WHY NOT A VESTAL VIRGIN FOR CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR?
by Ron Kenner
American Reporter Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD -- Why not a vestal virgin? And if she doesn't do a good job as governor, we can always dump her into a volcano and hope for the best next time. Don't laugh. This is California!
I actually once saw a young but shapely - and, of course, thinly-clad - "virgin" dumped into a smoking volcano out here - and it wasn't a pretty picture.
The virgin sacrifice must have been in '72, as best I figure it, when I went with my wife, Mary, to one of those office Christmas party dinners in a Hawaiian restaurant about the size of Soldier's Field in Chicago. It was on the outskirts of L.A. and we had to park in a parking lot so far away we had to be shuttled to the restaurant, big enough for 7,000 people at one sitting. Really!
No, sir. We never do things on a small scale, not in Southern California. At another Hawaiian restaurant here, there were not only periodic rainstorms inside, but suddenly a huge clap of thunder that caused me to jump right out of my chair.
I thought that was the "be-all and end-all" until Mary and I saw all of those poor volcano-feeding virgins. That evening, sometime between the skewered barbecue and an impressive Mai Tai, I noticed another shapely virgin - quite a few more, actually - all enticed by the promise of martyrdom (and a few bucks) to assist with former L.A. Mayor Sam Yorty's latest cause.
One at a time, each picture-perfect nubile sacrificial virgin literally went over the edge - as many do here. They went quietly, chanting, screaming, cajoled, pushed or heartily thrown into a supposedly bottomless pit of smoke and leaping flames.
The "human sacrifices" went into that colorfully-lit volcano every hour on the hour all night to kick off Yorty's reelection campaign against candidate Tom Bradley.
Well-suited for the growing international mix of Los Angeles, Bradley was light-skinned black man, and among his other talents had been a cop. How much more establishment could he be? He'd even been a great track star for UCLA who ran in the 1936 Olympics.
Yorty, already in office for some eight years, needed all the help he could get. A bunch of sacrificial virgins, he figured, couldn't hurt. The comely virgins - all survived the volcano -- got a big kick out of it, but Yorty lost his reelection bid anyway.
Unlike Governor Gray Davis today, who's just one year into his second four-year term, the voters felt Yorty had been around long enough. That must have seemed like a long time, though Bradley himself would be mayor for five consecutive terms, from 1973 to 1993. Now we're in the computer age and, like the wild swings of the stock market, we're on the fast track.
Unlike Bradley, who beat Yorty on his second try, Yorty must have felt he'd run his course. Later, when Los Angeles' airport was renamed Bradley Terminal, Yorty shrugged, "Big deal. Who'll know a hundred years from now?"
But the virgin dumping or leaping into the volcano - accompanied by other pyrotechnics, that's something you may remember a hundred years later. Oh, the sacrifices we make for California!
In the mid-t0-late '60s, I was a Metro staffer for the Los Angeles Times and was around "Travelin' Sam" more than once when he refered to blacks as "niggers" and "monkeys." In fairness to Sam, in the '50s and '60s in Southern California I heard more than one fire chief and police chief sound off the same way about blacks, especially after the 1965 Watts Riot.
The historian Vernon Parrington once suggested that "because of our tendency not to speak ill of the dead our history has been whitewashed beyond reason." Yet some here still miss Yorty and speak well of him, like former Mayor Richard Riordan, now out of the race though "stunned" by Schwarzenegger's surprise decision to run.
Yet Yorty was still the first mayor in Los Angeles to integrate his staff (adding blacks, Hispanics and Asians) and also the first to appoint a woman as deputy mayor. Maybe Yorty planned to dump her into the volcano, though she was no vestal virgin.
Too bad Sam died about five years ago. He'd be perfect to run for governor along with Schwarzenegger, and maybe the big busted gal, Angelyne, still on many of the billboards her boyfriend owned. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi is in and more the colorful Congressman Darrell Issa (with his embarrassing arrest record) is out, along with his $100-million-plus bank account. Republican Senator Tom McClintock is also in. Currently, the most popular candidate is Schwarzenegger. On Thursday afternoon the Supreme Court was considering some five issues, any one of which might determine the time of the recall.
I admit that Schwarzenegger might be a smart guy. Who knows? I liked it when he killed the alligator and said, as I best recall now, "So long, baby. You're luggage!" But so far we know practically nothing about the positions of any of the recall candidates, yet one of them might be voted in with an extremely small fraction of the state's voters.
The dam holding back the Democrats not running against Davis has already sprung a leak. Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein won't run but Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is now a candidate. The independent commentator and columnist Arianna Huffington - a good deal smarter since her divorce, I think - has tossed her hat in. And there seems a fair likelihood that we might well end up with a tightwad Republican governor in a state with the most liberal voting record in the nation.
At least with Yorty, a conservative Democrat who endorsed Nixon, we knew were he stood on things, even if it was frequently in a dumb place. Given the long-accumulated problems of Southern California, maybe we shouldn't blame Davis or prior politicians for the mess.
Who knows? Maybe the problem is that way back, one of the sacrificial virgins wasn't really a virgin - just acted like one. The gods do seem to be unhappy with California!
Ron Kenner is a Hollywood-based writer and editor. Reach him at email@example.com.