If only Jack Abramoff had known the kid he beat up in high school was going to win a Pulitzer Prize and “out” him on This American Life (listen). Perhaps Jack might’ve done something a little more useful with his life than lie, cheat and steal in the halls of power. Maybe it would’ve scared him straight. Who knows.
The victim in this case was Jonathan Gold, who won the Prize for his amazing food writing for the L.A. Times and L.A. Weekly. I lived in L.A. for many years and can attest that Gold opened up the city’s ethnic food communities to me and helped me realize what an incredible multi-cultural mosaic L.A. was. He made the most obscure hole in the wall restaurants sound like culinary revelations–and many of them were. His Pulitzer was richly deserved. But his beatings at the hands of Jack Abramoff weren’t.
Though Gold doesn’t mention this, I presume they both attended Beverly Hills High School where I’m guessing these events transpired. Listening to Gold recount his humiliation at Abramoff’s hands and the latter’s pleasure in physical intimidation of his victims, you can literally see how he would become the adult he did. The child was father to the man:
Glass: Jonathan remembers him [Abramoff] as a glad-hander, someone who has lots of friends.
Gold: …A jock, he hung out in the weight room. He squatted something over 500 lbs. when he was in high school…He was the sort of person who would walk across the street to be unpleasant to somebody or in my most notable instance I was walking down the hall to history class and he hip-checked me–I was carrying my cello–and I went sailing down the stairs with my cello. You’d be surprised how many times a cello and its case can bounce. It was a lot of money in repairs.
He was laughing about it to his friends. I suspect he forgot about it five minutes later. I didn’t…
It’s [Abramoff’s downfall] just beautiful. It’s more than I could’ve wished for. Who wouldn’t feel satisfied that he was getting his comeuppance?
What I really love was Ira Glass’ note that they contacted Abramoff for his version of the events and the reply was:
This story is not true. Mr. Abramoff does not know Mr. Gold and has no idea why Mr. Gold would fabricate such a story. There is no point in commenting further on something that never happened.
To which I reply: if you had to choose whether to believe a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist telling you about an incident that mortified him from his past; or a convicted felon accused of lying, cheating and stealing–who would you believe??