One of the pleasures, one of the pains, of intensively researching the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance is that I have to read hundreds upon hundreds of pages of HPOA Exec. Direc. Ms. Kerry Morrison’s smug, privileged prose. It’s painful not just due to her smugness, but to her tacit insistence that she’s an expert on homelessness and everything else, her hypocritical alternation between whining about government and soliciting special favors from the government, her advocacy of arresting homeless people over and over and over again for breaking even the most inconsequential of laws while she herself masterminds ongoing criminal conspiracies, and so on.
The pleasure comes from the same source that mastery of any complex esoteric field of knowledge brings pleasure. From intense close reading and rereading of the complete works of Ms. Kerry Morrison, I’ve not only realized that she speaks a separate, unique language (which we affectionately refer to as Kerrymorrisonese),1 in which the syntax and the vocabulary are identical to Standard American English, but the semantics is wildly divergent, but I’ve begun to master this idiolect and I’m here to share my knowledge with you. Tonight’s post is meant to be the first installment of a translation rubric. A phrasebook, if you will. I hope it will be useful to you, intrepid student of the fascinating subject that is Ms. Kerry Morrison!
First, note that one of the foundational tropes of Kerrymorrisonese is the adoption of an astonishing amount of law enforcement vocabulary. She can go on about “hardening targets” and “upticks” in “activities” with the battle-weariest of LEOs. And not only that, but she has mastered the use of the richly polysemous cop term, “individual.” For instance, she will consistently refer to homeless people as “homeless individuals.” The use of “individuals” by law enforcement people to mean “people” in contexts where people would just say “people” evidently hasn’t been studied by scholars yet,2 but once you start noticing it you’ll hear it everywhere. Ms. Kerry Morrison uses it to describe undesirables. For instance, see the BID’s 2005 Q4 Report, in which she refers to two of her most hated groups of people, street characters and homeless people, as individuals. You can read through every last one of the quarterly reports, from 1997 through 2015 (as I did before writing this post) and you will never see a reference to anyone she considers human as an “individual.”
Another interesting trope is her use of unadorned full names as a mark of respect. For instance, her Board members are always “John Tronson” or “Monica Yamada,” or whatever their name is. She uses neither courtesy titles nor honorifics with her Board members and their peers. I suppose the tacit message is that they are her equals (although not her intimates; see below) so she does not need to preface their names with what would be extraneous marks of respect. Just as college professors don’t call one another “Doctor” because everyone has a Ph.D., so Ms. Kerry Morrison doesn’t call John Tronson “Mister” or the equivalent.3
This last semantic variant is taken to an extreme by her consistent habit of referring to herself and her fellow staff members, likely the people in her professional milieu with whom she’s the most emotionally intimate, by their last names only. For instance, see the 2009 Q3 report, in which she refers to Ms. Kerry Morrison, Sarah Besley, and Joe Mariani as Morrison, Besley, and Mariani, respectively. This usage is everywhere in the reports. With one minor exception (in the 2008 Q1 report she calls John Tronson “Tronson”) in twenty years worth of reports, the only people she calls by their unadorned last names are staff members.
Which brings us around to the titular subject. If lack of courtesy titles, and even lack of first names, shows respect in Kerrymorrisonese, one might plausibly expect the opposite rule to hold. And does it ever! It turns out that in the entire history of Ms. Kerry Morrison’s HPOA report writing, she has only ever used the courtesy title “Mr.” to refer to two people (or, more properly, “individuals”). Serious students of the BID will recall that in 1999, property owner Aaron Epstein sued the HPOA and the City of LA to force them to comply with the Brown Act. This made Ms. Kerry Morrison madder than a hornet. In the first mention of the case in the reports, in 1999 Q2, Ms. Kerry Morrison writes:
A property owner, Mr. Aaron Epstein, in the Phase II BID filed a lawsuit…asking for declaratory and injunctive relief given his assertion that the non-profit organization that manages the BID should be subject to the Brown Act….Judge4 Ricardo Torres presided. He denied Mr. Epstein’s5 request…and ruled in favor of the BID.
In itself this wouldn’t be enough evidence to assert that when Ms. Kerry Morrison says “Mister” she means “asshole,” but remember first that she’s only ever called two people “Mister” in these reports. Only two.
Secondly, there are other examples of her using honorifics to express her anger. For instance, in the 2005 Q3 report Ms. Kerry Morrison writes:
A certified letter was sent by Kerry Morrison after sharing a draft with the Board at their August meeting, to the family members representing the Luros Trust, owners of the property at 6315 Hollywood Boulevard. The letter went to the Honorable Michael Luros and Dr. Richard Luros — requesting a meeting to talk about the work of the BID, and the changing nature of the neighborhood around their property. A letter was received from the Luros’ attorney asking that no direct communications be forwarded to the doctor or the judge, but rather be directed to City National Bank, which manages the trust.
First, it’s important to know that the property at 6315 Hollywood Blvd. houses the Deja Vu Strip Club6 which, given the fact that Ms. Kerry Morrison is on the public record as disapproving of even sexy underwear stores on Hollywood Blvd., must drive her absolutely wild with disapproval. Second, note how Ms. Morrison pulls out the old honorifics to express her displeasure. Although Michael Luros was indeed a Superior Court judge, and although, according to Wikipedia, “the Honorable” is the correct honorific for a judge, really, who knows this? Who in the world besides Ms. Kerry Morrison calling a judge an asshole because he won’t talk to her about his strip club, has ever referred to a judge in the third person as “the honorable?” In the example above, e.g., she referred to the judge who initially found against Aaron Epstein as “Judge.”7
And now the last unanswered question. Who is the only other person besides Aaron Epstein in the entire history of Ms. Kerry Morrison’s quarterly HPOA reports that she’s ever called “Mr.”? Why, l’autre Mister c’est moi. But you’re going to have to find those references yourself…
Image of Ms. Kerry Morrison on Vine Street is a crop of this image, which is a public record. Image of John Tronson is ©2015 MichaelKohlhaas.org.
- The phrase “which we affectionately refer to as” is itself an example of Kerrymorrisonese. Roughly translated it means “I’m about to use a word which I think shows the world how stunningly clever I am but I’m couching it in this formulation so that it’s also clear to my audience how outrageously modest I am.” This is a topic that’s more suited to an advanced seminar.
- I would love to be wrong about this. If you’re aware of a scholarly literature on this subject, or on cop-talk in general, please let me know.
- This is just a guess. The reasoning behind usage is notoriously hard to tease out. The question may not even have a well-defined answer as language is so notoriously mercurially plastic.
- Note that she calls the judge “Judge.” This will be important later.
- Note that Epstein gets called “Mister” twice in one report. She is really, really mad. She talked to me a few months ago about this case and it’s evident that almost twenty years later she is still mad.
- It’s weird enough that the BID is writing to its property owners, whom it’s evidently supposed to be working for rather than against, to tell them what kind of tenants they should have. I plan to write on this topic much more later on.
- When the Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court overturned that Judge they proved themselves to be a bunch of “honorable individuals” and their decisions constituted an “uptick in activities.”