For about an hour Saturday, a group of a dozen persons picketed the newsstand on the northwest corner of Van Nuys and Victory boulevards, protesting that young children can stand there and read pornography.
It was a small battle in a long war, fought almost out of sight. As usual, it was to no conclusion.
Both sides were amply provisioned with certainty, armed with the unalloyed outrage of those who were just minding their own business when their lives were assaulted by unfathomable weirdos, winging in from over the horizon in a sociological Pearl Harbor.
The combatants are caught on the beach where a wave of change crashed into American life in the 1960s and receded, altering the landmarks and leaving a high-tide line of social flotsam. Ever since, some Americans have been trying to kick the flotsam back into the sea, while their opponents, delighted by the changes, hope they will live long enough to hear the cry "surf's up" again.
The protesters were led by Gerald C. (Brodie) Broderson, the Republican candidate for Democratic Rep. Howard L. Berman's congressional seat, which represents the East Valley, among other places.
Broderson is a 58-year-old man with the look of a cheerful grandfather, an actor who makes a career of refusing to act his age. His campaign literature boasts that he belongs to the Guardian Angels--a graying member of a counter-gang. He enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College in 1982 and carried the banner for middle-aged couch potatoes everywhere by going out for the football team, and making it.
He won election as the student representative to the Community College Board of Trustees for 1984-85, but his greatest claim to fame until running for Congress (and given Berman's hold on the seat, perhaps afterward too) is that he kicked a field goal in a game at the age of 53, becoming the oldest athlete ever to score for dear old Valley--"the proudest moment of my life," he still recalls.
In tribute to Broderson's Guardian Angel ties, the marchers wore "Brodie's Angels" T-shirts, with Guardian Angel-style wings, and carried placards with slogans like "Sleaze Free Streets" and "San Fernando Valley--World Pornography Capitol."
Marching with them was Bruce Dahl, the Republican candidate for the seat representing the central Valley in the state Assembly, now held by Democrat Tom Bane.
"Children stand here and pollute their minds with this filth," protested Dahl, an earnest man wearing a striped, button-down collar shirt open at the neck and tasseled loafers with no socks. "They can't walk to school without seeing pictures of lesbians and stuff like that."
Indeed, one section of the newsstand is devoted to magazines displaying nude men and women, videocassettes with titles like "Wet Shots" and "Naughty Nurses," and books with titles like "Hot Tongue Co-ed" and "Marvin's Perverted Love" and a great many which cannot be printed here. They are all grouped together, next to the cash register, but--as the protesters repeatedly pointed out--some of them are only two or three feet off the sidewalk, down at a child's eye-level.
Back and forth paraded the marchers.
"You shouldn't be reading that stuff," one T-shirt-clad matron, parading past, admonished a boy in baggy shorts and high-top athletic shoes, who appeared to be about 12, as he paged through a magazine from the rack.
"You should try Mickey Mouse," she counseled.
The boy, who was reading a skateboard magazine, looked up in bewilderment and made a face at her back when she passed. Most passers-by ignored the protesters, motorists giving them only a passing glance, pedestrians stepping gingerly around them and walking hurriedly away. The exception was a middle-aged black man who praised them, saying he had long been concerned with the problem of little boys' perusing sexy material there.
"I've never heard of such a thing," said Gary Skybyrg, the newsstand clerk.
"Why are these people bothering us? Why don't they concentrate on stuff that's dangerous, like gangs? We're not hurting anyone. We never allow little kids to stand and read that stuff. Anyone who isn't 18 gets hustled out of there immediately."
"What about this?" asked Lisa Goodrich, 20, of Burbank, one of the protesters, shoving a photo at him. The picture, taken from across the street, showed what appeared to be two small boys reading at the sex-magazine section while an attendant looked the other way.
"Ha!" laughed Skybyrg. "That's the boss, the owner. No comment."
The owner, Barney Shane, who arrived as the protesters were leaving, insisted that "if we see little kids there, we chase them away in a tenth of a second."
He found the marchers as puzzling as they found his lack of concern.
"With all the problems in the country, why are they worrying about us? I'm annoyed they didn't get the television reporters to come and give me some publicity.
"I can't get mad at them. They're all a bunch of weirdos."