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Equality California celebrates 20 years of legislative activism

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Bisexual Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege, gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, trans Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton, Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California (Photo courtesy EQCA)

History doesn’t just make itself. History happens at an inflection point when fed up individuals come together and organize to make change. Different groups take different approaches to an issue but for change to stick, it needs to become law.  This is particularly true for LGBTQ people who are still not equal to their fellow citizens under federal and many state and local laws. That’s why Equality California’s 20 years of successful legislative activism has become a model for other statewide LGBTQ civil rights organizations.

But Equality California stands on the shoulders of brave souls who paved the way through the dark, tangled thicket of entrenched and institutionalized homophobia.

California has a long track record of creating change, starting with the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, ONE Magazine, the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) in the 1950s. In the 1960s, gay and lesbian activism intertwined with the anti-Vietnam War, Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation movements.  But ironically, the Black Cat and Stonewall rebellions in the late 1960s also sent people “scurrying into closet” fearing exposure through police arrests at bar raids, according to attorney and businesswoman Diane Abbitt.

“There was a lot of shame. People were terrified of losing their jobs. A lot of them were teachers and professional people,” Abbitt tells the Los Angeles Blade. “And it impacted businesses. There was a lesbian bar in Redondo Beach where the police kept coming in on the pretext that they were looking for a runaway.”

Checkbook activist and Equality California Board member Diane Abbitt, with EQCA honoree San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and consultant Bob Burke in 2008. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

By the 1970s, the fight for equal protection under the law hit the political scene and the California Legislature. In 1971, the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club of San Francisco formed to train activists to become political professionals and engage with the Democratic Party. In 1975, Stonewall Democratic Club was founded in Los Angeles and Assemblymember Willie Brown arduously secured passage of a consenting adults law that didn’t exactly decriminalize homosexuality—sodomy or oral copulation laws remained on the books—but private consensual activity between adults over 18 was no longer illegal. In 1977, Assemblymember Art Agnos started pushing for a gay rights job bill and Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The following year, a statewide coalition of activists defeated the anti-gay Briggs initiative and Milk was assassinated.

Meanwhile in LA, the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA) became the first gay political action committee (PAC) contributing money to local pro-gay politicians. “We wanted to change the quality of life for gay people so they could be who they are – and they wanted to do that through political action,” says Abbitt, MECLA’s first female board co-chair who later served on the EQCA board and became PAC chair. MECLA became so prominent, Gov. Jerry Brown gave the keynote speech at a 1979 roast for philanthropist businessman Sheldon Andelson.

There were a record 71 openly lesbian and gay delegates to the 1980 Democratic Convention, 17 of whom came from California. The Democratic Party Platform included a gay rights plank. But Democratic President Jimmy Carter lost to former California Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1980 and everything changed.

Though the first AIDS cases reported to the CDC in 1981 of five gay men from Los Angeles exploded into “1,112 and Counting,” as Larry Kramer put it in 1983, the religious conservative Reagan administration did little to nothing. But AIDS brought together the leaders of numerous LGBT groups to form LIFE AIDS Lobby to push AIDS legislation in Sacramento.

LIFE Lobby Board Co-Chair attorney John Duran and Executive Director Laurie McBride at AIDS Action event during Bill Clinton’s Inauguration in Jan. 1992 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

LIFE worked with allies like Willie Brown and David Roberti, whose openly gay aide Stan Hadden wrote bills and coordinated the legislative response. LIFE also pushed back on anti-gay/AIDS bills and other measures such as the AIDS quarantine initiatives.  John Duran, a volunteer attorney for ACT UP/Orange County, joined the LIFE AIDS Lobby board and wound up serving as co-chair from 1988-1992, working with executive director, Laurie McBride. By the time Republican Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed AB 101 in 1991, LIFE Lobby included members as diverse as transgender ACT UP/LA AIDS activist Connie Norman and Log Cabin Republican Club co-founder Frank Ricchiazzi.

The late AIDS Diva Connie Norman marching in AB 101 protests in Beverly Hills in 1991 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

In the 1990s, state politics was dominated by conservative anti-gay Republicans. Out attorney Sheila James Kuehl took on the challenge, becoming the first openly gay person in the California Legislature and the first member of the LGBT Legislative Caucus. But in 1998, despite the turning point of Democrat Gray Davis’s election as governor and the promise of new life-saving AIDS medications, LIFE Lobby ran out of money and folded.

But longtime politicos recognized the need for political and legislative activism and California Alliance for Pride and Equality (CAPE) quickly emerged from the ashes in 1999 with longtime San Francisco politico Jean Harris as executive director. Geoff Kors, a graduate of Stanford Law School and a lawyer in private practice, was one of nine members who sat on CAPE’s Board of Directors—which now constituted individual board members, not representatives from different statewide organizations.

When Harris left in 2003 – having helped pass Assemblymember Carole Migden’s AB 25 domestic partner registry bill and Kuehl’s AB 537, the first statewide LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law – Kors stepped in as executive director and changed the organization’s name to Equality California.

Kors grew the organization into a national model. First, in 2003, working with gay friend Assemblymember Mark Leno, they secured passage of Leno’s AB 196 adding gender identity to employment and housing protections. That year, he also helped secure passage of AB 205, Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg’s expanded domestic partnership bill that was essentially civil unions by another name.

In 2004, as the Religious Right pressured President G. W. Bush to pass a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Equality California merged with Marriage Equality California and focused on both affirmative and counter measures. In 2005, Leno’s first marriage bill, AB 849, passed the Legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Marriage equality became a key gay and lesbian civil rights issue but marriage equality was upended by the passage of Prop 8 in 2008. It was eventually overturned.

Assemblymember Mark Leno and Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors excited over passage of Leno’s marriage equality bill. (Photo courtesy Kors) 

Kors left Equality California in March 2011 after a hugely successful tenure, concluding with passage of State Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 4, the FAIR Education Act that established an inclusive curriculum.

