The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Pepe Arciga

Pepe Arciga

1957_arciga_3 Aug. 26, 1957

In a recent issue of Variety, columnist Dave Kaufman sends off his piece with an opening paragraph sure to be an eye-catcher. It concerns racial prejudice and the way some writers are unsuccessfully trying to peddle their written wares on same -- to big business.

This is what Kaufman reports: "Racial prejudice is too strong a subject for television... Rod Serling, one of TV's top scripters, wrote a teleplay for U.S. Steel... He was ordered to dilute it.

"This year he wrote a similar story but changed it so that instead of Negroes, the yarn would revolve about Mexicans.

"It was designed for 'Playhouse 90' and producer Martin Manulis was enthusiastic about it... Not so the sponsors, all but one of them rejecting it."

Kaufman went on to explain Serling's holy displeasure because the story wasn't accepted. Reportedly, Serling is supposed to have remarked that it was a story of "prejudice as it exists," that "he was tired of fighting this" and -- bless his crusading soul -- "that he would let someone else do the fighting."

Personally, I'll go on record in saying that "Playhouse 90" is very admirable TV fare, certainly one of my top choices.

Of Serling, there can be no middle ground for discussion. He and Paddy Chayefsky lead the race a mile ahead.

But -- and this is where big business showed a big sense of values -- racial prejudice, whether "diluted" from Negroes to Mexicans or to Jews, or to Manchurians or what have you (if it is generally rampant at all), is not the kind of commodity one bandies around with a price tag. And hoping for the big slice.

If U.S. Steel declined to buy Serling's tale of prejudice for national showings in the quiet of, in the intimacy of, the American home, I, for one, cannot blame them. No, not in the least.

National television, in my way of thinking, cannot and should not be placed in the same category as hardcover book production, paperbacks or cheap pulps.

P.S. "Serling," concludes Kaufman, "did get paid for the story that won't be seen."

Here's a list of Serling's 10 scripts for "Playhouse 90," from the Serling archives at Ithaca College.

Continue reading »

Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates Aug. 24, 1957

There are two basic rules for pretty girls who wish to set Hollywood on its pink, shell-like ear.

The first is to meet the right people.

This one has nothing to do with me, so I'll dismiss it.

The second is to get their names in the columns.

And here, I'm directly concerned. Because I -- like certain other people in town -- am a columnist. I, in a manner of speaking, write.

Adjectives, verbs, nouns --I've got a basket of 'em.

Struggling young starlets (or their struggling young press agents) begin lining the hallway in front of my office door every morning at dawn -- each with some fantastic personal experience which happened to them, personally, which is really true and which they made up on the way over from Schwab's.

They come in bath towels, bikinis, serapes and/or motorcycle boots. Anything to stand out from the mob.

As they're ushered in, one by one they tell me of their fights with octopi, their subjugation into white slavery, their secret uranium mines.

1960_0113_ghost I listen, intensity written all over my kindly face.

I agree 100% that theirs are stories that should be known.

"But," I add sorrowfully, "it's just not quite my type of story.

"Now the man who'd really appreciate a scoop like yours is Matt Weinstock."

Dutifully, they thank me.

And move along toward Weinstock's office.

With the exception, that is, of the 50% whom he referred to me.

They insert, I've been told, a Mexico angle and go see Pepe Arciga.

Except for the 50% whom HE referred to me.

It's a nice, time-devouring game.

But every now and then you run into an aspiring starlet who throws the whole operation out of kilter.

Like yesterday.

When Sanita Pelkey walked in.

She was a tall, healthy-looking girl -- dressed modestly in boxer's trunks and a sweatshirt labeled, if memory serves me, "Property of the Beverly-Wilshire Health Club."

She smiled, graciously, and I smiled. Graciously. "Your story?" I asked. "What happened to you?"

She looked at me blankly. "Me? Nothing. Yet."


"Yet! I'm here," she said, "to break into Hollywood."

I nodded. "Break, then."

She laughed, stiltedly, like she wished it had been a funny remark so she could have laughed naturally.

