WHY DID THE LA DA RELEASE THE DOGS?

The case still is sealed revealing what and who prompted the county District Attorney to turn loose 22 investigators on a recent morning to search two residences and a business in Malibu linked to long time local resident and present pro tem Mayor Jefferson Wagner.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, who might know is not saying, certainly not now having seen the support for Wagner, guilty of whatever or not, and the questioning of the actions by the DA’s office. We’re not talking here of potential crimes against persons and property, terrorists acts, drug deals and me too entertainment industry incidents, certainly not in our Malibu.

To be sure, DA Jackie Lacey has some explaining to do, and not in a vague press release slipped under the door on Saturday morning of a holiday weekend. It is time for some transparency to counter the paranoia swirling on the local scene.

This is a case that should not disappear, whether the city comes to the defense of Wagner or not, as has been urged by an outpouring of city residents, some of whom have funded a lawyer for Jefferson.

One asks what else does the city council do anyhow, except bark like trained seals in approving the issues and items dutifully prepared for them like fish snacks by the inveterate city manager and city attorney in the bunker that has become City Hall.

Meanwhile, the fumbling governance of Malibu by a sadly neophyte City council continues to exasperate, witness its distressing yielding to a self serving, bloated bureaucracy and well compensated consultants. And for this the council actually congratulates itself. Lost in its hazy, lazy ways is oversight and accountability.

It is no wonder that specious conspiracy theories persist, as well as rumors of past favors and future sinecures. Yes, small town politics, be it middle America or Malibu, stumbles on.

Sustaining it is what can be described as a cult of amiability, cultivated by Malibu’s modest size where most people know who their neighbor are, if not their names, certainly the names of their pets, thanks to social media.

It is this cult that no doubt prompted Wagner to in effect apologize this week for the no vote of confidence by his council colleagues while testifying to their good intentions.

Amiable, yes, and that is what makes Wagner so liked. But it also makes him not as forthright as what is needed now to save Malibu further embarrassment as a slipshod city.

And I say that as a friend, and also as someone concerned about our failing democracy, locally as well as nationally.

 

 

 

 

 

A Haunting “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

As mentioned last week, I timed my return from Mexico so I could attend the West Coast premier on “Long Day ‘s Journey Into Night.” at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills.

To be sure, I did so with some apprehension, as comment on public radio KBU 99.1 and websites everywhere.

I had last seen – perhaps witnessed is a better word — Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece some 50 years ago on Broadway, and had not forgotten the experience It was so raw and riveting, and moving.

I wondered whether it still would have the same dramatic effect on me, being so much older now, and in this day and age where I believe we sadly have become so unfortunately hardened to shock, to mention among other things the school shootings, the pervasive homelessness and the cruelty to children, of the current Republican misadministration.

From a critic’s and personal perspective, the answer is yes. “Long Day’s Journey,” is indeed a drama that will absorb you for 3 plus hours and haunt you after.

There are no stage gimmicks, special effects at the Wallis, no Greek chorus breaking into song and dance, just actors on a striking open set performing with such skill and speaking poignant lines with such convincing feeling you feel transformed, ease dropping a century ago on a dysfunctional Irish Catholic family, the Tyrones, exposing themselves on one long day and night.

The cast of the English Bristol Old Vic production is, in a word, magnificent, particularly the alcoholic patriarch Tyrone, played by Oscar, Tony and Emmy award winner Jeremy Irons, and the Morphine addicted matriarch, Lesley Manville, a recent Oscar nominee. The twisted relationship between the two crackles.

Her venomous delivery of the line, “I love you dear, in spite of everything,” is echoed by her husband in every aside and gesture, witnessed with an ebb and flow of emotion by their sons drifting in and out of the living room.

The performances of the sons played by Matthew Beard and Rory Keenan are equally emotional and convincing, in their love and hate for each other, and their tortured parents. You ache for them.

Eugene O’Neill once described the play as having been written in tears and blood”, a play of old sorrow, and was so baldly autobiographical that he left instructions that it not be performed for 25 years after his death, which came in 1953. His widow disobeyed. I saw it in 1956, and last week.

If you love theatre, you should, too, before the limited engagement ends July 1.

