Remember Monica, Meet Jessica: Hollywood Beyond Red Carpets


Today is International Women’s Day.  Here in my tiny hamlet of Hollywood there exists a strange old world of real life.  It begins where the red carpet ends.  A world hidden in plain sight.  A world recently rocked by two women.  Women you didn’t see on the red carpet.  They may not be a Gary from Chicago.  Or a Jimmy with a podcast (not drunk Jimmy with the ratings).  Or Brian and Martha of PwC.  But you should know their names.  And their stories.  And not just because it is International Women’s Day.  But because the fate of a certain Hollywood, the one Beyond the Red Carpets, depends on it.

Monica Acuna was a burlesque performer and busker.  (For those baffled by the word “busker”, update your brain app here.)  Some knew her as “Lucha”.  I knew her as “Clownalyn Monroe”.  Yes, a clown.  A female clown.  She even made balloon animals for children.  With her playful spirit, sly antics and generous heart she was a cherished part of the Hollywood Boulevard, Venice Beach and even Beverly Hills scenes.  This 2 minute video helping kids confront bullying captures a bit of her accessible sparkle.  I fear many of us who knew her took her presence in our lives for granted.  Last week she slipped in the shower and hit her head.  Many encouraged her to seek medical attention for her concussion.  She didn’t.  Chalk it up to the smoldering stubbornness that was a vital part of her spirit so many adored.  However, as a working artist and busker in Hollywood myself, I can too easily imagine the many obstacles that may have prevented her from seeking professional medical help.  (And I’m a white man.  Not a Latina single mom.)  Monica passed away over the weekend.  By the sounds of it, from a stroke.  Like Bill Paxton.

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Hollywood Boulevard is a small community.  The loss of Monica hit us all quite hard.  A GoFundMe for her funeral and family has raised $3,560.  I hear donations are being taken as well at the hotel in Hollywood where Monica was staying.  Artists who worked with Monica are raising funds for the family with their art.  I’m aware of at least one major bar and restaurant in the area that wishes to help facilitate donations for Monica’s 14 year old daughter, who is now with extended family.  Monica certainly had her demons.  I don’t know a clown, musician, comedian or many actors who don’t.  Or didn’t.  A Robert Downey, Jr. survives to become Iron Man.  But many have not, as listeners of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast know all too well.  Losing Monica has awakened many to the fragile condition of the busker in Hollywood.  After all, buskers in Los Angeles relate well to immigrants in Trump’s “Great” America.  We are the disposable untouchables of Tinsel Town.  I’m a former mortgage broker (before The Big Short: Real Life Edition) who once sat on a Chamber of Commerce Civic Affairs Committee.  I can’t escape the overwhelming contrast in how the average person treated me as a white collar professional.  Versus a non “name” SAG-AFTRA actor.  Versus a busker in costume on Hollywood Boulevard.  Especially a dude in women’s short shorts and rainbow tactical leg warmers.

Monica didn’t fleece customers like Wells Fargo.  Or launder drug cartel money like HSBC.  She didn’t engineer bombers for Boeing.  She wasn’t Mayor of new luxury towers gated against new homeless tent cities.  Monica created joy and laughter.  Like many buskers, that was her job.  Perhaps the many tears for a Singular Clown Lost will motivate the City of Angels to reconsider how we perceive the street performers of Hollywood.

Jessica

Jessica Salans was a Bernie Sanders volunteer during the recent presidential campaign.  Fortunate for us, Jessica is still with us.  Let’s not take her for granted.  Bernie challenged his supporters to get involved in local politics.  Jessica listened.  And she took action.  She ran for city council in Los Angeles district 13.  She rose above single issues and the Stop Sign Mentality of Measure S (which oddly echoed National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr.’s mantra of “standing athwart history yelling STOP!”).  Jessica actually has a comprehensive platform –  JUSTICE: social, racial, economic and environmental.  She sat down with me in my neighborhood, at the Coffee Bean on Hollywood and Orange.  She listened to my concerns.  As a busker on Hollywood Boulevard.  As a resident of Hollywood.  As a working artist in Los Angeles.  For over an hour.  Unlike ANY elected official in Los Angeles.  To date.

