“So I live in Los Angeles and it’s kind of a goofy place. They have an airport named after John Wayne. That ought to explain it. It has a charming kind of superstitious innocence.” — George Carlin
Our current theme here at Thalia is “Why we need stories.” I need them as a way to frame living in the Southland. Because it’s been a heck of a week here in L.A. One thing for sure, my hometown never runs out of fodder inspiring my tales of out there behavior and the consequences of such. It seems I’ll never lack for material in writing my stories of crimes and misdemeanors.
This past Tuesday April 29 marked the 22nd anniversary of the riots or civil unrest if you will, that took place here in Los Angeles. Termed Siegu in the Korean community, the outbreak happened on the afternoon four LAPD officers were found not guilty in the criminal charges stemming from their, shall we say, over-zealous apprehension of speeding motorist Rodney King. Not only do I recall that time with vivid clarity, getting chicken pox from my kids, defending the homefront with a bottle of Jack for liquid courage and my .357 magnum – chronicled here — but as the birth of my writing career. Stemming from that incident, I used the aftermath of a city wrestling with socio-political issues to write the novel Violent Spring, introducing my PI, Ivan Monk.
The anniversary though was far eclipsed by another racially-tinged matter, the antics of Clippers pro basketball team owner Donald Sterling. He was busted on audio tape making racist remarks about black people. That this became a hot topic is interesting considering my fellow L.A. native’s attitude toward black folk was not an unknown factor. In 2006, ESPN’s Bomani Jones wrote a piece entitled appropriately enough, “Sterling’s Racism Should be News” on the Page 2 site citing his and his wife’s documented discrimination practices of not renting to or trying to force out black and Latino tenants from the upscale apartments they owned. In 2009 syndicated columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson was incredulous that Sterling was then getting a lifetime achievement award from the L.A. chapter of the NAACP. It was only as the crap storm erupted this time around that the NAACP rescinded his second lifetime achievement award. Damn.
The Saturday Night Live cold opening sums al this up best and you can view it here.
But enough about the Sterling. It’s V. Stiviano I find fascinating. In know that many of you, n the words of Kanye West, think “I ain’t sayin’ she’s a golddigga, but she don’t want no broke, broke…” ahem. But I know there’s more to her. Indeed like Sterling, a poor kid from the Boyle Heights area who changed his name to sound more waspy, she, another native Angeleno, changed her name to sound more, that is, less ethnic. While apparently of mixed race, black and Mexican, she too sought to escape labels others might put on her. Yes, she sought to build her brand, cash in on her exotic looks with pics of her Instagrammed all over Creation with her in bikinis and hats stenciled with her name on it to little avail. But there are a lot of pretty women in the Southland looking to make their mark not on talent but on looks.
Yet like the conflagration that tested the city in ’92, V. Stiviano too has been tested. The fires of adversity have not burned her to a crisp but have forged her in her new identity, The Rolling Phantom. The big V reacting to the “unwanted” publicity (Stiviano claims she did not leak the Sterling tape) has donned a full face visor in an impotent effort to fool the paparazzi. Donning roller skates and the visor, which has set off a minor fashion fad, I foresee the Rolling Phantom will now skate around town, intercepting young naïve maidens as they come off the buses and tartans, seeking their fame and fortune here. Too many will get hoociefied, twerking on 3rd rate rappers videos or shilling for some knock-off cognac on posters in liquor store windows. She will warn them of the pitfalls that await — unless they can snare a self-obsessed rich old fool – and hand them a pamphlets for trade school.
Perhaps the Rolling Phantom will roll out for Cinco de Mayo as the rest of us kick back with some beers, trying to remember what does this holiday commemorate again?