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Setting Times stories to music: From Lorde to Frankie Valli

October 26, 2013|By Kari Howard
  • Showing off her boots, bride Anna Silva has her wedding portraits taken before her ceremony at The Double T, an organic dairy farm in Stevinson, in the Central San Joaquin Valley.
Showing off her boots, bride Anna Silva has her wedding portraits taken… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

I’ve just finished reading “Headline Happy,” a 1950 memoir of L.A. Confidential-style journalism by the wonderfully named Florabel Muir.

She’s a real-world Hildy Johnson (as played by Rosalind Russell in my favorite newspaper movie, “His Girl Friday”). When reading her wisecracking memories of the Hollywood-and-hoodlums beat, I was torn between wishing the journalism racket was still so glam and squirming over the ethics-schmethics of old-school reporting.

The book had me from the first page: “The newspaper game! That’s what we call it. It’s a fast-moving game with changing rules that never make sense....You’ve got to be wacky to stick to it as long as I have.”

I have to share a few other choice quotes:

“I found her sitting amid the ruins of her hopes as I have found many others in my time as a reporter.”

“Getting interviews the easy way by just up and asking the questions bored him.”

“She had an idea that all reporters drank to excess and helled around most of the time, and all she saw in it for me was ultimate ruin and heartbreak.”

And this, from the night Bugsy Siegel was gunned down: “The Los Angeles Times was lying across his knees and on it was stamped: ‘Good Night. Sleep peacefully with compliments of Jack’s.’ Bloody sections of his shattered brain partially blotted out the eight-column headline telling of another fatal shooting in a poorer section of Los Angeles. As I moved the newspaper to see what he had been reading, blood dripped on my satin evening slippers.”

I wouldn’t mind a little bit of this kind of jazzy writing today. Maybe one of my writers will rise to the challenge?

Anyway, in these roundups of the week gone by, I’d like to offer the first paragraphs of each Great Read (or, as they’re known in print, Column One) -- maybe they’ll catch your eye and you can settle in for a good weekend read. And you’ll also get the songs that inspired me while editing the stories, or reading them later if my fellow editor Millie Quan ushered them through. A story-song combo!

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Monday’s Great Read:

Gay sports leagues gain ground as a social outlet

Jason Bergquist tugs the laces tight on his Nike cleats and grins at his parents in the front row of the bleachers at the Hollywood Recreation Center. With zero wins for the season, Bergquist's kickball team has a lot to prove.

His mother snaps iPhone photos of him in his yellow team T-shirt.

“J, you need your water?” she asks through the dugout's chain-link fence.
“Not yet, Mom.”

His father can't stop smiling. “This reminds me of when the kids were little!” he says before trying to persuade other fans to do the wave.

Bergquist, 34, is playing for the Racine team of the Varsity Gay League, one of Southern California's largest recreational sports organizations specifically for gay people.

He joined the league this year, still reeling from a breakup with a longtime boyfriend. Frustrated and lonely, he promised himself he'd put himself out there and meet new people.
“My parents had been softly encouraging me to begin making new friends and start dating again,” said Bergquist, whose parents are visiting from Seattle. “And they've been worried about me meeting people at bars.”

He was looking for more genuine friendships anyway, he said. At a bar, he said, people — gay or straight — are trying to impress. In competitive team sports, they have to rely on one another.

#storysongs combo: “Team,” by Lorde. I’ve been trying to listen to this New Zealand teen, but still am not quite feeling all the buzz about her.

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Tuesday’s Great Read:

Crafting fake eyes is family business, rifts included

Little-known fact about the little-known world of ocularists: During World War II, supplies of the German glass used for making prosthetic eyes fell, so the U.S. Army organized a team to figure out a way to make the eyes using plastic.

Borrowing from techniques used in dentistry, the Army team cast molds of patients' injured eye sockets and used the impressions to make acrylic prosthetics.

Frederick Lewis was on the Army team at Walter Reed Hospital. After the war, he came to Los Angeles, ending up with offices in Beverly Hills, Tarzana and Santa Barbara.

During a career that spanned nearly six decades, Lewis fashioned tens of thousands of lifelike orbs — painting irises and pupils and veins on acrylic shells and popping them into patients' eye sockets.

Lewis made prosthetics for members of Los Angeles society; for combat victims and cancer sufferers; for working types who had lost eyes doing tough manual labor.

His daughter, Carole, joined him in the mid-1980s, running the family's offices. After Lewis died, Carole's son, John Stolpe, also signed on, training with his mother and learning the trade.

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