Thursday, March 19, 2009

Susan Henderson Characterizes Sierra Madre As "Mississippi In 1959"

We'll be discussing a rather touchy topic today because, well, we're supposed to. The Tattler mission statement demands that we confront every issue no matter how messy or politically incorrect. And since the publisher of the city's adjudicated newspaper of record has, by implication, linked this fair city to one of the worst moments of racial animosity in this country's history, we thought we should examine the issue a little bit. After all, if we don't, who will?

As a point of reference to the approach being taken here, I'd like to run a passage or two from the Wikipedia synopsis of one of my favorite reads, Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic & Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers." With the emphasis on the description of the essay "Radical Chic."

"Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" was a 1970 book by Tom Wolfe ... (that) looked at the conflict between black rage and white guilt. The first piece is set in the composer Leonard Bernstein's duplex on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Bernstein assembled many of his wealthy socialite friends to meet with representatives of the controversial Black Panthers and discuss ways to help their cause. The party was a typical affair for Bernstein, a longtime Democrat, who was known for hosting civil rights leaders at such parties ... The Bernsteins could not be seen with their usual black butler and maid, so they hired white South Americans to serve the party. Bernstein's elite friends and guests are labeled the 'radical chic,' as Wolfe characterizes them as pursuing radical ends for social reasons ... Wolfe's criticism is implicitly of the general phenomena of white guilt and armchair agitation becoming facets of high fashion ... When Time magazine interviewed a minister of the Black Panthers about Bernstein's party, the official said of Wolfe: 'You mean that dirty, blatant, lying, racist dog who wrote that fascist disgusting thing in New York Magazine?'"

Literary criticism can be cruel. Especially when it is linked to politics.

A couple of days back our local Kiwanis Club hosted a gathering designed to enlighten and delight the regulars with an edifying presentation on the mysteries of newspaper production. And as their guest speaker they brought in the publisher of our local adjudicated newspaper of record, Susan Henderson. Despite the paltry attendance at the function (with two elderly gentlemen actually succumbing to slumber during the talk), Ms. Henderson soldiered on, discussing whatever happened to be on her mind at that particular moment. A rather disjointed presentation as one attendee described it. And then, in what was almost a non sequitur, Susan dropped the following bomb:

"What is this, Sierra Madre or Mississippi in 1959?"

Now that is quite a remark. By citing "Mississippi in 1959," Susan was making a reference to a time when the Civil Rights movement first began to make its presence felt in the distant reaches of the old Confederacy. With racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan initiating a reign of terror and murder against both African Americans and the Civil Rights workers who were attempting to bring an end to racial discrimination there. A particularly ugly and unfortunate time in this country's history. With an African American in the White House, that time seems almost unimaginable today.

So why this unfortunate reference? And why now?

Apparently at the meeting Susan was asked about some of the difficulties she has been facing as of late. And perhaps hoping to anticipate any questions on the topic, she even made a reference to the State Superior Court decision that determined she had absconded with the "Observer" in a most illegal manner. The Court settlement dictated heavy financial penalties plus the loss of the right to use the word "Observer" on the masthead of her paper. And then, after months of refusing to comply with the decision of this Court, being cited for possible contempt charges with the very real possibility of severe penalties being levied next month.

But there was also the feeling in the room that this wasn't really her crowd. Many of the livelier people in attendance were not there to learn about the newspaper business, but because they wanted to hear what she was going to say about issues that have made her a figure of some controversy in town. The nasty and untrue attacks on Nancy Shollenberger that the "Observer" printed during last year's election cycle would be an example. Or the insinuations printed there about now Mayor Pro Tem MaryAnn MacGillivray that proved to be so utterly baseless being another. Or the Hispanic house cleaner that Susan preferred to belittle and mock rather than pay her what she was owed.

And now there is a growing suspicion among many people that the attempt to set up City Council members by having someone secretly tape them at a meeting in hopes that violations of the Brown Act might be discovered was done with "Observer" involvement.

And the reviews were not very kind. One reader posted this observation:

"Susan Henderson, a bitter woman who was defensive and not enthusiastic. No cheerleading, just a 'poor me' in every paragraph she spoke. Susan 'the victim.'"

Another had this to say:

Susan Henderson's post-luncheon monologue -- 'keeping a community newspaper alive, never lose your focus' -- for the Kiwanis outfit was an anti-climax. Just as the questions were getting good the moderator shut the whole thing down."