The incumbent she challenged has never even met me.  I’ve reached out, but Mitch O’Farrell’s office staff have hung up on me.  He eagerly attends all the red carpets on a Hollywood Boulevard where a Bernie Sanders flanked by Secret Service shook my Vegas 90210 character’s hand (ask the LA Times for the photos).  Yet Mitch manages to avoid me.  Unlike The Hollywood Reporter and Thomas Lennon and Nick Swardson and the LAPD and the Naked Cowboy and ABC Bakersfield and Thomas Lennon.  Mitch is not one of the 60+ Verifieds from Amnesty International to the LA Times to President Obama to Tom Cruise who choose to follow me on my tiny Twitter.  I get it.  I’m Waldo.  But then consider Jessica’s top campaign discovery in district 13 per the LA Times: the constituents of Mitch O’Farrell find he “can’t be reached“.  City hall has abandoned the Hollywood outside the red carpets to the criminals.  Civic “leaders” like Mitch survey the chaos from downtown, claim the ACLU prevents them from prosecuting those who steal and assault, and then inevitably make buskers the convenient scapegoat for all that is wrong on Hollywood Boulevard.

Contrast that negligence with the wonderful, proactive ideas of Jessica Salans.  She sees beyond the red carpets.  She finds unacceptable:  the patient dumping, the crime, the health crisis, the housing crisis, the inadequate police protection, the failure of the city to prosecute repeat offenders who prey on residents and tourists with impunity.  Jessica wants to bring residents, tourists, businesses, and buskers as well as police, emergency responders and social services together to make Hollywood Boulevard a safer and better world-class destination for everyone.  She asked me provocative questions.  Why are there only two LAPD officers assigned to the Hollywood Entertainment Zone beat?  (Off-duty LAPD officers highly visible at red carpets work to protect the red carpet event and personnel, not the tourists and residents on the outside looking in.)  Why is there not an LAPD Community Center and Busker Green Room in the Hollywood and Highland Mall?  If the City can’t afford to fund enough police officers on the ground, why not have an LAPD merch kiosk at Hollywood and Highland?  As buskers are a tourist attraction, why doesn’t the city pay buskers to perform instead of treating them like criminals?  (I don’t necessarily advocate the city pay performers, but it is a refreshing perspective from a political leader in Los Angeles.)

Without the name recognition of incumbent Mitch O’Farrell, Jessica last night lost a nevertheless impressive campaign in a somewhat crowded race.  Her 13.2% of the vote was 128 votes shy of the second place showing of Sylvie Shain, a more recognized name in the district who entered the race late on her issue of tenant’s rights.  Jessica may have lost the race, but she realizes the problems remain.  And the elected men clearly are not up to the task.  Of the 15 city council seats, only one is held by a woman: Nury Martinez of District 6.  The only woman to win more votes for City Council last night was Monica Rodriguez, but her 27.7% falls short of the 50%+1 required to avoid a run-off election, as I understand it.  The City of Angels resident majority is female (50.15%).  On this International Women’s Day 2017, landslide re-elected Mayor Eric Garcetti’s City Council is 86.6-93.3% male dominated.  Wow.  Jessica Salans has a lot of work to do with her post-election grassroots activism.  She is just getting started.  She needs our ongoing help.

There exists a barely investigated Hollywood beyond the red carpets.  On this International Women’s Day, please join me in remembering a clown named Monica.  And supporting a fresh new leader named Jessica.  The tourists, residents, buskers and businesses who enjoy a Hollywood abandoned by city hall depend on YOU.

Voter Guide: Election 2016


Why?  Because I’m a union member who walked his first picket line just this past week.  I’m a working artist, an agnostic progressive Democrat.  I did some election homework, so maybe this will help like minds.  (My Facebook post with campaign links HERE.)

