Shouting for Justice
The Journey of a Jewish Journalist Across the Century of Hitler and Israel
by Herb Brin. Copyright © September 2002. All rights reserved.
Chapter Nine: The L.A. Beat
Monday morning, I telephoned Bud Lewis, the Times city editor.
"Come in to see me," he said. "Make it this afternoon."
I was there at 1 p.m.
The Los Angeles Times building was awesome, intimidatingly awesome for a former City Press editor gone west from the sticks of Chicago. Anyone in metropolitan journalism could hardly not know the Times' anti-labor history and its stalwart GOP political bent. I wondered how I'd fit in. If this was a job offer, as it turned out, what about me, an unreconstructed left-wing liberal who was never ashamed to admit that he wrote poetry?
The guard on duty in the Times' lobby pointed me in the direction of an elevator to the editorial floor. There, a Times reporter met me. He was cordial as hell. Said nice things about the story I had turned in to Paul Brecht. Told me that the district attorney was considering a criminal action to be taken against the Glendale newspaper and its publisher. Also that some 14 Glendale police officers might have to face charges.
"If they do, the D.A. said he may be forced to turn on you," he warned. "After all, you were there."
Which left me with a sinking feeling as I was waved in to meet Bud Lewis at the City Desk.
Bud said that he and Taylor Trumbo were impressed with the way I handed the story of the idiotic raid in La Crescenta.
"That's the good old City Press tradition -- which we all know about."
Then he added quickly: "If you'll accept it, I would like you to join our staff as a reporter. We need a good feature writer."
That's all it takes to get on staff of the largest, most impressive newspaper west of New York?
That's all it takes.
I vowed to be a darn good feature writer. (And poet, something whispered inside me.)
Big, tall Taylor Trumbo seemed to know about my work at City Press.
Feature stories, I wondered. What the hell are feature stories? All I knew about reporting was to react to assignments from Larry Mulay, the City Press editor.
Trumbo would now be my assignment editor. But I had to come up with ideas for my stories. Oh, other, of course than the routine rewrite job Taylor would toss at me. These I would grind out faster than anyone in the City Room.
Anyway, one of the first stories I suggested to Taylor was for me to do a short piece abut the Midnight Mission on Skid Row -- which happened to be about four blocks from the Times building, On a street where the homeless gathered for free meals and a bunk.
Trumbo would know in a minute if I'd cut the mustard. He called my suggestion of a Midnight Mission feature "a green suit." Only Herb Brin would try to sell a green suit to Taylor Trumbo. But doggone -- he bought my green suit! And many, many more.
Got to Midnight Mission in time for bed assignment and a snack.
About eight or nine of us drifters were told we'd been given a wonderful opportunity to make things right with our Lord. We were then led through the song Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, for which we'd each receive a container of black coffee and a huge doughnut.
I figured a way to beat this, since, of course, I am Jewish.
I crossed the index and middle fingers of my right hand, a signal for God not to believe this, or the words from the rest of us bums. I figured it was little enough to offer -- my crossed fingers -- to expunge the devilish payment intended for whoever keeps tabs on these things, skyward.
Took a lot of notes when the songtime ended. I sat in one of those mission chairs to put away my "coffee and...."
The coffee wasn't so bad. Strong as hell. But I took a bite out of the doughnut only to discover to my dismay that it was of the kind that was dipped in lard and forbidden even to a nonpracticing Jew.
I uncrossed my fingers and suddenly came to the realization that I couldn't avoid my Jewishness. Not even with crossed fingers on a story I was doing for the Los Angeles Times.
In the dim evening light, I wrote a poem about a derelict I encountered at Midnight Mission. Here it art:
A dream ago I kissed a rose
And reached an apple to the sky
But now I stare at shattered walls
In Midnight Mission passions lie.
I danced on dew a dream ago
And raced a moonbeam in gavotte
But now I sing without a song
In Midnight Mission passions rot.
