20 Years Ago – A Wick(ed) Loss

RandyIt’s hard to believe that 20 years ago today we lost our treasured friend and editorial cartoonist, Randy Wicks. Say what you will about Saturday Night Live having a field day with politics and the humor promised by the upcoming election, Randy’s simple drawings of the circus around us brought home the irony, the reality and sometimes the comedy of politics.

Can you just imagine what he’d be drawing now? He’d need to be published three times a day, seven days a week to get them all out.

Only 41 when he abruptly shuffled off this mortal coil, Randy was a local hero who touched the hearts and minds of so many people, especially those of us who worked with him at The Signal. He knew exactly how to zing – gently when appropriate – those whose deeds were questionable or frustrating or just plain ridiculous.


He brought us the heartbreak of starving children in Africa, a look at gun worshipers, the dangers of our own prejudices and the resilience of our community in a crisis, along with a plethora of other local and national issues, depicted perfectly with his “poison pen.”



RWGunsThere wasn’t a situation that escaped his attention. He skewered Presidents and Councilmembers alike, was an observer of local politics and a visitor to the Oval Office and he loved without bounds his beloved Santa Clarita Valley.

A Distinguished Alumni of CalArts, over the 15-plus years that he spent here, his talents were evident in floats he designed for the Fourth of July parade (there was a paper mache Statue of Liberty in the newspaper’s pressroom for a long time, a bit beaten and worn from riding in the back of someone’s pickup truck a few Independence Days prior) and in the countless flyers and programs graced with his quirky and character-driven drawings.

RWRentersHe designed logos for nonprofit organizations, personal friends and the City of Santa Clarita. His was the first Pride Week design, the first River Rally T-shirt, the popular Signal Newshound. He traveled to charity luncheons and school assemblies and gave tours of the newsroom and production area, always bringing along a newsprint pad and Sharpie for on-the-spot creativity.

Sometimes he even drew his co-workers when things were slow. (It’s the most treasured piece of art in my office.)



His office walls were covered with awards from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, the National Cartoonists Society, the National Newspaper Association, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Greater Los Angeles Press Club. I’m convinced the lack of a Pulitzer is only because he left us far too soon.

There wasn’t a kid he didn’t have time for during his visits and tours, or a community leader who didn’t appreciate his contributions (auctions always featured some of his original works) or his political nudges. Randy’s whole purpose in life was to make people think, even if it pissed them off.

No wonder we had to hold his memorial in the gallery at CalArts. The front walk to the Signal was covered in candles and flowers and tributes to this fine young friend to all. The funeral was packed, several speakers, hundreds of tributes from those he touched with his rapier wit and soothed with his compassion. And all for a kid from Iowa who always credited his parents for letting him “follow his cartoon dreams.”

RWApartTogetherThere was a fundraiser shortly after his passing to support a special collection of his cartoons, books that catalogued and contained his published work so that future generations could enjoy them. There was also artwork framed that hung for a while in the Valencia Library, a tribute to Randy’s support of the Friends of the Library. Somewhere in the transition from County to City, those all disappeared, and with them, the memory of Randy’s work and his contributions to our community is beginning to fade as new generations fill our classrooms and libraries. (He would have been thrilled with the Old Town Newhall Library and its homage to history).

The SCV Press Club was also formed in his memory with the purpose of raising scholarship money for students studying First Amendment courses such as journalism. Haven’t heard much of that lately. I’m sure he would have been amused at many of the previous years’ honorees. He and Ruth Newhall are probably still chuckling at her christening of one of the awards the “Ass Kisser Award.” I know someone who is proud to have won it more than once.

Randy would find that funny. And his body-convulsing laugh always made all of us smile, no matter how dangerously close deadline loomed.

A lot has happened in the last two decades. I’m determined to make sure we never forget the Wicked Wicks of the West. Here’s to the memory of a friend whose take on life made the ‘80s and ‘90s a lot more tolerable, brushed with his insights and humor.

I’ll be raising a glass in his honor today. Won’t you join me? Randy was a funny old raccoon that we miss dearly.


