Tales of Gavin Newsom

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

This past week I managed to break free of the Los Angeles gravity for a few days and travel among our fellow Californians who live north of the Tehachapi Mountains.

Writers through the years have already described very well how we southern Californians stand out from the northerners. And vice-versa. No need to go there again.

But one of the things we share in common is the ability to enjoy a good taking down of our politicians now and then. Right now, there's a decently entertaining story in the air up there about the foibles of Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco.

For most of this year, Newsom got nothing but good media.

He was running for governor, had amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, and boasted of endorsements from ex-President Bill Clinton and other top Democrats.

Newsom's momentum and his rising national star were seen as partial factors in Antonio Villaraigosa's decision to stay home and sit out the race for governor. Perhaps symbolically, our mayor only had a few thousand followers on Twitter.

Newsom and Villaraigosa often shared the same media spotlights because both were West Coast mayors, of course. And ambitious and photogenic.

They also shared an affection for TV news women and a public history of romantic turbulence.

If you don't remember the details on Newsom's love life, here's a very quick summary.

Early in 2007, he was confronted by his reelection campaign manager about a newly discovered affair between the manager's wife and the manager's boss. That would be Mayor Newsom.

The wife had also been on the mayor's staff. Once it all got out, the campaign manager resigned, his wife admitted to being in rehab for substance abuse, and Newsom told reporters “Everything you heard and read is true.”

The mayor also confessed to his own issues with alcohol and got some help.

Since then, Newsom has been reelected to a second term – with 72 percent of the vote -- and has married actress Jennifer Siebel.

When she went into labor and delivered a baby a few months ago, Newsom cheerfully tweeted the news to his fans.

Newsom, however, went uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter – and everywhere else – after he dropped out of the race for governor the day before Halloween.

He left town for Hawaii without telling his press deputy, and for days the Bay Area media speculated about the whereabouts of San Francisco's mayor.

He came back a new, more surly Gavin.

He's been ducking questions from the media and canceling some public appearances. The press secretary who got left in the dark resigned, as have some other high-level aides on the mayor's staff.

The San Francisco Chronicle has been referring to “the mayor's bizarre behavior,” and in an editorial chided him for becoming “a mystery man.”

His vanishing act might have worked for Michael Jackson or Greta Garbo, the Chronicle wrote, but for the mayor of a big city it was silly.

Newsom's side is saying that his so-called bizarre behavior is all media delusion, that he has been just doing his job. But it doesn't sound like anyone's buying it.

He finally sat down this week with a TV news political editor. It was billed as Newsom finally breaking his silence….but the interview didn't go well.

It ended with Newsom ripping off his mike and muttering that he was very disappointed in how the questioning went.

For Newsom, the holidays can't come soon enough. After Thanksgiving, he's found a sure way to give the local media the slip.

He's flying to Bangalore, India on a sister city mission, with a stopover in Dubai. No pesky reporters there.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.