Matt Weinstock: an appreciation

I’ve just read “Muscatel at Noon,” a 1951 collection of essays by Matt Weinstock, a columnist for the old L.A. Daily News. Bought it a few months ago, I think at Magic Door Books in Pomona, and it’s a fun read. (Still gotta read “My L.A.,” his earlier, and sole other, book, which I know I bought at Magic Door.) Weinstock was the spiritual father of Jack Smith, the Times columnist who came along a bit later, and he penned witty, self-effacing, character-rich pieces in the days before L.A. became a metropolis.

You’ll see why I like him with this excerpt from the back jacket: “Mr. Weinstock says the nicest thing he can say about himself is that he is a working newsman — despite the fact that he writes a column. Incidentally, his only formula is to try to get around to as many places as possible. He doesn’t try to prove things, merely to report, reflect and have a little fun.”

There’s plenty of great writing inside. One favorite piece begins: “When old timers get together and cry in their beer over the days that used to be in Los Angeles they invariably think of Morris Schlocker, though many of them don’t know him by name. Morris Schlocker painted no picture, designed no bridge, founded no memorial. He was, in fact, only a street sweeper. But in his way, he was an artist.”

This next bit is sort of an inside-baseball thing but may prove illuminating. Weinstock at one point mentions that his newspaper publishes six editions a day. Imagine, six editions! These days, even big-city newspapers typically publish only one. But it struck me that in a way, newspapers are returning to the multiple-edition concept.

At dailybulletin.com, our online elves stealthily post stories throughout the day and night as they’re finished. The idea from the higher-ups is that we’re now a 24-hour newsroom. Well, not exactly: There are no news reporters on duty for about 10 of those hours, between roughly 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. But rather than wait until dawn, when the newspaper lands in your gardenias, you can log on at various points in the day or night and find fresh content.

Wonder what Weinstock would think of all this? He’d probably be curious and amused, as he was by so much else.

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  • Lesley

    Sounds like a fabulous book. Going to try to find my own copy!

  • Bob House

    I also have a copy of Weinstock’s 1947 “My L.A.” Bought on ebay. It’s a great read. (“It’s not the heat, it’s the humanity.”)The foreword is by Fred Beck, who for many years in the ’40s and ’50s wrote an “advertorial” column for Farmer’s Market in the Times. Beck’s 1946 book about the Market, “Second Carrot from the End,” is similarly interesting for its picture of bygone days when the southland was truly golden.

    [Had no idea who Fred Beck was, so thanks for that. I'll have to look for his book too. -- DA]

  • Lee Smith

    Thanks for your tribute to Matt. He and I were casual friends oh, so long ago. I, too, have both “My LA and “Muscatel at Noon.” To me they are classics!

    [You're welcome, Lee. It's great to hear from someone who knew him. -- DA]

  • Karen Schlocker

    My great-grandfather was Morris Schlocker.

    [Wow! -- DA]