Friday, December 30, 2011

Pico House Haunted?

Those fun-loving folks of the Los Angeles Paranormal Association will be investigating Pico House again this January (they did it last year too). What do they hope to find?

The event starts at 8 pm on Saturday, January 28 and goes to 2 am Sunday morning. Cost? $85, which if you divide by six hours is probably not too bad.

Participants will be divided into four teams and will be prowling in and under the Pico House (there are tunnels) and the Masonic Temple and Merced Theater nearby. Here is description and details.

Their blog is lots of fun--they've held investigations in Virginia City, Tonopah, and Goldfield, NV, Northern California and down here at Linda Vista Hospital in Boyle Heights and the Queen Mary.

And they've done the Pico House before, in January of 2011. Lots of pictures and the information is here, including a description of the Chinese Massacre of 1871, which happened just outside. But besides taking pictures, it doesn't sound like much happened.

Ghost Adventures also locked themselves into the Pico House for an investigation, and had enough for a TV show on the night--shadows, mysterious voices, cold spots, etc. Here's the show on YouTube.

This last picture shows the Pico House being built, in 1869. I found this at the SkyscraperPage--if you scroll about half-way down the page, there are several old pictures of the Plaza and Pico House and the Merced Theater, which opened on New Years Day, 1870.

The theater, LA's first indoor stage theater, was built by an undertaker and named for the man's wife, Mercedes.

Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, built the Pico House Hotel in 1870, and lost it (financially speaking) ten year later. The place had indoor plumbing, gas lighting, and a French restaurant--quite elegant and state-of-the-art. I believe it was renovated about a dozen years ago.

Pico was an interesting guy, a mixed race man who seemed to love life and had a generous disposition. He was born at the Mission San Gabriel, so he was a true native Californian. Can't really imagine him haunting the place, but the ghost could be a disgruntled resident, I suppose. Or someone killed in that massacre.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pasadena Roses Mosaic

One week before the Rose Parade, this seems appropriate.

The rose mosaic at the Garfield Promenade of Paseo Colorado -- as well as the smaller pictures above the circular benches -- were installed ten years ago in 2001.Since there's a lot of traffic there, minor damage has been done, according to the City of Pasadena's website . Conservation is in progress.  The work is being repaired, pieces of the Venetian glass will be regrouted, andit will all be cleaned.

The artist is Margaret Nielsen and she is standing on the mosaic in the picture. Her work is titled Pasadena Panorama. Trizec Hahn development installed the piece, and the city's Public Arts program paid for it. Beyond the large rose mosiac, the pictures along the curved benches were also designed by Nielsen.

Margaret Nielsen is from Canada, but all of her training has been here in SoCal: Chouinard Arts School, Cal Arts in Valencia, and Loyola Marymount in Westchester.

One of her paintings, called LA Dialogs, is in the Metro Headquarters Building, and another is somewhere at the Union Station Gateway. A set of mosaics designed for the Motion Picture Association of America building on Ventura Blvd in Encino is in storage, sadly. The 21 Venetian glass mosaics show scenes from famous movies. Or so says LA Magazine's website, but I hope there are plans to restore them somewhere.

The Los Angeles Times reviewed her work recently.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Jaws House

If you think the name is creepy, wait'll you hear that one resident was a suspect in a gruesome murder...but let's start at the beginning.

The Jaws House on Franklin Ave. in the Los Feliz area is actually the John Sowden House. Sowden hired his friend Lloyd Wright (son of Frank) to design and build his home in 1926. Using patterned concrete blocks and a Mayan style as his father did in the Ennis House, Lloyd Wright created the showplace that Sowden wanted.

Today, it's still used as a showplace. Owner Xorin Balbes renovated it in 2001 and in 2009, and the house has been used for fundraisers for gay causes, according to the caption on this LA Library photo. Which probably has nothing to do with the gardener who got caught in the photograph.

Balbes put the unique house on the market earlier this year. The L.A. Times did a write-up in its Home of the Week column, pointing out all the features and changes over the years.

And Curbed LA (and probably a few other sites) ran incredible pictures of the place inside and out.

In between Sowden and Balbes, though, another owner just after World War II brought a more sinister cachet to the residence. A doctor named George Hodel lived there with his family, and his son believes the Black Dahlia--Elizabeth Short--was tortured, murdered, and dismembered there.

