However one feels about journalists dwelling on the death of Los Angeles Times sportswriter Mike Penner, who cut his professional teeth in Orange County and lived here for many years, Steve Friess' LA Weekly feature article published this week exposes a side of the Penner saga others have barely covered: remembrances from transgender friends he made while living and writing briefly as Christine Daniels.
Here is the proverbial nut graf of “Mike Penner, Christine Daniels: A Love Story”:
What drove Penner's decision to take his life? News organizations and
bloggers noted sadly that Daniels' gender confusion had had a tragic
end, and the L.A. Times itself would write a lengthy story
months after her death that also suggested it was Daniels' sense of
being torn between two worlds that contributed to her decision to commit
But it wasn't like that.
Friess goes on to report that Daniels, who was hospitalized in June 2008, suffered mental and physical pain from a combination of traumas: a devastating Vanity Fair
photo shoot, paranoia over being the transgender community's poster girl, an acute loneliness that followed her post-coming-out
euphoria, the death of her mother, and his ex-wife's continuing distance.
The story would, of course, have been strengthened, by the voice of Penner's former wife, Times sportswriter Lisa Dillman. No one knows her full side of the story because she has (understandably) not shared it.
The first comment LA Weekly received on the cover story–at 11:56 p.m. last night–was from one of the main sources for Friess' piece, Amy LaCoe. Penner/Daniels' close transgender friend and caretaker starts by saying the Freiss story did more justice than a previous Times piece. But the main point was to object to this paragraph:
Daniels went to great lengths to shield Dillman from scrutiny. But
Dillman avoided Daniels. LeCoe said Dillman told Daniels, “I don't even
want to see you around the office unless I absolutely have to, and then I
want to be as far away as possible. I don't want to be associated with
it. I don't ever want to see you that way.”
LaCoe, who says she has barely spoken with Dillman, claims she did not tell Friess that and that it must have come from someone closer to Penner's ex.
Meanwhile, Friess also shares a very interesting sidebar on the LA Weekly site, “What Happened to the Christine Daniels blog?”
As the cover story reports, the blog Daniels briefly wrote about living the transgendered life was yanked from the LA Times website and–mysteriously–from its permanent online archives. A statement from the Times spokeswoman furthers the mystery.
In the second comment the cover story received, someone identifying him/herself as Babamoto notices something else missing:
“As a long-time reader of Mike's sports writing,
it should be noted that Penner was a great writer. I miss being able to
see his and Christine's byline. How wrenching and sad the ending.”