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Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, July 31, 1959

July 31, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Confidential File

'Stop the Press,' Cries Flash Reporter Joe

Paul CoatesTo you, the Laurel Canyon fire may be old news.

But I just heard about it.

And I've got to admit that it's a matter of special embarrassment to me, because I should have been the first to know.

I happen to be the only newspaper columnist in the world with a bona fide personal news correspondent in Laurel Canyon. His name is Joe Oliveira. His age is, roughly, 12.

His loyalty, however, is divided between me and a mimeographed weekly neighborhood sheet which he publishes himself, called The Little Press.

Ordinarily, Joe keeps me up-to-the-minute on Canyon activities, ranging from stray cats and broken windows to juvenile plots to extort fudge bars from Sam, the Ice Cream Man.

However, on the big fire, he saved all of the exclusives for himself. He waited until The Little Press had hit the streets before sending me his dispatches.

Belatedly, I offer you the true story of the Laurel Canyon fire, as written under the double by-line of Joe Oliveira and Scott Harrison, Joe's city editor:

"Before the fire your editor Joe Oliveira was watering his garden while at the same time your editor-in-staff Scott Harrison was swimming at the Larson's pool on the corner of Jovenita and Laurel Canyon Blvd.

"At about 3:30 p.m. smoke came over the hill.

"My sister screamed, 'Look at the sun,' which was covered by black, thick smoke which had risen from over the hill.

"Meanwhile, your editor Joe Oliveira Jr. was putting the garden hose away. He saw black smoke rising over the hill.

"Joe hopped on his bike and flew down the street. Meanwhile, back at the pool, we are all in the car waiting to get home.

"Finally, I get home and jump up on the roof and water it down. Then I jump up on the hill and start to water it down. Then Joe came up to help.

"After the fire Joe and I went around putting out hot spots.

"One spot where we put the fire out the man said thanks, now get out of the way and then they didn't give us enough time and he sprays us and knocks us over with the spray.

"A small fire broke out again when everything was OK when the firemen were settled down for a delicious-looking lunch."

In a nutshell, that's the story of the Laurel Canyon fire.

And, as Joe expresses it so well in his weekly editorial:

"We would like to thank all the firemen who helped us with this fire."


In the same batch of mail with Joe's dispatch, I received my copy of the Border Sentinel -- a periodical put out by the inmates of the Federal Correctional Institution at La Tuna, Tex.

The inmates, obviously well-versed in matters of law, spell it out on Page 2 of their publication:

"The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the administration, nor do the editors assume responsibility for any plagiarized material."


MIDNIGHT MEMOS: It's a sad fact that, lately, cafe entertainment for the most part has been reduced to an occasional mandolin player in a coffee house.

But things are looking up again. At least they are at the Cocoanut Grove, where Miss Pearl Bailey has brought up in an entourage reminiscent of what nightclub shows used to be.

In addition to her own enormous contribution, Pearly Mae presents a talented company of singers, dancers and musicians. Especially noteworthy is the drum solo work of her husband, Lou Bellson.