Working Up Appetite for Secession Crow
City Hall Night had come to the Club Karaoke and Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg was taking the stage.
“This song is dedicated to a swell guy who couldn’t be here tonight,” she said. “Mike Hernandez, this one goes out to you.”
Close your eyes and you’d have sworn it was Tammy Wynette herself up there. But I hadn’t come for the music. I’d come to lobby Deputy Mayor Barbie.
“Look,” I was telling my diminutive friend, “if the Valley ever really breaks away from L.A., it will all be your boss’s fault. If I have to eat crow, the least Dick Riordan can do is fly Paul Prudhomme out from New Orleans to cook for me.”
The chopsticks were taller than she is, but Barbie nimbly flipped a hunk of sushi into the air and somehow caught it in that pretty mouth that never opens. She’s been a Riordan confidant ever since he retooled Mattel.
“You sound worried,” Barbie said between sips of sake. “You sound like you think the Valleyistas will cram that buzzard down your throat.”
Just covering the contingencies.
Barbie was checking out the playlist, deciding what she might sing.
“Aretha or Madonna? ‘Natural Woman’ or ‘Like a Virgin’?”
“If there’s ever a secession vote,” I pressed on, “things will get nasty. That would be Dick Riordan’s legacy.”
Goldberg finished to a rousing ovation and Richard Alatorre took the stage. The sound of a cash register came over the speakers--the intro to Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
“Your boss could have stopped all this faster than you can say Paula Boland, but he flip-flopped all over town. So Mr. Big Shot Businessman, the guy who was supposed to bring us together, winds up supporting people who compare L.A. to the Balkans.”
Barbie plucked the umbrella out of my Mai Tai.
“Say it. Don’t spray it,” she sneered.
“So then,” I continued, “Hizzoner thinks the Valleyistas will help him get the kind of charter reform he likes. He dips into his millions and gets his rich pals to pony up some more, but then what happens? The voters approve the commission, but they reject his candidates.
“He was all ready to line up private bucks for the commission to do its work. But now he hems and haws before he’s finally embarrassed into getting the dough, as promised. All this makes the Valleyistas say, ‘See, charter reform won’t work--the only answer is secession.’ ”
Now Joel Wachs was taking the stage, ignoring the hisses and catcalls from his colleagues. He launched into an old Three Dog Night tune: One is the loneliest number . . .
“But charter reform isn’t the worst of it,” I told Barbie. “The worst of it was this Charter Amendment J thing. I mean, Riordan gets voted in because he convinces people that he’s a smart, hardheaded businessman determined to fix City Hall. So then he backs this J thing, saying it will make government more responsive by allowing more supervisors to be hired that are exempt from Civil Service protection.
“So Dick says vote for J and we vote for J. But what happens? Turns out J is so poorly written that it does the opposite of what it was supposed to do--the number of exempt managers actually decreases. And the mayor’s own former chief of staff says it’s the Riordan administration’s fault.”
The deputy mayor for damage control offered no defense. But then, what defense could there be?
“So you promised to eat crow the day the Valley secedes,” Barbie said. “And you want Dick to fly out a gourmet chef to cook it for you?”
Then I explained how, on a Thanksgiving morning a few years back, my mouth watered as I listened to a radio feature about a fantasy feast prepared by some of America’s top chefs. Wolfgang Puck described his appetizer, Julia Child served her pumpkin soup, and so on. Prudhomme’s turkey was no ordinary bird.
I can’t remember the whole recipe, but it involved duck and chicken too. First you debone a duck, a chicken and a turkey. You stuff the duck inside the chicken, then the chicken inside the turkey. Then you truss it with twine, stick it in an oven set to something like 225 degrees at midnight and let it cook for 13 hours. Something like that anyway. And stuffing crow inside the duck might not taste so bad.
“Your boss said he was tough enough to turn L.A. around,” I reminded Barbie. “Not dumb enough to tear it apart.”
Barbie wasn’t paying attention. There was too much of a commotion as the deejay introduced the next performer.
“Oh my God,” she said.
“This is dedicated to the one I love!” Mayor Riordan chortled.
I couldn’t place the melody but it made the deputy mayor groan. Later I would learn that it was “Barbie Girl,” by some Danish group called Aqua, and that it was No. 9 with a bullet on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The mayor crooned:
Make me walk, make me talk
Do whatever you please
I can act like a star
I can beg on my knees!
Everybody howled with laughter. Everybody, that is, but the deputy mayor. She wore that happy plastic expression that fools so many people. Inside, she was seething.
“Doesn’t he know that Mattel sued MCA Records for trademark violation?” she muttered. “It’s so sexist. It’s so demeaning to me and my kind.”
“Appalling,” I said. “Absolutely appalling.”
Scott Harris’ column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Readers may write to him at The Times’ Valley Edition, 20000 Prairie St. , Chatsworth, CA 91311, or via e-mail at email@example.com Please include a phone number.