Son Steve Hodel wrote the book Black Dahlia Avenger
about his father and the years at the house.

Recent owner Balbes got flack for installing a pool when he renovated, according to this Wikipedia article.  Which is interesting, because a woman who used to visit the home as a child remembers a pool there originally.

Beverley Jackson remembers being sent to the house to visit a retired Shakesperian actor, Guy Bates Post, when she was a little kid. Why? Jackson's mother decided she mumbled, and wished to nip that in the bud.

Jackson blogs: "once inside there was a long narrow courtyard surrounded by the long narrow house. And there was a long narrow pool with water lilies just inside the courtyard. I remember it well because once I wasn’t paying attention and I fell into it."

So years later she visits the area, and comes up to the house just as a film shoot is winding up and talks to the property manager, who tells her about the Black Dahlia suspect and that there might be more bodies buried on the property. This had to be before the 2001 redo, because there was no pool. Jackson told the property manager about the pool she remembered, and said that must be where the bodies were.

Did anyone ever check?


Monday, December 12, 2011

Joseph Young Mosaic and Art

Today's mosaic by Joseph Young stands in  the lobby of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, on Burton Way.

Young's mosaic, along with other artwork for the temple, was commissioned by Sidney Eisenshtat, the original architect. It was Eisenshtat's first major design, but it was followed by many more, like the Friar's Club and Temple Sinai. Eisenshtat lived to be 90, and passed away in 2005. Here's a link to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, which lists many of his works.

Temple Emanuel opened in 1953 without the mosaic (it came along in 1955) and was refurbished lately by Rios Clementi Hale Studios. Here's a great article in the Los Angeles Times Magazine about the renovation and its deeper meaning.

The Times online piece includes a pictorial of old and new pictures of the temple, showing the black and white 1950's and 1960's photos alongside shots of the renovated site. I borrowed this picture of the mosaic from them, but to see the whole enchilada, go here.

The photo below, showing the entire mosaic, came from the Joseph L. Young Facebook fan page. The temple has a Facebook page too.

The LA Is My Beat Blog posted a wonderful 1955 newspaper photo of Young working on the mosaic, here.

There's actually a reason that I feature more of Joseph Young's work today as opposed to, say, a month hence. I have blogged about him before--his UCLA History of Mathematics mosaic, for example. . . I'm too lazy to go searching for them. Just put "Joseph Young" into the search box if you're interested.


Today is the 36th anniversary of the installation of the Triforium in Los Angeles, in the Civic Center area at Temple and Main. I learned that by becoming a fan of the Joseph L. Young Facebook page.

So it seems appropriate to feature a mosaic by Young, the Triforium's creator. This picture of the Triforium in 2011 is from Wikipedia, as is the link.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Late Mosaic Monday in Hermosa Beach

This post is late because a Patch article had to come first.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Hermosa Beach has installed a new mosaic of the original, iconic, 480-year-old picture that hangs in Mexico City. Read all about it in my Patch piece.
The article gives the basic history of Our Lady of Guadalupe as well, which I won't repeat here. If you are interested, read about it on Wikipedia, which has a pretty comprehensive entry with lots of pictures and links.
The Hermosa Beach church started Phase 3 of a 3-phase building project, and each phase starts with the dedication of a piece of artwork depicting a patron saint. Phase 2, for example, was the rebuilding of the friary, which was falling apart. That began with the dedication of a lovely statue of St. Anthony of Padua (sorry, no picture--although I believe there's one on the church's website.)
So Phase 3--upgrading the school and adding a preschool--began with this dedication to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The mosaic faces Prospect in a residential neighborhood, just south of 5th St on a little road called Massey.