Kors was followed by Roland Palencia, who served a year, followed by incredible ally Laurie Hasencamp, who stabilized the troubled organization, then John O’Connor who joined the organization in December 2012. During their tenures, Equality California worked to pass Ted Lieu’s SB 1172 “reparative therapy” bill to protect LGBT youth from psychological abuse; Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s AB 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, protecting and prohibiting the exclusion of trans students from classes and activities; and Assemblymember Susan Bonilla’s AB 2501, prohibiting use of the “panic defense” based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

When O’Connor left, Rick Zbur, a longtime political and environment activist, retired in 2014 from his senior law partnership with Latham & Watkins to take the executive director job, which also includes working with the Equality California Institute and the community Equality Council.

Equality California has expanded, re-branded and flourished under Zbur’s leadership, broadening the scope of the organization’s mission to focus on intersectionality and look at health disparities, especially in people of color communities, and the rights of trans people and LGBT undocumented immigrants. The expansion included hiring Valerie Ploumpis as National Policy Director based in Washington DC and launching Silver State Equality in Nevada. 

National Policy Director Valerie Ploumpis and Executive Director Rick Zbur (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

This year, Equality California had 13 bills and resolutions; seven passed the legislature; one has been signed into law; and six bills were turned into two-year bills.

“It was a challenging year for us. I’ve got to admit that. Part of that is because our bills are more challenging and in many ways, we’re tackling tougher issues that impact our community in significant ways,” Zbur tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Many of the strategies that we are pursuing cost money. So that is something that we’ve got a lot of work to do to educate the legislature about the need to prioritize our community as they’re allocating budgetary resources. We’ve got a lot of work to do next year to get those six bills passed.”

Gov. Newsom signed AB 711 by Assemblymember David Chiu. “That basically ensures that local educational agencies in California are required to update the records of their former students who identify as transgender, so that their legal name and their gender are accurately reflected in documents like high school diplomas and school transcripts.” Says Zbur.

Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s AB 493, Safe and Supportive Schools, is on Newsom’s desk but minus a key component – Mandatory Teacher and Staff Training Element, which was pulled because the budgetary funding was insufficient.  “We have an agreement and understanding with the governor’s office that we will bring back the mandatory training elements of the bill next year. They made a commitment to us to work on a funding package as part of next year’s budget,” says Zbur. “We’re optimistic that the governor and his staff have actually prioritized LGBTQ school safety as an issue to tackle in sort of a comprehensive way next year.”

State Sen. Scott Wiener, then-Insurance Commissioner candidate Sen. Ricardo Lara, Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, LGBT Legislative Caucus Chair Assemblymember Evan Low, and Assemblymember Todd Gloria at an EQCA event. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Another major bill awaiting a signature is SB 159, PrEP and PEP Access Expansion bill by Sen. Scott Wiener. The bill “basically authorizes pharmacists to furnish PrEP and PEP to patients without a prescription, which eliminates one of the key barriers to getting coverage,” says Zbur. Now, if someone can’t get a doctor’s prescription over the weekend, PrEP and PEP is over available at an emergency room.

“That costs a lot of money and for people that have inadequate insurance, it is a huge barrier. So this bill would fix those circumstances,” says Zbur. “It also prohibits insurance companies from requiring prior authorization from insurance companies for at least that initial prescription for PrEP.”

Another bill, SB 495 by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, tackles child custody determinations, modifying the family code “to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity of a parent or legal guardian or relative when granting and making decisions on custody of a child, which is an important new non-discrimination protection that is now embedded in our law.”

Additionally, AB 785, by Senate Assemblymember Richard Bloom “streamlines the transfer of donor medical information for families in donor conceived individuals” is also on Newsom’s desk.

The tough two-year bills include the complicated Intersex Bodily Autonomy bill, which was pulled early to allow for more education. “Basically it protects the rights of intersex Californians to ensure that they can provide informed consent before medically unnecessary and sometimes irreversible and harmful procedures are performed on them as babies,” says Zbur. “At its core, this is about protecting and respecting an individual’s own determination of their gender identity.”

Another now-two-year bill by Senator Wiener, SB 132, the Transgender Respect Agency and Dignity Act, primarily dealing with how trans inmates are housed in prison. “We, as a coalition, elected to take a pause and work on some details on the bill that we think will allow us to get it passed next year,” Zbur says. “As you might expect, there’s a high amount of engagement with the California Department of Corrections.”

And then there was the dustup with Assembly Appropriations Chair Lorena Gonzalez, who placed Wiener’s SB 145 Sex Offender Registry bill on suspense without explanation, turning it into a two-year bill. The bill would fix the state’s discriminatory practice of treating LGBT young people differently than their non- LGBTQ peers when engaging in voluntary sexual activity

“We obviously expressed our concern about how this bill was treated. But we are planning on working with the Assembly Appropriations Chair next year and are dedicated to continuing to fight to get this through,” says Zbur.

“I think [Gonzalez] considers herself an ally. But I think she really doesn’t fully understand our issues. It’s inappropriate for her to really try to pit a bill that is trying to fix discrimination against LGBTQ people against folks in the criminal justice advocacy area, who would oppose any sort of increased criminalization of something.”

Apparently, Gonzalez hated the bill. “She wanted this gone. She had concerns about the underlying law. That’s something that she should do as a separate bill. We obviously took issue with the fact that she wanted to tie concerns that she had with the underlying law to an LGBTQ bill to fix discrimination for our community,” Zbur says.

Two other bills, SB 741 and AB 650, “got bollixed up because of some of the details,” says Zbur. One allows trans Californians to update their marriage certificates and birth certificates while still protecting their privacy and the other is about LGBTQ data collection. A third bill, AB 307, by Eloise Gomez Reyes and Senator Wiener regards a homeless youth grant program for which there was no money in the budget.

“One of the challenges that we’re facing is that many of the things that we need to do in California do cost money now,” says Zbur. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do to really hold our legislators and legislature accountable to prioritize the needs of our community. These bills are essentially a drop in the bucket compared to the broader state budget. But really, just the commitment isn’t there yet among many of the folks that are making these decisions. So we’ve got a lot of work to do and that’s what we’re going to be focusing on next year.”

CNN commentator and outspoke Trump critic Ana Navarro (Photo by Karen Ocamb) 

Zbur says their Equality California 20th Anniversary Awards on Sept. 28 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel “should be the biggest gala that we’ve ever had,” with an expected attendance of more than 1200 people. The honorees are Jill Soloway, creator and executive producer of the Amazon original series Transparent, with the Equality Visibility Award;  CNN political commentator Ana Navarro with the Ally Leadership; Latham & Watkins, LLP and attorney Amy Quartarolo, who will be honored together with the Community Leadership Award –  Latham & Watkins, contributed almost $3 million in free legal services to Equality California over the last three years; and past Equality California Board President Andreas Meyer, who led the organization’s board of directors from 2012-2016.