 

 

 

MALIBU ROILING

Returned from abroad to find the weather in Malibu cloudy, local governance foggy, and politics menacing. Lots of “sturm und drang“ among the city’s concerned citizens. Good. A sign of life, and so I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

Paramount is a concern for long term resident, mayor pro tem, Jefferson Wagner, a personal friend of mine, and it seems scores of others in Malibu. At present, he is a councilperson and the persevering member of a “reform” slate, whose other members are figuratively out to lunch, probably on someone elses nickel, no doubt.

An ever smiling surf shop owner on the fringes of the film industry, to many Jefferson personifies an amiable Malibu local, so I was shocked as others to learn he had been questionably criminalized in an early AM raid orchestrated by the county District Attorney.

He and his companion Candace Brown, also a prized friend, were handcuffed for a short time while the house was searched by a full dress squad of a dozen DA office investigators. All that was taken was a cell phone, and no doubt many photos.

That the house lies just beyond the city limits may have been the reason for the raid — you have to be a legal resident to serve on the council. But this issue has been raised before involving Wagner, and he long since purchased another residence, within the city, from which he votes.

Whatever, the D.A.’s office is not disclosing who prompted the raid and why; the warrant is sealed. And nobody involved is saying anything because the questionable case is still open. There has been much local speculation, some of it specious, long on accusations and allegations of conspiracy, and short on evidence. Malicious persecution? A mistake? There are many questions to be eventually answered by the DA’s office, and other persons of interest.

In the meantime, a fund has been established for Wagner’s defense, if he needs one. And reflecting as it might on his council status, still to be heard from is the city.

For the record, and for what is worth, we were told the warrant was signed before Wagner cast the lone vote against awarding wily city manager Reva Feldman a generous new contract.

I for one am hopeful Wagner will be able to serve as mayor as scheduled next year, and raises the issue of the need for better transparency and accountability at City Hall.

And I would add also needed is an improved competency within its bloated bureaucracy, which I have commented previously appears to be preoccupied more with padding payrolls, pensions and perks, and less with public service.

Then there is the outsourcing of city work to select, well compensated, consultants, and the acquiescence of a neophyte council.

This is something I hope that candidates for the two open council seats will address, in the local elections this Fall, that, with the national elections, cannot come soon enough for me.

 

 

 

LONG DAYS IN MEXICO, LONG NIGHTS IN BEVERLY HILLS

For me these the last few weeks it has been arts and entertainment in Mexico, in particular its rich archeology, displayed in museums and historic sites.

Foremost was Teotihuacan, the largest city in the Americas nearly two thousand years ago, and today still very impressive, if not exhausting under a hot sun.

I had been turned on to this site just outside Mexico City by an enthralling exhibit now on display at the L.A. County Museum of Art, until July 15th. It is a must go.

I also spent a week in the Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, justly known for its culinary and craft traditions, its Spanish colonial architecture, and engaging street scenes.

Blessed by benign weather, witnessed in the plazas and pedestrian promenades was a colorful wedding reception, a graduation celebration and a salutation to a saint. And then there was the shopping. All combined to make time to slip by.

But I had to be back in L.A. in time for an opening night performance of a not-to-be missed “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The Pulitzer-Prize masterpiece by Eugene O’Neill , arguable America’s greatest playwright, will be at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills for just three-weeks, beginning tomorrow through July 1.

It’s a limited engagement of the acclaimed Bristol Old Vic production, coming to the west coast after sold out runs in New York and London. And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, and websites everywhere, score a big one for the Wallis.

Directed by the honored Sir Richard Eyre, its has an all-star cast, headed by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons and recent nominee Lesley Manville. She is known for playing the cold sister in “Phantom Thread;” Irons for many roles, and is one of a few actors to have won an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy.

The play briefly portrays a family whose matriarch is addicted on morphine since the birth of child. Take it from there as the sons attack each other with brutal honesty, while the father wallows in whiskey – all exposed in a long night.

It is harrowing experience, and one I still remember with heartache 50 years ago when I saw it in its initial Broadway run, starring, among others, Florence Eldridge, Jason Robards, and Katherine Ross. The production won a host of awards, and turned me on to live theatre. It has been a joy since.

 

 

SELF SERVING MALIBU CITY HALL SCORED

It being spring, and Malibu is in full bloom, in particular my landscape. You’d therefore think my commentaries concerning civic matters would lighten up, as has been suggested by a few listeners and readers.

