Those first days at the end of March began with excitement but quickly went dark. Our first official weekend featured West Hollywood’s founding father John Heilman. I was excited for the first Sunday. James Mills was already writing and he posted the stories. That Friday night James fell and hit his head and on Saturday was said he was not feeling well. Our last text was that he would post the Heilman op-ed and call the next day. I never heard from him again.
I reached around for help on WordPress and had a number of new possibilities. But had worked with Brandon Garcia on my campaign and he has incredible graphic talents. Brandon also worked on Sepi’s first campaign and had some editor experience in McAllen, Texas. He was excited to be involved and we set off to learn how to move forward together. In his first story on the planning commission was less than perfect. He said an item was voted on when it was tabled. We missed the story about Lynn Hoppingarner finally becoming the Chair. He was new and had no history and I wasn’t watching. The backlash was swift. We picked up our bootstraps and promised to do better.
In John Steinbeck’s novel, ‘Of Mice and Men’, he tells the story about ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray’ and so had the deal to bring WEHOville home. It was time to dump it and offered it out for $1 and a % of future ad revenues.
The first person I called was Troy Masters. Troy is a partner in LA Blade which is part of the Washington Blade. They are the only LGBTQ press organization with credentials into the White House. My first instinct was to marry WEHOville to the White House through the Blade’s access and make lemonade out of lemons. Our first meeting with the Washington Blade management was warm and insightful. I loved them and they appeared to love me. We arranged a second follow up meeting which ironed out the details. It felt like family. A third meeting to finalize the transaction was scheduled for the following week.
Troy came to my house to review all the finale. Blade already had access to the WEHOville wordpress and was contributing stories under the name Staff reports. Then Troy’s phone rang. It was Estavan Montemayor. Estavan is Lindsey Horvath’s other BFF and former campaign manager.
Troy said, that was Estavan, I asked ‘what was that about’?. Troy replied, ‘he just wanted to see how things are going, Lindsey and he want me to have it.’ (the WEHOville) . That feeling of sick to my stomach set in. That was a point of inflection. I fuddled till the next day. The deal was dead.
Other calls came to take WEHOville off my hands from the Beverly Press-Park LaBrea News and the GED Media Group/Metro, but the Beverly Hills Courier also had great interest. John Bendheim is a super dynamic guy and his team Lisa Bloch, and Anna Rodriguez and I met at the Kimpton La Peer Hotel. It was love at first sight. We had a deal and they asked us for the term sheet. The WEHOville Courier was an exciting collaboration that offered fantastic synergies. We could offer more local news and amortize costs of running a news organization. We shook hands.
The shareholders of the Beverly Hills Courier met and came back that they needed to own 100%. The offer was more than we paid and I could be out of WEHOville with all the money invested and more. It was a great plan– but moved home base outside of West Hollywood. It left me as a consultant for years. But, again, I couldn’t let go. The politics of the city had disturbed me and WEHOville seemed so important to the community. It was important to keep it local. I passed.
The most complicated relationship I’ve had to navigate since acquiring WEHOville is the one with Lindsey Horvath. She is my friend. I love Lindsey. She’s like a Mary Tyler Moore small town girl makes good. We go to movies together and she is very kind to me. She respects my disability, partial sight, picks me up and makes sure we have a seat that works for my visual impairment. We share popcorn and inside scoops. During my first campaign for city council I coached her instead of making calls for myself the night before the debate. But I don’t agree with some of the policies that are good for Los Angeles but not for West Hollywood. She is running for LA County Supervisor and she is acting like those policies belong in Weho. The bottom line is I want to watch Lindsey succeed. But her relationship to Erickson is poison to the independence of the City Council and has become poison to our friendship .
Erickson and Shyne have been tough balancing acts. On my first day I contacted Shyne to do a op-ed on her first 100 days. She agreed and followed up to confirm the date. But then the friday before she said she wasnt ready and on that monday released my idea of her first 120 days on her own press release. We ran it and it didn’t go over well with readers. I wanted Sepi to tell the story of the night she won, the tears the struggle and her personal side and was disappointed that she wouldn’t let me. The problem again was Erickson poisoning the relationship. He would often tell me how Sepi hates my guts and I had to ask her to confront him about it. But Sepi is a thoughtful and calm person. We don’t have to agree on each policy but I appreciate her approach.
Erickson on the other hand has dismissed us and WEHOville from Day 1. My first call for an op-ed on his thoughts on taking away the rainbow crosswalk and replace it with his preferred flag ended with an ultimatum ‘if I wanted to be his friend’. He then copied that same idea of the first 120 days after Sepi posted. After our first Commissioner Profile of his direct appointee Andrew Solomon on the Public Facility Commission he did a release of his commissioner profiles. At that point I realized he is a copy cat. Two days ago he was asked for a photo of him with his dog so all the city council can be featured with their dogs. No reply. We found a photo of him with his dog on facebook, Erickson’s thin skin makes him tough to cover.
