Change in the Air
PW goes through more transformations under two new owners
By Rebecca Kuzins 07/17/2014
The mid-1990s in Pasadena were exciting times. Having just hosted its fifth Super Bowl in 1993, the Rose Bowl saw several World Cup soccer games in 1994, including the final game on July 17, in which Brazil beat Italy to win its fourth World Cup championship.
Things were jumping at the DeLacey Avenue offices of the Pasadena Weekly as well, with the paper about to undergo some fundamental changes, both in its ownership and editorial staff.
At the end of 1997, Publisher Jim Laris announced the newspaper was for sale. Also that year, two staff members were added to the masthead: Bliss, who had been freelancing as a reporter and would eventually become contributing music editor and copy editor, and longtime Calendar Editor John Sollenberger. Both were brought onboard by previous Managing Editor Bill Evans.
The following year, Laris sold the paper to the Los Angeles Times, which added it to its Times Community News Division’s chain of newspapers, which included the Glendale News-Press, the Burbank Leader, the Costa Mesa News Pilot, other existing newspapers and a number of recently created Our Times publications, which were meant to increase news coverage in underserved areas around Los Angeles County.
Prior to the sale, William Campbell served as editor, and former editor Paula Johnson became associate publisher. The last issue of the Weekly to be published by Laris hit the streets on June 26, 1998.
After the Times took over, Campbell remained in the editor’s chair, but the company made several staff changes. In 1998, Judith Kendall, former publisher of the Glendale News-Press, was appointed publisher of PW, and Bill Lobdell, editor of the Costa Mesa paper, became PW’s editor; the following year, the two were replaced by Publisher Joe Pan and Editor Mary Emerson, who simultaneously edited the Weekly and the Times’ now-defunct San Gabriel Valley Edition. Both publications were based in the Weekly’s current office at 50 S. DeLacey Ave. in Old Pasadena.
In 1999, Kevin Uhrich, who had reported for the Times after leaving the Star-News, where he had served as a reporter until 1994, took over as PW editor. Uhrich, a former writer for the now-defunct Los Angeles Reader and Los Angeles Weekly, has been at the helm of the newspaper ever since, mentoring young reporters who would help the Weekly maintain its tradition of covering local stories that other media ignored.
Shortly after that, the paper also found a more secure publisher. Following Tribune Media’s purchase of Times Mirror Co. in 2000, Tribune announced plans to sell the Weekly. Southland Publishing, owner of the Ventura County Reporter, purchased the Weekly in 2001, and continues to publish the paper.
While the newspaper attained some measure of stability, the world around it was anything but quiet during the period from 1994 through 2003. Pasadena was not immune to these news developments. On Sept. 11, 2001, Pasadena residents David and Lynn Angell, passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, died when their plane was hijacked by terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center.
The 9/11 attacks resulted in the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2002. US Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat and former state senator elected to Congress in 2000, would take heat from his Pasadena constituents for co-sponsoring the act, and for his 2002 vote in favor of a US war against Iraq. When that war began in 2003, many local residents participated in protests against it, including Pasadena Revs. George Regas and Ed Bacon of All Saints Church, who were arrested for acts of civil disobedience outside the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles.
At times, local political developments were equally contentious. In 1996, Mayor Bill Paparian was embroiled in controversy after visiting Cuba. Paparian later alleged there was a Pasadena connection to a CIA ring operating the cocaine trade in Los Angeles. Councilman Chris Holden became mayor in 1997, and one of his first official acts was to replace City Manager Phil Hawkey. Hawkey had made a number of unpopular moves, including creating a four-year leadership vacuum at the Pasadena Fire Department after firing Fire Chief Kaya Pekerol in 1994. That vacuum was filled in 1998, when former Monrovia Fire Chief Ernest Mitchell was appointed head of the Pasadena Fire Department.
Hawkey finally resigned in 1998, succeeded by Acting City Manager and former Public Works Director Cynthia Kurtz. The Pasadena Police Department also changed leadership during this decade; Bernard Melekian, a member of the Santa Monica Police Department for 23 years, was appointed to head the Pasadena department in 1996.
In 1997, a 21-member task force began studying reforms to the City Charter. A year later the task force called for an end to rotating members into the mayor’s seat and the creation of a citywide elected mayor, prompting several council members to seek the position. Just prior to that, Councilman and Vice Mayor Bill Crowfoot blew his chance to rotate into the mayor’s seat after telling Paparian to “just shut the f*** up” during a City Council meeting in 1998.
In 1999, attorney Bill Bogaard, a former Pasadena councilman in the 1980s who campaigned on returning civility to the council, became the first elected mayor of Pasadena in almost a century. Bogaard is currently serving his fourth consecutive term in office.
One of the most notorious local crimes occurred on Feb. 3, 2003, when would-be actress Lana Clarkson was found shot to death in the foyer of Phil Spector’s Alhambra mansion. Spector, a legendary rock-and-roll producer, was 69 years old in 2009, when he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.
Not all local crime was violent. In 1997, the Weekly revealed that Rev. Lee May of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church had been mortgaging church-owned property and stealing church funds. The news accounts resulted in May being dismissed by his parishioners.
And in 2003, Glendale Police Officers Renae Kerner, Kathy Frieders and Jamie Frankie won their multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city and the Police Department for sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. The women filed suit after they were groped and exposed to a pornographic Web site owned by another officer and operated out of the watch commander’s office.
In hopes that the Rose Bowl could host another Super Bowl, city officials in 2002 hired sports consultant John Moag to help lure a National Football League franchise to Pasadena.
Pasadena was also the site of numerous entertainment events, including a 1995 Ice House appearance by Dana Carvey; Jeff Bridges and John Goodman coming to town to film “The Big Lebowski” in 1998; and the Theater @ Boston Court staging its inaugural production, “Romeo & Juliet: Antebellum New Orleans, 1836” in 2003. At another local theater, the Pasadena Playhouse, Sheldon Epps took over as artistic director in 1997. And in 2002, David Ebershoff, an intern at the Weekly in 1986, published his novel “Pasadena.”
By the end of 2003, the Pasadena Weekly, which in January 1996 proclaimed itself “The Pasadena Paper People Actually Read,” had weathered management and editorial changes, continued to keep its readers abreast of local news and cultural developments and was prepared to embark on its third decade in business.