To be sure, as I remark on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the public school situation projecting the realignment of facilities and the district divorce look promising; and so is the city’s planned purchase of commercial parcels. Maybe it will save the Bluffs Park from some nasty, irrevocable over development.

Indeed, in my semi retirement, I’d love to kick back, limit my commentaries to the arts and entrainment segments that I now also do for public radio and various websites. I certainly can use the time for my travels, landscaping and book reviewing.

But as a long time resident with an abiding love for the unique environment and liberal lifestyles of Malibu, I cannot ignore the decline of the city, exacerbated by the lack of public oversight, a municipal ombudsman, local investigative reporters, and only scattered concerns.

Meanwhile, there is indeed much to be concerned about: Heading a list is the self aggrandizing City Council, naively yielding its prerogatives to a self serving, bloated city administration.

Talk about the hardening of bureaucratic arteries, and in a city of just 13,000, a municipality that seems to out source nearly everything, except payroll, pension and perks. And what some favored consultants are exactly being paid for remains a mystery, and that after sucking up millions of our tax dollars. There is no accountability at City Hall.

Then there are the challenge of pending issues: the air b n bs; the future of the commercial sinkhole of the civic center, Trancas field, a premium dog park, and the constant pain of PCH. Tough questions, especially for a lazy, neophyte City Hall.

As for the planning, the city appears to more often than not to yield to a cabal of dominant developers and their facilitators, commercial interests, rapacious realtors, or the whim of a wily city manager. Those dolphins awards to our politicians are beginning to smell like rotten fish.

The result I fear has been an insidious anomie in a dwindling democracy, aggravated by Malibu becoming more a tacky tourist town of trophy second homes and weekend party houses and less a unique coastal village of caring residents.

And so immodestly, as a seasoned journalist and a hardened planner, I feel compelled to express my concerns. As I used to be told by a tough NCO when I once was a platoon sergeant a long time ago,“it is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.” The adage echoes.

I’ll add, good luck Malibu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHECK OUT THE REFURBISHED GETTY VILLA

It’s May in Malibu, and a little early for the seasonal early morning fog known as June gloom, and also on PCH, a little early for the summer weekend traffic.

Therefore if wanting to get out of the house, I suggest this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites perhaps going to a museum. But not wanting to spend hours driving, perhaps consider staying a little closer to Malibu, and visiting the Getty Villa.

Our beaches may be famous, surfing legendary, but among the culturally curious, so is the villa, which located just east of the city line overlooking the PCH, is in effect our neighborhood museum.

And making it particularly attractive these days is its recent refurbishment. It not only seems to glisten a little more in the midday sun after the fog lifts, but also in its evocative and accessible interior, thanks to a new arrangement of the collection.

The fascinating sculpture, the intricate mosaics, intriguing ceramics and transfixing jewelry have all been placed in their respective cultural and historical context. The physical facilities also have been improved. There is more gallery space, upgraded display cases, and better lighting. Though I must add the graphics leading one through the Villa can be improved.

Of course, you can still wander around the galleries, diverted by glimpses of Cycladic figurines and stunning Greek sculptures. But if you look closely and follow the floor maps, revealed is a chronological path through the various ages of classical antiquity: from the Neolithic Period through the late Roman Empire — that’s 6,000 years plus.

But first upon entering under the atrium, to the right is a display labeled “the Classical World in Context,” which should be glimpsed before venturing into the reoriented Villa.

And immodestly also on first floor, are several galleries paying homage to J. Paul Getty. It was his vision that brought the remnants of the country Roman estate buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., piece by piece, to sunny Southern California, and incorporated with other ancient villas into the museum, which opened in 1974.

What can be missed is the Villa’s inaugural exhibit, “Plato in L.A.” which indulges the visions of several contemporary artists of the philosopher ‘s theories. I’ll just label it a flimflam and irrelevant.

Though having visited the villa many times, I still find it absolutely fascinating, to think of the intricacies of the art and craft of past civilizations placed as they are in a sympathetic setting and cultural context. And when the weather is Mediterranean mild and the sun shinning, the Villa sparkles.

