An image of the 1992 Los Angeles riots from the Los Angeles Times:
I think this was down on Normandie – the civil unrest lasted six days. Things got quiet when the National Guard was called in. I don’t write a political blog, however, there are factors even I can’t ignore when describing what goes on in Hollywood and by extension the great city of Los Angeles. To get an even more macro-view I’ll turn to a YouTube video posted by politizane that’s gone viral:
Incredible gaps between those who have and have not, mix it with the LAPD beating a man senseless, a teenager shot in a convenience store, a recession, tension…
And then we come to my very small story, which in the face of the death, and damage, and destruction is going to appear pathologically chipper. But, as you might have gleaned, that’s my default position.
At the end of April of 1992 my friend Heidi, a photographer – PORTRAITS BEFITTING THE STARS – BY HEIDI GUTMAN | BEGUILING HOLLYWOOD – was moving into her ground floor apartment in a French Normandy four-plex just off Wilshire between Hancock Park and Beverly Hills – let’s call it mid-city. A very brief description of the two of us – Heidi is tall, like a fashion model, and I am not… We had been shoving furniture around all morning and, taking a break, we walked down the street, with a turn here and there, to refuel at a favorite spot, Caffe Latte, which happened to be a good restaurant located in a mini-mall on the otherwise majestic boulevard. Strangely, the boulevard was deserted. We turned our heads to see a low slung four door sedan, like an old Crown Vic, full of young men drive slowly past toward Beverly Hills, and then another but this one was more arresting. Men were hanging out of all the car windows, one was brandishing a gun. We were the only pedestrians I could see. I remember Heidi planting her feet and saying something about her camera and I remember taking her by the arm and dragging her off Wilshire asserting we were going home. And by that, I meant my home up in the Hollywood Hills.
Apparently, I was not alone in my assessment of the situation. At the same time I was pulling Heidi off of Wilshire the Mayor was closing down the city. A drive that should have taken fifteen minutes, tops, took nearly an hour. When we arrived at my house in Beachwood Canyon my husband had been sent home from Warner Bros – every film studio in Los Angeles was being shut down. Then the phone began to ring and shortly after three more of our single female friends arrived with pajamas and toothbrushes and I began to call our roost in the hills Mr. Lester’s home for wayward women.
Bill, the manager of the Beachwood Market, kept the store open for the neighborhood that first day and we stocked up on cookie fixings and chickens to roast and we checked in with the rest of the canyon denizens before we all retreated to closed doors as curfew fell. Los Angeles has a lot of ambient noise at night – what we heard as darkness wore on were predominantly helicopters and sirens.
Inside we were sprawled across the living room, eating chocolate chip cookies, trading stories, watching South Central burn on the news, hoping it wouldn’t reach Hollywood Boulevard. At one point we climbed up a conveniently placed tree onto our flat roof and watched the plumes of smoke rising from Downtown, and then we smelled smoke and saw Hollywood Boulevard was burning.
That’s the gist of it. After things quieted down we helped sweep smashed glass off of Hollywood Boulevard. We had a very fortunate experience out of harm’s way. As I said, while over fifty people died and over 2000 were injured we huddled together and closed our front door.
I remember that year being on a film location with my husband and filling out my first absentee ballot and checking Bill Clinton’s name I knew, I just knew, nobody I ever voted for reached office. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the results came in… And yet, the recession ended, and more tinkering, deregulation, tax cuts, crisis, too big to fail, the Great Recession, stimulation, recovery, financial shell games, still no meaningful banking regulation, etc., oh, and a couple more vices, insatiable greed, and some people thinking they’re the special snowflake of a corporation or private citizen who doesn’t have to contribute a fair share to taxes. Yes, and I know what’s legal in terms of taxation, but there are other criteria to be met: what is morally correct, what is good for the nation, what a decent citizen is obliged to do to be worthy of the rights granted in our democracy. Rant over, the chipper facade is cracked straight through, and where are we now?
Only time will tell my angels, only time.