Sunday, August 31, 2014

More to Do and More to Read

It's probably a law of nature that the minute a post is up, one finds more to add to it.

So here are some more suggestions for Los-Angeles-History reading, followed by a few more get-off-the-couch activities:

First, the reads:

Now the get out and go's:

UCLA Film series has two foci this fall: Edith Head and Noir, and both involve screenings of classic films and talks by special guests at the Billy Wilder Theater. Here's a link to the calendar.

  • The Edith Head films start with Sunset Blvd on Sept. 12, followed by a TV interview with Ms. Head and a talk with historian and costume designer Debra Nadoolman Landis. On the 14th there will be two more films

  • The Noir set starts on Sept. 13 with two films (The Blue Garndenia & Whirlpool, starring Ann Baxter and Gene Tierney, respectively), two more on the 15th, and two more on the 19th.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

For Your Reading / Viewing / Visiting Pleasure

Some fascinating stories about Los Angeles and its history are circulating. The picture is of Lake Cachuma, a lake most of us have seen and enjoyed in better years. This photo appeared in the Los Angeles Times in late January (months ago. Is anything left now?)

Here are some articles you may enjoy:

  • The LADowntown blog tracks the oddly curved wall of Senor Fish to its historic roots with the Southern Pacific Railroad.

  • Water Use: KPCC and the Milken Institute hosted a panel of experts on water use in California, and you can either watch excerpts from the session or read about the nine top suggestions for saving water here. (number 1 was rip out all our lawns. Which I'm all for, since I live in a condo and have no lawn to sacrifice.)

  • Related to water use, LA Observed presented a history of the state and how Indians, Californios, and everyone else dealt with its water shortages over the years.

  • A NASA page on satellite data about the drought.

  • Disneyland lovers: Even though it's now inactive, the SamsLand Blog about all things Disney and amusement parkish makes for pretty good anecdotal reading. Author Sam Gennawey put out the featured book at right.

  • OK, this one isn't really about history, but David Hochman has an article in Los Angeles Magazine called "Sound Check: A Study of LA Noise Pollution."  I found it enthralling.

As for events that might actually get you out of the apartment:

Monday, August 25, 2014

St. Timothy's Catholic Church Mosaics

I snapped this picture while driving down Pico and looked it up later--the mosaic dome topping the cupola is part of St. Timothy's Catholic Church. And while I couldn't find out much about the mosaics--inside or out--St. Timothy's itself has a very interesting history.

The church was built in 1949 at the corner of Pico and Beverly Glen. The parish had been in existence for six years, holding services in--among other temporary sites--an ice cream parlor while fundraising for a permanent building.

St. Timothy's website has tons of photos taken during construction, including the one below right showing the cross over the yet-to-be-constructed-and-tiled cupola.

The site says, "The cupola itself is constructed of flat steel bands formed in the shape of the cupola over which the cupola tile was placed."

Was not able to learn if any particular artist or designer was involved with the cupola mosaic, so that's it for the outside.

Inside is another story. There IS a mosaic behind the altar which was not part of the original design but commissioned later by Bishop Ward--probably in the early to mid 1960s, the years, just after Vatican II Council. Vatican II advised churches to do some remodeling so that the priest would face the congregation during Mass. That's when the altar was moved away from the painted back wall (you can see the painting, with rays shining out, below), and that's likely when the mosaic wall was installed.

By the way, the reason Bishop Ward was in a position to change St. Timothy's is that he was also pastor of the church. Why? I don't know, but it's very rare for a bishop to also be a pastor. Still, Bishop Ward was pastor of St. Timothy's for thirty years, so there's probably a tale behind that.

The really interesting story is about the wooden altarpiece itself. Constructed in Spain (date unknown, but likely 17th century), it was shipped to the Yucatan in 1900, but confiscated by the Mexican govenment. Somehow it ended up being auctioned off in the 1920s, and the woman who bought it--supposedly the wife of a secretary of the Doheny Oil Company--had it shipped to Los Angeles.

Her intention was that it be used in an Episcopal church. But she died before that happened, and the altarpiece sat in storage for a couple of decades, until it was put back on the auction block.

At this point, we must mention the church's connection to the movie community in the 1940s. Several of the parishioners worked for Fox Studios and MGM, constructing sets, etc. They were craftsmen, and they used their expertise to help build the new church. For example, the tabernacle--of bronze castings, plated in gold, that house silver statues of the Apostles--was created by MGM's Special Effects Dept, because the Dept. Manager was a parishioner.