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

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Celebrating the ceiling she’ll never know

IMG_2021My eight-month old granddaughter has no idea what all the craziness on TV has been for the last few days, except for an abundance of the colors red, white and blue and a lot of crazy signs she can’t yet read. But as Hillary Clinton kicked aside giant shards of glass to accept the Democratic party’s nomination for President, I felt hopeful, especially for Sadie. She will never know a time when a woman could not be nominated to lead our nation.




giphyWhat she didn’t hear was the glass ceiling shattering and another wall of sexism falling. What a victory! And while there is another step before we have our first woman President, this is still an amazing milestone – and one that I and so many other women have been working on for far too long.

Sadie’s great-grandmother (my mother) was one of those women collectively called “Rosie the Riveter.” While my father was serving in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, she worked at the Alameda Naval Air Station, supporting the war effort; as she and many other women took the place of men who were serving in the European and Pacific theaters. When they returned, she was unemployed, but she believed with all her heart that there was nothing a woman could not do. This became one of the most repeated lessons I heard as I was growing up and one I imparted to my own daughters.



I also believe in putting action and experience behind my words. During my junior year of high school, I wanted to explore a career in law enforcement. I applied for and became one of the first female Police Explorers in the state of California. This excellent training program, previously only open to males, made a significant mark in my pursuit of a career in law enforcement and my education overall. Now, girls fill the ranks of Explorer programs across the country.



Along with becoming an Explorer, I also volunteered with the Let Us Vote movement, which resulted in the passage of the 26th Amendment of the Constitution in July 1971, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote. Although I was just one of many savoring this victory, I felt I really mattered in November 1972 when I actually got to cast a ballot, something I’ve done every election since.


A few years later, I became the first female Police Cadet for the Los Angeles Police Department, another kick at the glass ceiling that came with some challenges. As department brass pointed to me as an example, many of the staff I encountered in the field did everything they could to discourage me from trying to become a police officer. They said women didn’t belong, the job was too dangerous, we didn’t have the temperament, men felt like they had to protect us, blah, blah, blah. Never mind that I was a marksman on the firing range and excelled on the psychological tests. I took that opportunity to learn everything I could about serving the public and 348sworking within the legal system. My street senses were strong.


I worked out like a fiend to pass physical tests at the Academy and was on track to go into an upcoming class, but a family crisis changed my mind and I stepped back, but not before nudging open a very heavy door for females that followed me.


When I became a mother, I impressed upon my girls their grandmother’s message, that they could do anything they wanted. By that time, smaller barriers were falling by the wayside, thanks to legislation like Title IX and Equal Employment Opportunity, but there were still a few holdouts. Even though people generally said women could do anything, there remained a reluctance to give them the opportunity to lead. Women filled high offices, such as Speaker of the House (which only happened in 2007), Secretary of State (in 1997), but President was out of reach. We’ve made progress, I cautioned, but there is still much to do.


For those who think this accomplishment of putting a woman in charge is no big deal, especially if you are female, don’t be fooled. The attack on women continues, from the Republican Presidential candidate to members of Congress (all male) who still believe that they control your body. I remember the days before Roe v. Wade, when coat hangers were the surgical instruments of desperation. And despite legislation that is supposed to protect them, across the nation women earn an average of 79 cents to every dollar paid to male workers. It’s long past time that equality becomes the accepted law of the land.




Sadie, the struggle is real, but change is possible. As a nation, we have a lot of work ahead of us, especially in the areas of racism, discrimination and immigration. We need to reestablish respect and civility, kindness and compassion – traits that I know your parents hold dear. We need to spread more love and less hate. Women are good at that.

Right now, those choices are in the hands of your mother and grandmothers, your father, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, friends and fellow Americans. I’m proud of our progress and sincerely hope we don’t screw it up before you join the deciders in a short 17 years.


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”


Feedback is welcome and encouraged! Please be civil, your passion and ideas will be respected as long as nobody’s calling anyone names. Let’s communicate! And feel free to share!



Politics: I used to love you, but it’s all over now

Because in 1968, Nixon was a rock star.......
Because in 1968, Nixon was a rock star…….

In the late ’60s, I was an impressionable high school student, fascinated with politics. I learned about caucuses and electoral votes and campaigning during my high school’s presidential year mock convention. I helped elect a “governor” at Girls State, volunteered to make phone calls and sign up voters at the local campaign headquarters for Richard Nixon and embraced the democratic process.

I became a tireless volunteer on the campaign of Larry Fargher, a Republican who was challenging then-powerhouse Don Edwards for the local Congressional seat.

On election night in 1968, I learned what it was like to attend gatherings that marked both victory and defeat. Nixon was the one who won.

