los angeles newspapers

If you’re going to make good art, it’s likely that you’re going to go to the place where things are dark, and use that to shine light into your life and, if you’re doing it right, into other people’s lives as well.
—  Neil Gaiman (Los Angeles Times interview)

Anna May Wong with Sessue Hayakawa,  Philip Ahn and  Keye Luke.

Anna May Wong’s parents were second-generation Chinese Americans; her maternal and paternal grandparents had resided in the U.S. since at least 1855.

At the age of 17 she played her first leading role, in the early Metro two-strip Technicolor movie The Toll of the Sea (1922). The New York Times commented, “Miss Wong stirs in the spectator all the sympathy her part calls for and she never repels one by an excess of theatrical ‘feeling’. She has a difficult role, a role that is botched nine times out of ten, but hers is the tenth performance. Completely unconscious of the camera, with a fine sense of proportion and remarkable pantomimic accuracy … She should be seen again and often on the screen.”

Despite such reviews, Hollywood proved reluctant to create starring roles for Wong; her ethnicity prevented U.S. filmmakers from seeing her as a leading lady.

Conscious that Americans viewed her as “foreign born” even though she was born and raised in California, Wong began cultivating a flapper image.

It soon became evident that Wong’s career would continue to be limited by American anti-miscegenation laws, which prevented her from sharing an on-screen kiss with any person of another race, even if the character was Asian, but being portrayed by a white actor. The only leading Asian man in U.S. films in the silent era was Sessue Hayakawa. Unless Asian leading men could be found, Wong could not be a leading lady.

Tired of being both typecast and being passed over for lead Asian character roles in favor of non-Asian actresses, Wong left Hollywood in 1928 for Europe.

She returned to the U.S. in June 1935 with the goal of obtaining the role of O-lan, the lead female character in MGM’s film version of The Good Earth. Since its publication in 1931, Wong had made known her desire to play O-lan in a film version of the book and as early as 1933, Los Angeles newspapers were touting Wong as the best choice for the part. Nevertheless, the studio apparently never seriously considered Wong for the role because Paul Muni, an actor of European descent, was to play O-lan’s husband, Wang Lung.

According to Wong, she was instead offered the part of Lotus, a deceitful song girl who helps to destroy the family and seduces the family’s oldest son. Wong refused the role, telling MGM head of production Irving Thalberg, “If you let me play O-lan, I will be very glad. But you’re asking me – with Chinese blood – to do the only unsympathetic role in the picture featuring an all-American cast portraying Chinese characters.” The role Wong hoped for went to Luise Rainer, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance. MGM’s refusal to consider Wong for this most high-profile of Chinese characters in U.S. film is remembered today as “one of the most notorious cases of casting discrimination in the 1930s”

LOS ANGELES - JUNE 16: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers reads the newspaper on board the team flight back to Los Angeles the day after defeating the Philadelphia 76ers to win the 2001 NBA Championship, June 16, 2001. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2001 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)


The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

In April, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was held at the University of Southern California. Here is an illustration that I made about the event that printed in the Los Angeles Times a couple of weeks ago.
A few of the people that I’ve met out in LA found their way into this image. Shout out to David, Peter, Jared and the NPCs in this illustration (that look vaguely familiar) for keeping it cool.
Thanks to Paul for the assignment.

Michael Jackson and Books

The King of Pop a dweeby book lovin’ geek?

Apparently so, and hooray. He was an avid reader who had an appropriately majestic library at Neverland that held 10,000 volumes on its shelves, according to two recent Los Angeles newspaper articles.

In the midst of a lengthy interview in the L.A. Weekly, Jackson attorney Bob Sanger revealed the following as his last of three golden attributes that defined the Gloved One.

“Michael was extremely well-read…I knew Michael, but I got to know him a lot better at the trial. The judge was doing jury selection, and it was time for break. Judge Melville said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know that jury service is very, very important.’ He’s trying to convince people not to have stupid excuses to get out of jury service. All judges do this. He says, ‘The jury system is a very time-honored system. It’s been around for 200 years. We’re going to take a break and come back in 15 minutes.’

“We stand up and the judge leaves, and Michael turns to me and says, ‘Bob, the jury system is much older than 200 years, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah, it goes back to the Greeks.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah, Socrates had a jury trial, didn’t he?’ I said, ‘Yeah, well, you know how it turned out for him.’ Michael says, ‘Yeah, he had to drink the hemlock.’ That’s just one little tidbit. We talked about psychology, Freud and Jung, Hawthorne, sociology, black history and sociology dealing with race issues. But he was very well read in the classics of psychology and history and literature.

“He loved to read. He had over 10,000 books at his house. And I know that because – and I hate to keep referring to the case, because I don’t want the case – the case should not define him. But one of the things that we learned – the DA went through his entire library and found, for instance, a German art book from 1930-something. And it turned out that the guy who was the artist behind the book had been prosecuted by the Nazis. Nobody knew that, but then the cops get up there and say, ‘We found this book with pictures of nude people in it.’ But it was art, with a lot of text. It was art. And they found some other things, a briefcase that didn’t belong to him that had some Playboys in it or something. But they went through the guy’s entire house, 10,000 books. And it caused us to do the same thing, and look at it.”

“And there were places that he liked to sit, and you could see the books with his bookmarks in it, with notes and everything in it where he liked to sit and read. And I can tell you from talking to him that he had a very – especially for someone who was self-taught, as it were, and had his own reading list – he was very well-read. And I don’t want to say that I’m well-read, but I’ve certainly read a lot, let’s put it that way, and I enjoy philosophy and history and everything myself, and it was very nice to talk to him, because he was very intellectual, and he liked to talk about those things. But he didn’t flaunt it, and it was very seldom that he would initiate the conversation like that, but if you got into a conversation like that with him, he was there.”

I’ll Be There
As reported in the L.A. Times. Doug Dutton, proprietor of the legendary and now, alas, defunct, Dutton’s Books in Brentwood, was at a dinner with people from Book Soup, Skylight and other L.A. bookstores.

“Someone mentioned that Michael Jackson had been in their store,” Dutton recalled. “Everybody said he’d shopped in their store too.”

Doug first met Jackson in the early 1980s when the icon came in his shop wearing “very large sunglasses” and a suit of bodyguards. MJ was solitary and quiet. “There was no display of ‘I’m Michael Jackson,‘” he recalled. “I don’t remember him actually saying anything.” Jackson bought four-five books during visits.

Doug’s brother, Dave, remembers getting a call in the late ’80s – early ’90s from an MJ minion, who requested that the shop be closed early so Jackson could privately shop. “We did close early,” Dave said. Then, “about a quarter to nine he showed up in a big van. Once you got over the initial caution because of those burly guys with him, he was very nice. He loved the poetry section,” Dave’s son Dirk asserts that Ralph Waldo Emerson was Jackson’s favorite author. “I think you would find a great deal of the transcendental, all-accepting philosophy in his lyrics.”

I would have bet the farm that, considering his obsession, Michael Jackson would have been a compulsive collector of all things Peter Pan, the collecting completist’s completist, acquiring every single edition of the book, every scrap of paper associated with it, and everything from the story’s subsequent incarnations.

“He was a longtime and valued customer,” a spokesperson for Hennessey + Ingalls, the renowned art and architecture bookstore in Santa Monica, said in the L.A. Times piece.

Turns out that Michael Jackson was a sort of Johnny Appleseed of reading, spreading books to all children. Former Los Angeles resident Cynde Moya remembers that “back when I worked at the Bookstar in Culver City, his people would have us keep the store open after hours, and he’d come in with a vanload of kids, who could buy whatever books they wanted.”

As MJ’s life got stranger over time, so did his book buying habits. He would wear a surgical mask during his book shop visits, and in a video of him from New Year’s Eve 2008, he’s at Hennessey + Ingalls browsing for books, a black umbrella, held by an assistant, shielding him from the unflattering glare of florescent lighting.

Or, maybe to prevent his love for books from being exposed.

This is a problem that will never threaten the unread, book-hating and proud singing star Kanye West. It is a fact that intellect and pop entertainment values do not mix well in American culture: A pop star could never mysteriously disappear for a few days, drive family, friends, and the nation crazy with anxiety, then resurface with the rambling confession that he was incognito in Buenos Aires visiting the sultry, irresistible National Library of Argentina, full of hot-blooded Latin-American tomes, because he needed a change of scenery.

Completely unbelievable. There must have been something else, something seamy, going on, perhaps with La Biblioteca Nacional de la Republica Argentina’s head of special collections, right? I mean, really, is nothing sacred?


The unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short ‘The Black Dahlia’ January 15th 1947  is , to this day , the source of widespread shock and speculation. Her murder was highly and unfairly publicized. 

After the victim of the grotesque murder was identified , the reporters from The Los Angeles Examiner called her mother, Phoebe Short , and told her that Elizabeth had won a beauty contest. They did this to pry information about her daughter out of Mrs Short , only after this did they tell her that her daughter was murdered. The newspaper did all they could to keep Mrs Short away from the police to protect their scoop. Many Los Angeles newspapers sensationalised the case and depicted Elizabeth in a bad way , also giving her the nickname. 

On January 23rd someone claiming to be the killer sent the Los Angeles Examiner a chilling letter (top) , the following day a package arrived containing Short’s birth certificate, business cards, photographs, names written on pieces of paper, and an address book with the name Mark Hansen embossed on the cover. Hansen was a former room mate. The next two letters followed have been confirmed as legitimate. Over 60 people have contacted authorities claiming to be or to know the killer.

Stadium Arcadium Era - Los Angeles Times Photoshoot, Los Angeles, January 8th 2005. During the recording period of Stadium Arcadium, the LA Times decided to take a visit to the home of guitarist John Frusciante. The extract in the paper reads:

   - The Hollywood Hills home of Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante has been the site of prolific musical activity lately, but the Moderne-style house also has reminders of a time when the musician flirted with oblivion.

An impressive collection of framed Andy Warhol movie posters alludes to days when his main activity was sitting in a drugged stupor watching Warhol and Bogart films.

And as he now sits on his living room sofa, Frusciante, 34, makes no effort to conceal arms whose smooth, scarred surface makes him look like a burn victim — testimony to years of indiscriminate injection.

“I used to O.D. on cocaine all the time on my own and get myself out of it,” he recalls. “It was like a game for me, it was fun. That was how I got my kicks, from getting as close as I could to dying without actually dying.”

“John’s a very extreme person in what he does,” says Flea, bassist and co-founder of the Chili Peppers. “He never half-steps with anything.“Rock musicians’ fascination with the abyss has become a familiar story, but few have gone so far out and bounced back so strongly as Frusciante.

He’s been back in the Chili Peppers for seven years after quitting for five, the band is at the top of its game, and he’s ensconced as an A-list guitar hero (he’s one of the elect on the cover of Guitar World magazine’s 25th anniversary issue). He has just wrapped up a series of six solo albums that, remarkably, he’s releasing in a seven-month span.

Frusciante’s lost years mark one of the most turbulent stretches in the history of a band that has made a byword of turbulence. Ironically, he came aboard in 1988 as a stabilising force, a teenage fan of the rowdy, popular but erratic L.A. band who got to join his idols and help transform them into a group with credibility and a substantial body of work. His pure, soulful style helped turn the band from a manic, funk-based act into an often pensive unit with depth and texture. His second album with the band, 1991’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” was a commercial and artistic breakthrough, in part due to his co-writing role with singer Anthony Kiedis on the image-changing hit ballad “Under the Bridge.” It was a dream come true for Frusciante, who was born in New York but grew up primarily in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Then he threw it away.

“There was a lot of things going on at that time,” says Frusciante. “Anthony and I were getting along less and less. Basically we got real successful and his response to the success was to bask in it, to hold on to it for everything it’s worth. And my attitude was to resist, to back off…. I think it’s a healthy way to respond to success.”

He also felt that touring threatened the creative routine he had developed at home. So Frusciante abruptly quit the band during a tour of Japan and went off to indulge his demons.

Frusciante lived on royalty checks during his half-decade on drugs, but eventually the money and the creativity dried up. When he finally went into detox in 1998, he was surprised to find his old bandmates, who had made one album with Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, eager to reconcile, even though his musicianship had deteriorated.

“It didn’t matter that my fingers were very weak and my guitar playing didn’t sound the way it used to sound, and that I couldn’t think as quickly musically,” he says. “They didn’t see any of that stuff. They saw in me what I was capable of, and for that I’ll always feel indebted to them…. It’s the best thing anybody ever did for me.”

Now he’s clear-eyed and in control.

“I’ve seen John go through a lot of phases in his life,” says Flea. “Right now he’s is in my favorite phase that he’s ever been in. He’s beautiful with his relationship to music, he’s become a much more kind and giving and caring and understanding person. I just think he’s in a really great space right now.”

Frusciante couldn’t be in a much better situation. The Chili Peppers are about to record a new album, hoping for a spring release. He has a progressive-rock instrumental band with Flea and Omar Rodriguez of the Mars Volta as an outlet. There have been two successful Chili Peppers albums since he rejoined, “Californication” and “By the Way.” And when the band took a six-month break in late 2003, it was a chance to do even more work.

