Mon, Mar



ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - It's hard to know what to think sometimes out in Studio City, as people from all over the city come to town, play golf on the local par nine golf course at Weddington on Whitsett and then try to adjust our community's narrative.  

Hopefully, we'll be able to cut through the confusion as we expose the many interesting characters through a compelling plot with real stakes and, you know, if all goes well, we'll open to a strong box office.  

And if we win an award, we'll be sure to leave plenty of time to get over Laurel Canyon.

Pay to Play (and get away):   The Washington Post had the inside scoop (behind a paywall) about the newly released "Pandora Papers" showing how wealthy people, including national leaders, accumulate secret assets and dodge accountability.  I was hoping to scan for references to Charles Munger or Warren Buffett. 

These fellows, and I'm only including Buffett, who has nothing to do with Weddington, because I know he's a folksy guy who read some of the screeds my brother and I wrote about Mayor Garcetti's alma mater-antagonist, Harvard Westlake, have done a lot of things.  Charlie Munger, Buffett's right hand man, is a big donor to the elite athletics-obsessed school and recently plunked down $43 million to buy up the Weddington Golf and Tennis Courts in Studio City. One of our last most treasured open space assets.  

The United States has apparently become an "oligarchy" in which "unlimited political bribery" has created "a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors."   Seems a bit strong coming from former President Jimmy Carter, but please stop in to Studio City to see for yourself.   

The casualness with which acts seem to be done, and the apparent unconcern that there might be harsh consequences, is severely problematic.  The pervasive culture of corruption and their individual experiences with it have told Paul Krekorian and Karo Torossian that they have little to fear.

Golf and Tennis (open to) anyone! 

When I went over to the local par nine to revisit my roots recently I was surprised at how rude the gal who ran the register was when I started taking pictures.  She shut me right down. 

I was a social tennis player back in the day and would invite several of my friends over for a morning game of tennis and maybe brunch at Jerry's or Belwood Bakery. Eventually, we moved our doubles game to my neighbor Mel Shavelson's house. Mel was a former president of the Writers Guild of America who wrote scripts for Bob Hope, so he embodied the authentic Studio City Slicker ethos. Smart and funny.

After he passed away, I bought some of his art and furniture from his kids because he and his wife Lucy had good taste and I was striving to stay connected to a time I knew was going to slip away.

A new TV couple that I do know, Linwood Boomer and Tracy Katsky of Malcolm in the Middle and HBO respectively redid the house that sits on what must be several acres of prime Studio City, approximately 300 feet from the now Charter elementary school, Carpenter Avenue.  I would support fines for people whose places seem ultra lush during a drought.   

But when I was playing tennis, it was a different time:  there was water and a path to home ownership.  At barely thirty years old, I moved off of a rental on Arch Drive at Vineland and Ventura into a small house in the hills above Carpenter Avenue school.  Each and every day, I would drive to the Sportsmen's lodge wearing my bathing suit, slip in the side entrance, and take a short swim.    

Rather than fussing around about changing clothes on site, I would just hop in the car, drive 300 feet to Belwood Bakery and still dripping gather the blueberry bran muffins, warm ham and cheese croissants, pain au chocolat, almond croissants... etc. 

In the afternoon I would tee off at the par nine... not really, but ... 

Enayat was a good man, and worked the poolside security beat at Sportsmen's diligently and after eight months or so had detected that, though I appeared to swim there daily, and our eyes often met in greeting, I was not staying in the hotel.  I was what you call, "a fence jumper." 

Enayat said, "Sir, please, may I talk to you..." motioning me over to the side of the pool. I swam over, "What's up?"    

Enforcement is reasonable and I could not argue with Enayat that I was a guest, because I was not.  I decided, as I normally do, to go with the truth. "I'm a local guy,  but we put people in this hotel for the shows that I'm constantly working on...my dad stays here!"  

At the time this was all true information, we had memorably housed Margot Kidder at the Lodge, prior to her dumpster drama, alongside many others. "Is there a problem?"   

He pointed out that the hotel pool was for guests only.  I told Enayat that I would speak to the manager. Steve Scheck, who approved the plan of me being given permission to use the pool.  "No problem, Mr. Preven, I'll speak with Enayat. We appreciate your business."  

Sportsmen's Lodge was a popular gathering spot for cast and crew in old Hollywood, including Clark Gable, Bette Davis, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The Ventura Boulevard restaurant which had murals of 2nd rate cowboy actors, quickly became a hot spot, a place where patrons could hook their dinner and have it fried fresh in the kitchen. 

One year I personally arranged for a convention of Soap Opera fans and brought hundreds of paying customers to the hotel to meet the stars of NBC's Santa Barbara, A Martinez and Marcy Walker, Nancy Grahn and Lane Davies.  

