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Catherine Seipp, 49; conservative media critic who took on the L.A. Times

March 22, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Catherine Seipp, a writer and media critic who became known in the 1990s for her pointed coverage of the Los Angeles Times in Buzz magazine, has died. She was 49.

Seipp, a nonsmoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago, died Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, her family announced.

She was a longtime resident of Silver Lake.

More recently, the conservative Seipp wrote on controversial topics of the day in a weekly column called "From the Left Coast" for National Review Online and a monthly column for the conservative Independent Women's Forum.

She tackled such topics as gay marriage, Hollywood liberalism and -- a recent favorite -- healthcare costs.

"Cathy always had something fresh, smart and bold to say -- always honest and very often disarming," Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, told The Times in an e-mail. "Whether it be about Paris Hilton or the WB or parenting or war, she was always worth reading."

Allan Mayer, who launched Buzz in 1990, said Seipp's work was one of the things people remember about the magazine, which folded in 1998.

"She had a distinctive voice and a truly interesting sensibility," he said. "Almost regardless of the subject she was writing -- journalism, politics, social affairs, trends -- you could count on her to have a well-thought-out but unpredictable take."

Her column, called "Our Times," became a fixture in Buzz for several years beginning in 1991.

Seipp initially wrote the column under the pseudonym Margo Magee, which was the name of a character in the "Apartment 3G" comic strip that ran in The Times.

She would refer to behind-the-scenes furor at "my favorite newspaper" and never seemed to miss an opportunity to use the newspaper as a foil.

When a reporter left The Times for Microsoft despite reportedly being offered a hefty raise to stay, Seipp wrote in a 1997 column that colleagues told the reporter "he was wrong to be making so much money."

"That's how it works in the real world -- which Times staffers are only vaguely familiar with -- where you don't get the best deal unless you are willing to walk away from it," she said.

Within The Times, her criticism could be seen as "mean-spirited and angry," Seipp said in a lengthy online profile at www.lukeford.net.

But she saw it differently: "With American journalism, if you write something blunt, people get shocked."

What made Seipp go after the newspaper, Mayer said, "was her view that The Times often succumbed to a politically correct mentality. It always frustrated her that The Times was never as great as she felt it was capable of being."

Born in 1957 in Winnipeg, Canada, she moved to Los Alamitos when she was 4.

At 16, she enrolled at UCLA and earned a bachelor's degree in English.

She briefly worked for the Associated Press and the fashion trade paper California Apparel News before spending four years as a fashion writer at the Daily News in Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

After leaving Buzz in the late 1990s, she wrote columns for Mediaweek, UPI and Salon, among others. She also was a regular guest on CNBC's "The Dennis Miller Show."

On a blind date, she met Jerry Lazar, who was then editor of an airline magazine.

They married in 1986 and had a daughter three years later, but the couple separated in 1990 and later divorced. She never remarried.

One of her final goals was to see her daughter, Maia, off to college. Maia finished high school in three years and enrolled at UC San Diego last fall.

In addition to her daughter, Seipp is survived by her father, Harvey Seipp; mother, Claire Ungerleider; and sister, Michele Seipp.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Mt. Sinai Hollywood Hills, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles.

Instead of flowers, Seipp had requested that people make donations to the Humane Society, www.hsus.org.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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