My legs were strong a dream ago
My arms could lift a tree
But now I sit away the day
In Midnight Mission passions flee.
I held her hand a dream ago
Her eyes contained a sigh
But now a shell of life is left
In Midnight Mission passions cry.
They cry, they cry of dreams ago
As morning seeks the sky
But lost is all, forever lost
In Midnight Mission passions die.
To tell the truth, Taylor liked my story about the derelicts I encountered at Midnight Mission. Got a by-line for the epic. My first at the Times.
He didn't like my poem, however. Not to worry, he said. He and poetry didn't jibe.
"Bring me some more green suits," Taylor said.
Suddenly it occurred to me that Taylor Trumbo looked a lot like Dalton Trumbo of the famous Hollywood Left writers. We never discussed that part of our mutual experiences. But I came up with a wild array of "green suit" possibilities. The more I turned them in, Taylor Trumbo and Bud Lewis liked them.
My work at the Times was a blast.
It wasn't long after my Midnight Mission story broke that the religion editor, Jim "The Bishop" Warnack, and I started exchanging poems. Jim was darned good as a poet. He told me that, as an atheist, he loved his work as religion editor at the Times. But the toughest time for him was always Easter Sunday, when the Times would feature a "Christ is Risen" poem on the front page -- a poem that was supposed to be written by the religion editor.
That was how I was pressed into service writing "Christ is Risen" poems for the Times.
"Herb, you saved my neck," The Bishop kept telling me. I told The Bishop that those dingles come easy to me. After all, wasn't Jesus Jewish?
§ § § § § § § § § §
At any rate, as time for the court case against the Glendale police drew nearer, the cops demanded of Bud Lewis that he fire Herb Brin. After all, the American Legion sided with the cops who played at being FBI guys.
To Bud's everlasting credit, he stood firm on his hiring of Herb Brin.
By this time I had attained a young family; a school teacher wife and three small sons. I found a beautiful site in the Flintridge area of town and began building my home -- an adobe house. Never worked harder in my life. Nailed down 3,665 square feet of roofing in three days, all the while thinking of "green suit" possibilities that would please Taylor Trumbo.
Up in the mountains of Flintridge, to get water for our tiny subdivision, four of us property owners had to dig a deep, deep well. Our digging found water, and so was born the Flintridge Heights Mutual Water Co. I was elected president.
Had to climb to the top of our mountain every day and turn on the motor that would bring water up to our tiny 1,000-gallon tank. That's how I became friends with the peacock lady, whose peacocks honked the hills near our water tank.
I suddenly got a feel for mountain living -- and on the sly I began honing my poetic skills.
These were glory days for Herb Brin, poet, water company president and Los Angeles Times feature writer who was constantly on the prowl for green suits to sell to Taylor Trumbo.
Oh, the publisher of the Glendale News-Press was found guilty of breaking and entering. So were the Glendale cops. Charges against Herb Brin were dismissed.
Chapter Ten: Fabulous Fifties
Oh, the stories I wrote for the Times!
Covered the Truman-Dewey election, especially the final vote count, which came in by radio at the posh California Club, where membership was forbidden to folks of Semitic persuasion.
Beautiful Bud Lewis figured that the time hath come for the Times' Jewish feature writer (me) to be invited as a guest at the California Club.
It was the classiest steak house in town. The olives were the size of a thumb and a half. The wine, the best California had to offer. I could sense Bud's pixy smile hovering over the California Club. And after all, Dewey was considered a shoo-in as president of the United States.
Bill Murphy, my photographer, and I presented ourselves at the massively restricted club -- the idea being I would report on the reactions of the California Republican wizards of commerce to the Truman defeat.
Like I said, the olives were huge. The wine tasty, tasty. The steaks, well, an inch and a half thick. The club members cottoning up to me with suggestions on how to hack Harry Truman down to size.