Meyer was Board president when Zbur was hired and “developed the strategy that the organization is following now—one that is very intersectional and really focused on addressing the disparities in health and wellbeing that our community faces.”

Equality California staff: From left: Program Director Robbie Rodriguez, Program Associate Marisa London, Communications Director Samuel Garrett-Pate, Director of Finance & Administration Valecia Phillips, Executive Director Rick Zbur, Managing Director Tony Hoang, Program Manager Jeremy Payne, Grants Associate Allie Hughes (Photo by Claudia Unger & Francesca Di Amico, courtesy of Equality California)

Zbur also says he is “actually very lucky to have an incredibly committed board and an incredibly committed staff. I mean it’s really a team effort. But when I came in, it was a time in which a lot of folks were asking the question: why do we need Equality California? We were so associated with the fight for marriage equality and that was behind us. Andres was an incredibly important leader of our organization during that transition,” as were Jackie Thomas and Joyce Rowland at the Equality California Institute.

“For two decades, Equality California has led the Golden State’s fight for LGBTQ civil rights and social justice,” says Zbur. “And after 20 years in this fight — even in these challenging times — I couldn’t be more hopeful. I have hope for our future because like our fledgling board back in 1999, I know the next generation of leaders are unafraid, unjaded and don’t give a damn what the cynics have to say.”

 

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Los Angeles

RuPaul’s Drag Race Queens hit the Beverly Center

100% of the proceeds from OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev will be donated to OUTWORDS, a LA local nonprofit organization

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OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev - Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

By Mike Pingel | LOS ANGELES – The second annual OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev event hit the Beverly Center at 8500 Beverly Boulevard this Saturday for an afternoon of pride experiences with a discussion and special drag performances by Alyssa Edwards, Plane Jane, Laganja Estranja, and Plastique Tiara.

Pride @ Bev offered plenty of freebies, photo ops, and interactive activities like Drag Bingo hosted by Athena Kills, a Beauty Demo hosted by MakeUp Forever, and a Glam Station by Sephora. There were also Photo Moments, a VIP Lounge with bar and bites, and a chance to spin a Beverly Center Wheel for a chance to win VIP passes to the OUTLOUD Music Festival and WeHo Pride. VIP is completely sold out. The only way to get these passes now is to win them.

100% of the proceeds from OUTLOUD Presents Pride @ Bev will be donated to OUTWORDS, a LA local nonprofit organization that captures, preserves, and shares the stories of LGBTQIA2S+ elders to build community and catalyze social change.

OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES
OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

OUTLOUD presents Pride @ Bev – Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

OUTLOUD Music Festival, created by Jeff Consoletti, launched in 2020 as a ten-episode series on Facebook in lieu of Pride Celebrations happening in cities across the country due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, quickly becoming one of the first major virtual LGBTQ+ showcases.

Since its debut, OUTLOUD garnered over nearly two billion media impressions and won several industry-topping awards including multiple SHORTY Awards for Best Use of Facebook and Best Use of Twitch, a MARCOM Award & a Cynopsis Digital Award for BEST LGBTQ Series.

Follow @OfficiallyOUTLOUD #WeAreOUTLOUD. http://weareoutloud.com.

The Beverly Center:

Located at the edge of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, Beverly Center features the best in luxury and contemporary retail, along with delectable street level restaurants with everything from modern fresh favorites to fast-casual eateries. Home to over 90 stores, all beneath an impressive skyline, Beverly Center is anchored by Bloomingdale’s & Macy’s and is home to L.A.’s largest collection of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent, Ferragamo, and trending fashion brands including Mango, Zara and H&M.

For more information, visit beverlycenter.com.

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Mike Pingel

Mike Pingel has written six books, Channel Surfing: Charlie’s Angels & Angelic Heaven: A Fan’s Guide to Charlie’s Angels, Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman, The Brady Bunch: Super Groovy after all these years; Works of Pingel and most recently, Betty White: Rules the World. Pingel owns and runs CharliesAngels.com website and was Farrah Fawcett personal assistant. He also works as an actor and as a freelance publicist.

His official website is www.mikepingel.com

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.


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Los Angeles

LA Pride Parade announces grand marshals, KABC 7 to broadcast

The parade route begins at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue ending at Sunset and Cahuenga boulevards in Hollywood

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Actor George Takei, wrestler Cassandro El Exotico and LAFD Chief Kristin Crowley will serve as grand marshals of the 2024 LA Pride Parade. (Photo montage: LA Blade)

LOS ANGELES – Actor George Takei, wrestler Cassandro El Exotico and LAFD Chief Kristin Crowley will serve as grand marshals of the 2024 LA Pride Parade, LA Pride has announced.

The 2024 LA Pride Parade and block party is slated for Sunday, June 9, in Hollywood, and ABC7 is returning as the official broadcast and streaming partner.

According to KABC 7 the parade will have three grand marshals. Takei is designated the “Icon Grand Marshal.” As an actor he was most known for playing Hikaru Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series and films. But he is also an accomplished activist for social justice and LGBTQ+ causes.

“To be recognized in this way by the LGBTQ+ community, an extraordinary group of individuals who have fought tirelessly for equality, is truly overwhelming. As someone who has witnessed the struggles and triumphs of our community over the years, I am filled with gratitude for the progress we have made and inspired to continue the fight for full acceptance and equality for all,” Takei said in a statement.

Cassandro El Exotico is designated the “Legacy Grand Marshal.” Born Saul Armendariz, he is known as a Mexican professional wrestler known for breaking barriers in the world of lucha libre by embracing his openly gay identity in the ring. The film “Cassandro” about his life starring Gael Garcia Bernal was released last year.

Crowley will serve as the “Community Grand Marshal.” She was named Los Angeles Fire Department chief in March 2022, becoming the first woman and first openly gay person to hold the position.

