Sherman Wanes, Waxman Gains


Redistricting will move Congressman Brad Sherman out of Topanga.

By Susan Chasen

When Topangans next vote for a representative to the U.S. Congress, they will most likely cast their votes overwhelmingly for the 27-year incumbent Democrat, Congressman Henry Waxman.

VOL.25 NO. 23
November 15 - 28, 2001


Redistricting, using new data from the 2000 census, has redrawn districts so that Topanga and all of the Santa Monica Mountains fall into the district Waxman will run in next year. With predominantly Democratic voter registration, Topanga will likely vote overwhelmingly for Waxman, whose district currently only extends to Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades.

Congressman Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, who has represented Topanga and the Santa Monica Mountains for five years, will be running in a district that was moved north and east to include Tujunga and Burbank and no longer includes Topanga or the Santa Monica Mountains.

The district numbers will change too, with Sherman's present 24th district becoming the 27th district and Waxman's 29th becoming the 30th. Topanga will be in the 30th district.

Sherman's new district includes only 40 percent of his current district. Most incumbents face new districts that include about 60 percent of their current districts, he said. However, voter registration is about 1.5 to 1 Democratic to Republican.

"Sixty percent of the people have never gotten a piece of mail from me," said Sherman. "I'm going to need my friends from all over."

Sherman has devoted much attention to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. He procured a $6 million allocation to complete the Backbone Trail as well as an average of $2 million annually for the Mountains. But, he said he also is well acquainted with issues affecting the San Fernando Valley.

"Seventy percent of the people who elected me live in the San Fernando Valley," said Sherman. "I'm happy to get what I'm getting, but I'm sad to lose what I'm losing."

According to Sherman, Topanga is actually the strongest area of his support.

"Topanga has been the most supportive of me election after election," said Sherman.

But, with over a year to go as Topanga's congressman, he said: "This is not ‘Sherman says good-bye to Topanga.'"

Sherman said he has discussed some Mountains issues and the proposed Ahmanson Ranch development with Waxman.

"Henry [Waxman] has been a supporter of the Mountains for a long, long time," said Sherman. "I expect the Mountain communities will be very happy with Henry's representation."

Sherman said he will continue to oppose Ahmanson Ranch.

"Ahmanson Ranch is an over-development that would affect the whole region," said Sherman.


Stable Challenged

By Tony Morris

The future of horses currently boarded at Will Rogers State Historic Park remains unclear. A scheduled meeting between State Parks officials from Sacramento was abruptly cancelled when horse owners boycotted the meeting. There are now four parties involved in the ongoing controversy: the Department of Parks and Recreation; the Will Rogers Cooperative Association, a non-profit association which raises funds for the park and provides docent tours; the Rogers family; and 45 horse owners.

According to Frank Angel, attorney for the Will Rogers Cooperative Association, a number of significant issues have been raised since State Parks informed horse boarders that they would have to vacate the park by January 8, 2002. The original agreement between the state and the Rogers family called for equine activities at the park to benefit the public. Angel says Will Rogers intended equestrian events to be presented at the park on a regular basis.

An audit of the equestrian operation, conducted by the state, cites a number of irregularities which have not been corrected by the stable concessionaire. The state audit concludes that the operator is not in compliance with the terms of the lease which terminates in February 2002.

Randy Young, a member of the Will Rogers Cooperative Association and a Rogers expert, says that the state has the right to order the eviction of current horse boarders. Young said their use of the park facilities should be the same as public use of a camp ground. "The horse boarding operation is bleeding the tax payers but it's not even for the public." Young says he would like to see horses at the park after the state has had an opportunity to complete environmental studies and make needed repairs.


Goodbye, Old Paint

Household hazardous waste collection day November 3 at Topanga Elementary School brought in 4,452 gallons of assorted toxics, poisons and flammable wastes from Canyon homes.

The school cul-de-sac was specially outfitted for the event--the asphalt was covered in plastic and tarps and the center area was given over to collection bins, tanker trucks and workers all wearing protective white suits. Pulling around the circle to make chemical deliveries were 425 vehicles carrying 3,000 gallons of old paint, 250 gallons of motor oil, 65 car batteries and 1,202 gallons of hazardous liquids.

