Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty

Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty

Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty

Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty


Here is the riveting story of how a second-rate newspaper rose to national greatness, only to become a casualty of war -- a civil war within the family that owned it. Told in a hard-edged, investigative style, it spans the American Century, from 1884, when the Chandler family gained control of the just-born daily, through April 2000, when they sold it to the Tribune Company. Above all, Privileged Son chronicles the life of Otis Chandler, the Times' chief architect after 1960, whose flamboyant exploits in and out of the publisher's suite changed the perspective of the newspaper, and Los Angeles, forever.

Using scores of insider sources, Dennis McDougal, the best-selling author of The Last Mogul, will surprise readers with his findings, including accounts of political graft and early mob connections among one of L.A.'s most prominent families. The Chandlers, who helped establish the national careers of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and several other major political figures, controlled Los Angeles and the Times Mirror Corporation with a capriciousness that is seldom seen, even in the most dysfunctional media dynasties.

Privileged Son


This volume began three years ago as many a Southern California dream often does: over a pricey lunch in a West Hollywood bistro with an agent looking for the Next Big Thing. Somewhere between the arugula salad and the pasta primavera, the conversation turned to the sorry state of the Los Angeles Times. As we were both cultural and intellectual snobs, the agent and I spoke of how much better the New York Times had become at covering the issues nearest and dearest to our hearts: politics, art, music, literature, and even the movies, which ought to have been the purview of that other Times, seeing as how Hollywood was right in its own backyard.

At this point in our conversation, I redoubled my own outrage over the Los Angeles Times' spotty and occasionally sycophantic reporting on the entertainment industry. As a staff writer for the Times Calendar section throughout the 1980s, I recalled an era when the newspaper's focus on movies and media in general was tough, investigative, anecdotal, and consistently revealing. Something had happened, I railed. the Times had never really been the same since Otis Chandler left, and that was a crying shame. the Chandlers, after all, had invented Los Angeles.

My lunch mate sat forward in his seat and asked me if I were not exaggerating. How, he wanted to know, had one family come to create the nation's second largest city? Surely I was kidding him. Like most L.A. residents, my agent friend was an Eastern transplant and knew only the Southern California of recent years. He assumed that L.A. had simply always been here in some form or another. He knew very little of its history outside of Robert Towne's screen roman à clef Chinatown, about L.A.'s astonishing wholesale water theft from the Owens Valley nearly 100 years ago. My agent friend had never given the origins of the megalopolis much thought because L.A. was a city without memory. History seemed to have no place here. There were Indians, followed by Spaniards, Mexicans, missions, ranchos, a gold rush, and, then, voila! a city grew like topsy to staggering proportions during the course of the twentieth century. End of story.

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