Because Patch chose not to run it, I'm gonna add this picture of the artist, Sergio Hernández-Madera. He flew up from Guadalajara to repair and install the mosaic (it arrived damaged).
Sergio's website is, where you can read about him in English or Spanish. There you can see his other work: resort swimming pools lined with a hibiscus flower mosaic in Playa del Carmen, or a bird of Paradise in Hawaii, for example, or retro-senoritas on a restaurant wall at Disney World. He did a seascape for the Discovery Channel in MD.
His mosaics can be portraits or recreate artwork from the PreRaphaelites to Picasso.
The artist learned to make mosaics from his grandmother, and still has some of her work.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish has been around for decades, of course, and has other representations of Mary, the Mother of God--like this statue. It also shows her as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it even has mosaic work in it--in gold, no less.
A few things I learned researching this post and article:
First, the cloth that the 480-year-old picture is imprinted upon should have deteriorated 460 years ago.
Second, some claim that the picture's eyes--imprinted on that ancient cloth--reflect the scene 480 years ago, with images of people in them. Read more about that here.
Third, "Guadalupe" has nothing to do with the place where she appeared. The lady spoke to an indigenous man when she appeared, using Nahuatl--his language. She told him she was Coatlaxopeuh, meaning "the one who crushes serpents." Coatlaxopeuh sounded like Guadalupe to the Spanish.
It's all on Wiki, and the same story is on many other sites. There's even a link to the 16th-century narrative of the story.

Monday, December 5, 2011

21st Century Equestrians

Mosaic Monday will have to wait till Tuesday, but it is special. Really.

Meanwhile, I offer this picture taken at the San Pedro Christmas Parade over the weekend.

Let's be fair. Maybe she had a call from a family member telling her a donor had been found for her father's life-saving transplant surgery. Or maybe her Mom had called to tell her that the bank refinanced and their home is saved! Or maybe it was her agent, and she just got tapped to star in a new Disney after-school series called Parade Princess...

But let's face it, we all know that what's really being said on the phone is probably, "I dunno....what do you wanna do later?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What is this Bird?

Any birders out there?

Last year I had hummingbirds in this tree, right where I could see 'em. This year, different birds have made their home in the tree, but on the far side, where I can't see.

Until today, when this tweetie pie posed for about ten minutes right in front of my window. He or she displayed profile views, the whole bit, while downing a couple of the berries of this laurel tree--until I got my camera.

I'm pretty sure this is a juvenile, but what kind?

The tail is short and a beautiful, deep medium ruddy brown, a very solid color just like the back. The bird has an eye ring that doesn't show well in these pictures, and its belly is gray. The beak seems to be black, but close to the face it's pale.

I think it might be a thrush, but I'm not sure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Al Jolson Monument Mosaic

Today's mosaic is at Hillside Memorial Park, right off the 405 in Culver City.

If I had a dime for every driver since 1951 who nodded to the rotunda and waterfall and said, "That's where Al Jolson is buried," I'd probably have close to the $84,000 released from the estate to build the memorial itself.

Al Jolson died unexpectedly. Although he was in his 60s, he'd recently married a pretty young wife. They'd adopted a little boy, Asa, and were in the process of adopting baby Alecia when he passed. His career was on the upswing again--of that, he said, “This was no come-back, I just couldn’t get a job.”

Jolson left a million-dollar trust fund to his widow, half a mil to each of the babies, and the rest of his estate went to charities.

He actually did not provide for the memorial himself. His widow hired an attorney to petition the courts to release the money to build the pillared rotunda with its mosaic (which you can only see while standing underneath and looking up), the sarcophagus, and the statue. That was $75,000, and the land--purchased from the cemetery, was another $9000.

Hillside agreed to build the 120-ft cascade of water and the pool at their own expense. Apparently the plans were all made between the time Jolson died, in October 1950, and the court approval, February 1951. The memorial was dedicated that September, and Jack Benny read a eulogy.

Do not know who the mosaic artist was, but the cracks in the mosaic are real. They show up in my photos, and in others around the internet.

This last picture is from Hillside's own website, and I guess I could include the waterfall as a mosaic as well. The entire memorial was designed by Paul R. Williams.
You can see more photos of the monument here, at the Al Jolson Memorial Shrine Page of the Paul Williams Project.

Williams designed many famous LA buildings: The Beverly Hills Hotel, the Beverly Wilshire, First AME Church, Golden State Mutual Life Insurance, buildings at UCLA, and hundreds of homes. He was known as "the architect to the stars."

Paul Williams was brought into the Jolson project because Hillside was already in discussions with him about their proposed mausoleum--which Williams designed the same year. Harry Groman, one of the owners of Hillside, felt that Williams not only had the experience, but shared his aesthetic sense of what the mausoleum should be: a place full of natural light and gentle curves, where contemplation was encouraged.

