“End of the World”

December 20th, 2012

I hear Mayan calendars are selling like there’s no tomorrow.

Maybe a little levity is what’s called for this week. As you probably know, there is a belief that the world will come to an end on Friday, December 21st. No such luck for those of us who will still be around on Saturday, looking for a parking spot at the mall for what has become an even busier shopping day than Black Friday.

And the lines will still stretch around the block in Boyle Heights at Liliana’s Tamales on Sunday and Monday. I can tell you from first hand experience that it’s worth the wait.

And the best show in L.A., the county’s giant extravaganza at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, will go on as scheduled at 3pm on Christmas Eve. The show, also televised on KCET, features the best choirs, mariachis, and other performers from around L.A. Best of all, it’s free.

Afterwards, at 7:30, you can hustle over to Olvera Street for the last night of the Las Posadas procession, which re-enacts Mary and Joseph’s journey from inn to inn. The costumes are beautiful, the music is uplifting, and after the procession there’s free coffee and pastries.

And if you’re still standing, you can hang around Dowtown L.A., watch the skaters at Pershing Square, and then head over to the Cathedral for Midnight Mass. Those are some of my most treasured L.A. Christmas traditions, and I fully intend to be around the celebrate them.

In the meantime, if you’re still a bit skittish, there are a number of “End of the World” events taking place Friday night. Among them, The Griffith Observatory will stay open late so people can gather there. They’re expecting a huge crowd. My only concern is whether you’ll survive the crowds and the parking.

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¡Viva Los Dodgers!

August 29th, 2012

I swear I’m still a loyal Angels fan, but there was a cultural phenomenon at Dodger Stadium last weekend that is worth observing. It reminds many people of “Fernandomania” in 1981.

Last Sunday, with the “Viva Los Dodgers” festival being held in the parking lot behind center field, Latin superstar Jenni Rivera sang the National Anthem. When the Dodgers’ line up was announced, it was filled with Latin names like Ramirez, Gonzalez and Punto. When Adrian Gonzalez strolls to the plate for his at bat, he does it to Mexican ranchera music, to which thousand of people clap in unison.

In the fifth inning George Lopez was invited to spend time in the radio booth with Charley Steiner and Rick Monday. The result was hilarious. It’s a good thing nothing much happened in the game while Lopez was on the air, because listeners would’ve missed the action. Everyone was bowled over laughing.

Lopez is a die-hard Dodger fan who shows up every home stand. He says he “grew up in the left field pavilion.” When asked how he liked the look of the Dodgers, he replied, “If we get any browner, we’ll be like the Colonel’s chicken— golden brown.”

If you’re of Mexican descent, and grew up in Southern California, then you automatically get his humor. When Steiner asked him to make his prediction for the Dodgers, Lopez said, “I predict there will be a lot more fans with neck tattoos in the stands the rest of the year.” He said he loved the addition of Tijuana’s Gonzalez because “It gives me one more person who might co-sign an auto loan for me. Matt Kemp wasn’t too crazy about the idea.” He said Gonzalez probably had a lot on his mind, like where he was going to live while playing here. “I told him I had an aunt with an extra room, but he didn’t seem interested.” On and on it went.

As my friend who was there last Sunday described it, it sounded like a lot of fun- perhaps even enough to make me want to go to a Dodger game one more time before the end of the season.

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Just Sayin’

August 8th, 2012

By my count, there are at least four new books out in which Richard Nixon plays a prominent part. There’s Robert Caro’s latest in his LBJ magnum opus, the new Cronkite bio, Dan Rather’s latest book, and “The President’s Club” by Karen Hughes. And Bill O’Reilly’s book about JFK comes out next month. I’m sure Nixon is all lover that one too.

And just this morning I got an email about a new book written by my longtime KABC-TV friend Bruce Herschensohn, who was Nixon’s speechwriter.

Thirty-eight years ago tonight, Nixon gave his resignation speech, and the next day he left the White House for good.