Delicious were the first returns that came in with Truman slightly, slightly in the lead. I was told: never mind. It'll all change when the real returns come in. One western captain of industry opened up the palm of his hand. "This time we'll crush him!"
Honest. That's what he said. He made a fist.
I phoned Trumbo as our dinners ended.
"Funny thing is happening here at the California Club," I said. "Truman is beating the b'jeeze out of Tom Dewey."
Murphy got some great shots of the rapidly dismaying club members.
"Think you can write the story carefully?" Taylor said.
Piece of cake.
Couple of hours later, after I had phoned in my story, Taylor Trumbo called us back to the Times, Murphy and I hilarious all the way.
Just as we drove up to the Times building, Hotchkiss (Times' managing editor) came out of the building, laughing up a storm. My story had caught his funny bone. Couldn't refrain from slapping his knees. And dancing in glee.
The Chicago Tribune could headline Dewey defeating Truman. But not the L.A. Times.
And like I said: The olives were the size of a thumb and a half.
§ § § § § § § § § §
Dismay at the election's outcome was reflected in one section of the city room -- the one headed by Joe Park, our unreconstructed labor editor.
Here it was all gloom city.
Joe Park was famous for his private telephone booth, which he had installed in the city room. He invited me to see the innards of his anti-labor phone booth. There, he took care of them communists. On the wall beside the phone's mouthpiece was a news photo of the beautiful dancer Cyd Charisse, replete with a large handlebar mustache.
That'll show the commie actress a thing or two.
But things were rapidly changing at the Times.
Albert Goldberg emerged as the music critic. Bob Kirsch was named book editor, and Peter Grant was assigned to cover the San Fernando Valley.
Peter and I got along famously. Often when he'd finish an assignment for a story, he'd telephone the facts to me in Yiddish and I'd have to translate into my strange version of Pidgin English.
I was having a ball at the Times.
Especially when Taylor sent me on assignment to report one Sunday afternoon on festivities at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a Hearst promotion of "I Am An American Day." This I was asked to treat lightly, lightly. After all, we were Hearst's competition.
My photog for the occasion shall remain nameless, as he must -- for obvious reasons.
He and I were hustled on stage for a rehearsal of the event's program. Our task was to interview California's two leading religious figures. Archbishop (soon to become Cardinal) Francis MacIntyre and Rabbi Edgar Magnin, of the great Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
The Times' photographer lined the religious figures facing toward the audience that was slated to arrive within several hours, the concert shell of the Bowl framing the background.
While he was arranging the angles for his picture, a famous movie star walked on center stage, wanting to get into the picture -- Marilyn Monroe.
Her back was to the religious figures.p>Seems that she was dissatisfied with how her breasts were filling out the upper part of her dress, which was made of handkerchief-thin linen. It was a hot, Hollywood afternoon. After all.
The photog joined me as he planned to shoot Marilyn and Magnin from where I was standing.
At that point, the actress reached into the bosom of her dress (her back to the spiritual giants), pulled out her left breast, fluffed it a bit and put it back.
She repeated the performance with her right breast. She wiggled until satisfied, then backed into the photog set-up.
It was only then that the Times photographer woke up to the fact that he had missed the photo opportunity of the year.
Didn't grab the shot.
Rabbi Magnin and I howled about it later at his temple office.
That's how Magnin and I became lifelong friends.
I'm sure that he and the archbishop had a good and healthy laugh at this experience.
And I'll never tell the hapless photographer's name. Never. Never.
Chapter Eleven: Out to See the Sea
Or go ahead and laugh. I sold Taylor on my covering the story of the Red Diamond Stradivarius violin that went out to sea.
It happened at about the turn of the half century, when strange songs were being sung by California folks. Songs such as "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy -- a kid'll eat ivy too, wooden shoe?" An idiocy classic.
Believe it or not, there was even a song afloat after a rainstorm which was called "the Thing." About a box lying in the sand and somebody crying: "Get out of here with that umph, umph, umph..." adding of course: "and don't come back no more!"