WEHOville had started to grow on me. Brandon and I were putting together exciting stories. He was literal and took all at face value and I had a longer term view of where things came from. The chemistry seems to be working. Each day he picked up more and more of the workload. Often times I felt like a reader because stories posted I had never seen. Brandon really deserves an incredible amount of credit for the spins, twists, extras, videos, clips, and all the bells and whistles we are doing to make WEHOville better and better.
The news was hot and fun. I soon realized this job has to be as hard as serving on the city council. This job is all issues, all day all the time with no city staff. And you hear things from your friends and one of them is that Lindsey was about to announce her run for higher office. We had lunch at Swingers and I knew it was coming. She asked to wait two weeks. So I held off…but four days later I had to let it go. I texted her that we had to go with the story. I was learning how to be a news person. She had a few extra days to be set and then formally announced a few days later. WEHOville was first to break the story that Lindsey was in the race for LA County Supervisor and had the endorsement of Sheila Kuehl.
State Assemblyman Richard Bloom followed with his exclusive Op-Ed in our Opinion Sunday on what West Hollywood means to him. He is also a candidate for LA County Supervisor. And then Ron Galperin, the LA City Controller announced his run for LA County Supervisor and told his story here in the pages of WEHOville.
The Heilman kickoff and Horvath scoop was making my role very fun. Then we faced a test of journalism on the upcoming Palms Project. The Palms Project was a hotly debated issue and the op-ed ‘Palm Project on Shaky Ground’ had laid the groundwork for the approval of the first modern assisted living home in West Hollywood. I tasted the power of the WEHOville to tell the story and influence the dialog.
We started our Commissioner Profile series with Andrew Solomon on the Public Facilities Commission and that was a great experience. Andrew was more than an interview, it was a prism to the new West Hollywood and we all learned a lot. Super great guy with a super great wife. We then profiled Michael Lombardi from the Planning Commission and that interview was so intense that it left me overwhelmed with the possibilities of honest serving community members. We introduced you to the newest member of the social justice task force Daniel Zamilpa, and Jenner Deal wrote about women’s visibility. Mallory Jenna Robinson spoke of her journey and hopes for a more inclusive city.
We introduced Resident Profiles with Leslie and Richard Karliss and Tom Liebengood and took a peak inside the passions and talents of some of our local residents.
WeKnowWeHo, Tracy and Maxine continued to bring us the first look at new business openings and inside some of the best of breed West Hollywood Establishments such as Bikes and Hikes, The Pendry, Farm Fresh Coffee, Semblance and the West Hollywood Hotel Collection.
We highlighted the 30th anniversary of the Abbey with a special one on one with David Cooley. We went on the street to ask tourists what they love about West Hollywood and added some levity inside the pages of WEHOville. And thanks to Kerri Balbone National Night Out came alive for 2021. WEHOville was there.
There was Lady Gaga, Free Britney, and Up Close with Peter Paige. We went live with Irwin Rappaport at the breaking ground of the AIDS Monument. You saw the new designs for Hart Park and together we called for nominations for all the awards the city has to offer that honors good citizenry.
WEHOville took you into the streets to new Outzones or Out on Robertson. our pages received many comments and all of you engaged all of you in an open forum critical to community. From Cookies to Scooters, WEHOville was here again, we told the story and captured the community voices.
We covered the messed up Public Safety Commission Elections for Chair and Vice Chair and and a week later city hall announced that the election was void and would have to take place again at the next Public Safety meeting. And we brought you Ed Buck updates till he was finally convicted. WEHOville brought you there.
We looked at how disabled residents are affected by the Scooters and the public weighed in heavy. The debate over scooters ranked as one of the most hotly contested issues along with ‘Out on Robertson’ and the ‘Hotel Ordinance’. WEHOville was accused of bias on all sides but our job is to print the community feelings. If five op-eds come in on a subject we don’t send them back to the writer. You are all welcome to tell your side of the story.
The WEHOville server was sent into overload when we broke the news that Jeffrey Sanker had passed. We covered Project Angel Food’s 14 millionth meal and brought you Rufus Wainwright live ‘Over the Rainbow’ There was the Poetry Hotline, Pride Month, and new LED lights on our streets. Big Belly trash cans disabled for the biggest days of the year. WEHOville brought the local news to you.
We took some positions too. Open City Hall was front and center. We challenged the status quo and asked how the Cannabis map changed. We covered the Hotel Ordinance and hotly debated issues of the day with facts, videos and follow up. We challenged the council about their use of cellphones during Council meetings and since that story it appears the Council is paying attention to us, not their phones. WEHOville made a difference.
