Friday, September 28, 2012

Dia de los Moles

We are all celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month through October 15, a fact that usually stays in the back of my consciousness until someone says Mole. Then I pay attention.

Mole!  There is actually a Feria de los Moles on Olvera Street, October 7th from 10 am to 7 pm.

Last year, 30,000 people showed up. I'm going early. There will also be live music and folk art/craft booths, etc. It's definitely a family-oriented festival.

If you speak Spanish, you can read all about the details here.

Si tu no habla, like me, I'll just tell you that the big event features  moles from Puebla and Oaxaca so you can do your own taste test, and that at least 13 different moles will be available, along with other Mexican goodies which are, to quote the LatinRapper blog, "dulce, salado y picante."

Ah-ha! Here is the Feria de los Moles website with all the information you need. I was going to look up mole's history, but the Feria website already repeats most of it.

Mole is made up of many, many flavors, including pinches of cocoa, clove, cinnamon, pepper, with tomatoes, almonds, and vanilla--just to start. It comes in yellow, green, black, red, and many other varieties. Usually, you get it served over chicken, but some innovative restaurants--like Ortega 120 of Redondo Beach--serve special moles over baby back ribs or enchiladas.

There's a charming legend that the first Mole Poblano was cooked up by the poor nuns of the Santa Rosa Convent in Puebla, who had practically no food when Viceroy Tomas Antonia de la Cerda y Aragon came to call. After some quick but fervent prayers, the nuns were inspired to use the little bits of flavoring they had to make the mole, which delighted the Viceroy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Civic Center Metro Mosaics: People Portraits

On the Metro Red and Purple lines, on the mezzanine level of the Civic Center Station, are 52 smalti mosaics of people--people playing sports, making music and art, or just looking good. They line four walls, and each Faith Ringgold is the artist. She's internationally known and lauded, and her blog shows photos of all the different mosiacs. The art of Faith Ringgold is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim and MOMA in New York. She's also a poet, writer, quilter, and performance artist, and her artwork covers many media (is that the right term?): sculpture and painting, as well as mosaics.

Her statement about the art--as printed on the Metro website--is: "The content will reflect the creative energy of the Civic Center area.  Thus it will be color studies of people engaged in creative activities such as: art making, music, dance, performance, fashion modeling, etc."

As always with Metro line mosaics, Mosaika fabricated the work and posted pictures of the artist and work-in-progress (as of 2009; it was installed in 2010) on their blog--like the one at right.

On the bottom picture--which shows how the work is displayed--both pictures are from the Performing Line. Is the guy on the left a mime, maybe?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Forest Lawn Trivia

Since my last post was about a cemetery tour, let's continue the theme.

Forest Lawn's founder, Hubert Eaton, pioneered the "before need" concept of burials. After learning the trade in St. Louis, he moved out to California to work at a cemetery in Tropico--now Glendale. When he took over a few years later he renamed the place Forest Lawn, and his vision was to make it the Happiest Burial Ground on Earth.

BTW, the pictures of Forest Lawn's David reproduction & of Walt Disney's garden and crypt come fromWikipedia and were taken by Kafziel. I like that name.

Eaton wanted his place to be upbeat, rather than dismal. He brought in ducks and birds and fountains, then commenced buying trips to Europe to outfit his cemetery. Big, beautiful, pretty, and inspiring were his criteria, and he put in three churches with thematic stained glass windows. He filled the churches and buildings with art, rich tapestries, antiques, more stained glass--you get the picture. And this was all back in the 1930s.

This information comes from a book I picked up at the library: Encyclopedia of Bad Taste by Jane and Michael Stern. I'm not vetting it--it's way too hot--but just passing it along.

As you can imagine, Hubert Eaton's proclivity for showmanship and happiness did not comport with the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors back then, and they tried (unsuccessfully) to deny him a mortuary license. The film industry loooooved Forest lawn.

Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman and at least 60,000 other couples were married there.

So many stars are buried at Forest Lawn! Silent film icons like Jean Harlow, Clara Bow, and Buster Keaton, personalities like Liberace, innovators like Walt Disney (that's his crypt and garden at right), and today's deceased celebs, including Michael Jackson.

Wikipedia has a list--and there are books about the place too.

Later, Eaton built the Hall of the Crucifixion to house the World's Largest Framed Canvas Painting--45 feet high by 195 feet long. Wonder if Eaton was related to P.T. Barnum?

That painting--the middle third of which you see at right--was brought to American at great expense by the artist, Jan Styka, in the early 1900s. Styka painted "The Crucifixion"--which he called "Golgotha"--at the suggestion Paderewski, the famous pianist, and had exhibited it in Warsaw. He hoped to see it displayed at the St. Louis Exposition, but no one could find a place for it.

The artist had to leave it in America when he returned to Poland, because he just ran out of money. He never saw it again--and that's from the Forest Lawn website. Wikipedia says "The Crucifixion" sat in the basement of the Chicago Civic Opera Company for 40 years, until Eaton purchased it in 1944. And built the hall to display it in.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Angelus Rosedale Cemetery Tour

Like cemetery tours?  C'mon, admit it!  We all like cemetery tours!

The West Adams Heritage Association presents "Entertaining Lives" on Saturday, September 29th, at the Angeles Rosedale Cemetery.

The Living History Tours will begin every 25 minutes, between 9 am and noon.

For this popular event, advance reservations are REQUIRED. Call 323-732-4223, or send an email to

Living History Tours cost $25, if ordered by Sept. 24. If you wait till the 25th--if there's space, the tour will cost $35.

The tours are three hours long, and the noon cutoff is just to start the tour. So you could be there through 3pm.

Who will you see? I'm copying this right from the tour flyer:

  • Mildred Washington, the charming lady at right, a vaudeville dancer and choreographer who headlined at Sebastian's Cotton Club in Los Angeles;

  • Harry Cooke, Magician and Civil War Union Army “scout” who was America’s first Escape Artist;

  • Byron Houck, pictured at left, baseball pitcher for the 1913 World Series Philadelphia A’s, who later became Buster Keaton’s cameraman on "The General." Houck was the Vernon Tigers’ ace pitcher when the team was owned by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle;

  • Della Hogan Monroe, Marilyn Monroe’s colorful grandmother; a religious devotee, Mrs. Monroe had baby Norma Jean baptized at the Hawthorne Foursquare Church in 1926;

  • Victor Dol, L.A.’s first chef trained in Paris, who opened an elegant French restaurant in 1876 that soon earned the nickname “Delmonico’s of the West”;

  • Rita Carewe, a Jazz Age starlet and “Baby WAMPAS” (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers) winner who appeared in films with Delores del Rio, Edward Everett Horton, and Mary Pickford;

  • Sadie Cole, a Fisk Jubilee singer and a civil rights activist who helped desegregate L.A.’s cafes and beaches;

  • Honorable Wu (Harry Gee Haw), pictured at right. Wu was an actor, singer, dancer, and vaudeville impresario known as “The Broadway Mandarin.”

All these fascinating people who lived such interesting lives were buried at Angelus Rosedale Cemetery, and you can meet them (kinda) and learn about them on Saturday 9/29/12, while supporting a historical association that has truly become a vibrant part of the West Adams community.

Wear walking shoes!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sheets Week and Temecula

Two stories for Mosaic Monday.

Actually, the first is so multifaceted it's way more than one part.

LA Curbed just ran a cycle of stories for Millard Sheets Week that includes:

  • Adam Arenson's map of Sheets' work throughout the area,

  • A photograph-intense post of the artist's former design studio in Claremont,

  • A tour of five big Sheets artworks in Los Angeles County--Chase banks in Beverly Hills (my own photo of that below), Studio City, and Rancho Palos Verdes, as well as the City Hall mural and the New Balance store in Santa Monica,

  • A special essay on the Hollywood Chase Bank (formerly Home S&L, of course, as are most Chase Banks mentioned),

  • The Claremont-Pomona tour, with incredible pictures of the Garrison Theatre (how did they do that? that place is impossible to photograph well!), the Chase Bank in Pomona and the Mall there, the US Bank on Foothill, and the mural in the American Museum of Ceramic Art,

  • Another photo-heavy presentation of the Scottish Rite Temple on Wilshire, which I've never featured on my blog because I could never figure out how to get into the place. Curbed LA managed to get dozens of stunning pictures.

  • Sheets did not work alone, and Curbed wrote up his collaborators, like Susan Hertel and Denis O'Connor, Arthur and Jean Ames, and other sculptors and architects.

  • An article on how Sheets raised funds and built up two academic art institutions: the complex at Scripps College, Otis Art Institute--and was briefly involved with a third, CalArts in Valencia.

So have at it--that will keep you busy through lunch time, at least. Curbed drew a lot from the oral history that Sheets did with UCLA--hours of talking, from the 1970s. It's transcribed online here.

Now for Part II:

Temecula is not in Los Angeles County, but we all go out there occasionally for a bit of history and to tour the wineries, right?

At the beginning of 2011, the city of Temecula unveiled a new mosaic by artist Carole Choucair Ouejian titled "The Emigrant Trail" at their big new City Hall.

The artist used blocks of rough, local granite to enhance and contrast with the the tile and Byzantine glass pictures of men and women with their covered wagon, at right.

The entire work--7 by 10 feet--includes a frame worked with gold smalti--appropriate, because gold is what drew most of those emigrants across the plains and desert to California. In the frame, there is a stagecoach--Temecula was once a stop on the Butterfield Stage Line--and other images that tell the story of the area.