"I've been told," she said, "that it helps to get your name in the columns. That's why I'm here."

"The man you should see..."

"I was Miss New York in the Mrs.--excuse me--Miss Universe contest. Semifinalist. I went home afterward, but decided to come back and..."

"is a chap named..." I interrupted.

But she interrupted right back. "I like dancing, swimming, ice skating, acting. Maybe I should put acting first. More diplomatic."

"Weinstock," I said. "Matt Wein..."

"I've also worked the Town and Country -- that's the largest nightclub in Brooklyn -- the Ice Review, Guy Lombardo's Arabian Nights at Jones Beach..."

"Weinstock is a personal friend..."

"And I don't believe all those rumors about a career and marriage not working out. It depends on the individual. If I find the right man I wouldn't hesitate..."

"of mine," I continued doggedly.

"Besides which, I've won 13 other titles. Miss Potato Salad, Miss Jet Age, Miss Stetson Hat, Miss Smiles, Miss Fluidless Contact Lens..."

She took a deep breath and went on.

"I was once Miss Salami..."

"Were you the one?" I asked.

"Sanita nodded. "They gave me a Kosher salami as a prize. About three feet long.

"That," she added, "ought to make a good story for you. Write it up."

[Note: "Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow," one of Sanita Pelkey's few screen appearances.]

Pepe Arciga

1957_arciga Aug. 19, 1957

Here's a short-short that I think you'll like. It's a story, though no tale. The principal character is a woman. A woman of middle age, slightly plump, gray-haired, bespectacled and, up to now, of no traceable city of origin.

She is American by birth, Anglo-Saxon of race. We shall call her, for purposes of near identification, Mrs. Ethel M. Wallace.

This story--also her true story--begins at the office of the registrar, the University of Mexico Summer School, year of 1949.

It is the month of June, the month when the whole Valley of Mexico enjoys bright, lucid sunshine in the mornings, torrential but brief rains in mid-afternoon.

Mrs. Wallace enters the offices of the registrar along with 101 stateside American youngsters. She is just as eager as the rest to sign up. However, she does not seek school credits and the like. What she wants to learn is "Otomi."

1957_0819_coates The kids take a liking to her because she seems so maternal. In no time she is "Mom" to them. Also a symbol of something good and solid they left back home with the old boy.

Within short weeks Mrs. Wallace reads, writes and talks beautiful Spanish. The "other" Spanish--a patois sprinkled with double meanings, often salted with off-color sayings--also becomes the property of Mrs. Wallace.

Needless to say, Mom Wallace couldn't be better fitted for the role of ambassadress to Mexico of middle-aged American womanhood. In short, she is loved by bootblacks, students, professors and wild cabdrivers.

Then one day, as the Spanish class sits down to begin their linguistic pyrotechnics, they notice that the chair belonging to Mrs. Wallace is empty.

Inquires are made. The family with whom Mrs. Wallace has been rooming are at a loss to explain her disappearance. The Mexican Secret Police is alerted. A consular official goes to work on the case and he discovers that Mrs. Wallace's home address in the Midwest is as phony as wooden pesos.

Right about early September when the summer school courses begin to disband and kids can't wait to get their licks on home versions of double burgers and malts, the registrar gets a postcard from somebody buried deep in a village up the mountains of Hidalgo state.

It's written in English and signed by--I guess you know who--Mrs. Wallace. The message is very curt and says this:

"Dear Mr. Registrar: I am here in the mountains of Hidalgo. I will learn 'Otomi,' language of these silent, brave Otomi people. Then I will translate it into Spanish. I am well and safe. Please do not worry."

Well, that was back in 1949. Eight years later, today, in 1957, Mrs. Wallace has mission accomplished. For, recently, according to a story in a Mexico City newspaper, the Sumer School Institute has published the very first Spanish-Otomi, Otomi-Spanish dictionary.

And it is the work of one Mrs. Wallace, perhaps from the Midwest, U.S.A., whose real past probably nobody knows about.

