Op-Ed: This is not your mother’s Beverly Hills

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“In Beverly Hills, the faster you climb, the harder you fall.” – Brandi Glanville

Even for those of us who have been living in an entertainment time warp for the past decades, it is hard to escape the effect that the TV sitcoms of the 1970s had on our lives. Introduced during the unpopular Vietnam War, sitcoms have played a salient role in shaping and influencing our culture, society and personal attributes. TV sitcoms of the 70s shot-gunned many an “extra” to fame.

The sitcoms of the 70s featured a blend of stand-out humor, progressive themes, and memorable characters. They helped everybody escape daily “War-TV” when every network was replaying the war in America’s living rooms. While the sitcoms of the 1960s had outlandish plots and cartoon-like characters, such as the “Munsters,” those of the 70s focused more on family life and off-key workplace antics. They avoided current politics and most sitcoms shared this common thread.

The Beverly Hillbillies aired on CBS from 1962 to 1971. Its characters embellished a poor, backwoods family from the Missouri Ozarks, the Clampetts, who moved to Beverly Hills on the advice of their banker after striking oil next to granny’s backyard. The show was followed by two other Henning-inspired “country cousin” series: Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, which completely reversed the rags-to-riches good fortune of The Beverly Hillbillies.

For years, TV viewers across America were programmed to believe that you either had to be rich or famous to live in Beverly Hills, or both. But sinister bank president Milburn Drysdale found a way to do an end run around those Beverly Hills mythos to please the Clampetts. On their first show, Elly Mae used her designer bra as a slingshot, Granny made lye soap in the “cement pond” and Jed lectured Jethro about “fast street women” trying to steal his $1.00 weekly allowance. They showed that ordinary people live in Beverly Hills and shared the same quandaries as those in all zip codes.

Although Los Angeles is a high crime city, for years few people mentioned Beverly Hills in the same breath. The star struck headline escapades of those who lived and even worked there were veiled by a smokescreen of gossip columnists and society editors. They took care of their own – that is – until recently. No, this is not your mother’s Beverly Hills.

For the last few years, the increase in crime in Beverly Hills has taken a back seat to the violent crime wave in LA county. LA was recently proclaimed the gang capital of the world by the CDC. LA has more gang activity, and homicides, than any other city in the U.S. At one time, LA gangs were marked by territory and ethnic lines. But with the growth in organized crime, these are no longer mutually exclusive. Cartel boundaries for organized retail-theft-grab-and-run hardly exist.

The love affair with Beverly Hills quickly soured for residents and shoppers when soft on crime District Attorney George Gascon won election in 2019. He immediately forbade prosecutors from seeking the death penalty or utilizing California’s stiff laws to seek extended sentences for violent felonies including hate crimes. Even though Beverly Hills is 71% Democratic, the city is steaming over the shooting death of local philanthropist Jacqueline Avant and the robberies, assaults, and home invasions mounted during Gascon’s first year. The city filed a recall election to remove him from office.

“Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Lili Bosse stressed that without consequences for crime, we have Gotham City. Her sentiments were shared by others on the city council as well,” said Karen Roseberry, spokeswoman for Recall Gascon Now. “We need to bring back law and order back to our city!”

Although Beverly Hills remains an attraction for those hoping to get an autograph from a movie star while touring the homes of the “rich and famous.” or shoppers visiting the high-end stores on Rodeo Drive, which are disappearing faster than a thief can strip a car at an “oldies concert.”

People are reminded everyday that Beverly Hills is part of LA county as they watch the crime rate mushroom out of control. All police attempts to crack down on a city plagued with “flash mob” burglaries have failed miserably. There have been 9,455 burglaries reported in LA as of Aug. 26, up more than 14% since 2021, according to the LAPD’s recent theft data.

In a recent City Council meeting, over 80% of those in attendance pleaded with the city council to support the recall. Gascon’s recall effort is spearheaded by crime victims, former District Attorney Steve Cooley, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva – all Democrats.

The LA Police Department has faced a number of controversies over the years for being “soft on crime.” Police officers are only allowed to use whistles and stern language, followed by an air-conditioned ride to their precinct for a meal and a warning not to do it again. They have been under investigation for use of selective excessive force, corruption, and racial discrimination. Federal oversight of the department ended in early 2013, but there has been little improvement in crime.

Beverly Hills is becoming a ghost town, as high-end retail stores exit the once-luxurious city amid an ever-growing number of smash-and-grab gang robberies. Some of the businesses include luxury staples like Barneys New York and Escada, with the once-popular brands having filed for bankruptcy in recent years.

Big-name stores now lay empty including former locations for Chanel, Rite Aid, Barnes & Noble, Niketown, and restaurants like Chipotle and Starbucks. The barren stores stand in stark contrast with the city’s reputation for opulence, and as a place where celebrities and business moguls were once photographed by paparazzi.

A recent recruiting ad shows the number of Beverly Hills stores that have gone belly up, which mirrors those in most major cities. This once-thriving retail mecca is now a ghost town of high-end shops and restaurants that shut their doors amid economic woes and crime. Their sad decline shows the price we pay for being “soft on crime.” Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert reminded us the Beverly Hillbillies showed us Beverly Hills is a real place where real people live and work. Anything that can happen there can happen anywhere. Your zip code is for the mailman only.

Jed Clampett’s words of wisdom to Jethro: “Your mama asked me to have one of them heart to heart talks with you about women. Every man needs a wife cause there’s things he can’t blame on the government. But be careful who ya court. Many a man’s lost his best friend by marrying her. It’s all them years after they got hitched livin’ together that ruined their friendship.”

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