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A remembrance of Steve Bing

LA’s Steve Bing was one of the nation’s most important donors to LGBT and HIV causes

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John Gile with Steve Bing. (Photo courtesy Project Angel Food)

There are many unsung heroes in our midst — Angels, you might say.

Steve Bing, who died on Monday at the young age of 55, was one of them.

While serving as Executive Director of Project Angel Food, I came to know Steve as a profoundly generous man, quietly sending major contributions to the organization every year.

He did so like clockwork, yet from a distance.  And it certainly seemed odd that we never met him as I would normally meet with any donor who provided the organization with significant funding, in Steve’s case well more than half a million dollars in a few short years.

Steve, it turned out was shy and didn’t like going to events, but he was deeply invested in our meal program and specifically interested in helping people with AIDS.

Steve, a sports fanatic, told me over the years he had met gay male athletes and came to despise the discrimination they suffered and the isolation people with AIDS surely endured. He simply could not imagine anyone home alone suffering.

I thought of that when I read that one of the reasons given for his suicide was that he was lonely for human interaction, traumatized by Covid-19 social distancing measures and isolation.

Steve really wanted to help Project Angel Food’s mission and he wanted to do as much as he could.

Eventually, I had an opportunity to meet him and thank him in person at his office in Century City.

I was as struck by his imposing height and his totally focused presence during our meeting as I was by his seemingly endless generosity.

Days after our meeting, Steve called and informed me he wanted to make a PSA for Project Angel Food. I asked him how I could help and he said “don’t worry we will pull it all together.”

And he was indeed a man of his word.

He put me in touch with Dave Wirtschafter and Jill Smoller, two very influential sports agents at William Morris Agency and the team recruited LA Laker star Rick Fox to serve as the Project Angel Food’s spokesperson.

Rick Fox starred in a PSA Steve Bing funded for Project Angel Food. (Photo courtesy Project Angel Food)

They covered all the costs of a major PSA production; dozens of crew members converted the Project Angel Food parking lot on Sunset Boulevard into an urban basketball court and Rick Fox made a beautiful appeal for volunteers and financial support.

It was the first time an active NBA player or any nationally known professional athlete (post Magic Johnson’s retirement) had done any kind of public relations work on behalf of an AIDS organization.

It resulted in bringing new volunteers and donors to Project Angel Food.

How could I possibly thank Steve for all that he did, for always taking my calls, saying yes to most every request?

Steve was someone to whom you could not say “Thank you.” He would simply say ”John, really you don’t need to thank me. The volunteers are doing the work!”

He kept an open door to Project Angel Food and was a very honest donor who rarely but quickly gave me the courtesy of saying no if I pitched a project he didn’t want to support, immediately explaining why.

Yet he would always make it up somehow.

More than 20 years later, Steve remains one of Project Angel Food’s most significant individual donors. He eventually expanded his giving to be LGBT inclusive, donating more than two million dollars to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) at events in Los Angeles, New York and Washington. He was a key donor to the Proposition 8 efforts which led to the legalization of gay marriage nationwide. And he also donated heavily to the Democratic party

Often friends would say “I never knew he was gay!”

Well, he wasn’t. He was a straight ally drawn to help at this critical time. He simply despised injustice and discrimination and understood our plight as a people.

I last saw him at Brian Pendleton’s always legendary Super Bowl Party, this one after Trump took office in 2017.

Brian told me recently that Steve was one of the most important donors to the RESIST MARCH in 2017, one of the first and helped further by helping refine the protest march’s mission statement.

At my last meeting we shared our sense of dismay and he remarked, ”these are strange and troubled times.”

We’ve lost an incredible champion.

Let’s be kind and move forward together.

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Los Angeles

LA-DWP & Mayor Garcetti announce new outdoor watering restrictions

Sprinkler watering will be allowed Monday & Friday at odd-numbered addresses in the city, and even-numbered addresses on Thursday & Sunday

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City of Los Angeles (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – In a press conference Tuesday Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and officials from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced that outdoor watering in the city will be restricted to two days a week starting June 1.

The announcement comes as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared an unprecedented water shortage emergency two weeks ago, imposing restrictions after MWD’s board voted to adopt the emergency measures to “reduce non-essential water use” in certain areas. Cities and smaller water suppliers that get water from MWD are required to start restricting outdoor watering to one day a week, or to find other ways to cut usage to a new monthly allocation limit.

LADWP

In Tuesday’s press conference Mayor Garcetti said L.A.’s two-day limit was still more lenient than the one imposed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has ordered many of its member agencies to restrict outdoor watering to once a week.

Sprinkler watering will be allowed on Monday and Friday at odd-numbered addresses in the city, and even-numbered addresses on Thursday and Sunday.

For more information visit the LADWP webpage here.

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Los Angeles

Hollywood residents angered over Sunset Blvd. homeless encampment

Many residents are frustrated over the increasing daily criminal activity that has plagued the area, including vehicle break-ins

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Screenshot via KABC 7

HOLLYWOOD – For those who live in the Hollywood neighborhood that surrounds the homeless encampment on Sunset Boulevard at Martel Avenue, the last seventeen months have been aggravating.

Many residents are frustrated over the increasing daily criminal activity that has plagued the area, including vehicle break-ins which at times has resulted in multiple break-ins on the same vehicles.

