James Francis Aloysius McIntyre, Roman Catholic archbishop (and eventually cardinal) of Los Angeles between 1948 and 1970, is remembered today, if at all, as a cartoon of an ecclesiastical tyrant. It was McIntyre’s misfortune to be an old man, although more or less a vigorous one, when the winds of change stirred by Pope John XXIII and Vatican Council II whistled through the Church. Over forty years a priest, set in his ways and satisfied with Catholicism’s existing chain of command, McIntyre was not happy about changes in the Church. What he did not think broke, he did not want fixed, and he had the will to thwart those given both to fixing and, worse, to suggesting a degree of clerical independence and priestly collegiality that he would regard as a challenge to his governance.
In his own diocese, a bishop (or ordinary, as he is called in canon law) has virtual Caligulan powers; his word is law, and if, unlike Caligula, he cannot ordain a horse, there is little else not within his power and the reach of his discipline. McIntyre opposed many of the Council’s liturgical reforms, most persistently the replacement of the Latin mass with one in each country’s vernacular; his argument essentially was that the vernacular should be left to the Protestants. In the Council proceedings of 1962, he contended that a congregation’s verbal participation was, in his words, “frequently a distraction,” and warned that “grave changes in the liturgy introduce grave changes in dogma.” Only after Rome’s sternest urgings did McIntyre finally allow the vernacular English language mass in his diocese.
In Los Angeles, the last decade of the cardinal’s episcopate was marked by a series of undignified and unnecessary public disputes that McIntyre seemed to encourage less for canonical reasons than to establish the absoluteness of his prelacy. He fired a teaching order of nuns from diocesan parochial schools because the sisters wished, among other things, to make the wearing of their habit optional (in accord with the Council) and to require that classroom nuns be properly credentialed as teachers (many only had a high school diploma). An encounter that should have been settled quietly instead festered openly for three years until the nuns chose to become unaffiliated with the archdiocese.
The most egregious discordance occurred in 1964 when William DuBay, then twenty-nine, an activist civil rights priest, petitioned Pope Paul VI to remove McIntyre for “gross malfeasance in office.” The cardinal, according to DuBay, both was indifferent to the virus of racism and had mounted a campaign of intimidation against priests who disagreed with him. Always a loose cannon, DuBay was a difficult proposition even for the cardinal’s most energetic critics. He was the kind of priest, Garry Wills later wrote, who “makes one sympathetic with any superior who had to deal with him.” McIntyre’s response was to order official chastisement. As 231 priests looked on, he forced the mutinous DuBay to kneel before his throne and kiss the episcopal ring in submission to his authority. The message was not lost on the audience, but it was perhaps not the message the cardinal intended. Younger priests believed the chancery would blight their futures in the Church if they spoke out, joined a march, or climbed an anti-war barricade. While this belief could not be proved, the hemorrhage of priests from the archdiocese into the laity showed how deeply it was felt.
At every sign of opposition, real or imagined, McIntyre exhibited inflexibility. What makes his last difficult decade with the ordinary’s crozier so poignant is that had he stepped down in 1961 when he was seventy-five, the Vatican’s approved retirement age for bishops, or had he died, his memory would wear the garlands denied him by his later pastoral intransigence. If not as churchman, then as social engineer (a title he would have despised), Cardinal McIntyre actually deserves considerable attention, for in the years after World War II it was he and Dorothy Buffum Chandler, wife of the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, who to an astonishing (and usually uncredited) degree helped to effect the transformation of Los Angeles from a remote outpost on the Pacific, vaguely known to the rest of the country as the home of the motion picture industry and the Rose Bowl, into an international metropolis.
To comprehend the impact of Cardinal McIntyre and Mrs. Chandler, the reason why they were the right people at the right time, it is necessary to understand the particularity of Los Angeles, its climate, its newness, and especially its ruling class, the broad outlines of which became familiar to the rest of America via a literature and kind of film unique to the city, the style called noir. In this genre, corruption metastasizes under the pitiless sun, the fix is always in, the weak never prevail, the powerful are always victorious, the status quo endures. Though the form is “exotically compelling,” Norman Klein shrewdly points out in The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory, “it is nevertheless often utterly false in its vision of the poor, of the non-white in particular.” There have been exceptions to this criticism, the most notable being Walter Mosley, whose novels about the working-class black private detective Easy Rawlins take place in postwar South Central, that part of Los Angeles characterized by William Parker, the city’s police chief from 1950 to his death in 1966, as the home of “jungle life.” But from Raymond Chandler to James Ellroy, and in screenplays such as Robert Towne’s Chinatown, the prototypical noir protagonist and noir writer have been white. “Despite its origins as social realism in Hammett,” Klein writes,
the hard-boiled story cannot help but operate, very fundamentally, as white males building a social imaginary…. The crime on dark streets stands in for the fears about foreigners, jobs, speculation, and cheap hype. It puts the white, usually Protestant, shamus against a world that is utterly transient, as if no poor communities exist except as a hangout for crooks and addicts.