I guess it's easier to just label the town racist than answer questions on topics you'd prefer to neither acknowledge or discuss.


  1. Sir Eric, thank you for reporting this.
    When I read your interview with Ana Ramirez, the housekeeper who worked for Susan, cleaning her home and serving at her parties, I was disgusted.
    Susan has a lot of nerve implying people in Sierra Madre are "racists". She never paid this woman for her work and then insulted her with a "me no money" when the lady asked for her $700 that she had earned.
    Who is the racist?
    I will never read her paper again for any reason.

  2. jeez, i'm the last one to want to champion susan, even though i did in the beginning, comparing her to lady muckraker ada tarbell who exposed standard oil. that was when i thought susan great for standing up to city folk hero george mauer, when old george -- with his own "vast" knowledge of newspapering -- was mayor or council member and was blasting susan as a yellow journalist, a term as outdated as george himself. Susan stood up to George. What with George's high standing in sm it required guts. So at the kiwanis chow-down you mention i listened -- to my horror and amusement -- to george praising susan for what her newspaper currently is achieving! an epic flip-flop, but all of us do them.
    Anyhow, as intense listener and chief pain-in-the-posterior question-asker at the kiwanis chow-down, i feel entitled to comment that you're taking Susan's mississipi cracker statement out of context. Her talk was unfocused and her topic -- how to run a community newspaper -- pretty much went unadressed I doubt she can remember anything she said. But she absolutly wasn't tarring Sierra Madreans racist in my opinion
    What Susan should be critisized heavily for, again in my opinion, is for flip-flopping, just like george, and switching from publishing the only activist Sierra Madre paper we've ever had -- in contrast to decades and decades of embarrassing mom 'n' pop models -- and without warning publishing a bland and unreadable speak-no-evil rag avoiding anything controversial --must'nt offend our rulers, certainly not our cops, for example, those characters whom we voted a raise -- a real first for our tightwad village, thought the cops don't realize it -- and who now are tying to drive out of office our chief of police plus hiring sharks to sue her, the city council, even poor resides like you and me! That's the kind of story a real coumminty newspaper would be on top of
    So in my opinion if Susan can be legimatly attacked for something, it's for having no clue what a nespaper is supposed to do for a community. "Sierra Madre" Mountain Views? Baloney. Her paper is -- I'm guessing -- 30 percent Sierra Madre and 70 percent full of puff stories from other town. And gas bag columnists explaining to us the meaning of national politics, instead of sm politics. Give Glen a break on this one. His column may at times be on fire but when he sounds off he's sounding off about sm and he's fulfilling a columnist duty's -- people read him.
    Susan, my former heroine, lost all credibility for not standing up to our mayor and police chief -- still a hero and a heroine of mine -- whey they publicly attacked the accuracy of her account of the jailing of t-room tom. i don't think it's proper for a mayor and a police chief to fault a newspaper and say don't believe what it, believe us, we've got the real facts, better we're the mayor and the police chief. maybe their attacks were legitimate! but a real newspaper editor would either write an editoral either admitting the paper made mistakie or an editoriala strongly refuting the act. For not doing thyat, Susan squandered all credibility. I don't know the details of Susan's court battles. Whatever they are i don't think they are germaine to the real issue of what a community newspaper does. But community newspapers are over anyway. long life the blob! and what a gas bag i mmyself sound like.

  3. So because her talk had no rhyme or reason, the Mississippi comment had no context?

  4. That Mississippi remark was in context with her "poor me, lots of people don't like me" theme.
    Out of context or in context, Joe, it was a highly inappropriate remark and tells a lot about Ms. Henderson's character.

  5. As a former Mississippi resident, I'm offended that Susan dropped the esteemed state of Mississippi down to the level of Sierra Madre.

    In Susan's defense, didn't several of our former Mayor's and a host of other self important and somewhat delusional citizens support a website that pictured Susan as Aunt Jemima and it went unnoticed as satire? Only in California, at least in Mississippi racism isn't as blatant as some of the enlightened white folks in Sierra Madre.

    With the Police Chief, I stoppped believing her when she defended routine traffic stops deep into Arcadia and Pasadena and it was obvious that she was just padding arrest numbers.