“We’ve had tons of break-ins. Our garage has been broken into five times. Cars are vandalized. Mail is stolen,” local resident Lawrence S., who lives near the encampment, told KABC 7. “Our building, the building across the street, the building across the street that way — there’s just rampant crime.

“I actually had my sister in-law come to visit for the first time and she parked across the street in broad daylight and within 30 seconds, someone from the homeless encampment was down swinging a club at her. The violence is escalating and we keep asking the City Council, what is it going to take? Do we need to wait till someone’s murdered?”

The encampment is located at 7323 Sunset Blvd. and surrounds an AT&T building. It’s located in L.A. City Councilwoman Nithya Raman’s district who toured the encampment in 2021, joined by residents, including Terry S.

“She promised. She said that she would be adamantly enforcing ADA compliance. That she’s looking into setting up a safe camping location for the campers. Never happened,” Terry S. told KABC 7.

“In August, 41.18, an ordinance, passed and we were very hopeful because finally we thought that they would have some tools at their disposal,” Lawrence S. said. “But the city councilwoman is only enforcing a part of that ordinance, which is the Care Plus Cleanup program. However, she’s only doing it when she feels like enforcing it, which is three times in 17 months.”

Residents say that the city’s efforts to clean up and clear out the encampment only results in the homeless displaced for a couple of days sometimes less and then they return to reestablish the encampment. This past Thursday the city again clean and cleared the encampment.

While an KABC 7 camera and reporter Josh Haskell were working on the story homeless people were in the background reestablishing their presence across the street.

KABC 7 reached out to Councilwoman Nithya Raman whose office responded with a media statement:

“This encampment is a priority for our office, and our Homelessness Team has been consistently bringing services and working with the individuals living at this location. LAHSA outreach teams most recently identified seven people living here and together we worked to move three of them into shelter just yesterday as part of our Encampment-to-Home project, which has already moved 43 people in Hollywood indoors. Additionally, a cleanup took place at this location yesterday and we are working to move the remaining individuals into shelter as soon as beds become available. We are in continued communication with the residents in the neighborhood regarding the status of our progress as we move forward.”

Residents upset with LA City Councilwoman Nithya Raman over Sunset Boulevard homeless encampment:

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Los Angeles

Lawsuit against USC in sexual abuse case of 80 male students settled

“The settlement is another step toward closure for our clients who finally feel a sense of recognition and validation for speaking up”

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Engemann Student Health Center (Photograph courtesy of USC by Dietmar Quistorf)

LOS ANGELES – Attorneys representing 80 individuals who filed lawsuits and made claims against the University of Southern California and former USC men’s health physician Dennis Kelly for allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment have reached a global settlement according to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Mikayla Kellogg.

“The settlement was achieved through the persistence and bravery of our clients who had the strength to come forward to share the harrowing details of their experiences at the USC Student Health Center and the determination to hold USC accountable for its failure to protect its students,” said Kellogg, partner at Kellogg & Van Aken last week. “The settlement is another step toward closure for our clients who finally feel a sense of recognition and validation for speaking up.”

The lawsuit was filed in February 2019 in Los Angeles Superior Court by six former University of Southern California student alumni, all gay or bisexual, alleges that Dr. Dennis A. Kelly discriminated against and battered them while he was serving as the only full-time men’s sexual health doctor at the Engemann Student Health Center on the USC campus.

Since the original filing, 74 additional individuals have come forward, bringing the total number of claimants to 80.

Kelly Van Aken, partner at Kellogg & Van Aken said, “It has been a long three years for our courageous clients who have persevered through intense scrutiny to ensure their voices have been heard. It is our hope that by taking these allegations public and speaking out on behalf of dozens of current and former students of USC, institutions entrusted with the care of vulnerable young people are forced to confront and correct the toxic and problematic cultures that allow abuse and misconduct to continue.”

Dennis Kelly was a physician at USC’s Student Health Center from 1997 to 2018. The claimants allege that Dennis Kelly used his position of trust and authority as USC’s men’s health physician to engage in sexual misconduct under the guise of medical care and disproportionately targeted LGBTQ+ patients.  They further allege that USC received complaints about Dennis Kelly’s misconduct but failed to adequately address them and continued to allow Dr. Kelly to see and treat vulnerable young students without limitation.

Kelly, 72, who resigned in August of 2018 after twenty years working at the student clinic as a primary care physician, denied any inappropriate behavior toward patients and called the lawsuit’s allegations “terribly hurtful.”

“I can’t second-guess or question anything I’ve done,” Kelly said in a phone interview February 12, 2019 with the Los Angeles Times. He added, “I know I did it all professionally and without any other motive.”

Kelly, who described himself as an openly gay physician to the paper defended his actions telling The Times that he had devoted much of his career to counseling LGBTQ patients about ways to reduce the risks of their sexual behavior.

According to Kelly, he never used the graphic terms described in the lawsuit or performed unnecessary genital exams. He said he suspected his stern warnings about behavior that put patients at risk for sexually transmitted diseases were misinterpreted as condemnation or deviance.

The court documents stated that Kelley specifically targeted USC’s gay and bisexual and male student population, “all of whom were young adults and many of whom were visiting the doctor without a parent for the first time,” alleging he subjected to “intrusive and medically unnecessary rectal examinations.”

“Dr. Kelly did not treat heterosexual men in a similar manner and did not perform rectal examinations on heterosexual men who had similar sexual practices,” the suit claimed.

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