Multiple-Pulitzer cartoonist Paul Conrad was sitting on a porch in Cabo San Lucas, puffing on a pipe and pondering the impeachment debate, when he hit upon an idea that would be “perfect for what is going on.” Upon his return to L.A., Conrad called his editor at the Times to see whether his pointed panel had run and received a resounding “Are you kidding?” from editorial-page subaltern Robert Berger. Conrad says it was a serious submission, but Berger says he wasn’t kidding; he considered the panel some kind of prank. Intones Berger: “I wouldn’t expect to find it in the Times or other major papers.” Which makes it just the fodder for the Weekly.
The best show at KLCS Channel 58, the school district’s bonehead television station, is the one taking place off-camera. In our last episode, in December, avid fans of the scandal-plagued station learned of a management coup. The new boss is Tony Burke, the consultant whose management-reorganization study triggered the shake-up. At the end of his district-financed, $15,500 assessment, Burke found that — surprise! — the station needed a manager just like him. L.A. schools Superintendent Ruben Zacarias was wowed, and he handed Burke the $105,183-a-year job.
It was a real Hollywood-style success story, because Zacarias first met Burke at a party and then hooked up with him later through a friend of a friend. Only much later did Zacarias learn (from the L.A. Weekly) that Burke apparently exaggerated when he classified himself as “one of the country’s leading experts in television broadcasting and new-media development.” (For 14 of the last 17 years, Burke was a middle-level technical engineer, not a programmer, producer or top manager, at public television station KCET. Over the last three years, he has been consulting for the Roman Catholic archdiocesan TV station in Fresno and the Web site for Sony’s game-show cable channel.)
Now Burke’s management is under fire. At least one group of Latino activists is calling for his ouster, alleging that Burke, an Anglo, had slashed an already paltry Latino presence in KLCS’s programming and staff. (The station broadcasts call-in shows on educational issues, district events and recycled PBS fare.) The activists are also calling for a Latino manager. It didn’t help that Burke just fired freelance Latina producer Rita Lepicier — even though she was the very friend of a friend who’d hooked him up with Superintendent Zacarias in the first place. (We don’t make this stuff up.) Now Zacarias, a Latino himself, is in a fine mess trying to keep the peace. For the moment, he’s sticking with Burke, but he’s also found other district odd jobs for people Burke has fired, including Lepicier. Meanwhile, OffBeat has a sure-fire suggestion for driving up KLCS’s ratings: Turn the cameras around and start filming the management and employees.
—Aaron M. Fontana
Is the party finally over in debauchery-loving West Hollywood? That was the promise? threat? that West Hollywood council candidate Jerome Cleary made in an election news release trumpeting his courtroom triumph over upstairs neighbor Jeffrey Burdette. Cleary, a 36-year-old comedy and acting teacher, has been complaining about noise and late-night partying ever since Burdette, 34, who says he works in the entertainment industry, moved into his Horn Avenue apartment building in 1992. Both men have been in and out of police headquarters and the courts. In 1993, Burdette’s former girlfriend filed a Sheriff’s report claiming that Cleary had harassed her by phone on at least 20 occasions. Cleary would misidentify himself as “David” or “Steve” to get her on the phone, then complain about noise, including the sound she made walking across the floorboards in her socks, the girlfriend claimed. (At Cleary’s request, she had already begun removing her shoes at home.) The complaint was later dropped, police said.
On the flip side, Cleary filed a 1994 civil suit against Burdette for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit was dismissed in 1995. Cleary also admits that he hired a private detective to follow Burdette after the telephone-annoyance complaint was filed.
This February, Burdette was convicted in Beverly Hills Municipal Court on four counts of loud noise and disturbing the peace, fined $570, and ordered to limit his hours of entertaining. Cleary fired off his news release, claiming that his testimony had secured the conviction. In retaliation, Burdette sent every WeHo council candidate a copy of the phone-annoyance report, along with neighbors’ letters complaining about Cleary.
Despite the election-eve drama, neither man has any intention of giving up his rent-controlled apartment or, apparently, their conflict. “Burdette doesn’t like the fact that I am an upright citizen and he is not,” Cleary opines. Burdette says of Cleary: “I consider him to be the Antichrist.” As for the future of WeHo partying, Cleary claimed in his release that “West Hollywood is known as the all-night-party mecca, but times are changing as the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department and City Hall’s code enforcement ordinances are being strictly enforced . . . You don’t have to be kept up all night to enjoy living here.” Yeah, but it helps. And Cleary may have an exaggerated notion of his influence over WeHo. Cleary lost his council bid on Tuesday, finishing 10th out of a field of 13.
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