Flashbacks

FLASHBACK – Our Town Today, circa 1944

Stay on the job and finish the job, Los Angeles!

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From the book The Bad City in the Good War: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego:

In early 1944, fearing a labor shortage, the Citizens Manpower Committee of Los Angeles staged a drive to induce war workers to “Stay on the Job.” The Committee took advantage of the great Army and Navy show at the Los Angeles Coliseum to stress the need for housing. Like so many other institutions in the area, the Los Angeles Coliseum was built by city boosters. It arose in 1923 and was increased in size in order to lure the 1932 Olympics to that city. The Coliseum well illustrates the kind of hubris that Los Angeles’s detractors cite, but it also gave the homefront popularizers of the war effort a magnificent urban space in which to persuade defense workers to “Finish the Job” and landlords to keep renting to transients. (more…)

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IMAGERY – Poor Mrs. Pauline Paulson

CLICK ON IMAGES TO SEE LARGER VIEWS OF POOR MRS. PAULSON’S SUFFERING ©USC Digital Archive

On the glorious evening of March 10th, 1952, after watching her beloved film favorites depart the Hollywood Pantages Theater (where the 1952 Oscar ceremonies were held), 80-year-old grandmother Pauline Paulsen fell in between the rows of bleachers and was rushed to Hollywood Receiving Hospital. Ouch!!! Sure looks like Pauline is the star of the show in this shot! (more…)

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SERIES – Dr. George Shows Us The Newsroom, 1990

dr+george Curious to see what some of our long-standing local news anchors were really like twenty years ago? Well, here ya go. Looks like Dallas Raines was only *half* as orange!

I have to say in all seriousness that I miss Dr. George, though…

This is Part 1 of a 5 part Mini-Doc series done by Dr. George Fischbeck, entitled “How We Do The News”. It shows all the behind-the-scenes work it takes to put a newscast on the air. The year was 1990, and you can see all the archaic equipment we all had to work with — which was “Top of the line” for that day. Enjoy the telecast from Eyewitness News on KABC Channel 7 here in Los Angeles.”

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FLASHBACK – The Chicano Moratorium of 1970

chicanoOn August 29, 1970, the Chicano Moratorium against the war in Vietnam was held in East L.A.

Loyola-Marymount film student Tom Myrdahl shot this documentary, capturing the events that unfolded as law enforcement and protesters clashed in and around Laguna Park. This film has not been seen in nearly 40 years. Tom, who is still a working cameraman in Los Angeles, is putting this historic film on the web as a tribute to the brave citizens of East L.A. who came together 40 years ago to voice their dissent against the Vietnam War.

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IMAGERY – Barbecuing in Montrose, Feb. 22, 1913

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©USC Digital Library

Photograph(s) of an aerial view of a promotional land sale barbeque in Montrose near Glendale, February 22, 1913. A group of automobiles and horse-drawn carriages are parked at the center of a clearing, while pedestrians walk around towards the barbeque tables pictured in the left distance where a small shack can be seen to the side of a dirt road, and in the right foreground, surrounded by temporary fence. A road lined by utility poles curves behind the gathering from the left of the frame towards the mountains in the background, with an even smaller second shack stands near piles of gravel. A sign near the dirt road reads “Montrose Holmes-Walton Realtor Co.”

Images ©USC Digital Library

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HOOD – Laurel & Hardy’s Culver City

YouTube Preview Image “Many scenes in the Hal Roach comedies were shot on the streets of Culver City. The brilliant designer and pop culture historian Piet Schreuders creates a computer model of Culver City as it looked in the 20′s – and matches-in scenes from Laurel and Hardy comedies that were shot on site.”

I saw this a few years ago and it just blew me away. The amount of loving and precise effort this one man put into matching up the scenery is so impressive. Unfortunately, some of it isn’t subtitled, but it doesn’t really matter.

For a 13-page PDF of background about this clip, click here.

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LOCAL TV – I’ll Have What Fred Rated Was Having

If you aren’t an old school Southern Californian, the next sentence will mean nothing to you, but here goes. Fred Rated and I once celebrated our shared birthday together. I was working my night job at the time and he just happened to show up so we birthday bonded with each other for a few magical moments. Basically, he partied with his friends while I pretended not to be geeking out. If current tv commercials were half as creative as those old drug trip Federated spots, I wouldn’t fast forward through everything on my DVR.

