Steve Soboroff, the former city commissioner and candidate for mayor who took a brief spin with Frank McCourt at Dodger Stadium last year, has become pretty well known for his personal typewriter collection. He owns machines once tapped on by Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, George Bernard Shaw, John Lennon and others. He swooped in and bought Andy Rooney's old Underwood in March after the CBS newsman's passing. He showed off Ray Bradbury's 1947 Royal KM when the news broke in December about Fahrenheit 451 becoming an e-book. And he shows up in the trailer for a documentary on the enduring charm of typewriters that is worth a watch just for the theme music and the celebrity name dropping.
All of these stories have been posted at LA Observed, and in some cases elsewhere. In tomorrow's paper, the Los Angeles Times takes its turn with a nice story on the Soboroff collection.
"I love people who are the best at what they do," Soboroff said. "The idea that geniuses sat there and accomplished what they accomplished on these typewriters … it gives me chills."
In an era of iPads and text-spouting telephones, the ancient, clunky typewriter has become an improbable object of desire. Analog aficionados of all ages are collecting, admiring, fussing over and rhapsodizing about the noisy instruments....
Soboroff discovered his passion for typewriters almost by accident.
In 1997, he paid $30,000 at a Dodger Stadium auction for the glove that Sandy Koufax wore while pitching a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants in 1963. Seven years later, he sold the glove for $126,500 at auction atSotheby's in New York.
Also on the block at Sotheby's that day was a typewriter used by the late Jim Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
Soboroff was seized by an urge to own the machine. "I loved Jim Murray!" he explained.
Soboroff, who learned to type as a student at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, is displaying some of his typewriters at Sunday's reopening of the renovated library in the city of Malibu. These days the former head of the Playa Visa development is the California Science Center Foundation's senior advisor on the project to bring the Space Shuttle Endeavour to the museum in Exposition Park.
OK, now the disclaimers. Pull up a chair: On our side, Soboroff is the father of the former LA Observed video contributor Jacob Soboroff. (Thanks, Jacob, for all the great videos.) Playa Vista used to advertise here when Steve Soboroff was the president of the coastal development, though I have no memory of which came first or if the ads overlapped with Jacob's tenure. Years earlier, I think I spoke once to Steve Soboroff in his role as a city parks commissioner when I was a reporter for the Times, but I have no idea what the interview was about. I have not yet met Steve Soboroff, I don't think, though it would surprise me not a bit if we do meet. On the Times' side of the ledger, Soboroff is a close friend and adviser to the former mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan. Martha Groves, the reporter on the LAT story, is also personally close to Riordan. How well she knows Soboroff, I have no idea. And just to make the triangle complete, Martha's family and mine have been friends through the years: our baby shower was at her home. I think that's it. Such are the entanglements of LA media and politics.
Oh, wait: I forgot Riordan. I do know him, though not well. Mostly I run into him and Martha at the movies. I like talking with him, even moreso since I saw this spoof video he took part in during his last days in office in 2001. I'd say it was from before Bill Rosendahl even thought about running for the City Council — but maybe not.
Photo: Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" typewriter