We also put the news without fear of favor in front of the economic benefits. Two days after we made a public records request to the City Clerk and posted a video of Council members Shyne, Horvath and Erickson texting we got a message from Lisa Belsanti, the city’s communications director ‘advertising with WEHOville is suspended’ . Retaliation from City Hall got me down. Two weeks prior I had reached out to then City Manager Paul Arevalo and soon to be City Manager David Wilson and in their conference call they talked about media equity, thick skin, no it doesn’t bother us, we been there before. But the word was the clique was pissed.
Then-to-be City Manager David Wilson had agreed to do an interview but then we were informed that it could not happen while Paul Arevalo was still in his seat. On David’s first day in his new job he emailed to say that he would own up to his word and provide WEHOville with the exclusive. We covered him with heart and thats all I wanted. Collaboration with City Hall is my goal. We exist for the betterment of West Hollywood. We are all colleagues. I will continue to work with and for city hall to get the message out. We are all in this together.
There were fantastic op-eds that taught me the power of this medium. Jerome Cleary’s “Urban Blight of Sunset” rippled to CBS News, and all media was chasing his story, our story, and it went viral. Orange Barrel Media began to engage the community on solutions.
The omnipresent old timer Carleton Cronin wrote his pieces on Out on Robertson, .. and Our Urban Forest, along with a letter to the Social Justice task force that inspired us all. And together all of us, young and old, joined hands in lifting West Hollywood and creating a sense of community.
Jesica Ryzenberg joined us with two pieces, ‘Dubious Dealings” about the sale of property in the Norma Triangle by a former planning Commissioner and “Housing Elements”. Jesica is now part of the WEHOville team.
Council member Meister showed true grit in voting for a study session and gathering facts for discussion. Politely teaching decorum about how a city council should deliberate its discussions. You saw that live in WEHOville.
We brought businesses back to life and supported a pro-business story. Some of our first ads were offered for free to struggling businesses. We reported about the Yogurt Stop efforts and examined the new Digital Billboards. We celebrated the re-opening of our city and engaged on both sides of the out zones.
There were the many articles on mailbox thefts and other community issues such as the neighborhood gathering spaces and seating sculptures. The homeless shelter at the MTA is a big story and it was debated on the pages of WEHOville. It was hard to keep up with events. We have a small staff. We work for love not money.
A peak behind the comment section told the story of the hate speak in the community. It was like looking behind the Oz and made this job difficult and non-stop. Henry used to say he never worked so hard for so little. I’m going to say never worked so hard for nothing but aggravation. Zero profits will roll back to me. Any money benefits from WEHOville on my end will go to support my non-profit and give back to the community. And if you would like to subscribe please do so because we are here for you. And many thanks to the advertisers who have helped us stabilize the business. In four short months we have developed a cushion that will last us till the end of the year with no further investment. Two previous owners could not create a surplus but I work for free and the ad money goes to support the others. Future profits will be gifted to residents in need.
Steve Martin gave one side of the Hotel Ordinance as well as Out on Robertson, and others. Steve has bene offered a 5% in Boystown Media.
John Duran broke his silence with his concerns in his epic perspective ‘I love my city’, as WEHOville opened its pages to all. Our goal is to bring the community together. John’s local Covid updates and helped us all through some of the tougher times. John Duran has been offered a 5% share in Boystown Media and is expected to assume the role of General Counsel.
And we all need to appreciate Brandon Garcia. Despite our challenges Brandon rebounded and provided fun content, witty on the street blips, fantastic images and balanced my thoughts. We came full circle and stabilized the ship. His efforts need to be commended. And I’m excited to offer him a vesting plan gives him a profit share and path to ownership.
Nick Rimedio became a friend for life. His contributions and personal support for this medium have helped me into the light. His passion for the community is the reason why I have chosen Nick to assume the role of Vice President of Boystown Media and Chair of Business Development. Nick is a 10% partner to start. His ties to the business community are strong as the General Manager of La Peer Hotel, where he also serves on numerous volunteer boards including as the current Chair of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Nick will help WEHOville bring connectivity to the residents and businesses of the city alike while adding numerous new features to the inside pages of the new WEHOville.
The future of WEHOville is exciting despite the setbacks and disruptions. My plan is to create something that endures the test of time and lives beyond my years. WEHOville is not about me, it’s about us and for us. We are creating a community magazine with opportunities for all to share their view and our combined passions.
On a personal note in a few hours my plane takes off for Vegas. A week without WEHOville. The keys have been handed off and I will have no access to the WordPress. For the next week WEHOville is going to stand on its own two feet without me. We are here to support your stories, your thoughts and your ideas. WEHOville is not about one person or publisher. It is about a community and we are just beginning the journey. Watch me build something that most can’t even imagine.
WEHOville has been reborn. We are here to celebrate West Hollywood and foster a sense of community.
I’m looking forward to delivering on my promise.
Thank You, xo Larry
Editors Note: All references to the prior owner Henry Scott have been removed per the settlement agreement.