    Come to think of it, it might be safer for our city to have our cops working outside of town, at least then real police officers could monitor them.

  6. I am a resident who has lived her for over 40 years. I am outraged at the reference to Susan's comparison to Sierra Madre as Mississippi.
    I have never heard such a shameful slur against our city and community.
    This woman should be dropped out of the Chamber of Commerce.

  7. lol - Susan's headline for Steamers is "Popular Coffeeshop Closes"....

    The owner is quoted as not being able to make it but somehow, Susan perpetually kissing rear calls a failed business "popular".

    Hey 40 year resident, why are you outraged?

    It's Mississippi that ought to be outraged at the slur against them.

  8. So maybe Susan is referring to things that were
    written about her on the Cumquat and other anti
    Measure V websites? But wait, weren't those sites
    supported by the very people whose causes she
    champions now? Including one of her columnists?

  9. She was referring to Mississippi 1959....FIFTY YEARS AGO.
    Mississippi today is a beautiful place and the people are decent and honest just like most folks in Sierra Madre.
    It's Susan who is dishonest. Anyone who doesn't believe that is naive. Everyone I know that heard the remark, first hand, would have to admit it was inappropriate.
    Just read the court ruling on her. Just read the San Francisco Chronicle's article about her shady activities she pulled on the Democratic Party in No. Cal.
    I agree with poster who says she needs to be out of the Chamber of Commerce.

  10. She was referring to Mississippi 1959....FIFTY YEARS AGO.
    Mississippi today is a beautiful place and the people are decent and honest just like most folks in Sierra Madre.
    It's Susan who is dishonest. Anyone who doesn't believe that is naive. Everyone I know that heard the remark, first hand, would have to admit it was inappropriate.
    Just read the court ruling on her. Just read the San Francisco Chronicle's article about her shady activities she pulled on the Democratic Party in No. Cal.
    I agree with poster who says she needs to be out of the Chamber of Commerce.

  11. Sorry for double posting, Sir Eric, feel free to delete one of my comments

  12. Hey resident who was there: if Susan's remark so offended you why didn't you complain to her face-to-face?
    Something else:
    Wence all this anger and rage from everybody?! Not just about Susan but EVERYTHING. New as I am to it, i dig blogging, am becoming an addict. But I don't know the game, so somebody lay wisdom on me. Are bloggers required to check their senses of humor at the door??

  13. Politics is played hardball in Sierra Madre, Joe. It is surprising that you, of all people, don't seem to want to acknowledge that..

  14. anony 8:38 understand about the 50 year ago Mississippi - but Mississippi isn't that beautiful of a state

  15. Joe S. Check your mail today. It may enlighten you.

  16. screw playing hardball just because the other swine do. politics wasn't always hardball here, politics used to be hilarious. much more fun and efficent to bring down the sumbitches with humor and ridicule than ape them by firing back at them what they fire at us.

  17. OK Joe. You go first.

  18. Joe,
    Were you following the blogs on downtowndirt, the Cumquat and Qunt?
    Several of the peple who supported Yes on Measure V were not just lampooned, they were defamed, as Mayor Zimmerman reminded Enid Joffe at one council council meeting.
    One of Susan's writers, Pat Birdsall wrote a hideous column about a resident she happens to dislike, Pat seems to dislike a lot of people in town, and her column was anything but was sick.
    Susan's paper printed horrible lies about Nancy Shollenberger and supported Bart Doyle's BIA fellow employee, Karma Bell for city treasurer.
    The worst, and by far the worst dirty politics has been by Glenn Lambdin. He is a bully and a thug, and people in this town can testify to that. You should know, his dear friend and fellow blogger on the downtowndirt, Cumquat and Qunt, Miguel Perez? Remember, Joe, when he confronted you in town, for speaking up at a city council meeting?

  19. Getting back to the real subject here, has
    anybody considered Susan's role in the SM
    Chamber of Commerce? What she said Tuesday
    about this town are hardly the words of a
    civic booster. And that she would say these
    things about this town just to cover her
    butt is hardly impressive.

  20. I remember that council meeting, anon.out of fear,
    Kurt and Don were trying hard to keep local thug, Miquel Perez off the Library Commission.
    He had recently reprinted Jim Snider's Cumquat on his website.
    John Buchanan, Enid Joffe and Joe Mosca voted for Perez, despite Zimmerman and Watts protests.
    Thankfully, Buchanan and Mosca can't get away with that shit anymore, and let's keep it that way.