Nixon’s Presidential Library is in Yorba Linda, where two significant earthquakes were centered in the last 14 hours.

Maybe Nixon doesn’t like the way he’s being portrayed. And as we know, he was known for keeping a long “enemies list.” It wasn’t a good idea to get on his bad side, and perhaps it still isn’t.

I’m thinking about taking down a few paintings from my walls and checking the batteries in my flashlight.  Just sayin’.

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Battle by the Bay

August 5th, 2012

Very quietly, in the shadow of the summer Olympics and the Dodgers’ splashy moves, the Angels’ Jered Weaver has compiled a record of 14 wins and only one loss. And of course, one of those wins was a no hitter. In my lifetime, only two other pitchers have gone 14 and 1. It may not be quite as historic as Michael Phelps, but it is historic nonetheless. Weaver has prospered despite the absence of the Angels’ offense at the beginning of the season, and despite the team’s current bullpen woes. He has been the personification of consistency.

Also very quietly, the American League West has gone from a two team race to a three team race, with the Oakland A’s now having inserted themselves between the Texas Rangers and the Angels in the standings.

Starting Monday, the Angels play three games in Oakland, with Weaver pitching the first game. It seems as if every game is a “must win,” and as long as the A’s and the Rangers keep up the pace, so must the Angels. I’ll be switching the remote back and forth between Oakland and London, biting my nails.

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A Mother’s Love: The Legacy of Samantha Runnion

July 25th, 2012

As you may know, Erin Runnion is a huge inspiration to me. Ten years ago, her daughter Samantha was abused and murdered just a few days before her sixth birthday. Erin wanted her daughter’s life to have meaning, and she has succeeded. She started the Joyful Child Organization, which helps protect kids in so many ways.

Tomorrow would have been Samantha’s 16th birthday. Erin chose this day to let people know of the Joyful Child Organization’s accomplishments. There will be a rally at the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard at 10AM. People will learn how to protect their kids, lobby their lawmakers for tighter restrictions on child predators, and, knowing Erin, there will be a positive vibe with plenty of music and food.

Erin has become an outspoken expert, having appeared on TV lately giving her opinions on everything from Jerry Sandusky to the Aurora shootings. When she has something to say, I make sure to listen. For more information, log on to thejoyfulchild.org

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A Child Advocate’s Response on the Sandusky Verdicts

June 25th, 2012

The once storied Penn State University Assistant Football Coach, Jerry Sandusky, sits alone in a jail cell today under suicide watch. The only cheering he hears are the taunts of fellow inmates. On Friday, in a stunning indictment, Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of child molestation. Sandusky is now a convicted child molester, for sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15 year period. The case drew international attention because of the mythological status of the Penn State Football Program. In order to prosecute the case, the victims (all from disadvantaged homes) and their families had to take on more than Sandusky and his defense team. They were pitted against Penn State’s powerhouse football community, and ostensibly, its beloved late footbal coach, Joe Paterno, affectionately known as “Joe Pa.”

My friend, Erin Runnion, whose own daughter was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed by a sexual predator in Orange County, California, has followed the case closely. Please read her thoughtful answers to my questions about the Sandusky verdicts.  Erin believes, as do I, that we ALL can be part of the solution  by standing up for the rights of children. Crimes against children are pervasive. Sandusky’s conviction proves that even the toughest case can be proven and won. #Children First

Erin Runnion is the Founder of The Joyful Child Foundation – In Memory of Samantha Runnion.

