Friday, January 31, 2014

The Lennon Sisters--Angelenos!

I have been meaning to post this for a bit--it was written for my Baby Boomer Book blog, but it belongs here as well, since it is full of Los Angeles history. The Lennons grew up on the Westside, and one of them still lives in the Valley.

So here we go:

Are the Lennon Sisters our idols or ideals? (anyone remember Eric von Zipper and  Beach Blanket Bingo?)

Anyway, the Lennon Sisters. Everyone's parents and grandparents watched The Lawrence Welk Show, and the Lennon Sister was as close as that show came to youth. Who were they and where are they now?

Fortunately, there are websites that answer those very questions!

DeeDee, Peggy, Kathy, and Janet (in order of oldest to youngest) were four of six Lennon girls, and they had five brothers as well. All of them lived happily in a two-bedroom house in Venice. Crowded, but happy--can you imagine the Lennon family not being happy?

Lawrence Welk's son, Larry, went to St. Monica High School, the same school as the oldest Lennon girl, Diane/DeeDee. He brought the girls to his home to sing for his father one day, when Dad was sick in bed. Welk Senior loved their sound and so on Christmas Eve, 1955, the sister act debuted on the Lawrence Welk Show. They sang "He," a capella.

How you remember the Lennons may depend on your age. DeeDee, who was 16 when they first started appearing on TV, married and left the show in 1960. She returned in 1964. All the Lennons left the show in 1968, and the quartet had their own show the next year: Jimmy Durante Presents  the Lennon Sisters. Through the years, their little sister Mimi and other family members--including their Dad and his brothers--performed with them.

Remember their big hit, "Tonight you belong to me" in 1956? Belong was a three syllable word there. Very cute song. "Sad movies make me cry" was another.

Kathy Lennon (far left in the picture below,) has been married twice, first to a saxophone player in Welk's orchestra. Janet (in the red sweater) is now married to the Lawrence Welk's Orchestra Bandleader in Branson, John Bahler.  DeeDee (far right ) is retired. That's Barbara Boylan next to her.

Peggy Lennon (pictured alone) also married a member of Welk's orchestra, and after his death she remarried and now lives in Northridge, CA. When Peggy retired in 1999, sister Mimi took her place. When DeeDee retired, the group became a trio.

All the singing sisters except Peggy live in Branson.

Here's a link to a YouTube video from the early days: Lennon Sisters Remember Their TV Debut.  Through much of the 1990s and 2000s , the Lennon Sisters performed at the Welk Champagne Theater in Branson, MO. Today they're still in Branson, but at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater.

Do you remember having a Janet Lennon adventure book? There were lunchboxes too.  In a recent (well, 2006) interview, Janet Lennon said she had to wear braids on the show to look younger until she was in high school. "II have nightmares of braids, I really, really do."

The Lennons left The Lawrence Welk Show to pursue an offer in Vegas. They were all adults by them, some with children, and the Vegas offer gave them as much for 16 weeks of work as they got for a year with Welk. Not that the Welk show was grueling or cheap--it was a big extended family--but the chance to have 2/3 of the year off was pretty attractive.

The Lennon Sisters Page of the Welk Music Family site has tons of information and pictures. Other sites are, devoted to their 55th anniversary, and their Facebook page, where they are dolled out in slinky gowns that look downright sexy.

Now comes the sad part, but first I'll mention that the final picture was taken at Andy WIlliams' memorial service and shows left to right, Kathy, Janet, Mimi, and DeeDee.

You may remember that William Lennon, the father of the Lennon Sisters was killed in the late 1960s. It happened just before their show with Durante premiered. Since the murder occurred only days after the gruesome Tate-LaBianca killing spree of Charles Manson and his followers, people thought that William Lennon's murder must be connected. It wasn't, unless (possibly) hearing about the other murders set the man off--a possibility, but who knows?

Very soon--within a week of the shooting--police identified a suspect in Lennon's murder who had been writing threatening, insane letters to the family for months, possibly years. Today we might compare the killing to that of John Lennon  (eerie coincidence) or Rebecca Shaeffer: a crazed fan who believed Peggy Lennon was really married to him and that William Lennon was keeping him from his bride. The man--Chet Young--had spent time in a mental hospital. He stalked and killed William Lennon at a local golf course.

Even after the suspect was id'd, the police couldn't find him. He'd fled to the Sierra Nevada mountains. The sisters--some of whom were married and had kids--pretty much moved home with their mother for the next two months. They wanted the heavy police protection that was provided at her home, but which couldn't be extended to the entire family at different addresses.

