NOTE: The records discussed in this post tell an interesting story. But the story of how I got my hands on these records is also interesting, and you can read it here.
If you’ve spent much time in Hollywood you’ve noticed the wildly popular movie screenings at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. They’re sponsored by Cinespia and have been going on since 2002. These events have been the subject of sycophantic only-in-Los-Angeles style coverage in local news outlets since forever. E.g. in 2015 the L.A. Times explained:
As the smell of popcorn and weed wafted through the air, DJ Ana Calderon spun “Sweet Caroline” and smiling hipsters lined up to snap shots in a candy-festooned photo booth that had been designed by pop artist Alia Penner…
Or the L.A. Weekly:
There’s even a cute deejay girl spinning a pitch-perfect assortment of swinging 1960s classics while 4,000 moviegoers trickle their way into the “theater,” picnic baskets, blankets and beach chairs in tow.
“Want some, Dani?” asks the cool mom to my left, extending a plastic cup filled with red wine my way.
Bring your own weed! Bring your own wine! Cute deejay girl! Cool mom! Famous dead people! You can even buy drinks from the bar! What could be more pleasant on a beautiful summer’s night in Los Angeles?! Who could ask for anything more??!
Well, evidently the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control could ask for anything more. Remember Will Salao? Ultracorrupt former ABC district manager, indicted by the feds for bribery and abuse of authority and probably a federal snitch? It seems that for years Will Salao pointedly did not worry about any problems with the drunk movies at the cemetery.
But his 2017 replacement, putatively new broom and special agent in charge Gerry Sanchez, immediately noticed something funny about these events at the Cemetery that evidently had been just fine with bribe-accepting Will Salao. They were breaking the damn law by letting people bring booze in, or at least Gerry Sanchez thought they were breaking the law, or maybe it was a regulation. No one ever seems to have identified the specific law they were breaking. And he did what seems to be his job and told them that it was against the law for people to bring their own alcohol in to the movie screenings and they would have to stop.
And you can guess what happened next, right? The cemetery bitched and moaned and complained to their elected representatives and so forth but then the LAPD and the City government stepped up in favor of everyone following the damn law! We’ve seen how diligent they were in conspiring against nightclubs on Hollywood Blvd, for instance, with LAPD, CD13, and City Planning teaming up to get them all shut down on the basis of obsessively compiled lists of violations. So why wouldn’t they defend the law in this instance as well? You remember the law, don’t you? It’s that thing we’re all equal under.
Actually, nope. It seems that when you’ve got 4,000 palefaced happy hipsters swilling wine and smoking weed on the lawn things work very, very differently from situations with a different color scheme. In this case, rather than spending years trying to shut down the putative violators with every creepy cop trick known to the power elite, CD13’s Marisol Rodriguez, the LAPD’s Julie Nony, and Baydsar Thomasian of Kevin DeLeon’s office basically swarmed special agent in charge Gerry Sanchez and yelled at him until he gave up and decided to let the cemetery continue breaking the law. That is, if there even was a law broken.
And then, because the guy’s no hero, he spent the next few days whining about it to his superiors instead of honoring the oath he took to defend the law. Or instead of realizing that no law had been broken and owning up to that. Either way, the guy’s a loser, but then we already knew that. Turn the page, of course, for every last detailed piece of this no-heroes-involved story, told, as usual, by means of transcribed emails.
The documentary evidence you’re about to read is all excerpted from this set of emails, the acquisition of which was the subject of this post over here. Our part of the story begins in somewhat fragmentary fashion on October 31, 2013 when ABC agent Celia Hardin emailed then special agent in charge Will Salao thusly:
Licensee turned over the attached application, just want you to have a look at it since it is open to the public and the event is this Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
And Boss, that it is to say Will Salao, replied:
This is an annual thing at the cemetery. You can approve it. I believe we placed conditions on last year’s event. Please pull that permit and mirror the conditions for this year.
