Another Dazzling Misstep at the LAT

The Los Angeles Times is rapidly becoming better known for its mistakes than for its good works, perhaps because there have been so many mistakes, and they have been so dumb.

Its latest and one of its most dazzling missteps is its abrupt and rude dismissal of longtime columnist Al Martinez.

Unlike many of the LAT honchos,Martinez knows the territory and understands it, and that knowledge and insight are implicit in everything he writes. As important, he has a unique perspective that made his columns “must” reading for countless Times readers.

And so the Times has just become a little thinner and less interesting. Again.

Martinez will survive, but, given its rapidly accumulating missteps, we’re not sure the Times will.

Paul Newman Leaves the Set

Paul Newman, 82, announced yesterday that he wouldn’t make any more films. And the world seemed a little paler and flatter.

He was an extraordinary actor – consistently brilliant, always compelling – who should have won a shelf of Oscars, but was often and inexplicably overlooked by the Academy, perhaps because he made it look so easy.

Newman was heard but not seen in his last three films, all of which were animated features. His final on-screen appearance was in HBO Films’ “Empire Falls,” in 2005, in which he played an old rogue – as irresistible as he was irresponsible.

In the course of his long career, he probably played as many so-called bad guys and/or anti-heroes, as good buys, and he inevitably inclined towards rogues.

The most notable of his last round of films was “Twilight,” in which he played an exhausted private detective. It was a dead-on perfect performance.

And, in real life, he was, and is, a dead-on perfect man.

In addition to his work on stage, he appeared in 78 films, directed a number of them, drove race cars for a while, and his non-profit line of foods raised over $200 million for a variety of worthy causes.

Bravo, Mr. Newman.

City Continues to Deconstruct Downtown

City Hall’s seemingly endless drive to perfect downtown Santa Monica, which, by its lights, means turning it into a money mill, went off the rails years ago.

For generations, all downtown streets were more or less equal. But, since 1965, when the City turned Third Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway into a pedestrian mall, they’ve been unbalanced.

The mall was a pleasant addition, It was lined with interesting, small, locally owned shops, including quite a number of independent bookstores. The only chain stores were Woolworth’s and J.C. Penney’s.

But, in the early 1970s, in search of more bling and bang, the City declared the two blocks at the southern end of the mall “blighted,” bought up all the land and sought a developer to build an enclosed shopping center on the site. Many residents objected, but City Hall prevailed.

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Endangered Species: Artists

To the continuing chagrin of many residents, City Hall insists on calling Santa Monica “Art City,” even as fewer and fewer artists can afford to live and work here.

But now that the City’s ”Creative Capital” report has concluded that the arts are a major economic asset, it has finally added live/work artists’ studios at reasonable prices to its “To Do” list.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times last week, Venice is wrestling with the same problem.

Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, Laddie John Dill, Peter Alexander, Robert Graham, Ed Moses, Charles Arnoldi and actor-photographer Dennis Hopper all arrived in Venice decades ago when it was an outlaw of a place and they were young and unknown. Today, they are all top dogs in the
art world, and Venice has become chic and, as the Times reported, the artists want to end “the artistic cleansing” of Venice, and create what Dill called “a self-sustaining center for the arts for the next 100 years,” where young and emerging artists can afford to live and work.

As City Hall and residents continue to revise the land use element of the General Plan, which will include decisions about the best uses of the last and only under-developed area in Santa Monica, the Light Manufacturing and Studio District (LMSD), we hope they recognize and respond to what is clearly a regional, not a local crisis — the plight of our artists – in a smart, comprehensive and generous way.

A community that has no room for artists is not a community at all.

“Studio 60” — One More Time

NBC-TV has trailed the other three networks in the ratings for a while because it runs really bad shows – like “Deal or No Deal” – and cancels really good shows – like “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

NBC has taken up residence in the cellar, because Brandon Tartikoff and Grant Tinker, the supreme showmen who once ran the network, have been succeeded by a series of gamesmen, who behave as if they know everything, but apparently don’t know that a TV network is only as good as the people who make its programs.

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