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L. James Grold, 70; Known for Psychiatric Testimony, Network

January 29, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Dr. L. James Grold, an influential psychiatrist who aided hostages in local incidents, testified in high-profile court cases and created an innovative mental-health referral network, has died. He was 70.

Grold died Friday at Century City Hospital of cancer, said his son, Kevin Grold.

The psychiatrist was frequently asked by lawyers to help select sympathetic jurors or to testify about the mental health of clients involved in civil and criminal trials.

One of Grold's best-known patients was Groucho Marx in the final two years before the comedian died in 1977 at age 86. In court battles over the Marx estate, Grold defended the comedian's youthful companion, Erin Fleming, against claims that she deceitfully used his funds. Grold asserted that Fleming, to whom Marx willed $150,000, had helped prolong Marx's life because she "encouraged him, stimulated him, motivated him."

In 1996, Robinsons-May asked the psychiatrist to rush to its Culver City store where six employees were being held hostage at gunpoint. As each was released after about eight hours, Grold counseled the employee. All six quickly returned to work without signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The news media often sought Grold's comments on events that had a traumatic effect on the community.

In 1992, after the widespread Los Angeles rioting that erupted after the Rodney G. King verdicts, Grold talked with The Times about the effects on Westsiders: "We all live an illusion out here: We're indestructible, invincible, somehow magically protected," he said. "But all of a sudden, the illusions we live under get shattered when we get invaded and the barriers don't work. That is what you are seeing here."

He said he hoped the riots would force progressive Westsiders to view rioters' anger aimed at the rich as a sign that rifts in the city must be mended. But he also said many wealthy people choose to "pretend that everything is fine."

In 1979, Grold established the Mental Health Referral Service of Southern California in West Los Angeles to help people find competent mental-health professionals. Later, his son Kevin took over the service and expanded it into what is now known as 1-800-THERAPIST. com NETWORK. The elder Grold remained on the group's board and provided his services until his retirement.

Born in Los Angeles, Leo James Grold earned his bachelor's and medical degrees at Stanford University and took his psychiatric training as a fellow at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kan.

As a captain in the Army, he established a mental hygiene clinic for the 3rd Armored Division in Frankfurt, Germany.

In addition to his private practice, which he maintained for four decades, Grold worked as medical director successively at the Resthaven Psychiatric Hospital and the Westwood Psychiatric Hospital and taught at USC and the Southern California Psychoanalytic Society.

He also volunteered his mental-health services at the Venice Family Clinic.

Grold is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Janis Jensen; two sons, Kevin and Eric; a daughter, Katherine; a sister, Joan; and one granddaughter.

Services will be private. The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the American Cancer Society.

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