"Taylor," I said to him, "somebody called in to say he found a box lying in the sand. Looked like a violin was inside. Might make a story."
A green suit.
"You'll sell me on anything to make a green suit out of it," Taylor grumbled.
"Better believe it..."
Then I mused: "But who'd want to sell anyone a green suit that would take him into a storm on a lovely Sunday afternoon in Downtown L.A.?"
Taylor smiled. Winked and said that I'd better come in with a good green suit.
Which I did. I always did.
Turns out that the guy who called in to tip me on the story had taken the box from the beach and stashed it in his locker at a nearby gym, He wanted to get rid of the box, violin and all.
All the while I kept mulling over a sad tale that had earlier been phoned in by a studio violinist, Sascha Jacobson, who was reputed to be a music professor at the University of Southern California.
Jacobson told me that he had been trapped in his automobile by a flash flood on Pacific Coast Highway near Sunset Boulevard.
He added bitterly that the violin inside was a Stradivarius -- the Red Diamond -- that was given to him on "permanent loan" by a widow who owned the fiddle.
When the flash flood occurred, Jacobson grabbed the violin case and tried to make his way to a nearby gasoline station. The flood tore the violin case out of Jacobson's arms and, to his dismay, it carried the violin case into the Pacific Ocean.
Strange things happen when one is out in search of a green suit for Taylor Trumbo. Could the violin in the gym locker be the Red Diamond?
I tried in vain to reach Sascha Jacobson, who was, according to other USC professors, grieving bitterly.
I drove to the gym and met the man who found it. To him it was "The Thing" of that popular Southern California song.
He thrust the thing into my arms. Glad to get rid of it.
Was this the errant Stradivarius?
I didn't know more of what to do with it than the storm -- and the sea wanderer who found it.
"Think it can be saved?" the finder asked me.
"Of course it can be saved," I said, all too bravely.
The finder left for his gym exercises, whatever they were. I went hunting for a telephone directory.
I figured, for my story for Taylor, the violin would simply be wiped dry and I'd deliver it to Sascha Jacobson personally.
A Timesman as hero.
The first violin repairman I called, Hans Weisshaar, set me straight. It was a major, major job. A Stradivarius violin depends for its tone not only on the selection of woods and contours for the instrument's body... "but we've got to save the violin's varnish."
The tonal superiority of a Stradivarius depends on a combination of all these factors.
Weisshaar undertook to save the Red Diamond.
It was a meticulously delicate task. A far cry from my original estimate that all the repairman would have to do is wipe the instrument dry, obtain a new case for the fiddle and I'd come in to write my green suit for Taylor Trumbo.
And all's well that ends well.
Weisshaar explained that he would have to take the violin apart to protect the varnish and to make sure that the bare wood surfaces would dry out at a slower pace to equal that of the varnished pieces.
"The varnish is what gives a Stradivarius its tone," he said. "Lose the varnish and you've lost a treasured violin."
Weisshaar said that the Red Diamond was of dark wine finish with "an abnormal amount of original varnish." Had the repair attempt been delayed another 24 hours, the instrument would be lost.
An entire musical community was wrapped up in the attempt by Hans Weisshaar to save this highly treasured violin.
As it turned out, the operation was a success and the patient lived.
Sascha Jacobson got his Red Diamond back.
Of course, he fiddled with it for me.
I never heard so beautiful a tone in my life.
Taylor got more than he bargained for.
I never asked whether he sent a bill to the Times.
Chapter Twelve: Tears for a Little Tramp
The toughest story of my life at the Los Angeles Times was the time Charlie Chaplin said goodbye to Hollywood.
To me. Since this book is somewhat of a memoir, it seems necessary to report that Charlie would figure into it early in my life.
I was given the assignment by the Times to cover Charlie's departure from the Hollywood that his genius helped to create. And after all, the Los Angeles Times was Hollywood, somewhat, long before Charlie came along. Long before Hollywood and the two-reelers discovered California's sunshine. And now the great Chaplin was departing, forever. Driven out by a vicious thing called "McCarthy-ism."