It really is a beautiful place, and everyone should go see it. It strikes me that most of us never take advantage of the fact that cemeteries offer free parking and access to some of the most beautiful and serene landscapes around. Walking around the mausoleum to look for celebrity graves is fun, but just sitting there and enjoying the peaceful solitude is reason enough to visit.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sequoia Tribe Wigwam

A friend wished me Happy IPDP Day on Thursday (meaning Indigenous People Discover Pilgrims). And in the convoluted way we all think, that made me remember this picture I took a couple of years ago.

This is the San Pedro Lodge of the Improved Order of Red Men, a group that claims descent from the Sons of Liberty of pre-Revolutionary War days. (Remember the Sons of Liberty from history class? They're the guys that brought you the Boston Tea Party.)

Like all fraternal lodges, they do good work--in this case, raising funds for Alzheimer research. This local branch--the Sequoia Tribe--also hosts drives to collect canned food and toys for food banks and other groups. Their social events revolve around holidays like St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo, and those are open to the public.

Like all good lodges, they were once men-only but now have a group for ladies: the Degree of Pocahontas.

And of course, they create a place for people to come and socialize. I happen to think that's a noble achievement in the 21st century.

The Improved Order of Red Men is a very patriotic organization--most of their beliefs (on their website) center around love of country, freedom, and democracy. Their motto is "Freedom, Friendship, and Charity." Drawing on the connection to the Sons of Liberty, the Improved Order of Red Men claim that George Washington, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams (the patriot, not the brewmeister) were some of the group's first Sachems.

So why that name? They claim their customs, rituals, and terminology (their leaders are called Sachems, for instance, and as the picture indicates, their meeting halls are Wigwam Lodges) are patterned after early Native Americans. And they hint at regalia for certain ceremonies.

I intended to look up this intriguing group from the time I took this picture, and never quite got around to it. San Pedro's free monthly magazine, San Pedro Today, did the research for me in their November issue. Thank you! (They've taken their website down for reconstruction for a few days, but after December 1, 2011, you should be able to find them here.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Green Hills Mosaics

Today's mosaics are found at Green Hills Cemetery in Rancho Palos Verdes.

I blogged about the World War II Monument and mosaics here a few weeks ago. These flower mosaics run along the south side of the cemetery, closer to where the old chapel of St. Peter's is being reassembled.
These crypts--at least the top ones--are little mini-crypts that hold ashes and cremated remains. They're too high up to be decorated with flowers, so the idea was to install the flower mosaic as a permanent tribute.
There are actually four sets of these flower mosaics, each a little different. Here's a close-up of one tiny section, so the mosaic work can be seen. Like at the World War II monument, no grout shows, and the tiles are all small rectangles with a more matte finish--as opposed to being glassy and shiny.

Green Hills spokesman Ray Frew told me that they went through the International Cemetery Association to find their mosaic artist: Cheryl Neuberger of Florida. Now it never occurred to me that (a) institutions would look for artists through such an association, and (b) that picking an artist 3000 miles away would make good business sense. But that's what happened.
I don't know if the artist advertised with the Association or was recommended by another member. But I love the idea of artists advertising in membership newsletters, maybe sandwiched in between coffin suppliers and stonemasons.
Sadly, Cheryl Neuberger died unexpectedly after these mosaics were completed, and I could not find more references to her work.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Millard Sheets Tour This Spring

The Los Angeles Conservancy has announced a date and put up a page for its "Millard Sheets: A Legacy of Art and Architecture" tour: March 18, 2012.

The tour will focus on Claremont and Pomona sites. Wonder if Mr. Sheets' old office will be open?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mosaics at Holy Cross

I've been looking forward to seeing this famous artwork at Holy Cross Cemetery, which is on display at the Holy Cross link and at right. The pictures, this and two smaller pieces, were created by famed artist Isabel Piczek.

I've blogged about her work before. She and her sister Edith are well-known in both Catholic and artistic circles for the pictures they've created on three continents.