Pepe Arciga

1957_arcigaJuly 25, 1957

Superlatives, to be frank, don't come easy to anyone about to comment on the true merits of most bullfight filming efforts.

In months past, Hollywood movie makers have pulled pretty hefty boo-boos when confronted with the challenge of putting on film the essence of bullfighting. Their attempts, however worthy, have always fallen short because of one inescapable fact:

Bullfighting is tragedy, it is art, it is brutality, it is savagery, it is a rite of sublime expressions all rolled into a neat little package of splendor. This, so it seems, Hollywood cannot capture, at least commercially.

Last Friday, at the Vagabond Theater, Columbia Pictures released a documentary-biography based on the life of Luis Procuna called "Torero." All done in black and white.

Most of it was shot in Mexico by an international crew of more than half a dozen photographers of various nationalities.

Produced by the Barbachano organization and directed by Carlos Velo, we have in our hands, beyond possible doubt, the most powerful attempt yet made to put on celluloid the shockingly conflicting things about bullfighting.

In a roundabout way, it also is the the most clear-cut filmed version on what is, really, the Mexican "school" of tauromachy.

Luis Procuna and Silverio Perez are, or rather have been, the best two exponents of such a school, such techniques.

1957_0725_torero In "Torero," you see why topflight Mexican matadors--in this case Procuna--always either were capable of sending crowds into pitches of ecstasy or putting the look of lynchers in their eyes.

You are to see, as well, the unrehearsed scene of a matador's face twisted by an incredible panic which tells him that it is madness to try to make another pass.

Veteran of at least three feature-length Mexican movies, Luis Procuna, as photogenic as they come and possessor of the friendliest grin in bullfighting, gives an effortless performance as various cameras catch him in the role of playful father, devoted husband, maniacally inspired bullfighter, brazenly cowardly, idol, etc.

You will see, for brief seconds, the faces of people who make and kill toreros.

You will see, as well, the basic differences which characterize Mexican and Spanish bullfighting--the Mexicans being suicidal, gay, supremely dramatic; the Spaniards masterful, mechanical and sophisticated even when bouncing, like balls, over the bull's horns.

There are many memorable scenes which will be hard to forget. Particularly one of the very last sequences in which Luis Procuna, with his admirable muleta, drives 60,000 hoarse-throated yelling fans into complete submission.

When shirt-sleeved fans pour into the circle of sand to carry off the triumphant Procuna on top of their shoulders, they don't stop to look at the bull. In the beast's hump is the sword embedded to the hilt.

As Procuna is carried off bodily, suddenly, at the bottom of the screen, you see the bull stagger to his feet momentarily and then, plump, the beautiful animal falls dead with legs kicking.

This scene is revealing because it proves, once and for all, that true aficionados are more concerned with artistry of the cape, the banderillas and the muleta than having a torero execute the perfect kill.

And don't be surprised if momentarily you get carried away and shout, from left field, all kinds of bravos. I did. To be frank, I wasn't a bit embarrassed by it at all when the lights were turned on.

And when the lights were turned on, what was it that I saw? That the greater number of patrons were men and women in their early 20s. Significant. Very significant.

Carlos Vera Cañitas, Félix Guzmán and Luis Procuna, 1941

Pepe Arciga

July 1, 1957

1957_arciga_3In the midst of clapping castanets, kicking heels and flying Spanish skirts during a whirlwind visit to La Golondrina one night last week, I asked a question of Mexico's attorney general, Lic. Jose Aguilar y Maya.

"Senor Procurador, in view of Mexico's aggressive road-building program, do you think there's a possibility of your government enacting legislation which would exclude visiting Americans from landing in jail if involved in automobile collisions?"

The attorney general, native of the romantic city of Guanajuato and certainly one of Mexico's ablest men of law, did not answer that one right away.

He adjusted his glasses and, in the semi-darkness, I could see that here was a man whose face indicated kindness and understanding. Also, it seemed, here was a man who could walk out of a spot, smilingly, and with no effort at all.

