A few weeks ago OffBeat brought you news of the increasingly dire financial situation at Buzz magazine - irate creditors at the door, accountants in hiding, office supplies being rationed, their spinoff weekly folding.
At the time, Buzz Inc. president Scott Kramer assured us that the magazine, after eight years of losing money, was finally ready to "turn the corner" and become profitable. "The magazine is hot," Kramer enthused. "Advertisers are loving it. Domestic automotive is coming in. A lot of national advertising is coming in for the first time."
Alas, the other shoe has finally dropped for the self-proclaimed "Talk of Los Angeles." On Tuesday, Buzz Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and ceased operations at its West L.A. offices. Buzz's majority owner, Sharon Chadha, has also reached an agreement to sell the magazine's assets - the subscription list and the like - to cross-town rival Los Angeles magazine for $5 million and change.
In recent weeks Chadha also turned down offers from several suitors - including Detour magazine - who had pledged to keep the glossy in print. "These people came forward with serious bids," said one insider. "But Sharon wanted to make the best deal for herself . . . She left a lot of people stranded."
Chadha, indeed, has shown herself to be all class this week. Staffers were confronted Tuesday by an armed guard posted at the door - presumably to stop them from stealing office furniture and the like. And the announcement was delivered at a hastily called meeting by a bankruptcy lawyer named David Levene, whom none of the staffers had ever met before. No warm words. No "Thank you for your dedication." "It was bizarre," said one departing staffer.
"We don't have a handbook we follow on how to do this," Chadha responded in an interview Tuesday night. Chadha also disputed the viability of other offers and insisted that closing down the magazine - "facilitating the sale," Chadha called it - was the only way for everyone to get paid. "I am sorry that people have lost their jobs," said Chadha, herself a multimillionaire. "While in the short term there will be a little bit of fear and uncertainty - and I totally sympathize with that - this was really the best proposition for ensuring that everyone could exit in the healthiest fashion."
"Rent rage" . . .
. . . defined herein as a syndrome inducing Santa Monica landlords to inflict bodily harm and/or psychological terror on their rent-controlled tenants, does not pay.
Last week, Santa Monica apartment owner Isaac Gabriel, whose case was profiled in the Weekly some weeks back, was convicted of illegally confiscating a tenant's belongings and locking him out of his apartment - part of a campaign that Gabriel has been waging against his tenants, which has included everything from ignoring raw sewage in bathtubs to physically scuffling with his tenants. He faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
There is method in Gabriel's madness: Only when a tenant moves out can a landlord cash in on Santa Monica's relaxed rent-control law and jack up the rent to any significant degree. The tenant at the center of Gabriel's case was persuaded to do just that.
But state law expressly denies this bonanza to landlords who force out tenants, and Gabriel won't be seeing a dime more for that unit. Moreover, Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky, allowed that he is investigating "numerous" additional complaints against Gabriel.
Gabriel expects as much. (A persecution complex is a secondary manifestation of the disorder.) "The city attorney is against me 100 percent. They are against landlords," he told OffBeat. "There are tenants in my apartment buildings that are against me too," he added. But Gabriel has plans for those tenants; law or no law, he pledged to OffBeat that he would evict two in particular who have been writing letters to city officials complaining about his conduct.
Gabriel, who represented himself at trial (a strategy he concedes was "a mistake"), vows to appeal.
Rage on, Isaac Gabriel.
Attorney General Dan Lungren can't seem to resist playing the straight man
in medical-marijuana kingpin Dennis Peron's political theater. As we noted in the last installment of OffBeat, Lungren closed down Peron's San Francisco Cannabis Cultivators Club last Monday, only to have it reopen the next day as the S.F. Cannabis Healing Center, headed by Hazel Rodgers, a
79-year-old grandmother with cancer, glaucoma, diabetes and Crohn's disease.
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(Peron, meanwhile, claimed he would focus his energies on his Republican gubernatorial primary run against Don't-Do-Drugs-Danny.)
This week, Lungren took the bait and asked Superior Court Judge William Cahill for a temporary restraining order against Grandma Grass, branding the kindly Rodgers a "public nuisance."
Rodgers admits that she may have been chosen for the job for her public-relations value. "I think it was Dennis' idea," says Rodgers. "I'm not sure why. For a long time I thought it was just because I was 79. It would take an awful lot of guts on somebody's part to put me in the pokey, with all the ailments I have too." She's even grandmotherly toward Lungren: "Part of my philosophy is to love our enemies, and I try not to think of him as an enemy. He's just doing his job. I don't wish him ill, and I don't wish ill for the 9,000 members we have either." We couldn't have said it any better, Grandma.
-Edited by Sam Gideon Anson