"She's Ruining Mozza", I Am Part of the Resistance Against Nancy Silverton, An Anonymous Op-Ed

In a shocking and controversial opinion-editorial published anonymously in the Los Angeles Times, the writer of the scathing piece, a high-ranking employee of the celebrated Mozza Corner,  asserts schef/owner Nancy Silverton  is dangerously close to ruining her beloved restaurants at the intersection of Highland and Melrose in Hollywood South.

The Op-Ed paints an organization in turmoil with other high-ranking employees banding together like a renegade outfit in effort to reign in Silverton, perhaps the single most admired chef in the United States.

However, the Times is getting tons of criticism for publishing the piece anonymously, and Silverton and her cadre have expressed disgust and worse. While Silverton herself has called the writer "gutless" and and "a nimrod", her chief of security, Michael Krikorian, has vowed to find the culprit and "spray paint his or her bitch-ass hair purple and drop the gutless wonder off in the Nickersons," referring to the Bounty Hunter Blood-controlled Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts which is associated with the color red. In other words, a death sentence.

Below is the actual op-ed.   For the record, we here at K Writes do not agree, support or condone anonymous articles. 

"I am part of the resistance to chef Nancy Silverton and her running and, dare I say, close to ruining the Mozza Corner. As a high-ranking member of her staff, I can say I am not alone. I will list a few particulars that I feel paint a portrait of a woman who travels too much. whose "inspirations and creations"  are often stolen from other chefs from faraway lands and who always seems just a wee little too nice to strangers.

For example, from June 19 to July 25, the peak of summer business, Silverton was not at the Corner at all, choosing instead to travel to Umbria, Italy and leave the city's most important restaurants in the hands of two young Korean-Americans, a white girl with the last name of Nguyen and an Italian American whose mind is focused almost entirely on someone named Zoe, his girlfriend who lives 2,299 miles away in Washington D.C..

Can you imagine Girardet or Bottura or Soltner  or Cecchini leaving their restaurants for a month during the busiest season and putting glorified teenagers in charge?

In the office, a confusion not seen since Watergate cover-up reigns supreme. The conversation there runs the gambit from Donald Trump to wedding planning to geometric purses to the Dodgers, but rarely does the topic of how to improve the restaurants come up  Though Silverton does not have a desk. she has a "Slot box" on the wall where her mail goes. and she often uses the desk of her chief aide-de-camp. Kate Green, as a drop point.. 

In one recent incident of thwarting Silverton's travel plans, a group of us in the "resistance", took out an invitation for Nancy to cook in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Iraqi army retaking Mosul from ISIS.  She is so excited to travel anywhere she often doesn't do research into where she is going. A trip to Mosul could not possibly  benefit Mozza. Thanks to myself and others, she never knew of this hair-brained invitation.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left or right. We want the Nancy administration to succeed and think that many of her policies have already made Los Angeles a far better dining city. 

But we believe our first duty is to the Corner, and Nancy Silverton continues to sometimes act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our beloved Mozza..

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"The Fastest Dreamer" Daniel Zaragoza, Mozza2Go Go Go's Marathon Man, Is Off To Boston

Last year, while eating at the counter at Mozza2Go, I struck up a conversation with a new employee named Daniel Zaragoza. He told me a little about himself and, when I asked more, he said he was a Dreamer, having come to California  from Mexico at age two or three and then, almost casually, like it was no big deal, added he had recently run his first marathon, the L.A. one, finishing as the 20th fastest racer in the event and fifth fastest American.

I nodded and said said something like "Good for you", all the while thinking to myself, "Yeah, sure you're right. And I play centerfield for the New York Yankees."

Later that night, at home, I, for the hell of it, looked up the results of the 2017 Los Angeles Marathon. Damn, that dreamer wasn't just dreaming. Listed at 20th overall and the fifth American. with a time of 2:35.24.  was Daniel Zaragoza,  aka Mozza2Go Go Go's Marathon Man. The Fastest Dreamer. 

For the stat folks out there, Daniel was only 52 seconds off the time of the woman's professional champion, Hellen Jerkurgat of, big surprise, Kenya and less than. 12 minutes off the fastest American professional marathoner,  John Pickhaver. 

Daniel Zaragoza, 24,  was born in Veracruz, Mexico on October 4, 1993, but he has no memory of there. 

"My earliest memories are of Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles," he said, adding he attended Griffin Avenue Elementary, Florence Nightingale Middle and Abraham Lincoln High School.   At Lincoln High, he ran cross country and track & field in his junior and senior years. Daniel won his league's champion for cross country and made it to the finals for the citywide event.  "As a kid, I didn't understand what it was to be undocumented," he said. 