 

 

 

 

REALIGNMENT BRIGHTENS MALIBU SCHOOLS FUTURE

If there is one issue I feel that is at present most paramount to the future of Malibu, it is the public schools, as I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and web sites everywhere. .

Yes, air b n bs and beach access, the sink hole of a civic center and other planning disasters, and of course the constant pain of PCH; all are issues of concern, or should be, to those who profess to love Malibu.

But it is the public schools more than anything else I feel that binds and serves meandering Malibu. And that includes us whose children long ago graduated from the local schools, as mine did, and all residents, parents or not. It’s been proven by every measure, monetarily and psychologically, that good schools, mark and make for good communities, and, incidentally, also good real estate values.

So one has to be very excited about the approved major realignment of Malibu’s schools. This includes folding the Juan Cabrillo elementary school into Point Dune Marine Science elementary. Call the new, bigger, busier Point school what you will, I am confident that it will be better, with promised expanded programs and increased community involvement. Of course, transitions are always difficult, and take more dedication by parents, teachers, administrators, and resources. But the kids will most definitely benefit from the diversity.

Eventually as planned, Cabrillo will be freed up to be converted into a separate and distinct middle school, which Malibu never has had. And according to all, this made the transition from elementary into upper school a particularly anxious time for students who at the same time were transitioning into adolescence.

But meanwhile Cabrillo can be used as a way station for upper school students while a new high school at last is constructed to replace the present dated, decrepit and dysfunctional school , which is, as local education advocate Karen Farrer declared, a sad source of declining morale and antiquated teaching practices, especially the science and computer labs.

Having been involved in the innovative designs of three distinguished public high schools in New York City in a past life, I look forward to commenting on the development here, as I hope it progresses.

However, to make these well intentioned plans happen will require intense programmatic and design and development efforts, and, of course, some big bucks bond money. But unlike past bonds issued by the Santa Monica dominated school board and arbitrarily divvied up to favor Santa Monica facilities, this anticipated bond will be voted on by Malibu residents and allocated exclusively for Malibu.

This also sets the stage for the long overdue divorce allowing Malibu to establish a school district separate and distinct from Santa Monica. Let the school bells ring out in Malibu.

 

 

 

STAGE REVIVALS STIR TICKET SALES

As I predicted a few weeks ago the revue, musical, or songfest, call it what you will, “Blues In the Night,” became a hot ticket,

But as I report on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, happily its run at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, has been extended another week. And as I have recommended, it shouldn’t be missed

The production may be a little dated, as I am, but it still dazzles, and makes for a delightful, nostalgic, evening. Nostalgic indeed,

the revival is directed by Sheldon Epps, who worked on the show when it was conceived off-off Broadway some 40 years ago. After several productions over the years, I think he’s finally nailed it.

The set in a smoky seedy hotel in Chicago is evocative of the late down and out 30s, and so are the 26 torch songs of Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington, among notable others.

They are woven together into the sorrowful stories of three women, and the men who have done them wrong, and delivered appropriately draped and pitch perfect by a right-on, outstanding cast of four, Yvette Cason, Bryce Charles , Chester Gregory and Paulette Ivory.

Yes, there could be more dancing, but the production like the man it portrays, is a worrisome thing, in the memorable words of composers Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

In addition to Blues in the Night, there are several other productions scheduled locally that I expect also will be hot tickets, revivals actually that were hits in their time.

At the Japanese Garden on the West L.A. VA campus, from June 5th to July 1st, there will be a rare production of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” staged by Tony Award winning director Daniel Sullivan. Of particular note featured will be screen actor Tom Hanks in stage debut as Shakespeare’s greatest comedic character Sir John Falstaff. For tickets you are going to have to link via email to the Shakespeare center.

 At the Wallis, June 8th through July 1, will be Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This production will star the distinguished actors Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville.

June 20th to July 1st, the Freud Playhouse, on the UCLA campus, will host a Reprise production of the Broadway hit play, Sweet Charity. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.

Tickets for all should be a scramble. Go for it.

 

 

ANOTHER TRAFFIC PROBLEM PENDING ON PCH

No question that the PCH is the bane of Malibu, as it is on select roadways serving commuters everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. At least where I had suffered, and that includes Tokyo, Jakarta and Moscow.

