At annual roast, Greuel and Garcetti trade barbs for laughs
Once a year, politicians, lobbyists and other City Hall power players get together for a fancy dinner at the Beverly Hilton to make fun of each other for a good cause.
The honoree at this year's Los Angeles Political Roast, which raises money for diabetes research, was Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, who was ribbed for his famous love of television cameras and his rather ample waist size.
But the real focus of Thursday night's dinner was on the two politicians selected to roast LaBonge: mayoral rivals Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti.
The candidates have been trading bitter campaign attacks since they advanced earlier this month to a runoff election. On Thursday, their barbs were more lighthearted, but still had bite.
Garcetti told the crowd he was glad the fundraiser had raised half a million dollars for charity, but complained that Greuel, the city controller, "somehow identified $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse.” Greuel has claimed to have uncovered $160 million in waste as controller -– a figure Garcetti disputes.
Greuel joked that one of her supporters had gotten valets to affix Greuel campaign stickers to the bumper of every car parked at the hotel. She said the supporter couldn't have put Garcetti's stickers on because “nothing sticks to Eric.”
The mayoral contenders avoided sinking to the off-color depths the roast is known for. In previous years, City Council President Herb Wesson has laughed about sexually transmitted diseases and Councilman Dennis Zine has appeared in women's clothing, dressed as his alter-ego, Denise.
But Garcetti and Greuel did poke fun at themselves. Garcetti, who has been teased for claiming ties to many cultures, said he wanted to be able to relate to the audience at the dinner, which is hosted by two lobbyists and City Councilman Mitchell Englander. "My great-great-great-grandfather was a lobbyist,” he said.
He also said he was excited about the new pope, Francis, an Argentine named Jorge Bergoglio, because he, like Garcetti, is a “Latino with an Italian last name.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also joked that he considered the top job at the Vatican after Pope Benedict XVI retired. “Pope would be a great stepping-stone,” said the mayor, whose political future has been the subject of considerable speculation.
He also teased Greuel and Garcetti about the Department of Water and Power workers union, which has spent millions on Greuel's behalf. Garcetti's campaign has complained that Greuel would not be independent from union head Brian D'Arcy. “She’d fit perfectly in Brian D’Arcy’s pocket, right where Eric wants to be," Villaraigosa quipped.
The mayor, and his love life, was also the subject of jokes. Englander said he hopes the mayor’s official residence is steam-cleaned before the winner of the May 21 runoff moves in.
Low voter turnout in the primary race was also grist for humor. Englander said there were more people at the dinner than voted in the election. Garcetti said he had a solution: give every person who votes free medical marijuana.
Photo: Wendy Greuel addresses the media at an election night gathering in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday; Eric Garcetti talks to the media after casting his ballot Tuesday. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times