"Don Pepe Arciga," he said after one swallow of his drink, "as you know, Mexico is undergoing right now the greatest expansion program of its history.

"Many things are happening today to the country. Progress is outdistancing everything, everything, including many facets of federal and state legislations.

"In some areas of Mexico, traffic laws receive from authorities certain interpretations. In other areas, traffic laws also differ."

And just as I began to relate an incident in which two Angelenos and personal friends of mine--Arturo and Juanita Castro--were forced to pay exorbitant fines plus damages, plus medical fees after  HAVING BEEN HIT broadside at an intersection in Guadalajara by a man driving a military jeep, Senor Jose Aguilar y Maya broke in:

"Indeed, these are unfortunate incidents. I will make every personal effort, upon my return, to explain to the proper authorities the need for corrective measures."

Within minutes, the distinguished visitor and his party of friends got up and left.

I'm sending this column, of course, to Licenciado Jose Aguilar y Maya, Procurador General de la Republica Mexicana.

If it serves to remind him of our conversation, I'll be content.

If it serves to help in establishing the "corrective measures" he spoke about, who could ask for more?"

Mientras tanto, Senor Licenciado, fue para mi un gran placer haber conversado con vosotros!

Pepe Arciga

1957_arciga_3May 22, 1957

Give or take a match, professional boxing in all of Southern California has been almost totally in the hands of gloved warriors of Mexican descent for, say, the last 25 years.

This monopoly, if you want to call it such, is no mere accident. It is no scheme on the part of anyone, much less promoters. It is no design of convenience, period.

Mexican fighters, born here or yonder, possess a peculiarity which, with the possible exception of glovers of Irish ancestry, isn't always typical of battlers in general.

That peculiarity, my friends, is very basic. It consists of one utterly simple fact: Integrity to the fullest extent.

Translate this into Cauliflower Alley language and they'll tell you, quite candidly, that those "Mexican kids are all action, plenty of guts with never a thought about tank jobs."

One quick glance at the recent past of top-rated Mexican ring stars will bear out the contention.

Look at Tampico-born Baby Arizmendi. Or Mexico City-born Rodolfo Casanova. Or Los Angeles-born Manuel Ortiz. Or Durango-born Enrique Bolanos.

Butch_waxOr Mexico City-born Raul (Raton) Macias and Ricardo (Pajarito) Moreno. Or Laredo-born Kid Azteca.

All of them individuals who enriched and never tarnished the sometimes shadowy profession of I-punch-you, you-punch-me, let's-get-paid.

Even now, when old aficionados of the boxing game sadly shake their heads to moan the fact that "the game ain't what it usta be," Mexican fighters--particularly those of the Mexico City crop--keep sticking out their heads to proudly proclaim that theirs is no dying sport.

For proof, look at your calendar and mark the date of May 23 (when "Pajarito" Moreno and Jose Luis Cotero clash) as a date when Los Angeles will see perhaps the greatest battle of featherweight fury cooked up here since Arizmendi's heroic duels versus Henry Armstrong.

But, now, the inevitable question mark surrounding the overwhelming participation of Mexicans in pro boxing.

Is there a reason why there should not be, in professional boxing circles, a referee, a judge, a commissioner of Mexican extraction?

Tonight, under the joint sponsorship of the Council of Mexican Affairs and the local chapter of the American GI Forum, the absence of officials of Mexican extraction from boxing circles in California comes up for serious discussion and comment.

Attorney Henry Lopez and Frank X. Paz will conduct proceedings which, needless to say, will be highly interesting.

Prominent personalities from the sports and civic world will await the sound of the gong at 8 p.m. at Casa del Mexicano.

The eight-second mandatory count will not be in effect. Not even for Pepe, who'll be there wearing 60-ounce gloves. And plenty of collodion.

I'll be my own referee. Gracias.

Pepe Arciga

1957_arciga_3 May 13, 1957

City of varied ills as Tijuana is mostly regarded to be, there's one aspect about the town which the majority of people, stateside, haven't heard too much about.