It wasn't until he was a senior ii high school that he fully understood the ramifications.

"Everyone was talking about universities, but i didn't really have a option," Daniel said. That troubled  him. "I am the only dreamer in my family. All of my cousins and siblings are citizens and so are most of my friends. It's hard sometimes not to be able to talk to someone about it.".

 So he escaped. With a pair of worn out running shoes..

"When I ran, i felt equal. It didn't matter where you came from, how much money you have. It was about who wanted it the most and who would train the hardest."

After high school, Daniel went to East LA College. He received a $500 scholarship which covered his first semester. He couldn't work because he didn't have a social security card, but his parents saved up and paid for the another semester. 

Daniel credits the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, (DACA) for allowing him to continue his education.

"Thanks to the Dream act, i was able to transfer to Cal State LA. where I ran for the team there with a partial athletic scholarship," said Daniel, who graduated in May, 2017.

Daniel runs and trains with BlacklistLA, the "Run Organization" founded in 2013 that you may have seen at a late night red light near you.  You know, those 200 or 300 crazy folks running through the streets at midnight? All them seemingly smiling and loving this city. They make you want to park your car and join them, even if your not in running shape.  

"BlacklistLA has been an terrifically positive influence for my running," Daniel said as he prepared to leave Mozza2Go and get on a plane Thursday night bound for Boston. "They have supported me and without them I wouldn't be going to Boston" 

Daniel credits BlacklistLA founder Erik Valiente for being a mentor to him. 

"Erik is someone I talk to about my goals and he does his best to guide me."

Now, the soft spoken dreamer - who I didn't believe at first - is all about motivating others.

"My goal is to make my own company.that inspires others to become whoever they want to be. I want to be able to go around the nation and talk to people and give them motivation, specially dreamers. Being a dreamer is very difficult. I used to hide away from it all the while others where out there fighting for my rights. Now that I'm older, i feel more secure about who I am and not afraid to stand up for dreamers, but in my own way."

And those worn out shoes? They been replaced by some $300 Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%ers.

It's supposed to rain Monday on the Marathon in Boston, but that won't slow this dreamer down.   

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Laughter At The Gloomiest Place In Town

“To the memory of those who made us laugh: the motley mountebanks, the clowns, the buffoons, in all times and in all nations, whose efforts have lightened our burden a little, this picture is affectionately dedicated.” – “Sullivan’s Travels”, 1941 Preston Sturges film.

The gloomiest population in all of Los Angeles is found at the Sunday morning gathering in the inmate visitor’s waiting room of the Men’s Central Jail, aka CJ..  

There may be more doomed locales in town – the coroner’s identification room, a hospice where the only hope is that the end will soon come – but, for a mass gathering of gloom, nothing beats the CJ crowd on a Sunday.

It’s depressing here every day, but there’s something extra glum about the Sunday morning visit. Perhaps it's the thoughts visitors have of being elsewhere: Of still being in bed or attending a morning church service or taking the family on a Sunday drive or having some early cold ones with the boys before the resurgent Rams or Chargers play an outta town game at 10 a.m..

Instead, here they are, in the main lockup of the largest jail system in the United States where nearly 20,000 inmates are housed. Some of the visitors are seeing loved ones off before they take the long bus ride to Corcoran or Susanville or even San Quentin's Death Row. Some are there to encourage those still facing trial. But, most are there to let the incarcerated know they are not forsaken.

Me, I’ve been here I don’t know how many times. I think less than a 100, but that I even have to think that lets you know I’m no stranger to the gloom. I’ve even been the one the visitors were waiting to see.

Last Sunday, I was there to visit an old friend, one Cleamon “Big Evil” Johnson. I first wrote in the Los Angeles Times about Johnson, who has been called the most violent gang member in the city by homicide detectives, back in 1997 when he was convicted of ordering a double and sentenced to the Row. (He spent over 14 years there before his conviction was overturned by the California Supreme Court and he awaits retrial here.)

I bring this all up because of what happened that last Sunday as I waited in the gloomiest room to see him.

I arrived just after 7 a.m. for my scheduled 8 a.m. visit and took a seat on a green metal bench in the “Hi-Power” visitors waiting area of the roughly 12,000 square foot, brightly-lit room. I sat facing the interior of the room, not toward the wall where television was mounted and playing something that – with just a quick glance – struck me as buffoonish.