Local producers could be seen swimming laps in the good-sized and well maintained swimming pool as 3rd rate cowboy stars and stunt guys would chain smoke, so infuriating poolside guests.  

The pond and trees surrounding the common areas were magnificent and the hot tub by the pool was an early tasteful version of what has become de rigueur for fancy hotels everywhere.   

The whole Sportsmen's lodge property had been set for designation as a cultural historic landmark on the research and write-up by Ken Bernstein, himself.    

Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett are the two greatest sources of incredible investing anecdotes. It's fair to say they are fanatics about their craft - which includes investing and clever quips.  

There's one funny story about how Buffett agreed to caddie for the winning bidder of a round of golf with Tiger to benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.  After Buffett had caddied as he said he would, Woods made a final bet with him at the final hole, "For $5, I'll play you on my knees," he said.    

Amazingly, Tiger drove over 250 yards while kneeling. Buffet shanked it and lost but when he spoke to his right-hand man, Charlie Munger, on the plane ride home, Buffett said, "On 18, I brought Tiger to his knees." 

At the end, Buffet handed Tiger the $5 but reminded him."The caddie gets 10% of your winnings, so give me 50 cents back."

Local Course Correction: I had never seen so many local signatures, allegedly 13,000 calling for the inclusion of the Studio City Golf and Tennis Club on the list of Historic-Cultural Monuments. At least not since we came together as a community to block the horrific Bridge Over Coldwater fiasco from same local villain, Harvard Westlake.  

In April The Heritage Commission voted to change the proposed monument name of the subject property to the "Studio City Golf and Tennis Club,” to reflect the original, historic name with which it was associated for 50 years.The whole community has called it Weddington Golf & Tennis since as long as I can remember. 

Edgar Khalatian of Mayer Brown and the team of lobbyists and Harvard Westlake boosters would love to erase the actual legacy of the place by casting it as a sort of "underutilized, dilapidated climate killer" is a false narrative. 

At least a dozen Neighborhood Councils, the Los Angeles Conservancy and environmental groups, were caught completely off guard and surprised by the revised findings – which were presented at the very last minute with absolutely no notice to the public. 

The City’s revised findings narrowing the property’s distinctive characteristics to the “clubhouse, golf ball light standards, putting green, and brick wall with weeping mortar surrounding the front lawn at the northeast edge of the property” failed to meet the legal standards outlined in Topanga Ass'n for a Scenic Cmty. v. Cnty. of Los Angeles.

Nowhere in the findings does the commission or the city recommend removing both the terms "golf course" and "golf club."

Public comment was not allowed on the significant amendments that changed the very heart of the motion around Weddington Golf. Instead of the entire site being preserved, the council moved to only preserve part of the site.  

I have reviewed and support at least two cure and correct letters under the Brown Act calling for the City to have a fair hearing.   

Good faith negotiations require trust.    

Clear shot of the tee: When I went by that day to take some pictures, I started to dread what Harvard Westlake has been planning.  Golf was once considered a rich man’s sport... but Weddington had opened up the possibility for years for folks who could not afford to join a country club for access. 

Our narrative could be a...  golf showdown with the fate of the course at stake.  A three-way battle to win, the local kid, a fancy player from Orange County who attends Harvard Westlake and is going to the 2028 Olympics.  Best score takes it all ...

A good golf shot like telling a good story takes a lot of practice. You learn how to aim, like a bow and arrow. How to get the power at the right spot... whip of the wrist. It's challenging but fun.  Giving a public comment is not so different.

“There’s something about golf, it’s very physical. It’s the only game you have to play outside, other than tennis... but golf, golf is a giant ass course, you’re gonna be walking. Gotta be outside.”  

There have been many red flags on the Harvard Westlake deal to acquire our public amenity and rezone it for private usage.

We can quibble over whether walking around a private school athletic facility, one of the big gives from Harvard Westlake is open space access, but one thing that can never be disputed is the joy when a golfer of any age makes a hole in one. 

Consider, "It landed ten yards out, bounced twice and then rolled right into the cup."  Make a grown woman cry. 

A hole in one is a super rare occurrence, some folks have said, a professional golfer might see ten or fifteen in the course of an entire lifetime of golf. There's no equivalent in any other game.  

A double eagle is when you sink it in 2 on a par 5.  Dropping it in on the second shot.  

It's less rare than a hole in one, but still rare.  What about a walk off grand slam?  Much more likely than a double eagle or a hole in one.   

The odds of getting a hole in one, must be ... ask Harvard Westlake.  They're allegedly very sharp over there.

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.)