Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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Maoists get ice cream

One of the less-happy signs of gentrification in Echo Park is that there seem to be fewer ice cream trucks. I don’t see anywhere near the number of hand-painted trucks playing the Macarena and driving around. Granted it was suspected that at least one of these trucks was an undercover police vehicle (not the one that played the Macarena), but I assume they still provided ice cream. These days, Chango coffeehouse has a selection of ice cream that includes mascarpone, green tea and strawberry-brown sugar ice creams. They are tasty and, as far as I know, uncontroversial.

But…Gearey, a cinematographer friend of mine who lived on Morton Avenue in Echo Park in the late 70s/early 80s tells me about the days when the best ice cream to be had in this area was the special fruit-flavored stuff at the Tropical Bakery. At that time, Art Goldberg was the unelected mayor of lefties in Echo Park. Goldberg is a well-known lawyer and the brother of Jackie Goldberg, the state assemblywoman, who still lives in Echo Park. In the days of the coop, Gearey says, Art loved to stir the pot – dancing mischievously in the breach between the Stalinists and the Maoists, the two camps who – more or less -- ran the cooperative. I doubt the Stalinists called themselves Stalinists, though they aligned themselves with Moscow. So goes the story.

The coop was located on Echo Park Avenue, in a storefront beneath the People’s Law Center, which is still there. An excellent Chinese bakery now occupies the coop space.

At one point, says Gearey, there was controversy because the Stalinists shunned the Tropical, the Cuban bakery that offered the aforementioned special fruit-flavored Cuban ice cream that was otherwise unavailable in the vicinity. I would say unavailable in the neighborhood except that the Tropical is located in Silver Lake. The Tropical, of course, was owned and frequented by Cubans who had fled Castro, which was offensive to the Stalinists, but the Mao folks didn’t care.

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