The World Wide Web is chock-full of “hate sites,” 2,100 of them according to the Museum of Tolerance. Although the definition of a hate site is somewhat vague, FreeRepublic.com has surely played in the waters of bilious bigotry on more than one occasion. Billing itself as a haven for conservative thought, the Fresno-based site has come under fire because of its refusal to clear its message boards of death threats against Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as newsman Dan Rather, e.g., “Somehow genital herpes just isn’t enough for this duo [the Clintons]. [A] .357 seems more on the mark (it may take a village to whack you, you sullen bitch)” (“Gonzo,” June 10).
One would think that most politicians would distance themselves from such tripe. Not our man Representative James Rogan (R-Pasadena), who has been a favorite of the “FReepers” (Free Republic boosters) since his star turn as House manager and prosecutor during the Clinton impeachment hearings. In May, Rogan hosted an “electronic town hall” on the group’s Web site, where he was showered with cyber accolades, which he returned with like passion. Rogan called FReeper founder Jim Robinson, a self-proclaimed “private citizen” living in Fresno, a “hero” and “patriot” and closed his Q&A with a rousing “God bless you all, FReepers and Eagles Up.”
OffBeat is not all that surprised; the GOP being what it is, most Republican politicians can dabble in the lunatic fringe without losing the party’s center, such as it is. But Free Republic has one bogeyman that should be of great interest to Rogan’s constituents: the Latino.
A small sampling of the FReeper postings should suffice to demonstrate the virulent anti-Hispanic sentiment found on the board. “I say take away the citizenship of all Mexican Nationals, hell all non-white, non-Christian nationals,” blusters “Putnam70.” Or consider the June 12 comments by “Valusian”about the “Browning of America”: “We’re overrun with Hispanic parasites — it’s a gutter culture.” Another gem posits both Islamic and Hispanic citizens as the “scum of the earth . . . dragging all those Lebanese incense burners over here . . . Something needs to be done about all those Mexican and Central Americans before the shit hits the fan.”
When asked this week if Rogan was aware of the hateful spew aimed at an ethnic minority that composes over one-third of his Glendale-Pasadena-Burbank constituency, the congressman’s spokesman Jeff Solsby said, “Congressman Rogan’s comments to the Free Republic were limited to the subject matter covered in the town meeting of the 29th, and these are not related to what may have appeared elsewhere on the site.” Did Rogan know about the anti-Hispanic sentiment on the site before making his laudatory postings?
“Rogan also disagrees with the opinions of the L.A. Weekly, and yet he still returns your calls,” Solsby responded. “That should clearly state where his position is.”
It sure does. It should be noted that the Free Republic Web site solicits campaign contributions for Rogan. And the congressman is slated to speak at Free Republic’s “Treason Is the Reason” rally July 24 in Washington, D.C.
THE BRITISH INVASION
L.A. Times staff writer Pamela Warrick is smitten senseless. “It is true what they say,” she says in a recent article, after interviewing 21-year-old Brit-lit It Boy Richard Mason, whose debut novel, The Drowning People, has earned big bucks and a spot on the Times of London’s best-seller list. “You can hardly take your eyes off him. The wavy dark hair, slightly tousled and falling just so, across the high, smooth aristocratic forehead. The lush black eyelashes. The whiter-than-white teeth, perfectly aligned behind the slightly self-conscious smile. Even next to Hugh Grant — the movie star to whom he is endlessly compared — Richard Mason is, as the publicist for his book promised he would be, ‘utterly adorable.’”
Catching her breath, Warrick drifts into English 1-A, asking Mason,”over a Beverly Hills lunch,” about comparisons that liken “his style to that of the 19th-century British heavyweight Henry James.”
OffBeat would like to know more about this Henry James. Did Warrick’s “19th-century British heavyweight” also title his novels The Portrait of a Lady, Washington Square and The Bostonians? Did he write a fabled short story about the tyranny of adults, called The Turn of the Screw? Are his ashes buried in the family plot at Cambridge Cemetery, next to a brother named William James and a father named Henry? Is he, in fact, the New York–born, 19th-century American heavyweight covered by most high school and college American-lit courses? We may never be able to unravel this mystery, since Warrick, who, according to the L.A. Times, can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, has not replied to our inquiry. Seems she must still be fawning, dreamily, over her Portrait of a Literary Dish.
