BILL BAUER, JOURNALIST
Our late columnist is missed as a friend, a most generous spirit to those who knew him, and as a crusading journalist of dedication and integrity to the thousands who read his columns for so long.
A journalism scholarship has been established in his name, administered through PAL, and we’re hoping to award the first one this May. A contribution to that fund would be the perfect way to remember Bill, and to carry forward the work he so believed in. Go to the PAL page, go to “donate,” and be sure to add a note that it’s for the Bill Bauer Journalism Scholarship.
There was a joyful, heartfelt, definitely different memorial service for him last fall, on the Pier he so loved. Following is the bulk of the words I spoke that day.
GOOD JOURNEY, BILL
I think Bill would be happy we are here, celebrating his life this way, because he loved the Pier, and when it was threatened way back in the ‘70s, by men, not nature, he used his pen and his powers of persuasion to make sure that it was preserved, outing and shaming the bad guys to insure that an important, historic part of Santa Monica would be passed along to future generations. Up to the very end, Bill fought to preserve that which he felt made Santa Monica Santa Monica, and not an extension of West LA.
For all his important community activities, THAT’s what Bill Bauer was known for, for the last 16 years — his famous, and feared, “My Write” column. Come Monday EVERYone in town made sure they got a copy of the Daily Press, to see what Bauer had written about this time. A lot of movers and shakers, religious or not, nervously uttered a prayer as they turned the page — please, Lord, I hope I’m not in Bauer’s column this week.
Even though he was a very private guy, Bill made lots of friends here during his 45 years in Santa Monica, and I’m blessed to be able to say I was one of them. They were literally from all walks of life. But so many who never got to meet him, felt they knew him, through his writing.
CORRUPTION’S THE ENEMY
We talked about it a lot when we got together for drinks, or coffee at the Farmers Market. He’d often have a sour look on his face and tone in his voice, because he felt at the end of the day that nothing had changed, and corruption fueled by Big Money almost always won.
Being the political columnist that he was, there were special concerns. How hard should he come down, for something he believed in? Should he couch his language, or swing for the fences? The danger of the latter is that you can burn your bridges — the city council, the police chief, the city manager or even your editor may never want to speak to you again.
But if he thought he was right — and Bill always thought he was right… or he wouldn’t write it — he felt that saying it in the strongest, clearest way possible was the only thing to do.
And so he did burn bridges — and, gained the recognition and respect of his readers. Bill was loved — and hated — because he did not pull any punches. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve been passionate about politics ever since I campaigned for JFK when I was a kid, so as the 2014 election neared, I more and more expressed my beliefs in my “Curious City” column. That, was stepping into Bill’s bailiwick.
— hey Bill, I used a British term, bailiwick — he’d like that. He was an Anglophile and so looked forward to his annual trip back to the Mother Country, which had to be “postponed” this year due to his illness. I thought he was kidding himself, but sure enough, he made it, against all odds, using a cane and pleased with himself no end. Good show, Bill. But he was a realist, and it was without sadness he told me recently he was going to have to give up his beloved red Triumph sports car. Scrunched down in the bucket seat, with his big floppy hats he looked just made for that car — one of the built-in accessories.
Here’s another thing you may not have known about Bill — he loved feeding the critters from his third-story balcony. Birds, but especially the squirrels. Bill LOVED — LOVED — squirrels, and we shared that too. The world is divided into squirrel haters and squirrel lovers. Bill loved the way they dove into life and enjoyed it to the max, without any concern for falling, or looking foolish. That they were playful, like him, though you might not know it unless he decided to show it to you.
But to get back to politics, I never rang Bill up to ask him if he was okay with me venturing there occasionally. When I finally, cautiously, raised the issue he couldn’t have been more gracious.
TOO MANY RASCALS
“Naw, the more the merrier, there’s too many rascals out there for me to fight them alone,” he said. We even collaborated on a couple of columns, toward the end.
We who loved and appreciated Bill all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ron Hooks. Rev. Ron did everything you could possibly imagine for Bill after he got sick. For literally years. Sometimes for many hours a day, days on end. I think every time I visited Bill in the hospital or rehab center, there was Ron Hook’s name on the sign-in sheet. You want to find a real Christian who walks the walk, not just mouths the platitudes? Ron was Bill’s personal Mother
So I’ll conclude with my suggestion as to how we can honor the great Bill Bauer. Two ways, actually.
One is to contribute, either money or time, to Ron’s West Coast Care ministry to the homeless. Bill did. Ron’s dedicated, tireless and effective, and works hand in hand with our police department. Go to West Coast Care online, or just walk up to Ron today and give him all your money.
But soon, I hope, we will be able to announce another very appropriate way to honor Bill. Several people are looking into setting up a scholarship fund in Bill’s name, for Santa Monica students with a passion for journalism. I give credit to my fellow columnist Jack Neworth for the idea.
That, I know, would please Bill no end. Because for all his occasional cynicism, he believed passionately in the written word. Bill Bauer was irreplaceable, but let’s help our great young people to follow in his path. That way, the bad guys will always have to fear opening Monday’s paper.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.” — Tom Stoppard
“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” – Matthew Arnold
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live
anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at