A large, in-depth article with pictures of the artist's other mosaic work, is at Mosaic Art Now. You can see how the entire work was constructed, laid out, and assembled, as well as some of the exquisite details of the gold work. Below is one of many pictures there--I like it because it shows the tactile, sculptured aspects of the mosaic. The pictures of the finished work are beautiful too, of ocurse.

Monday, September 10, 2012

For Richard Feynman, Pasadena

Today's mosaic is hidden on the back of a Ross Dress for Less in Pasadena. The store's on Lake; the mosaic/mural is on Shopper's Lane, just off San Pasqual.

The artist is ceramicist Gifford Myers, and the work is titled "The Motion of the Planet/for Richard Feynman." It was installed in 1997, and I'm guessing that a grant by the City Arts Commission may have funded it.

Compared to some of his other works ("Sad Boy/Ragazzon Malinconico" at right), the Feynman mural is downright conventional.

Although this work is mainly ceramic, Myers the artist works in many mediums, including aluminum and found objects. He also teaches at UC Irvine; here's his page there.

According to Dante Stefani of Italy, "Myers transforms the reality that surrounds him through wit, a free spirit, and a strong capacity for observation."

As to the subject, Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who hung out at topless bars when he wasn't teaching at CalTech, who worked on the Manhattan Project and sat on the panel convened to investigate the Challenger disaster, and who once answered a reporter's request to describe the reason he won the Nobel Prize in a few words by telling him, "If I could describe it in a few words it wouldn't be worth the Nobel Prize,"--well, start with Feynman's own biographies to learn more about him. And I'm paraphrasing--the quote may not be exact.

My thanks to old friend Joseph Schwartz for this picture. I never would have known of this otherwise.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rams Band, 1953

This is for everyone who remembers the Los Angeles Rams, our previous football team. Their games were played at the Coliseum.

The Rams were not LA's first football team--we had the Hollywood Bears and the LA Bulldogs before them. The Rams were here from 1946 to 1980, when they moved to Anaheim--close enough, though not LA. In 1994, they rode away from the sunset, east to St.Louis.

They had an official band while in LA (long before the Embraceable Ewes) and thanks to Joe Hill, I have a picture of the band at a concert given in 1953, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City (the place with the giant film strip in the fountain).

 Johnny Boudreau was the Band Director, and they worked all home games from 1946 to 1980. They played before the game and at half time.

Joe is in the top row, far left. No idea who the little majorette and cohort are at bottom right, nor do I know if there's a story behind these piebald uniforms. Maybe Joe will comment--what colors were they, and why the two-tone design?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Family by Joseph Young

The elegant and sparkling family at right are facing the same problem that so many of our neighbors have gone through--they lost their home and are looking for another.

That's actually true; I am not being sarcastic.

This lovely mosaic, surrounded by many smaller images, was created by Joseph L. Young in 1964 for the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Sherman Oaks.

That Center (and several others, like the Silverlake JCC) closed after a long fight to stay open, in 2009.  Everything in it was auctioned off.

The artist--who created many other works, including the mosaics on the Math Building at UCLA, and the Trifonium downtown, died in 2007.

If you'd like to see more of his work, here is his Facebook page, maintained by his daughters. That's where these pictures came from, as well as the pictures from an earlier post I did on the mosaics at the Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.

Some photos are in black and white, with members of his family, and others show installations over past decades.

Young's family was able to reacquire the mosaics from the JCC and they're now looking for an appropriate venue. This main mosaic of the nuclear family stands 7 feet high and 3 feet wide.

In the picture below--part of the Los Angeles Public Library collection--the artist is on the left, identified as Dr. Joseph L. Young.

The man second from the right is actor Herschel Bernardi.

The photographer was Bob Martin and the picture ran in the Valley Times, I think. The event was the dedication of the mosaic in the community center lobby on January 23, 1964.  Right above Joseph Young's head you can just see one of the smaller mosaics, Music, that surround the main picture. Others represent different facets of life. But the Music piece is at right.

The other folks are Mrs. Kenneth Shore, Bert Gold, Mrs. Arthur Becker, and to the right of Bernardi, Milton Malkin.

Boys and girls, once upon a time, ladies didn't have names of their own. They were known as appendages of their husbands, except among very good friends.

That's one silly custom I was glad to see the end of!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Old Silent Movie Locations

I used to have a sweatshirt that read "So many books, so little time."  That's how I'm beginning to feel about all sorts of things lately: so many delights to fill up my days, so little time to squeeze them all in.

So just in case you wanted to squeeze one more historical LA event in between the visit to Santa Monica's Inkwell and the movie screening (last post), here's something else going on in mid-September:

Do you like/love the films of Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin? and Buster Keaton? On Saturday, Sept. 15, at 2 pm at the Los Angeles Main Library, John Bengtson will talk about the downtown Los Angeles locations that these comedians used in their silent movies. His talk is free and open to everyone, and he'll also sign & sell copies of his own book, Silent Visions, about Harold Lloyd's films (maybe he'll have his other books there as well).