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Silence Would Have Been A Much Better Idea


Silence, by Gary Musselman
(my crappy photography doesn't do the colors justice)

It all started when I heard a well-dressed guy with a laptop hard-bargaining a homeless artist for his work at a Santa Monica Starbucks. That artist is Gary Musselman, and the original story is here. More on the latest with him below.

Now, for those of you who are frequent visitors to my blog...what about me says it would be a bright idea to do some nefarious shit to me? Well, it turns out the guy who inspired me to speak up and blog about his interchange with Gary and his later aggression upon me at The Rose Cafe, did some speaking up of his own -- sending an e-mail packed with unsubstantiated allegations (untrue allegations) to every board member of the LA Press Club in hopes of getting me thrown out of Press Club!

You'd think I'd have to pay people to be this stupid.

The guy's name, which I only know thanks to his e-campaign against me, is Terry Mulgannon. I'll let him speak for himself, by posting the e-mail he sent to Press Club. But, first, the response from Press Club:

To: "terry mulgannon" Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 2:09 PM Subject: Re: A Matter of Ethics

> Dear Terry,
> Thanks for taking time to write all of us.
> As you might understand this is not a matter for the board of directors,
> but a private issue between you and Amy Alkon.
> I hope you'll be able to solve this between you.
> Personally I have only had pleasant encounters with Amy.
> Best Regards,
> Diana

Here's Terry Mulgannon's attempt to get me kicked out of Press Club -- with nary a substantiation about all those "lies" he claims I'm telling:

----- Original Message ----- From: "terry mulgannon" ( To: (; (; (; (; (; (; (; (; (; (; (; (; (; ( Cc: Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2006 4:24 PM Subject: A Matter of Ethics

> Members of the Board
> I am writing to call attention to an article written about me by your
> member and hostess Amy Alkon.
> It was published on her blog on or about May 2, 2006; you can find it by
> going to google and entering the terms:
> amy alkon it's like jazz on paper
> She describes a couple of encounters between us at a Starbucks in Santa
> Monica and the Rose Cafe in Venice. The critical event was my buying a
> couple of pieces of art from a homeless guy sitting next to me at
> Starbucks. The man sells his work on the boardwalk and around the
> community, I inquired as to his price, he named it, I paid it with no
> attempt to bargain and bought two pieces of art for $20.
> Alkon was sitting across from us, and while I was continuing to admire the
> man's work, she came over and began to berate me for cheating him by not
> paying him more. My attempt to reason with her or defend myself was met
> with disdain and further tirades.
> When I saw her the next day at the Rose, I asked--very politely--if she
> was always so self-righteously intrusive. She began her denunciations
> anew, and my reluctance to agree with her that I was the most disgusting
> person ever to walk the face of the earth reinforced her fury, at which
> point she informed me that she was a nationally syndicated columnist with
> more than a hundred outlets, and she was going to write about me and
> expose me to the world. In the course of the rant she demanded to know my
> name, and my unwillingness to reveal it led to yet more raving about my
> moral cowardice, apparently because she wouldn't be able to supply a name
> to the evil person she was going to describe in her writings.
> Her account of the incidents is the most egregious example of bad
> journalism I have ever seen in almost 30 years in the profession. She
> distorts a completely positive, unremarkable event into an opportunity to
> trash someone she knew nothing about. She got every fact wrong--I could go
> on at length--and she indulges in a level of name calling, personal insult
> and negative spin that should exclude her from any ethical society.
> Don't believe me, just read the story. She admits that she ignored the guy
> day after day and that she did nothing for the until I raised the issue of
> her own generosity--at which point she LOANED him $20.
> But she castigates me for taking an interest in a fellow human being and
> treating him like an equal, rather than an object of charity.
> I am asking the LA Press Club to open an official inquiry into this
> incident, and I believe Alkon should be expelled from the organization.
> She used her role as a journalist to attack me, as well as a tool to
> intimidate me with the threat of public scorn. And to paraphrase Mary
> McCarthy on Lillian Hellman, the only honest word she wrote was "the."
> She regularly quotes many of you in her blog, and highlights her
> association with the Press Club. I also note that she hosts an alarming
> number of your events.
> According to your mission statement, your organization's purpose is to
> elevate the standards and integrity of the profession; any association
> with Amy Alkon cannot help but compromise those efforts. No
> self-respecting person with an ethical sense would have anything to do
> with that creature.
> A little about me: I started as a student intern at Playgirl Magazine in
> 1978, did the same at LA Magazine. I was business editor for Century City
> News in '79/80, I was the founding editor of City Sports Monthly in LA in
> '80, was the first editor of Triathlon Magazine in '83, was a contributing
> editor for Terrorism, Violence and Insurgencies Quarterly--a scholarly
> publication put out by staffers at the RAND Corporation--from '83 to '88.
> I was an editor at Sport Magazine, Men's Fitness, and Los Angeles
> Magazine. I wrote the debut feature articles for E! Online when it
> launched, and developed their first movie web site. Most recently I was
> the Online Manager for the Marin Independent Journal, the major newspaper
> for Marin County.
> Currently, I publish and
> I live in the San Francisco area now, and was visiting Los Angeles to
> re-establish myself as a journalist there; I was even contemplating
> joining the LA Press Club.
> To find myself pilloried by a prominent member of the club was not quite
> the welcome I expected.
> I await your response.
> Sincerely,
> Terry Mulgannon

