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Jack Smith -- newsman and father extraordinaire

April 2, 2008 |  9:20 am

Jack_smith_and_jayne_mansfield_and a tiny little dog_ San Francisco had Herb Caen, in Chicago it was Mike Royko, but Los Angeles had Jack Smith. Over the course of his 42-year career (37 at The Times) he wrote almost every day. He schmoozed presidents and movie stars but also won fans with columns about everything from birds (loved 'em) and cats (not so much) and, of course, his family.

Now comes Smith on Wry at the Huntington, which acquired his papers in 2005. And who better to set it up than The Times' Doug Smith, Jack's son?

These were the photos that framed my childhood: my dad at his Underwood typewriter, smiling smartly; my dad interviewing starlet Jayne Mansfield, a glass of sherry in one hand; my dad in street shoes scribbling while running the indoor track at the downtown YMCA; my dad in Fleet Street finery, aping the visiting Beatles; my dad at the rewrite desk of the old Los Angeles Daily News, ready to grab the headset of his black stanchion phone.

I was the only child I knew whose father had the city’s best photographers on hand to record his every posture and visual gag along with some very serious moments that documented the rambunctious and irreverent life of a newsman in post-World War II Los Angeles.

Now I am revisiting those memories -- sharing them, rather -- with the other Sunday visitors at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Since high school art appreciation, I’ve associated that stately institution in San Marino with the icons of high-toned portraiture, "The Blue Boy" and "Pinkie."

Read the rest of Doug's lovely and loving essay in Larry Harnisch's (boy, is it addictive) blog, The Daily Mirror.  Oh -- and the photo? That's Jack Smith with Jayne Mansfield.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo used by permission

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