TOM BRADLEY WINS!--"Sam Yorty Murdered my Daughter."--by Bob Kholos
As a 7 year old Tom Bradley remembers looking at his bleeding hands while picking cotton in Texas. At that moment he knew he wanted a better life.
Sam Yorty had come along the political trail as a lefty, and was even on the same political stage with Communist Dorothy Healey. When he ran for Mayor of Los Angeles he ran on an anti-police policy.
Yorty became more conservative as Mayor of Los Angeles, pro-LAPD, and by 1973 held his Wednesday afternoon weekly news conferences with a map of Vietnam behind him. He became a hawk on the war and the only Mayor with a foreign policy.
Reporters and editors at the Los Angeles Times knew only part of the story of why Sam Yorty became a major supporter of the LAPD. But, I found out the real story the day before our big debate against Yorty in the San Fernando Valley at the end of the 1973 election.
The Times hated Yorty for a number of reasons. Reporters used to tell me the reason that Yorty turned around on the police issue was due to the fact that Police Chief Parker, "Ran down the hall toward the Mayor's office, waiving a briefcase, saying, 'I've got that S.O.B. now'."
No one at the Times knew what Parker had on Yorty, but the court records viewed by me, Tom Sullivan, and just a few others, left little doubt as to the nature of the alleged intimidation. I'll discuss that in this blog, but first I want to outline the incredible tension and problems within the Bradley campaign of 1973 and why we won.
I had just finished the McGovern for President Campaign in Washington, DC, and flew back to my little maids quarters apartment in Santa Monica, when I noticed a few telegrams shoved under my door. The apartment was on top of an older Spanish style home on Pacific Coast Highway. It had been previously owned by George Jessel, and the current owners rented it out for $150 bucks a month.
The telegrams were from Councilman Tom Bradley, asking me to work in his City Council office. Since I was totally burned out at that young stage in my life, I only had a hot plate and no telephone.
I was so jaded by the local press and their lack of coverage of Tom, that I started to push sports issues which Bradley was working on.
As a young boy, I remember that the only real conversations between Whites and Blacks were sports. So, I thought that news and sports editors would relate to Tom Bradley taking on such issues. We had a lot of success and people started relating to Tom as a person and not a threat.
While getting ready for his second bid for Mayor,City Council Chief of Staff Maury Weiner asked me if I would work for Bradley for Mayor, if Nelson Reising and David Garth were involved.
Knowing my angst towards the group I held responsible for reckless, negative campaigning against Congressman George Brown,during the Tunney primary victory, Maury was sensitive enough to ask for my opinion. I'm sure it wouldn't have made any difference, but that was the type of wonderful person Maury was as Chief of Staff.
I responded positively..."If it was a good move for Tom Bradley, then we should do it."
Max Palevsky "loaned" the campaign $600,000 dollars, as long as it brought media mogul David Garth, Nelson Reising, Gray Davis and the rest of the Lawyer laden clan. Even Jeff Greenfield of CNN fame was working for Garth at the time.
The start up was hell. I was the campaign Communications Director, or Press Secretary.
I had to fight off David Garth on a daily basis. He kept saying to me, “Bang the Press.” He had no idea what he was talking about. He said, “intimidation” is how you get press. “ Pick up the phone and yell at the reporters,” he growled. Then he said to me, “Do you know WHO I AM!?”
As someone who had taken enough shit in Vietnam, I certainly wasn’t going to be intimidated by a guy in a suit who wasn’t carrying a rifle. Also, I had five years of national and local political press experience, in addition to having been an LA reporter by that time. So, I knew that if Garth took control of the press department, we would have a news media revolt, and consequently were in danger of losing the election.
As one young Bradley aide said to me years later, all he could remember was the “Loud shouting” in the campaign headquarters when Garth and I met.
So, I held a meeting with Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Boyarsky
and we had a laugh as I explained to him I was “Banging the Press,” as he picked up the lunch tab.
Word got back to the campaign that I was “Badmouthing the campaign to the press.” This came from a different Los Angeles Times reporter, who I had not worked with over the years, and in a very unprofessional manner, complained directly to the management of the Bradley campaign. They called me on the carpet for this episode, and since I didn’t care whether they fired me or not, and didn’t give them any excuses, the issue was dropped.
But it wasn’t dropped by the editors of the Los Angeles Times. In an incredibly professional newsroom, where the ethics of journalism were stressed, a different action was taken. When word got back to them that I had been the focus of such stupidity by one of their reporters, they took him off covering politics for years. It was the only time that I knowingly encountered such incompetence within the Los Angeles Times newspaper.
This same idiot reporter who used to get his stories with the philosophy of “Let’s you and him fight,” ran up to Bradley a day before election night and complained that he was going to lose the campaign because no workers were in his headquarters at 9:00 am. Of course he didn’t know that the campaign staff had worked until 3:00 am the same day. That’s when respected Times reporter Dick Bergholtz remarked that the reporter was getting, “Too caught up in the campaign.”
