6 L.A. Monuments That Honor Total Jerks
Days after an ugly and violent white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery decided to remove a monument commemorating Confederate soldiers that most people didn't even know was there.
Los Angeles, of course, has chosen to honor quite a few individuals — with statutes, monuments, murals, street names and so on — who actually were jerks. Here are a few we could think of:
6. Griffith J. Griffith
Before O.J. there was Griffith J. Griffith, L.A.'s original celebrity wife-attacker (or at least alleged wife-attacker).
Griffith first came to California as a journalist, working for a newspaper as a mining correspondent in San Francisco (the tech beat of its day). He parlayed info from his reporting into a gig with a mining syndicate and proceeded to make a fortune. He then used that fortune to make another fortune in real estate.
Griffith appeared to have a dark side. While vacationing with his wife, Christina, in Santa Monica, he shot her in the face at point-blank range. Miraculously, she lived, only losing her right eye. Griffith's attorney, Earl Rogers (the basis for the character Perry Mason), raised a novel defense for his client, a sort of precursor to the Twinkie defense: the booze defense. Rogers told the court that Griffith was an alcoholic given over to paranoid delusions. The judge bought it and handed Griffith a two-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon.
Griffith already had given more than 3,000 acres of parkland to the city — he called it "a Christmas present" for "the plain people" of Los Angeles. After he got out of prison, he tried to give the city another thousand acres for an open-air theater and an observatory. The City Council was all for it, but there was a public outcry against the idea of taking a gift from such an odious figure. So the offer was rejected, at least until Griffith died in 1919. He left the land and $1.5 million to the city, which then went ahead and built the Greek Theater and Griffith Observatory, and kept the park named after him. It even erected a statue of him in 1996.
"I don't care what the heck he was," Marty Tregnan, one of the administrators of the Griffith Park Trust, told the Los Angeles Times . "The park is a park for everybody."
5. Silver Lake Walking Man
Dr. Marc Abrams, aka the Silver Lake Walking man, was a strangely beloved fixture in the neighborhood, often seen marching, shirtless, in his trademark mint green shorts and bronze tan, reading a newspaper. When he died unexpectedly at age 58, hundreds turned out for a memorial walk in his honor. Even before he died, he was painted into a mural on Sunset Boulevard.
But like Griffith, Abrams also seemed to have a darker side. If he walked all day, when did he see patients? At night. After his death, which was ruled a suicide, it was revealed that Abrams had been under investigation in connection to a patient of his who'd died from a prescription drug overdose. According to the L.A. Times:
Authorities investigating Marc Abrams — well known in Silver Lake for his brisk and shirtless walks around the reservoir — conducted a series of undercover operations in which officers posing as patients were able to obtain powerful prescription drugs based on obviously questionable notes signed with names including "Dr. Kevorkian," "Dr. Pepper" and "Dr. Dre," according to a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Abrams kept nighttime office hours and "catered to nothing but addicts," the official added.
4. Harrison Gray Otis
Is there a more influential figure in the history of Los Angeles that so few people have heard of? In the late 1800s General Harrison Gray Otis bought the Los Angeles Times, around which he built an empire based on boosterism, real estate speculation and union-busting.
"General Otis was a zealot, an angry choleric man," David Halberstam writes in The Powers That Be:
The General was an impetuous swashbuckler, poised for the slightest provocation, ready to punch out with either his fists or his newspaper at all those who dared to offend him. The newspaper was a strident extension of his prejudices and passions and ignorance; he was one of a breed of frontier newspapermen as anxious to fight as he was to write, more often than not loud and boisterous today and gone tomorrow.
Halberstam quotes Hiram Johnson, the leader of California's progressive movement, who said this of Otis in a public speech while running for governor:
He sits there in senile dementia with gangrene heart and rotting brain, grimacing at every reform, chattering impotently at all things that are decent, frothing, fuming, violently gibbering, going down to his grave in snarling infamy. He is the one thing that all Californians look at when, in looking at Southern California, they see anything that is disgraceful, depraved, corrupt, crooked and putrescent — that is Harrison Gray Otis.
Along with his son-in-law, Harry Chandler, Otis helped conspire to secure — or, as some people would later say, steal — the water rights from the Owens Valley, which helped Los Angeles to grow into the metropolis it is today, made him and his friends a fortune in San Fernando Valley real estate, inspired the film Chinatown and left the Owens Valley a dustbowl.
A bronze statue in the northwest corner of MacArthur Park depicts Otis, pointing, beside a newsboy. A plaque below reads: "General Harrison Gray Otis, 1837-1917. Soldier, journalist, friend of freedom. Stand fast, stand firm, stand sure, stand true."
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3. Edward Doheny
OK, so he never shot his wife, or dealt drugs, or held back workers' rights for decades. Edward Doheny — the basis for Daniel Day-Lewis' psychopathic oil tycoon in There Will Be Blood — wasn't that bad. He did drill the first successful oil well in Los Angeles, in 1892, long before we knew about fossil fuels and global warming and all that.
He also was implicated in the Teapot Dome Scandal. Though Doheny was never convicted of a crime himself, Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall was convicted of accepting a $100,000 bribe given to him by Doheny.
There's a Doheny Drive and a Doheny Road named after the oilman, as well as a Doheny State Beach in Orange County and a Doheny Library on the USC campus.
Speaking of USC, the university just opened its new "village," and it includes a statue of Hecuba, wife of King Priam of Troy and mother of Hector, Paris, Cassandra and maybe 16 others. We couldn't find any dirt on Hecuba, so we're leaving her off the list. Still, a bit dubious.
2. V.I. Lenin
We almost didn't include Lenin because this statue is so fucking awesome! But Lenin was ... not a great guy. Not as bad as Stalin, and maybe his heart was in the right place, but he was an autocrat responsible for the Red Terror and purges. Nevertheless, we do hope they keep this amazing sculpture on La Brea — its fate is in doubt, now that the ACE Art Gallery is closed.
The Donald Trump star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, after it was vandalized
1. Donald Trump
Our president, Donald "Both Sides" Trump, got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007, for his work hosting "The Apprentice." Since then, it's been defaced numerous times, mot famously in 2016 by James Otis (no relation to Harrison Gray Otis but yes relation to Elisha Otis, inventor of the safety elevator). The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce quickly restored the star, leading some to ask why.
In fact, a star has never been removed from the Walk of Fame. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president Leron Gubler said, in a written statement:
The Walk of Fame stars are a part of the historic fabric of the Walk of Fame, which is a State Historic Landmark, and as such we do not remove stars. While some past honorees’ images may suffer for various things they have said or done, we harken to the words of Johnny Grant, the late Chairman of the Walk of Fame: “If we removed the star of everyone who had an indiscretion or said something politically incorrect, we would have very few stars on the Walk of Fame.”
Donald Trump — so politically incorrect!
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