This event, sponsored by Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, was the first local household hazardous waste day since 1998. According to Public Works, 80 percent of the materials collected are generally recyclable. Paint, for example, is recycled and used for painting over graffiti. Of the remaining 20 percent, some is treated and stabilized, some ends up in a hazardous waste landfill and some is incinerated.



Desert Jewel #20 by Helen Hewes, is on exhibit at the Howell-Green Fine Art Gallery in Pine Tree Circle through early December.

Pear Essentials

So far, our bid for prickly pear concoctions has turned up only one reply. It was from Sharon Fliegelman who reported that she just completed a dyeing project using the cochineal scale--the tiny bug that secretes the white stuff and was used for hundreds of years as a red dye. It sounds very interesting and we'll follow up on it in a subsequent Messenger.

As for eating the fruit, I found that frozen "Opuntia Pops" were really delicious--the many hair-thin needles in my fingers notwithstanding. Just brush off the spines somehow--rolling over and over on sandy ground with a bunch of grass is one method--slice down the length, scoop out the beautiful bright green, seed-filled pulp and press through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl. Transfer to pop molds or ice trays and freeze.


Essay Contest Winners Cherish America's Freedoms


Interim principal Gerald Dodge stands with Topanga Elementary School's student winners of this year's essay contest sponsored by Topanga Town Council. Jennifer Edgerton, center, took first prize. Yannick Trapman-O'Brien, left, and Jessamyn Sheldon, right, took second and third prize.

The Topanga Town Council's second annual Essay Contest gave Topanga Elementary School fourth graders a chance to explore a topic prominent in many people's minds since September 11: "What I like about being an American."

Jennifer Edgerton took first prize in the contest--a $100 gift certificate from Barnes & Noble bookstore. Yannick Trapman-O'Brien and Jessamyn Sheldon were second and third prize winners. They received $75 and $50 gift certificates.

"It's a nice gesture and it makes the children think," said Town Council president Dale Robinette of the contest. It also is a way of giving something back to the community, he said.

"The ones we chose were quite touching," said Robinette.

What I Like About Being an American

By Jennifer Edgerton

I have many wonderful reasons why I like being an American. Some of the most important to me are: the freedom of speech, the right to wear whatever you want, the freedom of religion, the right to an education and the freedom to have happiness.

In 1789, a promise was made to the American people called The Bill of Rights, which gave them many freedoms. One of the most important rights is the freedom of speech. In America, we have the right to say whatever we feel or think as long as it doesn't hurt other people. If we don't like the way the government is running our country, we can talk about it or write about it or form a group to protest. If people in other countries protest, they might be thrown in jail or even killed.

In America, we can wear whatever clothing we like. This is not true in some other countries. There is a very sad story about a little girl in Afghanistan. She had just turned 14 years old. As she walked into town one day, suddenly she felt sticks pounding on her calves and back. She asked the officer why he was beating her. He said, "You are 14. You should have a veil over your head and face and a long skirt so no part of your body will show."

The little girl went back home in tears. In our country we can wear whatever we want and not be afraid of being beaten.

In countries years ago, people had no freedom of religion. They had to believe what the kings and queens or rulers believed. Even now, some people in other countries have to meet in secret because their religion is not allowed. But in America we can choose our own religion like Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. I love America because we can believe whatever we want.

American children, poor or wealthy, can go to a public school for no fee. Children of other countries have to do unhealthy jobs with no pay. They never get a chance to learn, so they stay poor. In America, all children have the right to an education so we can grow to have wonderful futures and smart people to run our country.

Americans work hard and when they are not working they have the right to do whatever they want to find happiness unless it is hurting someone. The government does not tell them what to do. This is an important freedom because Americans not only have freedom but are happy as well.

Because of these reasons, whenever I see our flag, I am proud to be an American.


Happy Together Again

By Bonnie McCourt

If you happened to drive along Topanga Canyon Boulevard between the Video store and the Center on October 30, perhaps you noticed the warning signs and the California Highway Patrol car parked by the side of the road. The "men at work" there were busy dressing up a cabin on that stretch of the Boulevard to masquerade as the late Frank Zappa's home in Laurel Canyon for an upcoming film, "My Dinner with Jimi."