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He now stays behind the scenes as the voice of the Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, but decades ago our local airwaves were under attack by actor/radio dj Shadoe Stevens (Terry Ingstad) and his frenetic alter ego, a hyperactive electronics pitchman in a Miami Vice suit. From Stevens’ web site:

“In the 1980′s, Shadoe Stevens was retained to devise an advertising strategy and branding campaign for a 14 store electronics chain known as the Federated Group. He created and played a character named Fred Rated in a series of commercials that were a mix of Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. Over a period of six years, he and a small team of artists created over 1,200 different commercials.”

Now let’s read that again… IN SIX YEARS, SIX PEOPLE CREATED 1,200 FRED RATED COMMERCIALS. Chew on that for a second. (more…)

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FLASHBACK – War on the Sunset Strip, Daddio!

Original post 10/19/09
The google video embed directly below is being inexplicably temperamental, so if the video doesn’t play for you, please click here to view it directly on google.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3472800140109729771
This eight minute video shows the culture clash cç one of the Sunset Strip curfew riots (AKA the “LA hippie riots”), a series of crowd control confrontations which occurred in the mid 1960s to early 1970s between insubordinate hippies and angry grown-ups (via the LAPD). Basically, the kids weren’t big on authority… and authority didn’t like that the kids weren’t big on authority. Soooo, drama ensued.

You know how it is… the Man’s always trying to keep us down!!!

Anyhoo, as a little treat… after the jump, please enjoy Hollywood’s far more entertaining and groovy take on these same crazy hoodlum youngsters of our city’s past… behold a few scenes from the 1967 film, Riot on The Sunset Strip.

Can you dig it? I knew that you could! (more…)

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FLASHBACK – The Exuberant Zest of WW2 SoCal

I’m not sure how many of the Japanese Americans who were relocated into local internment camps (or their descendants) would’ve considered it a “minor incident” of World War 2… but hey, those people could write their own dagnabbed newsreels! Um, or not.

“This video (part two, which focuses on local character, is after the jump) looks at what the future might be for California after World War II ends. Would there be enough jobs given the rapid population growth that was occurring? What industries might take up the slack when military spending ended? The post-WW2 Cold War was not foreseen. References are made to opportunities for trade with Russia and China. Nuclear energy – surprisingly – is seen as an alternative to hydro (and this is before Hiroshima.) The movie industry is recognized as important for the future. References are made to prewar social movements such as EPIC and the Ham & Eggs pension scheme and religious movements.”

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AWESOME – Frasier the Sensuous Lion

People often ask me how I choose the subjects of my posts. It’s a tough question to answer… often I’ll start working on a post, only to find that by following random links I’m led completely off topic to discover something that’s much more interesting than the original article I had in mind. This is one of those times. So, for the curious, here’s how this post happened: while doing research for a future article on the old Marineland, childhood memories of long-gone Lion Country Safari (1970-1984) distracted me. The quick google search that followed led me to the story of Frasier the Sensuous Lion, shown in all of his sexy glory below.

Frasier the Lion

It was this paragraph on the Yesterland website that jumped out at me: Frasier movie poster

“Lion Country Safari was given a big boost by an unlikely star attraction. An elderly, nearly toothless lion named Frasier came from a Mexican circus in February 1971. The old cat’s tongue dangled from one side of his mouth, and he had trouble walking. He may not have been much to look at as far as we humans were concerned, but the lionesses saw him differently. There was population boom of lion cubs at the park. Frasier’s sorry visage adorned tee-shirts and other park souvenirs. Frasier sired 35 cubs until his death in June 1972 at 17-20 years of age, equivalent to a human age of 85-100 years. Frasier even inspired a 1973 feature movie, Frasier the Sensuous Lion, rated PG.” (See creepy poster at right)

Vaguely remembering this funny looking lion from my childhood, I had an instant urge to find out more about Frasier. Imagine my surprise when I found out his active sex life had actually gained enough notoriety for the late jazz greats Jimmy Rowles, Johnny Mercer, and Sarah Vaughan to create a song documenting it (video and full lyrics after the jump).

Go Frasier! (more…)

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FLASHBACK – Forced Integration in L.A.

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September 1970 “This news clip from 1970 focuses on the start of desegregation-via-busing in the Pasadena school district and the signing of an anti-busing bill by California Gov. Ronald Reagan. A much larger controversy later surrounded busing in the Los Angeles Unified School District, since that district covered many more students. Busing in L.A. and elsewhere in California was largely halted by litigation and the passage of a ballot initiative in the early 1980s.

