Without Pete Kameron, L.A. Weekly probably wouldn’t exist. And instead of spending 19 years at the paper, I might not have lasted three months.
When I arrived at the Weekly in 1983 as general manager, the staff featured a brilliant mix of punks, anarchists and malcontents who did not, shall we say, take kindly to authority. It was Pete more than anyone else who helped me see both the vast potential of the Weekly and the hilarious absurdity of the often horrifying chaos that ensued.
A typical day might find a strung-out operations manager hurling a watermelon at the maintenance guy, and it was with Pete’s help that I fashioned the Weekly’s “no hitting” policy. When we were threatened by bomb scares from Nicaraguan contra sympathizers, or lawsuits from irate advertisers — like the plastic surgery doctor whose ad should have read “Look better, not different” but was published as “Look different, not better” — it was Pete’s Zen attitude that kept me grounded.
Pete knew everyone. Whenever I was with him, people from every imaginable background — gangsters and gurus, movie stars and rockers, rich bank presidents and needy friends — rushed to embrace him. We all valued his tough love. You could always count on Pete to nail your weaknesses and tell you how to be your best self.
Over the course of a colorful 65-year career, Pete was involved in nearly every aspect of the entertainment business, including personal management (Modern Jazz Quartet with partner Monte Kay), film production and score supervision (the early James Bond films), music publishing, record company administration (co-founder of The Who’s label, Track Records) and concert production. He worked closely with countless major artists, including The Weavers, whom he managed during the HUAC era, Kay Ballard, the Sweethearts of Rhythm, and Terence Stamp. Just last year he could be found with his old friend Donovan re-mastering “Catch the Wind” and “Sunshine Superman.”
Pete’s wide-ranging philanthropic work most recently included the establishment of an endowed Chair of Law at UCLA Law School, and the Gait Analysis Laboratory at the UCLA Medical Center.
Pete knew he was dying of cancer, and toward the end he told me he was able to meditate on his life in such a way that his gratitude for all he was given made the physical pain more than tolerable.
At the very end of his life, Pete was as lucid and loving as ever. But just before he died he awoke from a troubled sleep and demanded to know, with typical bluntness, “What the fuck am I still doing here?”
The thing is, he is still here.
L.A. Weekly co-founder/former board chair Pete Kameron died peacefully on June 29 at the age of 87 at his home in Beverly Hills. Michael Sigman was publisher of L.A. Weekly from 1984 to 2002.