Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
hile the rest of the news business spends the final days of December looking back at the major events of the year, the Daily Mirror is peering forward, and for us at least, the future is clear: 1961 brings the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs invasion. “The Apartment” will win the Academy Award as best picture. Gary Cooper will die of cancer and Ernest Hemingway will kill himself.
What else can we see? 1921 is the year of the Fatty Arbuckle case and 1941 brings us the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II. And in 1981, we have the dawn of the Ronald Reagan era.As I often say, “so many stories and only one Larry Harnisch.” Where shall we go and what shall we do in the coming year?
Mystery photos? Of course, they’re one of my favorite parts of the blog. Paul Coates and Matt Weinstock? Yes. And Tom Treanor. I’ll try to do more with some other Times columnists who have only appeared fleetingly in the Daily Mirror: Lee Shippey and Timothy Turner, for example. And perhaps the mysterious 1930s film columnist Tip-Off.
The Daily Mirror has evolved quite a bit since I began the blog nearly four years ago. There’s more on Hollywood and film, and a bit less on crime. Part of the reason is my need for variety and part of the reason is what I find – or don’t find -- in the old papers. The crimes of the 1950s are fascinating and 1957 was a great year, but by mid- to late 1959, The Times’ coverage seemed to shift away from detailed reporting on the police blotter, a trend that continued into 1960. Perhaps the crimes weren’t as interesting to The Times editors as they were in the 1940s and early '50s, or The Times was devoting more of its resources to subjects like politics.
One thing I hope to explore in the coming year is a theme I touched on in a series of posts I called “Another Good Story Ruined.” Why is Los Angeles history so hard to get right and so easy to get wrong? I sometimes think the books on Los Angeles are nothing but a catalog of errors. It might be worthwhile to examine some of the more common mistakes and myths about our past and see if I can find the origins. Authors of books about Los Angeles can expect the Daily Mirror to do a bit random fact-checking, which should fun and, I hope, illuminating.
I do need to pick my shots carefully. Extended coverage like Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Los Angeles or the 1960 Democratic National Convention is labor-intensive and such projects seem to hold little interest for Daily Mirror readers. I’m not sure why, as they are significant events in local history, but they tend to be a lot of work for very little return.
And now it’s request time.
Daily Mirror readers are a loyal bunch. In fact, statistics show they spend an amazing amount of time on the blog. What would you like to see in the year ahead?
ps. Only four years to the Watts Riots.