Ed LaDou readily admits that he has no journalism skills. Or objectivity.
So last month he became editor and writer for a small newspaper in Laurel Canyon. Oh yes, and publisher.
LaDou's 12-page Canyon News hit the streets with a front-page headline announcing: "Yellow sunflower stolen."
The theft occurred at the Caioti Restaurant, which is located in the steep, secluded canyon north of Hollywood. And is owned by Ed LaDou.
To be fair, the sunflower was part of a crime wave: Other flowers had been swiped from a planter there, "hacked off or cut by people who apparently have no conscience or consideration for others," Laurel Canyon's 12,000 residents were informed.
The Canyon News is "nothing but editorializing," boasted Los Angeles' newest media mogul, who spent 100 hours crafting the first edition during slow moments at his restaurant.
Of his writing, Ed LaDou said: "I don't think it's a talent of mine I'm in the position to brag about yet."
But he saw a news vacuum in the canyon and worried that neighbors were becoming too isolated; they'd even call the City Council to "tell on each other" for incivilities as minor as leaving garbage on the street, he said.
Now every home in Laurel Canyon subscribes to the Canyon News, whether it wants to or not. LaDou hired a few guys to deliver it door to door. The price is right. Free.
Readers can catch up on construction, environmental issues, fires--and crime, of course--when they can steer clear of the news and ads about LaDou's pasta and pizza restaurant.
In addition to the "yellow sunflower stolen" revelation, the first-ever front page had three stories dealing with storm drains and ground water issues. Pretty routine, until you notice that one was a reprint from a past effort at a local paper, the old Canyon Crier in 1957.
The Canyon News has a place for concerns less cerebral than zoning or drainage. There's a customized Laurel Canyon horoscope, too: "Lately you might have noticed that your nose itches more than usual," reads the entry for Cancer.
The new publisher, 37, is not above a little shameless self-promotion. A story on Page 2 proclaims that LaDou created the world's most famous salad--a medley of Romaine lettuce, watercress, Gorgonzola cheese, walnuts plus "secret ingredient X, that's all I can disclose"--with purported powers to bring on labor in pregnant women who are overdue.
The paper may seem offbeat, but so is its home turf, a nine-square-mile area populated by the wealthy, the famous, the artsy and the earthy, as well as a few just plain folk.
LaDou describes his neighbors as "a little wild, a little older, a little more liberal than the rest of L.A."
Most take pride in being from Laurel Canyon, he said. But with only one restaurant, one dry cleaner and one small grocery store, the community was without a nerve center. Voila , the Canyon News.
"People need to take charge of their communities and not depend so much on city administrators (who) don't do the job anyway," said LaDou, who plans to inform residents about community cleanup days and other activities designed to preserve the canyon.
In the second issue, whose 4,000 copies are now hitting doorsteps, readers will find more than diatribes a la LaDou. The boss promises contributions from other writers and says he hopes to solicit the work of canyon poets soon.
But Ed LaDou will continue to get in his two cents.
He wrote a story about plastic sheeting placed atop Lookout Mountain to protect it from rain. Of course, there hasn't been much of the wet stuff for months, a fact that did not escape LaDou's investigative eye.
"I got kind of articulate there," he said. "I start out something like, 'It's staked in the hill like some obscene eternal evil.' "
The novice publisher is optimistic that his effort will be well received. Even if some issues do not matter to some residents, he noted, the Canyon News is still "something to read when they're eating cereal."
Seems so. David Frappier, 45, who lives part time on Lookout Mountain, was caught scanning the paper while lunching one day last week. In LaDou's restaurant.
It has " really local news," he noted.
And four readers were so affected by the theft of LaDou's sunflower that--in a scene out of America's Most Wanted--they called in hot leads to help him solve the crime.
One reported that a "suspicious young lady in a black motorcycle jacket" had been spied with the purloined blossom. Another said a sunflower was spotted near Los Angeles International Airport in the company of a daisy "en root" out of the country.