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
This selection is anecdotal rather than comprehensive. No conclusions should be drawn by who is or isn’t included. The list will be updated as the paper gets reliable information from or about expatriates.The Bosses Jay Levin, publisher 1978 to 1983; editor in chief 1978 to 1988. The paper’s founding editor and publisher created the Weekly out of moxie, journalistic ambition and cultural ferment — helping establish what alternative journalism meant in Los Angeles. In his era, that meant dogging Reagan and Bush Sr. from the left, exposing slumlords, reporting on wrongdoings in Central America, and documenting and spurring a hot local music and club scene, among other things. Levin gradually separated from the paper, giving up in succession his roles as publisher, editor and board member and part owner. His plan to inaugurate alternative television programming, a post-Weekly project that may have been ahead of its time, never fully materialized. His other endeavors have included media consulting, running spirituality and psychology programs, and starting Share With the Other L.A., an organization to educate the public about poverty in L.A. Kit Rachlis, editor in chief 1988 to 1993. Rachlis left his job as executive editor with the Village Voice to head the Weekly. He continued the process of professionalizing the maturing paper, and he brought in well-known cultural and political voices, including Harold Meyerson, Tom Carson, Steve Erickson, Judith Lewis, RJ Smith and Sue Cummings. His era, which ended with him getting fired, was marked by the rise of locally based columnists who became the paper’s must-read voices. "On the surface, my firing was about publisher Mike Sigman having a different vision of the Weekly than I did," said Rachlis. "In Mike’s words, I had made the Weekly ‘too serious and too intellectual.’ But my firing was actually about something more basic and more mundane: power. Who would shape the direction of the Weekly? Mike or me? Who would have the authority to hire and fire the editorial staff? Mike or me? And like most struggles of power, this one was both principled and petty. I suspect both of us, in retrospect, would like to have handled the situation better. But I also think the firing was inevitable — a question of when, not if." Several writers resigned in protest: Carson, Erickson, Michael Ventura, Ruben Martinez (who was leaving anyway), John Powers and Ella Taylor. Powers and Taylor have since returned. Rachlis went on to become a top editor at the Los Angeles Times before accepting his current job as editor in chief of Los Angelesmagazine. Sue Horton, editor in chief 1994 to 2000. Before she came to the Weekly, Horton wrote a book about the murderous Billionaire Boys Club and taught investigative reporting at USC. She brought these writing and news instincts to the paper, where she bumped up breaking-news coverage, local news analysis and pursued investigative pieces. She hired experienced reporters who came to the Weekly to do more things and better things than they could at the dailies. In this regime, a job at the paper was no longer a starter job, but a destination post for writers she groomed or stole away. Some holdovers complained that the paper was becoming too mature, too professional, too linked to the traditional Democratic Party left wing, not edgy or young enough. Sports coverage was phased out; some columnists were supplanted by reporters. The editorial endorsements became more interesting and more necessary, a good read as well as the best prognosis on which politicians were most likely to make the world a more progressive place. With political editor Harold Meyerson, she brashly turned the paper into a daily during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. She left to pursue a fellowship and a slower pace, and later accepted the position of Sunday Opinion editor at the L.A. Times, where she is today. Michael Sigman, publisher then CEO 1984 to 2002 (with one-year hiatus). Helped organize the business side of the paper, ever a steadying influence. Regards his contribution as "changing the culture of the paper, person by person, from a horribly dysfunctional one into one where employees by and large felt appreciated and inspired to do their best work, while still maintaining the atmosphere of an alternative paper." Sigman was not well-loved when he fired editor Kit Rachlis in 1993. Sigman said he felt the paper had become too intellectualized and humorless, and also said he wished he’d better handled the tiff between him and Rachlis. By the time Sigman himself got tossed overboard, some nine years after, a later generation of staffers appreciated how Sigman insulated them from advertising pressures and protected editorial independence. He ran a shop that trusted his intent to create a place where people would want to spend their entire careers. To the paper’s investors, such sentiments probably sounded like a recipe for editorial moldiness, entrepreneurial complacency and lower profit potential. Sigman now runs what he describes as a "small but mighty" music-publishing company called Major Songs, which features standards by his famous songwriter father, Carl Sigman, and new works by up-and-comers.