Two months later the stalker/murderer killed himself, leaving a written confession behind--a confession in which he showed no remorse, but insisted that the murder was "justifiable."

Recalling those days in 1969 kinda takes sweetness out of nostalgia, huh? But it is what happened.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Our City Hall Beacon and Irving Berlin

The new Los Angeles City Hall was dedicated on April 26, 1928.

There was a huge parade with 32,000 marchers (!) 34 bands, and a Hollywood contingent representing all of the studios and featuring many of their biggest stars. An afternoon of top entertainment was capped off by the President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, who--at 7 PM our time--pushed a button in Washington DC that sent electricity into the "Lindbergh Beacon" atop City Hall. That beacon sent a shining light skyward "as a guiding ray to Los Angeles-bound avaitors," according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Chamber of Commerce had kicked in for the beacon, and George L. Eastman, President of the Ch of C, read remarks from the POTUS when the beacon was lit.

That's a picture of the beacon to the right, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library's Security Pacific National Bank (remember them?) collection. The women on either side are not identified, but I am curious as to whether the lady on the left is wearing an apron, or if that was simply a fashionable skirt style in 1928.

Huell Howser did a great show on the beacon, a 1000-watt light, just a few years ago. Seems the beacon misdirected rather than guided aviators. They thought the beacon indicated an airport nearby, which of course it didn't. To end that confusion, the beacon got a red light in 1931. It was removed completely during World War II and stored in the basement, forgotten.

It was rediscovered, refurbished, displayed at LAX, and finally remounted atop city Hall just a few days before 9/11. It's still there but is hardly ever turned on.

Anyway, in 1928 everyone agreed that we had the coolest, newest, and most beautiful City Hall building anywhere.

And among the many notables that Joseph Schenck, Chair of the Citizens Dedication Committee, assembled, was the man below, Irving Berlin.

Now, Berlin was a New Yorker through and through. But he was good friends with Joseph Schenck, a Hollywood big wig. Berlin's first foray into motion pictures was the hit song, "Blue Skies,"  featured in the first talking picture The Jazz Singer only a few months before.

At this point, Berlin was writing songs for Coquette, Mary Pickford's first talkie, and Hallelujah, the second Black musical film, and the first to have original music (an earlier movie had used spirituals).

Berlin sang (obviously) and played several songs on the piano, all in tribute to California and Los Angeles. Wish I knew what songs. This picture, btw, is from the Smithsonian website.

Later on that night, over 20 windows were broken at the new building due the concussion of certain aerial bombs--I'm guessing fireworks?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lake Machado & Ken Malloy Regional Park in the Winter

To all those back east suffering through another polar blast. . . gosh, I'm sorry.

 I could say I thought of you this afternoon when I took these pictures on a beautiful, sunny, California day, but I'd be lying.

From top to bottom, these lovely creatures around Lake Machado at Ken Malloy Regional Park (formerly known as Harbor Regional Park) in Harbor City are:

  • Great Blue Heron

  • Snowy Egret

  • Great White Heron

  • A view of the lake, although there IS a Snowy Egret hiding in there

  • American Coots

I had to do a bit of research on the Coots, because I thought they were ducks: small grey ducks with black heads and startlingly white beaks. However, once I googled "ducks with white beaks" I found a page called that set me straight.

Coots are, I learned,  "common sights in nearly any open water across the continent, and they often mix with ducks. But they’re closer relatives of the gangly Sandhill Crane and the nearly invisible rails than of Mallards or teal."

And there were Mallards there too.

And Canadian Geese, Chinese Geese, Muscovy Ducks, the biggest pigeons I've seen, gulls, squirrels, and more. From the calls I heard among the reeds--calls I don't hear anywhere else--lots more. One book I consulted says over 350 bird species have been spotted at this park.

Lake Machado is not man-made, and is fed by runoff from the Wilmington Drain. Since it has not disappeared over the years, I wonder if perhaps it is fed by an underground spring as well. It has definitely been there for centuries. One of the largest Native American villages in the area was near the lake, though it's never been exactly located or excavated. We know about it from records left by the first few Spanish soldiers and missionaries. Also, another European named Hugo Reid, who married a Tongva woman, collected lots of information and recorded it in the 19th century, as I posted a few years ago.

The name of the village is something like Suangna.

