have only printed one guest posting before—by my daughter. This time, I am
posting a piece by Hollywood screenwriter, Robert Avrech, because I think it may
save lives. My husband and I have met Robert, but even if we did not know him,
I think his words are well worth reading. I am publishing his piece unedited
and trust my readers to have the maturity and grace to excuse passionate
language that may not be phrased as I might have chosen, but that I certainly
understand after his family’s experience.
“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
Jew Without a Gun
Hollywood is on fire.
Karen and I lock every door in the
house, shut tight the windows. We move through the house switching off all the
Gazing from our bedroom window we
watch orange flames lick at the darkness, pillars of black smoke climb into the
sky. We can actually smell the acrid odor of burning rubber.
“Look how close they are,” says
“Just past La Cienega. Maybe eight
Karen gives me a long penetrating
“What do we do if they come here?”
My mind is racing away. The truth is
we are defenseless. Unless I get crazy inventive like Dustin Hoffman in Straw
“After this is all over,” I vow,
“I’m going to buy a pistol.”
says: “How about a shotgun?”
Two Hours Earlier:
The rioters are surging toward the
front doors of the theater. They are shouting, but the glass doors are so thick
we cannot hear what they’re screaming. The visual is quite enough. Their faces
are twisted into expressions of raw hatred. The mob looks intent on some
A few kids are laughing, milling
about aimlessly and in apparent good cheer. Hey, maybe this is just a community
We’re at a screening for a new
movie. It’s a Hollywood premiere, a charity event for, get this, inner city
I’m friends with the executive
“Bring Karen and the kids,” the
producer chirps on the phone. “It’s a kid-friendly movie, there’s gonna be a
reception, and really, Robert, it’s gonna be fab-u-lous.”
And so: because this producer is my
friend and I want to support her movie, and because I’m a Hollywood
screenwriter and personal relationships grease the wheels of the business, and
because the producer is a player and admires my work, I schlep Karen, Ariel,
11, and Offspring #2, seven years old, to the screening-slash-charity benefit
in the DGA building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
What could possibly go wrong at a
Inner City Youth Are Outside—But Not
It is a Wednesday evening, April 29,
1992. The Rodney King tape has been running like an eternal loop on every
The film, a real stinker, at long
last cuts to its final fade to black. Everyone is now mingling in the reception
area. Guests congratulate the producer, director and stars, assuring them that
the film is: ”great, just great,” and “the best work you’ve ever done,” all the
expected and acceptable lies we tell each other.
Suddenly a chill sweeps through the
Something is happening.
It’s happening outside.
I step towards the large plate glass
doors of the theater. The security men, two burly rent-a-cops, deeply alarmed,
start locking the row of doors.
Mesmerized, I stare as something
hard bounces off the thick glass. There is a tiny white wound.
“Step back from the doors,” the
security men say.
I stay put. I want to see what’s
“Please, step away from the doors,”
they plead as more guests press forward trying to glimpse the fearful gathering
I see it happening. A classic shot
unwinding in slow motion: the mob swarms towards the DGA building, towards us:
a thick wave of fury marching with a terrible velocity towards this cocoon
of—there’s no way around this—Hollywood liberals.
Sheesh, talk about a target-rich
It’s almost funny.
Here we are, inside, raising funds
for inner city youth, and —
— and the inner city youth are
outside trying to get in.
Not, mind you, to express their
ever-lasting appreciation for our spectacular generosity. Nope, hard as it is
to believe, but it looks as if the objects of our charity would like to lynch
Or maybe burn us to death.
Almost funny. But not quite.
Hey, This is Just Like the Movies,
Only Not Really
Abruptly, we are plunged into
And as if on cue, a woman screams,
just like in the movies.
Offspring #2 leaps into my arms.
Trembling like a frightened rabbit,
“D-d-d-daddy, what’s happening?”
Karen grips my arm:
Ariel squeezes my hand, and asks:
“What happened to the lights?”
I’m thinking: Do I really look
like I have the answers?
A rent-a-cop calls out: “We turned
off the lights so they can’t see inside. It’s a safety precaution.”
Panic spreads like a virus through
During the 1973 Yom Kippur War I had
a long and detailed conversation with an Israeli officer, an incredibly brave
and highly decorated tank commander who explained why Israel always beat the
Arabs in war:
“We maneuver, we remain flexible,
creative and liquid. The Arabs have a fatal tendency to fall back into a
defensive posture. You cannot win a battle or a war when your position is
static. We shoot and scoot. We keep moving, we probe the enemy’s flanks and
then move in for the kill.”
We are trapped in the lobby and
outside a mob of rioters is moving in, surrounding the building.