Were you surprised on the speed with which the verdicts were rendered?
 I was pleasantly surprised by the speed of justice in this case.  Seven months is ample time for counsel to prepare, but it seems that delays are often allowed in high-profile cases.  I applaud Judge Cleland for his inexorable adherence to protocol and fairness.  Just because the accused was once revered or because the cameras are waiting outside, doesn’t mean that justice cannot be delivered.    Having said that, the 2-year Grand Jury investigation clearly prepared an iron-clad case against this perpetrator and I can’t imagine any sane person informed of the testimony doubting his guilt.  I would imagine that those jurors were eager to deliver the verdict and probably would have done so even more quickly had there not been 48 specific charges.  My only concern with the speed is that it does give the prosecution a cane to lean on going into the inevitable appeals process; regardless, they don’t have a leg to stand on.
Does the case have a legacy for other victims of child abuse?
We will never know how many victims of child sexual abuse this case will help.  Statistically one in four-five girls and one in seven -ten boys are sexually molested before their 18th birthday.  However, experts agree that boys are significantly less likely to disclose abuse than girls mostly due to the social stigma around male victimization.  I pray that male victims everywhere share in a sense of vindication for their own suffering and also that they may find the courage to report crimes against them, no matter how long ago, so that even if there isn’t enough evidence at this time, perhaps in the future, when yet another victim speaks out, there will be a corroborating story that will help make a case and finally stop another perpetrator.  Most of all, I hope that the example of this prolific manipulative predator helps victims understand that they hold no blame for what happened to them.  Unfortunately, we tend to beat ourselves up for not fighting back, for not recognizing what was happening, but we are forgetting that as young people we don’t think the same way that we do as adults and socially, young people are not empowered to speak out.  Who can blame young people for not reporting sexual abuse when so often their claims are not taken seriously, and they are not only not better protected, but are often shunned.  I hope and suspect that the legacy of this case will be seen in communities and courtrooms across the country when young victims, bystanders and concerned adults everywhere resist the urge to pretend nothing happened, that it doesn’t really matter, or that there must be some explanation, and thanks to this example of justice, find the courage to report any reasonable suspicion of sexual misconduct with a minor.

How damning was the late word that Sandusky’s adopted son was ready to testify against his father that he too had been abused?
My understanding is that this information didn’t come out until after the jury was already deliberating so I don’t think the jurors even heard about it.  I hope that it will help deter progress with the defense’s appeal.

What far reaching changes would you hope might arise out of the case?
 Cases of well respected, trusted adults molesting children literally happen in this country everyday.  I hope that this case has made enough people take notice of this problem that we will see positive change.  Every adult must take personal responsibility for learning how to better recognize predatory behaviors and be pro-active in establishing personal and professional standards that will eliminate those opportunities and encourage everyone to report any potentially problematic situations or people.  Institutions and organizations are already changing policies, but ultimately it comes down to the courage of one person willing to report.
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Twenty Years the LA Riots : A Reporter’s Notebook

April 30th, 2012

It’s been two decades since the city of Los Angeles burned. Scenes of violence, frustration and heroism were beamed around the world. Our city, our home was ripped apart by racial tension, unemployment and lawlessness. For those who lived at the epicenter in South LA and Koreatown it was impossible to escape the brutality of those days. Emotions had been simmering for a very long time. In April of 1992 they came to a full boil, with a devastating outcome. You will recall the six days of rioting. 50 people dead. 2000 injured. Fires. Looting. An ugly stain on the reputation of a city named for the angels.

At the time I was an anchor and reporter at KABC in LA. We all watched the sequence of events unfold. Much of the storyline caught on videotape. The scenes played repeatedly. The first event was the infamous beating of Rodney King at the conclusion of a long police pursuit in Lakeview Terrace. People all across the world saw that beating played; as though it was on a loop. Man down. Batons smashing again and again and again. Those LAPD officers were tried for the beating of that black motorist. Exactly 20 years ago today, despite the videotape, those officers were acquitted. The anger slowly crescendoed. Protests started in Simi Valley. Then looters and fires in South LA. Crowds were gathering. I had just walked off the set after the 6pm news. In the newsroom, the bank of TV monitors told the story of a city exploding. Fires. Looting. Years of distrust of law enforcement reaching a feverish pitch.

KABC management was busy, dispatching photographer crews and reporters. All of us started working the phones, working our contacts and doing what journalists do best- hitting the streets to cover the story. At 6:46pm-we began to see just how grim it was.