Lake Machado is named for Francisco Machado, who was a Los Angeles County Supervisor in the 1870s. Other Machados are prominent players in our local history--Francisco was one of 14 children of Augustin Machado and Ramona Sepulveda and had uncles and cousins, many of whom were landowners, but I did find a Board of Supervisors statement, on letterhead, that identifies Francsico as the lake's honoree.

As for Ken Malloy, he was a retired longshoreman who fought hard and led a grass roots effort to preserve this land as a park, back in the 1950s. It's the largest chunk of native riparian forest and freshwater marsh in the county, as I learned from Barbara Dye's book, Exploring the Palos Verdes Peninsula: A Driving Tour and Walks. Bits of history from the early 1800s include:

  • The Los Angeles River once diverted itself from the Ballona Wetlands to drain out in San Pedro for a few years,

  • There was once a stagecoach stop near the lake with an inn called Casa de Sangre (house of blood),

  • The Dominguez Adobe once sat on a bluff overlooking this area.

And of course, it was home to Reggie the Alligator from 2005 to 2007.

What about the water quality of the lake? As far as I can see the native fauna have no complaints, but this is an industrial area, with big oil tanks visible to the south. According to Barbara Dye's book, over a million dollars of bond money was assigned to clean up Lake Machado in 2004, with work to begin in 2010.

I found a February 2013 article about how polluted the lake is and how deceptive its appearance can be, and at that point a 2-1/2 year clean up project was slated to begin. Here's an outline of the work to be done.

The Daily Breeze reported in June 2013 that trees and debris were being removed from the Wilmington Drain, and I can say that I saw some kind of pumping set up at the north (PCH) end of the park, in a very ugly, trash-strewn sump or lagoon.

Hopefully, progress is being made.

Added Jan 24: Found a great website, a sort of fansite of the park that has lots of information--especially about the birds, and many aerial shots of the park in the 1950s through the 1970s.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trashy Lingerie and other great names

Remember when Trashy Lingerie showed up on La Cienega in the early 70s?

Where did they come up with that name?

Or the Apple Pan, for that matter?

Or Spearment Rhino?(or is it Rhino Spearmint?)

Best fun read for Angelenos has got to be this article from LAWeekly: "How Six L.A. Businesses Got Their Weird Names."

It actually came out in early December but I was probably asleep. I must have done a Rip Van Winkle, since it's clearly July now and I slept through the entire winter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quest for Flight in San Diego, 130 years ago

If you think you've seen this glider picture before, you're right and you've got a great memory.

 It was 2010 that I first blogged about the glider, which hangs at the Western Museum of Flight at Zamperini Field in Torrance. It's a replica (though it actually was flown, once) of a glider designed and flown by John Montgomery in San Diego, near the Otay Mesa, in 1883.

1883 . . . 20 years before the Wright Brothers.

John Montgomery died testing one of his machines in 1911.

The glider is a beautiful artifact, and when I first saw it I tried to learn more about John Montgomery. There wasn't too much out there. Montgomery seemed to be recalled as a local hero, a forgotten pioneer, but not much more.

However--Craig Harwood and Gary Fogel have dug into the historical record and written a book about Montgomery, giving him back his well-earned place in history and filling in all the details. In Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West, you'll come across names like Chanute, Curtiss, and Loughead (which was later changed to Lockheed) and more.

And it's a great read. Highly recommended to anyone interested in early flight or California history, which is why I'm putting a link to it in the right column, which will stay there for a little while.

If you are interested, the 2010 post is here.

And as I mentioned in a later post, this book--Quest for Flight--was named Runner Up in the Great Midwest Book Festival (Regional Literature Award) and also received Honorable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival (Biography Award) and the Southern California Book Festival (Biography Award).

Montgomery's parents came to California during the Gold Rush, so their story is the state's story as well. His father Zach, an attorney, came in 1850 looking for gold and quickly determined that he'd do better as a lawyer and politician.

But it's his mother's story that really astounds me.

We all know that men hightailed it to California during the Gold Rush, right? Men and very, very few women. A small number of men brought wives; hookers who felt they had nothing to lose and maybe a bit to gain went west; but for the most part, California was men, men, men from 1848 into the decade following.

So why did an Irish widow pack up her family--two grown daughters and two sons, and a few very young grandchildren--and become one of the 49'r's? That's amazing. Ellen--an unmarried daughter at the time, eventually to be John's mother--became an early Gold Rush entrepreneur, running a store and selling real estate with her mother.

Once married to Zachariah Montgomery, she bore two sets of twins and four other children. The familyl resettled in San Diego County, on a farm they named Fruitland which is today part of Chula Vista.