  21. Is the Chamber of Commerce supporting the smoker's "rights" losers?
    Support Stroller Moms!!!!!!
    Support Stroller Moms!!!!!!
    Support Stroller Moms!!!!!!
    As for Susan, everyone in town should now know the truth about her, unless you've been in a coma. Sir Eric has told you all the truth, it can be backed up by public records and court case rulings. Just Google Susan Henderson and Executive Director of the Democratic Party and The San Francisco Chronicle. Read about her.
    She has pulled this "race card" before, it's part of her act. Don't be fooled. Again, Sir Eric has told you the truth.
    I guess a lot of dirts don't want to know the truth, you would rather believe in your own illusions.

  22. When is the race card not the race card? When it's the merit card.

  23. annonmous out of fear: you have it right. my take, the village hasn't recovered -- maybe cannot recover -- from the cancer matastazing (sp?), mostly, from the downtown dirt blog of one beth buck. city still sometimes awards this very dangerous, wholly unrepentant, comedian contracts to print up community publications. how can this happen?

  24. Hey Joe!
    Sir Eric is a funny guy!
    He has a wicked sense of humor, but always backs up his lampoons with the facts!
    The Dirts never do that. They just lie and terrorize people they don't like.

  25. my point exactly. we shouldn't become the imitators of those creeps. oh, anonymous out of fear, I forgot to inquire, what people -- evil forces? -- are you in fear of? what kind of damage are the bastards going to inflict on you, me, us? another addendum: re downtown dirt and those other hate blogs under discussion,without the hearty endorsement of then-mayor buchanan none of them would have flourished. buchanon lavished so much praise on that one poor demented guy(r.i.p), that the guy, encouraged, was about to launch sm's first porno site. i didn't mind, i suppose we're still a free country, but a city mayor championing that line of activity, is, well,news. news nobody gets to spread until now. Sir Eric's blog is so bitchen. but personal attacks ain't cool, no matter how outrageous our sworn enemies behave.

  26. I'm afraid of retaliation by people like Lambdin, Mosca and Matt, Henderson, Stockley, Bart Doyle, Miquel Perez.
    Stuff has happened Joe.
    It's true.

  27. My God....I read all this crap, inwardly digested and then threw up all over the MVO. Why are you people paying so much attention to someone and something that is not in the least important.

    If you don't like what you see or read, move on..Get a life!
    How about concentrating those efforts on doing something constructive and helping humanity?
    Reality, what a concept!

  28. 1:10 - some people do care about who runs the
    town, the politics that get them there, and
    what the results might be. I would like to
    think that being aware of what is going on in
    town would be a good thing. With an informed
    citizenry being the first defense against bad
    government and its effects. That's what I've always felt was important. I hope you can put your day back together.

  29. Joe S. You have some interesting points. I am not trying to be picky, but can you please use Capital letters at the beginning of sentences and punctuation? I would be much easier to read your thoughts. Thanks.

  30. that's the same thing my editors complain about.

  31. joe's a creative writer. i kinda like that!

  32. It never hurt e.e.cummings.
    Joe, I know you know a lot about the town, so I'm puzzled that you do not seem to be aware of what a life-and-death struggle has gone on over the last decade.
    The Building Industry folks got in town, and they got in good. They played "Psych the Town" beautifully, and one of the first, most obvious signs of that victory was in the 4 council member approval of the annihilation of that land once known as One Carter, now known as The Carter Estates.

    Did you follow any of those hearings? Did you hear those 100s of residents give excellent reasons for the plan to be, at least, modified? They were ignored. The night that decision was made, it was brutally clear that the council of 2004 led by City Attorney Coluntuno had other agendas. Maybe the citizens were too far ahead of them - sort of like teaching Latin verb declensions, when then '04 council had just started to learn the alphabet.

    Why drag up that ancient history? It was a terrible blow to citizen participation, revealing the hold of the BIA and the CAR (Joe, you must read the CAR pamphlet on defeating slow growth movements)
    So you get to continue living in this manageable size of a town on the edge of an unmanageable megalopolis BECAUSE people fought long and hard against greed incarnate. One woman, by herself, got 300+ signatures on the Measure V petition - you can thank her for being one of the moving forces that saved the town.
    To the point of Sir Eric's great article: Susan is a clever con who will say whatever she thinks will benefit her the most in a given moment.