It was by no means accidental that the most characteristic literature of Los Angeles came to be grounded in the notion of a Protestant fortress, for everything in its history had tended to this notion. Scarcely older than the century, Los Angeles was the first American city defined by the internal combustion engine. Its spectacular growth—a population increase of 1600 percent between 1900 and 1940—exactly coincided with the rise of the automobile. The volume and velocity of this migration set the tone. While older cities, spreading out from a core, were traditionally limited by both transportation and geography, Los Angeles assumed that its citizens on wheels could transcend even mountain ranges to move north and south and east at will; only the Pacific stopped the march to the west.
The immensity of the Los Angeles land mass makes the city the most inaccessible in America, its cultural determinant the mobility provided by the automobile and a tank of gas. Everyone was an alien, the newcomer never an exile. In such an environment, the idea of community did not naturally flourish, since community by definition is built on deposits of shared experience. Except for the beach, there is no shared public plaza, but the beach, from Trancas at the northern edge of Malibu south to the Orange County line, is nearly a hundred miles long.
Where the port cities of the East and the Gulf Coast attracted immigrants from the slums of Europe, Los Angeles was a magnet for emigrants already thoroughly Americanized, with roots going back several generations—hard-working, white, English-speaking Midwestern smalltowners seeking a Protestant Eldorado with a temperate climate and no foreigners fresh from the boat. “The prosperity of Los Angeles,” the local chamber of commerce wrote at the turn of the twentieth century,
is founded on the immutable forces of nature, combined with the inevitable needs of mankind; and it will remain, as the sea and the clouds and the mountains remain, and will increase as the nation and the race increases.
At county fairs in the heartland, Norman Klein writes, real estate speculators passed out brochures claiming that the clean, dry air of southern California could “cure tuberculosis, rheumatism, asthma, sleeplessness, even impotence.” The hard-sell imagination of the speculators was unbounded. To those Midwesterners with itchy feet and pulmonary problems, Los Angeles was presented as “the city for those with one lung.”
The place was a Luddite dream of Gotham: a farm town, without smokestacks, unions, or skyscrapers. The dream persevered. Until the end of World War II, Los Angeles County, even with its enormous wartime industrial expansion, remained the richest agricultural county in America. This in spite of the fact that nothing grew naturally. Los Angeles is a desert, a sand kingdom, its water pumped in, via an elaborate infrastructure of aqueducts, dams, and tunnels, from a county more than two hundred miles to the northeast. Growth was the eleventh commandment; a height limit of 150 feet for all buildings was maintained long enough to guarantee that the city would grow out instead of up.
By the mid-Twenties, the impact of the automobile was such that southern California had a car density (one car for every 1.6 citizens) that the rest of America would not achieve until the 1950s. No other American city was so white or so Protestant; in 1926, 90 percent of its 1.3 million people were of Western European descent; the other 10 percent was more or less evenly divided between Hispanics, Asians, blacks, and Jews, the first three with neither political nor economic leverage, the last associated with the motion picture industry—with money but without power.
Los Angeles had a municipal government whose main function was not to interfere with a fluid and ever- changing ex-officio group of rich, conservative downtown businessmen and entrepreneurs, called, to somewhat sinister effect, the Committee of 25, who pulled the strings at the end of which elected officials danced. Most of its members were self-made, Republican, and Protestant. One rare Catholic allowed to participate in their deliberations was the oil wildcatter, Edward Doheny, who had provided Warren Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall, with the $100,000 bribe that had set the Teapot Dome Scandal in motion, and sent Fall to prison. The bribe was not seen as a barrier to Doheny’s counsel, only as a sound business practice that had the misfortune of becoming public knowledge.
In the years of their hegemony, the Committee of 25 seemed to think that what was best for them was best for Los Angeles, and in the privacy of their clubs and conference rooms they used their power to get it, by fair means or foul. It was strong-arm stuff that lined their own pockets, but in truth their economic thuggery and political sleight-of-hand was not without benefit to the city of Los Angeles. Without water from the Owens Valley (a complicated swindle with a giant insider payoff), the city, with its finite and diminishing water reserves, could not grow. Without a harbor in San Pedro (obtained by annexing a corridor of land to the ocean and renaming the corridor Los Angeles), Los Angeles could not supplant San Francisco as California’s foremost city. That such ends justified the means was a controlling principle the Committee of 25 never doubted.
