DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Even as the last of his fellow employees were leaving the Herald-Examiner building when the newspaper published its final edition on Nov. 2, 1989, no one told Charles Lutz that he too had to go.
So he stayed on the payroll and continued coming to work as part of the three-person closeout crew. When that assignment ended no one from the New York-based Hearst Corporation — the newspaper’s parent company, which still owns the structure at 1111 S. Broadway — told Lutz that he was no longer needed at the vacant building. So he kept coming back to work every day.
Now, the day of departure is finally approaching. On Jan. 9, 2013, after 39 years, Lutz will leave the building.
While Lutz admits he’s had it pretty easy in the last few years — he insists on not walking unless he absolutely has to — he’s not going to miss the job.
“I can’t wait for it to get here,” he said, referring to his last day. With a celebratory tone that escalated into a laugh, he added, “Because then I won’t have to come to work anymore!”
That’s not to say the 68-year-old building manager hasn’t been a passionate worker for nearly four decades.
“It goes without saying Chuck has been a dedicated L.A. Herald-Examiner and Hearst Corporation employee,” said Marty Cepkauskas, the San Francisco-based director of real estate for Hearst and Lutz’s boss. “He is the person with all the answers. He’s the go-to man for anything to do with the property.”
When the paper closed in 1989 some Herald-Examiner employees moved on to other positions with the company, but Lutz is the only one from that era still at the old building, which is now mainly used for film shoots, Cepkauskas said. He will be replaced by another Hearst employee who has no ties to the Herald-Examiner.
William Randolph Hearst founded the Los Angeles Examiner in 1903. In 1913 he commissioned architect Julia Morgan to design the 100,000-square-foot building at the corner of Broadway and 11th Street.
In 1962 the newspaper merged with the Herald Express to become the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
Lutz moved to Los Angeles from Ohio with his brother in 1965 to look for work. He later learned from a neighbor about a job at the Herald-Examiner driving trucks and delivering newspapers to dealers, who at the time brought the papers to subscribers.
It was 1974 and about 1,800 people worked in the building, Lutz recalls. He worked nights and ended each shift with a 4 a.m. breakfast at a coffee shop across the street.
“It wasn’t hard,” said Lutz, who sports a short gray beard and a hefty physique. “You had a good time, you did your job and you got paid.”
Lutz moved through several departments at the paper, from a stint in outside purchasing where he would head to Costco to buy office supplies, to taking inventory of newspapers in stock to other odd jobs, some of which he can’t recall.
“That’s why I don’t walk now, because I did enough walking then,” he said.
Lutz arrives at work at about 6 a.m. As building manager he takes care of any problems that arise. These days that mostly means calling the plumber or electrician if anything goes wrong. Or if the gate breaks and he can’t fix it himself, he will call a repairman.
He’s also in charge of signing a lot of film contracts, since the building is currently mainly used for that purpose. He checks the mail, makes sure bills get paid and collects several newspapers a day, which he then sends to the San Francisco office so Hearst officials have hard copies of local news.
His most frequent contacts are employees of Hollywood Locations, which represents the building for film shoots. They include Shannon Halliday, who has an office at the property.
“Chuck is very blunt and to the point,” Halliday said. “I like working with him. He’s a breath of fresh air.”
Halliday, who also works for Hearst to help maintain the building, often brings Lutz his breakfast, along with his newspapers, and he collects the mail for him. He also makes sure that when film crews are in the building no ones moves his stuff or takes anything from the property, since that really upsets Lutz.
“I am going to miss Chuck,” Halliday said. “There’s a sense of stability when he’s here.”
A week after Lutz stops working his brother will retire as a Metro bus driver. The two plan to move to Nevada and have a few horses, which Lutz loves to train.
Lutz doesn’t expect to look back after his final day at work.
“I’m just happy to be done,” he said. “At 68-years old I’m kind of old and run down. I want to take it easy.”
Contact Richard Guzmán at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©Los Angeles Downtown News.