By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Updegraff is undeterred. "I don’t care if they don’t review us. I’m going to make my restaurant as popular as possible . . . People get off the elevator all the time and say, ‘This is so nice. I didn’t know this was here.’ That feels good."
LEFT MEETS RIGHT IN TARZANA
"We are leaderless," says "Anne," the leader of the Granada Forum, when I arrive at the group’s Thursday meeting. "We are like a big town meeting with no political affiliation."
Anne, like other members of the Forum, declined to give her full name. Formed in the dark days of 1992, when the Reagan/ Bush era gave way to the Clinton presidency, the Forum takes its name from its original location in Granada Hills. Today, it meets in a Tarzana church, and God is never far from thought. This evening, the group rises for the Pledge of Allegiance, then an unidentified woman prays that our savior Jesus Christ rescue America from "the Prince of Darkness" heading the government.
The unnamed woman goes on to speak about the unconstitutionality of birth certificates and ID numbers. "A birth certificate is a government certificate of human ownership," she charges, adding that the document is "valued at $630,000." At this point, I wonder where I stowed mine away.
Next, a gentleman named "Joe," wearing a white T-shirt printed with "New World Order" with a circle/slash through it, lets loose on government tyranny. "The police have become a revenue agency for the government instead of law enforcement," he roars. "Why are they ticketing citizens’ cars when they should be in South-Central going after gangbangers?"
Don Kreigel, head of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, rises to speak about the dangers of fluoride, and an upcoming protest march. "We expect a hundred people," he says. "It’ll be a huge demonstration." Kreigel also passes out copies of the Impeachment Roll Call and recounts his recent journey to Area 51 and a subsequent UFO sighting.
The main attraction, former LAPD Detective Mike Ruppert, takes the podium with a joke: "I’m wearing as many mikes as there are in my living room." Famous for grilling former CIA Director John Deutsch at a 1996 L.A. town-hall meeting on the CIA-crack connection, Ruppert brags that he cost the director an appointment to head the Defense Department. Bespectacled and genial, he speaks about the latest conspiracy theory lighting up the Internet: allegations of a 1985 DEA videotape of Jeb and George Jr. buying 2 kilos of cocaine during a sting operation in Miami, Florida. The story is wholly unsubstantiated, but Ruppert swears he will get to the bottom of it if it’s the last thing he does. But that costs money, and if the good people of the Granada Forum would just purchase copies of his From the Wilderness newsletter . . . (He repeats the request half a dozen times during the talk.)
Ruppert calls for volunteers to play-act how the CIA and the bankers of the world launder drug money and corrupt our government. The gag sounds like it might be fun, so I step forward — zowie, for a minute I’m the CEO of General Electric! We switch roles, and Ruppert makes me the head of "Goldman Sachs." In this world, Wall Street is always represented by Goldman Sachs, Salomon Brothers or some other non-Gentile name. I refuse to play along. "Merrill Lynch, Michael, I’m Merrill Lynch, okay?" Ruppert glowers but moves on.
Ruppert puts up a map of South-Central L.A. and explains that the CIA deliberately flooded African-American neighborhoods with cocaine, not only to raise money for the Nicaraguan contras, but to destroy land values. "These middle-class families saw their property values plummet — it was CIA gentrification!" he says. Wow — the Left and the Right colliding, right here in Tarzana! Ruppert concludes with another observation: "You can’t end all of the evil in the government by cutting off the head of one person — cutting Bill Clinton’s head off isn’t going to do it. Cutting George Bush’s head off isn’t going to do it." At that point, he’s lost the crowd, for whom the suggestion of decapitation of either Clinton or Attorney General Janet Reno might have brought a standing ovation.
I tell Anne that the Forum, with its rounds of personal testimony followed by applause, reminds me of nothing so much as an AA meeting. "I don’t know about that!" she blushes.—Johnny Angel