Friday, March 31, 2017

And Now, the Dreaded Trump Curse

President Trump at the White House on Friday. Credit Eric Thayer for The New York Times
These days, the last thing you want is to be known as a Friend of Trump. He’s doing great — he’s president, for heaven’s sake. His kids are getting jobs, his hotels are getting promoted 24/7. He goes golfing more than your average Palm Beach retiree. Meanwhile, the people he hangs around with are watching their reputations crumble into smithereens.
This has an impact on congressional politics. If you’re a swing vote in the House or the Senate, the idea of getting a hug in the Oval Office might seem more like a threat than an opportunity. Let’s consider some of the F.O.T.s who’ve already been undone:
Devin Nunes
Nunes is now famous as the guy who was sneaking around the White House lawn in the middle of the night. He says it was still daylight, which will have no bearing whatsoever on the legend. There’s a lot of stuff on his résumé — eight-term congressman, father of three, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. But wherever he goes for the rest of his life, people are going to say, “Oh yeah, he was the one sneaking around the White House lawn in the middle of the night.” It’ll be the lead in his obituary.
Paul Ryan
Until recently, Ryan was regarded as the Republican idea man, whose riff on cutting entitlements made conservative intellectuals swoon. When Trump came along Ryan was leery at first, then thrilled with his party’s total control of the government. Finally he could take the knife to Medicaid!
“We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg,” Ryan told National Review editor Rich Lowry in an onstage interview. Lowry immediately protested that he had not been fantasizing about health care for the poor when he was chugging beer in college. It was a preview of all that was to come. Ryan was not only going to lose the big health care battle, he was going to look like an idiot doing it.
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He’ll go down in history as the first big congressional power to get rolled over by the Trump bus. Maybe with a footnote about his passion for pulling catfish out of the water with his bare hands.
Reince Priebus
Not too long ago, Priebus was laboring in happy obscurity. Now he’s chief of staff at a White House where everything is a mess. “Reince doesn’t have a magic wand,” one Republican National Committee apparatchik told The Associated Press. Nobody wants to get to the point where the best argument in your favor is wand shortage.
Chris Christie
Chris (Still the Governor) Christie was at the White House this week in his new role as head of a commission on drug addiction. How could anything bad happen? Well, just as Christie was being photographed grasping the president’s hand, two of his former associates were sentenced to jail for their roles in the famous bridge-jamming episode. Not Trump’s fault, but he did seem to mess with Christie’s karma when he kept treating him like a well-dressed fast-food clerk during the campaign.
Coal Miners
Trump recently signed an executive order trashing the Obama initiatives to combat global warming. He was surrounded by happy-looking men from coal country, helping continue the grand new White House tradition of male-only photo sessions.
“You’re going back to work,” the president told them gleefully. In reality, the guys in the room already had jobs, some as coal company executives. And Trump’s order won’t fix their region’s unemployment problems. However, the administration has indeed changed the world for some residents of Appalachia, greatly improving their chances of living near a stream filled with mining debris.
Jeanine Pirro
Unless you are a very serious fan of Fox News, you probably never heard of “Judge Jeanine,” a talk-show host with a scary vocal range. Until the other day, when Trump urged his Twitter followers to watch Pirro’s show, which featured a manic denunciation of Paul Ryan. Late-night comedians had a field day and New Yorkers were reminded that this was the woman who ran for New York State attorney general and got taped talking about wiretapping the family boat to see if her husband was having an affair with the wife of his defense lawyer.
Sean Spicer
Oh my God, poor Sean Spicer. You wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
Russians worked hard to get Donald Trump elected president. And what did they get out of it? Multiple high-level investigations. Enormous rancor in Congress. Plus a drought of free food — no sane politician is going to want to be seen having dinner with a Russian diplomat.
Really, these days in Washington you’d be much better off being a Mexican.
Michael Flynn
Of all the American influence-peddlers who’ve been on the payroll of Russian oligarchs, only one is currently seeking immunity before he testifies at a congressional hearing. Remember when Flynn kept yelling “Lock her up!” during the Republican convention? Hehehehehe.