The most influential American Catholic at the end of the Second World War was Archbishop Francis Spellman of New York, a churchman so attracted to flashbulbs, his detractors said, that he used them to keep his tan even. Spellman was a networker well before the word was known: Joseph P. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover, and, most importantly, the Vatican diplomat Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, who, when he was elected Pope Pius XII picked Spellman, in 1939 a relatively obscure auxiliary bishop in Boston, to head the New York archdiocese. During the war, Spellman was constantly on the go, visiting troops in most of the battle theaters, a kind of Bob Hope in Roman collar, his picture always in the newspapers and on theater newsreels. Nominated to the college of cardinals in 1946, he became, via his extrareligious celebrity, and to the extreme irritation of other American prelates, their unofficial spokesman on ecclesiastical matters and public policy.
Through his friendship with Pius XII, Spellman asserted his influence, effectively exercising veto power over the appointment of bishops throughout the United States. No more than they trusted him did he trust the ordinaries of the larger dioceses in the midwest—Chicago, Detroit, and Cin-cinnati. He thought these bishops too liberal, too willing to adjust to different times and new congregations, and he wanted his New York archdiocese to be the training ground for a hierarchy uncontaminated by such new ideas. “There is an axis in the Middle West working against me,” Spellman is quoted as saying in Father John Tracy Ellis’s Catholic Bishops, “so I thought I would make my own axis.” The axis he had in mind was New York and Los Angeles, a bicoastal outflanking of the midwesterners. It was to this end that Spellman arranged for Rome to appoint his chancellor in the New York archdiocese, James Francis Aloysius McIntyre, archbishop of Los Angeles.
McIntyre was in the mainstream of American prelates. He was Irish, and he was working class. “Every one of our bishops and archbishops,” Boston’s Archbishop Richard Cushing bragged to the 1947 CIO convention, “is the son of a working man and a working man’s wife.” That this rush to identify with those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder could lead to doctrinal rigidity and anti-intellectualism was not regarded as a minus. For the first- and second-generation Irish in the early twentieth century, especially those in the urban Northeast, the best-marked roads to upward mobility, and ultimately to assimilation (a social ideal rarely acknowledged), were via the three Ps: politics, the police, and the priesthood. McIntyre’s father, in fact, was a mounted policeman in New York, his mother an immigrant dressmaker from Galway who died when Frank, the older of her two children, was ten. Invalided from the police department after a fall from a horse, McIntyre’s father subsequently contracted tuberculosis, leaving Frank, at thirteen, the family’s primary source of support.
For the next sixteen years, his bio-grapher, Monsignor Francis L. Weber, tells us in His Eminence of Los Angeles, McIntyre worked around Wall Street, first as a runner on the Curb Exchange, then at a brokerage house, where he rose from switchboard operator to stenographer to private secretary and finally to office manager. He took night courses in shorthand and accounting, and later adjunct classes at Columbia and City College, where he received a grounding in equities and property values. At twenty-nine, McIntyre was offered a partnership by the firm where he had begun as an office boy, but, shortly after he received the offer, his father died. The death of his father relieved him of the financial responsibility he had assumed as an adolescent. McIntyre declined the partnership, and chose instead finally to become the priest he had always wanted to be.
At St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, McIntyre was a decade or more older than his classmates, and after so many years in the wider world, Weber writes, less afflicted than they with vocational doubt, as he would later in his priesthood seem forbiddingly free of any other variety of doubt, which is why his Dunwoodie nickname, “Slats,” seems in retrospect so droll. Ordained at thirty-five in 1921, he spent less than two years as a parish priest in Manhattan before he was transferred to the archdioce-san chancery, where his Wall Street training could be put to use. Ultimately McIntyre became chancellor, was named a monsignor, and after Spellman took over the archdiocese in 1939, was elevated to auxiliary bishop.
McIntyre’s loyalty to Spellman was absolute. “McIntyre ran New York,” a priest would later tell Weber, “Spellman ran the world.” In the years of his chancellorship, McIntyre reduced the archdiocese’s debt, and insisted that affluent parishes help the less solvent by putting their financial surpluses in a fund administered by the chancery; this policy was so successful that during the Depression not a single parish defaulted. When he looked up from a balance sheet, however, McIntyre was sometimes less adroit. Once he tried to have Frank Sinatra removed from playing a priest in a film because, McIntyre said, “the idol of bobby sock youngsters” was by definition unsuited to portray a man of God.
