Villaraigosa: 'I Want My Picture on That Wall'
TONY CASTRO, Columnist 18.JAN.06
|Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lucy Casado, owner of Lucy's El Adobe Cafe in Hollywood. Photo by Nadia Wehbe|
Politics: Once Jerry Brown’s hangout, Lucy’s El Adobe opens its doors to the new favorite son.
moment Antonio Villaraigosa laid eyes on the eastern wall in the main
room at Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe in Hollywood, he became like a child on
The wall is covered in photographs of some of the
most prominent names in American politics and pop culture — from the
late Hubert Humphrey to Ronald Reagan, from Dolly Parton to Drew
Barrymore, from Cesar Chavez to Steven Spielberg.
Villaraigosa, who has been on the cover of Newsweek and treated like a
celebrity almost everywhere he goes, seeing this collection of a
virtual Walk of Fame meant just one thing:
“I want my picture on that wall.”
he repeated it a moment later, it almost sounded like a Christmas wish.
After all, the person showing him the room and introducing him to each
table of diners was wearing red, though it wasn’t Santa nor Mrs. Claus.
It was Lucy Casado, the owner of the popular Mexican restaurant
on Melrose Avenue, which for more than two generations has been the
political-cultural salon of Hollywood.
When he was governor,
Jerry Brown used the restaurant’s west room for his virtual Los Angeles
office as well as his rendezvous with Linda Ronstadt, who once cruised
in on roller skates to give Brown a loving kiss while he met with two
suits who looked on enviously.
Jackson Browne, Glen Frey and Don
Henley of the Eagles, Jimmy Webb, the late Nicollette Larson, George
Lucas, Gene Roddenberry among others have all called on their muses on
One of the musicians on Lucy’s Wall of Fame is jazz
saxophonist Mindy Abair who hit No. 1 on the jazz charts with a track
titled “Lucy’s.” The night the song topped the charts, Lucy was dining
with her friend Tom Selleck, who, upon hearing the news walked over and
surprised Abair with his personal congratulations.
many others in the music and entertainment industry, suggests that
there is something mystical about Lucy’s El Adobe, some nourishing
nectar beyond the margaritas and arroz con pollo that has always
brought success to most who make regular pilgrimages there.
offer, as example, Jimmy Hahn who for most of his 24-year political
career swore by the ambrosia of El Adobe, even during the 2001 mayoral
campaign when he overcame a primary setback to defeat Villaraigosa.
then this year, though he had the Casados backing, Hahn made an offhand
remark to Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez that dining at Lucy’s
had become “cliché.”
Several months and a humiliating defeat
later, Hahn is dining at taco stands in San Pedro, supplanted this
night at Lucy’s by the politician for whom nothing is cliche, who at
this moment has just one thing on his mind.
“I want my picture on that wall,” the mayor says for the third time.
Casado, however, is not your typical Los Angeles voter. She has seen
charisma, and it alone is not enough. Witness Bill Clinton. His picture
is not on her Wall of Fame.
Villaraigosa, at least, is in the
running. She is open to the idea, though it is nothing she had
considered one way or the other, even after he made history as becoming
the city’s first Latino mayor in modern times.
And, to be sure,
Casado is a diehard Latino loyalist. Her late husband, Frank, was one
of the founders of the Mexican American Political Association, the
state’s oldest Latino political organization.
But Lucy Casado,
possibly even more than Frank, has been more discriminating in wearing
her ethnicity on her sleeves. Having been around people with charisma
and beautiful smiles in Hollywood all her adult life, she didn’t swoon
over Villaraigosa four years ago and she remained loyal to Hahn last
spring, cliché or no cliché.
Casado didn’t even think
Villaraigosa would want to visit her restaurant until her friend, Los
Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge insisted he join him for a
fundraiser at El Adobe.
Olive branches aren’t on the menu, but this was clearly what was served by both sides.
the suitor, Villaraigosa made it abundantly clear he wanted to belong.
He met each of the cooks and waiters separately, and he dutifully
stayed at Casado’s side as she showed off a part of his city that he
had never seen before.
As for the picture on the wall, well, like all the good places in Hollywood, you have to stand in line.
Tony Castro can be reached at email@example.com.
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