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Political Pickup Lines and Romancing the City

The mayor’s list of who made him who he is approaches an Oscar winner’s speech.

If he has a failing, it may be that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa needs to be loved by everyone. He wants to be everything to everybody. It is a need that approaches neurosis, a need for acceptance that a shrink likely would attribute to the dysfunctional relationship that he has with his father.

Villaraigosa probably would qualify it as with his earthly father, although even there he has some confusion over his origin — or, to be more precise, his political genesis.

Don’t worry about my pontificating about Antonio. If it weren’t that I am his biographer, it is as the mayor pointed out the other day to a group of journalists when he said I knew him the longest and the best, or words to that effect.

Though my editor is now wondering whether I do. He called to point out page 4,044 of my Villaraigosa manuscript.

“You quote the mayor,” he said, “saying, ‘I'm here today as mayor, the first from my community, on the shoulders of Rosa Parks...”

Yeah, he was eulogizing the civil rights icon at her funeral in Detroit. So?

“Well,” the sharp-eyed editor noted, “on page 3,682, you quote the mayor saying, “I’m here on the shoulders of Ed Roybal. I’m mayor because of this great man.

“And on page 3,116, you quote the mayor saying, ‘I am here today as mayor because of Tom Bradley...

“And on page 2,733, you quote the mayor saying, ‘I am here today because of the indomitable spirit and the boundless faith of my mother, Natalia Delgado.

“Then on page 2,192, he says, ‘I’m here today because of the support of one great teacher, Herman Katz...

“And on page 1,416, you have Villaraigosa saying, ‘I’m here because of the love and devotion and support of my wife Corina...

“And on page 849, shortly after he’s elected to the legislature, Villaraigosa is quoted saying, ‘I’m here today because of Gloria Molina...”

I was getting his drift. The mayor either has had lousy speechwriters or one lousy memory.

Not that there was plagiarism involved because Villaraigosa has only been stealing his own words. He was like the guy using the same pickup lines because he knows they work. Remember Clinton and all those women who came out of the woodwork in the 1992 campaign to say that the then governor of Arkansas had propositioned them? It always seemed to be in a hotel room, and they all told stories in which he used practically the same lines. And they all fell for them.

That’s politics. Political consultants often use the same tried-and-true strategies but with different candidates in different states and with a different set of reporters unaware these are political pickup lines.

But Villaraigosa is now working in the vacuum of one city, and he has not been very clever in using the same line over and over again — as to whom he owes for being where he is today.

To his credit, I told my editor, there were times when he didn’t use that same line when he could have, with a remarkable degree of accuracy.

Villaraigosa could have said, “I’m here today on the shoulders of Robert Hertzberg,” when he adopted some of his ideas of former roommate and fellow mayoral candidate and passed them off as his own during the mayor’s campaign.

The mayor could have said, “I’m here today because of Jim Hahn because if he hadn’t been such a self-destructive mayor, I might never have had a second chance.”

And he has never said, “I’m here because of billionaire Eli Broad because if he hadn’t given me a high-paying consulting job after losing the mayor’s race in 2001, I might never have afforded the standard of living that kept me in designer suits and my kids in private schools while I figured out what to do next.”

Just as he could have said, “I’m there today because of Nick Pacheco for setting off his political assault dogs with such a mean and vicious personal attack that he ruined whatever chance he had in our 2003 City Council race.”

And he’s never said, “I’m here because of Fernando Guerra, who was quoted often as saying favorable things about me to the Los Angeles Times, without ever letting the Times know he was a registered City Hall lobbyist currying favor with me as a lap dog.”

And at the Rosa Parks memorial in Detroit, where he uttered his “shoulders of Rosa Parks” remark, he could have easily also said, “And I’m here today on the wings of Ameriquest, which flew me here on a private jet, even though the company has a City Hall lobbyist pressing its interests with me — a violation of city ethics laws.”

But then again, this is a mayor who needs to be loved by everyone, which reminds me of an old friend who needed to be loved by every woman he dated. He would send them roses, all with the same notes, and he would wine and dine them the same way. He would even send them the same book of gushy Rod McKuen poetry. The women didn’t know each other, so there was no way he could be exposed.

But one day, my friend met the woman of his dreams — and courted her the same way he had all the others. In the end, although he truly loved her, she dumped him and broke his heart.

I had tea with her one day and asked why she had spurned my best friend’s love, when he cared so much.

She said the flowers, the candy, the notes and the poetry were all beautiful.

But that they had all just seemed too rehearsed.

Tony Castro can be reached at tcastro@laindependent.com.

Tony Castro Archives


 more . . . Tony Castro
26.JUL.06 The melancholy prince of undercover cops
07.JUN.06 What the election means to Villaraigosa
17.MAY.06 Give us this day, our daily bread
10.MAY.06 Looking for Hemingway
22.FEB.06 Ludlow: The End of the Mayor's Honeymoon?
15.FEB.06 The New American Icon: Heroics and Flaws
18.JAN.06 Villaraigosa: 'I Want My Picture on That Wall'
22.NOV.05 The Remaking of Los Angeles - Part II
16.NOV.05 The Remaking of Los Angeles
09.NOV.05 Political Pickup Lines and Romancing the City
19.OCT.05 Getting Stars to Give Back to Hollywood Blvd.
12.OCT.05 Rod Stewart at 60: D'ya Think He's Still Sexy?
05.OCT.05 Villaraigosaizing the Urban Blighted Dodgers
21.SEP.05 'The Villaraigosas of Hancock Park'
17.AUG.05 Cover Story: Having a Nose for Michael
13.JUL.05 Cover Story: L.A. and the Jedi Mayor
25.MAY.05 Theme Songs for Antonio Villaraigosa
04.MAY.05 Can Hahn Steal the Thunder?
09.FEB.05 Cover Story: The Inevitability of Jim Hahn
02.FEB.05 Cover Story: The Power of Coach K
26.JAN.05 Cover Story: An American in Cuba
19.JAN.05 Cover Story: 'The Earth Is Cracking!'
12.JAN.05 Cover Story: 'Jim Morrison Is Alive'
29.DEC.04 The Best and The Brightest of 2004

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