Time to go Israeli.
I have to protect my family.
I’m pretty sure the mob outside is
dead serious about breaking in and getting down to some serious violence.
Not to mention liberating some
pretty major karats. At the reception, I noticed huge diamonds whose glitter
could induce seizures; watches: at least a dozen Cartier Tanks; I could not
count the Rolex Oysters, and no doubt there’s enough loose cash to make your
average L.A. rioter reasonably satisfied. This is, after all, an affluent
Armed & Dangerous With a Swiss
Army Knife—Just Kidding
I have to protect my family.
In my pocket, as always, a little
Swiss Army knife.
“I’ve never yet seen an eyeball who
felt that the Swiss Army knife was not a dangerous weapon.”
This charming and somewhat gruesome
comment — advice, really — was given to me by my Israeli buddy, a grizzled tank
commander who, one drunken evening, cheerily listed for yours truly all the
common, everyday objects that have lethal potential. My friend was a big fan of
the ordinary Swiss Army knife and its zillions of nifty attachments.
So: it is pitch black, rioters are
gathering outside the DGA building, and to make matters even worse, women and
children in the lobby are yelling, sobbing—every moist and yucky sound
I feel like announcing:
“People, shrieking does not help.
Really, it doesn’t.”
But why bother? It’s a mob mentality
and there is no reasoning with such people. Unless maybe you’re Gregory Peck in
To Kill a Mockingbird.
Which I am not.
I’m busy formulating a plan, trying
to figure out a way to escape this building before the rioters break in, before
they figure out a way of crashing through one of the numerous doors.
Karen does not scream or yell.
Unnaturally calm is the love of my
life. Even as stones—where do the rioters get rocks?—thwack sharply against the
front doors, Karen does not even flinch.
It’s almost eerie. Basically,
everyone else is losing their collective minds, but Karen’s expression just
builds into this magnificent wall of serene composure. Her posture goes taut,
as if a steel rod is welded into her spine and molding her into an incredibly
I have this really weird urge to
lift her sleeve and seek out the Semper Fi tattoo. And then there’s her lovely
face. All the open and generous softness has receded and been replaced by a
look of, by a look of — well, the only way to describe her expression is — have you ever seen those military
paintings of seventeenth-century generals? You know those huge canvases where
you get to see a full battle, say Austerlitz, or Waterloo, thousands of men are
fighting, dying, blood and guts strewn about, rearing horses with eyes wide as
saucers, but the general, the reason for the painting in the first place —
well, he’s usually sitting on his white horse, on a hill, watching the battle,
and his expression conveys determination, resolve, bravery, a self-assurance
that says to the viewer: Look, believe me, I know exactly what I’m doing.
Anyway, that’s what Karen
looks like tonight.
“Karen,” I whisper, “I think we
should get to the car and get out of here.”
“I was thinking the same thing.”
I’ve been in love with Karen since I
was nine years old
and have come to the realization that she’s one part Antigone and all Patton.
“Everybody, everybody! Attention,
please! We cut the lights. We don’t want them to be able to see inside. Do you
understand? We shut down the power. Not them.”
There is a collective buzz as a
rent-a-cop repeats this vital announcement.
“What are we supposed to do now?”
“We’ve called the police,” comes the
More nervous buzzing.
“Please, ladies and gentlemen, just
wait for the police to arrive.”
I’m thinking: famous last words.
Offspring #2 is still in my arms,
still glued to my hip, and though seven years old, she has regressed and jammed
her thumb in her mouth; she trembles mightily, as if freezing. I can actually
hear her teeth chattering.
Karen and I edge our way to the
staircase; we are not going to wait for the police. We are not going to sit
here like victims.
We are going to make our way down to
the parking garage, jump into the car, and drive home. We are going to take our
fate in our own hands.
The cavalry, I’m pretty sure, and
with all apologies to John Ford, is not coming to the rescue.
The Police Are Coming—But Not Really
“Where are you going?”
A rent-a-cop is posted at the
“To our car,” I tell him.
“That’s not a good idea, sir.”
“We think it is.”
“We’ve called the police.”
“Where are they?”
He says nothing.
“How long before they come?”
I gesture toward the rioters doing
their hostile little dances outside the DGA building:
“What happens when they start throwing
Rent-a-cop takes a deep breath.
“The police are coming,” he insists.
“Excuse me, we’re going to our car.
You can’t stop us.”
The rent-a-cop has about two hundred
pounds—all muscle—on yours truly and I’m terrified that he’s going to challenge
Thank G-d, he steps aside, murmurs
something about not being responsible for our safety.
