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Lionel Rolfe
Lionel Rolfe has been a working journalist since he was 19 and went to work on the Pismo Beach Times. He went on to work for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Free Press, Psychology Today and several other mostly California publications over the years. He also was editor of the B'nai Brith Messenger for 10 years and has written seven books, including Literary L.A., The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey, Fat Man on the Left, The Uncommon Relationship of Yaltah Menuhin and Willa Cather and others. He has been anthologized in two major collections and his work is collected at USC's Doheny Library special collections.

Entries by Lionel Rolfe

Disillusionment at the Ancestral Court

(0) Comments | Posted December 21, 2014 | 10:16 PM

The Lubavitch Court In Brooklyn

On the recent occasion of the publication of a paperback version of my first book The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey, which originally came out in hardcover in 1978, I recalled going to Brooklyn to meet my Hassidic...

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Are We Really the Smartest Creatures on Earth?

(0) Comments | Posted November 10, 2014 | 8:40 PM

The author and his African grey in younger years

More than 40 years ago, my then-wife Nigey Lennon and I were on our way home to Echo Park when, suddenly, she said to stop. I thought it was because she'd spotted a garage sale....

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Was That a Glacier I Froze Next to at the Top of Kiersage Pass?

(1) Comments | Posted September 16, 2014 | 2:53 PM


A half century or so ago, I took a trip to the top of the Sierra, where I made the acquaintance of the fragile land of delicate meadows and lakes and dramatic ice fields and glaciers just below the jagged peaks that form...

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Gaza From the Perspective of a Proud Diaspora Jew

(0) Comments | Posted August 9, 2014 | 9:09 AM

Gaza, in better times

I have been doing my best not to think too much about Gaza, not only publicly but for myself. I can no longer avoid pondering all the uncomfortable thoughts Israel's bombing of Gaza is bringing home to me. Of...

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Tales of an Extraordinary Madman  

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2014 | 3:53 PM


IN 1972, when I saw fellow Los Angeles Free Press writer Charles Bukowski's book in the window of a bookstore in West Hampstead in London, my first reaction was one of jealousy. The book was called Notes of a Dirty Old...

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How Meeting Susan Anspach Completed The Circle

(0) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 1:46 PM


Susan Anspach is best known for her appearances with Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces" and Michael Douglas in "Running," but a more obscure European production, "Montenegro," may be her masterpiece.

Goodnight moon.
Goodnight room.
Goodnight Lionel in the ro


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Gerald Nicosia's 'Night Train to Shanghai'

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2014 | 12:53 PM


Night Train To Shanghai And Other Memories Of China
Grizzly Peak Press

Gerald Nicosia is probably better known for his non-fiction -- Memory Babe is still the major work on Jack Kerouac, and his Home To War is a major opus...

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Col. William P. Gale, a Scary Apparition From the Desert

(4) Comments | Posted April 29, 2014 | 11:45 AM

The other night on MSNBC, Rachael Maddow talked about Col. William P. Gale, the man who created the Posse Comitatus, Christian Identity and Aryan Nation movements. She pointed out that the Nevada rancher who thinks he should not have to pay federal grazing fees was espousing a particular...

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Getting Older, Not Always Gracefully

(4) Comments | Posted March 21, 2014 | 2:47 PM

Getting older was supposed to be easier than this -- more like a wonderful long vacation. But of course it hasn't been that way. My wife left me just before I turned 70 and I'm still not getting along with it too well a couple of years later. I don't...

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Raining on the Ukrainian Parade

(14) Comments | Posted March 12, 2014 | 1:00 AM

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but let's get off this thing about poor, picked on Ukraine standing up for freedom against the big, evil Russians.

Would you feel sympathy if poor, picked on Texas decided...

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The Future Governor From Newhall

(0) Comments | Posted March 1, 2014 | 12:30 PM

The obituary notice of a four-term California assemblyman who died at 86 the other day brought back memories of an odd and jarring time in my youth when he hired me to write a philosophy because he was then an aspiring politician.

When I first met Jim Keysor in the...

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Talking Union

(2) Comments | Posted February 10, 2014 | 10:42 AM

There's a curious thing about talking union. It's not cool. Unions ain't cool. They're so not cool you'll notice almost nobody writes about them. They ain't trendy. But they're the coming thing.

True, most of the great folk songs about workers organizing are from yesteryear. But ignoring something doesn't...

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What's Wrong With Today's Newspapers?

(14) Comments | Posted January 1, 2014 | 9:53 PM

Now that the Los Angeles Times is being orphaned by its corporate overlords, it caused me to think long and hard about this terrible business I've been in now for upwards of 50 years.

First there was the personal shock. On many occasions back in the good old...

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Penelope Sudrow: A Wandering Waif With a Hint of Noblesse Oblige

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 10:07 AM

Lionel meets Penelope Sudrow

I met Penelope Sudrow at a backyard party in the Silver Lake home of my actor friend Lee Boek, who runs Public Works Improvisational Theater. It wasn't just because she was an attractive woman that made me curious...

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L.A. Woman

(0) Comments | Posted November 8, 2013 | 1:31 AM

Okay, it's not all a tragedy. It's the river of life. The only way to keep from dropping to the bottom like a stone is the pursuit of pure, unadulterated, unrestrained libido. Throw orgasms up in the face of the Grim Reaper, I say.

Fornicate until you and her swim...

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The Secret Behind L.A.'s Literature

(0) Comments | Posted November 4, 2013 | 3:30 PM

Gerald Nicosia (right), author of Memory Babe, the major biography of Jack Kerouac, with Lionel Rolfe, at Beyond Baroque in Venice. Photo by Susan McRae.

It all began in the coffeehouses a couple of centuries or more ago in London where such...

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The Story of an American Jazz Musician

(0) Comments | Posted September 17, 2013 | 2:11 PM

SONJI KIMMONS (photo by Susan McRae)

I see my friend Sonji Kimmons as kind of a metaphor for this country's relationship to its collective soul. Sonji grew up in South Los Angeles -- her mother was a nurse at the County-USC Medical Center. She...

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Roots of California Bohemia Lurk in a Hollywood Alley

(6) Comments | Posted August 27, 2013 | 5:34 PM

Maybe a block or so away from Paramount Pictures, deep in darkest Hollywood, there's a short alley off Van Ness Avenue called La Vista Court which is a real nexus of California bohemianism. It's contained in an unusual looking three-story building there that has a bas relief of the great...

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A Celebration of George Duke, a Great Musician and Good Guy

(4) Comments | Posted August 13, 2013 | 12:29 PM

The death of keyboardist George Duke at 67 last week brought back memories of the '70s when I smoked dope with him nearly every day.

I had hooked up with Nigey Lennon, to whom I would be married for about a quarter of a century, and I used to go...

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A Deep Melancholy That's Not Just Personal

(9) Comments | Posted August 4, 2013 | 6:24 PM

A couple of days ago I was in a deeply melancholic state because of various personal struggles, including health and financial issues and an ex-wife I still love, but it all is leavened with the sense that as one approaches the end of life, the world becomes a much more...

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