Among the best of the best the Weekly ever published was Ginger Varney’s column. She had an uncanny ability to speak as an equal with anyone — a precocious child or someone at the pinnacle of power, a washed-up movie star or a gunrunner or a housemaid from the Deep South, one by one she brought them to life on the page. (That’s probably the same quality that makes her a good private detective, which is how she earns her keep these days.)
A little-known piece of L.A. Weekly history: Ginger was a prime reason that the Weekly survived its first year. We were all amateurs, as far as publishing a big-city weekly was concerned; we made every mistake available and almost sank. As film editor, Ginger’s charm and skill with studio publicists got us the same screenings attended by top-of-the-line dailies and magazines — even after the studios tried to starve us out because we dared to write disapproving reviews. Thanks to Ginger, we appeared to have clout, so the ads started coming in. The rest, as they say, is history. Thirty years of history, so far.
From “Edendale’s Day of the Dead,” by Ginger Varney, November 30, 1984
… Now here she was, trying not to look upset and flustered, wanting to know if I’d noticed a dead man walking around the neighborhood…. Clearly she was embarrassed, but for once I had the sense to keep my mouth shut. Finally she said what she needed to say. Could I — and here she hesitated but picked up the sentence several seconds later — come down the hill with her. Just to be there should Joe show up. I agreed….
When it had been dark for at least an hour I left Angela’s house. Neither she nor I had seen Joe. As I was leaving, Angela thanked me and then, rather offhandedly, said she thought Joe had hated his life. She knew he hated his job, even though he never missed one day of work in 20 years. He told her that much. And in church he never seemed to give himself to Jesus out of joy, the way the others did. He just gave, that was all. But as time had proved, neither was Joe one of those who would let go of the old ways. Such nonsense with the skulls and coffins, and so perverted. That was not for Los Angeles and the modern days. I said good night and pretended not to notice the glass of water that stood on the stoop to absorb the evil spirits of the Dead Ones.