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At Villaraigosa Roast, the Ribs Are Well Done

Good-natured jibes at -- and by -- L.A.'s mayor fill the menu at annual diabetes fundraiser.

March 18, 2006|Jeffrey L. Rabin | Times Staff Writer

They joked about his name and his penchant for popping up in front of every television camera. And "they" were his friends!

After just eight months as mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa was roasted this week as part of what has become a recent Los Angeles political tradition.

The event was the American Diabetes Assn.'s ninth annual Los Angeles Political Roast, a benefit that raised $600,000 for research and programs. It also provided an opportunity for lobbyists and politicians, businesspeople and political staffers to laugh about the way politics is played at City Hall.

On stage Thursday night at the Century Plaza Hotel, Herb Wesson, the former Assembly speaker and now Los Angeles city councilman, mocked the mayor's Spanish.

And he joked about the mediagenic Villaraigosa's thirst for the spotlight: "When you want Antonio's attention, all you've got to do is pull out a microphone."

Wesson said he turned on the television at 5 o'clock one morning to find Villaraigosa doing traffic reports from a news helicopter. The next day, Villaraigosa was on the air filling potholes.

Wesson quipped that he got a call one day from the mayor's wife: "She told me she was concerned about it. She was thinking about trying to put him into Betty Ford [Center] for media addiction. The only way she can get him to go to bed at night is to video him."

Fabian Nunez, the current Assembly speaker, noted Villaraigosa's attendance at all the Hollywood award shows.

"He's worked more red carpets than Heidi Fleiss," said Nunez. "There was some trouble at the Oscars, though. First, he was embarrassed when he realized the nominated movie 'Hustle & Flow' really wasn't a documentary about the Department of Water and Power. Then, because he's so small and bronze, they tried to hand him to George Clooney."

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky deadpanned that Villaraigosa "believes in a no-kill policy for animals [in shelters] unless they get between him and a TV camera."

The supervisor rattled off other reasons why he's glad Villaraigosa is mayor: "He promised me a ride in the Ameriquest jet."

Villaraigosa raised eyebrows when he rode the mortgage company's corporate jet to the funeral of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. The name of the company, whose lending practices have generated controversy in many states, was stitched onto an airplane seat that Villaraigosa sat in during the roast.

Yaroslavsky thanked Villaraigosa for replacing him as having the hardest-to-pronounce political name in Los Angeles.

Council President Eric Garcetti performed dual roles, emceeing the event and providing the musical entertainment. As he played a piano, Garcetti sang an ode that made light of the mayor's political style:

"Don't get me wrong. I love my job. I'm everywhere in town.

"I haven't met a press conference my presence couldn't crown.

"I'll fill your pothole. Build you a home. Do anything you choose.

"I'll even drive your kids to school if it lands me in the news."

The last word was left to Villaraigosa who, along with other speakers, took the Los Angeles Times to task for a recent story on lobbyists and their clients who are major donors to the dinner.

"Good evening, 'fat cats!' " the mayor shouted to the crowd of 1,300. "I hope everyone here has gotten as close to me as they can afford.

"I read in the L.A. Times that it costs as much as $25,000 to get access to me. What a long way we've come! I can remember when it took a plate of spaghetti and a cheap bottle of wine."

The mayor continued: "It's ironic so many of you spent so much money to get on my good side. All you've done tonight is dump all over me.

"Just wait!"

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