Facing me in the row across from mine about four feet away were several people including a very solemn looking 40ish black guy, ‘bout 6-4, 250, wearing low top white Converse. Next to him was a grandmotherly looking tiny Mexican lady with a blue and grey scarf. And next to her, also wearing white low top Converse, was a late 20s woman telling a lengthy story in English and Spanish to a middle-aged Latino who was all ears. Behind them, facing me in the next row, was the only white lady here, a toothless meth-looking type with a three-year old kid in tow. There were close to 20 others nearby, but those folks caught my eye

I took out a few sheets of paper and started writing something. Less than a minute later, I heard a lady right behind me bust out with a short burst of laughter.  I didn’t pay it much mind and wrote on. But, maybe 30 seconds later, she laughed again, this time louder and longer. I looked up and tiny grandma is looking up at the TV behind me and smiling. So is storyteller girl. Even solemn big black looks like he is almost fighting off a grin.

I turn to look what’s on the TV and see a white family on a lake outing having difficulty in their boat. An oar goes flying off their boat and the visitors around me laugh louder.

I turn back just to watch the reaction to these people waiting to see their (allegedly) criminal loved ones. Instead of writing what I had planned, I start to take notes on these people. Something else happens and big black gives up and starts laughing. Story teller girl has abandoned her tale and is mesmerized on the plight of the white family. Even Miss Meth is chuckling in loud staccato bursts.

I take a quick look backward at the television. By now, the apparent father is running for his life away from a speeding truck. Of course, dad is running directly in front of the truck in a straight line down the center of the road, having clearly never seen a Gale Sayers highlight reel.

This brings gales of laughter.   Pryor and Carlin would love this crowd.   

Then, suddenly, there is silence as the truck driver gets out and is about to confront dad. He looks like he’s about to clobbered pops with a straight right hand, but instead he unfurls his hand to reveal a ring.

“My ring! He found my missing ring,” mom says. Back to the visitors. They are all smiling. Close call. Big black has a tender smile. So does grandma and the white girl, too.

A few seconds later, there’s another round of laughter. I have been to open mic comedy shows with less mirth.

I am reminded – as any film buff reading this might be – of that ending scene in Preston Sturgis’ 1941 classic “Sullivan’s Travels” when inmates are howling with laughter as they watch a clip of Walt Disney’s 1934 cartoon “Playful Pluto”.

On this Sunday, the mood suddenly reverts to reality when a deputy sheriff starts calling out names of inmates. The laughter stops. The smiles fade. Big black goes back to stern. He gets up when his inmate’s name is called.  

When "Johnson, Cleamon" name is called, I go to my assigned row (H-12) and have my visit. I tell him about the laughter in the waiting room. He says, “I guess they need a good laugh before coming to see us.”

When I got home, I checked the TBS website for their programming. It turns out we were watching “Vacation”, the 2015 remake of the 1983 Chevy Chase “National Lampoon Vacation”, starring someone named Ed Helms.  This version had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 26%, but for the crowd at CJ it might as well been “Some Like It Hot. “

I hope you never have to visit a loved one at CJ. But, if you do, let me give you some advice. Before you make your appointment, check the listings of TBS. If Vacation is playing, see if you can schedule your visit about an hour after it comes on.

And even if you don't ever go to Men's Central, - and I'm doubting that you will - you oughta still check out something funny, even if it's on the stupid side. Lotta people looking for a laugh these days, even if they ain't visiting someone on their way to Pelican Bay. 

You don't want to get the green light here.

You don't want to get the green light here.

Tow Truck Drivers; The Unsung First Responders Of Los Angeles

It’s midnight on Saturday, it’s Tuesday rush hour, it’s Sunday morning and, at long last, you see him on the horizon. Your knight in an imposing, lights-flashing, get-out-of-my-way chariot. The crowd parts. It’s the tow truck driver is coming to the rescue.  

The tow truck driver in modern-day Los Angeles is the equivalent of a knight in several tons of amour, the LAPD showing up when the drunk fool just rear-ended you, the Fire Department coming to get your cat off the hot tin roof.  But, tow truck drivers don’t get the respect they should. It's not a revered position in our car-crazed society.

But, the Tow truck driver, especially in our city, is one of the noble professions. They are – with cops, firemen and emergency service worker- our city's first responders.

Yet, they are just about taken for granted. They usually don’t get tipped. Well, maybe some of you do, but it’s not a given. The server who walks a plate of braised short ribs with polenta 25 feet from the kitchen to your table and asks if you like your red wine “light and fruity” or “something more full-bodied” gets at least 20 per cent on top of your check. Table for four, good place, that server likely to get 60 bucks. The tow truck driver who drags your broken  down Dodge or  Toyota across four lanes of the Harbor Freeway at 5:40 p.m.?  That dude is lucky to get a five spot.  