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October 1980 Litigation to order a busing plan for the Los Angeles Unified School District began in the 1960s and a plan was ultimately ordered by Judge Paul Egly in the late 1970s. This news report focuses on “white flight” from the District. Proposition 1 of 1979 was a reaction to the busing plan and limited the scope of busing. After several years of litigation, Prop 1 was upheld and the plan ended. The video shows a sign denouncing Judge Egly.”

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FLASHBACK – 1950s Babies On Parade

Gee, your hair smells terrific…

©USC Digital Archive ©USC Digital ArchiveJuly 28, 1951: Three year-old Bobby Ashe – Everest (“Master Ladera Park”) puts his smooth moves on 22 month-old Sharon Hawkins (“Miss Ladera Park”) at The Ladera Park Baby Show.

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MATINEE – Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles

After the jump, a really great 30 minute long documentary (shown in 3 parts) about iconic author Raymond Chandler‘s take on the corruption of Los Angeles in the 1930s… a paradise infiltrated by dope fiends, smut peddlers, schemers in low places and high, crooked cops and crooked politicians…
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Raymond ChandlerAnd here’s something you might not have known… I’ll bet you’ve passed The Cahuenga Building in Hollywood a million times and not thought twice about it… but the six-story structure erected by John and Donald Parkinson (they also built Bullock’s Wilshire and the Santa Monica City Hall) was once the tallest building on the Boulevard and the high-profile home for L.A.’s best-known fictional private detective. Cynical gumshoe Philip Marlowe‘s office was located on the top floor in Suite #615 and it’s for this very reason that the building’s intersection was officially named after his creator, author Raymond Chandler. Interested in checking the building out? Well you’ll soon be able to spend the night… it’s currently being turned into a boutique hotel.

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FLASHBACK – Racing Thru The Clouds in Venice

©VirtualVenice.infoOnce upon a time, the first roller coaster ever built on the West Coast reached towards the Venice, California sky. The ride was called Race Thru The Clouds and when it opened on July 4, 1911, even with only half of its cars on line over 25,000 people rode it. Yes, in one day. Roller coasters soon became such a popular attraction in Venice that fourteen were built in between 1904 and 1925. In the early 1920′s, visitors to Venice had a choice of six different rides: three on the Venice Pier, one on the inland lagoon and two on the Ocean Park/Lick Piers.

Although the first coaster is long gone, you can still find evidence of Race Thru The Clouds nearby if you look… architect Steve Ehrlich themed a nearby commercial building after its curves. I think my favorite tribute is this, though: a Folsom Prison inmate named William Jennings-Bryan Burke once spent over a decade erecting a replica of the ride made entirely out of toothpicks! AWESOME! (He actually built entire carnivals from toothpicks. I’m not kidding.)

(CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW FOR LARGER VIEWS)©USC Digital Archive
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HISTORY – Sister Aimee & Her Castle

angelusAs some of you may know, as a teenager during the early 20th century my grandmother preached in tent revivals alongside (and also babysat for) local evangelist Sister Aimee Semple McPherson, who was once – without question – the most powerful, influential, and controversial woman in all of America. Founder of the Foursquare Church, Sister Aimee opened her Angelus Temple on New Year’s Day in 1923… a giant round building facing Echo Park which no doubt many of you pass daily without thinking twice about. The building’s cost was an unheard-of 1.2 million dollars at the time (paid for through average donations of TWO CENTS!!)… leading one critic to declare that Aimee “put the cost in Pentecost.”

At the very bottom of this post is a rare video tour of Aimee’s castle home in Lake Elsinore. Directly below are a few short samples of the show-womanship of Sister Aimee in all of her sin-battling glory… so REPENT, SINNERS!
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EXPLORE – LA’s Abandoned Zoo

zoo sign

In the heart of Griffith Park lies a ghost zoo, built in 1912 and abandoned in 1965. You can still visit it, but you’ll have to bring your own animals. A breakdown of the old zoo’s story can be found here.