ART FOR ART’S SAKE
“I’m an artist. I make a montage of 2,000 20th-century icons, I take it to the ground, and I walk on it,” intoned one of the speakers at last week’s Santa Monica City Council meeting on changing the ordinance regulating street performers.
“I’m probably not that art-savvy, but I would think it was impolite to walk on your art . . . How will the public know they can walk on your art?” asked Councilman Robert Holbrook.
“I walk on it continually myself,” the ponytailed speaker replied. “I want to express myself as an artist.”
So it wasn’t van Gogh as the former People’s Republic of Santa Monica last week considered an emergency ordinance to limit performers and political tables on the Third Street Promenade and pier. OffBeat had expected a primer on avant-garde street theater, and a bracing civics lesson on the First Amendment. Instead we listened with open jaw to Nina Anwall’s explanation of her “performance”: “Sometimes I paint. Sometimes I paint light bulbs. Sometimes I perform henna [tattoo] art.” And to a kerchiefed handwriting analyst’s threat to bring a “broad-based lawsuit” against the city — “and I have an Ivy League law-school degree.”
One might ask what someone with an Ivy sheepskin is doing deciphering chicken scrawls for a living, but OffBeat was just thankful when the solemn solon responded to a question about the grounds for the suit by saying, “I shall give only the tiniest portion of the 17-hour answer.”
OffBeat has nothing against making a buck, or against turning the Promenade into a carnival midway. But is this what the once-vibrant arts of street theater and busking have degenerated to? Religious scenes painted on eggs and YOUR name etched on a grain of rice (the performance metiers of other Santa Monica artists)? Most of these artists, whose “performance” consists of slapping on paint to make a “tangible arts object,” are nothing more than hucksters. Others permitted on the Promenade are the “heartlanders,” a category several city personnel admitted during the meeting that they didn’t understand, but that apparently includes the distribution of political literature but also the sale of bumper stickers that might say, “My kid beats up your honor student.”
We also have a problem with the micromanagement by the Santa Monica council, which has been fiddling with these performer regulations for a while, and now plans to require performers to rotate positions every two hours on the hour. We have a nightmare vision of broken eggs and dripping henna applicators as the performers jostle for prime spots. But what really bothered us was that the ordinance was brought on an emergency basis. One restaurant owner testified, “Anarchy is the next step if we do not take action, and we are close to it.”
Being fans of anarchy, we immediately headed down to the Promenade to take a look. But the only disorder we saw was the silver-painted mime who couldn’t stop chortling at a lollipop-sucking toddler he made cry. (There was also a sign in the dress shop, “No wet henna.”)
OffBeat fears that with rent control nearing its death throes, the city of Santa Monica has way too much time on its hands. Speaker Joey Fulmer summed up our feelings when she scolded the council for ignoring real concerns in favor of this tripe. “You should be dealing with the real problems like clarifying what sleeping is and what living is, so people know the difference,” said Fulmer, who also assured the council that her mother “was not Julia Morgan or Marion Davies, and I really resent that.” After more than five hours of discussion, a dozing OffBeat was not so sure that the council knows the difference.
Pilots are not the only airport employees who experience ups and downs. Consider the case of baggage runner Greg Garrett: One Wednesday in May, he’s cordially invited to talk with his CEO, Frank Argenbright of nationwide Argenbright Security Services; the next morning, he’s out on the street.
This week, the Service Employees International Union brought a lawsuit on behalf of Garrett, a labor activist — the first such action filed under L.A.’s living-wage ordinance, which forbids punitive actions for labor organizing. The suit says Garrett and 50 other employees of Argenbright’s Northwest Airlines terminal operations were invited into the hallway to ask questions after a meeting with the boss. As other employees gathered around, Garrett asked the exec why there had been no raises recently, and why employees at Northwest were not getting the “living wage” like Argenbright workers at the United Airlines terminal, he says. The next day, Garrett was fired. The firing notice was dated the day of the meeting, he adds.
Argenbright spokeswoman Celeste Bottorff said Garrett was fired for “very unreliable attendance,” but she declined comment on the suit’s other allegations. Garrett is seeking reinstatement, back pay and punitive damages. “My goal,” says Garrett, who now works as an SEIU organizer, “is to win back my job and educate all the companies at LAX that workers have rights.”