Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Name Game

News and views:

News: Assembly Concurrent Resolution 149 by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, would designate a portion of the 405 Freeway as the "Kevin Murray Highway."

Views: It's good to know that our state legislators, when not watching the state circle the financial drain, have time to do good deeds.

But wait a minute. Who is Kevin Murray? Ah, yes, now I remember: Murray served in the Legislature from 1994 to 2006 before being forced out of office by term limits.

According to Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters his legislative career was about average. He carried a few significant bills, including one aimed at encouraging installations of solar energy panels on roofs. Murray also carried some questionable measures, such as one stemming from the messy divorce of Southern California supermarket tycoon and major political donor Ron Burkle, to close public access to legal documents in divorce cases.

Unfortunately, Murray joined the politicians-with-their-pants-down brotherhood when a Los Angeles County Park Police officer found him with a prostitute in Murray's state-leased black Corvette, parked outside John Anson Ford Theater just after he was sworn in as a state senator.

Apparently that qualifies him for everlasting commemoration, at least in Hall's eyes.

But I think his vision falls short.

If you want to name the 405 Freeway for someone, why not O.J. Simpson? He brought international attention and fame to that vast stretch of road when he fled down the slow lane after his wife was found murdered. We could call it Bronco Boulevard.

For that matter, we could name almost every street in Hollywood after some celebrity who found themselves involved in a sex scandal. Just meet me at the corner of Roman Polanski Drive and Paris Hilton Lane.

If you think that's absurd, consider this: the Transportation Committee approved ACR 149 unanimously.

News: Legendary singer Lena Horne dies.

Views: She was beautiful, graceful and talented, but the most important thing to remember about Lena Horne is her refusal to live her life as a second class citizen.

If you think segregation merely meant separate schools, consider this:

All but abandoned by her parents, Lena was passed around from relative to relative and had to endure racist slurs, beatings for minor infractions and schoolgirl mockery because she was light-skinned.

When she finally began to receive acclaim as a singer, she signed with prestigious white bandleader Charlie Barnet, but in many ballrooms she wasn't allowed to sit on the bandstand between numbers.

Her parts in most movies contained few speaking roles and usually had little to do with the storyline so her appearances could be edited out for white audiences.

Already a star, Horne wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of "Show Boat" but lost the part to Ava Gardner, a personal friend in real life, due to the Production Code's ban on interracial relationships in films.

Once, when entertaining the troops during World War II, she discovered that German prisoners of war were given preferential seating over black soldiers. She refused to perform.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, she chose to focus on quietly defying segregation policies at upscale hotels in Miami Beach and Las Vegas where she performed, according to her biography. At the time, it was customary for black entertainers to stay in black neighborhoods, but Ms. Horne successfully insisted that she and her musicians be allowed to stay wherever she entertained.

One Las Vegas establishment reportedly had its chambermaids burn Ms. Horne's sheets.

A lesser person would have retreated. Instead, she rose to become an entertainment industry icon who forced her industry to be color blind.

Lena Horne's greatest hit was her triumph over injustice. Let's remember her as something more than a pretty face.

News: A third-grader at Brazos Elementary School in Orchard, Texas, was given a week's detention for possessing a Jolly Rancher.

School officials in Brazos County are defending the seemingly harsh sentence. The school's principal and superintendent said they were simply complying with a state law that limits junk food in schools.

Views: Thank God the Candy Cops in Texas are looking after the children. Of course, if her parents had made up her lunch, she could have been packing chicken fried steak and a side of onion rings. That's because in Texas, they won't restrict what a parent might provide for their child's consumption.

The irony is that many school lunch menus still feature and array of cheeseburgers, pizza, burritos and barbecue pork sandwiches.

But no candy.

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