Donald Trump’s Parrot


A caricature of President Trump on sale in Moscow. Credit Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

A parrot flies out the window in Soviet Russia. The owner rushes to the Moscow offices of the K.G.B., where he tells an agent: “I just want to make clear that any views my parrot expresses are exclusively its own.”
We are not yet worrying about what our parrots might blurt out in Donald Trump’s America. But there are disturbing signs. This presidency is about the fear-driven closing of borders and minds.
In his magisterial novel “Humboldt’s Gift,” Saul Bellow quotes Samuel Daniel: “While timorous knowledge stands considering, audacious ignorance hath done the deed.”
Audacious ignorance is hard at work in the White House. The only solace is that, with Trump, it’s accompanied by paralyzing incompetence.
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In 1987, Trump took out a full-page ad in The New York Times. It said: “The world is laughing at America’s politicians as we protect ships we don’t own, carrying oil we don’t need, destined for allies who won’t help.” It concluded: “Let America’s economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defense of their freedom. Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.”
That was three decades ago. Trump won’t change. At 70 he’s what he was at 40 in crankier and bulkier form. His political formula was already clear: mythical American humiliation calls for muscular American nationalism led by a macho American savior. It was not very original, but then forked human nature does not change.
Trump is still demanding that allies pay up. Life has never been more than a zero-sum game for him. He has not grasped that the stability and prosperity of Asian and European allies of the United States contribute to American well-being (like some $1.1 trillion of annual trade between the United States and the European Union supporting about 2.6 million American jobs in 2014).
That same day in 1987, The Times ran a story headlined “Trump Gives a Vague Hint of Candidacy.” America-first economic and military nationalism was always going to be his theme. It will define his presidency.
The few adults in his circle, already weary of putting out fires caused by foolishness, may be able to temper excesses here and there, but the president sets the course. Time to start thinking about what a post-American Europe and a post-American Asia will look like. One certainty: They will be less stable. Another: Russia and China will assert broader, more exclusive spheres of influence.
Trump sees moral equivalency between the United States and a Russian regime that murders dissenting politicians in broad daylight, brutalizes its opponents, hacks into the American election, and traffics in the whopping lie. He is so beholden to, or seduced by, Vladimir Putin’s Russia that he will not murmur criticism. Enough said. This is a moral abdication of such proportions that America’s alliances are left without ideological foundation. They must then wither.
At night in the ghostly White House, when Ivanka and Jared have gone home, and Trump’s consiglieri have retired to their Russian salads, the gold-robed president — crazed as Lear on the cliffs “fantastically dressed with wildflowers” — wanders from room to room staring at TV screens, cursing in frustration when he cannot find the remote, hurling abuse at the “enemies of the people” who fail to genuflect daily before his genius, adjusting his hair, making random calls to aides to ensure they have scheduled his next play dates with truckers and coal miners.
It might almost be funny. Almost. But the day will come when the Dow plunges and what the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is said to have feared most in politics — “events, dear boy, events” — occurs, perhaps in ghastly terrorist form, and an incoherent administration will be confronted by its first crisis. All that can be said for now is that, in such a moment, illiberalism and xenophobia in the hands of a would-be autocrat will make for a dangerous brew.
Already, in countless small ways, America is narrowing in ways that hurt it. Foreign applications to U.S. colleges have dropped. USA Today reports that “an inhospitable political climate could punch an $18 billion hole in U.S. tourism by international visitors over the next two years.”
A German associate professor of history at Indiana University who has been in the country a couple of years on an H-1B work visa told me the other day how alarmed her 10-year-old son had become because one of the three Muslim children in his class had talked about the possibility of having to leave. Her normally easygoing son had become anxious. Would his family be next? When the class was given an assignment to complete a sentence beginning “Keep calm” he wrote, “Keep calm and don’t kill Donald Trump.”
A “Foreigners Unwelcome” sign now hangs over Trump’s United States. It causes fears even in children. It will not boost American jobs; on the contrary.
A parrot flew in my window and said, “America First! America First!” Its views were exclusively its own, of course. Still, the parrot was so agitated I decided to report the owner.

‘I’ve Got Thick Skin’: We Talk to the Pro-Trump Mayor Who Was Running From Us

After spending Friday searching for him, we met with Mayor Roger Claar of Bolingbrook, Ill., at City Hall. He had been a bit difficult for us to locate since a fund-raiser he helped organize for Donald J. Trump became an issue in the village’s mayoral race.
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Mayor Roger Claar’s campaign office. Credit Taylor Glascock for The New York Times
BOLINGBROOK, Ill. —It was supposed to be an easy glide to yet another term for the longtime mayor of this suburb of Chicago. But then Mayor Claar helped throw the fund-raiser and things got complicated. Jackie Traynere, 54, a labor organizer, is mounting an ambitious challenge against him. Here’s the story of one village election on Tuesday that has become as much about Mr. Trump as the candidates on the ballot.
• Ms. Traynere was so mad about the fund-raising event last fall that she decided to run against Mr. Claar. The Democratic apparatus in Illinois — senators, members of Congress, you name it — is lining up behind her.
• Mayor Claar hadn’t answered our interview requests, so we had been hoping to catch up with him Friday.
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• Finally, we talked with him at City Hall — he does not regret the fund-raiser, though he has been disappointed by the reaction.
Here’s how the search unfolded.

