Arts editor, senior features editor 1995-present
I’m proud of many stories I’ve been responsible for in my 13 (gasp!) years at L.A. Weekly. They include the Literary L.A. issue written by David Ulin; Barry Lopez’s memoir of growing up in Los Angeles; Robert Lloyd’s opus on session men; Alan Rich’s introduction to the L.A. Philharmonic; Matthew Fleischer’s unveiling of a “Navahoax”; the art and literary and list issues; all of Brendan Bernhard’s award-winning features; and, most recently, Barry Isaacson’s Jonestown story, “From Silver Lake to Suicide” (which was just chosen as the monthly “notable narrative” by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard). I feel very fortunate to have worked with so many wonderful art and books critics. And I remain absurdly happy with some of the headlines I’ve written, especially one for the piece by someone who reported on attending a stadium concert with his tweenage daughter: “Man Go Wango Tango.” Why that didn’t get me a job at The New Yorker, I’ll never understand.
But I might just be proudest of six words I wrote not long after I started at the paper. As many of you know, Harold Meyerson was the Weekly’s longtime executive editor and heavyweight political analyst. On one particular occasion in the spring of 1996, he wrote about a minor public official who had been charged with an onerous act of domestic violence. Basically, the guy (we’ll call him Mr. X) allegedly tried to shoot his wife and her boyfriend. This official, who was now really, really pissed off, called the Weekly, was put through to the editorial assistant’s phone, and left a voice message that, in language one would not describe as understated, threatened Harold Meyerson with extreme bodily harm.
Now, as it happened, Harold was out of town that week but would be returning the next day. And as we all stood around listening to this voice message over and over again, laughing nervously, I had a notion. So I went downstairs to the art director, Bill Smith, to discuss it. Bill immediately got it – and got to work. And when Harold walked in the next day, he found on every single office door — save for one, his own — a large poster reading, in huge black letters on an orange background, “THIS IS NOT HAROLD MEYERSON’S OFFICE.” (Underneath was a nice addition by Bill, small letters reading, “Thank You,” followed by a set of fingers making a peace sign.) Not only did the poster appear on every office door including the publisher’s, but, much to Harold’s consternation (if not constipation), even the doors to the bathroom stalls.
The next day, the staff received a memo, dated March 22, 1996, which survives courtesy of then editor in chief Sue Horton. “To my family at the Weekly from Harold Meyerson,” it read. “I want you all to know how touched I was at the show of solidarity that greeted me upon my return. There hasn’t been a display of camaraderie like this since Tonto told the Lone Ranger, ‘What do you mean “we,” White man?’
“I do, however, want to call your attention to the following passage from [our] article on [Mr. X] in this week’s paper. It concerns [Mr. X]’s ability and inclination to aim while shooting. While gunning for his then wife … and her boyfriend … [Mr. X] ‘fired more than a half-dozen rounds into [the] apartment. He then turned and shot four times into the bedroom of a neighboring apartment, where a couple and their young daughter lay sleeping.’ [italics added]
“My point is not that my fellow workers in neighboring offices are sleeping, though a close textual analysis of — well, that’s another story. Rather, in the nicest possible way, I just wanted to point out that if I’m goin’, I’m probably not goin’ alone.
Not only am I proud of those six words, and the cynical camaraderie they produced, I’m proud to have inspired perhaps the greatest memo in the history of the Weekly.