Just trying to act natural

Times Staff Writer

Los ANGELES City Controller Laura Chick strutted onto the catwalk wearing a long black linen jacket and an attitude. Following close behind was mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg, grinning and throwing hugs to the crowd as he showed off his azure-colored hemp mandarin shirt.

Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge donned an oversized bomber jacket made of wool. He got hoots from the audience when he struggled to take it off, briefly exposing his belly. “You’re on the wrong stage, Tom,” joked Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison, who moderated the spectacle in which none of the participants seemed destined to audition for “America’s Next Top Model.”

Instead, this is what happens when public officials try to double as models; it’s not necessarily pretty, but at least it’s for a socially conscious cause.


On Thursday night, more than 30 politicians -- most of them city council members from Los Angeles and nearby localities -- made their modeling debut at the Coalition for Clean Air’s second annual fashion show.

The public officials showed off garments donated by environmentally minded companies -- like Patagonia, Timberland and Earth Speaks. The clothing, mostly natural fibers, naturally, was then auctioned off to members of the audience in an effort to raise money for the coalition, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to cleaning up the air in California.

“You can buy everything you see tonight,” coalition President Tim Carmichael told the crowd of about 300. “That is, the clothes.”

For some of the politicians, this was their second time participating in the annual event, held at the California Market Center’s Fashion Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

“I was told that my clothes sold for the most last year, so I felt obligated for the sake of clean air to come back,” said Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti. “Last year, I threw my jacket off and into the crowd. So tonight ... I will try to keep as much of my clothes on as legally permissible.” (He later tossed his jacket -- made of green hemp and cotton -- to a woman in the first row.)

Los Angeles Councilwoman Wendy Greuel stepped onto the stage wearing a red wool dress and holding the hand of her little boy, Thomas, 17 months old. The toddler smiled broadly. “I think he’s a natural,” Greuel said after the show.

Hertzberg, the only mayoral candidate to accept the invitation to participate in the event, said he canceled a trip to San Francisco to be there.

“I didn’t want to miss it,” he said. “It’s an important statement to the community. It’s a way we can do great things for the environment and just have great fun.”

The coalition, based in downtown Los Angeles, has spent 30 years working on a variety of issues, including getting old diesel school buses off the road, reducing pollution in California’s ports and pressuring utility companies to increase their use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

“It’s all about clean air, so it’s good,” said LaBonge, who sauntered down the stage to the song “I Love L.A.” “I just want to bring it to the people.”

Although LaBonge was a hit with the crowd, Chick, whose audit alleging that PR firm Fleishman-Hillard overbilled the Department of Water and Power by more than $4 million has caused a stir at City Hall, was clearly the most popular. She received rousing applause as she strutted to the song “I Love Rock N’ Roll.”

Morrison offered this observation: “The controller is in control.”

Chick just smiled and waved to her fans.