ABC7 will broadcast the 54th annual LA Pride Parade on June 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The coverage will be hosted by Ellen Leyva and “Good Morning America” weekend co-anchor Gio Benitez, with David Gonzalez, Sophie Flay and Karl Schmid reporting from the parade route.

Graphic via LA Pride

The parade route begins at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue heading north, then east onto Hollywood Boulevard, then south onto Cahuenga Boulevard, ending at Sunset and Cahuenga boulevards.

After the parade, the LA Pride Block Party starts at 12 p.m. on Hollywood Boulevard.

Latin superstar Ricky Martin was previously announced as the headliner for the Pride in the Park festival the night before the parade, Saturday, June 8.

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Los Angeles

LA’s lost an iconic entertainment reporter, Sam Rubin dies at 64

Rubin was a longtime fixture in the entertainment landscape beloved by celebrities and the public alike & spending his career solely at KTLA

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Sam Rubin (Screenshot/YouTube KTLA)

LOS ANGELES – A beloved and respected member of the entertainment press corps in Southern California, KTLA’s Sam Rubin, died Friday morning at the age of 64 after suffering a fatal cardiac arrest.

A source close to the station confirmed to Variety that Rubin died at his home in Brentwood of a heart attack after doing his regular Hollywood news segments on KTLA’s 7-9 a.m. “Morning News” program on Friday.

Rubin was a longtime fixture in the entertainment landscape beloved by celebrities and the public alike and with the rarity of spending his professional career solely at KTLA.

In a statement to Variety, Perry Sook, chairman and CEO of Nexstar, called the entertainment news anchor “an icon” for the region and the industry.

“Sam was an icon in Los Angeles and the entertainment industry and he was a beloved member of our Nexstar Nation. My prayers are with his family and the KTLA family as we mourn his passing. He will be missed.”

KTLA reported:

Rubin joined KTLA 5 Morning News in Los Angeles in 1991, where he instantly made an impact with his unmatched, encyclopedic knowledge of film and television. Over the years, his reports and interviews informed and entertained millions of television viewers in L.A. and beyond.

“The Sam that you saw on the air is the Sam that was off the air,” Rubin’s longtime colleague and friend Frank Buckley said in announcing his passing on live television. “To all of us he shared his mornings with on television, and to those he worked with behind the scenes at KTLA, we will not forget him.”

According to his KTLA biography:

Since joining the show in 1991, he has established a reputation as someone who goes beyond the entertainment headlines of the day. His insights and exploration of the deeper meaning and impact of the stories within the entertainment industry generate conversation within the business, as well as outside it.

Sam is a multiple-Emmy winner; has received the Golden Mike Award for best entertainment reporter; has received a lifetime achievement award from the Southern California Broadcasters Association; and has been named best entertainment reporter by the Los Angeles Press Club.

Sam was honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition with its 2013 Impact Award for outstanding integrity in broadcast journalism.

He is the author of two published books, and has seen his work published in both print and online around the world. Sam regularly appears on BBC television and radio in the United Kingdom, and is a regular contributor to Triple M radio and Channel 9 television network in Australia.

Sam is one of the founding members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the largest organization of film and television critics in the United States with more than 200 members. In 1996, the BFCA began the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, now regarded in the same tier as the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. The 2013 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, hosted by Sam, was seen in more than 2 million homes, making it the No. 1 rated show in Los Angeles and other major cities. It was also the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter that evening and generated more than 500 million impressions online.

Sam is the owner of SRE, Inc., a television production company that has produced more than 200 hours of broadcast and cable programming, including several “Live From” red carpet shows and 120 episodes of the talk show “Hollywood Uncensored.”

Off the air, Sam supports various non-profit organizations including putting together a KTLA team for the annual MS 150 Bay to Bike Tour, the premiere cycling event in Southern California raising funds to find a cure for multiple sclerosis. He also is interested in revitalizing Los Angeles schools, including support for literacy programs and events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Sam received his Bachelor of Arts degree in American studies and rhetoric at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Sam lived in Brentwood with his wife Leslie and their four children.

Sam’s son, Colby, joined KTLA 5 Morning News on Monday, May 13, 2024 to reflect on his father’s passing and share a message to him.

Celebrating KTLA 5 Morning News’ 30th anniversary with Sam Rubin:

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Los Angeles

Los Angeles Tourism joins with LGBTQ+ folks to celebrate Pride

LA Pride returns, promising an incredible lineup of events, including LA Pride in the Park headlined by Ricky Martin

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Photo Credit: Discover Los Angeles/LA Tourism Board

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Tourism will join the 54th annual LA Pride festivities this June through its support of the organization and its annual lineup of events. LA Pride stands as one of the largest Pride celebrations in the United States and the world.

Throughout LA Pride, local Angelenos and travelers can secure a nearby hotel with the best available rates and enjoy welcome amenities, discounts and more at select properties.

“LA Pride beautifully captures the spirit of our City of Angels with its focus on unity, inclusivity, and self-expression,” said Adam Burke, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “We are incredibly proud to invite both our fellow Angelenos as well as travelers from around the world to join us in celebrating our LGBTQ+ community.”

LA Pride returns, promising an incredible lineup of events, including LA Pride in the Park headlined by Ricky Martin, the LA Pride Parade & Block Party on Hollywood Boulevard, LGBTQ+ Pride Night at Dodger Stadium and PRIDE is Universal

 

LA Pride in the Park will take place on Saturday, June 8, 2024 across more than 20 acres of lush green space at LA State Historic Park. The event will feature dozens of local and LGBTQ+ vendors, a huge variety of food & beverage, beer gardens and a special lineup. The global icon Ricky Martin will headline LA Pride in the Park, with additional artists to be unveiled. As the first openly gay Latin artist to take center stage at LA Pride, this also marks Martin’s first-ever headliner Pride performance, anywhere.

The series of events during LA Pride includes the iconic LA Pride Parade which will be held on Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Hollywood Boulevard Area. Over 150 contingents will march this year, using the theme “Power in Pride.” The route will be along Hollywood Blvd, and surrounding streets. Those who can’t make it in person are able to watch a live broadcast on ABC7.

“LA Pride radiates a vibrant tapestry of acceptance, unity, and celebration year-round,” shared Gerald Garth, Board President, LA Pride/Christopher Street West. “It’s a testament to our city’s unwavering commitment to embrace diversity and foster an inclusive spirit that transcends boundaries.”

