For a little slice of life from below-the-media-radar Los Angeles, check out the personal tributes I'm gathering over at The Valley Observed about the man who ran the newsstand at Ventura and Van Nuys boulevards. He was a fixture at the busy corner for years until recently passing on. In today's Morning Buzz I linked to one blogger's reaction, and now Will Campbell of [sic] has posted about his encounters with the baseball-capped news hawker they only knew as Greg. Here's a sampler [* Update: Not below the radar anymore. The Daily News runs a feature Saturday] :
First, Jon at Hollywood Thoughts:
I never knew Greg’s last name, but I considered him a friend. He passed-away very unexpectedly last Monday morning after working his shift at the Sherman Oaks Newsstand (at the corner of Van Nuys and Ventura boulevards). You’ve probably seen him a million times as you passed the intersection: he was in his late fifties… always wore a ballcap… and, of course, sported his trademark ZZ Top beard.
I first met Greg about five years ago when I moved into the area. Looks can be deceiving; I took him to be a tough guy (probably because of his beard). I shoulda remembered what my Mom taught me as a kid about people: Don’t judge a book by its cover. That was Greg. From the start, I discovered he was a softy. He always had a joke to share, or an interesting observation. To be certain, he always had a smile or a 'hello' for you. Greg was the same with others; his modest up-bringing in Riverside didn't allow him to pass judgment on the people he met. It didn't matter if you were a panhandler or a producer... in Greg's eyes, we were all equals....
My wife and I have a toddler-aged son; in his two years on this planet, he’s already considered Greg to be one of his best buddies. Taking a walk to visit his ‘Uncle Greg’ every afternoon was the high-point of each day.
Now Will Campbell:
Jon is spot-on about having seen Greg a million times. With my mom’s house up the street from that intersection, I’m pretty sure I saw him a million-and-three times over the years, and certainly had occasions to buy various newspapers and magazines from him. But I never had the opportunity nor inclination to strike up a conversation or get to know him better.
[skip long but rich anecdote]
Walking back to my bike, I caught newsstand guy — Greg — out of the corner of my eye. He was sitting on his barstool next to the register with his ever-present cap and wiry beard, watching me. He had a bemused smile on his face and when I turned my head to look at him directly he commenced a polite ovation in recognition of my good deed. I gave him a little bow and salute before climbing back in the saddle and moving on.
Rest in peace, Greg.
Any more and I'll add them over there at the Valley site.