By Aaron Blevins, 3/29/2012
Annual Event Benefits American Diabetes Association
Following the American Diabetes Association roast of Herb Wesson last Thursday, the Los Angeles City Council president probably isn’t sitting so high and mighty. However, according to the roasters, he wasn’t sitting very high to begin with.
Wesson, of the council’s 10th District, was skewered in front of his peers during the association’s 15th installment of the roast, which was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Roasters were L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, 11th District, though several guests of honor and the master of ceremonies, comedian Michael Colyar, contributed jokes. Wesson was ridiculed for various reasons, including his height, smoking habit and handling of the redistricting process. It was all for a good cause, though, as the event raised $500,000 for diabetes research.
“We’re honoring Herb Wesson tonight because, quite honestly, we ran out of people to honor,” Yaroslavsky said. “You can’t imagine just how low you were, Herb, on the list of possibilities.”
The Los Angeles County supervisor said organizers had tried to secure former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn to no avail. He said they even tried to lure former Bell city administrator Robert Rizzo, who requested a prime rib dinner and $100,000 in a brown paper bag.
“Herb, the only reason we’re roasting you tonight is because we came up $8,000 short,” Yaroslavsky said. “Congratulations. You are our eleventh natural choice.”
While introducing the supervisor, Colyar grilled Yaroslavsky, “a walking argument for term limits,” on whether he’s planning to run for mayor. After receiving no answer, Colyar criticized the supervisor for being a poor dresser.
“The only guy who wears [crappier] suits than Zev is city attorney candidate Mike Feuer,” he said.
Fellow roaster City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, District 11, used redistricting as material, likening the lines “drawn” by Wesson to those created by Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin in redrawing Eastern Europe during the 1940s. He also praised Wesson’s community outreach efforts throughout the redistricting process.
“No one in L.A. history has done so much to unite South Los Angeles and the Korean community,” Rosendahl said sarcastically.
While Yaroslavsky and Rosendahl did a lot of the damage, several other Los Angeles politicians had an opportunity to tease Wesson through presentations and performances.
City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilmember Dennis Zine, 3rd District, presented the “Top 15 Promises Herb Wesson Made to Become Council President.” According to the presentation, he promised Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, that public speakers would be required to divulge the high school that they attended.
“By putting USC in the 9th Council District, Wesson promised [Councilmember] Jan [Perry] some Trojans,” Greuel said, not finishing the joke. “While she was getting screwed,” Zine said.
Colyar then introduced “Sam Yorty — I mean, [Mayor] Antonio Villaraigosa.” Villaraigosa opened by poking fun at the Los Angeles Fire Department’s response times controversy.
“Speaking of fire safety, is Chief Cummings here yet? We called him five minutes ago. Late again,” he said.
Villaraigosa told a story about the Los Angeles Police Department officers at city hall encountering a “menacing group” of fellows wearing pinstripe suits. He said they believed it was a remake of “Shaft”, but it was just Wesson and his entourage.
“And I want you to remember, I showed up,” Villaraigosa said, referring to Wesson’s election as council president. “I showed up because we all know what happens when you don’t.”
Before wrapping up, the mayor provided a tip for the American Diabetes Association’s fundraising committee.
“If you get a pledge from the city attorney — or as he’s requested to be called on the ballot, ‘Nuch the Magnificent’ — if he pledges tonight, make sure he pays in cash,” Villaraigosa said. “No checks for him. No promises. They aren’t worth the newspaper they’re printed on. …It’s true.”
Councilmember Ed Reyes, 1st District, and Supervisor Gloria Molina, 1st District, presented an rare, never-seen-before video of Wesson and his wife celebrating their new district lines. It was a animated video of them dancing to “Whoomp! (There It Is)”.
Reyes, whose son, Adam, has diabetes, told a story of Adam’s “honeymoon period,” when diabetes patients enjoy a brief reprieve from their symptoms. However, after a nine to 10 month “honeymoon,” the family wound up in the emergency room for two days.
