Decades ago deemed one of the most sinful cities in the United States, with the mob corrupting the film industry, the cops corrupting the mayor and the lust for water controlling everything else, L.A. is still a place of temptations where the well-meaning can succumb along with the craven.
We know Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to avoid a spot in L.A.'s Hall of Shame. So here are some cautionary tales for the new mayor, involving the Los Angeles men (and one woman) who committed at least one of the seven deadly sins.
We start with “pride,” which many religions consider the mother of all sins because it breeds greater and greater wrongdoing and misadventure down the line…
Pride: With excessive self-love, Antonio Villaraigosa famously vanished the night of his election to the state Assembly in 1994, thinking little about his wife, Corina, who was battling cancer. She had to call friends to find out what was wrong. Plenty. Antonio had left town to party with the wife of a mutual “friend” for a few days — a cruelly timed affair reported years later in The New Yorker.
As mayor, he was also blinded by that crazy-making pride, which resulted in such poor decisions as flying around the world while devoting little time to such annoying infrastructure matters as the 84-year-old sewer pipes that have turned more than 100 homes in Atwater Village into a reeking disaster zone. But what a great smile!
Envy: Strongly coveting another person's status, DWP union boss Brian D'Arcy yearns to be L.A.'s mayor. Among many other examples, he once got L.A.'s political establishment to push through a flawed solar-energy ballot measure in 2009 that would have only benefited his membership and, critics say, left the public stuck with a risky investment that would have cost way too much. Voters shot the initiative down. If Garcetti aches to be a U.S. senator or whatever, he should simply forget it, and do the complex and difficult work that's before him right now.
Gluttony: Overindulgence got Board of Public Works president Andrea Alarcon into a heap of trouble, partying too much and leaving her 11-year-old daughter wandering alone after midnight in vast, dark City Hall. It turned out her mom was in a hotel having drinks, and the spiraling scandal that followed forced the beautiful and powerful Alarcon to resign her $130,000-a-year job, which she got largely because her father is former city councilman/ former state assemblyman/ former state senator/ former city councilman again Richard Alarcon.
Garcetti might have a bit of trouble avoiding the “lifestyle” that comes with being L.A.'s mayor — the invites to fancy parties, events and dinners. After all, he made that weird error of putting his own home in Dwell magazine, which got tons of press that eventually turned against him and painted him as an elite, hipster white guy.
Lust: The all-consuming craving for bodily pleasure caused Antonio Villaraigosa all sorts of problems. From cheating on his wife to the $500 bottles of wine to chauffeurs to being a regular at Mozza and fulfilling his jones for travel and staying at pricey hotels, he lived like a millionaire. His friends, of course, estimated to L.A. Weekly that he needs about $750,000 a year in earnings to replicate the freebies and freeloading he took and accepted from others. He spent too much of his time pursuing the things that gave him a warm glow on the inside.
Greed: In his quest to make himself rich, Frank Shaw (mid-1930s) was possibly the most corrupt mayor in L.A. history, reportedly receiving protection money from bookies, brothel owners and gambling dens. Mayor Garcetti, stay away from the brothels. The saddest example of greed in modern times in Los Angeles was perhaps City Councilman Richard Alatorre, who lost his carefully built reputation as a clever deal maker and moderate politician by evading taxes on $42,000 in payments he took from people seeking to influence him — for which he was convicted in 2001.
Sloth: Not doing what he should do, LAPD chief Willie Williams loved living the high life in Las Vegas and other out-of-town destinations but seemed to dread doing any real work. He once failed to end his partying and get back to town when an LAPD officer was shot dead, turning the ranks forever against him. He also cowered in his home in the Valley during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, forcing other city brass to race there to pry him loose — his job was to direct citywide emergency operations. Williams was so bad he made some people miss Daryl Gates.
And L.A. City Council president, Herb Wesson fits the Williams mold, but with more political savvy. Wesson was the barely breathing California Assembly Speaker from 2002 to 2004, whose disinterest in the job and interest in joking around played a major role in the demise of Gov. Gray Davis, whom Wesson was supposed to be helping fend off a growing recall. What does it say that the Los Angeles City Council chose Herb Wesson as its president? Work, Mayor Garcetti. Work.
Wrath: Uncontrolled in his anger, LAPD chief Daryl Gates held a deep hatred against Mayor Tom Bradley, and Bradley against Gates, which many people say resulted in the police department's slow reaction to the L.A. Riots in 1992. Gates was so angry at Bradley's handling of the 1991 LAPD beating of Rodney King, it appeared that Gates preferred watching the city blaze — to teach Bradley a lesson — rather than bring order to the burning and looting of Los Angeles.
Mayor Garcetti, don't hold personal grudges. Every insider at City Hall knows that even though you said during a debate that Antonio Villaraigosa was the best mayor Los Angeles has ever had, you actually can't stand him. Go give him a man-hug.