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A No-Frills Start for the City's Jet-Set Mayor

July 02, 1993|FAYE FIORE and FREDERICK M. MUIR | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Considering he's a man of enormous wealth, the occupant of a $6-million Brentwood mansion, a jet-setter with friends in Hollywood who flies to Scotland once a year to golf, one might have expected the inauguration of Mayor Richard Riordan to be quite a party. Perhaps a black-tie affair with fancy hors d'oeuvres, stretch limos, bejeweled dignitaries, Hollywood celebs and cinematic footage reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's ebullient walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Instead, we got a mobile McDonald's selling Happy Meals in front of City Hall and bottled water dispensers with paper cups; a curiously unorchestrated foot parade making the stroll from Union Station to City Hall was more of a shuffle. Cesar Romero was the biggest movie star in the immediate vicinity, and the traditionally lavish inaugural ball was scratched when Riordan decided to invite about 40 friends and city officials to have dinner in his back yard.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 3, 1993 Home Edition Part A Page 2 Column 1 National Desk 2 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Judges misidentified--A photo caption in Friday's Times incorrectly identified U.S. District Judge Laughlin E. Waters and retired Judge Robert S. Thompson. Their names were reversed in the caption accompanying a picture of Thompson hugging newly inaugurated Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as Waters looked on.

He said it would be no-frills and it was, a meat-and-potatoes celebration true to the man himself, a millionaire who loves Egg McMuffins, who can afford custom suits but buys them off the rack, whose extravagant streak seems to have stopped at the $6 million of his personal fortune he spent to win the election.

"He wanted a people's inauguration. He wanted to invite the city of Los Angeles to join him in this," inauguration coordinator Alice Borden said.

There were no expensive floral arrangements, just two balloon arches. All the acts at the pre-inauguration concert were volunteer, including entertainers whose stardom peaked decades ago. It was the first transfer of power this city has seen in 20 years, a truly momentous occasion, but the Lakers championships drew bigger throngs. This crowd was straight-backed and politely attentive. But then this transition from the 38th mayor to the 39th was nothing if not bittersweet.

For a month now, Mayflower moving trucks have been parked outside City Hall. But it wasn't until Wednesday--inauguration eve--that the reality of this historic shift sank in as a sad parade of Bradley loyalists filed out of the building for the last time. Years of service were reduced to a collection of trinkets thrown into cardboard boxes. Many of the newly displaced had tears in their eyes as they emerged from the mayor's suite behind a wooden door marked Private .

"It's sad in there," one woman said.

Not a single Riordan possession was moved in until Bradley officially moved out. When it was all over, the prized Don Quixote statue reminiscent of the "Impossible Dream" slogan that epitomized his first campaign made way for a picture of a Yorkshire terrier named Albertine and a jar of Reese's Pieces.

The outgoing mayor, as was his style, stayed late into the night, giving up the desk he has occupied for so long at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday. At midnight, the office officially became Riordan's. At 12:01, members of the new mayor's youthful staff took possession of the coveted Room 305, popped open a bottle of champagne and left on the desk this message: "Take charge!"

"City Hall is getting a lot of new blood with all of us young'uns running around. It's such a great feeling being with him now," said former campaign aide and inauguration coordinator Tom Kruesopon, recalling with amazement an early poll last fall that indicated Riordan had just 2% of the vote. There were campaign events at which he could scarcely muster 15 people to attend, and now 2,000 gathered to see him sworn in.

Aides selected from a dozen samples a new shade of paint for Mayor Riordan's office--white. This weekend, the staff plans to pick out the furniture and fabric. The mood was best described as electric as Inauguration Day dawned. Riordan rose at 5 a.m. to let his dogs out, only to find a radio news reporter standing outside his house.

By 6:30 a.m., he was standing on the festooned steps of City Hall doing a sound check. "I feel very confident . . . " he said into the microphone, then sat down patiently behind the orchestra tent while a woman applied his makeup.

The celebration began with a Catholic Mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels and an interfaith breakfast at Union Station, a repast of animal-fat-free muffins and decaf in a silver urn. Riordan prayed with Los Angeles' spiritual leaders, bowing his head and clasping hands with First Girlfriend Nancy Daly. A harpist and flutist played some dignified melodies.

Then Riordan went out to greet Los Angeles at large, where extraordinary efforts to control the crowd by police on bicycles, police on horseback, police in SWAT gear and private security personnel broke down completely as he emerged into the courtyard and was promptly mobbed.

A swarm of cameras converged, and reporters peppered him with questions to which no one could hear the answers. A mariachi band struck up a snappy tune and several Spanish dancers in frilly dresses started tapping away as helicopters buzzed in circles overhead.

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