And it’s clear from the record that the cemetery people were used to getting their way with ABC, because the next day, according to this November 1, 2013 email from ABC agent Maggie Phillips to Boss Will Salao, they weren’t happy with the conditions evidently imposed on them by Celia Hardin:
I just got off the phone with Bricia Lopez with PBF&E, LLC regarding their event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on 11/2. She said this is the first time she has ever dealt with conditions. She said she is ok with most of them except two.
No more than one (1) alcoholic beverage may be purchased by any one (1) person at any one time. She would like that increased to two (2).
No persons under 21 years of age will be permitted in the licensed area. She would like this condition removed as it is an all ages event.
It’s really worth comparing this entitled attitude on the part of the cemetery people with the mendacious testimony given by Hollywood vice officer Benjamin Thompson as part of the reprehensible vendetta against the Rusty Mullet, right there in Hollywood along with the cemetery, but serving a clientele evidently far less desirable to Ms. Kerry Morrison of the Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance.
Benjamin Thompson spent over an hour listing every picayune violation of every minuscule imposed condition imaginable, e.g. regulating the placement of posters and the price of coffee.1 No one seems to have been willing to allow these licensees to call up and demand the removal of conditions even so trivial, let alone, e.g., allowing children in the place.
So anyway, flash forward to June 2017. Will Salao is long gone, arrested, whatever, and Gerry Sanchez has taken over the thankless task of special agent in charging around. And then on June 22, 2017 he received this email from Judy Valerio, alerting him to a problem at the cemetery:
I meant to speak with you on this when you got in the office, but with everything so hectic, I kept forgetting. I received a call from a caterer of ours, “Bruno Inc”, Mark Gallo, he asked me if I knew anything about the events taking place at the “Hollywood Forever Cemetary”. [sic, here and throughout] I advised him we issue one day permits to the non-profit. He was approached by a representative of the cemetary to host an event that was coming up. The [sic] wanted him to do a cash bar. He asked them why they needed him to cater the event if they obtain licenses to do the events themselves. He stated they allow the people to bring in their own alcohol. So they are obtaining licenses without actually selling any alcohol. Naturally he was concerned with hosting an event where people were being allowed to bring their own alcohol in. He asked if he could be liable for anything if people over consumed or if minors were drinking on the premises? I advised him I would talk to you and get back with him. I wasn’t aware that they allowed people to bring in their own alcohol. I thought they were selling the alcohol themselves. This one has the potential to become very political, so I haven’t contacted anyone from the organization to verify anything. I think it may be prudent for us to at least find out how and what they are actually doing. Let me know what you think…JAV
And man, Gerry Sanchez was not happy with this information. Not happy at all. It took him only seven minutes to respond to Judy Valerio, and this is how he responded:
Please Put [sic] them on the no caterers/one-day list.
This is unacceptable.
They will need to call me — as I’m sure they will.
Gerry Sanchez • CA Dept. of ABC
Unfortunately the record is silent on what happened over the next five days, but you can be sure that things did happen, because on June 27, 2017, Marisol Rodriguez, überflunky of Mitch O’Farrell, enters the story with an email to Gerry Sanchez, basically the Fort Sumter moment of CD13’s war on all those who would curtail the rights of people who are free, white, and 21 to cavort amongst the corpses with their plastic sippy cups of white zin from Trader Freaking Joe’s:
From: Marisol Rodriguez <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 4:39 PM
To: Sanchez, Gerry@ABC
CC: Phillips, Maggie@ABC
Subject: Nice to e-meet you/Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Nice to e-meet you. I am sorry that I have not had the pleasure of meeting you in person. I worked closely with Will Salao. I also met and worked with Maggie during Will’s paternity leave.
I spoke to Maggie this afternoon in reference to Hollywood Forever’s Cinespia Movie Screenings. Maggie gave me your information and mentioned you are overseeing this area.
I was contacted by them and mentioned that they were told attendants [sic] to the screenings could no longer bring alcohol onto their private property. I would like to mention that Cinespia has been a great partner in working with the community and the LAPD Vice Unit and Senior Lead Department. Our office is very much in support of their events, since we have not had a bad experience with any of their events. They work extremely well with our office and hire off-duty police officers to monitor the screenings.
They are in good standing with the Building and Safety Department (who issues a temporary special event), our office, and the Police Department.