Undaunted, I couldn’t wait to vote and worked on the Let Us Vote campaign that resulted in the passage of the 26th Amendment, guaranteeing 18-year-olds the right to vote.

I was only 17, but celebrated accordingly. And in 1972, I cast my first official vote for George McGovern. I have always been one to vote the candidate, not the party.

Eventually, I got into the news business and covering elections became my job. I felt privileged to interview people who were trying to make a national difference on a local scale, working for their candidates much like I had for mine in high school. I admired people who ran for local offices, like school and water boards and City Council, because I saw what thankless jobs those offices could be.

295955_10150460401471057_1845540118_nWhen Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, I remember a particularly festive celebration on election night, where a colorful local character danced a jig around a life-sized cardboard cutout of our new President. That night, I wrote two stories; the first about the Democratic victory, the second about the exuberance of some of its volunteers. It made me think of a young girl I knew 30 years before.

Election night in a newsroom is also pizza night; reporters are rewarded for their indentured servitude with a free meal, as long as their stories are filed on time. I was usually out in the field working the party circuit, turning down proffered wine and appetizers as I interviewed candidates and campaigners who were either over the moon happy or trying desperately to put on a game face.

I actually felt sorry for some of the losers, asking them the $2 million question: Would they put themselves through the wringer again when the next election came around? Many times, my self-editor would figure out a way to make the defeated look undeterred, despite hearing a catch in their breath and momentary hesitation as they mustered a smile and tentatively vowed to play another round.

Barack_Obama_Hope_posterOne of the last elections I worked was the night that our nation elected its first African-American president. When the numbers came in confirming Obama’s win, there were screams of delight, stand-ups with both the victorious Obama supporters and those from his opponent’s camp. There was an infectious high knowing we had all seen history first-hand. My son called me from across the country to share his joy and we agreed that this might bring about some major changes. I saw the night as the best illustration that the democratic process works; that when people actually vote, they might get a candidate that shared their same values.

Was it time for that youthful exuberance again? Nah. I took my memory of that moment, threw it in the “Good Stuff” pile and moved on.

I actually had people ask me if I would ever consider running for office. I surprised myself when my answer – which several years earlier might have been an enthusiastic “yes!” – became “Oh hell no! Are you out of your mind?”

There was an element of celebrity and smug power among local elected officials that I detected during regional contests, causing my skepticism to grow along with my dismay. I saw candidate after candidate fall, victims of hate mail or slander campaigns financed by people who should know better or at least act better. Even worse were the candidates who sold out. What was really awful was that many of these people were friends and neighbors before they ran for office and things got ugly. It was shocking how easily some of them learned to lie or discount the opinions of others.

They said it was good for all of us.

I saw my job as a reporter change from holding people’s feet to the fire and demanding accountability to becoming a mouthpiece for the status quo. I went to the dark side; not only did I not trust anyone, I didn’t really like them for what they had become. It was then that I realized that they got what they wanted, as my collective spirit for true democracy was broken.

And I know I’m not alone.

I’m not foolish enough to think that politics changed just in my lifetime. I know there have been dozens of scandals and bad behavior by people pursuing or holding an office, starting long before I ever looked at a sample ballot. I’m just disgusted with the lack of respect, the condescending attitude, and the party-driven “we know better than you and damn the collateral damage” attitudes that continue to prevail and show no signs of weakening.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe we live in the greatest country and casting a ballot is the least we can do to honor those who fought and died defending that freedom. I will always vote and encourage people to do the same. I strongly believe in the “Don’t vote? Don’t bitch” rule.

If there’s anything that’s nurtured the demon in politics, I believe it is social media. I can’t think of any other vehicle that spews hate, dishonesty, misinformation and discord in overwhelming amounts directly into the homes and pockets of Americans 24/7. It provides the perfect opportunity for engaging in name-calling and hate speech without consequences. And sadly, it’s one of the vehicles influencing voters every day.

photo (35)In the Newseum in Washington D.C., there is a Pogo cartoon that sums it up. I think it might be time to listen to the funny old possum…..

It’s time to reintroduce respect, accountability and honesty into politics. It’s not too late. I may not have the energy to walk precincts, but I am ready to encourage the next generation of hopeful 16-year-olds. It’s time to disband the government of white guys in ties for some diversity, hope and change.

And that’s what’s good for all of us.