First up: visiting the “Rog Mahal.”

A little about Bolingbrook, 30 miles southwest of Chicago: About 74,000 people live here and it’s fairly diverse. The mayor’s race is officially nonpartisan, and usually only several thousand people show up to vote. But with a challenger to Mr. Claar and all the attention on the race, this year could be different.
The “Rog Mahal” — also known as the Bolingbrook Golf Club — was the scene of the fund-raiser for Mr. Trump. It was built by the city for $36 million in 2002, according to The Chicago Tribune, and many people in Bolingbrook see it as a sign of lavish excess.


Residents of Bolingbrook voted early in the mayoral race at the Fountaindale Public Library on March 24. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

Next stop: Campaign headquarters.

Mayor Claar’s election HQ is along a stretch of strip shopping centers, tucked between an optometrist’s office and a cellphone store. Campaign signs are plastered on the glass doors, and little wooden Uncle Sams decorate the entry. Three workers are milling around. One of them: the mayor’s wife.

Ms. Claar was polite but said she had nothing to add about how the campaign was going or why Mayor Claar might not want to meet. Onward.

It’s lunchtime in Bolingbrook.


Mayor Claar’s opponent, Jackie Traynere, a Democrat (in blue jacket), with supporters at Sophia’s House of Pancakes. Credit Taylor Glascock/for The New York Times

Around here, Mayor Claar has plenty of fans. Everyone seems to know him. He’s been around through this village’s expansion. Subdivisions have replaced cornfields. The population has almost doubled since 1990, and Mayor Claar has been there through it all.

The mayor’s challenger says Trump’s rhetoric ‘doesn’t jibe with our town.’

At Sophia’s House of Pancakes, Ms. Traynere is meeting with supporters over club sandwiches and bowls of soup. She seems energetic and talks fast, but she also says she’s starting to come down with a cold as her campaign reaches the homestretch. Her complaints about her competitor, the mayor? She says the village’s debt is too high. She says he runs the whole village – top to bottom – and that he can be a “bully.” But most of all, she says the Trump event turned her stomach.
“Trump’s own words,” she says are what threw some residents here for a loop. Bolingbrook is 20 percent black, 25 percent Hispanic and 11 percent Asian — a big change, she says, from when she was growing up here. “The way he talks about minorities,” she says, “that’s not what we experience in our community. That just doesn’t jibe with our town.”
She goes on: “When people realize that that was the mayor who brought him here, that definitely turned their head to think, ‘hmm, maybe I ought to look at a few other things.’”

But why is such an array of prominent Democrats lining up behind her for a little municipal race? Critics say it seems a bit much.

Her supporters don’t seem the least bit troubled by all the backing, though. They’re thinking more about the mayor and the fund-raiser.

Off to City Hall — we need to find Mayor Claar.

Finally, the mayor speaks.

After a wait in the lobby of Bolingbrook’s municipal building, Mr. Claar suddenly appears in the doorway.
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Mayor Claar agreed to speak to us. “You walk in here and I’m supposed to come running. Well, let’s do it,” he said. Credit Taylor Glascock for The New York Times
Mayor Claar has gotten word of our search for him, and is actually clutching a printout of the story we have been writing today. For the record, he acknowledges that he has gotten our earlier phone messages and email requests for interviews, but says that he simply had not wished to talk to us. That said, he shows us to a conference room and patiently takes more than half an hour of questions.


