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?

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