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
"Is anyone else besides me struck with how bizarre this gathering is?" asked magazine publisher and professor Richard Layman last week at the white-linen luncheon for author James Ellroy at the Pacific Dining Car. The L.A.-born Ellroy, who chronicled the city’s underbelly of murder and corruption in such works as L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia and White Jazz, had chosen the elegant restaurant in downtown L.A. — his former haunt, and in his novels the setting for characters like Mickey Cohen and Frank Sinatra — to announce the donation of his voluminous literary papers to the library of the University of South Carolina.
That’s right: not the USC just a few miles away; it’s the flower of Dixie and home to the Gamecock that will soon house a vast collection of Ellroy’s hand-written manuscripts, notes, correspondence and memorabilia. "The cocksuckers never asked," Ellroy said of Tommy Trojan. South Carolina "was able to give me a good tax write-off."
In fact, the "demon dog" of American literature, as he was dubbed at the event, will be in good company. F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Dickey and Joseph Heller have their papers there. Layman, a professor at South Carolina and publisher of the revived crime magazine Black Mask, which first published Ellroy’s short stories in the mid-1980s, worked the deal. Clearly, he considers it a major coup. "He is a writer whose work will last. And his art rewards study," Layman said.
Now a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, Ellroy, a high school dropout and onetime author manqué, is disconnecting from his hometown just as it’s finally embracing him. According to one film producer at the lunch, "People in Hollywood are falling all over themselves to work with him," largely on the critical success of the Curtis Hanson film L.A. Confidential, which earned actress Kim Basinger an Oscar in 1998. Says the producer: "It is viewed as the great picture to follow in the tradition of Chinatown. It has that kind of cachet." Ellroy is being bombarded with offers to write for the silver screen, and his TV pilot, L.A. Sheriffs Homicide, is making the rounds.
Despite his digs at the City of Angels, Ellroy concedes that L.A. still remains the mecca of all things noir. Case in point: the current scandal in the LAPD’s Rampart Division over cops stealing drugs and framing innocent people. "Nothing’s changed," Ellroy said. "There is a real sense of invulnerability in the LAPD . . . These things are bound to happen."—David Cogan
Poor Larry Flynt. Wheeled out in his gold wheelchair for yet another promotion for his flagging Sunset Boulevard retail operation last week, Flynt was upstaged by Hustlergirl Alisha Klass in a red-velvet, fur-trimmed Santa bra and skirt. The micro-mini’s rear-end cutaway exposed 2 inches of crack under the tattooed words "Seymore Butts" (Klass’ former porn-actor boyfriend). As if that wasn’t enough, the patient Flynt allowed Ms. Klass to wrap her legs around his shoulders, neck and sides, exposing the rest of her pantyless private parts. Mrs. Flynt (Liz) dutifully moved her chair aside to make way for Klass’ antics. All this for a bunch of Flynt hangers-on; media attendance was thin. A far cry from the stirring First Amendment battles of yore, eh, Larry?—Christine Pelisek
Back in 1988, when California first awoke from years of neglect to find public education flat-lining, voters passed an initiative demanding that all schools report test scores, attendance, budget, etc., to the public. OffBeat was scanning these so-called School Accountability Report Cards on the LAUSD Web site and found a curious coincidence: high school principals’ messages, ostensibly personal greetings written in the first person, were identical. Over at Crenshaw, principal Travis Kiel tells us, "As you read this Report Card for our school, I believe that a picture will emerge of a school dedicated to improvement, a qualified faculty that is professionally and personally committed to meeting the learning needs of students, and a student body which is motivated to perform well." Amazingly, principal Wendell C. Greer Jr. of Manual Arts feels exactly the same way: "As you read this Report Card for our school," he says, "I believe that a picture will emerge of a school dedicated to improvement," etc., etc. . . . Ditto principal Etta O. Seamster at Jordan, principal Thomas J. Abraham at Marshall, principal John T. Hyland at North Hollywood, and principal Ronald S. Bauer at El Camino Real. Boilerplate turns up in other sections of the report cards; at some points, administrators appear to have forgotten to fill in the blanks. Crenshaw again: "Our school calendar contains 180 days, ______ of which were designated for professional development. This provided for ______ instructional days of student attendance which met or exceeded State requirements."
Now, isn’t this what teachers call — plagiarism? No, says Kiel:
"I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but there’s a large number of schools, a lot of responsibility, and a lot of federal and state guidelines we have to follow," he says. "We try to provide information for the public and parents." OffBeat tried to speak to someone at the district level, but got lost in the usual LAUSD phone-transfer wormhole and never reached an official.