Those of us still in the newsroom watched as a truck driver pulled into the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South LA. We gasped. We saw what he could not. Reginald Denny – a white truck driver- was unaware of the crowd of men, mostly black, gathered at the corner -angry over the acquitals in the King beating case. Denny tragically drove straight into harm’s way. Helicopter pictures showed him slowly pulling into the intersection, with halting movements, before he realized he was in trouble and tried to turn around. I remember us gathering around the monitors in the newsroom, everyone screaming- ” Don’t do it ! Turn back!” But it was too late. Denny was dragged from the truck cab and beaten within an inch of his life. Once again, cameras captured it all. And I remember for a moment, the sick feeling, almost frozen in time by the inhumane spectacle unfolding on live television. The violence would only escalate from there.

Over the next 6 days, it seemed that was the last time we paused in the newsroom, for days. A few hours for sleep. A few moments for food. There was a renewed sense of purpose in being a journalist during those days. Surviving on little sleep, we took turns going out into the field. The hotspots were South LA and Koreatown. In a dramatic gunbattle, which lead every network newscast, Korean shopkeepers began firing upon looters stealing their merchandise. Pop. Pop. Pop. Like a scene out of the wild west. A mob mentality had gripped the city. A dysfunctional turf war between the mayor’s office, the police department and the communities caught in the middle, was being debated on news programs around the country. On Day Two, I went with a colleague from Channel 7 and two news camera crews to Sunset Boulevard in the Silver Lake area of Hollywood. We began taking videotape from afar of a Circuit City being stripped bare by looters. Smoke filled the night air, spot fires could be seen everywhere and sirens seemed to wail endlessly. As we focused in on a flatbed truck, where a looter had loaded up with electronics, including a new television set, the TV set fell off the truck into the street. That looter looked up and saw us as he ran into the street to recover the set. Furious, he pointed his semi-automatic weapon to shoot us. For what seemed like an eternity, we stared back, then took safety behind an old Impala, while the off duty officer escorting us- screamed at us “To stay down.. stay down! ” The officer took out his less powerful weapon and faced down the gunman. Ultimately, the looter lowered his gun, and ran off. No shots were fired. But it was very frightening and a close call. I will never forget it.

Slowly over time, the city would start to get its footing back. The National Guard was called in. Rodney King- the man whose beating would ignite the riot – would famously plead for calm. Eventually after many people were killed, businesses destroyed, peace would eventually be restored. But the causes and scars would linger for a long time, like a deep wound. There were commissions formed, decrees imposed, and battered communities slowly repaired relationships with each other . Rebuild LA was formed. The power grid between City Hall and the police department shifted. Today, thanks in great measure to the philosophy of community-based policing and the leadership of Chiefs Bratton and Beck, a more open dialogue exists in minority communities. I am happy to report that crime is markedly lower. And minority communities have better relationships and understanding with each other.

On this infamous day in LA history, for those of us old enough to remember, we will pause and remember where we were, how we felt and what we learned. This reporter will remember her youthful impressions of a city gone mad, the challenge of reporting it and a city that fought to right itself. And how she wept for her hometown after a very, very long day.

 

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Harmony Project

April 22nd, 2012

I had a most wonderful tour today, courtesy of of the founder of the “Harmony Project.” Dr. Margaret Martin led a group of us through a couple of locations in the inner city, including Frank Del Olmo Elementary School – where youngsters are learning life skills through the study of music. Martin and her team have focused on some of the poorest areas of Los Angeles, including four of the so-called “Gang Zones” of the city. All the studies show, if you give youngsters that one-on-one attention, and include them in a project with the potential to elevate, they have the opportunity to transcend very difficult circumstances. These are children raised in areas where gangs, drugs and extreme poverty are a way of life. Today, the project is helping some 1500 kids in LA – and in Ventura. Martin believes she has developed a template that could be implemented nationally. Last year, Dr.Martin received the prestigious “Presidential Citizens Medal” in Washington D.C. for her exemplary work with Harmony.

