Friday, August 29, 2008

Republicans Must Hate Los Angeles

I've posted about the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. So, in the interest of fair play, I prepared to blog about past Republican National Conventions in Los Angeles.

Guess what? There weren't any!

The closest they've come to us is the 1996 GOP brouhaha in San Diego, when Robert Dole was nominated.

They've been in San Francisco twice (1956 and 1964). They've been in Chicago fourteen times. But never in Los Angeles.

OK, fine. I wasn't going to vote for them anyway.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Acceptance Speech at the Coliseum

A few last bits of 1960 convention trivia before the window of opportunity slams shut:

JFK gave his acceptance speech On July 15, 1960 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, before a crowd of around 50,000. Most of those seats were given away free to Angelenos--distributed through PTA groups and labor unions. However, the ticketing/seating foul-ups were colossal and people ended up sitting wherever space was available.

Local high school bands performed throughout the afternoon, Edward G. Robinson read a poem by Walt Whitman, and over 100 people fell victim to heat stroke and had to be taken to the Coliseum's hospital. The temperature was near 90 for most of the afternoon.

It started around 4 and was all over at 8:32 pm, and the band played "Happy Days are Here Again."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CNN Grill? 48 Years of Tech Progress and we get CNN Grill?

Elect JFK

TV coverage of the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles was anchored by Brinkley and Huntley, of course. Here's the state-of-the-art on-the-spot technology that enhanced the experience for viewers, according to a Los Angeles Times piece of July 7, 1960 (all are direct quotes):

  • 32 cameras which will feed pictures to four split-screen monitors
  • Four creepy-peepy cameras slung over roving cameramen's shoulders
  • An automobile equipped as a portable TV station
  • Another [car equipped] as a complete taping facility
  • An internal wire service for the use of various NBC headquarters
  • Chet Huntley & David Brinkley
  • A central control room..virtually a complete network control center
  • More gadgets than you can list...and a VIP train to carry network brass through the corridors of the convention venues (which were the Sports Arena, the Coliseum for the acceptance speech, and some events at the Biltmore Hotel)(thank you, KF)

And that's just one network--CBS and ABC had their tech goodies too. BTW, doncha love that industry term, "creepy-peepy"? Is that still used?

According to NBC director Jack Sughrue, every 4 years at convention time the networks debuted new equipment and toys. "TV moves in four-year jumps."

Kennedy Asked to Step Aside

Here's a headline from the Los Angeles Times of July 5, 1960--just before the Democratic convention convened in our fair city: KENNEDY REJECTS ALL SUGGESTIONS HE QUIT Senator Also Denies Convention Is Slanted to Nominate Him.

Now that's funny, because he'd won ten of the 15 primaries that year (Hubert Humphrey won two but had already withdrawn from the race, and the other three primaries went to "favorite son" candidates). Why would he deny that the convention was slanted in his direction?

As for the suggestion he step aside, JFK was responding to President Truman's "suggestion of whether Kennedy had the experience and maturity for the nation's highest office, [by] asserting that people were looking for 'a new generation of leadership.'"

Nothing ever changes, huh?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Night at the Orphem

As of this date in 1938, the Orpheum Theatre on Broadway was playing both movies and vaudeville shows. You could spend your quarter on Booloo, shot in the Malay jungles and Singapore and starring no-one-I-ever-heard-of (Colin Tapley and Jayne Regan) and the Chaser, which seems notable only because an unknown Lana Turner's scenes were all deleted from the final cut.

If you chose the Vaudeville show instead, you could see Al Lyons' tribute to Will Rogers (who died in 1935), a duo on a tiny piano, another duo with a "comic burlesque ballroom dance," impersonators, acrobatic dancers, a whistler. . . feeling nostalgic yet?

Somehow, the regular network TV lineup doesn't seem so bad.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Freeth Bust Still Missing

On August 9, someone made off with the bronze bust of George Freeth that stood on a pedestal near the Redondo Beach pier. Read more about that in the Daily Breeze, and read more about Freeth--who brought surfing to southern California way back in the early years of the 20th century--at California's First Beach Boy.