Additional top events during LA Pride include LA Pride in The Park, Parade Block Party, LGBTQ+ Night at Dodger Stadium and Pride is Universal. Read on for details on top events and hotel deals throughout Pride.

For more information about how to celebrate Pride in Los Angeles, visit DiscoverLosAngeles.com/GayLA.

LA PRIDE: EVENTS

LA Pride in The Park – June 8th

Returning to LA State Historic Park for a talented music line-up, dozens of food trucks, sponsor giveaways and activities and much more. LA Pride in The Park takes place on Saturday, June 8th. It’s all happening on over 20 acres of lush green space with a view of the DTLA skyline. Ricky Martin will headline LA Pride in the Park, with additional artists to be unveiled. Tickets can be purchased here.

Parade Block Party – June 9th

Don’t forget the fun Parade Block Party on June 9th, a free Block Party adjacent to the Parade, open from mid-day and going into the evening. With a performance stage, large vendor village, food, pop-up bars, and more. Last year, 35,000 people enjoyed this free Parade “after-party,” don’t miss it! Talent and other announcements coming soon!

LGBTQ+ Pride Night at Dodger Stadium – June 14th

Come watch the Dodgers take on the Kansas City Royals with LA Pride pre-game festivities featuring DJ party, and Pride merch for special ticket holders, only available at dodgers.com/lapride

Pride is Universal – June 15th

Our exclusive after-hours theme park takeover is a fan favorite. Pride is Universal will feature live DJs, Universal character meet-and-greets, photo ops, and more, with musical guests, drag performers and all new elements for this year.  Hours, details, and new features to be announced. Tickets go on sale soon.

LA PRIDE: STAY & SLAY

Visitors coming to Los Angeles to celebrate Pride from June 8-11 can “Stay and Slay” with a collection of hotel offers specially curated by Los Angeles Tourism to welcome revelers from around the world. Highlighted hotel offers are listed out below.

Dream Hollywood Hotel

Tucked among the scenic Hollywood Hills, Dream Hollywood boasts 178 playfully sophisticated guest rooms with subtle nods to the mid-century modern aesthetic iconic to LA. Featuring accommodations with unparalleled views, Tao, Beauty & Essex, and The Highlight Room, one of the LA’s swankiest rooftop pools. Book the best available rate here.

The Godfrey Hotel Hollywood

Exuding the energy of old Hollywood and walking distance to Sunset Blvd, the new Godfrey Hotel features one of the largest rooftops in Los Angeles, four on-site bars, various indoor-outdoor event spaces and About Last Knife, an energetic, chef-driven gastropub-meets-steakhouse. LA Pride Staycation: Celebrate love with The Godfrey and receive 15% off the best available rate here.

Hollywood Hotel – The Hotel of Hollywood

Contemporary accommodations meet quintessential Hollywood glamour at Hollywood Hotel. From a sparkling pool to the Route 66 Bistro Bar & Lounge, the historic Hollywood Hotel reflects classic movie star style in every sense. Visit hotel site for best available rate here.

The Hollywood Roosevelt

The Hollywood Roosevelt is a complete lifestyle destination, fusing entertainment, art, culture, design and music all around the property while providing a glimpse at its storied past. Visit hotel site for best available rate here.

Kimpton Everly Hollywood

Kimpton Everly Hollywood is a breath of fresh air in the midst of one of the world’s most storied neighborhoods. The sophisticated Hollywood Hills-infused residential vibe invites lingering and intimate interaction in the café, living room and skyline pool area. Book the hotel’s best available rate here.

Loews Hollywood Hotel

Loews Hollywood Hotel rises 20 floors above the famed intersection of Hollywood and Highland. Spectacular views of the iconic Hollywood sign and Los Angeles cityscape set the stage for 628 rooms including 113 spacious suites, as well as the rooftop pool. *Use CODE: PRIDE to receive 2 comp cocktails at H2 Kitchen & Bar and complimentary upgrade to a suite. Website here.

Mama Shelter

Designed by Thierry Gaugain to honor the beauty of the SoCal landscape, Mama Shelter LA features five floors of uniquely decorated rooms, each a cozy haven in itself. 70 rooms have king-size beds decked out in 5* linen – fit for a movie star! The hotel boasts one of LA’s best rooftop bars, while dining options will appeal to carnivores and vegans alike. View hotel site for best available rate here.

Sheraton Universal

Nestled below the Hollywood Hills, the Sheraton Universal Hotel is just steps away from Universal Studios Hollywood and CityWalk. Unwind at the poolside lounge or be dazzled with a 270-degree view of Hollywood from the 20-foot windows of the rooftop Starview Room. Book the hotel’s best available rate here.

Thompson Hollywood

Thompson Hollywood is a luxurious new hotel that brings elevated service, and laidback California cool to the heart of Hollywood. The hotel features 190 sophisticated guest rooms and 16 suites, a rooftop pool with sweeping views of Los Angeles, and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The world-class culinary and nightlife destinations include the rooftop lounge Bar Lis, chef Lincoln Carson’s French-inspired Mes Amis, and The Terrace, which pairs European fare with Californian views. Use CODE: STAYPROUD to receive best available rate + bottle of wine + 10% donation to Hollywood LGBT Center. Website here.

Tommie Hollywood

Get comfy in a California way, at Tommie Hollywood. There’s a stylish rooftop pool, fitness center, and a terrace bar in the heart of Los Angeles. This 4-star hotel includes the latest restaurant by award winning chef, Wes Avila, Ka’teen. Use code: STAYPROUD to book the best available rate and receive a welcome amenity and bottle of wine, plus a 10% donation to Hollywood LGBT Center here.

W Hollywood Hotel & Residences

Welcome to the new Hollywood. W Hollywood brings together the magnetic spirit of the Golden Era, infused with epic innovation, elegance and excitement. Welcome backstage, where W guests are insiders in the vivacity of the spotlight. Receive 10% off hotel stay plus welcome amenity. Website here.

