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Return of the Native

July 16, 1988|DENNIS McDOUGAL

Los Angeles-bred Larry Josephson characterizes himself as a gourmand and an urban anthropologist, though he is best known as the longtime radio producer for the comedy team of Bob & Ray. But despite his roots, Josephson scorns "El Lay," where he believes people generally are about as deep as the Los Angeles River.

For the last 30 years Josephson has lived in exile in Manhattan, where he contends that people are rude but cultured.

Today at 6 p.m. over KCRW-FM (89.9), the transplanted New Yorker comes home to Los Angeles radio, not as a producer but as a talk-show host. He plans to serve up his own two-hour program each Saturday night, focusing on the absurd topics of modern culture: bicoastalism as psychodrama, how to maintain a meaningful relationship with a cat, an examination of machines that go beep in the night ("Are the Amish on to something?" he asks) and the kiwi fruit as a threat to the American way of life.

"I left in the first place because L.A. had no culture," Josephson reminisces aloud about his boyhood in Culver City. His Hamilton High School major, he says, was "existential calisthenics."

Reluctantly and infrequently during the past three decades, Josephson has returned to Los Angeles to visit his family, usually because his mother demanded it. When he left Southern California, he maintains, there were no bookstores, ballet, theaters, opera or art galleries. A former restaurant writer, he claimed for many years that Los Angeles also had no restaurants beyond Musso and Frank's and an occasional noteworthy taco stand.

But the advent of L.A.'s own contemporary art scene and nouvelle cuisine has softened his prodigal-son position somewhat.

In fact, he's looking forward to trashing Southern California arts and politics over KCRW the way he once did during a 6-year stint as a call-in host on New York's WBAI-FM. There, he fondly recalls regularly lavishing his special brand of praise upon Mayor Ed Koch and His Honor's merry, mischievous Kitchen Cabinet.

Josephson hopes to do the same soon for Tom Bradley.

In the meantime, he says, unconvincingly: "I'm happy to be back in Los Angeles."

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