Mayor Claar in the meeting. Credit Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

The mayor says that the fund-raiser he helped throw for Mr. Trump is the essential reason that he finds himself with such a hard-fought race. He doesn’t regret the fund-raiser. Not at all, he says. But he adds: “I’m disappointed that some people will take that one thing over 31 years and that’s it.”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Still Benefiting From Business Empire, Filings Show


Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, leaving the Oval Office in February. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, will remain the beneficiaries of a sprawling real estate and investment business still worth as much as $741 million, despite their new government responsibilities, according to ethics filings released by the White House Friday night.
Ms. Trump will also maintain a stake in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The hotel, just down the street from the White House, has drawn protests from ethics experts who worry that foreign governments or special interests could stay there in order to curry favor with the administration.
It is unclear how Ms. Trump would earn income from that stake. Mr. Kushner’s financial disclosures say that Ms. Trump earned between $1 million and $5 million from January 2016 to March 2017, and puts the value of her stake at between $5 million and $25 million.
The disclosures were part of a broad, Friday-night document release by the White House that exposed the assets of as many as 180 senior officials to public scrutiny. The reports show assets and wealth that senior staff members owned at the time they entered government service.
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Those disclosures were to include the assets of Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. who now leads the National Economic Council, and Stephen K. Bannon, the counselor to the president.
Mr. Trump’s administration is considered the most wealthy in American history, with members of his senior staff and cabinet worth an estimated $12 billion, according to a tally by Bloomberg News. The Friday filings will add voluminous detail to that top-line figure.
“I think one of the really interesting things that people are going to see today — and I think it’s something that should be celebrated — is that the president has brought a lot of people into this administration, and this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful,” the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said. White House officials “have given up a lot to come into government by setting aside a lot of assets.”
Until January, Mr. Kushner was the chief executive of Kushner Companies, a family-run real estate investment firm with holdings across the country, a growing business that has taken part in at least $7 billion of acquisitions over the past decade.
Late Friday, the White House released details of the plan devised by his advisers to avoid conflicts of interest between his government role and the wide-ranging business empire Mr. Kushner ran with his father. That business depends on foreign investment from undisclosed sources, as well as billions of dollars in loans from the world’s biggest financial services firms.
The White House also detailed the business interests of Ivanka Trump.
Although Mr. Kushner has stepped down from his management positions at the more than 200 entities that operated aspects of the family real estate business, he will remain a beneficiary of the vast majority of the business he ran for the past decade, through a series of trusts that already owned the various real estate companies.
The plan laid out on Friday “is not sufficient,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel and chief ethics office for the Federal Election Commission. “While removing himself from the management of the businesses is an important step, he is still financially benefiting from how the businesses do. This presents potential for a conflict of interest. Given his level in the White House and broad portfolio it’s hard to see how he will recuse himself from everything that may impact his financial interest.”
While the filing discloses Mr. Kushner’s personal lenders, it does not provide information on his business partners or lenders to his projects.
His real estate firm has borrowed money from the likes of Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, Deutsche Bank and the French bank Natixis. It also received loans from Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, which is the subject of a United States Justice Department investigation into allegations that it helped wealthy Americans evade taxes using undeclared accounts.
Most recently, his firm’s flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was the subject of controversy: at about the time his father-in-law received the Republican nomination last spring, Kushner’s firm began conversations with a Chinese company with ties to some of the Communist Party’s leading families about a plan to invest billions of dollars in the troubled office tower.
Kushner and the firm, Anbang Insurance Group, agreed to end the talks on Wednesday after weeks of negative publicity about the deal, criticized as a bailout of the Kushners. The building had already been rescued by a number of prominent firms, including the private equity giant Carlyle Group, and Zara, the Spanish fashion retailer founded and owned by Amancio Ortega, one of the world’s wealthiest men.
Mr. Kushner has divested his stakes in any businesses connected to that property.
The disclosures do not reveal the names of investors and lenders to ventures that Mr. Kushner is retaining a stake in. For example, the form shows Mr. Kushner is retaining a stake in a limited liability corporation that owns a Trump-branded luxury rental high rise building in Jersey City, worth as much as $5 million. That project was financed with tens of millions of dollars from wealthy Chinese investors through a controversial visa-for-sale program called EB-5.
However, the filing does not disclose the names of any of those investors — or partners in any of his other projects.
