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In the Southland, It Takes Real Grit to Breathe the Air

Once and for all, can we cool it with the stupid regional slurs directed at the people of Southern California?

I, for one, am tired of apologizing for being from this place, greater Los Angeles. I’m tired of having to squint and spit and hook my thumbs in my belt so everyone in America east of Barstow doesn’t think I’m a sissy.

The issue has come to a head, now that the tough guys from Boston are playing the sweethearts from L.A. in the NBA championship series.

Out-of-town writers and Celtics are having a field day at our expense.

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Sure, it’s easy to poke fun at the stereotypes out here. But haven’t we heard enough one-liners about wimps, quiche and Rodeo Drive?

Isn’t it time to set the record straight?

L.A. is a tough town.

Yes, we do have our sushi joints, tanning parlors, fern bars, salad bars and face-lift factories.

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We also have our pool halls, porn shops, strip joints, tattoo parlors and mud-wrestling arenas.

True, we do have Hollywood stars, record moguls and religious gurus.

We also have rednecks, gangsters, outlaw bikers, muggers, politicians and insurance salesmen.

I keep hearing how folks in the East are tough because they have to deal with the harsh reality of winter snowstorms.

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Ever hear of smog? Our smog is so tough it scared the Russians away from the last Olympics.

Don’t tell me about blue collars. I keep hearing about the Eastern-style, blue-collar people and fans, like those in Boston. We’ve got blue collar here, too, pal. Who do you think fixes our plumbing? Warren Beatty?

A popular misconception is that we’re all soft because we hang out at the beach all day, surfing. Ever hear of Santa Monica Bay? It’s a beautiful bay, but the sewage stored there has been contaminated by the leakage of a fairly high level of sea water.

Fishermen working Santa Monica Bay don’t use poles. They sit around and wait for the fish to surrender.

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You’ve got a high crime rate in your area, right? What, muggers and purse snatchers? We’ve got government contractors.

We even steal our water here. In broad daylight though a huge aqueduct.

What are we supposed to do, apologize because in some neighborhoods here it’s safe to walk your dog after sunset? Unless it’s a poodle, of course. There’s a bounty on poodles here.

And don’t tell me about your tough cops and our Beverly Hills cops. Your cops knock down the door. Our cops leave the door up, but knock down the house.

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What about movie stars, you say? What about ‘em? I’m sick of hearing about all the movie stars at Laker games. As if being in a movie or on TV automatically certifies a person’s wimpyness.

Granted, we do have Richard Simmons, Charles Nelson Reilly, Michael Jackson and Lawrence Welk. But we’ve also got Chuck Norris, Sly Stallone, Kirk Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jane Fonda.

Quiche-eating politicians? Jerry Brown, right?

OK, one point for you. But remember, we gave the world Richard Nixon. Most experts agree that if Nixon had been a basketball player, he would have been a forward for the Celtics.

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I always hear how nice our athletes are. Steve Garvey. Rod Carew. What about Jack Youngblood, Matt Millen and John (Maniac) Tolos? Tolos is a local wrestler who once permanently blinded Freddie Blassie by throwing acid in Blassie’s eyes. Blassie miraculously recovered a few hours later, but Tolos later told me: “Me and Blassie still don’t see eye to eye.”

What about Jim Brown? He moved here because Cleveland wasn’t tough enough.

What about Don Drysdale? He used to think you got extra points for actually sticking a pitch in the batter’s ear.

I’m sick of hearing about our effete fans. Leave the games early, blah, blah, blah. Just because L.A. fans don’t all stay around for the postgame sock hop and cop-car roast.

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Fans here leave early so they can race to the freeways to play their favorite game, “Danny Sullivan vs. Mario Andretti.”

As for the local basketball players, well, I guess you can see for yourself how valid the Lakers’ reputation for wimpyness is.

I’m not sure how that pretty-boy Lakers business got started. The Lakers won the big enchilada in 1980 and 1982. Who do you think they beat in the finals those seasons? UCLA?

The Lakers’ center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was close personal friends with Bruce Lee. Michael Cooper is also a martial artist, of sorts. He doesn’t break boards, but with his bare hands Cooper can whittle an elm tree into a totem pole.

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I’d like to close with a word--the last one, I hope--about quiche. Have you ever tried it? You’ve got to be tough to eat that stuff and keep smiling.

I hope I have cleared up some misconceptions here, given a clearer picture of the real Southern California.

Enjoy the rest of the series, Boston fans. And on behalf of the Lakers, I apologize for any inconvenience their players may cause the Celtics.


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