Any help in this matter would be appreciated.
Office of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell
And man! Gerry Sanchez had all them lil duckies in a row, which is no doubt why it took him only 28 minutes to fire off this reply. Note the digs at Gerry Sanchez’s predecessor, Will Salao:
The practice of bringing in alcohol is contrary to our licensing and enforcement provisions and should have been discontinued a very long time ago.
I need to start restoring order and consistency to the permissible and non-permissible activities at the events we license.
To that end, as a fair compromise, I will ONLY allow this on the next Event.
However, moving forward, we will condition EVERY event to prohibit outside alcohol from being brought in.
Unfortunately, Past practice in this area is not necessary [sic] a sound practice or sound public policy for our Dept as a whole — and is my biggest challenge at the LA Office — but it’s imperative that we restore order and consistency to the process.
I hope you understand, Marisol.
Gerry Sanchez • CA Dept. of ABC
And Marisol Rodriguez, probably noticing that Gerry Sanchez didn’t cite an actual law that the practice violated, came right back at him:
Thanks for the information, Gerry. I understand the licensing portion, but if it is held on private property is there a law that prohibits their patrons from bringing their own alcohol in?
What if they stop selling it?
I appreciate the information.
And because Gerry Sanchez was the special agent in charge, and because Gerry Sanchez had read up on how to be the strong silent type, and because that’s just how Gerry Sanchez rolls, he proceeded to ignore Marisol Rodriguez. And he continued to ignore her. Because quite likely he did not understand the basically god-like power of a Los Angeles City Councilmember working in their own district. And then on June 30, 2018 Marisol Rodriguez checked in with him. Don’t forget to notice the now greatly expanded CC list, because now Marisol Rodriguez’s response is escalated AF:
From: Marisol Rodriguez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, June 30, 2017 9:05 AM
To: Sanchez, Gerry@ABC
CC: Phillips, Maggie@ABC, Valerio, Judy@ABC, Thomasian, Baydsar <email@example.com>, Julie Nony, Edwin Guerra
Subject: Re: Nice to e-meet you/Hollywood Forever Cemetery
I am following up on the below question. Can we possibly meet sometime next week to discuss? This will serve as an opportunity to discuss events, as well as have the chance to meet in person. Perhaps we can look at dates after the 4th of July?
I am adding on this email (and who would also be a part of this meeting) Officer Julie Nony, who has worked with the cemetery for over a decade, Officer Guerra of our Hollywood Vice Unit and Baydsar Thomasian, District Director to Senate President pro Tem Kevin De Leon.
See how urgent it seems to Marisol Rodriguez? See how even the LAPD likes a bunch of young happy white people to be able to booze it up against the wishes of the ABC? See how no one is lining up and conspiring against the cemetery to shut this crap down? At this point Gerry Sanchez is mystified, frustrated even. A little less than 90 minutes later he emails his boss, Marcie Griffin and pours out his anger and his shame. Don’t miss how he blames it all on Will Salao:
I am incredibly frustrated right now because it seems that just about every organization here in LA wants to do whatever they want under the guise of “we’ve always done it this way before.”
The moment I try to restore some sense of order and consistency to the avalanche of events taking place seemingly everywhere, they run (usually “behind my back” if you will) to DeLeon’s Office.
I believe this is the 3rd person, I that [sic] cc’s my emails to DeLeon’s office when they don’t get the answer they want.
I’ve only been here a short time, but I can clearly see what’s happening.
The word is that if you don’t like the answer you get from the SAC at the LA Office, just get in touch with DeLeon’s office and they will get it done for you by pressuring and/or otherwise “passively” influencing-interfering with our process and/or decision-making.
I think it’s a very dangerous trend — as I’m sure it also happened on Will’s watch — because it undermines our ability to be a neutral and independent agency.
I’m used to dealing with Senators/Assembly members, etc on a once in a while basis, but this is clearly different — it’s almost as if DeLeon’s office has become a systematic default resource & they like the “power” this gives them.
