Goodbye Los Angeles Times Magazine

Sure, the paper's Sunday magazine has sucked for much of its existence, and erupted in scandal after getting caught cutting a sleazy business deal with Staples Center (a big, ugly national story broken by my fab ex-boss, Rick Barrs, at the now-defunct New Times Los Angeles).

But from time to time, the Sunday magazine was graced with brilliant editors and writers -- people fully capable of turning it into a top mag, but who were not given that chance by too-cautious management. Tops on that list of talent was my friend Richard Rouillard, whose untimely death left a big, crater-like hole in the timid world of L.A. journalism.

Richard had been the fine editor of The Advocate, which underwent a tumble when Richard left it in the early '90s. At the Times, a white-hot talent like Rouillard should have been allowed to take over. He was that good. But instead he was seen as just another worker bee, like so many others.

Since the magazine is now gone (as of July), I thank Richard Rouillard, sitting now in his gargoyle-filled, over-designed, Italianate digs somewhere out there in eternity, as well as another terrific editor, the curmudgeonly Bret Israel, both of whom allowed me and dozens of others the time and freedom to write Sunday covers.

Among my own works in the 1990's, I most enjoyed writing, "Eastside, Westside," which I can no longer find online (except in this hard-to-read format) but which could be republished word for word today. (Yes, I reported the hell out of it, but I also had a great editor.)

The cover of which I'm the most proud was a piece about the "child death review team" of medical and law enforcement workers who study suspicious deaths among toddlers and babies, including the death of tiny Lance Helms, whose body I saw laying on a gurney in 1995 while interviewing Deputy Coroner Eva Heuser. I also wrote a detailed September of 1995 cover for the Weekly on the case.

A lot of writers did great, meaningful work for the magazine. There was a window of time in which many of us thought the magazine might begin to match The New York Times Magazine. But that was when the L.A. Times had the money to take big risks. Unfortunately, they never had the cojones to match. Now, under Tribune's hell-on-earth new czar Sam Zell, that window has slammed shut.

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