“Attack, always attack.”
My friend, the heroic Israeli tank commander, told me that in the first few days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, both fronts, The Sinai and The Golan, were so weakly defended that had the Egyptian or Syrian high command been strategically bolder, tactically smarter, and their soldiers braver, well, the Arab armies could have achieved massive breakthroughs, and Israel would have found herself facing genocide.
But small, actually tiny pockets, of brave, determined and very well trained Israeli troops, in some cases, just two or three tanks on the Golan, held their ground and attacked enemy forces sometimes a hundred times their strength.
Screenwriter Escapes DGA Building—Note the Irony
“We had no orders except to hold our ground and whenever possible to attack—always attack.”
All this whips through my mind as I aim our car—I’m already thinking of the Lexus as a tank, a Centurion—towards the exit of the parking garage. A knot of rioters are milling about at the exit. It’s hard to see clearly but, oh boy, it looks like a few of them are brandishing baseball bats.
I’m gonna make a wild guess and assume that they’re not Little League dads.
I haven’t turned on the car’s headlights. We’re still lurking in the shadows, not yet detected by the barbarians.
Good thing the car is fashionably black.
Karen says: “Maybe there’s another exit.”
“How do you know?”
“DGA building. I’ve been here like a zillion times.”
“What are we going to do?”
The Talmud teaches that when a husband or wife uses the collective we it means there is love in the relationship.
Is there a finer way to enter battle than with the woman I have been in love with since third grade?
Ariel, 11, says: “I have to pee.”
Offspring #2, seven-years old, doubles over with an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. She finds this absolutely hysterical.
“You’re going to have to hold it in for a while, Ariel, do you think you can do that?” Karen says.
Karen and I exchange glances. Karen gives me a pale smile of encouragement.
“I just have to say it.”
“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Karen inclines her head, questioning.
“Bette Davis, All About Eve, 1950, written and directed by the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz.”
Karen sighs, tolerantly but with affection:
In the back seat, the nervous giggles from Offspring #2 increase tenfold.
My Israeli buddy, the tank commander was fond of quoting Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and one of his favorite maxim’s was:
Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
I inch the car forward, gain speed, 4 mph, 7 mph…
Now: I switch on the headlights using—surprise, Hi-Beams!—drenching the criminals in white light. I lean on the horn and —
— and the rioters are drenched in the powerful lights, (those Japanese engineers, G-d bless ’em) and the shrieking horn is amplified by the concrete garage walls. The knuckleheads are blinded, frozen as I bear down on them at what seems like Formula One speed, and now they fall back like bowling pins and —
— and we blow right past them, make a sharp left turn—we’re ordered by a street sign to turn right, but that would deliver us to the front of the DGA building and directly into the eye of the mob, and so, tires screeching—hey, just like Steve McQueen in Bullitt—we race away from the theater.
Heaving a great sigh, I realize that I have not taken a breath in, gee willikers, a long, long time.
I zoom down the block, pull over, and gulp oxygen.
“You okay?” Karen asks.
But my heart is slamming in my chest like a Ginger Baker solo.
Hey, Los Angeles is Just Like Fatah Land—Only More Fashionable
Karen snaps on her little flashlight, studies the Thomas Guide. Using her index finger, she traces a route home.
“I think we should stick to the main streets, it’ll probably be safer.” Karen says.
“You navigate. I’ll pilot.”
“Let’s get moving.” Karen cautions.
Karen’s like: Huh?
I have seen way too many war movies. Seriously.
As we cruise through the chaotic streets we spot fires burning all over the city. A canopy of red and orange spreads through the velvety darkness. It’s kind of beautiful, like a romantic J.M. W. Turner canvas.
Small businesses are deliberately torched.
Orange streaks of fire inscribe themselves against the velvety sky. It takes me a moment to recognize the distinctive signature of Molotov cocktails.
Los Angeles has turned into Fatah Land.
“Where’s the Fire Department?” Karen asks.
Looters help themselves to everything from television sets and stereos to diapers and liquor.
Every so often we hear the distinctive flat crack of gun fire.
Nowhere do we see any police.
Trying to avoid a massive traffic jam, I turn down a side-street, Karen leans forward, spots something and cries:
Thirty yards separate us from a group of thugs who are chilling in the street. They watch us with flinty eyes. All wicked and street savvy, they shuffle in our direction.
They’re all: yo, yo, yo.
And I’m all: oy, oy, oy.
Call me crazy, but I have a sneaking suspicion they’re not looking to discuss the cinema of Oscar Micheaux.
“Let’s get out of here,” Karen says.
Who am I to disagree with the love of my life?
I shift into reverse. Back up a few feet, shift into drive, angling for a sharp U turn, but the thugs are coming up awfully fast in my rear-view mirror.
I’m pretty sure one of the locals is toting a Tec 9. Or maybe it’s just a chunk of lumber.
And I’ve got a Swiss Army Knife.
“Robert…” says Karen says through clenched teeth.
No time for a neat, Driver’s Ed. three-point turn.
I blast forward, squeak through a gap between two parked cars, hurtle right up on the sidewalk, and then, ca-runch! yet another bone rattling move down the high curb, back into the street and:
“Some move,” says Karen.
She touches my shoulder. And to this very day I still feel the cool imprint of her hand.
It’s Karen’s way of saying, “My hero.”
Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
Entry in Robert’s Official Screenwriting Notebook: write this extremely scary, axle-cracking maneuver into your next script—no matter what the subject matter.
“I really, really, really have to pee,” Ariel reminds us.
I hand him an empty styrofoam coffee cup.
Twenty Minutes to Get Anywhere in Los Angeles—Except During, Ahem, Civil Unrest
It takes us over an hour-and-a-half to get home. Normally, this drive would take maybe twenty minutes.
But we have to circle round and double-back countless times in order to avoid choked arteries, major intersections where madness reigns—traffic lights are ignored—and then there are unknown side streets that cause Karen to observe:
“We’ll never get out of there alive.”
Listening to the radio we hear about the Rodney King verdict. So that’s the grievance du jour.
The Fire Department, we learn, is not being deployed because their men have come under intense gun fire.
We hear—and I have trouble believing this report—that the Los Angeles Police Department has been,”Pulled back for their own safety.”
I thought that was part of the job description.
Casa Avrech: I carry Offspring # 2 to her bed where she recites the Sh’ma and then promptly falls asleep. We tell Ariel how proud of him we are. He shrugs. No big deal. Five minutes later he’s fast asleep.
Karen, crisp and efficient, pins a bed sheet over the large picture window in the living room. We cannot be too careful. I search the house for a weapon, settle on an old ice ax from my mountain climbing days. It’s an elegant tool with wicked potential in hand to hand combat, but obviously useless against firearms or a hail of Molotov cocktails.
Abruptly, I feel a burning pain—a white hot spike—shooting through both my arms. Did I get hit by a stray bullet?
I examine my hands and gosh, my fingers are curled into claws; it takes me a moment to realize that it’s caused by gripping the steering wheel so hard. Painful muscle cramps travel from my knuckles into my shoulders. It takes at least an hour for my fingers to relax, for the pain to subside.
On the TV, Karen and I watch as Reginald Denny gets his brains bashed in; we gaze in horror and disbelief as the barbarians dance over his broken body. Tears in our eyes, we see, G-d bless them, pious citizens step in and halt this atrocity, rescuing the tragic truck driver.
There’s video of Fidel Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant, he, like Denny is pulled from his truck and robbed. But theft is almost beside the point. The rioters slash torturers smash open his head then slice off an ear. The mob graffiti his chest, torso and genitals.
Take my word for it, graffiti is not an art form.
Between fifty and fifty-six citizens are murdered in the riots; two-thousand are seriously injured.
At last, the LAPD are deployed and approximately 10,000 arrests are made.
Estimates of between 800 million and a billion dollars of property damage have been reported. Approximately 3,600 fires were deliberately set, destroying 1,100 buildings.
Korean shopkeepers were specifically targeted by black rioters. But the Koreans owned guns and heroically defended their property and lives through force of arms.
It was a lesson that should have reverberated nationally, but some commentators labeled the Koreans, vigilantes. Just another case of the mainstream media getting it wrong.
Liberal totalitarians demand increased gun control, if not the outright banning of gun sales to citizens.
Second Amendment, what’s that?
And then, of course, the race hustlers, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Maxine Waters, the usual vulgar demagogues, parade across TV screens informing the good citizens of Los Angeles that the riots were really “an uprising.”
As in: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising?
My Hollywood Gun
Gazing from our bedroom window, we watch orange flames lick at the darkness, pillars of black smoke climbing into the sky. We can actually smell the acrid odor of burning rubber.
“Look how close they are,” says Karen.
“Just past La Cienega. Maybe eight blocks away.”
Karen gives me a long penetrating gaze:
“What do we do if they come here?”
“After this is all over,” I vow, “I’m going to buy a pistol.”
Karen says: “How about a shotgun?”
If the Los Angeles riots taught us anything it’s that you’re a fool if you count on the authorities to protect you in times of civil chaos — in fact, at any time. In the end, only I can protect my family.
I’m never, ever going to allow myself to be outgunned by the bad guys. All the gun laws that are on the books—and there are thousands of them—just make it that much easier for the barbarians to amass weapons, and for law-abiding people like you and me to be at their mercy.
If you outlaw weapons, as so many squishy liberals yearn to do, well then, only the state and the outlaws will be armed. Which leaves ordinary citizens at the mercy of an all powerful government and a variety of merciless criminal sub cultures.
When Hitler and Stalin snatched power, one of their first moves was to outlaw private gun ownership. They understood that armed citizens are a mortal threat to totalitarian rule.
Imagine: several million Jews owning firearms between 1938 and 1945.
Is the mind capable of such a leap of faith or is it too painful?
One week after the riots I legally purchased a pistol: A 1911 Springfield .45. It’s the pistol I trained with in Israel. Yes, it’s heavy, and yes, the recoil kicks like a Rockette; but this is the weapon I know best and on good days I can shoot the wings off a fly at twenty-five yards. I cordially invite any mugger, rioter, criminal, and gun-hating “progressive” to get on the wrong side of my Hollywood gun.
FADE TO BLACK
For this is
Note: I’m frequently asked how I’m able to remember incidents in such detail, including dialogue, from so many years ago? It’s simple. I do not rely on my memory. I have been keeping a detailed diary for over 20 years. This post, as so many others, is based on my diaries. If there are gaps in my entries, I check with Karen. She was also keeping a diary, plus Karen has a phenomenal memory.