Writers and Editors Donnell Alexander, staff writer, 1994 to 1998. Wrote a compelling 1997 cover story about his deadbeat, drug-dealing dad. He later expanded the story into the book Ghetto Celebrity, which also documents his own journey through journalism, drugs, sex and infidelity. Reviewers have called the book both painfully revealing and slyly concealing. Stylistically it’s a mix of the traditional prose and rap-speak that used to drive some of his Weekly editors bananas. He felt that his writing voice was getting unfairly trampled and left the paper. Alexander later worked as a staff writer at ESPN’s magazine and as a senior producer at MediaChannel.org. "Village Voice Media has pointedly ignored [Ghetto Celebrity] because GC calls bullshit on their product, specifically L.A. Weekly," Alexander wrote in a recent Web posting. "I can’t prove collusion, but it does seem odd to me that a young, left-leaning writer of color — someone who would ordinarily score top-notch reviews presenting even mediocre product — can’t get a review in any of the company’s 300 or so ‘alternative’ newspapers. Village Voice. . . has provided an object lesson in why mediocre leftism is dead as fuck. Blame them for Bush being president and [Green Party candidate] Peter Camejo languishing in October’s California polls." Ann Louise Bardach. Listed on the masthead in 1984 as the Weekly’s crime reporter, Bardach was formerly a contributing writer for Vanity Fair and is widely regarded as the foremost journalist writing about Cuba and U.S. policy toward Cuba. Just out is the paperback version of Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana. Christopher Hitchens commented: "If our political establishment knew a tenth as much about Cuba, or cared half as much about it, as does Ann Louise Bardach, both the United States and Cuba would be more open societies." She currently writes for Newsweek International and is a commentator for Public Radio's Marketplace.
So how do you get that journalism career started anyway? The following folk became L.A. Weekly interns. And then . . .Ben Adair. Acting producer, editor for The Savvy Traveler, produced in Los Angeles by Minnesota Public Radio. Maggie Bandur. Supervising producer-writer for TV series Malcolm in the Middle. Maki Becker. Reporter, New York Daily News.Arion Berger. Arts and entertainment editor at Express, published by the Washington Post.Was also L.A. Weeklywriter and editor (read more in Writers and Editors section). David Bloom. Technician at CNN, freelance writer and now serving with Army reserve in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Greg Brown. Attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in L.A. Jade Chang. Taught English in Japan, did a dot.com for a year, now freelancing. Sandy Cohen. Features writer, Daily Breezein Torrance. Yoji Cole. Los Angeles bureau chief, Diversitymagazine. Sara Clinehens. Became regional youth adviser for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles; currently in transition. Sara Dunn. Reporter, most recently for Bay Area Argus. Relocated to East, looking for job. Aaron Fontana. Music editor, Entertainment Todayin Los Angeles. Attending law school at night. Lynell George. Staff writer at Los Angeles Times; was also L.A. Weekly staff writer (read more in Writers and Editors section). Michael Gutierrez. Doctoral student in cultural history at Boston University. Kristin Hohenadel. Paris-based writer on film; recent pieces in Los Angeles Timesand The New York Times. Millay Hyatt. Writing USC dissertation in Berlin, titled "No-where and Now-here: The Utopian and the Political From Hegel to Deleuze." Alex Katz. Reporter, Oakland Tribune. Queena Kim. Reporter, covering home building and toys in L.A. bureau of The Wall Street Journal. Pamela Klein. Writing novel; living in Virgin Islands. Was research editor at L.A. Weekly(read more in Writers and Editors section). Timothy Kudo. Became editor in chief of UCLA’s Daily Bruin. Now teaching fifth-grade math in the Bronx. Christie Lafranchi. Finishing law school at Georgetown. Mary Melton. Managing editor, Los Angeles magazine. Eric Mercado. Research editor, Los Angelesmagazine. Amelia Neufeld. USC senior with double major in print journalism and French, features editor, USC’s Daily Trojan.Laurie Ochoa. Editor in chief, L.A. Weekly. (Memo to all: The intern you abuse today could someday be your boss.) Antonio Olivo. Labor and transportation writer, Bloomberg Newsin New York. Tony Palazzo. Assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal;was also L.A. Weekly proofreader and writer (read more in Writers and Editors section). Marcela Rojas. Staff writer, The Journal Newsin New York. Jennifer Smith. Town reporter in Long Island for Newsday. Amy Waldman. New Delhi bureau chief, The New York Times.
Really Gone Ron Curran, 1960–2003.
Curran once told a friend that he expected to retire broke and wind up in a trailer park — and the thought of it made Curran smile. "And yet, for all that," wrote San Francisco Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond in a tribute, "he was endlessly optimistic and entrepreneurial." Curran made neither the trailer park nor the poor house because he passed away in November from symptoms related to alcoholism. Friends say he never devoted half a thought to his own health. Instead, he threw his whole being into chasing down thieving bureaucrats and other bad guys in suits. He also made time for skewering hypocritical politicians and the corporate media. And then there was his devotion to developing young journalistic talent. He helped give the Weekly a reputation for meaningful and biting coverage of local news from about 1983 to 1993. Then he took his fast living and steely writing to the Bay Guardian. In recent years, he ran a wire service that developed writers and marketed their stories to alternative publications.
Eddie Little, 1954–2003.
