Jim Bellows RIP

1 p.m. I get the last seat inside the Westwood Presbyterian Church for Jim Bellows funeral.

I forgot to wear a belt so my parents keep falling down.

Gonna rock this place wigger-style!

It’s filled with uptight goyim all well-dressed and restrained (where are the black people? Why aren’t they mourning Jim in South Central?). I see few tears and hear no sobbing. That’s the way of the goyim. It’s all that faith in Christ, it tends to hold back emotions.

Jim (author of "The Last Editor") worshipped here every week.

I last saw Jim exactly a year ago at the Los Angeles Press Club celebration of the late LA Herald-Examiner.

After the obligatory Scripture readings (Psalms 139, 121, 23 by Pastor Charles L. Orr and John 14, Romans 8 and something from Ephesians by Reverend Peggy Krong), Jim’s granddaughter Sofia Gleeson kicks things off with a guitar solo (Preludios Nos. 4 & 5 by Heitor Villa Lobos).

She performed without a mic and it was hard to hear.

Twenty minutes in, Pastor Charles L. Orr gave a smooth but heartfelt homily.

"Jim was a very moral man," he said. "He was not moralistic. He welcomed us all."

"Jim lived his faith."

After his Sunday sermons, Pastor Orr often encountered "Jim’s famous mumble" when The Last Editor offered critiques and commentary.

Pastor Orr quoted Jim’s favorite saying, "Begin at once and do the best you can."

Two of Jim’s four daughters Priscilla and Justine paid tribute (wearing identical black dresses that stopped six inches above the knee) to their father, followed by his son-in-law Michael Sohigian (an attorney) and capped appropriately by the regal Mary Anne Dolan.

Priscilla recalled sending her father a letter about a decade ago telling him how much she loved him. She then read from Jim’s letter in reply.

Jim’s widow then read a poem of her’s titled "Buddy," after Jim’s first dog.

His last words were, "Where’s my dog?"

Then the goyim sang "I Danced in the Morning."

Here’s a little taste:

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they would not dance and they would not follow me;

Well, Christian, this Pharisee can’t dance because he fears touching women and he fears losing his trousers.

I’m sure Martin Luther would support my choice.

After the benediction, the family filed out first and then we were all out of there.

Those close to the family gathered at the side of the church.

I walked back to my crap car clutching my pants.

It’s what Jim would’ve wanted.

Tony Castro was one of the stars of Jim Bellows’  three year reign at the Herald-Examiner.

Here’s some sound from the funeral:
This is Jim’s pastor Charles L. Orr:

Jim Bellows Daughters Priscilla then Justine Pay Tribute To Their Dad:

Jim Bellows Funeral: His Son-in-Law Michael Sohigian

Part Two, Then Mary Ann Dolan:



I met Jim Bellows Oct. 10, 2002:

Tenex is supposed to reduce narcissism but if my website is any indication, I’m not taking enough.

If I tripled my dose, I’d become meek and mild and think about others.

For the second time this week, I went to a cool party with people much richer, more successful and socially well adjusted than myself.

If I could only whip my memoir into shape, I could really belong to these movers and shakers.

I’m the most transparent and inept social climber.

Author Dennis McDougal (I want to be Dennis McDougal when I grow up) invited me to a swanky party 10/10/02 in Bel Air to celebrate the publication of his new book (written with Mary Murphy of TV Guide) on the Bonny Lee Bakley murder "Blood Cold: Fame, Sex, and Murder in Hollywood."

"Dennis such a great journalist," says a great journalist friend of mine. ‘Why doesn’t he do something worthy with his talents rather than writing these pornographic true-crime books that appeal to sickos?"

I left my hovel at 5:15PM and pack my neuroses in my van. I crawl up the 405 to where the rich people live. I’d glanced at Yahoo maps and had a rough idea of the location, but as is my bent, I did inadequate preparation and get lost, heading towards Woodland Hills on Mulholland Drive.

My self confidence is as shakey as my van. And my van is totally out of whack. It shakes, rattles and rolls. The alignment or something is so bad, I open the door at a traffic light and check my tires, thinking I have a flat. I don’t. A couple of people honk me. I figure it’s because I’m a bad journalist.

I’m feeling incredibly insecure. I worry my van will break down at any time. That I will make a fool of myself at the party. That I will never find it, or that when I do, all the cool people will have left. That nobody will talk to me.

I finally find my way to the party, arriving at 6:20PM. The room is filled with my social betters. The caterers are from this homeless shelter Midnight Feed in downtown LA.

