LA Public Library
Art Snyder (right) with voter, 1967.
Forest Lawn is not the usual cemetery of Los Angeles politicians. It's more famous for such posthumous residents as Sandra Dee, Bette Davis, Liberace, Ricky Nelson and a galaxy of other showbiz eminences. But Art Snyder, LA office holder extraordinaire, belonged there every bit as much as they did. In his 18 years on the City Council, he was, in his way, the Bette Davis of Southland politics: temperamental, unpredictable, an inveterate rule-breaker continuously tainted with one scandal or another, while doing steady and magnificent work in his chosen profession. Which was, in Snyder's case serving the people in his district better than anyone else at City Hall.
Snyder's Wednsday funeral drew close to 100 people, enough to fill the 1965 Forest Lawn venue Variety calls "the old brick church." (The rest of us know it as the replica of Boston's Old North Church). Only a handful of the mourners dated from Snyder's City Hall years. Richard Alatorre, his scandal-plagued 14th District successor, was the sole former office holder I saw there. I also noticed three members of Snyder's council office staff. While the years in office took up less than a quarter of Snyder's nearly 80 years, it was interesting that no one from the city nor from his subsequent 16 years in the legal community came to speak to his memory.
Snyder's former pastor (who officiated, but did not identify himself), spoke of Snyder's "Graduation to Glory" and his "Love of God's Word." A woman sang a hymn in Hawaiian. His kid brother and two of his three children then spoke their memorials, as did two of his business associates. All noted that dealing with Snyder could be extremely trying at times, but the outcomes were always good.
"Sometimes his guiding hand felt like a boot in my butt," said his brother Patrick, "but his influence was always positive." One wondered what it might have been like, arguing with an older brother who'd been the national oratory champ back in 1953. You had the feeling that, in the end, Snyder's sons and sibling had loved him very much, but had also been through very rough times with him. His daughter, Erin-Marisol Jenkins, who was named, in 1985, as a victim in what turned out to be a bogus molestation allegation, did not speak.
A Marine color guard fired salutes, played taps and presented the flag to Snyder's widow, Delia. Another friend of Snyder's played a handsome ukulele elegy. "The Tiki Community" was named on the funeral program as being among Art's survivors, recalling the odd, and oddly satisfactory, third phase of his career as well-dressed principal of Huntington Beach's Don the Beachcomber restaurant.
A couple years ago, when Snyder told me over lunch that he was going to revive this venerable OC Tiki franchise, I was as skeptical as if he'd told me he was trying out for NASA's astronaut program. But, with his innate mastery of local legal and political complexities, he seemed to make it happen almost overnight. And, as restaurant proprietor, he seemed to have found, at long last, the peace and satisfaction he'd been denied, or had denied himself, in the supposedly more refined and respectable venues of politics and the law.