Patrick Goldstein‘s “The Big Picture” column, which began 12 years ago, has breathed its last. Goldstein explained nothing in his final installment except “this is my last.” No, he wasn’t whacked. Rather, he’s taken a buyout. But was he asked to take it or did he go up to his editors and say, “Can you guys give me an effing buyout so I can blow this pop stand?” Had they leaned on him to change his game (file more often, become chattier) and he said “naaah”?

Patrick Goldstein

I wrote Patrick and asked what’s up, what happened, what he’ll be doing. A new online column? Radio silence. Nikki Finke is reporting that part of his deal is that he’s agreed not to trash the L.A. Times. In other words, he’s not allowed to speak candidly.

Whatever happened, the L.A. Times has been swirling around and down for a long time. It’s largely a gutted, dying organization, and no longer the kind of place, apparently, that understands and fully supports the kind of in-depth, “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” film-industry column Goldstein has been writing all these years.

I gather Patrick came in one day, looked around at the L.A. Times newsroom, figured the jig was up and why prolong the agony?, made a face like he’s John Wayne looking at Dean Martin in the opening minutes of Rio Bravo, hocked a loogie and spit into the spitoon, took the check, said “adios” and got on his horse and rode into the hills like Shane. He’ll take a few weeks off and start writing again, I mean.

A friend says “it has been known for several weeks that the new editors at the Times had laid down the law to Goldstein, insisting [that] he write much more frequently in return for the big check he was getting. It was no more ‘one column a week’ and occasional internet pieces, which he kept resisting. The guy would rather go to his kid’s little league games and in reality write about baseball instead of showbiz.”