I see myself as a flexible and reasonable person, but individuals (Marisol) like her are really testing my limits — to the point that I can’t even enjoy private time with my my family — my out of office email clearly states I’m on vacation til Monday.
I’m sorry, Boss, but I just feel that my decisions are constantly questioned & that they don’t really matter — as all they have to do is call their favorite Senator & they will get their way.
I don’t know if the executive staff (you and Kathi) feel this way or not, but I really appreciate some guidance here.
Maybe this is the “norm” here and I simply need to swallow the bitter pill that, unlike many of the other Offices, my decisions here are subject to constant “review” by external influences — and it’s the way it’s always been.
Gerry Sanchez • CA Dept of ABC
And just a few days later everything really exploded. It would almost be enough to make me feel sorry for special agent in charge Gerry Sanchez if he weren’t a gun-worshiping psychopathic coercion addict. On July 5, 2017 the damn cemetery emailed him, CCing eleventy-seven LAPD officers and a bunch of other City luminaries, just to make the damn point even more excruciatingly clear:
From: Jay Boileau <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date Wed. Jul 5, 2017 at 5:44 PM
Subject: HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY
To: Gerry Sanchez <email@example.com>
CC: Eddie Guerra <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Ben Thompson <email@example.com>, Annabelle Eubank <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Julie Nony <email@example.com>, Marisol Rodriguez <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Daniel Halden <email@example.com>
Hello Mr. Sanchez,
My name is Jay Boileau. I am the EVP and Director of the Cultural Events program at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I would like to coordinate a meeting with you and representatives from our local law enforcement and our city council office this week or next, either at your offices or here at the cemetery, whichever you prefer. Please give us a few dates and times that work for you and we will organize our schedules accordingly.
And if that weren’t bad enough, the next day Gerry Sanchez got an email from LA Times reporter Matt Hamilton asking him to explain everything. I’m not transcribing it because this post is already lengthwise out of hand, but it’s worth reading. And by later that evening Gerry Sanchez had just given up on the whole thing and realized that booze would continue to be carried in to the cemetery by its happy white patrons. He announced this in this plaintive email to his subordinate, special agent second in charge Maggie Phillips:
My denial of outside ABs for the Cemetery has blown up — LA Times has picked up the story — been dealing with the backlash all day.
I’m gonna have to eat s–t [sic] and walk it back — life sucks!!
Gerry Sanchez • CA Dept of ABC
And Matt Hamilton’s article appeared the next day, entitled Yes, you can once again bring beer and wine to Cinespia screenings at Hollywood Forever, containing the memorable line: “It’s unclear what led to the change of heart by state regulators.” See what you get for reading this blog?! Now you know what led to the change of heart by state regulators! A whole bunch of hometown political pressure, led by the very police that the cemetery pays a ton of money to for off-duty work and various City Council staffies who on the one hand are happy to encourage mobs of grinning white youths to engage in drunken hipsterism while on the other hand, just five blocks north, they’re exerting opposite and equal force to destroy the vestiges of Hollywood hiphop culture.
Gerry Sanchez seems to be a pretty bimodal thinker, which is not uncommon among gun-worshiping psychopathic coercion addicts. Right is right and wrong is wrong and he ought to enforce what he ought to enforce. And that may or may not be a good way for humans to think and it may or may not be a good way for cops to think, but having the cops think that way is a whole lot better than what we have now, which is that everyone goes around saying that the law is the law and we’re all equal under it but then enforcing it mercilessly against poor people, people of color, homeless people, and all the while letting these influence-addicted henchies who staff our City Council offices, who staff our damn City Council for that matter, rack up endless lists of exceptions for their paymasters and the useful idiots who unwittingly do the bidding of their paymasters by, e.g., creating gentrification-friendly hipster-rituals like these movies in the graveyard. Although this certainly isn’t news that doesn’t mean it oughtn’t to be exposed, amirite?!
And man! Thank you for reading all the way to the end! As your reward, I’m going to prove that a picture is indeed worth 3354 words. This snap right here of the audience at one of these damn movies pretty much makes every point I’m making. Shoulda started out with it, eh?
Image of Marisol Salguero Rodriguez is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.