I have two glasses of water, about ten pieces of watermelon and several pieces of pineapple.

This is a posh crowd. Dennis McDougal (no jacket, Hawaiian shirt) introduces me to former LA Times journalist Pat H. Broeske who introduces me to William Knoedelseder, a former LA Times business and entertainment writer who published an investigative look at MCA in 1993 who introduces me to ABC News Nightline correspondent Judy Muller, a live wire. Judy published her autobiography Now This: Radio, Television… and the Real World.

Booklist writes: "Muller, a correspondent with ABC News and a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition, recounts her career path through radio and television and as a single mother raising two girls following a divorce. Muller, from a family of storytellers, is engaging in this honest look at the impossibility of having it all, particularly in a business as competitive and consuming as electronic media. She recounts the challenges of juggling a grueling graveyard shift on the radio and childrearing duties, a brief custody battle before settling into a life of demanding career schedule with little sympathy for the demands of parenting. Muller conveys the pecking order of media that puts radio at the bottom of the prestige ladder and television at the heights. She recalls irascible television personalities and offers a behind-the-scenes look at newsgathering–the frantic digestion of the news before writing up-to-the-minute commentary on stories from the O. J. Simpson trial to the shooting at Columbine High School. This is an engaging look at the media and the real-life management of parenting and career."

I’ve been wondering about the big strapping black man who’s all over this blonde woman in her seventies. Now that’s truly kinky, I think. They’re always holding hands. She lovingly bosses him around. He must be a kept man.

Judy points out it is Rodney King, who’s gone sober and lost a lot of weight. He’s an amiable chap. This woman must be his guardian. She proudly introduces him all around. The only other black people here are the help.

Judy is a smart quick-witted woman. She graciously talks to me. It is here I make my major foupe of the night.

Quotes reconstructed from my flawed memory.

Bill: "How are things at ABC News?"

Judy: "They’re awful… I’ve been through so many regime changes.."

Luke: "How was it when it looked like Letterman was going to replace Nightline?"

Judy: "Horrible."

I had to ask that because I couldn’t give a hoot if Letterman replaced Nightline. In my mind, TV journalist is trash and inherently superficial, relying on captivating pictures.

Luke: "Do you view Nightline as a sacred trust?"

Judy: "Yes."

Luke: "It’s one of the few places where you can still do substantive TV journalism."

Judy: "Yes, and 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday morning. I don’t even count 20/20."

Luke: "I think part of the problem is that people on a high level don’t watch TV."

Judy and her friend Mary look at me with horror.

Mary: "I think I’m on a high level and I watch a lot of TV."

There’s no recovering from my foupe. I’m finished. Mary and Judy passionately disagree with me and launch into their own conversation. I fervently hope that they are the only two people I’ve alienated tonight.

It was at this home a few years ago that Jim Bellows threw a party for Judy’s autobiography.

I wander around, eating bits of fruit and hoping for someone to talk to. When I was writing on my previous beat, I didn’t think I was worthy of hanging out with real journalists. Now I’m meeting a ton of them. I will have lunch with Jill Stewart Friday, dinner with Rick Barrs Monday…

Charles Champlin, frail former of editor of the LA Times Calendar section is here. He saw to it that the Times did not investigate the 1978 David Begelman check-cashing scandal at Columbia finally reported in book-form (Indecent Exposure) by David McClintick. The LA Times was way behind the story in its own home town, exemplifying how out of touch the paper has been with showbiz coverage.

I can tell Pat H. Broeske is one tough woman. She doesn’t take nonsense. She wrote many sharp pieces for Calendar, when it revived in the early ’80s under Irv…

Pat Kingsley, the hated head of publicity firm PMK, told the LA Times Calendar editor Irv that any of his staff could interview Tom Cruise but Pat H. Broeske. Irv called Pat and assigned her the story. Pat didn’t write celebrity profiles but Irv was damned if he’d let Kingsley push him around.

Pat showed up at Tom Cruise’s hotel room at the appointed time. Tom almost had a fit. But he still did the interview.

Today’s LA Times entertainment coverage is dictated by publicists to the paper. Back then, Irv had the attitude that "if we don’t catch you on the way up, we’ll catch you on the way down," and publicists can go to hell.

Pat and former LA Times business/Calendar journalist William Knoedelseder now works in TV. Bill is working on a three hour Bravo documentary on US presidents and their favorite movies. It sounded like a yawner to me but then Bill explained it and it sounded great. A technician at the White House from about 1945 -1986 kept track of the presidents’ viewing habits.

