Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. is dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; his research focuses on strategic communications, public policy, electoral politics, and racial and ethnic politics. Before participating in a panel on why Angelenos won’t vote, he talked about why he’d love to meet Prince, how his thought process is a lot like rap music, and the hard work of maintaining all his vices in the Zócalo green room.
Who or what do you root for?
I root for excellence in anything—in food, music, art, scholarship, advocacy. Last night, we [the Luskin School of Public Affairs] had an event with Marian Wright Edelman [president of the Children’s Defense Fund]. There were some young people there who are in re-entry programs. I was rooting for them. They’re trying to put their lives back together, and it’s an uphill struggle.
What word or phrase do you use most often?
What do you eat for breakfast?
A banana and, if I get real lucky, I’ll stop at the café on 19th Street for an organic peanut butter bar. It gets me to my office. But it’s not what I want. I want risotto carbonara—risotto with bacon and peas and a fried egg on top—from the Blu Jam Café.
What’s the last habit you tried to kick?
I maintain all my vices. I’ve never consciously tried to kick anything—except maybe overeating. Not smoking cigars. A lot people would be happy if I did. I haven’t thought about quitting seriously. My family thinks about it seriously.
What’s hanging on your walls?
Art from Cuba. We got this piece in Havana a few years ago. It’s in the dining room. It’s of a person—with bold, dynamic colors.
What keeps you up at night?
Nothing actually keeps me up at night. Things worry me when I wake up! We’re always trying to make the school better, to think of creative ways to do more with less, to find more resources.
What’s the last election you didn’t vote in?
Well I didn’t vote in the last mayoral election because I can’t: I live in an unincorporated area of L.A. County. I didn’t vote on Tuesday for a special election of my assembly district—it was a foregone conclusion. Of course there’s the “minimax regret model”: You have maximum regret if your preferred candidate loses by a minimum of one vote.
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
In the shower. Routinely, daily. My staff knows they’ll get a call pretty soon after I get out. Not that the ideas are any good, but I have them. It’s a lot like rap music: 95 percent are awful and 5 percent are good.
What’s your favorite (somewhat) hidden spot in Los Angeles?
There’s place called Orleans & York, which is a relatively new Louisiana/New Orleans-style deli with po’boy sandwiches. It’s in Windsor Hill. I order the shrimp traditional ... but not often. It’s not good for me.
Who is the one person living or dead that you’ve love to have dinner with?
Prince. He’s a genius. I’m interested in his creative process and how he works.