At this point I must hasten to note that Charlie and his moving pictures had a lot to do with the personalities that evolved with World War I America. And in my case, even with my name -- Herbert. Herb, now.
Herbert Rawlinson, of course, was the producer.
How does it all tie together?
I came to the first grade in 1920 at the Schley School in Chicago (on Oakley Boulevard near Division Street) at the age of five. Ben Hecht and Saul Bellow also attended the school -- Hecht, 20 years earlier.
Although my birth certificate had named me Henry, to my parents I was Hymie (named for my father's mother Chaya, meaning life).
Hymie Brin. Chaim. What's wrong with that?
Miss Daley, my Irish first grade teacher, insisted that Hymie was "too Jewish" a name and that I should come back next day with another name.
I went home crying.
To all the world I was Hymie. In my mind's eye -- I was Hymie.
After all, I was Hymie to everyone who came with me to the nickel show on Western Avenue. I WAS Hymie, just like Charlie Chaplin was Charlie.
I knew Charlie liked my name. He would fall all over in the screen as my friend in "The Kid." Oh, he ate shoe leather in the Yukon gold fields just to make Hymie laugh. That's what he would do. Honest.
My father had a suggestion for my name problem.
"Let's go to the nickel show and see if Charlie Chaplin might have a solution."
So, after supper Pa took me to the movie, which alas didn't play Charlie Chaplin that night. Instead it was showing "Hutch of the USA," starring Herbert Rawlinson.
I knew Charlie Chaplin was sending me a message. A big, strong American was playing with a name like Herbert.
"Pa, kin I have the name Herbert?"
"Of course, Hymie. I will send a note to the teacher. You give her the note and from now on you will be Herbert Brin."
That's how I named myself, with an assist from Charlie Chaplin.
Pa and I walked home past the streetcar barn at Division and Western Avenues, only a block away from the two-reeler nickel show.
"Let's go in, Herbert," Pa said.
And he introduced me, with my new name, to the game of checkers at the car barn.
Every day, after school, Pa would find me playing checkers with the motormen and conductors of Chicago's great streetcar system.
I beat 'em all.
I mean, Herbert beat them all! Except on Claremont Avenue, where they still called me Hymie.
Did you think people stop using old names after new names are established?
My brother, Robert, told me about the kid in the Bronx named Pierpont Cohen, whose mother would call him to come upstairs after school for his daily slice of bread and butter. She would call out: "Pierpontelleh, Pierpontelleh..."
Naturally, Pierpont Cohen would duck under a porch, hiding.
"Pierpontelleh! Pierpontelleh!" the mother would call.
One of the guys on the block would then growl: "Hey, shtunk -- your mudder's calling you."
On Claremont Avenue in Chicago they called me Hymie. To this day, somebody will remember me as Hymie.
Especially a guy named Benny Fineman.
Benny came up to me once when I was sailing some chips of wood in the street curb gutter and said to me: "Hymie, do you know how babies are born?"
"Sure. Your Ma goes to Iverson's department store, where they sell babies."
"No, don't believe that junk. You know now babies are really born? Your fodder phuks your mudder..."
I looked up at Bennie Fineman. Chased him all over the neighborhood. Did I beat him up in the Schley schoolyard! I chased him through the shul and out in back into the synagogue's permanent succah, where I pounded away at him, yelling: "My fodder don't do that to my mudder!"
Benny Fineman came out of the fracas with two shiners. "Beauts," as they called them in my neighborhood.
§ § § § § § § § § §
But Charlie Chaplin.
At L.A.'s handsome Union train station on Alameda, near historic Olvera Street, the railroad folks were collecting a few cars to be tied to an engine that would take the Chaplin family to New York, for transfer to a ship bound for Europe.
I was welcomed aboard the train by a number of the Chaplin youngsters.
