Torie Osborn is a longtime Los Angeles political organizer and activist. Before participating in a panel on what Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first year says about the future of L.A., she explained why “Light My Fire” might be her theme song—as long as one accepts “fire” as referring to a passion for social justice.
What’s your worst habit?
Probably too much frozen yogurt.
What advice do you give to aspiring politicians?
Keep a database. Every business card, everybody you’ve ever known. To me, good electoral politics is much more dependent on how many people are in your network than just about anything else. And if they’re on the organizing social justice side, I would say, integrity and passion—all you have is your reputation, so be sure to build and keep relationships.
What would your theme song be?
What would a good theme song that has to do with passion for social justice be? I don’t know—“Light My Fire”? I think that’s supposed to be about sex, but we’ll make it about justice.
Do you know any poems by heart?
I do, but it’s kind of odd. I know one long prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis, and it’s a wonderful prayer. And “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats: “I will arise and go now …” I don’t know why it imprinted. My favorite poet is Adrienne Rich. I know snippets of her poems, but I don’t know any by heart.
What’s your favorite under the radar L.A. spot?
When people come from out of town I take them to Back on the Beach Café in northern Santa Monica. I don’t know if that’s under the radar.
What’s the last great party you attended?
Yesterday I went to the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of Barry and Paula Litt. He is an esteemed class action lawyer, and she was on the board of the Liberty Hill Foundation when I ran it. It was 300 people, probably half from their days in the commune they lived in in the 1970s, and half from the progressive movements from the last 40 years. It was a big old party because it was the wedding they never had.
What country would you choose to annex as the 51st U.S. state?
My home country. I was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and I’ve always appreciated the sense of social equity and democracy and civic-minded civility—a kind of firm belief in the middle class. Although it doesn’t fit demographically with where the U.S. is going …
What was the most important year of your life?
Probably the year that I turned 14. I was born in 1950, so that was 1964—50 years ago, actually, and I really wanted to go to Freedom Summer. It was important because I remember making the case for my parents about a life led by a passion for justice. It was the first time I articulated that. That was a turning point—the first time I had to craft a dream, and it happened to be a dream that merged my personal future with a social movement, and that in fact has been my life’s work.
Where would we find you at 9 p.m. on a typical Friday night?
You would either find me at the Landmark Theatre in Westwood at a movie, or you would find me reading a book at home with my gray cat on my lap.
What’s your greatest indulgence?
I think probably taking time. I never used to do this when I was younger. Taking time to look at a hummingbird or hang out in my garden or to rest—take a nap. That’s it! Taking a nap. It took me to my mid-60s to discover the pleasure of nap-taking.