By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“I remember Farmer’s Market when they had the little painted turtles that you’d mail back East, and Will Wright’s ice-cream places,” he says. “I’ve been in and out of this town, bringing my kids up to see the Toyland Parade every Christmas and to see the live radio shows in the ’40s. I remember seeing Smilin’ Ed McConnell and The Buster Brown Gang and the Jack Benny Show. I grew up in Hollywood going to premieres and stuff. I used to go to the Brown Derby in Los Feliz before it became Michael’s. I enjoyed very much going in there — they had a $5.95 prime rib until 7 o’clock.”
Schaefer, with his carny-bark delivery and cast-iron self-assurance, doesn’t seem a throwback merely to an earlier Los Angeles, but to an Old West culture that exists beyond that of living memory, a California barely past the infancy of statehood and frontier. There is an air of the riverboat and swinging doors about Schaefer, a showman who has undeniably added color to the election, which will be held September 11, followed by a runoff in October. Where Schaefer’s image most jarringly collides with reality is in his explaining away of some of the legal charges that have dogged him over the years. He blames, for example, his 1982 conviction and jailing as an L.A. slumlord on a misunderstanding — the kind that figures in his most recent legal troubles.
“I have never maced a little child,” he says about one case in Las Vegas. “I was accused of macing a 5-year-old girl. We went to trial, and she came in and testified that I was her friend. I was only critical of her grandmother’s boyfriend.”
Then there was the charge that he assaulted a 77-year-old woman who lived in his Vegas condo complex — and the resulting house arrest that forced him to wear an electronic monitoring device in the middle of his campaign for Las Vegas justice of the peace.
“I just tapped the woman on the shoulder, and she turned around and said, ‘Get your fucking hands off of me!’ The police filed a misdemeanor report, and I was convicted of battery. Then she sued me.”
Schaefer, certainly, is no stranger to lawsuits, filing on average, he estimates, about five per year, a record that earned him a “vexatious litigant” status in San Diego. He once sued his former wife, Olga, for intentional infliction of emotional distress because, he claims, she had dozens of magazines sent to his home. (“She was a KGB agent from Russia. I can’t prove that, but she was the mistress of the editor of Pravda.”) At the moment, in fact, he has filed a complaint against the L.A. City Clerk’s Office for not distributing the state’s code of ethics to candidates, as well as another against the city’s posting of street-sweeping signs, claiming they are “inconsistent” with California’s motor vehicle code.
Still, Schaefer denies being a vexatious litigant. “I wouldn’t sue the Weekly,” he says assuringly and claims that one of his victories resulted in California candidates’ names being listed randomly on ballots, instead of alphabetically. But the Nevada supreme court has a different view of his actions, one outlined in a 7,500-word decision affirming his disbarment this past June. From this document’s dry legal language, Schaefer emerges as an out-of-control lawyer running amok in Nevada, California and Texas, a high-plains grifter hectoring adversaries both in and outside of court. “The record reflects,” the Nevada justices wrote, “a blatant disregard by Schaefer for the rights of others and the administration of justice. This pattern is demonstrated by Schaefer’s actions in . . . his attempt to influence a witness’s testimony, his self-serving award of costs without court order, and his false affidavit to the Texas court. Schaefer’s persistent refusal to recognize that any of his actions were improper indicates that his behavior is not likely to improve in the future.”
Schaefer’s campaign has pretty much been confined to appearances at candidate forums and the plastering of “Mike Schaefer” signs throughout Hollywood — signs very similar to the ones that sprouted all over the Crenshaw District during his run for Julian Dixon’s congressional seat last spring.
Schaefer, by the way, says he’s a part-time actor and met his campaign assistant, Henry Fleming Wood, while the two were working on the TV program The Watcher. “Henry gets all the gold coins he wants,” Schaefer says, “three meals a day and a place to live. If I get elected, I may give him some salaried job.”
Beyond the election, his plans are vague, although he says he’s negotiating to buy a property on Beverly Boulevard next to Schaefer Ambulance, where he’s “going to fix up a beautiful apartment with state-of-the-art everything.”
Despite the loss of his lawyer’s license in Nevada, Schaefer remains active in Los Angeles, both as an attorney, landlord and candidate. His willingness to serve the public remains unshaken: “I’ve made enough money so that I can afford to donate my time pro bono to saving the world.”
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