I’m voting in Hollywood, geographically defined as Los Angeles.  You may be voting elsewhere.  Perhaps the path to my decisions helps you make yours.  These resources aided my research:

Voter’s Edge (KPCC)

Voters Guide (California Secretary of State)

Easy Voter Guide (League of Women Voters)

Voter Cheat Sheet (LA Weekly)

Neighborhood Issues (Curbed LA)

LA Times Endorsements

LA Democratic Party Endorsements

LA Progressive

If you’re not sure where you stand, know that I grew up born-again Christian conservative Republican.  Not only can I see things from a different perspective, I once held (and did boldly proclaim) such perspectives.  When I stopped merely listening and starting watching how Christians, Republicans, conservatives and “leaders” of the “business and civic community” behaved, I noticed the impact on other human beings.  Suddenly I became Socrates.  My questions broke through the dam of belief.  I recognized I was the Son of Elmer Gantry’s Bitch.  And my life changed.  For the better.

I marvel at all those who watch and make reality TV, patient dump, steal from customers, exploit employees, religiously avoid literacy or treat anyone different from them like a disease.  That troubles me.  I’d rather see people laugh than cry.  Perhaps that’s why I allowed myself to be a comic.  It certainly does not follow that I know everything.  I’m still learning, searching and exploring.  I make mistakes.  I endeavor to learn from them.

But I truly believe that some choices make the world a better place and others do not.  There are people who inspire me.  There are people who frighten me.  Sometimes they are the same person.  We make choices with available information among available options.  The following choices will be mine at the ballot box Tuesday.  Here’s what and why…

DISTRICT MEASURES

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YES on GG Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority – An Eagle Scout, I grew up hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevadas.  Even when I was a Republican I valued our environment.  I join fellow SAG-AFTRA member Ed Begley, Jr. and Alex Trebek (no, really) in voting YES on GG.

LA CITY MEASURES

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YES on HHH Homelessness Reduction & Prevention – I’ve been homeless.  Our society continues to treat those without a home like addicts and criminals.  LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and other leaders clearly act to reward wealthy developers above any other consideration.  Luxury properties appear overnight, fortified like embassies in troubled lands.  Except the troubled land is LA.  Fortified from what?  Perhaps the growing tent cities of the displaced, discarded and despised.  The homeless.  Measure HHH is one small step towards changing the Charles Dickens realities that linger in our “modern” civilization.

jjj-logoYES on JJJ Build Better LA – Unions for the construction workers support it.  We need the affordable housing, local hires and better working conditions.  The Mayor and my Councilman claim to have better alternatives.  I don’t trust them.  I’m voting for the union-built bird in hand.

vfxod4sdNO on RRR Dept Water & Power – Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City Council and the DWP want this.  I don’t trust any of them.  DWP has dropped the ball in a number of garish ways.  Remember when UCLA flooded?  Remember the full service Vegas trips at taxpayer expense?  I’m voting with consumer watchdog groups NO on RRR.

NO on SSS Airport Police to Join LA Fire & Police Pension – At first blush, this sounds like righting a wrong, making things equal.  But according to the LA Times the union representing the airport police don’t want this.  They would know best, so I’m joining them in voting NO on SSS.

SCHOOL MEASURES

YES on CC Community Colleges Bonds for Repairs

COUNTY MEASURES

YES on A Property Taxes for Parks – Doesn’t cost much and replaces expiring taxes.  Sorry, but I like parks.  As a former homeowner I paid property taxes.  As a tenant I pay rent a landlord charges to cover expenses … such as property taxes.  Any homeowner or tenant should be happy to pay pennies for parks.

measurem-logo-1YES on M LA County Traffic Improvement Plan – Many Angelinos think of driving as a necessity.  In fact, driving is a privilege.  A privilege the 50 states routinely remove from fathers who don’t earn enough.  I’ve depended on public transit.  LA desperately needs to catch up to the rest of the world.  This is long overdue.  Developers and the wealthy should pay for it.  But this is the only way it will get done.

STATE MEASURES

NO on 51 School Bonds – Funding for schools sounds good, but I’m joining the LA Times and Governor Jerry Brown in voting NO on 51.

