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CITY OF ANGLES

Bidding Farewell to Levin

July 13, 2001|ANN O'NEILL

Only in the City of Angles can we find judges, lawyers, LAPD brass, war veterans, journalists and an actor who's a figure in a high-profile murder investigation at the same memorial service. Only here could the security detail include undercover LAPD officers wearing yarmulkes while Kenny Rogers' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" blares as mourners file into the temple.

The eclectic crowd, 750 strong, gathered at the University Synagogue on Sunset Boulevard at noon on Thursday to pay last respects to well-known criminal defense attorney Barry Levin. Police Chief Bernard Parks and Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley were there as well as former Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti. So was Levin's last famous client, Robert Blake, who came with lawyer Harland Braun. Just six weeks ago, Levin attended the funeral for Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, whose murder remains unsolved.

Parks recalled speaking to Levin's wife, Debbie, after his death and she said, "My baby did not want to be a burden to anyone."

Almost lost in the crowd was his first wife, Renee, who says she knew Levin longer and better than anyone else. For years, she worked as his legal secretary, typing briefs on a battered Smith Corona. She filled us in on Levin's early days and the friendships he forged during the dozen years he patrolled the LAPD's Newton Division. At Newton, Levin also met Cooley, who was a young reserve officer at the time. At the service, Cooley recalled Levin's imposing bodybuilder physique and thinking, "If things get ugly out there, I hope that guy is the first to arrive as backup."

Cooley also called Levin "an important cog in our sometimes crazy [criminal] justice system."

Renee and Barry Levin were 22 when they married in 1969, after he came home from two tours of duty in Vietnam with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. They had three daughters: Jennifer, 29, a legal secretary; Brandy, 25, a hairstylist; and Elly, 19, a college student who wants to be a lawyer like her father. Levin also had two other children.

The couple's 1988 divorce was bitter, and they did not stay in touch. But his former wife is sure that Levin, 54, took his own life to spare the people he loved from watching him wither away from terminal illness. After all, she said, his old LAPD nickname was "Iron Man."

"Barry had a persona--he was strong and he didn't want anybody to see him any other way," Renee Levin said. "He told me when we were kids, 'If anything happens to me, just take me to the VA cemetery and bury me on my Harley."'

After the service, mourners drove to the National Cemetery in Westwood where the Iron Man died on Saturday--in a Porsche, not on a Harley. We're told Levin carefully chose the spot where he spent his final moments--a knoll with a spectacular view of the rows of headstones marking the final resting places of his brothers in arms.

Army and LAPD color guards were on hand, and Levin was given a 21-gun salute. Then his widow was handed the American flag that draped his coffin.

Nobody Wuvs Us

Perhaps this item falls into the sticky category of TMI--too much information. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to report that Rosie O'Donnell, the queen of nice, and Sarah Ferguson, the former duchess of York, share their wounded inner children in August's edition of Rosie magazine.

O'Donnell says she "felt very unloved" as a child, even before her mother's early death. "The first person who hugged me was my eighth-grade math teacher," O'Donnell writes. "I had no idea what my role was. My arms were down and I thought, 'I don't know how to do that."'

As for Fergie, well, her mummy ran off with a polo player. "She never came back, and I never understood why I wasn't taken with her," she writes. "I know my grandmother never told Mum she was loved, so Mum never told me that."

Media Critic

Speaking of scandalized Dems, brainy actor James Woods has weighed in on Modesto Congressman Gary Condit and the investigation of intern Chandra Levy's disappearance. "Does anyone not have this thing figured out yet? She was abducted by what, aliens?" Woods says on a segment of "Fox and Friends" aired this morning on the Fox News Channel.

Woods said he watched a week's worth of news reports before he could figure out Condit's party affiliation. He blamed the "liberal" media. "You never see 'Democratic Congressman Gary Condit' because it's like, OK, another guy with his snake in the cookie jar," Woods said.

Conan Commits

Late night chat host Conan O'Brien is engaged, according to the New York Post. The great red one proposed over the weekend to Liza Powell, a Vassar grad who works in advertising in Seattle. The two met when Powell appeared in a skit on the show. No word yet on a wedding date or how many carats are weighing down Powell's finger.

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Times staff writers Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug contributed to this report. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Friday. Email: angles@latimes.com.

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