WARNING: For those of you viewing this from other countries… if you don’t speak English as a first language you might struggle at first to understand the narration in the above video, mainly because it’s true that many of us speak very fast and slur our words together here in Los Angeles and this narrator is no different. (Take a breath, man!) Honestly I’m known to turn five words into one on a regular basis myself, though, which can lose people who aren’t used to hearing it. It’s a great video, though. :)

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FLASHBACK – The Sewing Nun, circa 1950

When poor little orphans were unable to pick up the dolls she made for them, Sister Josephine donned her giant habit and gallantly took to the air, flying from house to house like a true holiday superhero. Santa shmanta.
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EXM-P-S-LOS-ANG-CIT-ORP-028

“Hopeful — Sister Josephine of the Los Angeles Orphanage sews doll clothes while Staff Sergeant Leo T. Batt asks Clara Jean, 8 (left), Johnnie, 9, Dede, 9, and Mary, 7, what they want for Christmas through Corps Reserve’s Toys For Tots campaign. Girls want dolls.”

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FLASHBACK – Mark and Brian’s Mullets, circa 1991

For a playlist of the full parade, click here.
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KLOS morning show DJs Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps came West from Birmingham, Alabama in September 1987. Initially it was their endearing “fish out of water” shtick that really won over viewers… I actually remember laughing out loud while listening to their live Halloween morning broadcast from Bel Air,  as they yelled “trick or treat” into the estate intercoms while dressed as ax murderers. (Yes, police were called.) At the time, they were definitely a refreshing and welcomed change from their competition.

As L.A. became their home, the pair become progressively more “Hollywood” and upon receiving a 1991 National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award as “Air Personalities of the Year,” Mark & Brian were clearly a hot commodity. So much so that ABC Television, hoping to find a West Coast Howard Stern Show on their hands, offered to broadcast “Mark and Brian’s Day Before Thanksgiving Parade” for their fans.

The video above was taped eighteen years ago on November 27, 1991. In what is perhaps not a surprise move in retrospect, ABC chose not to make the parade an annual television event. Personally, I blame that electric blue jacket combo. Just… wow.

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PART 3 – Robert Kennedy

SERIES: Visions of the Ambassador

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On June 4th, 1968, Robert Kennedy was confident he had just clinched the Democratic primary. He was set to be the next President of the United States, and with his leadership would come change. Kennedy was one of the first leaders of his stature and background to forcefully inspire and include people of all ages and colors, his goal being to create a better nation that would stand together and end racial and economic injustice. Having together witnessed the losses of Kennedy’s brother and Martin Luther King, Jr., many Americans recognized and embraced his urgent passion as genuine, and saw his dreams of change as their own.

Although Bobby Kennedy was staying on the fifth floor of the (now renovated) Sportsman’s Lodge, his political base in Los Angeles was the Royal Suite in the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy’s last speech was held in the Ambassador’s Embassy Room, and he was fatally shot as he exited through the kitchen.

The first video above was taken from the funeral train which carried Kennedy’s body. Along the entire path of the train’s journey, Americans from every imaginable walk of life gathered together along the tracks to say goodbye to the man who had embodied their hopes and dreams… and was taken from them.

After the jump, photos of the man convicted for the murder of Bobby Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, then and in 2008. (Click on thumbnails for larger views.) (more…)

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IMAGERY – Ye Olde Beverly Hills Hotel

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As it’s a gorgeous day outside, my friend Geraldine and I will be observing interesting people and sights during a lazy Sunday wander through the indisputably historic Beverly Hills Hotel. Hell, we’ll probably even enjoy a cocktail/nosh at the Polo Lounge and hang out until we just can’t take the color combinations of pink and green any longer. Because that’s how we roll. We’re rogues.

Anyhoooo, the image below is what Hotel California looked like in 1920. If you look, you’ll see that this view is from Will Rogers’ Park (land which singer George Michaels is now banned from stepping foot on) overlooking Sunset Boulevard.

After the jump is another little treat… something we probably won’t ever see in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel ever again. Take a look at where the streetcar is located on the left side of the landscape photo below… that’s the exact location where the next image was captured some years later.©USC Digital Archive

Photograph of an exterior view of the Beverly Hills Hotel, 1920. A lavish courtyard is pictured in the foreground, with steps leading up to its paved walkway, which is lined to either side by palm trees. Several auxiliary walkways that branch from it demarcate circular areas of grass, beyond which a streetcar is visible parked in the driveway that stands in front of the large, three-story, L-shaped hotel. Three spires extend from the roof at the crook of the “L” from which flags wave. A second, equally large building can be seen in the far distance to the right, along with mountains.

