; the case was later thrown out on appeal.)
The Cambridge P.D. later repudiated Officer Frank Gutoski’s statement, and a good thing, too, because we were already envisioning the repercussions here. A new injunction barring jalapeño consumption by gang members? School CURE programs (Chile Use Resistance Education — Dare To Keep Kids Off Chile) to try to get kids to kick pico de gallo and take up ketchup? New health-department ratings reductions for restaurants serving anything hotter than Pace picante? "We’re not scientists, we’re police officers," the Cambridge P.D. said in its retraction. No kidding. That’s worth remembering the next time any officer or politician spews racial theories to justify police misconduct.
"Uhh, I guess this is a retrofest, so I better do a retro song, huh?" So former teen idol and prepube poster god Leif Garrett introduced his 1979 chart-topper "I Was Made for Dancing" with his new band, Godspeed, at Rhino Records’ First Annual RetroFest last weekend. The festival at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was a sort of nostalgia trade show featuring everyone from Linda Blair to June Lockhart. BatmanAdam West and his first-ever TV adversary, the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), signed autographs in different parts of the building. West seemed somewhat dazed and certainly confused next to the Batmobile, while octogenarian Gorshin was cranky, refusing to "Riddle me" anything, or do impersonations, his stock-in-trade.
Onetime Tiger Beatposter boy Tony DeFranco, 39, looked like a golf pro as he stepped up with his two sisters, hip-hugger-wearing, Valley-divorcée types, to belt out "Heartbeat It’s a Lovebeat" — Ay caramba! Twenty years ago, Garrett was playing arenas; this weekend, a crowd of 125 watched him decked out in floppy Janis Joplin hat and baggy trousers, sporting a visible pot underneath his shirt. The band’s accompaniment may have been sloppy. (At one point, Garrett turned to startled drummer Brian Walsh and yelled, "Drum solo!," which completely baffled the stickman and left the band giggling like schoolgirls onstage.) And Garrett’s matinee-hunk appeal may have declined. But many of the girl-turned-woman fans screamed like it was 1979. One 40-plus rocker standing next to me had a different take: "I worked for 20 years to have a hit and never had one — if this is how it ends up, I’m glad I never had one."