I can’t believe that it was almost 20 years ago.
Rodney King was one of the first times that someone caught an act of police brutality on a video camera. What was released on one of the television stations in Los Angeles was the beating of a man who was not fighting back by the L. A. police. And it was brutal to watch. I was living in Santa Monica and like most citizens was appalled.
The police officers were identified and were indicted, and because of the overwhelming publicity, their attorneys were able to get the trial moved to Simi Valley, a predominately white enclave near LA where so many police officers lived. At the trial, the culprits were virtually set free and everyone waited for the reaction of the black community. We didn’t have to wait long.
Ticketmaster’s offices were in Ahmanson Center on Wilshire, just off of Western Avenue and not too far from Vermont. We were all there the next day and Fred was out of town. Looking out of our windows on the upper floors, we could see fire breaking out on Vermont, and out on Wilshire I saw a driver pulled out of his car and beaten. On Western, which in our area was Koreatown, people were running in the streets and fires were everywhere. I saw a number of the store owners on the roofs of their buildings with rifles, waiting to shoot looters.
I called our staff in and told them we were shutting down…Send everyone home. Tom was very concerned about the shows that night and I believe since he was in charge of operations, he stayed. My son Richard worked in the phone center, and I told him to get to his wife and daughter in West L A. I didn’t know until later that he ignored me.
I headed over to 6th Street and headed west. I knew that if I tried to take any of the streets that cut over to the 15 freeway I would be in the middle of the riots. The radio kept talking about how bad it all was, and LA was burning and for once it wasn’t exaggerated. I saw shopping centers (strip malls) either in flames or being looted. I called my sister who lived on 6th Street by Las Cienega in West LA and the sporting goods store behind where they lived was being looted and guns being taken. I picked her up and we drove to Santa Monica….it took several hours on what was ordinarily a 40 minute drive. Ken was going to come out also and spend the night in my apartment.
Richard did a crazy but noble thing. Because his wife’s mother lived pretty much in the heart of East LA and had emphysema, they were very concerned about her. So he drove through the terrible areas where they were pulling people out of trucks and cars, got to her place, picked her up and got back home safely.
This was the worst racial situation I have ever experienced. A good friend of ours who is a masseuse and acupuncturist had her boyfriend visiting. He was working at Edwards Air Force base and was African-American. She needed something from the market and because of the situation, she did not want him to go. Some months earlier as a lark I had bought her an LAPD cap. He put it on and went to the market and the hundreds of people there were so glad to see him and commended him on the work the police were doing! Perception is everything.
It took a while for things to get back to normal, and Rodney King said the famous “Why can’t we all just get along”. I had the people at BASS Tickets order Tee shirts with that slogan on it and they all thought I was crazy.