his famous middle name through a variety of posts and assignments, Lionel
Menuhin Rolfe has worked for over thirty years as feature reporter,
correspondent, columnist, and editor for an array of Southern California
newspapers and magazines, while taking time to write several books that
uniquely reflect his interests.
Rolfe was born
in 1942 in Medford, Oregon, but grew up in Los Angeles on the West
Side and in Long Beach, later attending L.A. City College and L.A.
State University. His father, Benjamin Rolfe, was an attorney and
Workers' Compensation Appeals Court Judge; his mother Yaltah was a
concert pianist and the sister of the famed violinist-prodigy Yehudi
Menuhin. Early memories of his musical household were enhanced by
extended visits to the home of his maternal grandparents in Los Gatos,
California. This led to a preoccupation with the Menuhin dynasty,
which became the subject of his first book, The Menuhins: A Family
Odyssey, in 1978, casting enough light into dark corners to leave
behind an estrangement between the nephew and his celebrated uncle
which never fully healed.
spent his journeyman years writing for outlying papers in Pismo Beach,
Turlock, and Newhall, before returning to L.A. and a stint with Los
Angeles Free Press when it was still the counterculture paper-of-record.
Rolfe's abiding interest in the Bohemian world carries forward from
the "Freep" and the residual coffeehouse culture of the 70s.
Of greater permanance
was the work Rolfe did at the end of the decade for the Los Angeles
Herald-Examiner. Writing regular feature articles for the Sunday
magazine, he amassed a sizable file on the lives of bygone California
authors, which later appeared in book form as his Literary L.A.,
published by Chronicle Books in 1981. An alternative weekly, the L.A.
Reader, was also home to lengthy investigative articles on political
and cultural figures, as well as such favorite Rolfe topics as railroads
and bookstores. Later in the '80s, and "still wrestling with his Jewish
identity," Rolfe wrote syndicated articles for Israel Today
and became editor of the city's second oldest newspaper, the B'nai
In the early
90's Rolfe co-researched and co-wrote Bread and Hyacinths: The
Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles, on turn-of-the-century urban
politics and the life of Socialist politician Job Harriman. With his
wife Nigey Lennon, he went into publishing under the imprint "California
Classic Books;" and he works today as Editor at City News Service,
also writing the occasional op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle
and other papers. In 1998 Rolfe published Fat Man on the Left,
an anthology of favorite essays and portraits, expanded into a retrospective
of his work to date.
the 1980s, Lionel Rolfe has placed copies of his journalistic work
on an ongoing basis with the American Literature Collection at the
University of Southern California.