The assignment was chancy: We were dispatching one of our New York staffers to the distant outpost known as Los Angeles. We needed a trustworthy, hardworking journalist. We needed someone who would not be lulled by Southern California's languid life-style, someone who could resist the beach for the grindstone, someone who could look at Mr. Sun and spit in his eye. We needed writer-reporter Bruce Anderson.
Anderson, 28, a five-year SI veteran, was perfect for the job. He's a fourth-generation Californian from Hollister, the self-proclaimed Earthquake Capital of the World, and a graduate of Stanford. "Having grown up in California, I can say 'Howdy' or 'Have a nice day' without feeling silly," says B.A., as he's known. Furthermore, he already had a mean guacamole recipe, a head of blond hair and a taste for tacos.
Since March, B.A. has been our right-hand man on the Left Coast. (Actually, he's bicoastal; he throws right, writes left.) Sitting by his phone or scooting about the Southland, he gets to the heart of those wacky reports emanating from L.A. and vicinity. When we wanted info on Marvelous Marvin Hagler's Palm Springs training camp, we called B.A. When Peter Ueberroth was to receive an honorary degree from Loyola Marymount University, we called B.A. When it was raining in New York, we called B.A. (he cheered us up).
"The most important household accessory here is an answering machine, not a blender or a compact-disc player," Anderson says. "And the most pressing question a Californian can ask isn't 'My hot tub or yours?' but 'Did I turn on my phone machine?' "
Since his reassignment, B.A. has written on such topics as the California Angels' Gary Pettis and the NCAA volleyball championships, and has worked on the upcoming College & Pro Football Spectacular. A two-paragraph item that caught his eye in a local paper led to this week's story on boxer Joey Olivo (page 51).
To get all this work done, B.A. has developed the kind of tunnel vision needed for survival in Southern California. If not entirely untempted by the area's hedonistic charms, he is at least selective in succumbing to seduction. Though he has a view of the ocean from his Playa del Rey pad, he never hits the beach until work's done. He keeps New York hours; he's usually on the phone by 6:30 in the morning. His only visible indulgences are a deeper tan and a hot-red sunroofed Nissan 200SX. "Beats the hell out of the subway," he says.
B.A. IN L.A.: A LOUSY JOB, BUT SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT