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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 9:08 AM
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Exclamation Cosmopolitan Los Angeles - Multicultural Topics

This is a thread I'd like to start where we post on L.A.'s multicultural offerings and neighborhoods. There are many, many ethnic communities that make up what LA is today. Please post topics you would like to share and bring to light any cultures and peoples of cosmopolitan LA! Perhaps you will learn about another group you know very little about.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 9:11 AM
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David Cheung, owner of the new Chung King restaurant in San Gabriel, waits on customers.
(Glenn Koenig / LAT)

February 10, 2007


Tuey Far Low was a showbiz hangout in the 1930s.


The first Chinatown gave way to Union Station, here under construction in 1937.
(File Photo, LAT)





YEAR OF THE PIG: HISTORY
From chop suey to Chiu Chow

By Charles Perry
Times Staff Writer

February 21, 2007

AT Mission 261, in the century-old building that once served as San Gabriel's first city hall, waiters in suave gray suits are taking orders for steamed chicken breast rolled around bamboo pith and custard-filled dumplings shaped like tiny rabbits — a very au courant sort of dim sum in Hong Kong.

Now that a quarter of a million people (***probably much, much more than that since not all are legal immigrants!) of Chinese ancestry live in this area, our local Chinese food scene is buzzing with energy. From Monterey Park and the Alhambra-San Gabriel-Rosemead corridor to Rowland Heights and beyond, suburban Chinese neighborhoods are home to a lively, ever-changing crop of restaurants and talented chefs.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOR THE RECORD:
Restaurant history: An article in Wednesday's Food section on the history of Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles said that after the original Chinatown was torn down, the New Chinatown shopping district opened in 1939 in a formerly Mexican American neighborhood. In fact, it was built in Los Angeles' Little Italy. —

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


"Trends among Chinese restaurants often mirror with what is going on in Taipei, Hong Kong and, to a lesser extent, mainland Chinese cities," observes Carl Chu, author of "Chinese Food Finder: Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley." A recent wave of overseas-owned restaurants, including hand-pulled noodle shops, sweet shops and seafood houses, he says, "illustrates a focal shift from the mom-and-pop eateries of yesteryear."

To say the least, it wasn't always like this.

And so it begins

OUR first Chinese restaurants, probably opened in the 1860s, when L.A. was a cow town of about 5,000 inhabitants, didn't have all the rare ingredients available now. There were no trained chefs, either — the cooks were just men who had come here to be gold miners or railroad workers and decided to open chow-chows (cook shacks marked with a traditional yellow banner).

L.A.'s original Chinatown had been a single block of cheap lodgings just south of the Plaza. In the 1870s, it started growing and spread eastward but in 1882, anti-Chinese zealots managed to get a national Chinese Exclusion Act passed. As a result, Chinatown's population stagnated at around 2,000 from 1890 to 1920.

The earliest restaurant known by name is Man Jen Low, simply because it survived down to 1987 (by then known as General Lee's Man Jen Low). In the 1950s, its menu gave the restaurant's founding date as 1890.

What sort of restaurants were they? Many were humble noodle shops, but Yong Chen, co-curator of the exhibition "Have You Eaten Yet? The Chinese Restaurant in America," which has appeared around the country in recent years, says they weren't all holes in the wall: "Some 19th century restaurants were very grand inside, with carving and traditional furniture. Others were just a booth extending into the street from the shop front.

"Very early menus show shark's fin and bird's nest, important luxury items for the Chinese and the Cantonese in particular. But they quickly found that Americans weren't interested."

Early on, in order to please non-Chinese customers, restaurant owners developed bland, often sweet versions of Chinese dishes. Somewhere along the line, some cook introduced an inoffensive stir-fry he called chop suey (from Cantonese tsa sui, meaning various pieces): meat, celery, onions and bean sprouts, well doused with soy sauce.

"Chop suey is in a way American," says Chen, "but it is also Chinese peasant food — a very simple dish, like a way of using leftovers." He points out that you can still find it on Chinese menus, because many Cantonese restaurants have continued to serve cautiously Americanized food to non-Chinese.

In the early 20th century, Los Angeles started "discovering" Chinese food. Newspapers published chop suey recipes, over the years working in Chinese ingredients such as bean sprouts, "suey" sauce and "Chinese potatoes" (water chestnuts). But outside Chinatown, such ingredients were hard to get, and one newspaper article suggested that readers talk their Chinese laundryman into selling some of his personal stash.

By 1904, L.A. already had its first Chinese food snobs — eager, smug and tragically less sophisticated than they hoped. A non-Chinese society woman was said to visit a chop suey joint where many of the customers were hookers and opium smokers. She would sweep in wearing a white opera cloak and a corsage and imperiously proclaim, "Pigs! All of you, pigs!" apparently miffed that the diners did not appreciate the gastronomic masterpieces they were eating. She genuinely loved the cook's chop suey, putting away two or three bowls a night. But after all, it was just chop suey, not at all a dish for connoisseurs.

As another sign that Chinese food was joining the mainstream, Chinese American restaurants started opening in the downtown business district around 1905. The menus were literally Chinese American — you could get steak or roast chicken there as well as chop suey. But Chinese dishes must have been an attraction, because that year a downtown French restaurant started advertising that it had chop suey.

Chinese immigrants and their descendants had dominated vegetable farming in Los Angeles since the 1870s. In 1909, because of ill treatment by the old produce market, Chinese growers transferred their business to the new City Market at 9th and San Pedro streets downtown. A neighborhood known as Market Chinatown grew up along San Pedro across from the market. Merlin Lo, whose family has run the Hong Kong Noodle Co. on 9th Place since 1913, believes there had previously been two Chinese restaurants at its address.

During the 1920s, there was a general craze for ethnic food, and more Chinese restaurants opened than any other kind. For the novice, their menus offered set dinners with, say, egg drop soup, chow mein, a meat dish such as pork stir-fried with snow peas, rounded out with fried shrimp, rice and egg foo yung.

If you felt adventurous, there would be grander dishes such as almond duck, sweet-sour pork and soy sauce chicken; fish was rarely served. Many places offered a mix-and-match scheme: Pick one item from column A, one from column B and one from column C, all for a single price. Though the food was still Americanized, the dining public was tolerating novel ingredients such as yard-long beans and "white mustard" (bok choy).

In the 1930s, Hollywood started patronizing the top Chinatown restaurants, and you might see Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Walt Disney or the Marx Brothers showing off their chopstick skills there. In gossip columns and movie magazines, Tuey Far Low was mentioned alongside showbiz hangouts such as the Brown Derby, Sardi's and the Coconut Grove. (One attraction was that it stayed open till 5 a.m.)

Celebrities also flocked to Man Jen Low and the Dragon's Den. Mae West's favorite was Man Fook Low in Market Chinatown, one of the first places to feature the dumplings we now know as dim sum.

These were all grand places — Tuey Far Low resembled a pagoda — but serious Chinese food lovers also sought out humbler eateries. A 1937 story about an unnamed restaurant (probably Yee Hung Guey) recorded that "day after day and night after night, people who could afford to eat in luxurious and lovely places drive down into one of the dingiest parts of town, stand in line in a queue which stretches around the corner, slowly shuffle their way in through the kitchen and finally, after half an hour of standing in line, rejoice at being allowed to take their places on stools at oilcloth covered tables."

These were the last years of L.A.'s original Chinatown, because the owner of the land had sold it to the railroads for building Union Station. Some Chinese merchants and residents relocated in Market Chinatown, but more moved into the formerly Mexican neighborhood on upper Broadway and Hill streets where the ethnic mall known as New Chinatown opened in 1939.

In the '50s and '60s, Cantonese food saw a revival under a new name — "Polynesian" cuisine. Top-rank Polynesian restaurants such as Trader Vic's and the Luau, both in Beverly Hills, sometimes offered Peking duck alongside the usual sweet-and-sour pork, lobster Cantonese, fried rice and pupu platter. (And the rum drinks and hula music, of course.)

Setting the standard

OTHER elegant presentations of Cantonese food were appearing outside China- town. In 1954, when Panorama City was a raw new suburb, Korean American actor Phil Ahn opened Moongate, serving upscale Cantonese food in a serene setting dominated by its circular entrance gate. Arthur Wong's Far East Terrace drew customers from nearby Universal Studio in North Hollywood.

But New Chinatown still flourished as a dining destination. "General Lee's was cutting-edge in those days," recalls Eugene Moy, vice president of programs for the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. "It had Rudi Gernreich design sharp waiters' jackets for it." Gernreich's fashions epitomized the jazzy, swinging California style of the '60s.

Around 1963, Angelenos started hearing rumors about something called Mandarin cuisine. The Shanghai Inn, a tiny place on Hollywood Boulevard around Western, made a big splash, starting your meal with sizzling rice soup and ending it with deep-fried snapper, and it was known for its Peking duck too. Hollywood flocked there. The next year, Peking Mandarin Cuisine opened in Inglewood, and we had a trend on our hands.

Food writers in L.A.'s newspapers and magazines of the era could tell Mandarin food was not Cantonese, but they couldn't put their fingers on the difference. It was said to involve more meat and spices and pay more attention to color, but it largely seemed to be about that sizzling rice. It was a category that glossed over the differences between all non-Cantonese styles of cooking, just as "Northern Italian" would later lump together a number of regional cuisines in the 1970s.

Some time in the mid-1960s, actor Cary Grant came into Madame Wu's Garden in Santa Monica, raving about a chicken salad he'd had at another restaurant. Sylvia Wu, the daughter of a wealthy and politically connected family in China who had opened a grand (and non-Americanized) Cantonese restaurant in 1961 and immediately become a favorite of Hollywood society, adapted a Cantonese banquet dish of shredded chicken with almonds, fried noodles and won ton chips as Chinese chicken salad, and her recipe soon conquered the world.

When President Nixon returned from his celebrated 1972 trip to China and remarked on how good the food was there, one result was the decade's explosion of interest in authentic Chinese cuisine. Another, due to his trade liberalization policy, was the availability of ingredients such as wood ear mushrooms and golden needles (day lily buds) — which, in themselves, made possible a craze for moo shu pork.

Foodies demanded to know what Chinese regional food was really like, and the "Mandarin" category was unpacked into the now familiar Sichuan (Szechwan), Shanghai, Beijing, Hunan and other schools. Sichuan, popularized in 1974 by Cathay de Grande in Hollywood, struck a particular chord around here; the word became a virtual synonym for "spicy." Kung pao chicken ruled the roost.

In the early '80s, taking advantage of liberalized immigration policies, a great influx of Taiwanese turned Monterey Park into the nation's first suburban Chinatown. Here were practically the first American Chinese restaurants that did not inherit the tradition of serving Americanized food. They served honest, savory Taiwanese cooking; the iconic dish was pan-fried clams in garlic black bean sauce.

Around the same time, several big seafood restaurants opened back in downtown's Chinatown, above all the famous Mon Kee, which drew the sort of adventurous diners who also ate at the period's French-influenced nouvelle cuisine restaurants such as Ma Maison. Overnight Angelenos became acquainted with shrimp in pepper salt. Menus went on with page after page of sea cucumber and crab dishes.

In the later '80s, prosperous Hong Kong immigrants created the explosion of Chinese restaurants along Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, San Gabriel and Rosemead. Here you could find Chinese Islamic cuisine and Shanghai restaurants and cookery of the Chiu Chow people, who had sojourned for centuries in Vietnam and Thailand. At one of the new restaurants, the former chef of Chinese premier Chou En-lai would cook you as fancy a dinner as you were willing to pay for (a high-end meal included a lot of vegetables marvelously carved into dragon and phoenix shapes). When the Empress Pavilion opened in downtown's New Chinatown, the victory of sophisticated Hong Kong-influenced cuisine seemed complete.

Buzzing with energy, that's our Chinese food scene today. When a new restaurant opens, flocks of people rush to check it out. Serious eaters follow chefs from restaurant to restaurant, the way foodies followed nouvelle cuisine chefs in the 1970s. There's an enthusiasm for all the ancient riches of Chinese cuisine — and the latest developments from Hong Kong.

"Sometimes, if you grew up here," says Moy, "you feel nostalgic for those old dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung.

"But then you order them, and you realize the food is so much better now."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
charles.perry@latimes.com
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 9:16 AM
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RITUAL: Lucy Huang, left, her huband Tim and their daughter Tiffany prepare for the Chinese New Year by lighting incense in their San Marino home.
(Lawrence K. Ho / LAT)
February 16, 2007


---------------------------------------
Feeling the tug of tradition
As commercial ties with China expand, Chinese Americans are acquiring new interest in old ways.
By David Pierson
Times Staff Writer

February 21, 2007

When Lucy Huang was a child, she scoffed at the idea that she was supposed to be stubborn and aggressive just because she was born in the Year of the Tiger. She hated that her first-generation Taiwanese American parents made her go to Chinese school on Saturdays when all of her mostly non-Chinese friends got to play.

But this week, the 32-year-old commercial cookware executive is taking on the customs and rituals of the Chinese New Year with gusto.

She got a haircut before the new year instead of after, which would have symbolized clipping away the good luck. She cleaned her San Marino home so that she would not sweep out any good luck accrued after the new year. And she made a point not to argue with anyone so that no ill will would carry over to this Year of the Golden Boar — which, the pregnant Huang eagerly points out, is supposed to be a doubly auspicious year to have a child.

Huang's awakening to the Chinese traditions she once found embarrassing came through her job: running a culinary equipment company that required much travel to the factories near Shanghai.

"It used to be that 95% of the people surrounding me were American," Huang said. "Now it's 95% Chinese because of my work. I started learning about their practices and their experiences. I gained a sense of identity."

In most ethnic communities, the rituals and superstitions of the old country tend to fade as successive generations become more Americanized. But in the Chinese American community, something different is happening.

New meaning

China's economic boom has lured many Chinese Americans into business back on the mainland. And along the way, some, such as Huang, are re-embracing age-old traditions such as Chinese New Year with a new sense of meaning.

"In the past, a lot of second-generation and third-generation Chinese Americans kept their traditions because they were isolated from mainstream society," said Yong Chen, a professor of history at UC Irvine. "Now they have a choice to become Americanized. But they're seeing there are benefits associated with being Chinese because of the growth of the Chinese economy."

Southern California is China's leading two-way trading partner, accounting for $109 billion annually (including Hong Kong and Macao). The San Gabriel Valley is dotted with companies large and small trying to get rich by importing Chinese products into the United States.

There are untold numbers of "sea turtles" — Chinese Americans who have traveled to their ancestral home in hopes of cashing in on China's fortunes. A growing number of books teach Chinese rituals and customs, many aimed at businesspeople trying to relate to mainland culture.

Of course, there are still Chinese Americans who see the new year superstitions — have a baby this year, don't get married that year — as silly throwbacks to Grandma. And others view the new trendiness of Chinese rituals as being fueled less by cultural appreciation than by a yearning to make money in China.

But it's clear that a revival is taking place.

Keng Ong, who runs Wing Hop Fung, the leading Chinese herbal medicine emporium in the region, said he noticed an increase in young Chinese American customers just as China's global profile surged.

Ong said younger Chinese Americans are interested in obscure medicinal delicacies — and the meaning behind them — normally popular only with older generations.

"They are people who never seemed like they touched the stuff before," he said. "They come in with their parents, who do all the talking. They buy shark fins and mushrooms and black sea moss, birds nest and sea cucumber."

Trying to assimilate

Teddy Zee, a veteran Hollywood producer whose recent films include "The Pursuit of Happyness," said he was taught by his parents, immigrants from Shanghai, that assimilation was the ultimate goal, and thus has spent most of his life surrounded by non-Chinese peers.

After leaving his boyhood home in upstate New York for good, Zee temporarily erased the memory of the Chinese traditions his parents had told him about.

"I had never in my life celebrated the Lunar New Year," said Zee, 49.

The negation of his roots played out in the decisions he made while raising his children. Given the choice of sending his daughters to Chinese school or ballet, he chose ballet. One daughter is fluent in French, though he now wishes she were also fluent in Mandarin.

But Zee now spends two weeks out of every month in Asia. He has tapped into China in recent years, believing it to be the "final frontier" for Hollywood. He started a film company there that works with the Shaolin Temple, famed for its martial-arts monks. During a recent visit, Zee was taught how to pray with 6-foot-long incense sticks. The experience vividly reminded him of his late mother, a woman with bound feet who fled Mao Tse-tung's Communist takeover half a century ago. He remembered how she started each day with Buddhist chants and the burning of incense.

"The last three years I have started embracing my heritage," Zee said. "I've come out as a Chinese American."

Childhood nostalgia

Now, at least twice a month, he leaves his Hancock Park home for the San Gabriel Valley to dine on the Chinese food that makes him nostalgic for his childhood. He also attended two New Year's dinners over the weekend — even making sure he had red envelopes in which to give lucky money to youngsters.

"The world is a changing place, and there's never been a better time to be Chinese American," Zee said. "It's been something good for me. But it's also great for business."

That's what bothers some Chinese Americans.

Ryan Chan wonders how sincere many would be about the traditions had there not been a business incentive.

The 24-year-old grew up in San Gabriel. After college, he decided to go to a working-class city in northeastern China to teach English and learn about Confucian values.

"I didn't see it as a job opportunity," Chan said. "It was a chance to go there and explore my culture." But some Chinese Americans who are discovering the old ways say it's not just about money.

"I've begun to see being Chinese was unique to who I was," said Aaron Jen, a freshman at Johns Hopkins University who was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. "I had sort of taken it for granted."

Jen's parents made him attend Chinese school since he was a young boy, but he never really mastered Mandarin.

Life-changing trip

Last summer, the 18-year-old visited Shanghai to meet friends and relatives. The visit, he said, changed him — beginning an exploration of the culture. This year, he flew back from Baltimore for Chinese New Year's even though he had only two nights back home in San Marino. It's crucial that the eldest grandson spend the celebration with his grandmother.

Jen's mother, Eva Jen, felt redeemed.

"I sent him to Chinese school since kindergarten and he didn't get it," she said. "Now he's in his first year of college and guess what course he picks? Chinese."

*


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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 10:30 AM
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For some, Beverly Hills ballots went too Farsi


GREEK TO HER: Beverly Hills resident Rose Norton holds a bilingual ballot, which she finds offensive. It looks like “a menu from a Farsi restaurant,” she said.
(Ken Hively / LAT)


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...home-headlines

For some, Beverly Hills ballots went too Farsi
For the first time, the city translates its entire absentee and sample voting documents into Persian. Not everyone likes the look.
By Tony Barboza
Times Staff Writer

February 23, 2007

"Have you seen your ballot?" Gloria Seiff of Beverly Hills asked friend and fellow resident Betty Harris over the phone.

Harris had not. She opened the mail-in ballot and took one look. "I was shocked by it," she said.

For the first time, Beverly Hills had translated its entire absentee and sample ballots into Persian. The ballots for the March 6 municipal election, in which two City Council seats are up for grabs, went out this month, and the response was swift.

More than 300 residents phoned the city to complain. City Clerk Byron Pope fielded about 100 of them personally.

"I believe the cover is what shocked the community," said Pope, who had instructed the city's election materials supplier to print the entire ballot, cover to cover, in English and Persian, also known as Farsi. "I believe it was the Farsi script, with the war going on and all," he said.

The translation is the latest measure of the growing Persian influence in Beverly Hills, where Persians now make up about a fifth of the city's 35,000 residents.

The influx, which began in the late 1970s as wealthy Iranians clustered in Beverly Hills after the fall of the shah, has made a mark on many facets of the city, from architecture to the schools.

But it has — as in the case of the ballots — caused friction. Some long-time residents have complained about newcomers tearing down historic homes in favor of what they consider monolithic white "Persian palaces."

At the same time, Persians have flexed their political muscle by holding voter registration drives, electing the first Persian to the City Council in 2003 and making the Persian new year a holiday for students.

Three of the six candidates running for City Council next month were born in Iran, and Councilman Jimmy Delshad will serve as Beverly Hills' first Persian mayor if he wins reelection.

For Nanaz Pirnia, president of the Beverly Hills Iranian American Parents Assn., the ballots are about making voting accessible to all of Beverly Hills.

"I'd rather see people understand the dynamics and what's going on, because voting is a very serious matter," she said. "In Iran we had kingship, and for Iranians to understand the vote in their native language is an advantage to our city."

But other residents say it works against the integration of the Persian community in the city.

"It sends a bad message," said Louis Lipofsky, a lawyer. "It's a message which is divisive, which I believe is designed to separate as opposed to unite. In fact, it's done that."

The move to a full Persian translation in election materials started three years ago when the City Council directed the city clerk to determine how many Persian speakers lived in the city. Clerk Nina Webster conducted a survey of Beverly Hills High School students that estimated that 15% of Beverly Hills residents spoke Persian as a first language. The next year, the City Council included Persian text in its 2005 election materials, but it did not translate the cover, and Persian and English appeared on separate pages.

This year, Pope, the new city clerk, put Persian text on the entire ballot, cover and all. The ballot has a bilingual English-Persian cover, and the two languages intermingle on the inside pages.

On the ballot card, where voters make their marks, Spanish also appears, upping the number of languages on one page to three, and putting some voters off.

"It was a design error," suggested voter Rose Norton. "It really looked like a menu from a Farsi restaurant with a translation in English." Norton said she found it "offensive" and threw the sample ballot away immediately after she cast her absentee vote.

Pope said the latest change was recommended by the city's supplier and printer, Martin & Chapman Co., which has worked with several cities in Los Angeles County that are under federal consent decrees for not offering fully translated ballots. Though Beverly Hills is not one of them, Martin & Chapman suggested the change as a precaution, Pope said.

The Anaheim-based company charged Beverly Hills an additional $5,025 to translate its 2005 ballot into Persian. The company's estimate for this year is $7,500, Pope said.

"We don't want to disenfranchise any section of our community from voting. We're trying not to exclude," Pope said. "If writing the information in their language helps them to vote without anyone assisting them, we're going to do it."

Pope said that in the 2005 election, fewer than 50 voters requested Persian language ballots at the polls, and none asked for Spanish translations.

"It's possible that this ballot has gone overboard," said Councilman Delshad, who immigrated nearly 50 years ago as a teenager.

"We want to reach out to others, but at the same time make it one unified community," he said. "To the extent that it might be divisive, I don't like it."

Beverly Hills is not the only city to have more than one language on its standard ballot.

In neighboring West Hollywood, where Russian speakers make up about 12% of the population, the default ballot is also bilingual, including phonetic English alongside Cyrillic Russian, said City Clerk Tom West.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires counties only to make election materials available in other languages, not to send the full translations to all voters.

Some cities have chosen to provide full translations, such as Armenian in Glendale, or Khmer, the Cambodian language, in Long Beach. "It's not a legal requirement, but they do it simply to serve people who speak limited English," said Deborah Wright, executive liaison for the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder. "It's in the spirit of the law."

Richard Hasen, a professor who specializes in election law at Loyola Law School, said he supports Beverly Hills' effort. "If you take the view that voting is about allocating power to equals, we shouldn't discriminate against people because they speak a different language," he said. "If they're citizens and they're entitled to vote, they should be informed."


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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 11:05 AM
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^You mangle these articles and deny the reader his own pace and emphasis with your editorial decisions to use oversized, bolded, and colored print where none was intended!
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 4:23 PM
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^You mangle these articles and deny the reader his own pace and emphasis with your editorial decisions to use oversized, bolded, and colored print where none was intended!
I agree.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 4:53 PM
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I actually think its very cool that LA/Beverly Hills has so many persians. I dont know why, but it is.
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Old Posted Feb 23, 2007, 9:44 PM
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Those Chinese articles are also a bit sensationalized, don't you think?
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2007, 2:45 PM
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Those Chinese articles are also a bit sensationalized, don't you think?
Most news is that way now.
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Old Posted Feb 24, 2007, 10:10 PM
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I could care less about everyone's criticisms -- I want to know more about the Farsi restaurant this woman speaks of.
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Glendale Armenians reach out to Iraqi Christians


Nina Grigor, 26, is an Iraqi Armenian who received asylum in the United States after being held for ransom last year in her native country. “I have a safe life here,” she said. “But the other Iraqi Christians need our help.”
(Richard Hartog / LAT)
February 21, 2007




Church members surround a table to add their signatures in a letter-writing campaign urging greater U.S. resettlement opportunities for Iraqi Armenian refugees.
(Richard Hartog / LAT)
February 21, 2007




http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...home-headlines

Glendale Armenians reach out to Iraqi Christians
An Armenian church in Glendale is part of an effort to allow more refugees persecuted in part for their faith into the U.S.
By Teresa Watanabe
Times Staff Writer

February 25, 2007

They were dressed as police officers, but Iraqi physician Nina Grigor knew something was dreadfully wrong when they threw her into a car, blindfolded her, tied her wrists — and ripped the cross from her neck.

For five days last March, the Iraqi Armenian Christian was held somewhere in Baghdad. When she was finally freed after her family paid $100,000 in ransom, she was immediately spirited away to Armenia for safety and then, in July, to Glendale.

Now she is free — one of a growing number of Iraqi Armenians who have found safety in Southern California amid spiraling sectarian violence in their homeland. Grigor, 26, has received political asylum and is studying for her U.S. medical licensing exam.

Grigor's sleepless nights and frightening dreams have finally stopped. But the widespread kidnappings, killings, rapes and church bombings — atrocities that have become almost routine — continue to terrorize hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians left behind, she said.

"I have a safe life here," said Grigor, who asked that an alternative first name be used to protect her and her relatives. "But the other Iraqi Christians need our help."

Now, at last, more of them will get it. After months of mounting violence, the U.S. government recently announced it would accept 7,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of September — a big increase from the few hundred accepted so far since the war began in 2003.

Locally, St. Peter Armenian Church in Glendale kicked off the Lenten season last week with a candlelight service and letter-writing drive urging greater resettlement opportunities for Iraqi Armenian refugees. The letter, which will be sent to elected officials, said Armenians have lived peacefully in Iraq for centuries but that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism since the war began has made them open targets of killings, harassment and discrimination.



The Iraqi Armenian Relief Fund in Glendale is raising money to move families from Iraq to Armenia, where it supports them for one year. But so far the group has only managed to relocate nine families in the last two years, according to vice-president Rafi Ohanes Garabedian. The group is aiming for 15 families this year, he said.

Southern California is home to at least 300,000 Armenians, one-fifth of whom may have ties to Iraq, community leaders say. They estimate that a few hundred Iraqi Armenians have come here since the war began, mostly on tourist or work visas, and may be seeking political asylum or other ways to stay.

Despite those efforts, many people are calling for far greater measures amid what experts say is the largest mass exodus of Iraqis from their homeland in modern history. Earlier this month, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) called on the United States to pledge at least half of the $60 million requested by the United Nations for Iraqi refugee resettlement. So far, the U.S. has pledged $18 million.

"Our invasion of Iraq led to this crisis, and we have a clear responsibility to do more to ease it," Kennedy said this month on the Senate floor.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants says $250 million is needed for a more comprehensive resettlement effort.

For their part, Iraqi Christians say that a far larger quota for refugees is needed.

The Chaldean Federation of America said Christians make up about 200,000 of the 2 million people who have fled Iraq since the war began. Joseph Kassab, federation executive director, said Iraq's Christian population has dwindled from 1.1 million during Saddam Hussein's regime to 600,000.

Christians are routinely targeted for violence and accused of being American collaborators, Kassab said. But unlike their Arab and Muslim neighbors, Christians lack tribes or militias to protect them, he said.

State Department official Ellen Sauerbrey said the 7,000 quota was not a ceiling but an initial number that could be adjusted annually. She said priority would be given to Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government, are members of persecuted religious or ethnic minorities or are members of other vulnerable groups.

Ultimately, however, U.S. officials want to stabilize Iraq so people who flee can return, Sauerbrey stressed.

However, Kassab said many Christians no longer regard Iraq as their homeland and do not expect to return. For Chaldeans, who trace their roots to the descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia and who predate Muslims by centuries, the forced departure is particularly appalling, he said.

Many Armenians, who represent a far smaller group of Iraqi Christians, voice similar sentiments. Although they have lived in Iraq for centuries, their numbers particularly grew after the Turkish genocide against them in the early 20th century, community members say, and came to total perhaps 60,000. (The government of Turkey disputes that what occurred was genocide.)

Many say they are grateful to the Arabs of Iraq who welcomed and sheltered them. Under Hussein's secular regime, Grigor and others said, most Christians were allowed to work, worship and socialize at Armenian clubs largely without interference as long as they did not challenge the political status quo.

Now, all of that has changed, they say.

Pamela Hartman, an Encino immigration attorney, has won political asylum for a dozen Iraqi Armenian clients. Clients have reported death threats, kidnappings, vandalized homes and letters telling them "Christians, go home," she said.

The uncle of one client, she said, was told by his kidnappers that "they will get all of the Christians out of their neighborhood or kill them because they're friendly with Americans." Another Christian client in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood received a letter demanding that all non-Shiite families leave immediately or face death.

Hartman and some refugee groups argue that Iraqi Christians have a prima facie case for refugee and asylum status. The United Nations, however, does not agree and reviews all claims individually.

For now, many Iraqi Armenians are relying on prayer and political appeals to help their loved ones.

At St. Peter Armenian Church, pungent incense and chanted Armenian prayers filled the sanctuary as more than 250 parishioners gathered last week in support of the refugees.

One of them, Marine Abrahamyan Abdasho, wept as she held a candle in prayer. The Glendale teacher is not of Iraqi descent, but she said the long history of persecution against Armenians compelled her to support all victims of violence.

"Our history as Armenian people has made us able to feel the pain of anyone suffering now," she said.

After the service, parishioners gathered in the reception hall to sign letters of appeal for Iraqi refugee aid and shared story after story of families fleeing atrocities, of being scattered around the world. Nearly 70% of the church's 500-member Sunday congregation are of Iraqi descent, according to Pastor Vazken Movsesian.

Noobar Zadoian, 32, trained as a computer programmer, said he arrived in Glendale two months ago after too many bombings, murders and kidnappings made him lose hope in his country's future. His elderly father remains alone in Jordan, where he had gone in late 2003 to say goodbye to another son who was leaving for the U.S. The father ended up staying in Jordan because the situation in Iraq had begun to deteriorate too badly to risk returning.

Another parishioner said a relative was stoned as he walked down a formerly peaceful neighborhood street because his sister had married an American.

"You guys have to leave; this is not your country anymore," she said he was told.

"Armenians have been caught right in the middle," Movsesian said. "We were a respected class as a Christian minority in Iraq. Now, Armenians are left without homes and nobody wants them."

*


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

Times staff writer Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.
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Old Posted Feb 25, 2007, 3:10 PM
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Spirituals hit high note at L.A. event


Members of GLB Symphonic Chorale sing at the Negro Spiritual Institute Marathon.
(Christine Cotter / LAT)
Feb 24, 2007




Daryl Sims leads a group named High Praise.
(Christine Cotter / LAT)
Feb 24, 2007




Eulalia Evans performs last week at the Negro Spiritual Institute Marathon '07 at The Holman United Methodist Church.
(Christine Cotter / LAT)
Feb 24, 2007


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...fault-underdog

Spirituals hit high note at L.A. event
A conference shows the vitality of the traditional music form even as it fades in popularity.
By Deborah Schoch
Times Staff Writer

February 25, 2007

The lucky ones learned spirituals as children, from grandmothers whose own grandparents may have been slaves.

Not only did they memorize "Wade in the Water," but they heard how fleeing slaves trudged through rivers and creeks to escape search parties and their dogs.

"My grandmother taught me the spirituals as if my life depended on them," recalled University of Michigan law professor Sallyanne Payton, one of dozens of middle-aged African Americans who gathered in Los Angeles this weekend for a conference on Negro spirituals.

Now, she and others at the conference fear that the tradition is ebbing away.

Young people whose iPods resonate with hip-hop lack emotional ties to the thousands of spirituals composed and sung by slaves in the 18th- and 19th-century American South. Some musicians and churches overlook the often-somber lyrics and simple tunes — with their intimations of a tragic past — in favor of the more exuberant gospel tradition that followed, often featuring large swaying choirs, percussion and a strong beat.

That trend is evoking a sense of urgency nationally among some churches, musicians and teachers who are rushing to shore up interest in spiritual music before it fades away entirely.

"For many of us, this is a preservation project," said Payton, who grew up in Los Angeles. "A lot of baby boomers looked around and said, 'Oh my God, we've got to do something. Now.' "

Payton is among those participating in the three-day Negro Spiritual Institute at Holman United Methodist Church, in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles, a large, 62-year-old church with a history of performing spirituals.

Adults and children alike learned about the roots of spiritual music, how to sing it and even how to dance to it.

They listened as a dozen musical groups performed spirituals and related music at a Friday night marathon, including a jazz trumpet solo of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and the Holman Bell Choir adaptation of "Deep River."

The walls of the church activities building vibrated with sound as singers in crimson, gold and lime-green robes flowed through the halls, other choirs warmed up in side rooms and black-clad teenage dancers in yellow head scarves performed stretches in the sanctuary.

The event will end with a concert of Negro spirituals by the Holman Church choir at 3 p.m. today at the church.

Although Holman has held its spiritual concerts annually for 48 years, its pastor, the Rev. Henry L. Masters, decided several years ago to add the Negro Spiritual Institute. This year, the event was held in conjunction with a four-day conference on music as a ministry that drew clergy, choir directors and musicians from around the country.

Masters compared his sense of urgency in strengthening the spiritual tradition with concerns in many other American churches that interest is ebbing in the old classical anthems and hymns.

He said he hoped the weekend's performances would show how much of modern music, including gospel and hip-hop, is grounded in the spiritual tradition.

One reason Holman has such a strong tie to spirituals is that one of its past members was Jester Hairston, a celebrated composer and arranger who died in 2000. He is credited with keeping the tradition alive in the music world with his arrangements of songs such as "Poor Man Lazarus."

His cousin, Bay Area composer Jacqueline B. Hairston, who trained at the Juilliard School and Columbia University, also is keenly interested in spirituals and has arranged them for opera stars Kathleen Battle and Leontyne Price.

She would travel to Los Angeles to learn from him and hear his stories.

"I was so excited," she told musicians and educators at a workshop. "I would literally sit on the floor at his feet with a tape recorder and a camera."

In her seminar, she pinpointed features of spirituals that originated in Africa: improvisation, syncopation, the "call-and-response" tradition in which one singer leads and other singers or a congregation follows. Spirituals are usually sung a cappella — unaccompanied — because plantation owners forbade slaves to use drums, she said.

Many were spontaneous compositions, created and molded by slaves working in cotton fields.

One slave might say he or she was not feeling well that day, and then sing the phrase, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen" — a phrase picked up by a nearby worker who might add, "Nobody knows … but Jesus."

Saturday's sessions were aimed at introducing school-age children to spirituals.

Musician Aaron Nigel Smith taught the spiritual "I've Got Shoes" to seven girls and four boys, ages 5 to 11, interspersing pieces of history about slavery.

One boy raised his hand to ask the meaning of the phrase, "Ev'rybody talkin' 'bout Heav'n ain't goin' there."

That sprang from the days when slaves listened outside plantation owners' church services and pondered, "Why do they deserve to go to heaven and I don't?" Smith explained as he searched for a simple definition of hypocrisy.

Even though spirituals grew out of slavery, they conveyed optimism to those who sang them, some experts said.

"It allowed these people to have some hope in a situation that was not that hopeful," Smith told his class.

In fact, Hairston believes spirituals may experience a resurgence because they can be soothing, both to the singer and those who listen.

"It's one of those song types that really encourages the human spirit," she said.

To hear audio clips of two spirituals, go to http://www.latimes.com/spiritual .

*


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
deborah.schoch@latimes.com
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Old Posted Feb 25, 2007, 4:48 PM
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A Heritage in Common (Glendale's Armenian community)



February 11, 2007

Family ties, church and school are the pillars of Glendale's expanding and tight-knit Armenian American community. Armenians have settled in Glendale for more than half a century, bringing with them traditions from Armenia, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and the former Soviet Union.

What it's about

There's a reason cavernous banquet halls dot the Glendale landscape: Armenian Americans gather often to celebrate life milestones and religious events with 200 of their closest friends and family. That home-away-from-distant-home sensibility always has been the lure to this San Fernando Valley city, said Re-Max Tri-City Realty agent Razmik Boghossian, an Iranian Armenian who immigrated to Glendale 25 years ago. The city also has large Korean, Filipino and Latino communities.

Armenian social-service and religious organizations help immigrants find housing and jobs; professionals within that community provide legal, medical and other services to new and longtime residents, who make up about 40% of the city's population of 210,000.

Then there's the food: A host of restaurants on Glendale and Central avenues serve lamb kebabs, stews, baklava and other delicacies. Scores of specialty markets sell hummus, tabbouleh, and Shahrzad and Alghazaleen teas, essential to Armenian family meals.

"It's a lot easier to start over again in a foreign country when you can find work, learn English and grow among people you know," said Edmond Hartounian, an Iranian-born grocer of Armenian descent.

In 2005, Glendale's Armenian American community took pride in a political milestone: capturing a majority of Glendale City Council seats (three out of five).

*

Insider's view

The grocer Hartounian's story is typical within Glendale's Armenian American community. Born and raised in Iran, Hartounian earned his electrical-engineering degree in Germany, then returned to his native country to work. He immigrated to the U.S. with his wife and baby in 1982, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and landed in Glendale, where his wife's relatives had settled earlier.

Hartounian co-owned a Glendale construction company for 17 years. Now 60, he owns the popular Glendale Ranch Market on Central Avenue.

When he bought his hillside home in Glendale in 1985, he was the first Armenian American on his block; 18 Armenian families now own homes there. On a recent evening, he met up with 10 friends from his youth — as he has every Thursday night for 20 years — at a local restaurant for dinner and camaraderie.

"We found each other again here in Glendale," Hartounian said. "Our kids are friends too."

*

Good news, bad news

Many second- and third-generation Armenian Americans have prospered in Glendale, but some recent immigrants have found it difficult to find higher-paying jobs. Some work extra jobs to make ends meet and still can't achieve the good life they had envisioned.

Armenian gang activity, a significant problem a few years ago, has declined.

Design changes to older Spanish-style homes and the "mansionization" of other Glendale homes over the years have created tension between newer Armenian home buyers and longtime residents. Partly as a result of that strain, the city now requires new site plans to get the approval of the design review board.

Housing stock

Armenians are widely dispersed throughout Glendale, where there are nearly 23,500 single-family homes. Higher-income Armenian owners tend to live in the tonier Glendale Highlands area in the hilly northwestern part of the city and the Oakmont Country Club area, the latter of which has newer homes in the $1.5-million and up range, Boghossian said. Lower-income residents — often recent immigrants — live in some of the city's 33,000 apartment units.

*

Report card

There are 20 elementary schools in the Glendale Unified School District. Student scores on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report ranged from 725 out of 1,000 at Cerritos Elementary School to 940 at Mountain Avenue Elementary. Of middle schools, Rosemont scored 893; Woodrow Wilson, 820; Toll, 770; and Roosevelt, 726. Of the high schools, Crescenta Valley scored 891; Anderson W. Clark Magnet, 856; Herbert Hoover, 757; Glendale, 726.

*

Historical values



Single-family home resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$330,000

1995...$249,500

2000...$342,500

2004...$605,000

2005...$728,950

2006... $768,250

Last edited by Infestma; Feb 25, 2007 at 4:54 PM. Reason: add picture
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2007, 1:27 AM
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^ Glendale is definitely an area I need to explore more. I've only gone to the Glendale Galleria and the 24hr Fitness in Downtown Glendale. The Glendale Highlands neighborhood sounds like it could be really beautiful! And anyone know of any good Armenian restaurants to try out? I'm not too familiar with Middle Eastern food.
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2007, 1:42 AM
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Did anyone check out the parade in Chinatown this weekend?

LAB -- check out Carousel (spelling?) in Glendale, or Shamshiri (Persian food) in Glendale.
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2007, 2:03 AM
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Of course, we can't wait for the Grove East!
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2007, 5:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LosAngelesBeauty View Post
^ Glendale is definitely an area I need to explore more. I've only gone to the Glendale Galleria and the 24hr Fitness in Downtown Glendale. The Glendale Highlands neighborhood sounds like it could be really beautiful! And anyone know of any good Armenian restaurants to try out? I'm not too familiar with Middle Eastern food.
There are a lot of great restaurants in Glendale. The really popular ones are Raffi's Place and Carousal. I personally like Raffi's way more because the meat and the rice just taste a lot better imo. Also, the owner of Carousal just opened a new restaurant called the Minx off the 2 freeway next to In-n-out on the Harvey exit. I like it better than Carousal cuz the atmosphere is a lot cooler but the food is not very armenian or middle eastern.

Btw, Raffi's Place is located on Broadway near Brand Blvd. and next to The Exchange on Maryland.
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2007, 8:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LosAngelesBeauty View Post
^ Glendale is definitely an area I need to explore more. I've only gone to the Glendale Galleria and the 24hr Fitness in Downtown Glendale. The Glendale Highlands neighborhood sounds like it could be really beautiful! And anyone know of any good Armenian restaurants to try out? I'm not too familiar with Middle Eastern food.
Zankou Chicken is pretty popular.
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Old Posted Feb 26, 2007, 10:11 AM
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The world will be one sooner or later.
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Old Posted Feb 27, 2007, 5:56 PM
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Gay Couple Donates to UCLA


MILLION-DOLLAR GIFT: The funds from Rob Wright, left, and John McDonald to UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy will support legal scholarship, research and education in a budding academic field.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times)




http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la...track=ntothtml

UCLA to establish unique law chair
A $1-million-plus gift from a gay couple will help fund the nation's first endowed professorship in sexual orientation law.
By Larry Gordon
Times Staff Writer

February 26, 2007

Thanks to a more than $1-million donation from a gay male couple who hope one day to marry in California, UCLA's law school is planning to establish what is described as the nation's first endowed academic chair in sexual orientation law.

The cash gift from John McDonald and Rob Wright will help fund the research of a still-to-be-named professor at UCLA Law School's Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy. That 5-year-old think tank investigates such topics as anti-homosexual discrimination, the impact of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policies and the demographics of same-sex couples who have adopted children.

"This is going to support legal scholarship, legal research and education that covers a whole area so fundamental to creating change," said McDonald, a retired businessman and attorney who earned his bachelor's degree at UCLA. "We just think this is one of the best things we've ever done."

The UC system recently approved an agreement to accept the money, but formal establishment of the chair awaits a review to ensure that it matches UC's research and teaching missions and is not too narrowly drawn, system officials said. Although the research topics may upset social conservatives, approval is expected.

The donation for the chair was announced publicly in connection with a Williams Institute conference Friday at the Westwood campus.

Though some universities have chairs in gay and gender studies, those have been in the humanities and social sciences and not in a law school, said Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute.

A professor from the current UCLA law faculty will be appointed to the chair in three to six months, and the funds will help pay for such things as teaching assistants and research costs, Sears said.

"This is a big step," he said, expressing his gratitude to the donors.

The gift for the chair was described by experts across the country as giving a prestigious boost to a budding field of scholarship. "It is a terrifically exciting and important development. And it is another marker that sexual orientation law has come into its own as an important field of study," said Suzanne B. Goldberg, a Columbia University law school professor, who runs a clinic on those topics for students at that New York school.

Jennifer Pizer, a senior counsel for Lambda Legal, the national gay civil rights organization, agreed. She said that an endowed chair would be especially noteworthy because UCLA is such a well-respected school and a state university.

Pizer was among the conference speakers Friday who discussed laws that allow gay marriage in some European countries and the panoply of lawsuits involving the issue in the United States. In the keynote address, before an audience of about 150, Boris O. Dittrich, a former member of the Dutch Parliament, spoke about how his legislation led the Netherlands to be the first nation in the world to recognize homosexual marriage, starting in 2001.

McDonald and Wright, who split their time between homes in Colorado and West Hollywood, have lived together for nearly 25 years and have registered as domestic partners.

But they said they faced financial and legal burdens that a heterosexual couple would not.

For example, they made costly inheritance and insurance arrangements that "would have been totally unnecessary" for a straight married couple, Wright said. And when they travel, they always take legal documents that name each other as caretakers in case of a medical emergency, he said.

McDonald, 74, was the chief executive of Mullikin Medical Enterprises, a medical and hospital management firm that was sold in 1995. Wright, 58, worked in advertising and real estate.

If gay marriage were approved in California, the pair "would do it instantly," McDonald said.

The state Supreme Court this year is expected to review an appeals court ruling that upheld a prohibition on same-sex marriage in California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 vetoed a bill that would have permitted gay marriage and said the issue was a matter for the courts to decide.

McDonald and Wright previously donated $100,000 so the Williams Institute could offer training for judges and lawyers in sexual orientation law. They are well known in the gay community for a $1.5-million donation in 1996 to the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, which then named its headquarters building after them.

The couple stress that they want the professor who takes the McDonald/Wright chair to avoid partisan advocacy and stick to objective research on a wide range of legal topics involving same-sex relationships, including adoption and property settlements after gay couples break up. But they clearly hope that such studies will aid the campaign for gay marriage and other gay rights issues.

The institute, which has a staff of 12, is named after its prime donor, Charles Williams, a UCLA alumnus who was a senior executive for Sperry Corp. Williams has given a total of $10 million to the institute, Sears said.

Williams, who was at Friday's meeting, said he wanted to help establish an academic research unit rather than an advocacy group. "You don't get change in the law or in public policy by saying it's a nice thing to do or it's right or it benefits people. You only do it by proving, through research, the facts," said Williams, who lives in Malibu.

The institute's recent studies have found, among other things, that more homosexuals live openly in rural areas of the United States than in the past and that nearly half of skilled nursing homes in the Los Angeles area will not treat HIV patients. Though the overwhelming majority of Friday's participants appeared to support gay marriage, Sears stressed that the institute seeks to present both sides of the issue. For example, last year it and Brigham Young University in Utah co-sponsored debates on the topic.

*


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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