Forget about Ricky Gervais: We're apologizing to West Covina
Years ago, Johnny Carson had a running routine where a fictional character named Floyd R. Turbo would say that he was from Cucamonga, California, a place name that always got a big laugh because, well, there's just something funny about the way it sounds. I think that somewhere, deep in the recesses of my over-caffeinated subconscious, I was going for the same kind of joke when I concluded my Tuesday column about the truly bizarre Ricky Gervais-hosted Golden Globe Awards by writing that "after everything was said and done, all the stars acted like getting a trophy from the [Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.] was like winning a Nobel Prize while Gervais acted like being paid to host the awards was like taking money to strip at a third-rate gentlemen's club in West Covina. I mean, who's fooling whom?"
Unfortunately, in my rush to heap abuse on the HFPA, I inadvertently insulted West Covina. I just got a shockingly polite e-mail from Herb Redholtz, the city's planning commissioner, who said he took umbrage with my reference to a third-rate gentlemen's club in West Covina. Boy, did I pick on the wrong town. Not only does the city not have any third-rate gentlemen's clubs, it doesn't have any strip clubs at all, not even first-rate ones! As Redholtz explained:
You may have been thinking of neighboring City of Industry, which has a plethora of them. In West Covina, we take great pride in the fact that we have no "adult businesses" within our city limits. We pride ourselves on being the diamond of the East San Gabriel Valley, so when our city is maligned in print, such as it was today in your article, I must write in protest.
When I called Herb to offer my apologies, he gave me an intriguing city planning tutorial. Since it's apparently illegal to ban strip clubs outright, the city came up with a creative zoning plan to keep them out. As he told me: "We've actually zoned our city so the only place where a strip club is legally allowed to operate is at the Westfield Mall, and for goodness sakes, they're not going to open a club there."
As a way of making amends, I asked Herb to brag a little about what made West Covina the diamond of the East San Gabriel Valley. As it turns out, the city has two major malls, an 18-screen movie theater complex, a high school whose football team won the CIF championship in their division and the fabled Big League Dreams city park, which features six ballfields that are replicas of major league baseball parks like Dodger Stadium, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. As it turns out, my kid played in a baseball tournament there a couple of years ago and raved about the authentic feel of the baseball diamonds, right down to the obnoxious moms in the stands who sounded just like Jamie McCourt complaining about her overpaid Dodger players.
At any rate, West Covina sounds like a delightful place to spend a weekend, or as Herb put it: "We're not Bell, which is good." When I offered to plug a great local restaurant, Herb suggested the Elephant Bar, an African safari-themed eatery that he says has a great New York steak dinner. I told Herb that the next time we come out for a tournament at Big League Dreams, I'm taking him out for one of those big fat New York steaks. And the next time I want to make a strip club joke, I'm going with the City of Industry, even if it doesn't roll off the tongue as nicely as West Covina.
-- Patrick Goldstein
Photo: Ricky Gervais, posing in a pair of underwear promoting his appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Credit: Reuters