Escalante Cover Story Spurs Race Ruckus 

Wednesday, Oct 21 2009

We got mail this week, the majority of it on our erstwhile crime reporter Christine Pelisek’s story about the murder of Sheriff’s Deputy Abel Escalante by gang members (“The Assassination of Deputy Abel Escalante,” Oct 14). Despair inspired some readers: “For years we have met with LAPD to curb the violence in our area,” writes Johnny R from Highland Park. “LAPD can be applauded for their limited efforts [but] things are just uncontrollable now. We citizens feel like we are at war and [are] prisoners in our own homes.” He goes on to blame County Supervisor Gloria Molina for not allowing armed probation officers to make unannounced compliance checks on the gangs. “All these gang members running around and no one is being held accountable for their actions. This cannot go on anymore. We need help!”

Another Highland Park resident, who goes by the moniker Ann Nonymous, goes further: “Los Angeles just doesn’t give a damn about anyone who lives here, unless they’re famous. How the hell is this quality of life or civil liberties for the good working and middle-class people?” Nonymous then goes super Kafka on us: “I read a while back that the millions upon millions of dollars slated for gang initiatives in Los Angeles got flushed into low-flow toilets for Parks & Rec. WTF?” WTF? Indeed, Ann Nonymous, sounds like a story for Pelisek!

A number of readers, whose names sound suspiciously ... blanco, would like to flush all gang members down Parks & Rec’s low-flow toilets. “As long as Mexican politicians continue to coddle Mexcan gang members under their stupid La Raza loyalty, the problems will never go away,” writes Derek from Manhattan Beach. Furthermore, “gang members of all races should be treated as domestic terrorists, not misguided kids.” In response to a Latino-named commenter, Dave says, “You probably wave a Mexican flag instead of an American one. These gangs are a direct result of ‘your people’ illegally crossing the border and bringing their trashy way of life with them.” Another reader, Hoorayforpayday, wonders, “Why is it that a place like Japan can get nuked twice, see its capitol and largest city firebombed into oblivion, be brought to economic ruin and lose within several years a substantial portion of its working-age population, but 35 years later be doing as well as just about any country on the planet? Meanwhile, during the same period just about every single Latin American country started out and ended up the same way (i.e., crappy and poor so that everybody wants to leave).” Heck, Hoorayforpayday, we don’t know but maybe we should nuke Latin America just so we can get a better comparison. In the meantime, we hope your next paycheck bounces.

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Speaking of racism, some viewers found it in our article. “This is L.A. Weekly?” Asks Donna from City Terrace. “‘Run-down hovels,’ ‘a lawless Mexican village,’ the stereotype of the mother with so many out-of-control children, a family as an ‘incurable disease,’ people as a ‘cancer,’ and the blackened figures on the cover? This kind of ‘journalism’ ... serves to racialize entire communities and peoples despite the words of sympathy for the ones deemed to be victims. Is L.A. Weekly now trying to be the Fox News of the newspaper world?

Martin Hernandez, also from City Terrace (hmmm), adds: “Again L.A. Weekly shows its true colors. Why is it when a Latino or black person shows up on the cover of the Weekly more often than not it has to do with supposed gang issues or other such criminal activity on the part of that ethnic group? When the City of L.A. elected its first Latino mayor in a hundred years, did his picture make the cover after the election? No, but some old white guy did.”

Two points, Mr. Hernandez: The subject of and victim in this story is a police officer named Escalante. As for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa not being on the cover the week after the election? That’s because he was on the cover the week before the election. Everyone who knows anything about the Weekly knows that former executive editor Harold Meyerson would have sold his bubbie to Barnum & Bailey to get Villaraigosa elected. (And we say that with love, Harold.)

More on this story online, including a fascinating letter on the sex lives of gang members in prison.


It was a sad week at the Weekly following the sudden death of longtime contributor (and friend) Brendan Mullen, the former Masque owner, Club Lingerie booker, DJ and author. “That was really beautiful and right on the money,” said Robert from Brooklyn regarding Kristine McKenna’s remembrance (“Brendan Mullen, RIP,” Oct. 14). “I was fortunate enough to have known Brendan in the late ’80s via the Variety Arts Center. He was an amazing guy — tooling around L.A. in that massive, beat-up old Caddy of his, wearing the ragged skipper’s cap he sported back in those days. (I swear there was ALWAYS an entire drum kit stored in the trunk of that ‘boat.’) I learned a lot from Brendan and feel rotten that I never had a chance to thank him properly. But hey, knowing Brendan, he probably would have just told me: “Stop already. Forget it ... what did I do? ... It was nothing ... did I do something? Just buy me a cup of coffee or something ...”

It’s a shame Brendan never saw this comment from Barry Miller from Culver City: “[Mullen’s] documentation of that incredibly voluptuous and all-too-brief bohemia of Los Angeles punk, an era that now seems as mythical and as removed from the realities of 21st-century life as an Arthurian folk tale, was definitive. One of the strangest and most moving experiences for me, in light of the fact that I never knew him or met him at all, was discovering that he had noted an obscure and anonymous piece of graffiti on the wall of the Masque and commented on it in his book 35 years later as ‘the single greatest thing that anybody ever scrawled on the wall of my club.’ If you know anything about those legendary walls, they were virtually vomited upon from roof to ceiling to toilet bowl with at least a billion different blood-spattered rantings and ravings. It was a quote from Jean Genet: ‘... to escape from horror, you must first bury yourself in it.’ I was the person who put it there. May he rest in peace.”

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