When you’re not celebrating LA pride at the parade or many events around the city, celebrate by visiting one of the many LGBTQ+ owned restaurants around Los Angeles. Start off in Casita Del Campo in Silverlake for Mexican dishes, make a stop Liberation Coffee House for a latte and end the night at n/naka which was featured in Season 1 of Netflix’s Chef’s Table. n/naka is your ultimate destination for fine Japanese cuisine. View the full guide to LGBTQ owned restaurants in LA here.

For more information, visit discoverlosangeles.com, follow at facebook.com/DiscoverLosAngeles, or @discoverLA on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

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Ricky Martin will be the headliner for 2024 LA Pride in the Park

LA Pride in the Park will return to the Los Angeles State Historic Park on Saturday, June 8. Across 20 acres with a capacity for 25,000

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Photo Credit: Ricky Martin/WeHoTimes

By Paulo Murillo | LOS ANGELES – Ricky Martin is headlining LA Pride 2024 at Los Angeles State Historic Park. Christopher Street West Association (CSW) – the 501(c)3 nonprofit that has produced the iconic LA Pride celebration for more than 50 years – announced this week.

In a press release CSW stated that global icon Ricky Martin will headline LA Pride in the Park, with additional artists to be unveiled. As the first openly gay Latin artist to take center stage at the highly-anticipated Pride event of the year, this marks Martin’s first-ever headliner Pride performance.

LA Pride in the Park will return to the Los Angeles State Historic Park on Saturday, June 8. Across 20 acres and with a capacity for 25,000, LA Pride in the Park is one of the most sought-after and largest Official Pride concerts in the country. Additionally, the official theme for this year’s Pride season is “Power in Pride,” which celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community’s ability to live authentically.

General Admission and VIP Passes are now available to purchase at lapride.org.

“I am thrilled to be headlining LA Pride in the Park because it’s an incredible opportunity to celebrate love, diversity, and equality,” said Martin. “LA Pride is a testament to the power of community, the power of visibility, and the power of standing up for our rights. Being part of this vibrant community fills me with pride and purpose.”

“With his electrifying stage presence and chart-topping hits, Ricky Martin has long been an inspiration to millions around the world,” said Gerald Garth, board president of CSW/LA Pride. “His participation in LA Pride in the Park goes beyond mere entertainment; it symbolizes a powerful affirmation of queer Latin identity and a celebration of diversity within the LGBTQ+ community. We cannot wait to be ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ while beaming with Pride!”

Ricky Martin, a global music icon, is a multi-talented artist known for his accomplishments as a singer, songwriter, actor and author. He has won multiple GRAMMY® Awards and is considered one of the most influential superstars in history, often referred to as the “King of Latin Pop.” Throughout his nearly four-decade career, Martin brought Latin music and culture to the mainstream, paving the way for crossover talent.

Born in Puerto Rico, Martin gained fame as a member of the popular Latin American band Menudo before embarking on a successful solo career. Notably, he became the first Latin American male to star in a MAC Viva Glam Campaign, raising significant funds for HIV/AIDS research. With over 180 awards, including two GRAMMY® and four Latin GRAMMY® Awards, Martin made history and has been recognized as the youngest-ever “Person of the Year” by the Latin Recording Academy.

He is also an accomplished actor, earning an EMMY® nomination for his role in FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” and displaying his talent on Broadway. He starred in “Jingle Jangle” for Netflix, opposite Forest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose and Hugh Bonneville and can now be seen in the highly lauded Apple TV series “Palm Royale” alongside Laura Dern, Kristen Wiig, Allison Janney and Carol Burnett.

Beyond his artistic achievements, Martin is a dedicated philanthropist. He established the Ricky Martin Foundation, which actively fights against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. As a Global Ambassador for UNICEF, he has provided significant support to communities affected by natural disasters.

Martin has received numerous humanitarian awards, including the Hispanic Federation’s “Humanitarian Award” and the Human Rights Campaign’s “National Visibility Award.” In recognition of his contributions, the City of New York declared “Ricky Martin Day” to honor his artistic legacy and philanthropic work.

Information about parking, transportation, safety, security, medical support, participating vendors, and further programming will be available soon.

For sponsorship and other talent inquiries, contact LA Pride at [email protected]. For more information, follow @lapride on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, which include the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, where he covered breaking news and local events in West Hollywood. He can be reached at [email protected]

The preceding article was previously published at WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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LA leaders call for unity & protection for trans community

LAPD has noted a 13 percent increase in overall hate crimes, with LGBTQ+ specific hate crimes up by 33 percent

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LAPD Deputy Chief Ruby Flores speaks to reporters during a April 15, 2024 press conference. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

LOS ANGELES – Addressing a concerning escalation of threats against LGBTQ+ organizations throughout the country, leaders from TransLatin@ Coalition, the Los Angeles Police Department, and other officials gathered in a press conference to denounce acts of intimidation and to call for unity and protective measures for the trans and queer community.

A bomb threat called in to the LAPD on March 28, aimed at the TransLatin@ Coalition specifying today April 15 as the target date, has prompted an immediate and ongoing response from local authorities to ensure the safety of those at the coalition’s facilities and others. The LAPD has since been closely monitoring the site. 

The suspect, identified as Henry Nolkemper, a white 61 year old male, was arrested by LAPD shortly afterward after being observed entering his residence on West 53rd Street. The police then searched his residence. Despite the absence of explosives, he was booked under serious charges including criminal threats with a hate crime enhancement.

Nolkemper, known to have a history of mental health issues, was on parole for previous threats to the community. His parole has since been revoked and he is currently held on a one million dollar bail.

The press conference today began with remarks from Robin Toma, Executive Director of LA vs Hate, who highlighted the organization’s role as the third largest source of hate crime reporting in Los Angeles, trailing only police sources.

He also stated that LA vs Hate has reported a troubling increase in trans-specific crimes, noting that such incidents are grossly underreported, a sentiment echoed by surveys within the trans community.

Robin Toma, Executive Director of LA vs Hate, Bamby Salcedo at the podium speaking, LAPD Assistant Chief Blake Chow, & Capri Maddox, Executive Director, City of LA Civil + Human Rights & Equity Dept. (Photo by Simha Haddad)

Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of TLC, expressed her gratitude for the continued support from various partners and emphasized the daily challenges faced by transgender individuals. “Every day a trans woman steps out of her home, it is a revolutionary act. We are people who walk with targets on our backs,” Salcedo declared, setting a tone of resilience and defiance against the threats.

