"I was ahead of my time. I did what I did on my own with no help from anybody."
(1901-1997) Perhaps no one has had as much to do with transforming Los Angeles from a provincial community to a modern, sophisticated city than Dorothy Buffum Chandler. She was the woman who kept the Chandler dynasty alive, pushing husband Norman to reach beyond his parochial orbit and touch a larger world while she groomed her only son to assume his proper place in her master plan to change the Los Angeles Times from a reactionary regional paper to a modern national one. Not since Norman’s father, Harry Chandler, had anyone in the family thought so big. She claimed her empire-building father-in-law had once said, “You’re more like me than any of my own daughters.” But not one of Norman’s five sisters and two brothers much cared for the girl he nicknamed “Buff.” The unspoken message was that she wasn’t good enough for him. It didn’t matter that her father, Charles, had founded the successful Buffum’s chain of department stores and had served a term as the mayor of Long Beach. Of Norman’s seven siblings, only the youngest, 15-year-old Helen, joined her parents, Harry and Marian Chandler, in attending the marriage of their son to Dorothy Buffum.
Dorothy gave birth to two children, Camilla in 1925 and Otis two years later. In 1932, she became paralyzed by depression, unable to hear or see people. At Norman’s insistence, his wife entered treatment at the home of pioneering psychiatrist Josephine Jackson. Dr. Jackson told Dorothy that she was right to be unhappy; she was unchallenged and needed to become involved in life. After four months, she quit treatment and moved with Norman, Camilla and Otis to Long Beach where they lived for the next three years. She said, “Norman’s theory was: ‘If you stay with me, you and I will make it and we can’t worry about them.’ And so it was the two of us against five sisters and two brothers.”
Eventually, Dorothy found her way. She moved forward with the relentless ferocity and single-mindedness of purpose required to pick up where her father-in-law had left off, and she achieved her own impossible dream by creating Los Angeles’ Music Center.