So I get to the cemetery in Culver City (remember when it used to be so visible from the 405?), drive to the mausoleum on the hill, park, and finally I can view the stylized, 1300-square-foot artwork first from afar, then up close. Because the way the mausoleum is designed, you can walk right up to it and lay your hand on its flat, painted acrylic resin surface...

...Holy chimera, Batman! Those aren't mosaics!

They're a famous mosaicist. Stunning murals, but not mosaics.

The mural above contains (according to Holy Cross's brochure) the Complete Theology of the Resurrection--the RISEN CHRIST, the Descent to Sheol and the Ascent.

The descent to Sheol (the gates of hell) is on the left, and his ascent into heaven is on the right, so actually there are three Christ figures in the painting. Also represented are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, and more.

Well, I looked around, and found some mosaics--in a more primitive style--which I think complement the ultra modern (by 20th century standards) mural quite well. These small mosaics represent the stations of the cross. They look to be about 14-16 inches square, but they're way up high so I can't be sure.

The one at top must be "Jesus meets the woman of Jerusalem." Below that, as he carries his cross, I can't be sure of the station. Sorry!

I'm just really glad the pictures came out. My little Kodak Easy Share really performed like a champion.

Holy Cross produces five pages of text about the symbolism and history of these murals, but not one word about the mosaics. No idea who the artist was (I did ask).

I include the station number (Nine) on the picture on the right to show that I did not rotate the picture. This mosaic shows Jesus falling for the third time.

To Catholic school veterans like myself, these pictures and their titles will bring back memories of the once-a-week trek to church to perform the Stations of the Cross during Lent. The idea, of course, is to learn to appreciate the pain and suffering endured as Christ carried his cross up the hill to be crucified, but I think most school kids are too busy passing notes (or texting, today) and giggling about how funny the priest sounds when he sings (yes, there is musical accompaniment to the Stations of the Cross) to fully absorb the deeper lessons.

Friday, November 11, 2011


So what was going on the last 11-11-11: November 11, 1911? It was NOT Veteran's Day, or even Armistice Day as my Grandma used to call it. That date memorialized the end of WWI, still several years in the future.

Good ol' Proquest tells me that a land and building boom was going on in 1911. During the first ten days of the month, 434 building permits were issued--aincluding a permit for the Times Building.

On November 11, the last piece of undeveloped shoreline in Santa Monica, starting at Idaho Ave and going north--about 4500 feet, was sold at about $225,000.

The Valdemar Hotel at 6th and Hope was leased for ten years to a lady named Lillie K. Simpers for $60,000--that included furniture. Thirty-six rooms had just been added to the property (don't know how big it was before the addition.)

A huge storm paralyzed the rest of the country. "Train service is demoralized and both telegraphic and telephonic communications are seriously interfered with." So much for the old rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition.

And Altadena put forward a plan to become the first and only U.S. city to elect only women to office. Could not find any follow up to this article, so perhaps it was joke.

Much more stuff happened, but quite honestly some parts of the ancient newspaper are just impossible to read, so they'll have to go unreported.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Witches House Mosaics

It's a little late for Halloween, but the Witches House in Beverly Hills is full of mosaics!
Mostly cracked tile mosaics, from the pool outside to the bathrooms and even the wall behind the owner, who is featured in this Channel 7 ABC video:

Between the Seeing Stars site and Wikipedia, I've learned this: The house was built in Culver City in 1921 by a studio art director, Harry Oliver, and in fact was used for several silent films before being moved to Beverly Hills in 1934. (Oliver designed the Tam O'Shanter in LA.)

The house served as a funky office building and dressing rooms for Irving Willat's film company--the black and white picture is from that period, 1921. I think the "Face of the World" must be a movie title, though I sure don't see it on imdb.

The Spadena family bought the house and moved it Beverly Hills, so the house is often called The Spadena House. You can see it in the background of the movie Clueless.

The current owner of the Witch House, Michael Libow (he's in the video) bought it in 1998 and has lovingly restored and revamped it. Wiki says that Libow was the selling agent in 1997 and bought it himself when every other potential buyer made clear their desire to tear it down. Libow has worked with a movie art director, Nelson Coates, to create a fantasy home, and mosaics are part of that.

A wonderfully quirky blog--Midnight in the Garden of Evil-- has tons of exterior pictures, because Libow hosted a political fundraiser there once. But no shots of the interior, sadly. One of Midnight's shots hints at the mosaics, though, and I played with the contrast to bring them out a bit. The result is to the right.