The statue is still missing, in spite of the $5000 reward offered by Body Glove founder Bob Meistrell. The Redondo Beach police believe it was taken for the value of the copper, which may be worth hundreds--but not thousands--of dollars.

Terry O'Donnell, the artist who created the bust in 1977 died earlier this year. However--as the Daily Breeze pointed out last weekend, the plaster mold used to make the bust still exists, in the collection of the Redondo Beach Historical Society. So if it's not found, it can be recast. Yes, we can rebuild it . . . better . . . stronger . . . faster.

And hopefully it won't just get stolen again.

Not sure if that is the real reward poster above, but those with information can call either the Redondo Beach Police Dept. at 310-379-2477, or Body Glove at 310-374-3441, Ext. 292 or 277.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No More Engineer Bill...

Engineer Bill has died. I think I'm more surprised that the dear man was still alive until August 12. He was 97, according to the Los Angeles Times, which ran both an obituary and a eulogy.

Surprisingly, Engineer Bill doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. Sheriff John does. You can even hear him sing "Put another candle on my birthday cake" on You Tube. Here's a 5-minute clip of Sheriff John then and now. If you're over 45, you'll know his voice the minute you hear it.

You Tube also has a 9-minute Engineer Bill show from 1960, starting with the theme song ("Who's that fellow? WoooWooo--that's Engineer Bill!"), and ending with Red Light, Green Light, Drink Your Milk. Corkey, the little boy in this clip was the son of a station employee, so they got a copy of the kinescope, according to Harold Wright on TV Party. TV Party also has an obituary and lots of comments from baby boomers like me, who grew up watching Engineer Bill's show.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Plans Underway to Partially Restore the Los Angeles River

Steve Lopez' column on the woes of the Antonio family and their Highland Park market Los Paisanos brings up questions: Graffiti or art? Vandalism or contracted work? Does every person who walks by possess the right to censor the painting with a phone call?

I don't have the answer to any of those questions. And you'll have to go to the column link to see a picture of the bright yellow market; this photo of graffiti from picapp was taken in 2000.

(FYI: The Antonio family, after years of removing graffiti themselves, paid an artist to cover their wall and the graffiti stopped. Then a disgruntled passer-by called City Hall to complain about the mural, and the city--in an display of counterproductive bureaucracy [I guess that's redundant]--ordered the mural's removal, so the tagging started again.)

When was the first time graffiti was mentioned by the Los Angeles Times? Seems to be May 1942, when a papal address used the word in connection with wartime diggings under the Vatican. Excavators found a circa 200 A.D. Christian altar, identified by its graffiti.

What about graffiti as we know it today? A Sept. 11, 1966 article decried the spray painting of swastikas, Iron Crosses, and other symbols "on blank walls and under bridges from South Pasadena to Venice, and San Fernando to San Pedro." Now that sounds more like graffiti.

Up until that time, it seems that spray-painting "Kilroy was here" (with the requisite big nose) was inoffensive and acceptable. So 1966 stands as the year that graffiti acquired its threatening, territorial ambiance.

This photo of a Kilroy engraving at the Washington DC WWII Memorial, was taken by Jason Coyne and it should not be used without id'g Jason and linking to his website.

So what did the 1966 article have to say about graffiti? According to UCLA researchers interviewed, "Modern wall almost exclusively the expression of the juvenile mind--no matter how old the writer may be." Clubs and gangs used symbols to mark their territory, and swastikas and Iron Crosses were chosen because they symbolized strength, and gave the tagger a temporary sense of power.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Strictly speaking, this isn't Los Angeles. It's Rancho Cucamonga, which is just outside the county line by ten miles or so. One of those places where streets and cul-de-sacs often have the same name.

Same name. You know, usually when the name is the same, so is the spelling. For instance, Cartilla and Cartilla, not Cartilla and Cartilia.

