City Sanctioned Vulgarity


It should come as no surprise to anyone that the entertainment media pushes vulgarity, bad taste, repulsive images and a host of other offensive “anti-values” as an integral part of their “product.” This is what they do for a living. They make crude, ugly garbage and they call it “art” or “free speech,” or whatever they think is necessary, in their attempt to convince you that your values are wrong, old-fashioned, and you really ought to “get with it” and be like them. That’s the sad reality of show biz today. But what about your city government? The one you pay taxes into. Do you expect your city to promote that stuff? Well, the City of Los Angeles does. 
I was at my brother’s house the other evening, and he asked me if I was aware of the new television sitcom starring Edie Falco, the actress from “Sopranos.” I told him I had seen promos on TV for it. “Yes, but have you seen the print ads, the billboards?” he asked. I hadn’t. He told me he had seen them on the sides of city buses. He couldn’t believe the vulgarity. The posters on the buses show a close up of a smirky-looking Miss Falco in a nurse’s uniform holding a syringe straight up between the fingers of her right hand in the common middle finger “F-you” position. The bold copy headline on the poster says, “Life is Full of Little Pricks.”
I shook my head and made some comment about how crude media advertising has become but thought nothing more about it … until today. As I was driving down Magnolia Boulevard, I passed a bus stop at the corner of Colfax and I saw the ad with my own eyes. To hear about it is one thing, to see it is quite another, let me tell you. But the ad I saw wasn’t on a bus; it was at the bus stop itself.
For those of you who don’t get out that much, you may not know that city bus stops are now equipped with large glass framed enclosures which hold advertising posters as a way to generate income. That disgusting ad would be bad enough anywhere in public but this one just happens to be at the corner where North Hollywood High School is located! What a wonderful message for the kids, eh?
The show is called “Nurse Jackie” and it is on Showtime. You can view the actual ad in all its repulsive glory on their Web site. I’m sure everyone at the network thinks it is great stuff. Again, the fact that the entertainment industry engages in crude advertising does not shock me. Of course it bothers me but I’m not surprised. What REALLY BOTHERS ME, however, is that the City of Los Angeles sells ad space to them, and pastes it on the side of their buses and at bus stops throughout the city, without any regard to children and others who might just take offense. Believe it or not, not all of us appreciate the perpetration of more vulgarity into an already coarsening society.
I thought it might be interesting to get the official city reaction to these ads, so that day I attempted to speak with someone, anyone at city hall. Want to make a guess as to how far that got me? How about zero, or as our esteemed Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might say, nada. Telephone calls to the Department of Transportation and the mayor’s office were futile. Yes, I’m just naïve enough to think that I could actually speak to someone in City Hall.
Well, there was no one at the Department of Transportation, I mean absolutely no one. The phones just rang and rang, not even a voice mail pick-up. I should tell you that it was 3:30pm on a Friday before a holiday weekend but still, why was the entire department gone? Last time I checked, a three-day holiday weekend doesn’t start until the end of the work day on Friday. Or maybe it doesn’t down in city hall.
Next, I called the mayor’s office and, believe it or not, a real person answered the phone. Unfortunately, that real person wouldn’t talk to me. She immediately cut me off in mid-sentence and transferred me to… take a guess where. That’s right, the Department of Transportation. After about a half hour going back and forth with the mayor’s office, I finally asked to speak to someone in press relations. Another 15 minutes on hold and a person answered. I introduced myself, explained the ad, and asked if the mayor’s office was aware of it. She told me the mayor’s office has nothing to do with Metro bus ads, that it would fall under the jurisdiction of the transportation department. “But doesn’t the mayor have oversight responsibility for all city departments?” There was silence on the other end. “Do you have any comment about this at all?” I asked. “No, no comment,” was her reply. Click.
So there you go, folks. No satisfaction. No explanation. No nothing. City Hall will do whatever it damn well wants to do, and the citizens can just pound sand and, oh yeah, keep paying ever higher taxes. There was an old saying, “You can’t fight City Hall.” Fight it? Hell, you can’t even engage it in conversation.
Is it any wonder that Villaraigosa is featured on the cover of Los Angeles Magazine this month with the word FAILURE boldly printed across his chest? Lucky for him it wasn’t the copy line from the “Nurse Jackie” posters.

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