But to see the whimsical tree-like mosaics in the bathroom, you'll have to watch the video above.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Northridge Home H&L Mosaic

This beautiful bank in Northridge  was built in 1986, and the mosaics are done by Susan Hertel and Denis O'Connor.

Adam Arenson just led an Autry Center-sponsored tour of the Home Savings and branches in the San Fernando Valley. In advance of that tour, the Daily News presented an article on the banks, Arenson, and the tour. 

I hope they don't mind that I borrow this one picture, that shows how the mosaics look over the entrance. They shouldn't since I think the journalist drew on my Westways article from last year for a few anecdotes...share and share alike, right? The photographer here is Dean Musgrove, and more photos--including a close up of Montie Montana's face, can be seen at the Daily News site.

Yup, Montie Montana. A huge TV cowboy in the 60s. I went to kindergarten with Montana's neice, so I know these things.

At right is the central panel, a picture taken by Professor Arenson. I love the choo choo along the top, and the falcon.

Even though the tour has passed, you can hear Arenson talk about "The Life and Work of Millard Sheets" on December 10th--in Pomona, at the American Museum of Ceramic Art. Here's the announcement.

And the LA Conservancy plans a tour of Sheets' work in Claremont and Pomona this spring.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What happened on the day before Halloween in 1938?

"Radio Story of Mars Raid Causes Panic"

Yup, it wasn't Halloween itself, but the day before, when Orson Welles broadcast that famous radio play "War of the Worlds" from the East Coast. As the sub-head read, "New Jersey Homes Abandoned After Fictional Broadcast."

October 30 was a Sunday in 1938, just as in 2011.

Welles announced that a meteor had fallen somewhere near Trenton, NJ, so newspapers, hospitals, and police departments were flooded with calls. This is long before 911, btw. "Flooded with calls" meant that the police dept switchboard got over 2,000 inquiries from the panicked masses. Surely, thousands more just couldn't get through.

A rumor spread in Newark that a "gas bomb attack" was imminent, then that a gas explosion actually occurred--so ambulances and fire trucks were sent to the Clinton Hills area of the city for naught.

Dallas, Tulsa, and other cities reported emergency calls as well, according the Los Angeles Times. In fact, the switchboards at the LAT were swamped. Hundreds of people called, and those in the downtown area just walked or ran into the newspaper office for updates, thinking the invasion was real.

Orson Welles pointed out that the broadcast started with music, that the script began with an announcement that it was now 1939 (the future), and that the show broke for regular commercials. Also, there were four announcements reminding listeners that this was a fictional story.

"It's too bad that so many people got excited but after all we kept reminding them that it wasn't really true," Welles said. "You can't do much more and hope to keep up any impression of suspense when you're putting on a play."

And, of course, a U.S. Congressman immediately announced that he would introduce a bill to curb such abuse of the airwaves.

The play was broadcast by KNX in Los Angeles.

While looking up this story, I can across another headline: "Autoist Dies of Injuries."


We try out and dump so many words over the years. I once talked with a man who was Very Angry. Why? Because someone had let our language change so much that he could no longer enjoy Shakespeare's English. He blamed academics--I guess he felt it was their job to keep our language from evolving.

The REAL headline story for 1938, though, told how "the widow Barnett" was dragged from her home after tear gas had been deployed, ending a two-year battle to evict her. I'm going to save that for another post, and try to find out more about the diary she kept, parts of which are hinted at in the newspaper.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Signal Hill Market Mosaics--Updated

Today's mosaics are on the Fresh & Easy store in Signal Hill on Cherry. The series of three pictures is titled "Full Circle."

I wish I could name the mosaicist, but I can only say I'll post the information if I ever lay hands on it. Calls are into Signal Hill and Fresh & Easy Corporate--but since F& E just recalled some packaged spinach, the PR department has been a bit too busy to answer my calls...

UPDATE: The city of Signal Hill tells me the artist is Stephen Elicker, a local artist who works in glass and tile. In fact, he is a glass blower, but he terms himself a "Visual Artist" and works in several mediums. You can read more about hm at his Facebook page.