McIntyre was sixty-two when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1948, its eighth bishop, and if his was not exactly a caretaker appointment, neither did the Vatican expect his tenure to last for twenty-two years. Nor did it anticipate that the last years of his administration, with its public displays of pique dividing elements of both clergy and laity from the chancery, would become an embarrassment that eventually would cause Rome to suggest retirement, a suggestion, however gentle, that had the force of command. For a biographer, McIntyre presents a formidable problem. He was no empire builder like his mentor in New York, nor was he a theologian or a graceful writer or a gifted speaker. “I am a man of ledgers and figures,” he would often say; it is the rare person who knows himself so well.
The archivist for the Los Angeles archdiocese, Monsignor Weber makes no larger claim than that McIntyre was “an administrative and financial genius,” rough stuff as a guiding premise for a two-volume, 707-page biography. Weber is an advocate, given to sources like The Catholic News or Our Sunday Visitor, and rich samplings from the more reactionary Catholic press: the Brooklyn Tablet, The Wanderer, and the Los Angeles archdiocese’s own house organ, The Tidings. He never quite figures out what to call McIntyre, too often settling on the awkward “J. Francis A. McIntyre,” which makes the cardinal sound like a funeral director. His Eminence of Los Angeles is in the tradition of Catholic apologetics—write nothing that does not enhance or that might tarnish, let no criticism go unanswered. If Weber mentions Edward Doheny and his wife, Carrie, as lavish philanthropists who provided funds for every kind of Catholic institution in the archdiocese, there is no reason to soil the story of their Christian charity by mentioning Teapot Dome, or that Edward Doheny was a crook whose philanthropies many construed as conscience money. Nor does one adjective suffice if three are available: in his opposition to the vernacular mass at the Council, Weber writes, “the simple, forthright and fearless McIntyre spoke and voted as his conscience dictated.”
If the felicitous phrase does not come easily to him, Weber makes up for it with the archivist’s amplitude. There are lists and charts and statistics and reports, and chapters about special friends and misguided critics.1 It is in the appendices of His Eminence of Los Angeles that one comes to appreciate McIntyre’s accomplishments, the feats that make the tantrums of his old age seem petty in comparison. Until well into this century, southern California was seen as mission territory, its largest bloc of communicants Mexican, or “adobe Catholics,” as they were often condescendingly called. “The sole western outpost of American-style institutional Catholicism,” Charles Morris writes in American Catholic, “was San Francisco, dominated by highly successful Irish and Italian transplants from the East.” McIntyre’s predecessor in Los Angeles, Archbishop John Cantwell, an immigrant from County Limerick, held the post for thirty years, and is best known for his view that Hollywood was the site of Babylon revisited. Something of an antiSemite, Cantwell publicly raged against the “Jews” and the “pagans” running the movie business, and was influential in the establishment of the Legion of Decency, the Catholic rating service of Hollywood films that terrorized picture producers.2
Reading Monsignor Weber’s appendices, it is possible to cast McIntyre as the last architect of manifest destiny, the great master builder of the twentieth century American Catholic Church. Postwar Los Angeles was anything but mission territory. Between 1940 and 1948, the federal government invested a billion dollars in the construction of new industrial plants in California; Los Angeles County alone juggled $10 billion in war production contracts, and industrial employment rose by 75 percent. The perfect climate and limitless expanses on the Mojave Desert allowed aerospace companies to test their latest hardware 365 days a year. As the cold war economy flourished, the population of California exploded, the pull of high wages and steady employment attracting hundreds of thousands, and ultimately millions, of workers.
There were 650,000 Catholics in the Los Angeles archdiocese when McIntyre took up his residency, not just adobe Catholics by then, but war workers and shipbuilders and engineers and lawyers and junior executives, people with jobs and families and a need for churches and schools. Every twelve months, another 55,000 Catholics took up residence. “It was if every year, all the Catholics in Lincoln, Nebraska, arrived in southern California,” Weber writes, “but without their priests or sisters, churches or schools, hospitals or other facilities.”
It was a problem that the man of ledgers and figures was perfectly equipped to handle. The first thing McIntyre did was to scrap plans for the building of a new cathedral, marking the million dollars that had been set aside for this venture as a first installment in building an infrastructure of schools and parishes. Then he set about winning a referendum for a statewide tax exemption for all parochial schools, not just those that were Catholic, a contentious measure that passed only because Los Angeles county, with its burgeoning Catholic population, produced such a plurality. As he had in New York, McIntyre centralized financial control, demanded that richer parishes help those with fewer resources, and at all times carried with him a flow chart providing daily totals of chancery bank accounts.