Oona and Charlie invited me to sit opposite them for a short, intimate interview.
It was a pleasant Hollywood day. The sun was warm overhead. I was the only reporter to come out and see Charlie Chaplin off for exile in Switzerland, because America had a fever. It was lashing out at some of those who loved it most. Making up black-lists, harrassing people because they were friends of friends of some people whose compassion was a bit bigger than their political judgement. Chaplin was no communist, but there he was on that train, shunned by a town he had helped make, with only me to see him off.
Broke my heart.
The Chaplin kids were having a lark, an adventure. But Charlie's eyes were huge, big and round. Oona, a handsome, almost middle-aged lady, daughter of the playwright Eugene O'Neill, carried off the historic moment quietly. Charlie was bitter about the events that crushed him politically in the Hollywood that his brilliant acting career was instrumental in creating.
He wasn't merely grumbling. His very eyes told me, and perhaps through me, the unkindness he felt that such a day would come upon him -- to be hounded out of Hollywood.
"It's not your fault," Charlie said to me. He wouldn't place the blame on me personally.
I wanted very much to tell him how deeply his motion pictures affected me. But he seemed to know this already. Had read many of my "green suits" in the Times.
The conductor sauntered past us and said the train was getting ready to move. I'd have to get off.
Charlie followed me to the exit steps and I got off the train.
Charlie, holding on to a door rail, came down the steps of the sleeping car, waving at me. Waving at me. Waving at me. His eyes the size of saucers.
Waving at me.
Waving at me.
I, in turn, waved my heart out. I was Hollywood. There was no one else of Hollywood to see him off.
Broke my heart.
Chapter Thirteen: The End of Innocence
It took a while after the 'liberation' of Europe in 1945, but gradually the news came out -- in horrible bits and pieces that added up to a single word: Holocaust.
Human languages are incapable of describing the extent of the horrors inflicted on a people of history by the death camps of Europe.
Elie Wiesel, Nobel peace prize laureate, suggested use of the word "Holocaust" to describe the Hitler events of the war years.
Compared to the events that happened, Elie told me, even that word is terribly inadequate.
Thousands of Jews fled for their lives to Palestine, the name given by Rome to Judea, or to Israel, today.
There was hardly a Jewish person alive who did not suffer tragic losses in Germany's bizarre attempt to eliminate an entire people from the face of the Earth. From history.
§ § § § § § § § § §
My father's brother Max Dobrzinsky, was the rabbi of Metz, France. He and my aunt and their eight daughters had disappeared at Auschwitz in the dark clouds that came out of those terrible chimneys.
Henri Glicenstein, a cousin to my father, was a world-famous sculptor who had twice won the Prix de Rome. His Moses figure is a notable one at the Vatican. The Glicenstein Museum, in Sfad, Israel, is a national treasure. Gone, along with all his family.
§ § § § § § § § § §
All of which is backdrop to why and how I left the Los Angeles Times early in 1954.
Why indeed did I leave the Los Angeles Times and my exciting "green suits"?
The Jewish Journal, Oct. 12, 2001, wrote:
"Brin started Heritage Publications in 1954 on the back of an anti-Semitic incident while he was a reporter at the Los Angeles Times.
"One evening Brin returned to Times-Mirror Square to find hundreds of Jews gathered in front of City Hall for a David Ben-Gurion visit. A fellow Times writer cracked, 'They oughta drop a bomb on those people.' That defining moment sealed Brin's destiny. He quit the Times to serve 'those people' -- his people."
§ § § § § § § § § §
The home I built in the elegant Flintridge-La Canada area, of hand-crafted adobe on some three acres of land, provided me with the initial $17,000 mortgage which I required to launch my original Heritage Jewish newspaper, one that flourished, enabling me a decade later to build our Heritage press facility free and clear of encumbrances.
