‘It kind of makes you feel good, that people really care out there.’
Just three weeks ago, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Alexander Gomez was the picture of dejection.
He was the one who came up with the idea of throwing a benefit concert for the Police Department’s Hollenbeck Youth Center, a gym for the children of East Los Angeles that was created 12 years ago by the Hollenbeck Division station and local business owners.
It was also Gomez who had the audacity to ask Linda Ronstadt to sing. When she accepted, the duty fell on Gomez to sell 30,000 tickets to the Fourth of July weekend spectacular at Cal State Los Angeles.
That’s when the sergeant’s outlook began to sour. With only three weeks to go, sales were stalled at about 3,000 tickets and Gomez was beginning to have nightmares about Ronstadt singing before nearly empty stands at the university’s track field.
Having hit bottom, Gomez, 43, sat glumly over a burrito in a Mexican cafe across from the Hollenbeck police station on East 1st Street, facing his imminent humiliation.
“Why in the world am I doing this?” the 20-year police veteran asked. “It’s so much easier for me to go out on patrol and put my suspect in jail and go home.”
But then, a Times story about Gomez’s plight touched off a response that the streetwise officer is finding difficult to comprehend. The day after its publication, hundreds of people called the police station to offer help.
“People took chunks of 50, 100, 200, 500 tickets,” Gomez said. “They went to their organizations and started selling them.”
The management of a hospital and a department store took tickets that they sold through their employees.
An anonymous donor bought several thousand and instructed Gomez to give them to those who could not afford the $10 admission.
As a result, the stands were packed for both Saturday and Sunday concerts. Gomez estimates that the event will net $150,000 for the youth center.
The success had Gomez soaring Monday.
“It was just an incredible response,” he said. “It kind of makes you feel good, that people really care out there.
“If we could do this again next year, on a bigger scale . . . " he mused. “Every city across the country could put together something like this on the same night, and the money from each city would be donated to specific youth groups.
“Those are just thoughts,” he said. “Imagination.”