Letter From Los Angeles
Sex and City Hall
Friday, July 6, 2007
LOS ANGELES When he was elected mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa was just what this city needed. After the bowl of oatmeal Jimmy Hahn and the vacationing septuagenarian Dick Riordan ended their terms, the little firecracker with the professionally whitened smile was the hyperactive booster rooster that L.A. craved. In his off-hours, Riordan rode his bike. Hahn went to Home Depot. Villaraigosa goes to Vanity Fair parties -- after putting in 15-hour days.
The mayor was on fire. Only we didn't know how hot.
Here's the dish. The 54-year-old married mayor has a 35-year-old girlfriend, who happens to be a local TV anchor, who happens to be smokin' herself, who reported on the air last month that the mayor was splitting from his wife. Why? She didn't say. Why? Because she is his mistress.
"The rumors were true," read Mirthala Salinas, an anchor on NBC-Telemundo Channel 52, in Spanish on June 8. "Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa confirmed today that he is separating from his wife, Corina, after more than 20 years of marriage."
Politics in L.A. can be a dull affair. The local TV stations usually don't even bother. There's all the dreary municipal corruption, none of the fizz. Council deliberations on wastewater recycling just can't compete with the antics of the celebrity residents and freeway chases. The citizenry has a kind of ADD when it comes to civic governance. But not now.
"At L.A. City Hall, the summer of love," read the headline on Steve Lopez's column in the Los Angeles Times. Everybody is tuning in.
It's like one of those bodice-rippers on Spanish-language cable -- call it "Mi Alcalde, Mi Corazon" ("My Mayor, My Heart") -- a telenovela for our times. Appropriate? For a mayor who used to have a small devil and the words "Born to Raise Hell" tattooed on his shoulder, perhaps.
The Web site LA Observed reports that the Villaraigosa affair is the most viewed story at LATimes.com and the Los Angeles Daily News site. A recent blog head: "Antonio Villaraigosa, Living La Vida Loca."
Stop, you say. This is none of our business. Excellent point. So you may direct your criticism to the mayor, who keeps holding news conferences about his personal life while he admonishes the media for their interest in his personal life.
An exchange from his Tuesday news conference, his second on the state of his marriage.
Reporter: "Is Miss Salinas pregnant?"
Mayor: "I can tell you emphatically that that question is outrageous, and the answer is no, she is not pregnant."