Last week, L.A. Weekly celebrated its 40th anniversary. As a contributor for more than half of the publication’s existence, I’ve been very reflective, especially about the incredible editors I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the years: people like John Payne, who gave me my first music feature assignment, and Joe Donnelly, who worked with me on my first cover story. But there were many more: David Davis and Pamela Klein, who helmed the Weekly’s intern program in which I began, working alongside others at the start of their careers including Mary Melton (who went on to be senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine for several years) and Nick Schou (now editor-in-chief at OC Weekly). Others stand out, too: Steven Mikulan, Greg Burk, Tom Christie, Laurie Ochoa and Randall Roberts (the latter two now both at the L.A. Times), Gustavo Turner, Sarah Fenske, Gwynedd Stuart, Andy Herman and the list goes on… Great editors make great writers — who could turn into great editors themselves one day. As the current Culture & Entertainment Editor of L.A. Weekly, I strive to do for my writers what the editors above did for me — helping them find their voice and hone it in an informative yet entertaining way.
I’m proud to say that female journalists have been my most significant influences over the years, and their gender was beside the point. They were simply great at what they did and they didn't let anyone hold them back no matter what. When the Weekly was embroiled in controversy earlier this year due to changed ownership and a subsequent hate campaign online, I was cyber-bullied by strangers and judged by a few peers for staying on. But I thought of these women, their strength and our shared history, and I soldiered on. It was the right decision.
The work of Pleasant Gehman and Belissa Cohen, who both wrote the "L.A. Dee Da" column, was formative, as was that of Libby Molyneaux and Kate Sullivan. Molyneaux co-headed the Weekly’s thriving Calendar department along with editor Sharon Bell when I was part of it (doing club listings and picks). She made it a really fun working environment and inspired everyone with her witty, conversational writing style, as seen in many music and lifestyle stories, her own take on "L.A. Dee Da" called "The Low Life" and, later, a column I contributed to called Slush, helmed by another badass woman, managing editor Kateri Butler. Sullivan was the Weekly’s first and only female music editor, and during her tenure she accomplished a lot, including — and I’m forever grateful — giving me a shot at doing my own nightlife column ("Nightranger"), which lasted about six years.
I'm honored to share memories from the latter two ladies here, both of which I think provide a lot of context in terms of reader relationships, lovers and haters, and why we do what we do.
(Note: The names in this post have been bolded in homage to the "L.A. Dee Da" column format, which highlighted both celebrities and local underground characters with equal reverence and fanfare.)
Kate Sullivan (former Music Editor):
After the New Times bought the paper, their contempt and seething jealousy of L.A. Weekly were made plain when they announced they were going to throw away all the back issues of L.A. Weekly. These precious historical documents, dating back to the paper's birth, were stored with care in a special building on the lot of our Sunset Boulevard office. Our soulful warrior-leader, Laurie Ochoa, was powerless to stop them from emptying out the storage building. But I remember she and Jonathan Gold decided they would rescue the papers — as many as they could, anyway — and keep them in the basement of their home in Pasadena. My memory could be spotty but I remember a bunch of us carrying these heavy stacks of back issues in a kind of dazed, pathetic, almost funereal back-and-forth, back-and-forth, from the building to Jonathan's truck. These papers were the evidence and sacred remains of their life's work and love. That day Laurie and Jonathan acted as emergency historical librarians on behalf of the city of Los Angeles itself. As far as I know, no local libraries have kept collections of L.A. Weekly, as they do for the Los Angeles Times. One day, of course, they will, and it will be entirely thanks to Laurie and Jonathan.
(And we still have them! Thank you! —L.L.)
My last cover story at the Weekly was a lengthy Q&A with the famously press-shy Morrissey. How did we manage to score this coup? He came to us — persistently asking to be interviewed. In fact, his manager had to email us multiple times (because I was so awful at managing my inbox). This had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the paper's legacy of colossal coolness. And when I finally sat down for the interview and asked him why, he said, "I never have been L.A. Weekly’d."
(Look for a follow-up interview with the one and only Moz in 2019! —L.L.)
Another memory reflecting the paper's cultural stature: In 2005, as the brand-new Music Editor, I was tasked with curating the L.A. Weekly Music Awards. I was terrified. But guess what? The Weekly had such immense stature among musicians, we were able to pay tribute to a group of living musical gods — in the flesh, in one place, on one night, in Hollywood. Brill Building genius Jeff Barry reunited backstage with Brian Wilson (for context: "Be My Baby," which Barry co-wrote, is the song Wilson has famously listened to every morning for decades). Rock & roll DJ/legend Art Laboe bonded with Rodney Bingenheimer (who received a tribute from Miss Pamela Des Barres). Petra Haden organized a chorus of nine women — including one very pregnant, very beautiful singer — to perform celestial a cappella renditions of The Who's "I Can See for Miles" and "Our Love Was." Freaking Spinderella (of Salt N Pepa) DJ'd the whole damn thing. And Flea delivered an impassioned speech introducing the night's headliners, X, describing them unforgettably as his "indigenous folk music."
(A night I'll never forget! —L.L.)
Libby Molyneaux (former Associate Calendar Editor):
My most profound memories?
The time when staff writer Dave Shulman spent the entire day in his chair, wheeling around the building, taking the elevator in his chair.
The time the L.A. Armenian-American population threatened to protest the Weekly due to my stupid joke.
The time Exene Cervenka of X railed against the Weekly from the stage of House of Blues about my stupid joke.
Getting banned from the Whisky for a snarky cover piece I actually regret writing.
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Covering South by Southwest and making all kinds of stupid jokes about music-biz people (“South by Shut Up").
Getting paid to take an improv comedy class so I could make stupid jokes about improv comedy (which is really, really hard).
Basically, just getting paid to make stupid jokes full-time.
But mostly the time when Dave Shulman spent the entire day in his chair. Not sure about how he went to the bathroom.