The screenplay was written by Howard Kaylan, lead singer of the '60s chart-topping band, the Turtles, and is based on events in 1967. Kaylan, who was 20 at the time, tells of the thrill and disillusionment of his first night in London dining with his musical idols, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles.

"My Dinner with Jimi" stars George Wendt ("Cheers") as the Turtles' manager and John Corbett ("Northern Exposure") as a photographer. According to a spokesperson for the film, it also features an array of "astonishing" impersonators of '60s icons--Zappa, Hendrix, the Beatles, and Jim Morrison, among others.

Originally slated to be a short, when Rhino Films saw a rough cut they persuaded Kaylan to expand it to feature length. At this point there are no plans for a theatrical release, but Rhino is hoping to have the film shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and afterward to air it on MTV or VH1.

The Turtles had a string of pop hits like "Happy Together," "She'd Rather Be With Me," "It Ain't Me Babe," and "Elenore," then suffered a nasty series of lawsuits and broke up in 1970. Enjoined from using the name the Turtles or even their own names professionally, Kaylan and co-founder Mark Volman created alter egos they called "the Fluorescent Leech and Eddie." As Flo and Eddie, the pair joined Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention and appeared in the film "200 Motels." They later formed a radio syndication company to distribute their music/variety format radio show across the country. Over the years the pair have continued recording and touring together, as well as with everyone from John Lennon to T-Rex, Bruce Springsteen and the Knack. With their legal problems resolved, in recent years the pair has been touring again as "the Turtles, featuring Flo and Eddie" to record-setting audiences.


Would I Lie to You?

By Bonnie McCourt

On November 5, Serious Dog Films invaded Abuelitas for the day to shoot scenes for a feature film, "Would I Lie To You." Although the film crew transformed the interior into a Cuban restaurant called Le Dic-da-Dor--complete with waiters in military fatigues--they retained, as part of the set, art by Topanga artists installed in Abuelitas for their Day of the Dead celebration.

Film producer Doug Masterson described the film as "a screwball romantic comedy based on Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest.'" He said the film will be making the rounds on the festival circuit next spring in search of distribution.

Lead actor Jonathan Penner, pictured above, doesn't think he's related to Coast & Canyon's Teresa Penner, but after he saw the prices of real estate in the Canyon, he wishes he was.


Our History Online

A new Internet image library illustrating the history of the San Fernando Valley includes 170 images, newspaper clippings, documents and flyers from Topanga.

The San Fernando Valley History Digital Library website at was spearheaded by Cal State Northridge,and features over 2,000 images, illustrations and other items collected from numerous historical societies in and around the Valley.

Ami Kirby, archivist for the Topanga Historical Society, served on the project’s advisory committee. She compiled Topanga's contributions to the effort which include Topanga's first families--the Santa Marias, Tujillos and Cheneys--and materials on other themes selected for the project including water, agriculture, personalities, structures and buildings and the 1950s.

The year-long project was funded by a $153,000 grant from the California State Library. In addition to providing instant access to disparate local collections, the new digital library is also seen as promoting awareness of these collections.

With room for a few thousand more images, this new collection is expected to continue growing, especially since original materials need only be borrowed and are then returned to their local contributors. For more information call Ami Kirby at (310) 455-1969.


Democrats Look to Post Sept. 11 Future


State Senator Sheila Kuehl and Assemblymember Fran Pavley at a Democratic Committee meeting in Topanga.

By Dan Mazur

Progress on much of the Democratic Party agenda will be slowed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

That was the message at a forum titled "Moving Forward with the Democratic Agenda," sponsored by the Democratic Committee of the 41st Assembly District October 14 at the Community House.

The effects of terrorism on the Democratic Party's progressive goals and the flaws in California's redistricting process were addressed by a panel that included State Senator Sheila Kuehl and Assemblymember Fran Pavley--as well as representatives of Congressman Brad Sherman and California Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg.

Redistricting was to be the main subject of the meeting. But that discussion was largely displaced by concerns brought on by September's attacks and their aftermath.

"After September 11," said Pavley, "redistricting was overshadowed by a far greater change. The attacks on our country, however, should not change the fundamental principles on which it was founded, or the Democratic agenda. We must move forward on Social Security, education, and the environment."

