Vol. 2, Issue 2
What’s Up With Me?
Watch the latest episode of “NewsRap Local,” featuring an interview with California state Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-41). We talked about his priorities in his new role as the chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee, affordable housing laws, camp safety regulations, and more. Read coverage of the show here and watch the episode here.
Pasadena Now published a second version of my Paradise Springs story. In the 1920s and 30s, two silent film villain brothers, Noah and Wallace Beery, turned a mountain retreat near Los Angeles into a hedonistic wonderland for the A-list stars of early Hollywood, including Charlie Chaplin (who handbuilt a staircase that still stands today in one of the retreat’s cabins), Gloria Swanson, Joe Kennedy, William Randolph Hearst, Douglas Fairbanks, and many others. They brewed illegal hooch during Prohibition, threw wild parties, and raised millions of trout. After the Beerys went bankrupt, Paradise Springs became a Christian camp, in stark contrast to its racy past. Recently, it was sold to Huttopia, a French glamping company, which reopened Paradise Springs last summer for camping families. Read the full story here. Read my original story in KPCC/LAist here.
I’d like to give a shout out and a huge thank you to Sheryl Turner and the Pasadena Media Foundation, which has provided some critical support of my journalism, as well as a number of other local reporters and media outlets. We need people and organizations like them who care about local news. Visit savelocalnews.us to learn more.
Here are some recommendations for great books I’ve read recently:
Hitler’s Werewolves—Charles Whiting
This is the only book I could find about Nazi Werewolves, the soldiers that stayed behind enemy lines in France and Germany as the Allies pushed the Nazis back into Germany towards the end of World War II. As the war wound down, the Allies worried that a secretive group of Nazi soldiers was planning sabotage and counterattacks and that the Nazis would rise again. In fact, some thought Hitler and his cronies were planning to retreat to the Alpine Redoubt, an area of southern Germany and western Austria where they would make their final stand and drag out the war for months or even years. That didn’t come to pass, as Hitler shot himself instead and the Russians closed in on Berlin. This 1972 book details one group of werewolves who actually did conduct operations behind enemy lines, in particular the successful assassin of the first German mayor of a town occupied by the Allies.
In the Name of Conscience—Nikolai Khokhlov
This 1959 memoir of a Soviet intelligence officer who defected to the West at the height of the Cold War, in the aftermath of Stalin’s death, is fascinating. Khokhlov became disaffected from the Soviet regime’s philosophy when he was ordered to murder a Russian who was leading a counterrevolutionary group from Germany whose political philosophy Khokhlov increasingly came to identify with. His main concern, after he decided to defect, was the safety of his wife and young son who remained in Moscow. After his defection, Soviet intelligence successfully poisoned Khokhlov—in an echo of Russia’s tactics against those they consider traitors today—but he survived. This book provides a plethora of insights about what it was like to be a Soviet intelligence officer.
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: It’s certainly looking like Putin is going to invade Ukraine after all. He just announced that Russia will recognize two “breakaway” regions of eastern Ukraine as independent republics. That means he can send in troops when Ukraine inevitably does not recognize them as independent. The West needs to play the long game here—what’s Putin’s end goal? Also, China is closely watching the situation to see how the United States and the West respond to territorial invasion, as they consider whether to take Taiwan by force in the near future.
National: The Biden administration was wisely putting a set of “harm reduction” policies in place to address public health issues related to drug use. The idea is that total bans on drug use do not work, so a different approach is needed in which users are able to remain safe: clean needle exchanges, safe injection sites, access to Naloxone, etc. Unfortunately, that plan is being somewhat derailed by rightwing media railing about federal funding for crack pipes. The disingenuous blowback is watering down what would have been a sensible and effective harm reduction strategy, and that’s just a shame.
California: Los Angeles is gearing up for its new mayoral election. Mayor Eric Garcetti is likely heading to India as U.S. Ambassador (if accusations that he did nothing while his top political aide regularly sexually harassed people don’t sink his nomination), and new contenders have thrown their hats into the ring. The contest will likely be between Congresswoman Karen Bass, LA City Councilman Kevin de León, and real estate developer and former USC board president Rick Caruso. This is going to be a race to watch, for sure.
Local: The election for three Pasadena City Council seats is also underway. No incumbent has lost a Pasadena City Council election since Bill Paparian upset Jo Heckman in 1987, and it doesn’t look like that will change this year, as both of the incumbents running for reelection look to have this race locked up already. The race to watch here will be the open seat in District 7, where incumbent Andy Wilson has announced that he will not seek reelection.
Spotlight on My Past Stories
Back in 2011, I covered the murder trial of a man who assumed the false identity of a Rockefeller: Clark Rockefeller. He was living with a couple in San Marino in the 80s, and in 1985 the couple went missing. The husband’s remains were found in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2011 that forensic experts were able to determine the identity of the remains. Rockefeller, a German national whose real name is Christian Gerhartsreiter, was convicted in 2013 and is currently serving a prison sentence of 27 years to life. During the trial, renowned author Walter Kirn (Up in the Air) reached out to me because of my articles and hired me to send him updates on the trial as he wrote his book about Rockefeller, Blood Will Out, based on his personal interactions with the impostor.
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