Ask Chris

Email your burning questions about L.A. to [email protected]
Q: Have any famous actors ever run for office in Los Angeles?

Every mayor of L.A. for the last century has an IMDb page, and Betty White and Walter Matthau were both named honorary mayors. Still, more actors wanted to run for office but couldn’t: Before Ronald Reagan repealed it in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine forced stations to give free airtime to the opponent of anyone already on TV. So KCOP aired only non-Sulu episodes of Star Trek when George Takei ran for city council in 1973. “There are a couple of episodes where I go crazy,” Takei said. “If [my opponent] wants to go on TV and do that, he’s welcome.” After 1987, the 2003 California governor’s race was star-studded, with Gary Coleman, comedian Gallagher, Angelyne, and porn star Mary Carey running against Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Star Trek actor George Takei lost his run for L.A. city council in 1973 by 1,675 votes. Later, he was appointed to the Southern California Rapid Transit District board. (Courtesy of Japanese American National Museum)

Q: Is that famous vegan Mexican restaurant in WeHo, Gracias Madre, related to the one in San Francisco? 

A: Both sprouted from the same plant-based family tree, but the owners of the Bay Area original have turned their attention to agriculture, while the L.A. operation is run by their kids. “My parents are in their seventies,” co-owner Cary Mosier says. “They’re gentleman farmers.” The Southern California restaurant is larger and fancier, creating unique dishes like hearts-of-palm crab cakes and Coconut Chicharrón. “I’m 38 and I have energy and it’s L.A.,” Mosier says. They’re more set it and forget it.” Mosier hopes to expand mom and dad’s other no-carne creation, Café Gratitude, nationwide.   

Q: What are those metal-and-concrete boxes in the middle of the Arroyo Seco riverbed?

A: The Arroyo Seco (or “dry creek”) is kept extra seco by a big underdrain system that prevents groundwater from crashing through the concrete riverbed. Fast-moving water could wash away the paving and leave a soft bottom friendly to trees and animals, but it was deadly floods in the 1930s that got it paved in the first place, and there’s no telling when those will hit again. Pasadena assistant city engineer Brent Maue tells me those cigar box-shaped protrusions act as “a pressure release valve,” like a pipe that reroutes the natural stream safely to the surface where it finds its way to the L.A. River and eventually Long Beach harbor.


Where the Bagel Began

The Buck Benny, the Fisherman’s Folly, the Bronx Special. How I always marveled at the delicacies on the giant menu at Canter’s as a kid. That tome, along with a peach waitress uniform, a vintage cash register, and even the old cigarette machine from the Fairfax institution’s Kibitz Room are currently on display at “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli, at the Skirball Center through September 4. The exhibit traces the journey of kugel, rugelach, and pickle purveyors from Europe to New York in the nineteenth century, and the midcentury deli mania that brought us long-gone L.A. favorites Junior’s, Billy’s, and Drexler’s, as well as the new wave of artisanal delis serving up everything from horseradish micheladas to chicken-fried shawarma.

This edition of Ask Chris is feature in the June 2022 issue of Los Angeles

(Illustrated by Justin Metz)
(Illustrated by Justin Metz)

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.