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
The feeling among some P.C. members is that if the headquarters controversy didn‘t exist, it would be necessary to invent it. For proof, they point to what they see as the club’s dysfunctional culture, which, at least from the 1988 sale for $1.2 million of the Vermont Avenue property onward, has nurtured an impressive number of lawsuits, countersuits, tax judgments, court orders and charges of financial mismanagement. The debate over the proposed Main Street site has inevitably been spun as a generational war pitting the club‘s old-timers, many of whom are retired or semiretired, against a new wave of politically committed news journalists who joined last year. Anger at the older members has brought out charges of ageism in a debate that has reduced the sides to Old vs. Young, Suburbia vs. Soho.
This simplistic breakdown is misleading, however. While it is true that the most vociferous and organized of the ”anti“ forces are club veterans like Neiswender, a number of senior members have also voiced their support for Main Street. Likewise, not all of the recently inducted members are sold on the downtown site. To them, the sunny presentations of the neighborhood by its advocates seem like a realtor’s spiel (the area has been nostalgically dubbed the Old Bank District) and they recall how many other times downtown L.A. has been touted as a new hub for artists and communications, only to see the effort implode. Ultimately, members‘ safety fears, not their age or personalities, will have to be taken as a serious factor in deciding where the club moves. ”You can’t really debate other people‘s comfort zones,“ says member John Seeley.
There is one pro--Main Street argument that lies at the heart of the two competing visions for the P.C.’s future. While many of the rejectionists push for moving the headquarters to a venue closer to where more members live and work (Hollywood or the San Fernando Valley), the Main Streeters have said that the chief purpose of the new headquarters will be to serve as a working space for the club‘s executive director and to provide adequate facilities to hold press conferences. In other words, the headquarters would no longer be a spot for members to eat, drink and socialize. Workplace or hangout? -- the answer truly defines the conflicting sides, rather than their fear or lack of fear of crime.
For now the Greater Los Angeles Press Club remains homeless, and the attempts of its board to secure space downtown, stymied, until some other alternative locations can be looked into. Its board of directors has approved a lease agreement with Gilmore Associates but is holding off going forward with the move into the San Fernando Building, uneasy about the potential consequences -- which include a permanently split organization or worse, a breakaway club.
Club president Moore, who has tried to balance the sensitivities of both sides, confessed to feeling deeply disappointed after the toxic September 28 meeting. Stewart was more upbeat, feeling the donnybrook had cleared the air. ”If it were up to me,“ Stewart says, ”it would be, ’Off with their heads!‘ It’s much more fun to be a dictator.“
There is an uneasiness among many members that, after this issue is decided, only more internal strife awaits them. What new debate is likely to gridlock the club and discourage potential members? Some board members would like to see the continued funding of the club‘s new 8 Ball journalism review; others have pushed to support an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit stemming from the Democratic Convention that would force the LAPD to formulate new guidelines on the way it handles the press during civil emergencies; and, in what surely promises to provoke another fight, there has been talk of changing the present bylaws that now require a four-fifths vote of the board to spend money from the club’s $240,000 reserves. What kind of opposition will confront these proposals can only be guessed at. Perhaps, in its own way, the Press Club, like the Los Angeles Dodgers and other frustrated local institutions, is a microcosm of L.A. itself -- the city that can‘t.