My friends and I watched as children from elementary school to middle school age received instruction in their musical education. It was a thing of beauty to see these kids mastering instruments, reading music and delighting in their progress. There was love and structure in the classroom and the joy of achievement on the face of these students. This youth arts program gives kids a sense of purpose; raises self esteem; and builds good citizens. I hope you will read more about their outstanding work in the community.

Harmony Project website: http://www.harmony-project.org/

Some clips of Harmony Project kids practicing:

 

 

 

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Dick Clark: Pop Culture Master

April 19th, 2012

Tributes continue to pour in for Dick Clark, who died yesterday of a massive heart attack, at the age of 82. In many ways, it should not have been a shock. The iconic music and television producer had been of declining health since December 2004, when he was stricken by a devastating stroke. But when news of his passing broke yesterday, it just didn’t seem quite possible. The affable television host, with the easy smile and uncanny sense of pop culture — who maintained his boyish good looks and enthusiasm for decades — was gone…

His remarkable career spanned six decades. And I suppose that’s why so many of us felt as though we personally knew him. I didn’t know Dick Clark. I only met him once. But two stories stayed with me all day long. For any kid growing up in the 60′s and 70′s- “American Bandstand” was must-see-TV. In our home, it was the chance to check out the newest dance steps — and in today’s parlance– see what was “trending.” My dad had a strict rule about no loud music in the house. So, when my parents went out and my younger sister and I were babysat by our older siblings, up went the decibel level, and out came the new, imitated dance moves! Many a evening spent dancing on the fireplace hearth– hand held over the head– with a “score” given to “best dancer.” ( This was, of course, decades before “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol.”)

My other memory was the at “The American Music Awards.” The awards show was the innovation of Clark. This was the year Toni Braxton was on fire on the music charts. Marc Brown and I were co-hosting for ABC local a pre show special. Clark came up to talk to us before the broadcast. He seemed like a proud papa at the event, but also like an excited kid, regaling us with stories. Ms. Braxton was flaunting an especially revealing outfit, and though she rocked the look- there was concern, it might be a tad too revealing for the broadcast sensors. Clark laughed as he told the story, like a kid, really.. And I suppose, that’s also why we loved him.. his youthful charm was infectious ..

In his words.. ” Age ain’t got nothing to do with how old you are. ”  – Dick Clark
” American Bandstand was the original reality show.” — Dick Clark

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“Mad Men” Monday

March 26th, 2012

It was great fun to watch “Mad Men” last night! Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
As expected, you could feel the winds of change blowing through this fictionalized ad agency.
The women who usually played the role of dutiful wife, deferential secretary or angelic mother were less compliant last night. Don Draper’s new bride, and former secretary, ( Megan) threw him a surprise birthday party against his wishes. Megan then went on to put on quite a show, as she sang, vamped and danced for her new husband in front of his work colleagues. It was steamy and showed a fierce independent streak.

“Joan” who runs the office, has been out on maternity leave, showed up unexpectedly at the office. She admitted that she missed work – ” Does that sound terrible? ” she asks afraid that her lack of maternal fulfillment would negate her as a woman. She makes it clear to her own controlling  mother that she “IS” returning to work, and her husband cannot order her to stay home. The stirrings of the women’s movement being touched upon in episode one.

The men are still macho – boys will be boys – but you get the feeling, women will be giving them – ” what for? ” in future episodes.

The civil rights movement also being touched upon … As dozen of black Americans show up at the firm, in hopes of getting a job. Some polite and impolite conversation is triggered by their presence. Once again, seems to be setting the scene for subsequent episodes.

We also saw glimpses of the future in the apparel. Bright neon colors, mini skirts. ( That made Megan’s dance all the more suggestive) The mod, counter culture 60′s are seeping their way into the show. It will be interesting to see how ” Mad Men” evolves….. If you missed it last night , no worries. AMCtv.com is streaming the entire episode for free. It’s limited offer … so hurry !

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