“I’m not somebody who’s really big on going on vacations or things like that,” says Frusciante. “For me it’s about playing music all the time and about studying music all the time. Listening to music all the time…”

During the break, the guitarist found himself with about 70 songs he’d accumulated over three years. Instead of discarding the bulk of them or taking years to release them, he began recording quickly, and before he knew it he had his series ready to go. He was shooting for six albums in six months, but a printing error on the cover delayed the December release of “Curtains.” It now comes out Jan. 25.Released on the Santa Monica-based Record Collection label, the albums — “The Will to Death,” “Automatic Writing,” “DC EP,” “Inside of Emptiness,” “A Sphere in the Heart of Silence” and “Curtains” — reflect his diverse taste, from raw, cathartic rock songs to progressive instrumental explorations to electronically enhanced experimentation to the acoustic sound of the finale.

“I always have to try to go in an extreme from what I’ve last done,” he says. “Even in that six-month period, to me each record is completely different from the next…."Basically I just keep changing. I like to keep contradicting myself, whether it’s in the style of music I’m playing or in writing lyrics. It’s games of contradiction that keep me interested in what I’m doing.”

Frusciante didn’t want to do any marketing, figuring the records would find their natural audience, but he’s been surprised by how little attention they’ve received in specialty publications that generally revere his work. He thinks it might be a case of too much too fast.

“I’d definitely like to dispel any notion that there’s very little effort going into it or that I’m doing some kind of throwaway albums or something. It’s just the way my life is structured that I have to release them that quickly. My only option is to do a lot of albums during a short period of time when I can.”

But he stops when he hears himself complaining.

“It’s all positive to me, because in general where my life is at is really positive. I have a few really good friends, I love being in my band, I love being given the opportunity to make the music I’ve made. It’s such a blessing to me. I didn’t have anything five years ago…. I had no freedom at all before, and now I have nothing but freedom.”


Elizabeth Short: The Black Dahlia.

Elizabeth Short was born in Boston on July 29th, 1924 to Cleo Short and Phoebe May Sawyer. She was the third of five daughters and grew up in Medford, Massachusetts. Her father built miniature golf courses but lost most of his assets when the stock market crashed. In 1930, Short parked his car on a bridge and vanished. While it was believed that he had committed suicide, it was later found that he had actually run away to California.

Short spent most of her life moving around. Due to severe asthma, she was sent to live in Florida during the winter when she was 16. She would spend her summers back home in Medford. After coming of age, she moved briefly to live with her father in California, but was eventually sent back to Massachusetts when she was arrested for underage drinking. She then returned to Florida, where she was engaged to be married. Tragically, her beloved was killed in an airplane crash. She finally moved back to the Los Angeles area, where she would spend the rest of her short life.

The naked body of Ms. Short was found in a vacant lot in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. She was sawed in two at the mid-section. She had been completely drained of blood and was completely washed clean. Her face was slashed from the corners of her mouth towards her ears, giving her a Glasgow Smile (also known as a Chelsea Grin). She also had multiple cuts on her thighs and breasts, where entire portions of flesh had been removed. The body had been posed with her hands above her head, her legs open. An autopsy showed that Short had serious ligature marks on her wrists and ankles. The cause of death was determined to be hemorrhage from the slits on her face along with shock due to a few blows to her head. She was just 22 years old.

Following the identification of the body, The Los Angeles Examiner, a daily newspaper, contacted her mother, telling her that Elizabeth had won a beauty contest. After getting as much personal information as they could from her, they then revealed that Elizabeth was actually dead. The newspaper offered to pay to fly her out to LA to help with the investigation. However, it was only a trick to keep her away from police and other reporters in order to protect their story. They later sensationalized the story. He clothes went from conservative to a “tight skirt and a sheer blouse.” Only then did she become The Black Dahlia.

Due to the popularity of the case, over 50 men and women confessed to the murder. The police narrowed it down to 25 possible suspects, but those were eventually ruled out as well.

The murder has never been solved.

In 1947 the body of 22 year old Elizabeth Short was found in two pieces in a parking lot in Los Angeles.

According to newspaper reports shortly after the murder, Short received the nickname “Black Dahlia” at a Long Beach drugstore in the summer of 1946, as a play on the then-current movie The Blue Dahlia. However, Los Angeles County district attorney investigators’ reports state the nickname was invented by newspaper reporters covering the murder.

In either case, Short was not generally known as the “Black Dahlia” during her lifetime.

Many rumours and tales have spread about the Black Dahlia, and the investigation (one of the largest in LA history) never found the killer.