  33. I agree, Day. The loss of One Carter led to the fight against the loss of downtown, aka the DSP, no doubt.

  34. Read Day's post....this is why we still fight.
    Greedy Dirts had investments in the downtown development, so did several of their supporters.
    They didn't give a damn about Sierra Madre's future....just their own windfall profits.
    I'm glad you lost DIRTBAGS! We will beat you again in 0'10.
    And to the CONG dirts.......we will fight you and win. You will not be allowed to take over our town.
    Bart, you piece of crap.....there are unseen forces out to foil your evil plans to destroy our town. You are going to LOSE again, BART.
    Our attorneys are a hell of a lot smarter than you, Buchanan, Mosca, and Torres. Third string, the lot of you.

  35. Another current DIRT cause....supporting the smoker's "rights". Right to endanger people's health?
    Make no mistake about it, friends, the DIRTS are supporting this effort.
    So PLEASE, EVERY DECENT CITIZEN READING THIS....SUPPORT SHARON PREVSNER and her STROLLER MOM'S! They are mother bears fighting for their cubs!

  36. who says joe doesn't understand what's been going on for the past dirty decade? i was on the battlefronts with you guys, especially at one carter, for all the good it did. that's the vital point here: for all our righteous trumpeting to mayors and city councils, the enemy beat us, our incrediblde hillsides now are forever raped. But it was susan's terrible newspaper, not susan personally, who was one of the crucial enemies. excoriating susan personally gets us nowhere. What have we learned from losing the One Carter battle? Our new enemy is the tricky congreational church, intent on reshaping the town as i fear lots of our churches are. i don't want to finish up losing whiner like the last time? How can we fight the pious people and this time win instead of losing as we did at one Carter? I despise sounding like a stupid rabble rouser but even so: storm the goddam bastille!

  37. Joe, I'm stormin' along with you - but the history went:
    One Carter, to DSP, to Measure V, to winning a majority of sanity on the council, to now - and we have to keep working to keep the majority. That might mean walking around and distributing material, or gathering signatures, like the incomparable Diane Shear.
    Is calling a con artist a con excoriating said con?

  38. Welcome back to the front lines, Joe.
    After the One Carter betrayal by our so called way do we cut and run from the dirt ex-mayors, the less than scrupulous realtors, or the Congs.

  39. It's real simple, don't believe anything an ex-mayor is supporting, unless the ex-mayor is Kurt Zimmerman (later this Spring) or MaryAnn MacGillivray.
    Remember the only elected officials you can trust are Watts, Zimmerman and MacGillivray and of course the slandered by Susan's paper, classy Nancy Sue Shollenberger.
    You can trust and believe in these people.
    They are on your side. They are watching out for your interests. They are keeping their promises.

  40. Thanks, Sir Eric for printing this blog.
    There were at least 4 of your readers in the audience of Susan's "seminar" on her paper.
    We all agree with your conclusions. At least one of us was in at least 2 of Susan's court appearances.
    It's pretty sad we even have to discuss this.

  41. Foul, Foul, smokers
    Ashen wrinkled faces,
    Brown chicklet teeth
    Wheezing, rasping
    red eyes and veined bulbous noses,
    like factories
    belching filth
    while others eat
    grotesque animals
    to the ally with you
    carmelized vermon

  42. YES I AGREE!!!


  44. Surely the smokers posted the last three anons!

  45. The spelling of "vermon" in the 8:14 post was particularly creative. Anonymous III, can I ask what exactly it is that you think they smoke?

  46. WLBP, it's because the comments are so extreme - wonderful fodder for the Cigkids to use. "Look at the hate speech!" they'll say. "We are being dehumanized and vilified!" they'll claim. Big detour from the science.

  47. March 19, 5:24, some people don't care about the hillsides, and some people don't care about downtown. It's not as straight a line as you say, from the loss of the hillsides to a fight for downtown.
    Too bad, too.

  48. If the Ciganauts are going to base their
    case on blog comments, then their case is
    truly weak.

  49. Over the river - that will make their case weak? What case? All they have is an addiction, no case.

  50. I have never seen politics before like the politics in this town. I love it. Unvarnished democracy at its best.

  51. Support Stroller Moms!


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