Special thanks were given to Supervisor Hilda Solis and Jury Candelario, a partner from APAIT and a Filipino immigrant, who marked 35 years in America by calling the trans-related stress “chronic” in his long tenure as a social worker. Esther Lim, representing Supervisor Solis, condemned the bomb threat as an act of “cowardice” and highlighted Solis’ support through a previous $55,000 contribution to TLC and a new motion to establish LA’s first LGBTQ+ commission.

Assistant Chief Blake Chow and Deputy Chief Ruby Flores of the LAPD provided updates on the legal actions following the threat. They noted a 13 percent increase in overall hate crimes, with LGBTQ+ specific hate crimes up by 33 percent. “Behind each hate crime, there is a victim, there are families,” Flores said, urging the community to report incidents and support anti-hate education initiatives.  “These crimes affect people in ways statistics can’t reflect.” 

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The press conference also featured voices from the community like Mariana Marroquin, Associate Director of Trans Wellness, who spoke passionately about the ingrained nature of hate experienced by trans individuals from a young age, and Cari Maddox, who emphatically stated, “Hate has no home in Los Angeles.”

Mark Bayard, representing Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, affirmed the DA’s commitment to fighting hate crimes vigorously, especially in light of the upcoming election season, which often sees a spike in such incidents.

As the community grapples with this latest threat, the message from today’s conference was clear: solidarity, education, and legal protection are key to combating hate and fostering a society where transgender people can integrate fully and safely.

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24-year-old trans Latina Angeleno & makeup artist shot to death

“This incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence”

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Meraxes Medina/Instagram

LOS ANGELES – In a tragic incident that has shaken the community and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, Meraxes Medina, a 24-year-old transgender Latina and makeup artist, was fatally shot in Los Angeles on March 21.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Medina was found dead on the road in South Los Angeles. The LAPD said she was shot in the head and that there was evidence she was also struck by a vehicle. Friends and family have confirmed Medina’s identity, celebrating her life and mourning her untimely death, which marks another violent act against transgender individuals.

Medina, known for her work at Universal Studios and her vibrant presence on social media, had begun hormone therapy and was navigating life as an undocumented person who had faced homelessness. Despite these challenges, those close to her remembered her for her potential and the positive impact she had on those around her. Friends have expressed their grief and shock, emphasizing Medina’s kindness, talent, and the bright future they believed she deserved.

The circumstances surrounding Medina’s death reflect a larger pattern of violence targeting the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color. Advocacy groups have highlighted the disproportionate impact of gun violence on transgender individuals, noting that a significant percentage of homicides within this community involve firearms.

The incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence.

California chapters of groups with Everytown for Gun Safety released a statement underscoring Medina was at least the third transgender person killed by gun violence in the U.S.

“We cannot ignore the disproportionate impact of gun violence on our transgender and gender-expansive neighbors, especially its impact on Black trans women and trans Latinas. We must honor Meraxes’ legacy by continuing to fight to protect our transgender and gender-expansive communities not only in California, but across the country,” said Ashley Castillo, a student leader with Students Demand Action and National Organizing Board Member.

As the investigation continues, Medina’s death serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for a societal shift to ensure the safety and dignity of all individuals, regardless of gender identity. “The loss of Meraxes Medina is not only a tragedy for those who knew her but also a call to action to combat hate and violence against the transgender community,” said one activist.

“Meraxes was a young woman who deserved to live out a long and fulfilling life. At just 24-years-old, she had so much more to give. Yet again, we find ourselves honoring the life and mourning the loss of someone from our transgender community killed by gun violence, and that alarming reality should emphasize our collective need to fight against lax gun laws. We need to come together and remind everyone, especially lawmakers and politicians, that our lives are worth saving and worth living,” said Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.

Bamby Salcedo, President/CEO of The TransLatin@ Coalition, issed the following statement:  “It’s unfortunate that our sister Meraxes Medina had to perish to the ignorance and violence that we continue to experience as a community, and these are just another examples of what our lives are, and we want to ensure that we hold elected officials accountable for bettering our lives and our future.”

KABC 7 reported between 2017 and 2023, there were 263 reported homicides of transgender people in the U.S., according to the organization. A gun was used in 193 of them.

In California, there were 14 homicides of transgender people reported between 2018 and 2024 so far, and 37% were in Los Angeles.

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LAPD monitoring threats against TransLatin@ Coalition

“These acts of violence underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to protect and uplift the most vulnerable among us”

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Los Angeles Police Department vehicles responding to a call for service. (Los Angeles Blade/LAPD file photo)

LOS ANGELES – In a concerning escalation of threats against LGBTQIA+ organizations throughout the country, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed that a bomb threat was called in to the department on March 28, aimed at the TransLatin@ Coalition (TLC), a vanguard organization for Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex (TGI) Latinx communities.

The threat, specifying April 15 as the target date, has prompted an immediate and ongoing response from local authorities to ensure the safety of those at the coalition’s facilities. The LAPD has since been closely monitoring the site. 

This recent threat comes at a time when the TLC, alongside other organizations within the LGBTQIA+ community, faces increasing hostility, underscored by a series of bomb threats and hate mail aimed at destabilizing the work and well-being of TGI Latinx individuals.

In response to the threat, Bamby Salcedo, the President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition has amplified security measures at TLC and reinforced the importance of emergency preparedness among the staff, emphasizing the coalition’s dedication to fostering a secure and supportive environment despite the daunting challenges posed by such threats.

The bomb threats have been accompanied by hate mail, filled with vitriolic anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and attacks on the Democratic Party, aimed at undermining the coalition’s mission and intimidating its leadership, including Salcedo and Vice President/COO Maria Roman Taylorson.

Despite these attempts to sow fear, the TransLatin@ Coalition stands firm in its mission. “We refuse to be silenced or intimidated,” Salcedo said.

The organization continues to call for unity and action, urging the public to stand in solidarity with TGI communities, report threats or violence, and advocate for greater acceptance and understanding of TGI identities.

The coalition’s commitment to the rights, empowerment, and well-being of TGI Latinx individuals in the United States remains unwavering. Through advocacy, education, and community organizing, the TLC addresses the unique challenges and systemic injustices faced by this community, emphasizing the intersectionality of race and economic status.