Pavley explained how the State Legislature's work was affected by the attacks, which occurred during the last week of the session. It was difficult, she said, to address the many bills that were still pending--including the vote which approved the redistricting plan--in the shortened week and with new security and other concerns.

Kuehl agreed. "We were so stunned we didn't know what to do but continue, because there was a statutory deadline," said Kuehl. "It felt strange, but it turned out that the best thing to do was to move forward."

The most immediate effect of September 11 on California will be economic, said Pavley. "California's second largest business is the tourist industry," said Pavley. "It's going to be a devastating hit on the State's economy and things will be different next year. Any legislation to push forward the Democratic agenda that costs additional money isn't going anywhere. We're going to have to lessen expectations, focus more on policy issues…rather than new programs."

Stuart Waldman, chief-of-staff for Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg agreed that funding will be much more difficult. "Last year we got a lot of funding for community groups. Next year don't ask."

Pavley pointed to some important achievements of the past year. Governor Davis has recently signed a bill putting a $2.6 billion Parks' bond measure on the ballot in the March election. There will also be an $11.4 billion school measure on the November ballot.

According to Pavley, State Treasurer Phil Angelides has said that California can absorb about $15 billion in bond indebtedness in the next two years.

Pavley also mentioned important aspects of the Democratic legislative agenda that have little to do with the war on terrorism, such as improving access to health care. The California Healthy Families program, she pointed out, which provides health care for children of families with incomes below 25 percent of the poverty level, is in need of improvement. The way "poverty" is defined, she said, is based entirely on food prices, which tend to rise far less than housing and other essentials.

But, conceded Pavley, while moving forward on such issues is important, "it's holding on to what we have that's going to be the greatest challenge."


Redistricting was among the issues given short shrift by the Legislature because it was scheduled for debate in the week of the terrorist attacks. Kuehl, like several members of the audience, was not happy about the results. Opposition to the redistricting plan was difficult to work up, said Kuehl, because the new districts were designed mainly to protect the seats of current incumbents of both parties, and are not perceived to tilt toward either Democrats or Republicans.

However, said Kuehl, changes were made which shifted much of the state's coastline into Republican districts.

"Now, from Oxnard to Santa Cruz, our coastline is represented by Republicans…The whole thing stunk, and I raised my voice about it," she said, "but most senators said, ‘I've got mine, I'm fine.'"

With seats protected within each party, Pavley said, "the primaries are going to be more important." The races where seats are open because of term limits is where the action is. This changes the dynamic, because most people don't pay attention to their primary races."

Mike Gatto, campaign manager for Congressman Brad Sherman, said he and Sherman were surprised by the way the lines were drawn. "If you had told me that Brad Sherman would be representing Burbank, I'd have said you were nuts. If you'd told me he'd be representing Tujunga, I'd have asked what planet are you from?"

Audience member Alan Clayton, research chair for the California Latino Redistricting Coalition, expressed anger and disappointment over the way the redistricting was handled. "It was rammed down our throats," he said, "Twenty-two Democrats had the guts to vote against this turkey, but the leadership was too frightened of a court challenge and having someone else draw the lines." He acknowledged that Kuehl was among the few state senators who protested the plan. Clayton's organization will be filing a lawsuit to have the redistricting plan thrown out, along with the lawsuit already in the works by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.

Clayton also disputes the notion that redistricting will not change the balance in the Legislature, predicting that Democrats will lose two to three seats in the state senate.


Emiliano Rocco Zapata Comes Home

By Susan Chasen

Eva Rocco's son Emiliano Rocco Zapata, 4, was released November 2 from the hospital where he was recovering from emergency surgery to remove a mass the size of a small lemon from his brain.

Emiliano's return home came as a great relief to the Rocco family, but there is still concern about the future. There is another smaller growth on the skull, not discovered initially, that may require further surgery or chemotherapy.

As Topangans learned about Emiliano, the grandchild of Frank and Marlene Rocco who established Rocco's in the Canyon Italian restaurant and pizzeria in 1980, they have been quick to offer support and are organizing fundraisers to help out Eva. The cozy, family-run restaurant--with Frank, Marlene and Marlene's sister Eve Otaola always there--has made all of Topanga part of the Rocco family, so it's not surprising that feelings for Emiliano extend far and wide through the Canyon.