There was just no saving Eddie Little, though so many tried, starting with a devoted mother who nurtured him and his writing, even as his abusive schoolteacher father cranked Little’s arms tighter behind his back for stumbling on his multiplication tables. A hustler-addict, the native Angeleno spent most of his adult life in prison or on probation, but rose above it all with a golden period as a writer, before succumbing to declining health and addiction. At the Weekly, Outlaw L.A. chronicled the city’s omnipresent illegal underworld in a column alternately submitted by Little and writer Johnny Angel. Little also penned two rough-hewn, true-crime books based on his life, one of which became a movie. Inside Little’s writing and outside it, separating fact and fiction was perpetually difficult. He wasn’t really a fifth-grade dropout, as he sometimes claimed. Nor was he always clean when he said he was. He was ever more storyteller than journalist. "I hated it when he labeled himself a ‘thug,’ or a ‘punk,’ because I never believed it," said his mother Gay Lumsden. "I would have agreed to ‘con man’ and ‘junkie’ and ‘outlaw.’" Aspiring writers at a local rehab center would add "mentor" to these labels. A charmer and a good sport, Little decided to help out with the fact-checking of his stories by bringing profile subjects into the paper — just for verification purposes. One tattoo-embossed thug couldn’t have been more polite, and he also seemed very much the hit man that Little had written about.Jac Zinder, 1961–1994.
Zinder helped make the Weekly’s music coverage matter as a scene-creating writer, DJ and music promoter who drifted eloquently, darkly and whimsically in and out of the paper’s orbit. As friend Jonathan Gold noted, Zinder "gathered much of the music he played at his club from the $2 bins backed up against the henna and the gripe powder." Zinder, he wrote, drew his club’s following from the "Silver Lake gay performance-art crowd, the backwash of the New Wave and the few grunge kids bold enough to find the barrio bowling alley where the club usually took place." With his knack for making something of nothing, he moved his Fuzzyland club from place to place, largely by word of mouth, till it found a bowling alley in Highland Park. His eclectic mix was somehow relevant, danceable and surprising — pushing limits and buttons, juxtaposing Beck with Eastern European and Indian pop — making it work almost because he eschewed both popularity and success. He also brought wit and offbeat knowledge to his writing, a rising presence until a drunk driver smashed into his car on Thanksgiving in 1994. The music scene itself declined with his departure. RJ Smith wrote that if you asked Zinder "what the Korean comedian he was urging you to check out was saying, he’d snort and answer, ‘I don’t fuckin’ know!’ But he could give anyone around him, just by talking, a lesson in how to open yourself up to the city. Here was a man for whom the Thai Elvis meant more than the real one, for whom Rudy Ray Moore was a prophet and Harout the deliverer of souls."Bob La Brasca, 1943–1992.
La Brasca numbers among the best-liked of those behind the scenes at the Weekly — those whom the public never really knows about. In the mid-’80s, with the Weeklya frequently splendid but notably uneven product, La Brasca was both story doctor and professorial writing tutor. "He was one of the last great line editors," said early Weekly editor Joie Davidow, "highly respected by the best writers in the business." La Brasca, Wisconsin-born and educated — the first in his family to go to college — had helped found an alternative weekly in his home state and later served as an editor at High Times. His fans at the Weekly included current editor in chief Laurie Ochoa, who was then an aspiring young writer. Another admirer was Tara Fass: "He had this interesting ability to listen — deeply, deeply listen — and understand a writer’s point of view without needing to agree, without needing to make the writer come over to his point of view." Fass herself began at the Weekly as a 22-year-old janitor, then later sold ads. She didn’t get to know La Brasca nearly so well until they’d both left the paper. She married him in 1989. As an editor, La Brasca also helped birth L.A. Style and was considering another startup when he was felled by a heart attack.Craig Lee, 1954–1991.
If you wanted to understand the presence and edginess of the early Weekly on the city’s music and cultural scene, then you could turn to the career of Craig Lee. A writer, critic, producer and musician, Lee was the paper’s music editor for two important years, but also wrote about music for a decade, an alternative-scene player as well as a chronicler of its rise and a tribune of its national importance. A Weekly tribute recalled him as a "Hollywood kid whose office wall bore a movie still of his B-movie actress mother aiming a ray gun." Though schooled at Interlochen Academy in Michigan and later at CalArts, his real education was the "world of punk bands and dark motives that once was the L.A. punk scene. The environment was one of an outrageous, pre-viral party of innocent decadence, of sex and drugs and rock & roll on a scale that makes today’s Strip rockers look like they’re out on a Sunday-school picnic showing their little tattoos and piercings to everyone in the park." He co-authored Hardcore California: A History of Punk and New Wave, produced early and important AIDS benefits and an outreach concert to Latinos, and initiated the L.A. Weekly Rock Music Awards. Of his own benefit he wrote, "It looks like a show from my dreams. It’s too bad this dream had to come from a nightmare, but the nightmare will stop as soon as people stop this disease . . . The next time you see some racy girl screaming her lungs out while playing three chords on an out-of-tune guitar, know that I’ll be there in spirit cheering her on."
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