Stories by and about women have certainly changed for the better since the days of ‘Marina Men’

By Ellie O’Brien


Leading The Argonaut’s social media campaign for Marina del Rey’s 50th anniversary, I scoured 44 years of newsprint for entertaining historical photos and ads to share with our readers online and in the pages of last week’s special issue.

I found handwritten ads boasting $2 breakfast specials or $5 liquor bottles at the Marina Mart and listings for waterfront properties offered at prices that would be unimaginably low today. Some of my favorite clips were 30-year-old endorsements for “passive exercise” — a procedure where fat would just disappear — and endless funny pictures of people in iconic ‘80s workout gear.

Through it all I watched Marina del Rey grow and develop, but most of all I was struck by the evolution of women’s writing and representation in The Argonaut.

As a 21-year-old woman pursuing an English degree in 2015 at Loyola Marymount University, I know I have more to say than just encouraging readers to moisturize. While journalism can be competitive and even cutthroat, I’m fairly certain that if I write well my work will be recognized and included.

That said, I was surprised by the lack of women’s writing in the newspaper’s earliest editions.

The first and only female writer I stumbled upon in early 1970s issues of The Argonaut was the lovely Miss Leonie, a licensed cosmetologist at the Marina del Rey Pharmacy whose articles were essentially compilations of beauty tips. She covered the importance of protecting skin against the air and sun, how to use lip liner to avoid bleeding lipstick, and the best way to apply perfume. I don’t wear lip liner myself, but I have no doubt Miss Leonie’s tips were helpful.

Although female writers were vastly underrepresented, women did not fail to establish a presence in the paper. In between the weekly installments of makeup tips, I found a September 1972 column by none other than Argonaut founder David Asper Johnson titled “Woman’s Libber Plans to Show All.”

At a time when Marina del Rey was apparently awash in calendars featuring female nudes, a Ms. Fran Scharps was recognized for creating a calendar of male nudes.

It was no easy task: “A surprising number of men are not quite as liberal in their thinking of posing nude as they are in having women pose nude for them,” she’s quoted as saying.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Scharps may not have written the article, but she certainly made her point.

Fast-forward a decade, and in 1982 Frank and Moon Zappa’s song “Valley Girl” was — like, totally — a nationwide hit.

In response, Rhino Records released the song “Marina Men.” Sung by three self-described Valley girls and featuring spoken words by Harry Shearer, it skewered the vapid “Aqua Velva Geeks” who prowled night clubs wearing fake gold chains and asking for (landline) phone numbers.

“Oh yeah, I got a movie deal now, did I tell you? … That’s not my Gremlin; I’m borrowing it while my Porsche is in the shop … Go to the condo and snort some flake?” Shearer’s Marina Man asks.

The paper wrote that Gary Stewart, a Rhino spokesman at the time, said “real Marina residents, ‘won’t like the lyrics’ because they’re about ‘how obnoxious Marina men are who hang around Marina discos, trying to pick up the Valley girls.”

Marina Men may have dominated The Argonaut’s pages way back when, but it seems Marina Women made themselves known in other ways. Though the paper didn’t include women’s articles on everything from local development to global conflict as it does now, its female presence was entertaining by today’s standards to say the least.

I don’t have any other grand conclusions to draw about the evolution of women in local journalism, but I am struck by the difference 44 years makes — and impressed with the changes I see.