Garcetti and wife cross a cultural divide with help of Patsy Cline

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is seen with his wife, Amy Wakeland, in June 2013 at his swearing-in. The couple appeared on a country music radio station Wednesday.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a side of Mayor Eric Garcetti that few in Los Angeles have seen before.

He likes to play the country tune “God Bless the U.S.A.” in his office. He wants to take his wife to a honky tonk saloon in Chatsworth for Valentine’s Day. And he can’t wait to see the Nashville group Lady Antebellum in concert.

He might be a liberal Democrat who hails from a hip Silver Lake neighborhood. But Garcetti was in a decidedly red-state frame of mind Wednesday as he spent an hour on the radio paying tribute to country music.


He and his wife, Amy Wakeland, were morning guests on “Go Country 105” KKGO-FM (105.1), spinning Patsy Cline and Reba McEntire songs for a conservative-leaning audience whose support Garcetti will no doubt need come election time.

For Wakeland, “who’s from this foreign country called Indiana,” as Garcetti put it, it was a rare moment in the public spotlight. If her first pick -- Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” -- raised eyebrows, she sought to reassure listeners that her marriage was in fine shape.

“I thought it would be a fun song to kick the day off with,” she told them. “I don’t think anyone should read anything into it.”

So launched the couple’s hour of twanging fiddles and cowboy culture. Garcetti, a pianist and composer whose taste normally tilts toward jazz, recalled the signature line from the chorus of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.,” a staple of Republican campaign rallies.

“If Lee Greenwood wanted me to play with him, I think I would die and go to heaven,” Garcetti said. “We play ‘Proud to be an American’ in my office all the time, and it would be an amazing experience if he asked me to join him. But I’m just a lowly mayor. I don’t hold out those sorts of hopes.”

Garcetti’s service in the Navy Reserve while on the City Council has long stirred speculation he was positioning himself for higher office. In last year’s race for mayor, he highlighted his Navy record in mail to Republicans.

The appeals to conservatives are important for a mayor whose left-wing moorings are deep enough to sustain a critic’s satirical Twitter feed. (Most recently, it mocked Garcetti for having office yoga led by a “deputy mayor of relaxation & spirituality.”)

On country radio, Garcetti waxed fondly about a Chatsworth saloon he passed at a recent holiday parade. He recalled telling the proprietors: “I’ve got the perfect wife who will love being in this honky tonk bar.”

Wakeland went on to describe her next tune, Terri Clark’s “Better Things to Do,” as “a great breakup song.”

“Again,” Garcetti interjected, “ don’t read anything into these picks.” Wakeland said she loved that the singer “would rather mow her lawn for the 10th time than worry about the breakup.”

Later, Garcetti said the couple might “catch Shania” (no last name required for this audience) next month at Caesars Palace. “I probably could sing half of her songs,” Wakeland said.

“I’d love to take Amy to a Taylor Swift concert, but we might be double the age of anybody there,” Garcetti joked before turning to Blake Shelton’s “Over You,” a remembrance of a brother killed in a car crash.

Tonya Campos, the station’s program director, asked Garcetti to sing one of his own songs. He obliged, slightly off key, with one that he wrote at 7 years old: “Soap helps to make you clean. It is blue, yellow or green. It’ll still make you clean, even if you’re king or queen.”

When conversation turned to country icon George Strait, whom Garcetti will honor with a key to the city on Saturday, Wakeland called him “the handsomest man in country.”

“But don’t read anything into that either,” Garcetti said.

Wakeland got the last pick: Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.” And then Wakeland, too, sang a few bars: “I go out walkin’ … after midnight … searchin’ for you.”

Twitter: @finneganlatimes