As Garth tried to intimidate me, I suggested that he do commercials with Bradley as a track star and policeman. In fact, I had the campaign do super size blowups of Tom in his policeman's uniform and UCLA track uniform for his kickoff news conference.
As a former reporter, I knew that Yorty was taking his weekly news conferences for granted. I came up with a concept for an "Alternative News Conference," to take up a different issues each week and hold it in the mornings. In this way, Yorty would have to respond to issue's, one week at a time, such as the problems of transportation, in which he had no answers.
It worked, and Yorty said," I'm not going to defend myself against these charges." He tried and couldn't. The Los Angeles Times, for example, ran a story on how Yorty had been out of the country for a year during his last 4 year term.
Of course, Tom wasn't perfect. He announced that he would only serve two terms, and he would have a mass transit system up in 16 months.
Internally, tensions were palpable between the Bradley people and the old Tunney cronies. Longtime political coordinator Warren Hollier actually slapped one of the campaign managers in the face. Gray Davis was a nightmare to work with. He had an uneven elitist temper, which included a chair throwing incident. When one campaign aide asked me to query Davis when the paychecks were coming in, he responded, "You Don't Deserve to be Paid, KHOLOS!" For a moment, I thought I was working for the Nixon campaign.
The other issue in the 1973 Bradley for Mayor campaign I personally wanted to neutralize, was the race issue. I wanted to take the sting out of any new phony charges Yorty would make on the issue.
His name escapes me, but I had met this guy who I liked and we were both Vietnam Veterans. He was a lot more conservative than I, so I was not surprised when he surfaced as the George Wallace, American Independent Party, coordinator for his Presidential campaign in California. He was not a bigot, and we had similar views on government ineptness.
I talked with him extensively on how his endorsement of Bradley for Mayor would show that his movement was not about keeping Black people down, and it would help us with marginal voter’s who may be swayed by racist propaganda.
I am just sorry I can’t remember his name, because what he did shows an aspect of the American spirit which is rarely found in other countries.
He told me that although he personally supported Bradley for Mayor, he would be “crucified” by members of his organization.
A couple of weeks after our conversation, he endorsed Bradley, at great risk to his own political career. We received much welcomed media attention, and I believe he was instrumental in helping Bradley win that election. Yorty’s charges that Bradley was a “Black Nationalist,” fell on deaf ears after that support.
---YORTY PAYS FOR BACK ALLEY ABORTION---
There was a rumor circulating city hall for years that Yorty became pro police when police Chief Parker ran down the hallway leading to the Mayor’s office carrying a brief case shouting, “I got that son of a bitch, now.”(I USE QUOTES FROM MEMORY OF DISCUSSIONS WITH LA TIMES REPORTERS)
We finally found out what it was in 1973. But how to use it?
Instead of blasting it in the news media, we decided to use it about 10 seconds prior to a live debate in the San Fernando Valley just a couple of days before the election.
Aide, and future Bradley Press Secretary, Tom Sullivan volunteered to run past Yorty just as the debate started and whisper a name.
Sullivan whispered the name of the person, and Yorty responded, “So, your going to play that game.”
It worked. Yorty was off balance the entire debate and was more subdued than usual.
What the campaign had found out was that Yorty, as a young man, had been called into court as the boyfriend of a deceased girl. He had gotten her pregnant and had paid for a back alley abortion which killed her. (Abortion’s were illegal then, and it wasn’t unusual for girls to be found bleeding to death after such an ordeal.) To make matters worse, the court document describes the mother of the girl saying something to the effect that, “Sam Yorty murdered my daughter.” Can you imagine what would happen to Yorty in the modern era of negative campaigning? ***** I viewed this court document, and I use quotes, but I didn't take notes. Therefore the quotes are purely by memory.*****
Even then, and after Yorty had smeared Tom as a communist sympathizer, and Black Nationalist, we had a dilemma on the use of this negative information. We didn't want to destroy Yorty publicly. I don't believe that the upper management of the campaign, or Tom Bradley had any idea we had access to this document. I even feel uncomfortable discussing it 33 years later, but it is an important part of the Tom Bradley story. I don't even know if a copy was made. We were just allowed to view the document briefly. I can't remember who showed it to me.
Bradley won the election handily.
In his hotel room on election night, after NBC declared that Bradley had won, Tom turned to me and gave me a big bear hug and said, in self mocking humor, "Bob, I iz da mayor."
An analysis of Bradley’s victory later showed he had won every ethnic, and geographical vote in the city.
Bradley became the first African American Mayor of a Majority White voting city. The media attention was tremendous and he was constantly distracted by interviews as he tried to put the new administration together, including appointing me as his Press Secretary.
The day after the election, Bradley was getting a death threat a minute, according to one long time aide, Phil Depoian. A couple of days later, when I was riding around with Bradley, I noticed he had a rifle placed at his feet, and we had an LAPD helicopter shadowing his every movement.
Tom was sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren.
Thanks for reading this long blog.