Remaking the Grades

Robert Greene is wrong if he believes that the winner of the mayoral runoff election can make a difference in the education provided by the LAUSD if only he gets more involved than his predecessors [“Flunking Campaigns,” March 18–24]. The most compelling evidence to refute his position comes from New York City, which was forced by the Legislature several years ago to turn over control of its schools to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Despite Bloomberg’s ambitious efforts to overhaul the district, the nation’s largest, with the help of Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, the mayor has been no more successful in improving educational quality than Superintendent Roy Romer has been in the LAUSD. The reasons serve as a cautionary tale for Los Angeles.

What Greene fails to acknowledge is that managerial efficiency is no substitute for educational effectiveness. Schools are not businesses. As a result, no matter how many changes are enacted at the administrative level, they do not necessarily alter what takes place in classrooms, where learning takes place.

That’s why the national trend to recruit CEOs, politicians and generals will do little to help children most in need. The initial fanfare accompanying their appointment quickly fades because the underlying issues that caused disaffection with the schools in the first place remain. If transforming schools were easy, the job would have been accomplished long ago. That’s the lesson that Angelenos need to keep in mind when they consider turning over public schools to the new mayor or anyone else who proclaims he has the solution.

—Walt Gardner
28-year LAUSD teacher
Los Angeles

Memories of Lalo

Regarding the article on Lalo Guerrero, 1916–2005 [March 25–31]: In June 1945, my brother Gus and I met in Los Angeles to celebrate our safe return from World War II. We checked in at the Hill Hotel and took a room overlooking the Angels Flight tramway. Most of our evenings were spent in two nightclubs near Olvera Street. The upscale Club Brazil showcased Miguelito Valdez singing his hit song “Babalu,” while La Bamba, with its black padded entrance door and fake palm trees, featured an unknown performer, Lalo Guerrero. His first night there remains ingrained in my mind. A flesh-colored spotlight flashed on. A small combo struck a note and a tall, thick-featured mestizo in black trousers and an orange ruffled shirt began to mystically swirl a pair of maracas. He tilted his head toward an overhead mike and time stood still as his golden voice began belting out the Mexican hit songs of the day. The room was crowded with returned Mexican GIs, and we would not let him stop; his music reassured us that we were truly home.

—Hank Cervantes
Lt. Col., retired, U.S. Air Force
Marina Del Rey

Birth of the Cool

Your article on Joey Bishop [“Joey Bishop Still Lives Here,” March 25–31] brought back fond memories of a night I’ll never forget. I believe the year was 1956. I was living in Indianapolis after getting out of the Army. I had grown up in the NY-NJ area but was working as an “on the road” salesman.

I went back East for a week to visit family and friends and to see some shows. It was about 1:30 a.m. and we started to head back to Jersey when I asked my friend Jerry, who was driving, to go by way of 55th Street. As we approached the place I was looking for, I asked Jerry to pull over, keep the motor on, and I’d be right back. I ran up the stairs, pressed a 20 in the hand of the man at the door and said we were a party of four and would like to see the 2 a.m. show.

We crossed the street and walked into the Copa to see Frank Sinatra. His opening act was a comic named Joey Bishop. At the first table off the stage area sat Sammy Davis Jr. and his party. I think I was witnessing the genesis of the “Rat Pack.”

—Frank Fromer

Joey Bishop is 87 years old, alive and well, but Jon Thibault must be brain dead if he was unable to elicit a story from this walking talking repository of entertainment history. “What do you think of Jay Leno, Mr. Bishop? . . . No, sir. I don’t know who Harpo Marx is . . . Do you like being retired?” Is it any wonder he clammed up and ended the interview with this punk kid who doesn’t have clue?

—Lee M. Cohen
Long Beach

Disturbing and Archaic

I had to remind myself that I was indeed in Los Angeles in 2005 rather than on a plantation in the 18th century when I read Kevin Y. Kim’s words about “. . . how hip-hop’s women have gone from MC Lyte to today’s lifeless — and often light mulatta — capitalist commodities par excellence” [“Deconstructing Prophets,” March 11–17]. Assuming Mr. Kim meant the feminine plural of mulatto (which is actually mulatresses) rather than a rhesus monkey, the actual meaning of “macaca mulatta,” it was disturbing to see this offensive, racist and archaic term which derives from the Spanish word for mule (i.e. half-breed, mongrel, hybrid) printed in the L.A. Weekly, and surprising that evidently not one editor of this major alternative weekly seemed to take notice of this inappropriate usage.

One would certainly expect more sensitivity and awareness in a cultural milieu where we are very conscious of avoiding derogatory, outdated ethnic nomenclature.

—Rizwati Freeman
Los Angeles


The Spaceland party mentioned in Lina Lecaro’s South By Southwest report [March 25–31] was billed incorrectly. It was actually thrown and organized by Heidi’s Night of Beauty along with Spaceland and Ticketweb.


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