It was a long, hard journey, trying to revitalize Jewish journalism in California -- a state that was fast becoming one of the key surviving realms of Jewish life on Earth, rivaling old New York and, yes, Israel, in vitality and importance to a people's survival. Yes, you can tell I felt a sense of mission! During the years that followed -- starting with a tiny office on La Brea Avenue, then another on Wilshire near La Brea -- I put in several lifetimes, helped by good friends and a tiny staff who shared my passion. A passion to help bring together a community out of what had been a meek collection of migrants to the Sunshine State. Here, a danger was not only prejudice, but also assimilation, the loss of identity that could erase a people as surely as its enemies. **** see FOOTNOTE ****
# # # # # # # # # #
**** FOOTNOTE **** Unfortunately, one casualty during these years was my marriage. Long tempestuous, it ended in strong emotions that lasted much too long. One can only dream, regret, and wish things could have been otherwise. And hope that other generations do better.
# # # # # # # # # #
Our fledgling paper engaged in immediate battle with Gerald L. K. Smith and all of the Nazis. The raison d'etre, Heritage's reason for being, were our constant campaigns against the Nazis and other hate-mongers. The paper attained a national reputation for doing just that. It got so rough for Gerald L. K. Smith that he and his cohorts filed a lawsuit against Heritage for $20.5 million dollars. Attorney Frank Mankiewitz, who later became press secretary for John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, defended Heritage against Gerald L. K. Smith. Smith's lawsuit was tossed out of court as a frivolous attempt to silence Heritage. Other journalists, like Paul Coates of the Mirror, and Bill Stout of CBS, were also sued by Gerald L.K. Smith, for $10,250,000 each. The actions were dismissed against all of us.
Heritage took on Coast Federal Savings, who had hired a press agent by the name of Tom Sullivan, who was intimately connected with the hate-mongers. Sulivan had made the preposterous claim that the Jewish community was behind the mental health system of California, calling the mental health system a nefarious development instituted by Jewish psychologists and psychiatrists. I went after Coast Federal Savings until they fired Sullivan. At a higher level, we revealed Joe Crail as the guy who had started this slander against the Jewish community. As a result of our investigation, journalists Herb Brin, Bill Stout and Paul Coates, were all honored by the California Mental Health Institution with the highest award they give to the public media. It was quite an honor that a little paper like ours attained that recognition. Joe Crail was my pigeon. To this day, they remember what we did to halt Joe Crail's activity.
Another struggle was against the El Segundo American Legion. When Heritage revealed that the group was tied in with the Nazis, the local chapter was thrown out of the legion. There are scores of stories to show why I left the Los Angeles Times for a very special form of Jewish journalism.
In 1960 I was invited by the White House to go to Paris to cover the historic summit conference between Eisenhower and Kruschev, at the Palais Chaillon. I got my eldest son accredited as the youngest credentialed journalist to this summit conference in order to take him along. Stan was eleven at the time.
I was asked by television station KTTV, Channel 11, to shoot photographs of the Paris conference. The station gave me a camera and an hour's worth of instruction. I shot all kinds of pictures. Remember, there were no satellites at that time, beaming instantaneous news. Instead, we sent the undeveloped film by way of Orly airport, using a chain of American airline pilots. Fourteen hours to Los Angeles. We beat the Associated Press, and all the other major stations, including NBC and CBS.
Of course this was the summit conference where Khruschev refused to engage in discussions with Eisenhower because of the capture of Gary Powers, the U2 pilot who had been shot down while flying surveillance over the Soviet Union. Khruschev considered that to be an abuse of international decency, and demanded an apology from Eisenhower. This was an international scandal that we got on tape for KTTV.
From Paris, Stan and I went on to Rome, where we covered the pre-Olympics, telling of preparations for the summer Olympics. Then Stan and I flew to Israel, my first visit. That first evening, I put Stan to bed at the King David hotel, then I went outside for a stroll to breathe in the history of our people. Walking down the main street in front of the hotel, I was approached by, of all things, a lady of the evening! Oh, she didn't score with me! So my first contact with Israel was with a prostitute. You have to have all elements of a nation, and Israel had them in spades. When I heard people singing in Hebrew in the cafes of Tel Aviv, I was sure Israel had arrived.