The result of this management was that during the first fifteen years of his episcopate, McIntyre built a new parish church every sixty-six days, a new parochial school every twenty-six. These accomplishments earned him a cardinal’s red hat in 1953, and by 1970, when he was finally nudged out the door at age eighty-four, the 650,000 Catholics he inherited at his accession had grown into a congregation of two million, who were served by 318 parishes, 351 schools, and 18 hospitals. St. Linus, St. Polycarp, St. Callistus, St. Irenaeus. Glendora, Stanton, Garden Grove, Cypress. Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa. Bishop Mora High School. Bishop Garcia Diego High School. Bishop Amat High School. La Puente. Montebello. La Habra. Lomita. The influx of the white and the middle class did not lead McIntyre to forsake the archdiocese’s adobe origins; by 1957, he had built twenty-two parochial schools in predominantly Mexican neighborhoods to “preserve them,” in his words, “from an American brand of liberalism.”
It was talk like this that endeared the cardinal to the Los Angeles Protestant establishment. McIntyre’s natural capacity for rhetorical overkill was congenial to downtown businessmen. His archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings, favored using atomic weapons in Korea, called Truman’s sacking of General MacArthur a “Kremlin victory,” and never had a bad word for Senator Joseph McCarthy (“the exMarine captain who has taken some husky pokes—both verbal and physical—to rout out Communists in the nation’s capital”). Such pronouncements allowed McIntyre the license to comment freely on the place of Catholicism in a Protestant society. He called the separation of church and state “a figure of speech,” “a bugaboo,” and “a false and malicious one” at that. Nor did he have much use for the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The Conference, he said, was “anxious to obtain publicity whereby a Jewish rabbi and a Protestant minister are on the same program with a Catholic priest.” This impatience with ecumenicism could also be found in The Tidings. “The Catholic Church is the one and only true Church founded by Christ,” the paper wrote. “All other Churches who call themselves Christian are in error and not entitled to the name.”
If the war and its cold war aftermath had loosened the grip of the Committee of 25—the new defense industry, located at the farther edges of the community, was largely indifferent to parochial municipal concerns—it had also provided California with a guaranteed blue-sky economy, wide open and there for the taking. As if viscerally, McIntyre, a man unburdened by the notion that he was just another son of a working man and a working man’s wife, understood that real estate development was the civic, or secular, religion of Los Angeles; and he understood viscerally as well that this civic religion offered Catholics a lever into the power structure. Each week, a thousand Catholics were arriving, many starting families, most still obeying the Church’s strictures against birth control. If a developer were subdividing a tract, even a parcel as small as ten acres, his investment would be enhanced if he could promise a parochial school nearby. The right word in the right ear at the chancery, the quiet assurance of the cardinal’s benediction, and St. Pancratius was consecrated in Lakewood, or St. James the Less in La Crescenta.
There was, of course, an implicit payback: if there were an opening on a board, the chancery, never McIntyre himself, as always remote and insulated from favor seekers by priestly subordinates, might mention a good man to the developer—someone as conservative as the developer himself, active in parish work, on the fast track to managing partner in his firm. The developer might have his eye on another tract in San Pedro or Woodland Hills; that one good turn deserved another was the way of the world. And thus Romanism began to crack the walls of the most Protestant city in America.
In March 1963, Henry R. Luce, then nearly sixty-five, presided over the fortieth anniversary celebration of his founding (with the late Britton Hadden) Time magazine, the fortieth having been selected because Luce intuited (correctly) that the editor-in-chief might not be around for Time’s golden anniversary. The extravaganza was in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in New York, black tie, of course, and the guest list was a selection of those Time cover subjects who were both available and who met with Luce’s approval (no criminals or known social renegades, although many Democrats), along with assorted dignitaries and big advertisers.
From the editorial staff, writers—I was one of them—were assigned a cover subject whose care and well-being they were responsible for—limousines, airport pickup, small errands—making the writer in effect a footman. My responsibility was Norman Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the most powerful man in the most powerful family in California. Mr. Chandler was accompanied by his wife, Dorothy, and at Idlewild (not yet JFK, this being eight months before John Kennedy’s assassination), I made sure their luggage was in the trunk of the Rolls Royce I had hired. On the ride into Manhattan, I sat in the jump seat, making desultory conversation about the splendor of the acceptances, as if the Chandlers needed impressing, when Mrs. Chandler suddenly interrupted my footman’s monologue. Had any cover subject’s wife ever herself been on the cover of Time independently of her husband? Eleanor Roosevelt, I replied, Mme. Chiang Kaishek, but beyond those two, I was not aware of any other. At that moment, I knew that Dorothy Buffum Chandler lusted for the national certification of a Time cover, and would not rest easy until she had been so anointed.
