I realize I am lately given to writing over-wrought pieces about dying literary bastions, but forgive me, I am a freelance writer experiencing the death-spiral of the written world in Los Angeles. So here I go again…
Oh readers of LA Observed, there have been a couple of wee items on this very site of late about the doings of one LA City Beat. First there was the notice on the sudden firing of editor Steve Appleford. One small ‘graph on an ever-morphing blogroll, mostly concerned with larger, Zell-tastic, journalistic concerns. But did you catch the drama? Steve Appleford, Editor in Chief was fired! Here comes another Steve…Lowery, to take his place. A mere week later, that man quit because “his heart wasn’t in it.” Rumors followed explaining his heart wasn't into pink-slipping a majority of his staff. I really can’t speak to any of it. I am NOT an insider on this story. But it sounds familiar, and like a creepy echoing of the antics at that other paper, which I also happen to freelance for.
I have kept quiet, not wanting to throw fuel on the speculative fire, but here it is: LA City Beat, under the tutelage of Steve Appleford, editor these past five years, held a special place in my heart, in my writer’s biography, and in my future. It was Appleford who threw in with me early on, before there was a book or a byline anyone had ever heard of, when I was Erika Schmuckle (as I am ever doomed to live on in my own head) and Appleford took a pitch I had for a story about being a mom hankering for a lapdance. That piece, Journey to Another Girl ran in the pages of LA City Beat and was noticed by one Kevin Roderick, which, if you were to hold Kevin’s naked tootsies to hot coals, he might confess inspired him invite me to write in this very venue. So let’s review: if it weren’t for Steve Appleford and LA City Beat, you wouldn’t be enjoying my prosaic stylings here now. Suckas.
After that I wrote another piece, Grand Theft Mommy, about playing the video game that was sweeping the under-fifteen nation and had Hilary Clinton’s high-waisted panties all bunched into a crack-jamming wad. Again, Appleford ran it, because he liked my shenanigans and was putting out that kind of paper: a place where people could be voicey and edgy and goddamn, it was good to have a home.
Then, a month ago, Appleford and I were in cahoots on a City Beat column. It was to be a family column (at long last, LA!), penned by yours truly. We saw it as the anti-LA Parents column in which I would get to strut my generally questionable stuff. We were batting around column titles (“Alpha Mom”? “Who Are These People?” “The Family Plot”? “Use Your Words!”?) when I read on this very blog that Appleford had been suddenly and unceremoniously shit-canned.
I don’t know where my column-writing stands now. Maybe Southland Publishing still intends for me to write this column, but two new editors later, I haven’t heard a peep.
Now it’s Rebecca Schoenkopf. Okay, good. I may be a staunch Obamaniac, but otherwise I’d like to go on record for being for women in power every day of the week. Haven’t heard anything from Schoenkopf, but I’m sure it’s been a busy week. I'm still up for the gig but I’ve learned not to hold my breath. But here’s the point: freelancing is a tenuous fucking business in Los Angeles these days. And not to echo my last, gloomy Dutton’s post, but it feels like the end of an era.
For those of you who don’t know, LA City Beat was more or less an offshoot of the wonderful Los Angeles Reader, a paper that graced our city for over two decades. Featuring some of the best writers both currently working and unemployed today, it was voicey, opinionated, well-edited and the last of a dying, noble breed: the truly independent, alternative, free weekly newspapers.
The Reader published and gasped its last before I became a writer, but I picked it and the LA Weekly up every week (as I’m sure many of you did) and read it religiously. When it cagged (for reasons I am too ill-informed to go into) many of those people (Appleford, Natalie Nichols, Mick Farren among many notable others) found succor at Southland Publishing’s newly-hatched LA City Beat.
Being a burgeoning writer with little to show for herself, I saw a chink in the journalistic armor of Los Angeles with this upstart. I started pitching Appleford and he generously put me on his list of contributors. He encouraged me to write pieces exactly the way I wanted to, which almost never happens any more. I snagged one of the last weekly E-tickets out there. It was fun -- for a lot of people, not just solipsistic me. But now that particular moment has ended.
Anyway, I just got home from the wake held at El Chavo tonight, and if you can’t tell from the sloppy prose, I’ve had two too many margaritas. But I thought that LA City Beat as helmed by Steve Appleford deserved better than a couple of leaked items on the main blogroll here. That was a genuinely good paper. No diss on the next guys (or gal) to run it. It will be good, or better, or sucky, or whatever it will be, but it will for sure be different. And before we rattle on to that next station in the airless boxcar headed toward the no-decent-print-in LA-camp, I want to pause for a moment and say… LA City Beat from 2003-2008 was good. I will miss it -- as both a reader and a writer. I hope you will too.