It concerns the number of orphanages there which give shelter to huge quantities of children lacking mamas, lacking papas. These are kids of many nationalities who got there because nobody wanted them.

Now and then a few private citizens of Los Angeles stage a motorcade or two in the direction of Tijuana carrying along bundles, not of dough, but of used clothing, groceries and a cake or two with icing untouched.

Upon their arrival, they don't stop at bistros for shots of the revelry which Avenida Independencia is noted for. Instead, they keep right on going, intent upon unloading their goods where they'll do the most good--the orphanages.

Over in nearby Whittier, a number of housewives--26 of them all told--representing various nationalities have banded together for the elemental and generous purpose of keeping Tijuana orphans better fed, better clothed.

The organization is called Club Caridad and is headed by clubwoman Senora Emilia Bustos, residing at 9342 Miller Grove. Every now and then the club organizes festivals and picnics to raise funds.

Next Saturday night at the VFW Hall in Rivera, 7706 Serapis Ave., Club Caridad will throw another money-raising fiesta. Whatever funds are raised will be sent directly to one of several orphanages of Tijuana.

Which reminds me. With so much money floating around in the entertainment and business circles of Tijuana it seems that someone should donate periodically a purse or two to the orphanages.

Racetrack and bullfight impresarios not excepted.

Strictly: Human Interest

April 8, 1957
Los Angeles

Latin Holiday
by Pepe Arciga

1957_arciga_3Here's how the anguished voice of a stricken lady, Norberta Venegas, pleaded for what should not be perhaps a lost cause. This she said to me in hesitant Spanish:

"Senor Arciga... I do not know how to begin. My name is Norberta Venegas and I live alone here at 2827 Rokeby St. in Los Angeles.

"One week ago my daughter, Maria, she is 21 years old, and I had a disagreement. Not very serious, Senor Arciga, and now she has gone. I don't know where.

"The other day I believe I had an attack of the heart. Now I am in bed and cannot move. My husband, Vicente Herrera, is far away. I think in Mendota.

"Perhaps you can say something in your radio program or in your column so that my Maria returns. I will forgive her, of course. Now please tell me how much I owe you for this service."

And there you are. Words of a mother who prays so that family spats shouldn't be home-breakers. As this goes to press, wandering Maria (last named Rivera) was being sought all over.


Now the voice of Senora Julia Ramirez, daughter of a prominent mortician in East Los Angeles. Dona Julia, always cocking a sharp eye when someone's welfare is at stake, delivers her message to Arciga:

"My good friend, Senora Muriel Scott, who lives in Rivera and is very active with the American Legion Post there, wants to do her bit, on April 16, at the Long Beach Veterans Hospital.

"She wishes, Pepe, to take over there a band of mariachis and serenade those unfortunate GIs. Do you think, Pepe, there's a mariachi band that would want to go see them and play for a while? Mrs.  Scott can be reached evenings at OX 9-2075."

That, Senora Ramirez, is a most noble idea. As to the availability of mariachi bands, it's been said that outside of Mexico City and Guadalajara, this li'l old pueblo of ours is the world's third-ranking mecca for mariachi balladeers.

The question, now, who'll volunteer? Please raise your right hand.

Note: The Daily Mirror is pleased to introduce another generation of readers to Joseph "Pepe" Arciga, a writer for the Mirror and The Times, and a personality on Spanish-language KALI-AM. Writing in a chatty, familiar style, completely different from Paul Coates or Matt Weinstock, Arciga vividly captures a portion of L.A. that was mostly ignored by the mainstream press.

ps: Maria, go home!

Update: Mrs. John Jamar, 621 Venice Way, Inglewood, like una buena Samaritana, puts in her dos centavos' worth en la siguiente forma:

"That story of yours about the stricken lady Norberta Venegas and the squabble she had with her daughter.... I know what this is like.... I sincerely hope she is reunited with her daughter."

Por fortuna, Senora Jamar, all is now well. Not only have they reunited, but last reports indicate that both mother and daughter plan a free-for-all taco shindig for the buenos vecinos of the neighborhood.
Signed, Pepe.


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