§ § § § § § § § § §
Around the mid seventies, after graduating from Brandeis University, then doing Journalism School and Berkeley and a solid stint at Good old City News in Chicago, my son youngest Dan joined the Heritage staff. He took over as editor, and kicked me upstairs, where I belonged. I was lousy as an editor, but I was a damn good feature writer.
I also continued writing poetry across these fertile years.
My first book of poetry, Wildflowers, was published in 1965, followed by five others -- Justice, Justice, Conflicts, My Spanish Years, Poems From The Rubio and a cry in the night -- Nobody Died Laughing: Poems of Witness to Millennia of Madness Against the Jews.
As a poet, I became more widely known around the world than I had become as a local Southern California Jewish journalist. So why do I hardly mention those books here? What could I say about them that they do not say for themselves? That's what poetry is. It speaks for itself, like all art. I'll include a few samples later on in this volume.
There was also nonfiction, wearing my 'hat' as a Journalist. During the 1980s I was invited by the German government to visit the new Germany, post-Hitler. From my interviews with German officials, I wrote the book, Where are the Children? -- chronicling the Jewish holocaust in my own passionate style. I wasn't objective. About this topic, there is not objectivity.
§ § § § § § § § § §
When we finally moved the Heritage offices -- and our new printing plant -- to their new home at Vermont and 22nd Street, our neighbor was the great University of Southern California. I soon learned that its president, John Hubbard, was emotionally tied to Saudi Arabia, which, it turned out, was the source of much of the school's financial resources.
Hubbard went so far as to accept an endowment of several million dollars from Saudi Arabia for the establishment of a chair at USC in Middle East studies. The department would be barred to Israeli students.
Then, to celebrate the school's glowing relationship with the Saudis, Hubbard accepted an invitation that would honor him at a banquet sponsored by earlier graduates of USC living in Ryadh.
The banquet honoring Hubbard in Saudi Arabia would not have been a notable one but for his inability to refrain from quipping at the event: "Allah is a Trojan."
The laughter, as Hubbard knew, would be immediate and highly quotable.
Hubbard returned to his university seat in Los Angeles to joyful glances from among his Arab students -- and a developing storm from the faculty senate.
And from the school's new neighbor -- Heritage.
Allah was not a Trojan for long.
Hubbard soon was succeeded by Steven B. Sample, one of the foremost educators in the nation.
My Father, My Hero
My father was no hero
In the war against Japan.
Soldiers, if they live to tell it
About the wars against Japan
Or the German
Or the Kaiser (there is a difference!)
My father was no hero
In his reluctant war against Japan:
A baker to the czar
He killed no one
With the qualities of bread.
But there was an insistency
About my father, my hero
That one points no weapons
For a government of pogrom
Even against Japan,
An insistency that one must flee:
"Go West, young man, go West!"
To Ellis Island?
To the Yukon?
The tales he'd weave about the Yukon
He was not to see
And he left the Brazos River
In Texas, to me
For my own war against Japan
A storyteller too, and not a hero
Not a hero, indeed.
To Chicago, my city by the sea
Oh the legacy he left, here
And the stories he told
And his dreams would enchant my dreams
With their many rainbowed possibilities.
Each night, Peter Rabbit and I held tryst
Or was it time for Tom Sawyer and Huck
Or the Zionist dreams of Theodore Herzl?
Never mind. All were tucked away
By my father, my hero
Who told his stories to me
Only to me.
They told of loftier forms of heroics
By my father, the sorcerer of ideas
Who promised me that life would be
By insightful men and women
Who stalk the earth
Seeking beauty, touching stars.
And he said:
There would be time for singing
And there would be time for song.
July 2 and 3, 1994 Chicago and the Rubio