Weho Times has been serving our community for seven years. It is a constant source of updates for residents, and a large source of news for the Facebook pages I follow and moderate like WeHo Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Weho East.
I learned that the news site turned seven last month and that editor and publisher, Paulo Murillo, recently reached a milestone of running WeHo Times for six years on April 17. I wanted to know what drives him to chronicle West Hollywood news and lifestyle with so much dedication. I sat with him on the anniversary of his stewardship to ask about his motivations and history with the city.
I was so charmed to hear about your LONG history with this city – Please tell people about how you first came to Weho?
Oh snap! My WeHo beginnings are not glamorous at all. My history with this city dates before its cityhood. I’m talking about as far back as 1981. I was a skinny Mexican kid with big hair and grass-stained jeans helping his stepfather mow lawns and rake leaves all over West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. They’d call it forced child labor today, but in the 80s and 90s, it was common to see kids working from sunup to sundown. I knew I was gay, so you best believe that I hated getting my nails dirty, but man, talk about character-building. I remember driving down Santa Monica Boulevard around 85, and I’d see the old West Hollywood Sign next to the Tropicana Motel. That sign was a beacon of hope that there were others like me because I’d see shirtless men walking around holding hands. My dad called this area Jotolandia, meaning Faggotland, so every time my mom beat me for playing with dolls, I’d fantasize about running away and finding a home in Jotolandia.
I first came to WeHo in 1991 and immediately got a fake ID. I moved to the city in 1993, on Laurel Ave, by Fountain Ave (less than a block away from Ed Buck). Then I moved to Westmount drive in 98 (I lived around the corner from John D’Amico). What happened is I fell in love with a man and before I knew it, I gave up my rent controlled $1,100 2-bedroom/2-bath at Westmount Dr to continue living with him in Los Angeles (we’ve been together for over 12 years). I moved out of WeHo, but the truth, is I never left it. I’m nuts. I run WeHo Times and many people don’t know this about me, but I also manage the West Hollywood Recovery Center.
What inspired you to start the Weho Times – what lead to its creation?
WeHo Times was founded by Marco Colantonio who was very active in the community. The website went live on March 15, 2017. I came on board as a freelance reported in May 22, 2017, and became managing editor shortly after that. Marco created this news site to give an alternative choice and voice to WeHoville. He didn’t think one man should control the entire West Hollywood narrative. We still think that today.
How has the site evolved these last few years?
Marco had a vision for WeHo Times being the TMZ of the W.E.H.O. He wanted to cover local news, but he also wanted to serve the community some hot juicy gossip similar to WeHo Confidential. I loved me some WeHo Confidential, but that’s not who we are today. I think it has evolved to a news site that people can trust for information. It has a reputation for bringing fair coverage and has often been at the forefront of breaking news in West Hollywood with no hidden motives or personal agendas.
I have observed and discussed with you journalistic ethics; which you adhere to. How did you learn this craft? What led to this decision to observe more traditional reporting vs what we see so much of now in current media (snark, opinion and misleading stories?)
I was first published for a local West Hollywood newspaper called FAB! In April of 1999. I wrote a trashy lifestyle column called “Luv Ya, Mean It”, which followed my sexploitations all over WeHo. It was all about me. It was controversial, attention-seeking, foul-mouthed, and it got me into a ton of trouble. I was dubbed the West Hollywood Queen of Mean. The column ran for about seven years and it damn near almost killed me.
That column also landed me in rehab in 2007. I guess sobriety led to me pursuing a different style of writing from a point of view that wasn’t so self-possessed. Shortly after rehab, I landed a real WeHo news column called the “The West Hollywood Hot Topic” in Frontiers magazine and it had nothing to do with me or what I thought. It was very ‘stick to the facts ma’am’. I was lucky in that I learned on the job, which is how I first landed in West Hollywood City Council meetings. I bring everything I have learned these 20-plus years in media to WeHo Times. I don’t do it perfectly by any means, but less BS, means less drama and I’m OK with that. If you want to read about what’s happening in the city, this is the spot. I also don’t covet a city council seat, so I don’t hold any bitterness towards City Hall. If I don’t like a council member, you’d never know it by clicking on this news site. People know it’s not Paulo Murillo’s WeHo Times.
What are some of the most outrageous – crazy stories you’ve covered?
When journalist and activist Jazmyne Cannick was tasked with providing a detailed timeline on the death of a young man named Gemmel Moore who lost his life in West Hollywood at the hands of Ed Buck, she rewrote that history by stating that the story first appeared in LA Weekly. That’s a lie. WeHo Times risked financial ruin and possible political retribution by bravely breaking Gemmel’s story. Ask his mother, not one single news outlet wanted to touch that story, and Gemmel actually had a very close friend at KTLA. Jazmyne hated Marco for whatever reason. She used our breaking story, took our photos and then cut us out of the information pipeline and erased us once the story went national.
I would say that was the biggest most outrageous story that crashed our website in 2017. I do not take any credit for it, and even though Ryan Gierach wrote it, the risk was all on Marco who owned the news site. I’m happy to have collaborated. I remember we were up all night having a heated debate on the main photo. Many don’t know this, but I’m the one who created the graphic of Gemmel’s photo leaning away from Ed Buck with the shredded edges to represent his life being ripped apart by the man next to him. I placed Gemmel over Hillary Clinton’s face because as a former crystal meth addict who traded his body for drugs in my active addiction, I related to Gemmel, and I did not want his life to be politicized and attached to Clinton’s baggage. My graphic was borrowed heavily by national media. Alas, not only did Jazmyne politicize his death, she also monetized it by shaking down democrats for some of Ed Buck’s money, but the breaking of the Ed Buck story is a story all by itself that needs to be told at some point.
We’ve had a lot of crazy stories these past seven years. There’s my interview with then Mayor John Duran that lead to a national scandal that eventually forced him to step down as mayor, which was not our intention at all. We broke stories on the closings of Circus of Books, Rage, Gold Coast, FuBar, and other queer spaces that shocked the community. And we cover the many new businesses that have opened as well. We were the first to report on the queen that tried to steal a 30-inch dildo from Circus of Books recently, which was picked up by TMZ and went national. And our story on the little girl scout that sold cookies at the gay bars in WeHo was recently featured in the Drew Barrymore Show and Good Morning America. All of these things went down in the City of West Hollywood and you read it here first.
What do you consider your greatest success with WeHo Times?
When Lisa Belsanti, the former West Hollywood Director of Communications approached me to tell me that the City wanted to advertise with WeHo Times because she thought we were doing a great job, that was very validating. She admitted that never happens. People usually approach her. WeHo Times is award-winning. We don’t do it perfectly by any means, but we’ve been doing it every day for the past seven years. That consistency is harder than it seems. I’m also happy with the way the website looks and I’m proud of the photo journalism that goes into it. I think our photos connect with the community, which is why I believe people are so engaged with our Instagram account unlike any of our other social media platforms.
What is your hope for the future of WeHo Times?
We go back to the opening of this interview. I don’t come from money. I’m not privileged with a rich uncle leaving me his small fortune. All I have is a crazy work ethic and a group of community members who support what we’re trying to do here. There is no way I do this alone. My hope for WeHo Times is that we go back to 2019 before the pandemic hit. We won a Chamber award, advertising revenue was going up, we had a groove going before it all turned to shit and everything shut down–but regardless of the struggle, not once has anyone heard me crying about throwing in the towel or selling the business. My hope is that I make enough revenue to hire more people to get WeHo Times to its full potential. The potential is there and that’s what keeps this going.