by John Hawkins, President and CEO, The Club

How is everyone doing this month? How are you holding up? There’s hope on the horizon, as the Moderna vaccine arrives and is entering City employee arms as I write this.

But then, on the very day we were photographing the vaccinations at Fire Station 4, I heard that my friend, the awesome Tom LaBonge, former City Councilman, Club Member and Mr. L.A., had passed away. This pandemic can never let us rest on good news, can it?

Tom LaBonge.

What more can I say about Tom LaBonge than this: After 11 tough months, the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in LA and is administered to City employees, and it nearly didn’t make the cover. I mean, it’s the biggest story of the past 12 months, and probably will be the biggest in all of 2021. Yet it only barely beat out Tom LaBonge for the cover. We had to think about it for a long time. The solution – essentially two cover stories – was developed by Alive! designer David Jamgotchian.

From left: Alive! editor John Burnes, with Firefighter II Katherine Hanson and Firefighter III Sergio Mayorga.

Covering the fast-changing news of the vaccine arrival is challenging for a monthly newspaper like ours, even with an active Website. We’re on top of it because it’s what we’ve all been waiting for. It makes total sense to me that our front-line workers, the first responders and healthcare workers, should be given priority. Our thanks to LAFD PIO Firefighter David Ortiz for arranging our visit, and LAFD RN and EMS Educator Robert Heaton for helping us on the day. While we’re waiting for LA to open up again, don’t forget to wear your City seal facemask. Wear a couple of ’em! I am. (If you need to buy more, or grab some fresh ones, go to the Club Webstore at Lupe Lira and her staff will take care of you.)

And now to Tom LaBonge. I wrote pretty much what I wanted to say in this month’s remembrance. There are many good thoughts there from others, too, and it’s awesome that the City is going to name a Griffith Park peak after Tom. He deserves it. Feel free to share your remembrance with me: jhawkins@

A few other notes: There’s still time to submit a Valentine to your loved one for our posting online. Deadline is Feb. 11. Submit here:

Finally, throughout the pandemic, we’ve continued to serve you, our Members, with discounts, insurance, Alive!, our social media, and in many other ways. We will continue to do so, with everything we have. You’re our heroes. Better days for all of us are coming soon.

— John