Poor guy. He’s trying to do his job,
but he no longer knows what his job is.
Robert’s Rules for Driving Through a
1. Do not stop for anyone or
2. Not even to help someone. My
first responsibility is to my family.
3. If rioters try to blockade the
car, drive straight through.
4. If the car stalls, don’t leave
5. Unless the car is on fire.
These rules flash through my mind in
a split second.
The Fashionable and Magic Backpack
The stairwell is pitch black. Not
good. In fact, it’s bad, very bad.
Suddenly, a golden beam of light
slices through the velvety darkness.
“Look,” says Ariel, “Mommy has a
The children are delighted.
Karen carries an extremely cool and
very feminine leather backpack. It’s something of a joke in the family that the
backpack is magic. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, it’s gonna be in
Except for a pistol.
Cautiously looking for signs of the
rioters hiding in the garage, we make our way to the car. I’ve definitely seen
too many movies. I almost declare: The coast is clear.
I snap Offspring #2 into her car
seat. Ariel, 11, also sits in the back with his younger sister. He is pale with
fear and confusion. I touch his arm and murmur: “Everything is going to be
Ariel gives a weak smile and nods
Our children trust us to protect
The burden of parenthood has never
felt more grave.
Starting up the engine, I realize
that I am drenched in sweat, my shirt clings to my body.
Karen reaches into the glove
compartment, pulls out the Thomas Guide to Los Angeles.
“We may have to find a different
route home,” she says.
bonus money from my most recent film,
we bought a Lexus outfitted with a massive eight-cylinder engine. It was a good
move. The Lexus is a gas guzzler, but who cares? It’s our Centurion.
And as we cruise up the ramp, my
breath catches in my throat, for there are a dozen rioters milling about the
Oh, man — am I going to be able to
put pedal to metal and smash through a bunch of real live human bodies?
My Israeli friend, the tank officer,
had something like sixteen kills in a Sinai tank battle during the 1973 Yom
Kippur War. When I complimented him on this huge kill ratio, he waved it off
“It’s no big deal killing an
Egyptian tank. They have this habit of hunkering down and using their tanks as
artillery platforms. All wrong. Picking them off was a bit too easy. Remember:
always fight an offensive battle. Most people are cowards, so if you keep
coming at them, chances are they will retreat.”
“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 Heights, 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 Heights — 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 is 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
Good thing the car is fashionably
Karen says: “Maybe there’s another
“How do you know?”
“DGA building. I’ve been here like a
“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
Is there a finer way to enter battle
than with the woman I have been in love with since fourth 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
“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.
Robert: “I just have to say it.”
Robert: “Fasten your seat belts.
It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Karen inclines her head,
Robert: “Bette Davis, All About
Eve, 1950, written and directed by the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz.”
Karen sighs, tolerantly but with
affection: “Robert, Robert.”
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. One of his favorite
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
“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 movies.
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
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
“Where’s the fire department?” Karen
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.
Talk about being out-gunned.
“Robert…” says Karen says through clenched
No time for a neat, driver’s-ed
I blast forward, squeak through a
gap between two parked cars, hurtle right up onto the sidewalk, and then,
ca-runch! yet another bone rattling move down the high curb, back into the
“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
Or at least that’s what I tell
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
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
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 gunfire.
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
Casa Avrech: I carry Offspring #2 to
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
Abruptly, I feel a burning pain—a
white-hot spike—shooting through both my arms. Did I catch 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 from
gripping the steering wheel so hard. Painful muscle cramps travel from my
knuckles into my shoulders. It takes at least an hour 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. With tears in our eyes, we see pious
citizens, G-d bless them, step in and halt this atrocity, rescuing the tragic
There’s a 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 is deployed. Its
officers make approximately 10,000 arrests.
Estimates of between 800 million and
a billion dollars in property damage have been reported. Approximately 3,600
fires were deliberately set, destroying 1,100 buildings.
shopkeepers were specifically targeted by black rioters. But the Koreans owned
guns and heroically defended their property and lives through force of arms,
frequently using AR-15s against heavily-armed looters. So anyone who tells you
that private citizens don’t need assault weapons are just plain
ignorant. Besides, as Mark Levin says, it is the Bill of Rights, not the Bill
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
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
“Just past La Cienega. Maybe eight
Karen gives me a long penetrating
“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
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 subcultures.
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, gun-hating
progressive, anarchist, or Jew-hating Islamist to come at me or my family,
because now I am a Jew with a gun.
FADE TO BLACK
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 30 years. This post, as so many others, is based on my
diaries. If there are gaps in my entries, I check with Karen. She also kept a