Kevin Bronson, the music writer formerly with the L.A. Times, remembers Mike Penner for more than his sports writing or his sexuality. They bonded over rock and roll. Penner was known for the annual mixtapes "he named for his own mythological radio station, KPEN, and gave out as holiday cards," Bronson posted today at his blog, Buzzbands.LA:
I spent Saturday revisiting the Mixtape That Changed My Life, teetering between tears and the urge to fly into a stereo-smashing rage. The 110-minute cassette is titled “KPEN 1992,” and it was a gift from my friend and former colleague Mike Penner.
Penner, the Los Angeles Times sportswriter who made headlines in 2007 when he declared himself transsexual, was found dead on Friday. Suicide is believed to be the cause. I do not know, nor can I pretend to comprehend, what demons laid siege to him at the end, but like anyone who knew Penner for his crisp intellect, big heart and cross-cultural passions, I wish there could have been some sort of intervention. In our case, I wish we could have exchanged one more mixtape.
When I met him in the early 1990s, Penner was a rising star in the Times’ Orange County Edition. He could turn phrases more adroitly than the Angels turned double plays; his lyrical wit was equally capable of calling out underachievers and illuminating on-field heroics. Outside the pressbox, he was an an astute purveyor of all things cultural, especially rock ’n’ roll, having been reared in southern California with his ears and mind wide open.
A few weeks after losing my friend, my family's friend and my former sports-writing colleague Earl Gustkey, I am trying to cope this morning with the loss of my friend, my family's friend and my former baseball-writing colleague and traveling companion Mike Penner.
I am not smart enough, and I don't have the insight, to understand the torment that drove him to an apparent suicide. Instead, I will remember the fun we had on the Angels beat in the '80s, and I will remember the talent that flowered on every assignment he was given.
Plus: Gustavo Arellano's meeting with Christine Daniels.