Did you know that the one film that John and Bobby Kennedy saw together was The Manchurian Candidate (about the assassination of a president)?

The favorite film of presidents? High Noon. They must identify with the protagonist. They’re all alone.

Part of me wonders how these high-level journalists can sell out to do TV. I thought there was a natural snobbery and hatred of TV among real writers. But not in LA, I guess.

Print journalists should stop fighting amongst themselves and get together to hate TV and film people.

I thought smart people didn’t watch TV. Certainly anyone who gets his news from TV is a moron.

But I could be wrong. It’s happened before.

I don’t think I offend as many people with my opinions tonight as I did Tuesday night.

I have my eye all night on a tall slender brunette but I fear hitting on her at a classy place like this. She’ll just see what a twerp I am and then I’ll be outed.

I’m around smart successful people. I could learn from them. I should shut up and ease off with expressing my offensive stereotypes. But my psyche best knows only two moods – sheer frozen abject terror and loud preaching of my views.

I want to meet Dennis’s wife Sharon. Pat finally introduces us. We schmooze. Sharon and Dennis have five kids. Sharon introduces me to three of them. And yes, one of them is the brunette (Andrea) I’ve been eyeing all evening. I spend the rest of the night talking to her.

Dennis’s family call him "Mac." His friends call him "Dennis." I want to call him "Mr. McDougal." I don’t think any of his kids are writers.

As I’m walking out, I ask a question of McDougal’s co-author Mary Murphy, a smart-looking blonde. Mary and Dennis investigated the CNN Tailwind scandal and concluded that CNN had the essential story, but they didn’t have it nailed down and ready to broadcast.

A man pulls Mary aside. Stuart (former TV Guide journalist who’s starting a publication for millionaires in Palm Springs) then apologizes to me and he introduces me to Jim Bellows, author of "The Last Editor: How I Saved the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times from Dullness and Complacency." It’s Jim’s home that we’re at.

I have an intense 15-minute conversation with Jim. I must read his book. He’s registered the domain name LAObserver.com, like the New York Observer. He wants to give LA an interesting read.

I lament to him how the NY publications kick the ass of their LA counterparts. How New York Magazine is so superior to LA Magazine. It turns out Jim started New York Magazine.

Jim, like Matt Welch, Ken Layne and Richard Riordan, seeks wealthy investors to give LA a lively paper rather than the somnolent LA Times and LA Weekly, both improved. These guys should all get together and do something. Riordan has the contacts with the money, Jim has the newspaper experience, and Matt and Ken have their youthful impetuosity (but best of all, they have really hot looking wives, Emmanuelle and Laura).

I talk about Matt and Ken with Jim and emphasize that best of all, these two men have really hot looking wives. There’s no more important a quality for somebody starting a newspaper or beginning any other endeavor.

I forget to tell Jim that the first time I met Matt, I asked him what he liked to think about when he masturbated. Our relationships has only improved since then.

Sheesh, if I could pull my memoirs together, I could snag a hot looking wife too.

Rodney King and his guardian are leaving. We introduce ourselves and shake hands.

Luke, worried: "Who’s driving?"

Nobody laughs.

Former real investigative journalist Bill wants to put Rodney King and Reginald Denny together. "Great television," he says.

I know. I can hear your screams from here. There’s an appalling lack of Orthodox Judaism in my report. What would the Talmud say about a bunch of goyim getting together to eat trafe and celebrate a book on whore murder?

An Orthodox rabbi friend leaves me a message: "There’s something charedi (religious) about you that you don’t live in luxury, which is a big point of credibility with certain type of rabbis, compared to more modern rabbis. Even among the ultra-orthodox [many live in luxury]. You sleep on the ground. That’s reminiscent of the dictum in Pirke Arvot – when you toil in Torah, you lie on the ground."

Jacqueline writes: "Luke, this is so entertaining. Matt is reading it too and laughing out loud. Matt and Ken met Jim Belows back in June I think, with Tim Blair. Jill Stewart AND Rick Barrs? Wow. Did you meet Jill at Tuesday’s party? She’s actually at every party, a good friend of Cathy and good pal of us. She even visited Prague when Matt has his paper Prognosis there. She’s awesome. I hope she gets to do what she wants: a great talk show."

AFTER READING JIM’s book after the party, I talked on the phone to Bellows about his plans to start a monthly Los Angeles magazine. He was interested in me writing for him but he never got the funding he needed to get his project off the ground.

He told me he was working on a book about the accomplishments of people after they’ve turned 80.

Then we dropped out of touch.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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