For this week’s column, I was concerned that if I wrote about the record $1.5 billion Powerball Lottery somebody might win. Sure enough, somebody has. Actually, three very rich somebodies. As for me, I had all the right numbers, they were just spread out over ten tickets.
When lamenting my sudden lack of a column with “Curious City”’s Charles Andrews, I mentioned two other possible story ideas. As someone who often pushes the envelope, Andrews suggested I combine the two. But first, keep in mind each has a Santa Monica connection.
The first involves billionaire, Joaquin Guzman Loera, (a.k.a. El Chapo) the world’s most notorious drug dealer. Nearly six months ago El Chapo (ingloriously translates to “Shorty”) made a spectacular prison break through a tunnel in his cell floor in Mexico’s most secure prison. It was captured on camera and immediately went viral.
Well, last Friday, El Chapo kind of became El Chumpo as he was apprehended at his compound in his hometown of Los Mochis. Ironically, he was immediately returned to the very same prison he had escaped. (What could go wrong there?)
His capture followed a bloody shootout with Mexican Marines in which five of his men were killed. Remarkably though, El Chapo almost got away. How? By tunneling down a storm drain! In fact, in traffic, he actually lifted off a manhole cover, and hijacked a car before being finally subdued.
As for the Santa Monica connection, last October, El Chapo gave his only known interview to Sean Penn. The often controversial and two-time Academy Award-winner was raised here and is a Samohi grad.
While a teenager, Penn began making short films with childhood buddies Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen who also attended Samohi. Santa Monica was also the locale for Penn’s breakout role in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Penn played surfer-stoner Jeff Spicoli. His portrayal was so iconic he’s credited with immortalizing the word “dude” in popular culture. (A credit I’m sure he could do without.)
Slightly more noteworthy, in the past Penn has interviewed Cuba’s Raul Castro, and the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. But for El Chapo, who had gained folklore status for evading authorities, Penn traveled in secret through the Mexican jungle.
It’s possible it all came about because of Guzman’s infatuation with Mexican soap opera actress, Kate del Castillo. Ironically, she once played the part of a drug lord. (Or should I say “lordette”?)
Details of their flirtatious phone chats have gripped Mexico. Apparently, Guzman was also intrigued with a movie being based on his life, which led del Castillo to reach out to Penn.
In the meantime, federal prosecutors in seven American cities, from Brooklyn to San Diego, are fighting over who’s going to “get Shorty” extradited, though the process could take years. (Assuming El Chapo doesn’t tunnel out first.)
Speaking of years, it’s been 21 since Los Angeles had an NFL team. (Clumsy segue, anyone?) Well, as of this week, the wait is over.
For those too young to remember, the Rams were here long before the Dodgers or Lakers. They moved from Cleveland in 1946 where they had won an NFL Championship the previous season. In fact, the Rams are the only NFL team to win championships in three cities: Cleveland in ’45, LA in ’51 and St. Louis in ’99.
For St. Louis this is the second time they’ve lost their NFL franchise. In 1988, the St. Louis Cardinals became the Arizona Cardinals. Of course St. Loo was only too happy to “take” our LA Rams in 1995. I suppose all’s fair in love, war and NFL franchise jumping.
As a kid I was an avid Rams fan. In fact, for my bar mitzvah, my late Aunt Amelia generously bought us season tickets. Our seats at the LA Coliseum, however, were directly in front of a rowdy bunch from the nearby Ace in the Hole Bar. It seemed like every time something went right for the Rams these inebriated fans would jump up and down and inadvertently spill alcohol on my head. It got so, before every imminent touchdown, I would brace myself.
After the game one booze-soaked Sunday, I typed a complaint letter to none other than the president of the Rams. (Hey, I was thirteen.) A few weeks later I was stunned and my parents were impressed. Our seats were moved to the 50 yard-line! The power of the pen. Or in this case, typewriter.
As for the Rams’ “Santa Monica connection,” in 2019, it’s unclear if the Chargers or Raiders will join them, but they’ll be playing in a new stadium in Inglewood. The mayor is our former police chief, James T. Butts, whereas our current chief, Jacqueline Seabrooks, was previously Inglewood’s chief. Go figure.
In closing, I apologize if this column has been rambling. I can only hope you’ll blame it on Charles Andrews.
Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and firstname.lastname@example.org.