Canter's Deli as a rite of LA politics

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Good story by Jonah Lowenfeld in the Jewish Journal on a long-standing gathering of connected Los Angeles real estate men. They eat breakfast on Sunday mornings in a corner of Canter's on Fairfax and receive visits from politicos running for office or seeking support of some kind. On the day Lowenfeld was there, the former district attorney Gil Garcetti spoke as a surrogate for his son Eric. Some of the men had already given to Wendy Greuel, who has been to the group several times.

The group has roots going back four decades — they used to meet at the late, missed-by-some Nibbler's — and includes Stanley Black, Jona Goldrich, Max Webb and others. They also eat together on Saturdays at Nate 'n Al's in Beverly Hills, but it's the Sunday gatherings where the politicians come with their hands out.

"This is the main one on Sunday,” said Black, the real estate businessman and philanthropist who serves as the group’s organizer. “Saturday we just talk. No business, nothing."

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Over time, they’ve played host to every Los Angeles mayor, going back to Tom Bradley, numerous Southern California Congressmen and too many other elected officials to count. A few months ago, Black brought former Mexican President Vicente Fox to the deli, and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made an appearance at some point, he said.

But even after all these years, the group’s members — including some of the city’s most prominent real estate businesspeople — downplay the significance of the gathering.

“Everybody’s looking to get out of the house and to have some companionship, you know?” said Webb, a Holocaust survivor who helped found and grow the largest privately held home building company in Southern California.

The old-timers around the table treat the weekly gatherings as a chance to kibitz in an old boys club. And for the people who come to pitch — businesspeople, heads of nonprofits and, of course, local politicians — maintaining that informal air is crucial, even when they’re fishing for donations of a thousand dollars or more.

“I always bring an egg timer, three minutes for soft-boiled eggs,” said Jerry Wexler, a real estate businessman who turns 81 in May and has known Black since high school. “Because some of these people, they could talk for two hours.”

Asked why he comes every week, Wexler said, “I got nowhere else to go. You know what it is? It’s just habit.”

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich also came to talk about his campaign by when Lowenfeld was there. The group used to include Stanley Diller, who died last year. "“It’s very sad to see some of them are passing away, but they all still get together and shmooze,” manager Jacqueline Canter said.

Gil Garcetti at Canter's, by Jonah Lowenfeld.


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