?? on 52 Medi-Cal Hospital Fee ProgramHealth care worker unions oppose, but haven’t articulated their arguments.  I’ll have to sit this one out.  Not enough information.

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NO on 53 Revenue Bonds: Statewide Voter ApprovalI join Governor Jerry Brown, the California Chamber of Commerce and firefighters and voting NO on 53.

 

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YES on 54 Legislation TransparencyIf we had more of this, there’d be less need for WikiLeaks.

 

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YES on 55 Tax Extension to Fund Education & Health Care 

 

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YES on 56 Cigarette Tax to Fund Health Care – I don’t care if you smoke them.  Just don’t force me to breathe it.  And don’t whine about the taxes you should pay for the inevitable health consequences.  To yourself AND others.  Don’t like the tax?  Quit the filthy habit.  Only you and Phillip Morris complaining.

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YES on 57 Criminal Sentences, Parole – Opportunity for parole is not the same as releasing rapists into the street.  Stop the scare tactics.  Stop aiding and abetting Prison, Inc. Start introducing sanity to the criminal justice system.

 

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YES on 58 English Proficiency, Multilingual Education

 

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YES on 59 Overturn Citizens United – Corporations are not people.  Elections bought by the wealthy are not free speech.  We the real people deserve better.  I join Bernie’s call to vote NO on 59.

 

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NO on 60 Adult Films: Condoms & Health Requirements

 

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YES on 61 State Prescription Drug Purchases

 

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YES on 62 Death Penalty Repeal – Review the work of the Innocence Project.  False imprisonment is inexcusable.  Yet it happens.  Clearly we cannot trust our justice system with the death penalty.  Justice requires we dispose of this costly and inhumane false deterrent.

 

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YES on 63 Firearms Ammunition Sales – Mere common sense.  If we were talking about automobiles or other heavy machinery whose sole purpose wasn’t to kill someone, there’d be no debate.  I’m a former handgun owner.  And I’m voting YES on 63.

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YES on 64 Legalize Marijuana – Stop the War on Drugs already!  It doesn’t work!  Legalize, tax and regulate.  I don’t partake.  But I sure am not going to tell a cancer patient they shouldn’t relieve their pain.  That would be immoral.  Not something I can imagine anyone’s idea of Jesus would do.

 

NO on 65 Carryout Bags Charges

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NO on 66 Death Penalty Procedures

 

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YES on 67 Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags – We’ve turned our oceans into garbage dumps.  Stop it!

 

JUDICIAL – JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT

#11 Debra R. Archuleta

#42 Efrain Matthew Aceves

#84 Susan Jung Townsend

#158 Kim L. Nguyen

STATE ASSEMBLY 

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Richard Bloom – He’s the Democrat incumbent.

 

US REPRESENTATIVE

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Adam B. Schiff – He’s the Democrat incumbent.

 

US SENATOR 

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Kamala D. Harris – Both Democrats running appear to have similar positions.  But a casual comparison of the Twitter accounts of both candidates was hard for me to ignore.  Harris quickly strikes me as having much more going for her.  She’ll need that support, professionalism and social media competency to be my Senator.

PRESIDENT AND VEEP

im_with_her_blueHillary Clinton & Tim Kaine –  She’s a leader.  She’s experienced.  She’s an adult.  It’s time.    Golda Meir led Israel two years before I was born.  Theresa May is Britain’s second female leader, and I’m not talking about the Queen.  Pakistan has an airport named after their first female leader.  I grew up a Reagan conservative.  What a carnival ride watching Reagan conservatives squirm into marvelous contortions as they attempt to justify and quantify their support of the reality TV star rich kid who calls bankruptcies and routinely failing to pay his sub-contractors “success in business”.  His very candidacy indicts America, not to mention the Republican party to which I once belonged.  I preferred Bernie in the primaries, but Hillary clearly hits enough of the issues right for me to feel very comfortable calling her Madame President.

Hear a Nation Roar

(Most of this on Facebook)