The New York Times' most gonzo Los Angeles correspondent hasn't had a byline in the paper since April 14, prompting colleagues, rivals and competitors to wonder: where he at? Turns out that LeDuff has been busy traveling and taping segments for a new TV show on the Discovery Times Channel. "Only in America" debuts Sept. 2 and has a ten-week initial run. "An eye-opening journey across the country to report on the nation's varied subcultures," is how the press release describes the series. The flackery goes on to say:
From fight clubs to battlefield reenactments, with stops along the way that include a gay rodeo in Oklahoma City, arena football in Amarillo and male fashion modeling in New York City, LeDuff uses his unique reportorial skills (and no small measure of charisma) to get inside these often closed or secretive societies. By participating as well as observing, LeDuff gains unique insight into some of the passionate pursuits in which Americans engage.
"We're going across America at a time when many in this country are
grappling with who we are as a people," said LeDuff. "There are questions about race, immigration, sexuality, image, beauty. I hope by the end of this series we can answer a few of those questions."
LeDuff joined The New York Times in 1995 and has distinguished himself as a reporter who follows stories that others ignore. Practicing what he calls "hanging-out journalism," LeDuff has written about a wide range of personalities, from an Upper West Side doorman to a down-on-his-luck East Harlem pimp. LeDuff's compelling profiles use evocative, real-world language to capture the detail of everyday lives.
Funny, they don't mention any Los Angeles stories like his romp through South L.A. gangland, kayaking the L.A. River (which got him in trouble with author Blake Gumprecht), or riding Harleys with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The most memorable quote about LeDuff comes from Matt Labash's dispatch for the Weekly Standard from Sexual Predator 2, the press bus trailing Schwarzenegger's 2003 campaign for governor:
I can't tell if the sinewy, leathered scribe with bandito facial hair is a former outlaw biker or a former pirate, since he looks like the bastard spawn of Sonny Barger and Jean Lafitte. I settle on the former. "What motorcycle magazine does he write for?" I ask one colleague. "The New York Times," they reply, "that's Charlie LeDuff."