The Montgomerys were a fascinating, quirky group. If any family was likely to produced a brilliant young scientist obsessed by the idea of flight, it was this clan. And that's just the beginning. We learn all about John Montgomery in these pages, which includes renderings of his early drawings and inventions.

The authors have pulled together every scrap of information they could to build this biography, and I enjoyed it immensely. Here is the the link to see the book on Amazon: Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Parklet Mosaics in Highland Park

This week's Mosaic Monday site was featured in Westways Magazine last June, in a story about the first few mini-parks, or parklets, or even "street porches," that are opening all over Los Angeles.

Located just outside Bobby's Auto Parts on York Blvd. near Avenue 51, the very first parklet (opened February 2013) is full of mosaics. And redwood benches.

The parklet is about 20 feet long and 6 feet wide, really just a spot for folks to pause and sit down and maybe talk with friends for a bit.  Formerly, it was a red curb, so no one has lost a parking space.

From LACurbed I learn that the park structures sits on concrete piers that are bolted to the curb, bot the street, so they can be moved if necessary.

I'm not sure whether they're calling it the Highland Park Parklet or the York Blvd. Parklet. Not that it matters.

And from the EastsideLA blog (which has pictures of the construction itself): about $10,000 was allocated to build the parklet, and the city government worked with LivingStreets to make the plans.  The LA Conservation Corps and its youth volunteers did a log of the construction work. Once concrete was poured into forms around the planters and allowed to dry, the mosaic panels were applied.

What is LivingStreets, besides a website? It is an initiative of Green LA to make our streets safe for all users. They list four members/officers: an architect, urban planner, landscape designer, and the director of Green LA, Stephanie Taylor.

Cathi Milligan is the mosaicist, and she embedded lots of pictures. She's also very active in her community/ies, serving as the Economic Development Chair of Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, and Executive Director of North East Los Angeles Art, or NELA Art.

As you can see to the left, a screenshot of Reservoir Dogs is baked into one large tile (the top of the aquamarine stripe on the right). The street scenes were filmed on York Blvd, although I'm not sure if these are the scenes from the bank robbery and shoot out. It's been a few years since I saw the movie. That was Quentin Tarantino's first big film, right?

I have no idea who the cute little dog is, or the significance of the chicken.

Tiles came from The Glass Studio, which is Cathi Milligan's business , right on York BLvd.

This picture, from the opening of the parklet last year, shows former mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel with City Council Member Jose Huisar. I use it for perspective. In the other pictures of the park, the mosaics look much larger to me.

There are lots of beautiful shots on Flickr, taken by someone called Walterrrr.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nordhoff Station Mosaics

Today's featured mosaic is in Chatsworth, at the Nordhoff Metro Station of the Orange Line. Anne Marie Karlsen designed the 27-foot-long oval, which was installed in 2012. Here's what The Source--Metro's newsletter--has to say about it:

Anne Marie was inspired by the surrounding residential and natural landscape, including the landmark Stoney Point in Chatsworth. She approached the station platform as an outdoor living room, creating wallpaper-like porcelain enamel steel art panels alongside the platform seating areas, and glass and stone mosaic paving patterns designed to read like cozy ellipse-shaped area rugs. The title, Strati, refers to the geologic stratification and formation of the rocks in the northwest San Fernando Valley.

Here's what I learned about artist Anne Marie Karlesen, mostly from an article in Muses, an alumni magazine of Michigan State University. Karlsen was the youngest ever faculty member hired by UCLA's Art Dept back in 1979, and she's been teaching there and at Santa Monica College. In the 1990s she began creating Public Art around town.

That led to her 14 ceramic tile pictures at the North Hollywood Metro Station. "Kaleidoscope Dreams." It's almost a mosaic, and I've certainly covered pictures made of specially painted ceramic tiles before--but since we have an artwork that's unquestionably a mosaic already I'll only include a link to that installation.

She designed the relatively new stained glass artwork at the  Lawndale Library (which won an award), a tile wall titled "Ogling" outside the Pavilions in West Hollywood, and the two tall mosaic panels ("Revival") set into the brickwork at the Raymond Theatre Renaissance building at Holly and Raymond in Pasadena.

She is also the artist responsible for the huge, striking tile panel called "Wheels" on 2nd Street in Santa Monica, north of the 10 freeway. It's on a parking structure. And there is more, outside of Los Angeles County.

At left is a picture of the mosaic as it was being fabricated and laid out at Perdomo in Mexico. Karlsen does not have a webpage showing pictures of her work--at least not one that I could find, sadly.