Welkos Wire signs off

Calendar section writer Robert Welkos, co-author with Joel Sappell of the Los Angeles Times' seminal investigation of Scientology awhile back, took a lighter touch than most of this season's buyout class in his Friday sayonara to the Times newsroom. He's got Wyatt Earp, Amy Semple McPherson, James Dean and Zsa Zsa Gabor in there — and more. Welkos also acknowledges his unofficial — but well-established — position as the LAT's most diligent, best-read hub of newsroom gossip, personnel moves and oddball wire stories. Excerpt:

In recent years, the Los Angeles Times itself became the story as its owners, publishers, editors and reporters came and went, sometimes with dizzying speed. It was out of this seeming chaos that the Welkos Wire thrived. It was an opportunity for all of us to catch up on internal news and gossip and take note of the comings and goings of our colleagues. In the end, it wasn't me that gave it life, it was all of you, just like all of the journalists who ever worked here over the decades whose reporting and writing gave readers a front-row seat to history.

Whole thing follows:

It doesn't seem possible that time has flown past so quickly. It seems like only yesterday that I was a copyboy and a grizzled city editor wearing green eyeshades and chomping on an unlit cigar told me to grab a notebook and a photographer and hustle over to a downtown L.A. hotel, where Wyatt Earp, the legendary lawman of Tomestone [sic] was playing cards. I'll never forget that night, as Wyatt recounted between hands of poker what really happened at the O.K. Corral. He called it the passing of an era and, indeed, it was. Over the years, I covered many other stories, like the day they found the body of director William Desmond Taylor at the Alvarado Court Apartments. He had been murdered. Or, the day Amy Semple McPherson gave a strange account of her disappearance, explaining she had been kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico. Or, when the L.A. Times building was dynamited.

Our winter weather and orange groves beckoned the multitudes from back east to see for themselves what we knew all along, that L.A. was a paradise. Some came to catch a glimpse of Hollywood legends like Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. It was shocking when Dean died in that traffic accident. I remember how my hands trembled writing the obituary. And we all scratched our heads in the newsroom wondering how it could be that Marilyn was dead? It's a mystery that only deepens with each passing calendar. Over the years, I covered my share of Southern California catastrophies, the brush fires, the earthquakes, the flooding. All those people who died when the passenger jet crashed into Cerritos. It was surreal. I worked my head off covering the attempted rescue of Kathy Fiscus from that abandoned well, the SLA shootout, the riots, the Manson trial, OJ, and even that zany Zsa Zsa slapping that policeman.

Regrets? Only that I never rushed up to the limo where Bobby Kennedy sat waving and smiling to the crowds before disappearing down the street. The night he was shot at the Ambassador will haunt me forever. But I would be remiss if I didn't remind myself that there were plenty of good times as well, like the day the editor sent me out to Santa Anita and I stood electrified as a horse named Seabiscuit came charging around the far turn. Or, that September day when Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game at Dodger Stadium. Or, Robert Horry's game-winning three-point basket at the buzzer from the top of the key. The cheering is still ringing in my ears.

In recent years, the Los Angeles Times itself became the story as its owners, publishers, editors and reporters came and went, sometimes with dizzying speed. It was out of this seeming chaos that the Welkos Wire thrived. It was an opportunity for all of us to catch up on internal news and gossip and take note of the comings and goings of our colleagues. In the end, it wasn't me that gave it life, it was all of you, just like all of the journalists who ever worked here over the decades whose reporting and writing gave readers a front-row seat to history.

The Yankee great Yogi Berra once said, "When you come to a fork in the road, just take it." It was wise advice then and it's advice that our current management seems to have enthusiastically embraced. I hope it all turns out well for the L.A. Times. For years, there were few better places to work.

So, I've come to a fork in the road.

I bid you all adieu.

This is the Welkos Wire ..... signing off.



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