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          The L.A. Times magazine, which is called The Los Angeles Times Magazine, is renaming itself West this coming Sunday, Feb. 5. Of course, the old L.A. Times magazine was called West. That was way back in the 1960's, and Jim Bellows was editor.
          Bellows wanted the rag to have a hard attitude, to be something to read, not stared at lazily on Sunday mornings by women interested in chaise longues. He succeeded, but his bosses ultimately preferred the chaise longue crowd. The mag went through many subsequent incarnations.
          Whatever the new West will be, or if any readers will care that it is no longer called The Los Angeles Times Magazine (I believe the decision to reach that name took over a year---really), the ad campaign is just a marvel. No wonder people are paid so handsomely, to come up with copy like "It's a whole new magazine, with a strong sense of place and a unique voice." What do you figure---this genius exec is making a hundred and fifty grand? Drives that Lexus to his/her million-five cottage in Montrose?
          Strong sense of place?
          Well, you know, if it's called "West," and is intended for L.A., you'd best hope it has a "strong sense of place," eh? Wouldn't go over so well if it was about, oh, Tallahassee. Unique voice? Bet you’ve never heard that expression anywhere in your whole life! But in defense, the phrase has every bit as much vivaciousness and cleverness as Dick Cheney.
          As for it being a "whole new magazine," then why, pray tell, does the same ad copy say "what hasn't changed: sharp writing, probing reporting, fascinating profiles." Uh. . .guess it isn't a whole new mag!
          It’s all from a color flyer stuffed into the Times Sunday turkey Jan 29, headlined “Reaching New Heights.” That sounds like the theme for my high school graduation ceremony. I mean, this is the kind of grandiloquent fluff and nauseating pablum that you expect in a. . .state of the union address. Just who really writes this crap? Karl Rove?
A Californian can have "the New Yorker in you," or the "Parisian in you," but not a "Californian in you." See? Once again, the Times has missed the local angle.

         There's more: "Our magazine will return with a new focus on how we live in California." How we live in California? Are we not already rather well aware of. . .how we live in California? (Let's try "desperately.")  It beiges on: "Our style. Our people. Our concerns." Yessirreeeeee, that sure sounds new! And very specific, too! Guess the old LAT mag was about somebody else’s “style, people, concerns.”
          More: "You'll find talented new writers (guess the talented old writers were too old, or not talented enough), bold photography (as opposed to cowardly photography, meek photography, that must have typified the old mag), and a host of surprising new features."
          Well, here's one such "surprising new feature": "The Rules of Hollywood: a weekly tale from the trenches of the industry." Wowie zowie! That sure is surprising! Imagine the L.A. Times covering Hollywood! Get me the smelling salts! I can hardly believe it!
         As for “bold photography,” judging by the cover of the first issue (or perhaps just a mock-up), this will consist of things like a mussed haired, swarthy young lothario in what appears to be a pre-coital pose with the very hip Asiatic female, leaning against what looks like a hotel dresser (whether the bottle is booze, mouthwash, or lubricant is an open question.) This somehow is supposed to illustrate the fact that, as the headline suggests, Orange County has become, and I quote, “unconservative.”
          One of the “fascinating profiles,” apparently, is “Why Jason Alexander is a Genius.” Another: “The Woman Behind the Lens at Playboy.” Right. It is certainly fascinating that "editors" continue to come up with the same sorry, uninspired junk, month after month, year after year.
          The fun does not end here:
          "Not to mention a new name: West. What hasn't changed: sharp writing, probing reporting, fascinating profiles. Plus your favorite features: Dan Neil's 800 words and Merl Reagle's Crossword Puzzle. Go West every Sunday."
          Who could resist? Don't you want to rush right out first thing Sunday morning and grab that whopper in your driveway? Mmm-hm! Especially if you are the successful black female, sexually ambiguous unshaven white male with hip rectangular black glasses, or articulate career Latina demographic types featured in the latest Times commercials, right?
          The flyer’s flaccid, lifeless, pulverized language is capped off, most peculiarly, by a phrase in big letters placed inside very mysterious parenthesis, "You'll like where we're going."
          Of course, I don’t like where they're going, as it sounds like an even more inflated, precious, pompous version of where they've been. But never mind about that. Here is the very, very best, most magical, wondrous part of the flyer---the part that earns the author that fluorescent light Spring Street tan:
          "Redesigned cover to cover, for that Californian in all of us."
          Aside from the fact that it is not---by its own description---redesigned cover to cover (Did Dan Neil highlight his hair?), let's take a closer look at the key phrase, "that Californian in all of us." What exactly does that tell you? Well, it means the magazine is. . .
          Not for Californians!
          It is aimed at people who have come here from elsewhere, who are still coming here from elsewhere, and who badly want to be seen as, and feel like. . .Californians. In other words---non-native residents. As well as those fabulous bi-coastal people for whom cities are like rooms in a house.
          Yes, this rag will have a "strong sense of place," all right, and that place is New York, Texas, Indiana, Florida, Paris, wherever. Not East L.A., Venice, Reseda, Artesia. If you already are a Californian, they're not interested. A Californian can have "the New Yorker in you," or the "Parisian in you," but not a "Californian in you." See? Once again, the Times has missed the local angle.
          I realize this is getting into identity crisis, if not schizophrenia, but this is important. This is the only part of the ad that reveals anything at all---the demographics folk have turned their Armani-encased backs on you, the native L.A. resident, the native Californian. They're pandering to people who come here write a script, get an agent, pose for those head shots, etc., then give up and leave after three or four years and go back whence they came. As well as assorted lawyers, lawyers, fitness trainers, studio executives, lawyers, fitness trainers, marketing executives, lawyers, newspaper editors, and lawyers.
          And yet, and yet. . .
          This phrase appeared in giant letters in a full-page West ad on the back of the business section the very next day:
          Now I’m confused. On Sunday the magazine was for the “Californian” in you, which, presumably, would include New Yorkers. On Monday, West was for Californians only. Excuse me, I’m having a vision of the Scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road, crossing his arms and pointing in opposite directions, saying, “Of course, some people do go both ways.”
          Funniest of all, the ad campaign never even mentioned what is certainly the rag’s most marketable and truly new commodity: best-selling author Amy Tan, who is selecting and editing a weekly piece of West fiction.
          Of course, that would mean targeting people who read.


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