Long before the store was built, the mosaics were planned. An April 2009 article in the Signal Tribune says the planned market would have a mosaic-tile art wall. That article also states that Signal Hill Petroleum was the developer of the property, which sits atop a hill crest on Cherry.
Signal Hill's Landscape Consultant, John Chicchetti, brought Elicker in for the project.

I've gone through a lot of announcements and even a video about the store opening, and not one mentions or even shows the mosaic.  How sad. The three pictures face Cherry (east), so they are visible to traffic--but the store entrance faces south, so once inside the parking lot they are invisible.

The store opened on Sept. 8, 2010.

Below is  a picture I borrow from Elicer's FB page, showing the mosaic in progress. You might want to check out more of his photos showing the progress of these and other projcets. Some are in small parks, and some (like the beautiful Drake's Dragon) don't give a location.

Elicker helped to establish the The ArtExchange Visual Art Center in Long Beach. He is also responsible for the Rose Park mosaic, which is on my list of mosaics to blog about--a list that is growing daily.

Funny--when I started Mosaic Mondays a couple of years ago, I wondered how many months' worth of mosaics I could find. Now....I think I could continue for twenty years. There are that many examples of public art mosaics in the county. And the city of Long Beach is adding more constantly...yay!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cemetery Guide for Los Angeles

Now that Amazon has welcomed me back as a potential market source (thank you Jerry Brown) I've put my "book of the month . . . sorta" feature back up on the right. And what better book for the week before Halloween than a guide to Los Angeles' dead people?

The official title is LA's Graveside Companion: Where the V.I.P.s R.I.P.
Cute, huh?

Got to see author Steve Goldstein talk about the book, and his original title was "Beneath Los Angeles." In fact, that's now his website.

Goldstein has appeared on California's Gold with Huell Howser, on a Pet Cemetery segment. He's got a video out, produced by his brother: Gravehunting with Steve. In it, he tours Hollywood Forever, Holy Cross, and Hillside Memorial Park cemeteries.

Goldstein is giving a free tour of Westwood Memorial Park, where Marilyn Monroe is encrypted, on October 29th.  I don't see that at his website. (beware the music there, btw). Read more about that and sign up at

According to Goldstein, Marilyn was the first really big celebrity to be interred at the 100-year-old Westwood, but now there are many more. Burt Lancaster, Peggy Lee, Truman Capote, Mel Torme, Donna Reed, Roy Orbison, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, Bob Crane, Natalie Wood...and more, according to the Seeing-Stars site.

In fact, the Wikipedia entry on Westwood has an alphabetical listing of  all the dozens of stars buried there. The picture of Marilyn's plaque came from WikiCommons.

Closer to home, I found that the local cemetery with the great mosaics of San Pedro, which I blogged about last Monday, is host to Charles Bokowski's remains.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

View Historic Murals Oct

The historic murals in the Golden State Mutual Building on Adams and Western will be viewable this Saturday, October 22, from noon to 3 pm--thanks to the West Adams Heritage Association. And it will only cost $15. The tour includes St. Elmo's too.

The murals were painted by Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff, and depict "The Negro in California History." One mural shows "Exploration and Colonization" and the other "Settlement and Development." The building itself (now a historical monument) was designed by Paul Williams.

I blogged about these murals years ago, but I think a lot of the information is unchanged.

Here's the scoop on the tour: Advance tickets are $15.00 from, (323) 732-4223, for the afternoon tour, or contact CAAM, (213) 744-7536 or -7432 for a morning bus tour which includes the murals and St. Elmo Village. A book from the WAHA is included.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mosaics at Green Hills Memorial Park

Back in March, I reported that the first church in San Pedro, St. Peter's, would be moved to Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes. Last week, I actually saw St Peter's steeple, in a couple of crated pieces, being moved down Western Avenue. So I thought I'd drive around the cemetery and get a preview of the church's new home.

And I found mosaics!

I've been at that cemetery before and asked if there were any mosaics there. The nice man at the gate house said no, but maybe he thought I meant a big religious mosaic like at other cemeteries.

The mosaic featured today lines the floor of a black marble World War II memorial in the park. One side states "In honor of the men of San Pedro who gave their lives in World War II." Under that is a list for each year: 1941 through 1943 on one side, 1944 and 1945 on the other.