I remember Moscow in particular, for I feel it reflects a situation in the present and perhaps future Malibu, and so comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

Several decades ago when doing a TV report on the Soviet transition from a totalitarian to an authoritarian regime I noted that among many foibles surviving was some traffic dictates; specifically one backing up traffic every morning on the bridge over the Moskova River behind the Kremlin.

There, eight lanes of traffic each morning jammed the bridge into the central city, including an express central lane apparently reserved for “official” cars.

But for these cars to make a right turn into the back entry of the Kremlin they had to cross seven lanes of traffic, which of course had to be interdicted. And they were, making a great visual to tease a segment, with me intoning, “Some things never change in Moscow…”

Back to Malibu, where the left turn from the west lane of PCH to access the Nobu parking lot continues to stop and slow traffic most days . It certainly has delayed me. Very frustrating.

And we can expect the same from the traffic light at the crossing serving the Malibu Beach Inn. What developers want in Malibu, developers tend to get, no thank you City Hall

Another expected traffic problem I feel will be at Sunset Boulevard, if and when a proposed new reimagined, larger restaurant will replace the now iconic but aging Gladstones. It has been tentatively approved by an enthusiastic Board of Supervisors, with high praise to the development team fronted by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and celebrity architect Frank Gehry.

Nice, if you are into celebrity veneration. Except at the beach, and if your drive the PCH. Then you’d know that the intersection at Sunset happens to be one of the more impacted, and the scene at present of countless traffic delays, due in part to the left turn needed to access the restaurant parking lot.

And turn they will, into no doubt will be a pricey, tourist attraction, iconic maybe, but the site must be questioned. We therefore look forward to the traffic report, in the anticipated environmental impact statement, as well as the Coastal Commission reaction to a mega structure plotzed on a public beach.

SEARCHING FOR L.A. ON THE SUNSET STRIP

Ostensibly, this is a review of an evocative illustrated history of a fabled stub of Sunset Boulevard, entitled “Tales from The Strip: A Century in the Fast Lane.”

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the book published by Angel City Press chronicles the heydays and the high and low life nights of a roadway just two miles in length, but long in rollicking and revealing stories.

Located in the immodest satellite city of West Hollywood, edging a boastful Beverly Hills, the Strip celebrates a greater Los Angeles. Though warped with age, it perseveres as a stand out stop on the celebrity bus tour.

But also for me, and donnish others, searching the expansively suburban, reluctantly urban, Los Angeles for nothing less than its soul, that unique sense of place with the potential of generating an elusive evanescent quality of a “genius loci.” The Strip offers clues.

After all, “The city is the teacher of man,” stated the venerated philosopher Simonides, in 475 B.C. The hope expressed then, and now, nearly 2,600 years later, is that those select public places could somehow give rise to a civic identity and sense of community, however fleeting, to feed a frail democracy.

The Strip’s shifting scenes once upon a time before television were peopled by a cast of spot lit characters, featuring a parade of big screen celebrities, with an occasional menacing mobster lurking in the shadows, and on the sidewalks, the omnipresent chorus of wannabes and witnesses.

The scene lent Los Angeles a certain world fame, tinged with notoriety, that lingers today in what might be defined as a post modern sense of history. To be sure, no such pronouncement is offered by the book’s creative team head lined by writer Van Gordon Sauter, photographer Robert Landau and graphic designer Frans Evenhuis.

Their superlative collaboration is a loose chronology of people and places, including the more furtive later years, the scruffy counter culture, rambunctious musicians, and shifting sounds and life styles, to the present relatively tame, some would say tacky, commercialization.

Nevertheless, as “Tales” touts, developments are constantly being proposed with appropriate fanfare flogging the Strip. And almost daily it seems a new conspicuous billboard is being unveiled. Change has always been welcomed on the Strip, though not always for the better.

The memories persist, lending the Strip a certain appealing cachet and its purveyors cash. Though tarnished, the Strip, I feel, is still the gem in the tiara that is Sunset Boulevard, lending sparkle to a Hollywood of a certain age.

If tempted to cruise The Strip, I suggest going in a car with the roof open or down, careful not to be too distracted by the billboards, and for a closer look stop, and park. Perhaps go tomorrow, Saturday , where at 4 PM at Book Soup, at 8818 Sunset Blvd. the “Tales” creative trio will be, extolling and signing their book.