“We don’t know who the business partners are in many of these investments,” Mr. Noble said, “and those business partners may also have interests that will be affected by how he advises the government. And that’s a concern.”
“He could have foreign business partners who have a real interest in policy, and he may be advising the president on those policies,” Mr. Noble added. “This is a dark area where we just don’t know what’s going on.”
In all, the Kushner company owns more than 20,000 apartments and approximately 14 million square feet of office space.
Previous disclosures by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics showed that Mr. Kushner divested his interest in several entities, mostly partnerships connected to a venture capital firm run by his brother Joshua called Thrive Capital, which invests in technology firms, including Instagram.
He also shed his interests in a funds run by the private equity giant Blackstone Group — whose chief executive officer Stephen A. Schwarzman is a Trump economic adviser — as well as BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.
Overall, he has shed his stakes in 58 businesses.
He is still the sole primary beneficiary of the majority of the trusts that will retain assets, with his children as the secondary beneficiary.
The release Friday night is just the first step in the review for many of these filings by the federal government. For the most senior White House officials — Assistant to the President and Deputy Assistant to the President, which is about 50 positions in total — these forms will be sent to the Office of Government Ethics.
O.G.E., as it is known, will then review the forms to attempt to make sure the disclosures are complete and identify potential conflicts of interest that it sees, asking the White House staff members, through the White House Counsel’s office, to take steps to address any of these outstanding conflicts.
Only then will these disclosures be “certified” by O.G.E. and then O.G.E. will post the forms again, on its website, with changes that have been made to address its concerns.
“OGE has not certified these reports yet,” said Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the United States Office of Government Ethics. “We will be working closely with the White House to refine them and address any questions we have about how they will handle potential conflicts of interest.”
Government Ethics had offered after Mr. Trump was elected to work more closely with the White House, including perhaps sending some of its lawyers, who are experts in the federal law governing conflicts, to the White House to train staff there that would be involved in reviewing the financial disclosure reports being filed by new White House employees. But the Trump administration did not take up this offer, an O.G.E. spokesman said Friday.
Mr. Shaub said the office is committed to seeing this process through.
“The primary purpose of financial disclosure is to identify and resolve conflicts of interest,” he said. “We take that responsibility seriously. We are looking forward to working with the White House to help them accomplish that goal.”
Mr. Kushner was also required to submit some limited financial information for his wife, Ivanka Trump, who will continue to receive payments from the Trump Organization as well as her fashion brand.
Ms. Trump, who now serves as an assistant to the president, resigned from her leadership roles at both companies. Instead of performance-based payments, Ms. Trump will now receive fixed payments from T International Realty, the family’s luxury brokerage agency, as well as fixed fees from two entities related to real estate projects, according to the documents.
Ms. Trump had previously rolled her fashion brand into the Ivanka M. Trump Business Trust, which is overseen by her brother-in-law, Josh Kushner, and sister-in-law, Nicole Meyer. The documents released on Friday valued the trust at more than $50 million.
The brand is largely a licensing operation, meaning that it sells the use of Ms. Trump’s name to partners who manufacture her clothes, shoes and other accessories. Since it is privately held, little is known about the company’s financials, but the Times has previously reported that revenues were roughly between $4 million and $6 million in 2013, before the debut of a major clothing partnership.
The less senior White House staff whose disclosures are being released today — which include Special Assistant to the President — are not reviewed by the Office of Government Ethics, so in that case, it is only the White House Counsel’s office that examines them to determine if there are potential conflicts, and what steps employees must make to sell assets, resign positions they might have or recuse themselves from decisions.
Already, a complaint has been filed against at least one White House staff member, for taking actions that might benefit his own financial interest. Christopher P. Liddell, who serves as an assistant to the president and the director for strategic initiatives had served as the chief financial officer of companies including Microsoft, International Paper and General Motors before taking his White House job, and until recently, he also owned stock in General Motors, according to forms that have been filed, among more than 750 other companies.
But in late January and early February, according to a complaint that has been filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Mr. Liddell participated in a series of meetings that involved several of the companies that he still owned a total of about $2 million in stock in, including International Paper, General Motors. Mr. Liddell, according to disclosures, sold these stock holdings by mid-February.
“It is Ethics 101 — the most basic thing you are not supposed to do: using your official capacity to benefit your financial interest,” said Norman Eisen, who served as a White House ethics lawyer during the Obama administration and now is a co-chairman of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “And we are asking the question of whether he has done that here.”
The White House did not respond Friday when asked about this complaint.

‘Zoot Suit’ Draws Crowds and Decked-Out Fans in Los Angeles


Giselle Rios, a theater major at California State University, Los Angeles, during the intermission of “Zoot Suit,” by Luis Valdez.

LOS ANGELES — When “Zoot Suit” made its debut in New York in 1979, it was the first time a Chicano show had made it to Broadway. But the musical, by Luis Valdez, was a distinctly Los Angeles production: It was commissioned by the Mark Taper Forum and portrayed a 1940s murder trial involving zoot-suit-wearing Mexican-American youths known as pachucos. The trial is set against the backdrop of the infamous Zoot Suit riots, a series of racially motivated attacks against Mexican-Americans in summer 1943.
To help mark the Los Angeles Center Theater Group’s 50th anniversary, the show returned recently to the stage here for the first time since 1978. Tickets went on sale late last year and sold out quickly. The production has since been extended three times, a rare occurrence at the theater. The acclaim and the enthusiasm demonstrate that the play touches a deep nerve in this city, particularly at another moment of political upheaval.
Some of the shows most devoted fans are showing up to the performances dressed in their own zoot suits and vintage attire. We spoke to some of them to find out what the play means to them. These interviews have been condensed and edited.
Photographs by Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times

Luis Guerrero, 25, of Wilmington


Luis Guerrero, right, and Danny Flores dressed like pachucos.

When I first saw the movie in high school I felt really inspired. The pachucos loved the United States, but they did not want to give up their own culture. They created this subculture that was mixing all these backgrounds and creating this culture of resistance and their own identity. They were some of the first people who stood up for the Chicano community. When I wear a zoot suit I feel empowered, kind of like it’s a suit of armor. It’s not only honoring those in the past, but it makes you look sharp even though it doesn’t follow the norm of what a suit is supposed to look like.

Valerie Munoz, 51, of Riverside


Valerie Munoz cheered when an announcer asked if there were any native Angelenos in the theater.

You can feel all of the racism, the oppression that we felt back then. Even as a child growing up all over L.A., I remember going to school, I remember not being able to speak my language. We were hit on the hand with a ruler if we spoke Spanish. My mom was a pachuca, and before I saw the play I would be very embarrassed, I would be ashamed of my own skin. Then she took us to the play, and what stood out to me most was that most of the audience was Anglo and they were shouting and embracing what was going on. I remember feeling kind of proud, finally. I thought, Wow, this is my culture and where we come from.
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Maya Chinchilla, 41, of Oakland


Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, left, and Maya Chinchilla.

The show really fought against how Latinos were portrayed at the time, in this one-dimensional stereotype of overly exaggerated criminal. These were violent stereotypes that really didn’t treat them as humans and in many ways that reflected society. Both in the 1970s and 1940s, Latinos were portrayed as a scapegoat. Even now, it’s only once in a while that I see Latinos as the primary characters who are more than one-dimensional. The pachucos are somewhat involved in gang activity, but that’s not even the primary story. Seeing this now is like hearing from other generations. No matter what kind of negative experiences we have, there’s a connection to a different style and flair, and it then gets copied by the mainstream.


Cast members, from left: Raul Cardona, Melinna Bobadilla and Oscar Camacho.

Tanya Lara, 38, of Los Angeles


Tanya Lara, left, and Bertha Llamas.

My father dressed in a zoot suit and later became an advocate for immigration rights and participated in a lot of the picket lines for unions. Our parents really helped us understand that nothing is free and we’re not entitled to things, that it’s a privilege to be a citizen. It was a little strange to see how similar it was back then as it is now. The pachucos weren’t given a chance to prove themselves. Back then your word wasn’t as valid, and you had to be careful what you signed. That’s still what we see now, when we’re talking about deportations and explaining why we are not a risk for others’ security.

Cathy Navarrette, 53, of Baldwin Park


Cathy Navarrette outside the Mark Taper Forum.

My older brother made us go when it was here back in the ’70s. We were just teenagers at the time, but once we got there we realized how hard it was for the Latin community, for the people in our town. I saw my parents differently at that time. They were born in an agricultural camp in El Monte. Back then I don’t think I realized how discriminated against they were. They couldn’t walk to the store without being looked at differently. I never had to experience that. But right now, with the Trump administration, I worry that we’re seeing some of that coming back.


Fernando Luis of El Pachuco Zoot Suits, the company that made the suits for the show.

Leka Im, 33, of Los Angeles


Lekit Im, left, and her twin sister, Leka Im.

The first time I saw the movie I was in high school and was immediately obsessed. It just connected me to this history of Los Angeles I had never heard before, even though I grew up here. The costuming is really powerful. I always dress up in vintage, that’s my fashion sense. We still have some of the same problems, with people assuming something about you by the way you dress. Maybe it’s not as in your face, but there’s racism, police brutality and the court system is not always fair. We’ve definitely come far, but there are still a lot of problems. This is something we all need to see to understand L.A.


Jimmy Gutierrez, center, of East Los Angeles, who first saw “Zoot Suit” when he was 16, said the musical “let me see how things were before my time.”

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