As the TLC navigates through these trying times, they have also taken to social media to call for support and positivity, highlighting the unexpected financial strain of heightened security measures. 

This recent threat against the TLC occurs amidst a broader climate of heightened animosity towards the LGBTQIA+ community, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC’s documentation of fatal violence against transgender and gender-expansive individuals in 2024 alone paints a grim picture of the dangers faced by the community.

“These acts of violence and discrimination underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to protect and uplift the most vulnerable among us,” HRC noted.

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Suspects break into home of Real Friends of WeHo’s Joey Zauzig

Reports indicate that a resident in the area contacted the LAPD while the burglary was in progress at a residence on Marmont Lane

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Joey-Zauzig (Screenshot/YouTube Instagram)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – An attempted robbery unfolded in the Hollywood Hills early Monday morning at the residence of television personality and influencer Joey Zauzig, known for his role in “The Real Friends of WeHo.”

“Last night at around 12am, 3 men, armed with face masks broke into our house while we were sleeping,” Zauzig posted in an Instagram story. “I woke up to it and triggered the alarm as they shattered one of the glass doors. We are ok and the dogs are safe… thank god they were at training camp.”

Zauzig added that it was truly one of the scariest things that has ever happened to him. “Seeing the footage on our cameras and waking up to it,” he said. “I’m still very much in shock. Please be careful always set your alarms”

He later posted video footage of the three suspects creeping into their home and a screen grab of the vehicle believed to be the getaway car.

Joey Zauzig Instagram screen grab

“I thank you guys so much for all the messages and the love,” he posted in an update. “I’m just wondering when I’m gonna feel back to normal because I definitely don’t and a lot of messages are unfortunately from people that have gone through the same thing.”

He said that he’s getting a lot of recommendations for therapy, but all he hopes to do is to get back to normal. “Last night got zero sleep,” he said. “I had the worst nightmares…this is so f*cked up, but now I’m like at a point where I’m just like angrJoey Zauzigy and now I really want to share this to like, catch these people and it’s the worst feeling ever.”

Earlier posts on Instagram show Zauzig enjoying the sun in a Cabo trip, and indication that he was out of town.

Reports indicate that a resident in the area contacted the police while the burglary was in progress at a residence on Marmont Lane in Hollywood Hills just after midnight on April 8, 2024.

The Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson informed KTLA 5 that the burglary occurred shortly after midnight on Marmont Lane. The suspects, described as three individuals—one wearing a black shirt, one in a blue hoodie, and the third in all black—had fled the scene before law enforcement arrived, LAPD stated.

The Real Friends of WeHo reality series premiered on MTV, on January 20, 2023. The show follows the lives of six LGBTQ+ celebrities, personalities, and entrepreneurs living in West Hollywood, feature Brad Goreski, a celebrity stylist; Todrick Hall, a choreographer and singer; Curtis Hamilton, an actor; Dorión Renaud, CEO of Buttah Skincare; Jaymes Vaughan, a TV host and business owner; and Joey Zauzig, who was described at the time as a digital entrepreneur. The show was not picked up for a second season.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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LA’s chief financial officer says the city has big financial problems

Projected deficits for years to come will force wrenching choices that threaten the vital services Angelenos rely on

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LA City Controller Kenneth Mejia. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – The City is under going an audit of finances and spending on Mayor Karen Bass and the city’s Inside Safe program after the LA Alliance for Human Rights and a federal judge expressed frustration over the management of funds to tackle homelessness through that and other services programs.

LA City Controller Kenneth Mejia however, is raising alarms over what he says is a serious budget deficit that is creating greater financial issues for the City. “It’s fair to say that the city of L.A. should be worried about our financial health. It’s not looking good and the people of Los Angeles will suffer based on decisions that City Hall makes,” Mejia told KABC 7.

According to Mejia, Los Angeles has a projected budget deficit of $476 million dollars, which is made up of $289 million in overspending and $187 million in less than expected revenues. The overspending occurred in three departments: police and fire – mainly because of staffing issues and overtime – and in liability claims.

“We’re not in a recession. This is not COVID. This is a budget deficit that we made here in City Hall,” said Mejia.

The City Controller in a statement when his office released the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) in January said: “It is my responsibility to report the bad news: this year the City is spending well beyond our actual revenues. Projected deficits for years to come will force wrenching choices that threaten the vital services Angelenos rely on. This is not the result of a sudden economic downturn, but the culmination of years of short-term budget balancing at the cost of long-term fiscal sustainability.”

Mejia also pointed out that “despite widespread staff vacancies, General Fund departmental spending actually exceeded last year’s adopted budget by nearly $200 million. Had the vacancy rate been closer to normal, the budget would have been in the red.

As our Office has consistently pointed out, citywide deferred maintenance of vital infrastructure requires urgent attention. Last year’s underspending of $316 million in budgeted capital expenditures underscores that the City continues to fall behind – which means even higher costs in the long run.

Again, as we have warned, current staff shortages and long-term underinvestment in the training, technology, equipment and facilities for our workforce hobbles productivity and shortchanges our residents. The homelessness crisis and the reality of a changing climate put even further strain on City resources.”

Mejia told KABC 7 he’s against eliminating 2,000 vacant positions to save money.

“It’s not like these positions have been vacant for many years. They haven’t. All these departments have been trying to fill these positions. A few months ago, we were talking about ‘We need to fill these vacant positions. Come on, join the city.’ And now, we’re like ‘Oh wait. We need to hold back because we’re overspending on police, liability claims, on fire.’ Now, we have to cut other positions in other departments in order to cover that overspending,” said Mejia.

He also warned that without a long-term approach to “putting our fiscal house in order, short-term decisions will doom Los Angeles to an inexorable decline in public services, undermining our quality of life and the economic prospects of our residents.”

In a statement provided to KABC 7 and the Blade, the mayor’s office said they remain “focused on the work that has resulted in thousands more Angelenos coming inside last year than the previous year, a record number of LAPD applications, and finalizing a budget in partnership with our city department heads that will be balanced and protect services for Angelenos.”

The deadline for Mayor Bass to release her budget for next year is April 22.

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