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Truth and honesty, that's the ticket

Actor and comedian Marty Ingels has a bit of a moral dilemma when he beats a parking ticket, then realizes he was guilty. Wife Shirley Jones offers him advice.

November 20, 2012|Steve Lopez
  • Marty Ingels, seen with wife Shirley Jones in 2005, beat a parking ticket before realizing that he deserved to pay the fine. His wife says he should return the $293 to the city.
Marty Ingels, seen with wife Shirley Jones in 2005, beat a parking ticket… (Frederick M. Brown, Getty…)

Marty Ingels, the actor and comedian whose wife is Oscar-winning actress and "Partridge Family" mom Shirley Jones, could not believe the injustice.

He went into a photo shop on Ventura Boulevard, looked out the window and saw a ticket on his car windshield. Ingels charged outside, read the ticket and was convinced there'd been a terrible mistake. The ticket was for parking in a bus zone.

Ingels looked left, he looked right. No bus zone.

Not long after, Ingels called a colleague of mine at The Times, who passed his story on to me. I called him to ask what he'd done about the ticket.

"Fight it, like I do everything," Ingels told me on the phone, saying his wife shared his outrage after hearing him tell the story.

Ingels said he called LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and "what's his name?"

Who? I asked.

"The mayor."


"Yeah, what's-his-name."

Ingels, 76, says the mayor told him he'd have someone look into it. Meanwhile, Ingels had to pay the $293 fine, which he found outrageous, while contesting the ticket. Twice, his challenges were thrown out at administrative hearings, and even then, he kept fighting.

I remembered Ingels, who sounds like he just left Brooklyn yesterday, from his comic days and a TV show called "I'm Dickens, He's Fenster." That was a long time ago, though, and I wondered if the ticket writer got it right and Ingels was a little hazy on where he'd been that day. So I asked him to tell me if the address on the ticket was the address of the photo shop.

No, he said. That was part of the mistake. The ticket was written for a location 10 or 20 blocks away.

OK, I said, but wasn't it possible he had been parked in the bus zone earlier and got the ticket, but didn't notice it until he got to the photo shop?

"You're like a priest and a therapist," Ingels said. "I'll deny we ever spoke."

At this point, Ingels made two confessions.

First, in the time between him calling The Times, and me returning his call, he'd already beaten the ticket.

But the next confession was a doozy. Just as he was notified by mail that the ticket had been dismissed, he realized he was guilty, after all.

Say what?

It was an honest mistake, Ingels insisted. He ran a hundred errands that day, and totally forgot parking in the bus zone while he ran into a sign shop. But the ticket writer had taken photos, and at one of the ticket hearings, a car that looked very much like Ingels' Cadillac Escalade was parked in the bus zone.

Ingels thought it had to be somebody else's car, or that he was being framed. But his assistant looked at the photo and noticed the sign shop in the background. Hadn't Ingels stopped there before going to the photo shop?

That's when it came back to him, and then Ingels had a big moral decision to make.

Should he admit his guilt and pay back the $293 the city was refunding?

"You wanna hear my wife?" he asked. "She's all over me that even though I won … I should return the money."

And his response?

"I won the case already."

Yes, but if $293 keeps your wife happy, isn't that a bargain?

"You know, I'm thinking about it," Ingels said. "My wife's a good person."

When I went to visit Ingels at his home in Encino, Jones answered the door looking 20 years younger than she has a right to look.

"It's all natural," Ingels said more than once, doting on his wife.

We sat in the living room, and Jones told me she has pet gates up, but not for pets. They're to keep Ingels from coming in and cluttering the room with all his stuff, like he's done in the rest of the house.

Ingels pointed to a pedestal and suggested I take hold of his wife's supporting actress Oscar, which she won for playing a vengeful hooker in "Elmer Gantry." He wanted me to see how heavy it was.

I looked at Jones for approval, and she said go ahead.

I'd say it was heavier than some of the actresses who took one home.

"I was in his corner," Jones said of the ticket, but when she found out the truth, she made her position crystal clear.

They're good people, after all. They attend civic functions. They donate to good causes.

Ingels argued that the way he sees it, the $293 check he got back from the city was for all the pain and suffering he went through fighting the ticket.

"No, it was not," said Jones, who added that Ingels "absolutely" should give back the money.

"Because he should."

Ingels may have been a fighter once, but he was caving now. He looked at me and said:

"Now that you're here, I'm stuck."

That's right, but he knew that when he invited me over. So that would be the end of the story, except that I had one more question.

Why was the ticket dismissed?

Ingels showed me the letter from the parking adjudication division. It said that after review, it was discovered that the ticket writer had incorrectly reported that the vehicle registration number ended in 4958 rather than 4938. So although Ingels was indeed parked illegally, "this technical error warrants a dismissal."

Very interesting. So did he really get off on a technicality, or because he carried a little more weight than the average person, who's in no position to call the chief of police and mayor what's-his-name?

"Do you think they may have created that just to appease me?" Ingels asked.

"They may have," said a glowering Jones, and I don't think she was acting.

Ingels relented in the end, like many a good man before him.

Beating City Hall was easy. But at home, there's a higher authority, and he never had a chance.

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