When Dorothy Chandler—called “Buff” by friend and stranger, and who as the quintessential civic dynamo finally did make the cover of Time a year later—died at the age of ninety-six in the summer of 1997, she had lived a life that had spanned the ascendance and entire history of Los Angeles as the first city of the West. Of course she had come from somewhere else, Lafayette, Illinois, moving with her family to Long Beach when she was a year old, and it was there, at the southern end of Los Angeles County, that her father prospered, founding the first of what would become a chain of department stores, ultimately called Buffum’s.
The Buffums were rich, but the Chandlers were what passed at that time in Los Angeles as aristocracy, with local roots going back two generations, to the early 1880s, when the city only had a population of 5,000. Norman Chandler’s father, Harry, a New Hampshire native, was publisher of the Times, the paper Harry’s father-in-law, Ohio-born General Harrison Gray Otis, had owned since 1886. Under Harry Chandler’s stewardship, the Times was essentially ancillary to the family’s real estate holdings, land and the acquisition of it being the main business of the Chandlers. Norman Chandler married Dorothy Buffum when both were students at Stanford (neither graduated), and the young Chandlers settled into the traditional Pasadena life of well-heeled young marrieds. Norman worked his way up the Times’s corporate ladder, as Harry’s oldest son his progress never in doubt, and in 1941 succeeded his father as publisher; for her part, Buff worked to deliver an heir, their son Otis, who would succeed Norman in 1960.
Dorothy Chandler did not much like her in-laws, nor they her. They thought her déclassé (the Buffum department stores, no matter how successful, were involved in the rag trade, after all), and they also thought her pushy, because she was bored with the life of a society wife, with occasional service on charity boards and in hospital thrift shops. Volunteerism was all right in its place, but someone had to lead the volunteers. During the war, Dorothy Chandler moved into an apartment in the Times building, and in 1948 she convinced her husband to put her on the payroll as his administrative assistant.
The Times was challenged only by the Chicago Tribune for the title of the country’s worst metropolitan daily. Mrs. Chandler had no editorial function, but being present on the premises helped her mold the women’s sections of the paper to her liking. She was not indirect about using her position. In 1950, she instituted the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year Awards, a ceremony honoring local women the paper thought worthy of celebrating for their accomplishments; no woman made the cut without Dorothy Chandler’s approval, and she did not bestow her approval on any radical upsetter of the status quo, such as Angela Davis. She herself was an honoree in 1951, for her part in rescuing the Hollywood Bowl after bankruptcy forced it to close down. Twisting arms, she persuaded headline musicians to appear free, and in six weeks raised enough money for the Bowl to reopen and have a summer concert season.
Dorothy Chandler was now fifty, and over the next twenty years she would change the face of Los Angeles as forcefully in her way as Cardinal McIntyre had in his. What each had in common with the other was an iron certainty. If the Protestant power structure of downtown Los Angeles had not particularly welcomed Catholics prior to McIntyre’s arrival, even less so had it opened its arms to Jews; between 1909 and 1956, the principal establishment law firm, O’Melveny & Myers, did not hire a single Jewish associate. In her efforts to save the Hollywood Bowl, Mrs. Chandler had learned that she could not count on the people she knew, the rich Pasadena Protestants, to help the arts. They were too tight with their money, and not all that interested in culture. And it was on the social and actual architecture of Los Angeles that Dorothy Buffum Chandler would leave her mark.
Already in the 1950s the face of noir downtown was changing. With the blessing of the city fathers, Walter O’Malley had taken over the Mexican neighborhood of Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium, and the seedy Victorian charm of residential Bunker Hill was being gentrified with office towers. Now Mrs. Chandler convinced the county Board of Supervisors to condemn seven-and-a-half acres (then seven-and-a-half more) in the heart of Bunker Hill, within sight of the Times building, for a Music Center, two theaters (one large, one small), restaurants, rehearsal halls, studios, and private dining rooms. Finding the $18.5 million to build the Music Center was the task Mrs. Chandler set for herself. Where she went to get this money was, for Los Angeles, a revolutionary notion. Knowing she could not count on her own Protestant constituency, which had no interest in constructing an artistic Oneida at the center of the city they still saw as their own, she went foraging for funds in what Pepperdine University’s Joel Kotkin calls Los Angeles’s “golden shtetl.”
