John Fante gets a square
On Thursday at 11 a.m., Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry will gather with literary activists to officially name the corner of 5th and Grand streets in downtown Los Angeles "John Fante Square."
Fante, the author of "Ask the Dust," started his life as a writer like his best-known protagonist, Arturo Bandini -- down on his heels in the cheap rentals on Bunker Hill in Los Angeles. While much of the old Bunker Hill was razed in the 1960s for urban development, the corner of 5th and Grand, a block away from Pershing Square, bears a vague resemblance to the streets Fante tread.
"Los Angeles, give me some of you!" Fante wrote in "Ask the Dust." "Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town."
Eventually, Fante found success writing screenplays and moved west to a home by the beach. But he's best remembered as a chronicler of the streets of downtown, its unloved and overlooked residents, its dirty sidewalks and cheap bars.
In fact, the King Eddie Saloon, a surviving skid row dive that is said to make an appearance in "Ask the Dust," has declared Thursday John Fante Day. Fante event organizers Kim Cooper and Richard Schave and other bookish celebrants may show up after the square gets its new name, sometime around noon.
The truly down and out in downtown Los Angeles may get started earlier; the King Edward Saloon opens for drinking business at 6 a.m.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: John Fante. Credit: File.