“My wish is that honeymoon could have lasted forever, but I’m hoping that with your support we can continue focusing on this disease, and every child will have a honeymoon where it’ll never end,” Reyes said. “Give yourselves a big round of applause.”
After holding back tears, he got back to the task at hand — making fun of Wesson. Reyes gave a slide presentation of Wesson’s views of things, which included his shorter, customized urinal at city hall and a photo of well-endowed woman walking down the street.
“Here, Herb meets with a constituent,” he said. “I didn’t write this stuff.”
Molina, who was roasted in 2008, also took shots at Wesson, saying he wants to run for mayor … when he grows up. However, she empathized with the council president.
“I know what it’s like to sit in that chair, Herbie, because my legs dangled as well,” Molina said.
Councilmember Eric Garcetti, 13th District, sang an original song while playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the piano.
Gerrrrry [Miller, chief legislative analyst]
Just screwed Bernard and Jan,
Put Andrew Westall at the head,
Drew a map and now they’re dead.
Gerry, I took Bernard’s own home,
And Jan’s got nothing left but L.A. Live.
Garcetti also referenced the redistricting issues in Koreatown, where many residents were calling for more cohesive representation, allowing for an opportunity to elect an Asian-American to the council.
Michael, what have you done?
K-Town boundaries got messed up,
Now they think that I’m corrupt.
But hey, Koreans, let’s start over,
An yang ah say oh,
I’ll meet you at your homes in CD 12.
I didn’t mean to cut you off,
But I know that you’ll be back again tomorrow,
For public comment, ooooo
Newly-elected councilmember Joe Buscaino, 15th District, joined the performance near the end, having been the butt of several “Who’s that guy?” jokes earlier in the evening.
I see a little silhouette of a man
Herbie Wesson, Herbie Wesson
What happened to your posse?
Garcetti appropriately slowed it down at the end.
God, I need a drag now,
And everyone can see.
If I didn’t smoke so,
I’d be 6 foot 3.
The roast was the brainchild of Harvey Englander, Councilmem-ber Mitch Englander, 12th District, and Arnie Berghoff, who have organized the event since 1998. Berghoff’s daughter, Laura, has had diabetes since she was 3 years old.
Now 26, Laura spoke at the event, mocking Wesson while also speaking about the importance of raising money for diabetes research. She said it affects 8.5 percent of the U.S. population, equaling 26 million Americans. It is also a leading cause for blindness, amputations, stroke and kidney failure, Laura said.
“President Wesson, you better be warned,” she said. “The cure diabetes movement sit-in starts in city hall on Monday.”
Wesson finally had a chance to retort at the end of the event, and he seized the opportunity.
“I am not going to say anything negative about Dennis Zine … because that sexually motivates him,” he said. “I am not going to say anything negative at all about Supervisor Gloria Molina … because she scares the hell out of me.”
The majority of his bit centered on whether Yaroslavsky is going to run for mayor. Wesson said he doesn’t know if the supervisor will run, but he has clues that the supervisor is seeking the black and Latino vote.
“I’ve heard reports there have been multiple Zev sightings in East L.A.,” he said. “Now, I have nothing to prove that that’s true. But in the district I represent, three and a half months ago, I go to my favorite joint — Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles — and sitting in the corner, all alone, is Zev.”
Three months later, he again went to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, only to find Zev in the middle of a crowd, wearing a Kangol hat backwards, Armani sunglasses with diamonds, a thick golden chain with a menorah and Air Jordan shoes. Wesson said he approached Yaroslavsky.
“My name ain’t Zev,” Wesson said, “quoting” the supervisor. “You gotta call me by my street name, White Fizzle. …I’m just hanging out here with the homies.”
Approximately 900 people attended the event. The roast is the association’s largest fundraiser, bringing in more than $7 million since its first event.