Anti-Semitism in Los Angeles was of the genteel variety. Because of the vastness of the place, the well-off WASPs did not have to see the well-off Jews, socially or otherwise. They lived on opposite ends of the county, thirty miles or more apart—Protestants in the east side independencies of Pasadena and San Marino, Jews on the West Side, from Beverly Hills to the ocean. They were also at opposite ends of the political spectrum; by reflex, WASP politics were more or less conservative (in the case of the Chandlers, several of whom were staunch backers of the John Birch Society, it was more rather than less), Jewish politics more or less liberal. Nor did their business interests overlap. Jewish money was new money—Hollywood real estate developers, S & L entrepreneurs (aided by FHA and Fannie Mae), and sportswear manufacturers—vulgar, arriviste money to the downtown gentile gentry. Being snubbed by downtown did not discourage these arrivistes. In Westwood and Century City, they simply built a corporate counterweight, with more desirable (and expensive) office towers and a third more office space than was available in the center of the city.
Powering ahead, Mrs. Chandler crashed through the social embargo as if it did not exist. She actively sought out the richest Jews, sometimes playing one against the other, as she did the rival S & L tycoons Howard Ahmanson and Mark Taper, who did not get along. Ahmanson and Taper responded with matching gifts of $1.5 million, each winding up with his name on a theater in the Music Center complex. “I began to be embarrassed to meet my mother,” her son Otis, publisher of the Times, told a reporter. “She’d say, ‘Who’d you have lunch with and what’s he do and what can he afford?’ At one point she asked me, ‘Who owns the Lakers?’ She’d never been to a game in her life but she went, and eventually she hit both Jerry Buss and Jack Kent Cooke.” She founded a women’s group called the Amazing Blue Ribbon 400 (the name sounded like an unwieldy trapeze act, one member said), four hundred volunteer women who would annually contribute a thousand dollars each to her Music Center; the $400,000 every year was an impressive signal to potential donors.3
She knew the difference between the amount a donor might wish to give and the amount he or she could afford to give. If she saw the possibility of a pledge, she would attend the meanest dinner party, as I had occasion to see in the summer of 1964, soon after my wife and I moved to Los Angeles. The party was given by the gossip columnist at the Times, a woman I had known in New York. She lived in a cramped apartment off the Sunset Strip, and her guests included Mrs. Chandler, without her husband, and Dr. Jules Stein, the former opthalmologist who was the founder of, and largest stockholder in, the giant show business complex MCA-Universal. I was sitting at their table. “Jules, I want $25,000 for the Music Center,” Mrs. Chandler said by way of openers. Dr. Stein intimated the figure was within reason, but in turn he wanted Mrs. Chandler to kick in $25,000 for the Jules Stein Eye Clinic that he was then building at the UCLA Medical School. “No, Jules,” she said matter of factly, “I won’t give you $25,000. But I will give your fundraising campaign twenty-five thousand dollars’ worth of publicity in the paper.”
Of course Dorothy Chandler raised the $18.5 million, and she also organized a company that sold $13.7 million in bonds to complete the Music Center’s construction costs. Along the way, she tapped forty-nine benefactors for $100,000 or more, and 802 donors for between $25,000 and $100,000. The white silk Yves St. Laurent dress that she wore to the gala opening of the Music Center in 1964 was on display, the last time I was there, in a downstairs lounge next to the men’s room in the center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. This was shortly before I moved back to New York in 1988, forty years after Cardinal McIntyre took over the archdiocese, thirty-eight years after Mrs. Chandler bailed out the Hollywood Bowl and became the cultural tsarina of Los Angeles.
The accomplishment of Cardinal McIntyre and Dorothy Chandler, each aware of the other, if not exactly allies working in concert, was to shape a modern community by ending the social segregation of Los Angeles Catholics and Jews—if not blacks, Hispanics, and Asians—from the city’s Protestant elite. What they actually wanted was the old Los Angeles with up-to-date improvements—a better newspaper, new schools, churches, and cultural centers—changes that would solidify their respective positions in the community. But once they had set these changes in motion, the changes were impossible to stop, with the inevitable result that the Los Angeles they made grew beyond them.
Contemporary Los Angeles is a city in which the great divide is no longer between Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Jew, but, as in all the nation’s major metropolises, between the haves and the have-nots. The “have” Catholics are now fully integrated into the municipal hierarchy, with Richard Riordan, the rich Catholic mayor, and Roger Mahony, the cardinal archbishop, the two most powerful men in town. The Jews, however, have retreated to the more compatible fastness of the West Side, their allegiance with the spirit of Dorothy Chandler and cultural giving as fragile and yellowed as Mrs. Chandler’s dress in its display case at the Music Center.