Most be one of those synnannymmie things I remember from 4th grade.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ode to Banks

The buildings, anyway.

I think that I shall never see
A grocery-store ATM as lovely as mason-ry.

In todays Times, Mark Kendall writes of Los Angeles' "rock-solid banks. . . The ones sheathed in enough granite to survive a missile strike." He talks of the Farmers and Merchants Bank downtown (pictured) and old Home Savings (now WaMus), as opposed to the new style of storefront lender "largely indistiguishable from the smoothie shops."

Kendall offers an anecdote about Millard Sheets, the artist who designed those glittering mosaics that ornamented many Home Savings Banks. The artwork combined with the solidity of the big building drew people in and reassured them, according to Sheets, so much so that the new business generated quickly paid for the expensive building.

I wonder. While I love the old buildings, I have to admit that my choice of bank is driven largely by its ease of access, smoothie-selling neighbor notwithstanding. I'm very glad that many solid old banks have been spared the wrecking ball by housing new banks or other businesses, but customers need to park. We like smoothies, too.

My Dad used to open new accounts whenever banks offered him a gift. He had a whole drawerful of collapsible umbrellas. In this day of FDIC assurances, does the solid appearance of a bank move us at all?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Polytechnic H.S., Washington and Flower

Another gem from Shorpy. Here's what the caption says:

September 1942. "Learning how to determine latitude by using a sextant is Senta Osoling, student at Polytechnic High School, Los Angeles. Navigation classes are part of the school's program for training its students for specific contributions to the war effort." View full size. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer.

The Library of Congress has this picture too, along with a male student, same pose, same sextant. He was Thomas Graham, a member of the Victory Corps. But Senta was prettier, so her picture shows up in all the blogs.

At the time of this picture, Los Angeles Polytechnic High School --the second oldest school in the city--stood and Washington Blvd. and Flower Street. It moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1957.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

All the Saints in LA

I run into this book everywhere--from a local history conclave at the Huntington to articles in the Los Angeles Times to an exhibit at the Autry (through October 5, 2008) to--the latest--an announcement from the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association that the book among five finalists in their non-fiction category for best book of the year.

So what is All the Saints of the City of the Angels?

It's an elaborately illustrated book--very beautiful, really--of 103 streets in Los Angeles named after saints. 103 vignettes as well, many tragic and touching. Artist and author J. Michael Walker links each street to its saint, dredging into local histories and poking around store fronts until the meaning becomes clear.

It's an entirely different way of looking at Los Angeles history that opens up whole new worlds.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Exiles Coming

Thanks to author Sherman Alexie and director Charles Burnett, we in Los Angeles get to see a 1961 film about young Native Americans living in the Bunker Hill area. The film, from the description, seems a documentary with scenes re-created by the people who are being interviewed, all non-actors.

The Los Angeles Times calls the ending "almost unbearably intimate. " The New York Times says the film is "A beautifully photographed slice of down-and-almost-out life, a near-heavenly vision of a near-hell that [director] Mr. Mackenzie situated at the juncture of nonfiction and fiction. He tapped into the despair of this obscured world while also making room for the poetry and derelict beauty of its dilapidated buildings, neon signs, peeling walls and downcast faces."

Drumming and drinking, belonging and not belonging, are themes. The old mansions of Bunker Hill and the downtown bar area of the late 1950s should lure anyone with an interest in Los Angeles' history to this movie, though.

Kent Mackenzie directed the film, assembling it over 3 years to debut at the Berlin International Film Festival in July 1961. Has it been seen since? Don't think so, and the very limited list of world-wide showings at the website lasts through November, so I wouldn't expect to pick it up on Netflix before the end of the year.

UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater is showing The Exiles from Friday, August 15 (with a special, tba guest) through Saturday, August 23, at various times. The theater is at the courtyard level of the Hammer Museum, at Wilshire and Westwood.

imdb has the trailer, but you can also see that and a lot more at the film's website,