Lots of names. Lots of heroes.

Here is a picture so you can see how the mosaics frame the monument.

I have no idea who designed these mosaics. Judging by the pristine state of the carved marble and the very modern-looking cranes in that top picture of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, my guess is the World War II monument is very recent.

I do have a call in to Green Hills to see if I can get more information. And if I do, I'll update this post. There are a few other mosaics in the park that use the same type of stone and style of fittings (I don't see any grout, for example), so I can post about them at another time.

In fact, the Daily Breeze mentioned recently that Green Hills has plans to install a mosaic floor around St. Peter's when the church finally gets moved--an event which should happen within the next two months. So hopefully, I'll be able to pass on information about that, too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kronish House Saved!

Happy Endings are so very in right now.

About 3 weeks ago I blogged about the 1955 Kronish House in Beverly Hills--a Richard Neutra-designed residence that Dion Neutra was trying desperately to save.

The house, sold ten months ago in a foreclosure auction, was to razed. A date of October 11 was said to be demolition day.  But apparently a new owner has closed escrow on the property.  The LA Conservancy is announcing that the house will be restored, not destroyed.

Yay! If you follow the LA Conservancy link in the previous paragraph and scroll down, you'll find more photos, the address on Sunset, and a description of the house.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Santa Clarita Valley Movie History

Recognize this road?

You have seen it before.

The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society is trying to raise funds to put a historical marker here. Why?

This is where, in 1935, Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard walked into the sunset at the end of Modern Times. 

So now there's a Facebook page, and if you want to donate you can click on FundRazr on the left.

You can also help by going on tours over the next two Saturdays.

The October 15 tour takes you to Walt Disney's film ranch, the Golden Oak, in Placerita Canyon. A private tour from the inside!

The next Saturday, hear a lecture and caravan to film sites in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Both tours begin at 1 pm at the Saugus Train Station at Heritage Junction. The cost is $60--don't know if that's for one or both tours. But you can find out by emailing, or by calling  626.483.1205.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Aquarium of the Pacific Mosaic

This fountain sits outside of the entrance of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.  Outside--as in, you don't have to pay an entrance fee to enjoy it (though the Aquarium is well worth the fee).

The fountain and mosaic were created with Proposition 40 funds to illustrate California's waterways and watersheds, from the mountains to the sea (didn't a newscaster used to say that every night?). The funds also paid for two watershed exhibits and a classroom at the Aquarium.

As for the mosaic, I found these pictures at TND Studio's website. They are apparently the designers, the fabricators, the installers--the ultimate crafters.

TND Studio seems to be Theodora Kurkchiev and Dimitri Lazaroff...and they're right here in San Pedro! Or at least, they were. Not sure where their studio is now.

According to a 2001 article in the Los Angeles Times, the artists emigrated to the US from Bulgaria in 1983, with around $300 to their names.

The Times article was about a mosaicy mural at Disney's California Adventure that the couple made. At the time it was the Largest Ceramic Mural in the World, and was made of 14,500 pieces. The reporter found out that Disney had cut the estimated time to complete the mural in half and asked, "Was there a lot of pressure from Disney?"

Here's what Lazaroff answered: "You know those military parades you would see in Eastern Europe during the Cold War with all the rocket launchers and the tanks going down the street? If you were a tank driver in the Bulgarian army and your tank broke down in the parade, you would be put in prison for four or five years. That was pressure. Making ceramic tiles--that is not pressure."

If you want a real mosaic treat, go here to follow the photos of the Yesterland mural at Disney's California Adventure. It was taken down a few years ago, but if you visited California Adventure 5-10 years ago, it should look familiar.

Prowling around TND's site, I found pictures of their mosaics in Korea, Japan, Vegas, ....even for Citywalk in Universal City (I'll have to blog on that one sometime).  But very little about the artists themselves, not even a studio address.

Some are very fine portraits--like this mountain lion who is part of the Aquarium of the Pacific mosaic, but also can be purchased as a separate work of art through galleries. Others are abstract. A lot used special painted tiles, like the tiles of wildlife at this Long Beach fountain. I guess it's best called a mixed-media mosaic.

The work is called "The Wave" and "Rios de la Vida" at the The Wave.