Cooper, Marc

views updated



Male; married Patricia Vargas, c. 1974; children: Natasha. Education: Attended California State University, 1966-71. Hobbies and other interests: Ham radio operation, surf-fishing, playing blackjack.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Nation Books, 33 Irving Pl., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10003.


Journalist. Press officer for Chilean President Salvador Allende, 1971-73; freelance journalist, 1973—; KPFK-FM, Los Angeles, CA, news and public affairs director, 1980-83; journalism instructor at California State University at Los Angeles and at Northridge, and for the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California; special correspondent for the Village Voice; senior editor for L. A. Weekly; host and executive producer of weekly radio program RadioNation. Correspondent for television and radio, including for CBC, NBC, and Monitor Radio; reporter and producer of news documentaries, including for CBS News, PBS Frontline, and the Christian Science Monitor. Senior fellow for border justice, Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, Los Angeles, CA.


Recipient of awards from PEN America, Society of Professional Journalists, Sidney Hillman Foundation, Armstrong Memorial Foundation of Columbia University, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Greater Los Angeles Press Club, and California Associated Press Television and Radio Association.


Roll Over, Che Guevera: Travels of a Radical Reporter, Verso (New York, NY), 1994.

Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir, Verso (New York, NY), 2001.

The Last Honest Place in America: Paradise and Perdition in the New Las Vegas, Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to books, including Literary Las Vegas, Holt, 1995, and La Oreja de Dios, Prensa Latina (Havana, Cuba), 1998. Also contributor to periodicals, including the Los Angeles Times, London Times, Playboy, Nation, and Rolling Stone. Contributing editor to the Nation magazine.


Marc Cooper's career in journalism began in high school, when he published an underground newspaper. Though he did not expect to make journalism his life's work at the time, events conspired to lead him in that direction anyway. Expelled from college by then-California governor Ronald Reagan because of his protests against the Vietnam War, Cooper spent the next two years working as a translator for the president of Chile, Salvador Allende. A CIA-orchestrated military coup that ousted Allende resulted in Cooper's forced flight from the country. On the positive side, he met Patricia Vargas in Chile and later married her. Leading a peripatetic life after the coup, Cooper and his new bride traveled around the world looking for a place to establish themselves. Cooper confessed on his Web site that he discovered he "had no marketable skills other than reporting and writing." He therefore embarked on a career that has made him well known as a reporter with leftist leanings who often attacks the political right in articles for such magazines and newspapers as the London Times, Los Angeles Times, and Rolling Stone. A regular contributor to the Nation and Village Voice, as well, Cooper also gained recognition as the host and executive producer of the syndicated weekly radio program RadioNation.

A number of Cooper's articles are collected in his first book, Roll Over, Che Guevera: Travels of a Radical Reporter, which includes stories published between 1983 and 1994. The book is divided into two sections: "Here," which includes reports on American crises, and "There," which covers hot spots in other countries. Most of the stories first appeared in the Village Voice. According to Antonio Munroe in the San Francisco Review of Books, the quality of these articles is "consistently high." Cooper writes about Panama City in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, specifically focusing on his visit to Gamboa Prison, where political prisoners were housed. Another article, "Rainforest Crude," describes the destruction of the rainforests in Ecuador, along with the lives of the indigenous people there, by foreign oil companies. Other topics include the role of Cuban exiles in the United States and the effects of runaway capitalism in post-Ccommunist Russia.

The stories about America examine the Los Angeles Police Department, life in Las Vegas, and the Christian Right, among other subjects. Munroe asserted that Roll Over, Che Guevara "serves where the mainstream media can't, or won't—and does it ably." And in the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Nishan Havardjian commented that the book "shuns the kind of … reporting that we too often see in American media. It is not glamorous, it may not win you friends back home, but you have a duty to report and interpret the human condition in other lands, and if hell is us, we better say it."

Cooper examines his years in Chile with his second book, Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir, which describes the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973 and then proceeds to cover the years through the 1990s, when General Augusto Pinochet was in power, ending with the dictator's arrest in England for human rights violations. Cooper, who had to flee Chile in 1973 as a refugee with the assistance of the United Nations, writes passionately about this terrifying time, as well as about his "survivor's guilt" over having evaded the fate so many others suffered who were left behind. Of this book, Progressive critic Roger Bybee said, "Rarely does one find a book that is simultaneously so gripping, humane, and insightful." And a Nation writer concluded that the author's "firsthand reporting on the twists and turns of the following quarter-century is by turns chilling and poignant."

Cooper completed a portrait of Sin City with 2003's The Last Honest Place in America: Paradise and Perdition in the New Las Vegas. Cooper, who enjoys a good game of blackjack himself, describes the evolution of Las Vegas from its days when much of the gambling was controlled by the mob and the members of the "Rat Pack," including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin, performed at the Desert Inn. Beginning his story with the 2001 razing of the Desert Inn to mark a symbolic transition point between the "old" and "new" Las Vegas, Cooper explains how gambling has become "gaming," and how large corporations have taken over the casinos from the mob and turned Las Vegas into a more family-oriented vacation destination. Nevertheless, the seediness remains in tucked-away corners where those who wish to can still get a lap dance, and not far off the brightly-lit strips one can find homeless people living in poverty. Cooper also covers sleazy politics and business shenanigans that are part of the history of Las Vegas, but what really makes the story interesting, according to Booklist contributor David Pitt, is how Cooper allows himself to be subjected to the city's allure in a book Pitt described as "new journalism meets the New Vegas." A Publishers Weekly critic found that the whole experience of Cooper's book left one feeling "somewhat empty" because there seemed to be no point to this cultural guide, but praised the author because he "writes well and has an eye for bizarre situations."



Cooper, Marc, Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir, Verso (New York, NY), 2001.


Booklist, March 1, 2004, David Pitt, review of The Last Honest Place in America: In Search of Paradise and Perdition in the New Las Vegas, p. 1121.

Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, autumn, 1995, Nishan Havardjian, review of Roll Over, Che Guevera: Travels of a Radical Reporter, pp. 750-751.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of The Last Honest Place in America, p. 162.

Library Journal, January 1, 2001, Jill Ortner, review of Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir, p. 134.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 16, 1996, Charles Solomon, review of Roll Over, Che Guevera, p. 15.

Nation, January 22, 2001, "Troops in the Streets," p. 36.

Progressive, October, 2001, Roger Bybee, review of Pinochet and Me, p. 44.

Publishers Weekly, February 16, 2004, review of The Last Honest Place in America, p. 164.

San Francisco Review of Books, March, 1995, Antonio Munroe, "Dispatch Desperado," p. 10.


Marc Cooper Home Page, (August 26, 2004).*

About this article

Cooper, Marc

Updated About content Print Article