The staff and parents at Topanga Montessori Preschool, where Emiliano is a student, have decided to donate the proceeds of their annual fundraiser to Emiliano's medical expenses.

"When you hear about this, your heart goes out to him," said Abbey Burgess, co-director of the school. "He's a wonderful kid. And the family is nothing but wonderful."

The Montessori fundraiser runs through December 1. It will bring a 40 percent return on sales from a catalog including a wide range of gifts and holiday items, garden bulbs, wrapping paper and much more. Generally the fundraiser earns nearly $1,000 for the school, but Burgess hopes it will generate more because it's going to Emiliano.

Meanwhile, she said, the children are making cards and pictures for Emiliano. "The kids miss him, they want him back."

The 45 families at the school will have copies of the catalog for anyone who wishes to place an order. Also, they may be placed at Rocco's and other local businesses.

Artist Nancy Williams is close to Roccos and is donating a painting for a fundraiser. Plans are still in the works, but it will probably be sold through a raffle at Rocco's with all restaurant proceeds from that night going to the cause as well.

"He's quite a little kid," said Williams. "He's naturally athletically talented, just a fearless little guy."

Although Emiliano is covered by insurance, medical expenses already come to about $300,000 with about $60,000 to be paid by his family, according to Christina Rocco Levy, Eva's sister.

Emiliano was first hospitalized October 22. After a CAT scan at West Hills Hospital, he was immediately transferred to UCLA Medical Center where he underwent six hours of surgery.

Initially, said Levy, Eva took her son to his pediatrician and eye doctor because she noticed his right hand was shaking and his eyes appeared to be protruding. In both visits, she was reassured nothing serious was wrong. When Emiliano continued having headaches and weakness on his right side, she took him to the emergency room.

According to Levy, 50 family members and friends were at the hospital when Emiliano was in surgery. They have confidence in Dr. Jorge Lazareff, who Levy said is a highly regarded pediatric neurosurgeon.

Emiliano spent 10 days in intensive care.

"Our family is feeling very positive," said Levy. "We definitely feel our community behind us, coming together....My sister wants to make sure everyone knows how thankful she feels for everyone's love and support."

Eva Rocco, who is raising Emiliano as a single parent, opened her own Rocco's Cucina on Sunset Boulevard just north of Pacific Coast Highway. Emiliano's father, Tony Zapata, is a member of another long-time Topanga family.

Levy said Emiliano was very patient in the hospital, but is glad to be home with his cousins around him.

"He wakes up with a smile on his face every day," said Levy.

According to Levy, Emiliano may need physical therapy to regain full use of his right hand and foot.

Levy said the family is focused on recovery now and welcomes information from the community as well as ideas from Topanga's many healers on alternative approaches that could be helpful. Call (818) 887-9575 or write to Christina Rocco Levy, P.O. Box 165, Topanga, CA 90290.


All Undressed and No Place to Go

Betty Meltzer demonstrates zest for life despite her recent announcement that Elysium's new home site is for sale.

By Carole Merritt

What does the surviving board member of a nudist camp wear when visitors arrive? Clothes, if it's a rainy day at Elysium, the "Clothing-Optional Family Recreation and Health Spa" which had desperately been trying to stay open at their new Malibu site.

Elizabeth "Betty" Meltzer notified Elysium's members on November 1 that the new facility was closing due to a "crushing financial burden." This after an attempt the previous weekend to get a commitment for ongoing funding from 75 members who showed up for a meeting at the Malibu facility. In another letter two days later, Meltzer declared: "Elysium has no money...September 11 impacted our property refinancing plans and disabled my husband and me from continuing Elysium and the property on which we've held Open House for members this past year...There is no way to refund anyone or to keep staff or utilities functioning."

A Topanga legend since 1967, even after the death of founder Ed Lange in 1995, Elysium grew to almost 700 hundred members. Watsu instructor, Charlotte Holtzermann described Elysium as "a collection of sensuous eccentrics who caroused the property." Some said these were Ed's first family. After Lange died it appeared there was no desire on the part of his heirs to perpetuate his legacy and the 8-acre Robinson Road property was put up for sale by his daughters, Dana and Lisa Lange. The price was more than members could or would pay and Elysium was forced to find a new home, closing in Topanga just over a year ago.