A few corrections of stuff Mulgannon got wrong: Gary doesn't sell his work on the boardwalk. Gary also says he didn't want to sell his work to Mulgannon. A guy's gotta eat, though, you know?

I told the guy who I was (a syndicated columnist) because he asked if I wrote for the LA Times after he said it wasn't my job to speak up, and I said, indeed, it was...speaking up was literally my business, because I'm a newspaper columnist. Okay, I think I also mentioned that I'm a justice-obsessed wacko, but he forgot that part, I guess.

And, no, I hadn't spoken to Gary before the incident with Mulgannon -- perhaps because it isn't my job to be a greeter at Starbucks, and because I frequently have my headphones on since so many rude bunwads are always shouting into their cell phones. I can't always play police girl, as it tends to get in the way of my work. Regarding Gary, I did notice him there, and I respected how hard he worked on his art while I was slaving away on my column.

Nick, by Gary Musselman

I loaned Gary money because I think charity is demeaning, but he was waiting for people to pay him and needed a little cash. No biggie, really. And I'm not helping him because I'm somebody who's in the business of scooping crack whores and the like off the street, but because I respect his talent, how hard-working he is, and see that it won't take much for him to be earning a living -- and probably a modest-to-good one -- making his art.

A little about what Gary's made of: Gary paid me back the $20 when Deja (I think it was Deja) paid him for art she ordered...driving up all the way up on a Sunday to give him cash, which he really needed. I told him not to pay me back so fast -- that could wait for the money, but he wouldn't hear of it. That's Gary. Nobody's freeloader. And guess what else: Gary tips at Starbucks. He's a class act.

But, back to Mulgannon, he was anything but polite or reserved when he approached me at The Rose; he was "scary-aggressive," if anything -- to the point where other people dining there asked me if I was okay. Mulgannon marched over, grabbed my table, leaned over, and bared his yellow teeth at me, and snarled...something about how I'd ruined some (hah!) beautiful moment between him and Gary. (Ask Gary how beautiful he thought that moment was.)

I didn't call Mulgannon names; and not because I wasn't thinking them in my head, but because name-calling never wins you points in any debate. It was actually far more effective to do what I did: to tell him I found his behavior creepy, and precisely why -- apparently taking advantage of the fact that a guy could use a sandwich, and using shrewd business negotiating tactics to get a cheapo price on the guy's art.

Anybody who questions whether I wrote the truth about Mulgannon's interaction with Gary, and his interactions with me is free to go to Starbucks on Hill and Main in Santa Monica, and ask Gary Musselman. He's usually there after 5pm. I encourage you to buy some art, too. I gave him a copy of the blog item I wrote about him, and he actually said he was impressed by how accurately I portrayed how he was feeling and the entire exchange with the guy.