(more…)

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SERIES – Knott’s: From Boysenberries to Ride Warriors

I’m really enjoying exploring things for more than one post. So today we’re going to head a bit South to introduce yet another series. This time we’ll be exploring a local landmark that *even your kids* are very familiar with (but probably don’t know the history of)… the former fruit stand of Walter Knott.

Basically, we’ll learn more about how this…

Image via image-archeology.com

Turned into this… (more…)

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PART 2 – The Ambassador Hotel All-Stars

SERIES: Visions of the Ambassador

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click for larger viewDuring the roaring 20s and 30s, the Ambassador Hotel’s nightclub “house bands” quickly became the most popular orchestras in the world. An issue of (the then-popular and catchy-named) Talking Machine World magazine identified Abe Lyman’s California Ambassador Orchestra (see video clip above) as “Los Angeles’ most famous popular musical organization” in 1923.

Abe Lyman (August 4, 1897 – October 23, 1957) was a popular bandleader from the 1920s to the 1940s. He made recordings, appeared in films and provided the music for numerous radio shows, including Your Hit Parade… For an engagement at the Cocoanut Grove in The Ambassador Hotel on April 1, 1922, Abe added a violinist and saxophonist. Opening night drew a large crowd of 1500 guests in the Cocoanut Grove, plus another 500 more outside.”

For a five year run in the 30s, a dapper group of musicians known as Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra (see video below) was then stationed at the Cocoanut Grove and widely considered to be the most popular band on the West coast. In 1930, the band began to feature male singing trio The Rhythm Boys, featuring a young singer named Bing Crosby. Arnheim Orchestra alumni also included Stan Kenton, Russ Columbo (seen playing violin and singing in the middle of the trio in the clip below), Charlie Spivak, Woody Herman, and actor Fred McMurray (on saxophone).
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IMAGERY – Traffic on the Cahuenga Pass, 1897

Welcome to the original 101 Freeway.

Photograph of two cyclists on the Cahuenga Pass, Los Angeles, circa 1897. The man to the right walks his bicycle on the unpaved road, looking at his companion riding to the left, on whose back is strapped a briefcase of some kind. The terrain surrounding them is comprised entirely of grassy hills. Caption on photoprint reads: “Cahuenga Pass — connecting Hollywood and San Fernando Valley — as it was in 1897.”

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©USC Digital Archive

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SERIES – Visions of the Ambassador: Introduction

ambassador2Today I was remembering a fancy corporate event I witnessed in the mid-90s. It was the kind of an all-out, over-the-top shindig people simply don’t *have* in economic times like these. The theme of this party was the famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub… so for one night, Disney paid to have the Ambassador Hotel returned to its former glory. A friend had been invited by a client, and I won the lottery as his plus one.

ambassadorUntil I physically got out of the car that night, it really didn’t register what I was about to experience. I knew about the Cocoanut Grove and I knew Robert Kennedy had been shot in the kitchen… but walking up to the front, surrounded by klieg lights, the night ended up being more profound and emotional for me than I’d expected. There was plentiful food and drink, and fortune tellers and games scattered around… but it was the building that entertained me. At one point I remember walking through the nightclub just mesmerised by the palm tree columns that still existed. After a few drinks, while everyone else was busy shmoozing, I then became obsessed with seeing where Kennedy died. A small group of us convinced a waiter to let us sneak back into the kitchen and I remember tipsily wandering around muttering “Where is it?” until a busboy pointed down at the ground. I sobered up instantly as a very haunting image flashed into my brain and wouldn’t leave. The past became so vivid for a moment that I felt a bit of an Overlook Hotel vibe. I was a bit quieter for the rest of the night.

When the party was over, I knew in my heart that I’d been touched by a place that wasn’t going to exist much longer. The importance wasn’t lost on me… as I walked outside I felt like someone hesitating to leave their sickly grandparent’s house, knowing they probably weren’t going to see them alive again. And sure enough, I didn’t… as the Ambassador faced the wrecking ball, I avoided driving by it. I found its destruction too depressing to think about.

On the 24 acres where the Ambassador once stood, a $571-million kindergarten-to-12th-grade school campus is gradually opening its doors now. I’m not complaining about this… what’s happened has happened and as I see it the hard facts here are simple ones. Both of these statements are true and indisputable: 1) Schools are good. 2) We have lost something very special. So this month I’m going to do a little series focusing on the incredible glory of Los Angeles’ former jewel The Ambassador Hotel. It was too fantabulous and important of a place for one single post to do it justice.

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