Some weeks back. on a Saturday, my girlfriend’s car got stuck in emergency brake mode.  The plastic brake handle had broken off and the car - a Porsche  - would not move. I was parked halfway in the crowded, back parking lot of her restaurant and half in the alley. I was blocking in  to-go customers and two delivery drivers.  Attempts to move the car by myself and the valets were fruitless. I called Triple A, explained the situation, but was told - on this busy night -  they were at least 90 minutes away. 

Next, I called (the supposedly vaunted ) Porsche Roadside Assistance.  The dispatcher was about to hang up after telling me to call  back on Monday, when she casually tossed out a tip;  "Maybe call Melrose Towing."  

I did and 15 minutes later, Louie arrived.

Within sixty seconds, Louie had fixed the problem.  With a screwdriver, he managed to release the brake, thus freeing the car. What a relief. I asked where he’s was from. Compton, but had moved to Culver City. I tell him I want to do a story about him. He’s says “Okay”, but then, just like that, Louie was gone, off to rescue someone else.

Three days later, the same thing happened with the emergency brake. I’m not sure how it did, but, I knew what to do. I called Louie. He had given me his cell phone the first time he rescued me. It was a Tuesday night and he was home watching his baby, but he walked me through what to do. I felt like a master mechanic from Stuttgart when the brake released.

I repeated that I wanted to do an article about him.   ‘Okay”.

During the next week, I called him four times and texted four.   He was too busy to talk. He said he would get back. I called again and again. Too busy. Probably if I had a broken car he would have not been too busy. The reporter in me was a little annoyed with him, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that Louie not being eager for recognition was cool

All this to say, next time you see a tow truck driver, even when you;re not in need of one, show 'em some respect.

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Howard Bingham, Legendary Photographer of Muhammad Ali, Dies At 77

On June 12, 1994, when O.J. Simpson left LAX. for Chicago shortly before midnight and roughly 90 minutes after Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were killed, storied photographer Howard Bingham was on the same flight. At Simpson’s fiery trial he was called to testify as to Simpson's demeanor

Naturally, Bingham was the only witness both defense and prosecution liked.

Johnnie Cochran, approaching the witness: “Are you a world-renowned photographer?”

Bingham: “The world's greatest.”

Cochran: “So, we’re clear about that.”

Later, on cross-examination, when Marcia Clark made a passing reference to Bingham as an outstanding photographer, Judge Lance Ito interrupted: “Uh, the world’s greatest.”

Bingham: “You’re a smart man, judge.”

Howard Bingham died Thursday, Dec. 15 at the age of 77.

"Howard, one of the kindest people I've known, used that kindness to win friends around the globe and help mankind by using his lens to reveal humanity in its stark, unblemished beauty." said Tim Watkins of the Watt Labor Community Action Committee who knew Bingham for over 50 years. "He photographed the greatest of greats yet never lost his connection and love for Watts where his family settled many decades ago.".

Bingham was a photographer for the African American newspaper Los Angeles Sentinel in 1962 when he was assigned to cover a professional fight by an up-an-coming young boxer named Cassius Clay. 

The rest, as has often been said, is history.

One of the great phone calls of my life came from Howard. I was at my desk at the Los Angeles Times after having covered Muhammad Ali coming to Watts in 1996 or '97..

The phone rang. I picked up.

"This is Howard Bingham. The Champ wants to talk to you."

Man, 46, Shot To Death Monday Night at 53rd Street and Compton Avenue

A 46-year-old man was shot and killed late Monday night as he was in the park at 53rd Street and Compton Avenue .  The victim, William Tyrone Moss, was shot in the back at least once at the Slauson Multipurpose Center at 11:08 p.m., and transported to USC Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. 

Anyone with information on the killing can call the LAP Newton Division at (323) 846-6547  

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Man Stabbed To Death Wednesday Morning in Highland Park, Two Female Suspects Sought

A male Hispanic was stabbed to death early Wednesday morning, possibly by two female Hispanics, the LAPD said today.  The man, said to be between 20 and 25 years old, was pronounced dead by paramedics near the intersection of Figueroa Street and Avenue 59 shortly before 2:30 a.m.. The two suspects may have fled in a black Dodge Charger.

Anyone with information can call the LAPD Northeast Division at ( 323) 344-5701