Then, in November 2000, Meltzer, and her husband Sandy bought the new 20-acre site on Mulholland Highway near Decker Canyon in Malibu as a second home for them, and as a club for Elysium's members.

Pending permits from Los Angeles County and the California Coastal Commission to reopen Elysium, members were simply guests of the Meltzers. According to a former board member, who wished to be identified only as Gary M., "dues were for the non-profit organization operating in expectation of the physical club, to carry on the vision and philosophy of naturism. And gate fees were required to gain entry so you could be a guest of Betty and Sandy while the permit process was going on. Betty was in charge of dues, and these funds were used to improve the property in anticipation of permit approval."

With a 3,000-square-foot clubhouse, a large swimming pool and trails up the mountain punctuated by a seasonal waterfall and several flat areas of land, Betty envisioned a site where human potential could be explored in a clothing-optional environment. A large temporary seminar hall in the form of a reinforced tent costing close to $40,000 was erected pending permits for a permanent structure. Also planned were a restaurant, several yurts, a few trailers for overnight guests, tennis courts, a lake--and anything else money, patience and sweat could buy.

Elysium was to be governed by a board of three, but only one held the mortgage. Perhaps this is where the problems began. Here, 30 miles from the Robinson Road site, membership began its slippery slide down the mountain, as members from as far away as Laguna and Palmdale began to desert the club. Meanwhile, without a permit, the club could not be promoted or even have signage.

Some say the new club was too far away, others that it didn't have the charm of Elysium Fields in Topanga, despite efforts to plant and cultivate turf in the rugged soil. But some fault the management of the new site. "The Meltzers vetoed on many occasions what the board thought the money should go for," said a member who did not want to be identified.

Gary M. says: "I was disappointed because I feel I let people down. On the other hand, it was expected--I saw it and couldn't stop it."

Now the few remaining employees are packing boxes filled with sculptures and records which will go into storage. According to Meltzer's letter, for now Elysium will become "an American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) non-landed travel club."

Salaries were scheduled to end November 11. One employee, Margaret "Maxx"McKenzie, who three years ago gave herself a membership for her 40th birthday, has worked in the Elysium office for a little less than a year. She loves the outdoors so much she has been overnighting in a sleeping bag on the property. She says she will stay on to help volunteer "even after the pay checks stop." Then she'll probably move back with her parents and return to college to get a liberal arts degree. When I tell her I got my degree when I was 49 she says, "Thank you, sweetheart," and sighs.

Another employee, Pam Brown, says: "I always thought it was about a higher calling....The place was founded on love and it's turned into hate and fractionalized into small camps instead of everybody joining together and being united and looking toward our future."

Among the 200-plus die-hard members who remain, there is a feeling of displacement, the loss of "family," along with feelings of betrayal.

Several are out looking for property. Each has their own vision; each hopes the funds to purchase a new site for a new Elysium will materialize. Noting that there are other clubs of Elysium's ilk--one in Corona, another in Palm Springs--they say, "but Elysium is different, more touchy, and into personal growth."

As a few members--via e-mail and phone calls--circle about like vultures picking the carcass of a once proud, and possibly noble beast, Gary M. says: "I did the best I could"--a phrase echoed by Meltzer.

Planning consultant Gary Morris--not to be confused with Gary M.--who was shepherding the permit process said if some members decide to pick it up or another buyer wants to do essentially the same thing we could resume processing. "Had it not stopped we would have anticipated approval by next summer--even out of Coastal," he said.

Gary M. is still optimistic that Elysium has a future: "I think something will happen but I think they need to let the emotions subside and rethink the vision for the 21st century--get out of what worked in the 1970s and put together a business plan. Even though it's fun and we're pioneers and we're at the cutting edge, at the end of the day you have to pay your light bill."

In the meantime, Holtzermann says Elysium will always live on, "All you need is the freedom to be nude, playful and loving. The culture of Elysium is right here in our own backyards."


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