Oh yeah, and because I stand behind whatever I do -- I don't do stuff I'd be ashamed to have people know about -- I'll always tell my name, loud and clear, to people I take issue with. I not only told Mulgannon my name, I also gave him the name of my site -- repeatedly -- and invited him to tell his side of the story, which he could have done anonymously. Nope. He got sneaky. Baaad idea. First of all, I did nothing wrong; simply wrote about what I saw, being careful, as always, to be truthful.

On a personal note to Mr. Mulgannon: Got a good libel-slander policy?


Malibu, by Gary Musselman

I've been waiting to write about Gary again when he gets a bank account and PayPal so he can take payments from people around the world to buy his art. Meanwhile, Gary and I have been working on the steps it takes to make that happen. But, since Mulgannon's written this and I feel compelled to post it (always better to get behind-your-back dirty out in the open so it can be properly cleaned up), I'll give you a brief update: Gary's been selling his art, usually for $100 for a copy, and $200 for an original. A lot of people want it, but taking payment's been challenging as Gary can't get a P.O. box or a bank account without ID, so he still doesn't have a place to live or a regular income, but it seems likely he soon will.

Thanks so much to all the people who have popped into Starbucks to give him cash. Another artist has been helping him by printing out orders people e-mail to him since Gary doesn't know how to do e-mail yet. But, if you want to order something, you can e-mail I get copies of all the e-mails. But, Gary should have PayPal and a bank account within the month. In the meantime, a few people from out of state have been sending checks to another artist, who's cashed them and given the money to Gary. Gary has the guys at my mailbox place pack up and UPS all the art people order so it gets there properly.

Anyway, Gary and I got on my laptop at Starbucks and ordered a certified copy of his birth certificate from Illinois so he could get a California non-driver ID. After that came, Gary was a bit slow getting to the DMV, I think because he thought he'd get turned down. I told him how essential it was and he promised he'd get there.

One Sunday, I met a girl studying for her psych exam at another Starbucks who works at St. Joseph's center where they assist homeless people. (If you're not shouting into a cell phone, you actually get to meet a lot of nice, interesting people.) I told her about Gary, but noted that Gary doesn't identify as being homeless, so he refuses to go there and get help for housing. "I don't take welfare," he says. I keep telling him he needs to let them help him get housing and he can give them a big donation when he gets back on his feet. Deaf ears. It would be easier getting a fish to speak, and maybe even read sonnets, than to get him in there.

The girl understood, but she said she'd send me a discount form for the ID, so it would cost only him $6. I sent her a self-addressed envelope and got the discount form back a week later. I was on deadline, but my assistant dropped the form and more off for Gary -- a packet of stuff including directions to the DMV on Colorado, their hours, printed backup that he only needed his registered birth certificate and his SS# to get a California ID, etc. (I was at Starbucks today, and he still had it on him, so I photographed it.)

Gary's *this* close to getting a license...and a bank account, so he can take PayPal

Gary applied for the license a couple of weeks ago, but there was a bit of a problem with him getting mail at the address he had it sent to. Not a problem, he just has to go back to the DMV and get a temporary license. He's got the money and bus fare to do that, and he promised to do it next week. (I'm a pain in the ass, it's easier to just do stuff than have me bug you about it.)

A friend of mine who represents an Academy Award-winning animator is sending out Gary's stuff to licensing companies on Monday. I wrote a bio for the packets she's sending out, and she's making copies over the weekend. This woman takes nobody on as new clients; maybe one every two years. Gary keeps thinking she's doing him a favor. She doesn't do favors. She thinks his work is amazing and it will sell. I do, too. Get yours before the prices shoot up! (He does abstract pieces, but what seems most popular are names and words, which you can order to have custom-done, with whatever color scheme you'd like.)

Here are a few of his most recent pieces. Again, my apologies for the crappy-ass photography. In real life, the colors are very brilliant, they're on bright white background, and "Santa" and "Monica"'s backgrounds match perfectly.

Santa Monica, by Gary Musselman

And here's the artist himself.


Gary hard at work, Starbucks, Main Street, Santa Monica

His site is, and you can e-mail him at (Somebody else picks up that e-mail for him and I get copies of all of it.) Or just stop in at Starbucks on Hill and Main in Santa Monica. He's usually there from 5pm to 9pm, in the back, working away.

Posted by aalkon at June 24, 2006 11:20 AM

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There's obviously two sides to the story of your argument with Mulgannon, but his contacting the press club to complain about what is a personal incident (even if you related it in your blog) is pretty goofy. It has nothing to do with the club itself or your being a member. Looks like Mulgannon used the incident to promote himself to the club, and the result is pathetic.

Posted by: Frog in L.A. at June 24, 2006 9:05 AM

"I started as a student intern at Playgirl Magazine."

Wow, so Terry Mulgannon is a fag, too?

Posted by: Lena at June 24, 2006 9:23 AM

The saga continues.
Our fine upstanding citizen seems distressed by your attentions : tsk.
A rather odd period of my life had me working with several paranoid scizophrenics in an untrained care capacity for a few months. Later I ended up renting from a married chap with the problem ( on meds ) .
A common situation is for them to end up on the street because of an inability to hold down regular work and so a proper living area.
Crazy doesn't mean stupid. These people can be very talented.
Without knowing Gary from Adam I still wonder if his problem is soluble.

Posted by: opit at June 24, 2006 9:59 AM

"A common situation is for them to end up on the street because of an inability to hold down regular work"

I think a shortage of affordable housing has something to do with it too.

Posted by: Lena at June 24, 2006 10:12 AM

Lena - Not really. One can stick out a thumb and leave the over-priced areas like L.A. and go where rent is cheaper. Choosing to stay in a high-price city has its repercussions.

Rent in K.C., for instance -- a house can be rented for $500, a utility apartment for a little over 3.

Posted by: Oligonicella at June 24, 2006 10:24 AM

Thanks for the update on Gary. I was wondering what was going on, but figured you'd let us know when events and your time permitted. Great progress! Now I have to figure out what to order.....

Posted by: mbm at June 24, 2006 6:35 PM

Usually where rents are cheaper, so is the payrate and lack of available jobs.

Gary's work is great, and if it weren't for Terry's behavior, you might not have been motivated to help. Wonder how Gary's feeling now, a bit overwhelmed, perhaps.

Posted by: mary at June 25, 2006 5:20 PM

i was just smiling a lot reading at his letter.
it looks exactly like "really serious" letters that children send to the teacher to complaint about a school friend.

what's the guy's age, by the way ? :D

one thing funny too is that the guy never came to gary to explain, or to ask gary to confirm that you were the problem and not himself. probably because mr Mulgannon already knows what would be the answer :)

Posted by: krysalia at June 26, 2006 2:58 AM

I would guess that Mulgannon was simply trying to be charitable to a guy whose work he appreciated. When Amy reproached him for not doing enough, he became defensive and now he is acting foolishly.

Personally, I would have no idea what to offer a guy on the street for his art. I suppose $20 would seem about right. Amy, however, obviously values it much higher, which is fine. Perhaps part of the problem here is that Amy, a self-proclaimed bitch (which I admire), was too confrontational about the whole thing. There were definitely better ways to handle it for both parties. Mulgannon was trying to be nice, and he came across as condescending. Amy should have kept her mouth shut and just talked to Gary about the whole thing. As much as I may want to change the world and the people in it, I have found that confronting people publicly and saying it like it is is ineffective, if satisfying. Now, instead of learning from the experience, Mulgannon will forever see Amy as nothing more than a meddler, and he will probably be hesitant to stick his neck out to help someone in the future.

Of course, hind sight, they say, is 20/20.

Posted by: Silver_Fox at June 26, 2006 6:13 AM

I agree with Fox, at least about that original encounter. Two sawbucks is what I'd offer for a piece of street art on impulse as well. In that moment, Amy might better have expressed her opinion of the worth of the thing by simply outbidding Mulgannon. He wasn't necessarily trying to cheat Musselman.

But weeks later, it's obvious that Amy values Gary's work more highly. We don't know his background, but it's possible that no one's ever invested as much in his work as Amy has.

Posted by: Crid at June 26, 2006 9:11 AM

Hey, this is a free voicemail service for homeless people that might help Gary out a bit! Cheers!

Posted by: Kim at June 28, 2006 3:39 PM

amy your comment " i loaned gary the money,because i find charity demeaning" lets me know all i need to know about you. peace,love and tye dyed undies, "charity is demeaning"...god that really is all i needed to know about you.

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