Today the movie industry is the largest employer in California. Its leaders, from top executives to actors and directors with assets of $100 million and up, now count Los Angeles as only one of the many places where they maintain dwellings. Most have private jets, or access to them, that allow them to spend comparable time in New York, or the ski country of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, or in the East Coast summer resorts; these peregrinations further weaken any sense of municipal loyalty. One result is that downtown’s distrust of Hollywood is back. Just five of the sixty-two governors of the Music Center come from the entertainment industry, and four of them were added in the last year and a half. “It was a relationship like, ‘You go your way, I’ll go mine,”‘ a downtown executive told Pepperdine’s Kotkin. “Socially we never got together after the Music Center.”
Los Angeles, city and county, has always been difficult for outsiders to understand. Most prefer to think it radiates out from the Beverly Hills Hotel, down Rodeo Drive, west to the 20th Century Fox studios, then out to Steven Spielberg’s house in Pacific Palisades. And always, there is an element of condescension, a scarcely veiled allusion to Hollywood’s vulgarity. In this construct, Los Angeles is an insecure place, and what it needs is an infusion of a more refined Eastern seaboard culture. This was the view of Kurt Andersen, in a piece he wrote in The New Yorker last September about the upcoming opening of the Getty Museum in Brentwood. “The Getty Center should make Angelenos in general feel a little better,” Andersen wrote, “in part by making Los Angeles seem more like a real city.” The sentiment was enthusiastically endorsed by John Walsh, the Getty’s curator. “I think it will make it easier for serious people to persuade themselves that they might come and live in Los Angeles,” Walsh told Andersen, sounding as if he thought himself the pioneer serious person. “It will bring tourists here, and that will change the caricatured view of Los Angeles.”
It is Walsh who has the caricatured view; the real Los Angeles is somewhere other than where he imagines. As of July 1997, the county had nearly nine-and-a-half million people, contained eighty-eight separate cities, and 163 identifiable communities. The city itself is a gazpacho of cultures where 106 languages are spoken. Where once the population was 90 percent Western European in origin, Anglos today are a minority, and Los Angeles has become, at least metaphorically, the capital of the third world. In the 1990 census, the population was 40 percent Hispanic, 37 percent Anglo, 13 percent black, and 9 percent Asian; by 1995, nearly 50 percent of the population was speaking Spanish at home. If one were to draw a social demographic outline, it would resemble a barbell—a thin bar of the middle class running between two overweighted extremes—a sophisticated, internationalized white upper class and an underclass overwhelmingly composed of people of color, providing the work force required by small businesses, service industries, and the garment industry. As the underclass increases, the Anglo minority increasingly chooses to live in leafy redoubts; since 1990, a third of all new residential developments in Los Angeles County have been gated and guarded communities.
One wonders what Dorothy Chandler and Cardinal McIntyre would have made of the city they wrenched into being. In their social tinkering, the Cardinal and Mrs. Chandler laid the foundation for a civic and geographic entity that was sui generis, not only a city of the world, but the locus for great migrations that would challenge the idea of community, especially community as contemplated by the Cardinal and by Dorothy Buffum Chandler. This was hardly their intention. They were both deeply conservative, and radical change was an unacceptable idea to them.
Death when it arrived was a relief. Mrs. Chandler died in a rest home, for years a prisoner of all the insults of great age. McIntyre had died eighteen years earlier at ninety-three, in the hospital where, for the last three years of his life, a stroke had confined him. I attended his funeral at St. Basil’s in the mid-Wilshire district, a church of surpassing architectural ugliness where he had spent his active retirement years in pastoral duties. His quarters were spare. There was a crucifix over his bed, and on each of the other three walls a single photograph—one of his mother, one of Spellman, and one of Al Smith. Every month, he took $400 from his $1,000 monthly pension, changed it into one-dollar bills, and, like John D. Rockefeller passing out dimes, handed a single dollar to a retinue of indigents. He heard confessions, greeted parishioners in a plain black cassock shorn of the red piping of his cardinalate, and lived the life, he liked to believe, of a simple parish priest.
May 28, 1998
It should be noted that Monsignor Weber lists me as a critic. The reason is that in my novel True Confessions, the character of Hugh Cardinal Danaher bears a passing resemblance to McIntyre. In a recent telephone conversation, I pointed out to the monsignor that Cardinal Danaher was the most sympathetic and honorable person in the novel, indeed perhaps the only one. Monsignor Weber allowed that it had been some time since he had read the book. ↩
Cantwell was more direct than Dennis Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia, who blamed “Russian producers of lascivious filth” for Hollywood’s product, “Russian” being his euphemism for “Jewish.” In 1934, Dougherty forbade Catholics in his archdiocese from going to the movies, saying that theaters were “occasions of sin.” He did not apply this ruling to himself, as he often showed films at his episcopal residence. ↩
See David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Knopf, 1979). ↩