Back to the altarpiece. Somehow, folks at Twentieth Century Fox found out about the altarpiece that was up for bids, and they told Father O'Shea, the pastor of this fledgling parish. Based on that information (sight unseen, iow) Father O'Shea sent a man to bid on the altarpiece and some other objects for the planned church, like heavy wooden doors.

So by the time the church was built, there was a small art collection in storage, awaiting placement in the new building.

At left is the altarpiece in the new church. Below is the same altarpiece. I zoomed in on a picture by professional wedding photographer Robert Greer.  The full color, uncropped photo at Greer's website shows so much more of the church--the ornamental ceiling panels (also from 1949), the stained glass windows, and side altars  that were also part of the altarpiece.

Anyway, it is the only good photo I could find of the mosaic that now sits behind the altarpiece.

The statues in those side altars have been in a 1946 movie--"The Jolson Story." They were supposed to be part of St. Mary's Home for Boys, and were later given to St. Timothy's.

One more thing to add--the church website also mentions that the Stations of the Cross in the church are mosaics. The webpage presents a slide show constantly playing, and I did see one of those mosaics flash by there. However, I couldn't find a picture to show here, and it's getting late. If you go into the building, though, be sure to look for them.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I Love LA . . . Especially the Rubber Duck

Nothing says harbors and longshoremen and tattoo parlors like a 61-foot rubber duckie, right?

As its creator, Florentjin Hofman, says, “The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve the world’s tensions as well as define them.”

Today, I do not analyze, I do not editorialize. Today, I simply marvel at a giant rubber duck in the Port of Los Angeles. In a random world, such things happen.

The picture, btw is from Time Inc.

Fun Blog for Lovers of Los Angeles History

Well, someone's gotta write something interesting, and I have been slacking of late.

So for those missing a fix of local color, you can click here now. You'll get a 21-st birthday salute to the Viper Room, which was once the Melody Room, hangout of Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. Then it was Filthy McNasty's, then The Central, and finally the Viper--and each incarnation has A History. Alison Martino, proprietor of this blog, has thoughtfully added pictures of the joint through all its varied personas--and she's even included photos of matchbook covers and ashtrays.

I've been following Alison Martino's Vintage LA on Facebook for a couple of years, I didn't know about this website.

There's more, of course, and at the end of every post you'll hear me sigh, "I wish I'd written that!"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mosaic Monday, Vacation Edition

This week, we're going to Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, just 15 miles south of San Francisco.

Here's a closeup of  the above, so you can see the craftsmanship.

I can't pretend to know anything about the city of Half Moon Bay beyond what a one-day tourist would see. Half Moon Bay has a charming Main Street lined with galleries, bistros, and boutiques.

That's where I found this 10-foot tall mosaic, created by Sue Prichard, an artist from Montara.

She taught middle school in South San Francisco for years, but by 2001 Prichard had taken early retirement and was focusing on art.

And biography-wise, that's all I can say about her. Couldn't find a website or FB page.

Sue Prichard is also the artist who installed smaller mosaics about a block away, at Main and Kelly, in a small park named Mac Dutra, after a late civic leader. I think it's more accurately a plaza, but it is referred to as a park in most places.

According to a story in the local newspaper, Prichard organized the making and installing of dozens of mosaic tiles in 2001, using funds from grants, including a $4,000 grant from the Peninsula Community Foundation that got the work started.

As she worked, Prichard invited onlookers to help glue in pieces of the mosaic and then sign a guestbook. Eventually, local families and individuals were creating flowers, while Prichard concentrated on making the vines that would link them all together--a nice metaphor for a community art project. Folks branched out, making ladybugs and birds as well.

In the picture at left, you can see a giraffe and the cow that jumped over the moon on the right.

Here's a paragraph from a 2001 newspaper article written by Mark Simon for SF Gate:

Look closely and you'll find a rainbow, a kitten with a green stripe, butterflies, a Brazilian bird and a lizard with an orange tongue made by a young boy who was visiting Half Moon Bay for chemotherapy treatments. There's a bird made by a girl in a wheelchair, a Kachina doll, turtles, snakes, a dark blue octopus and a Wheaten terrier that Prichard named Merlin. There's a turtle with a dime and an abalone shell in its back, a shark, a huge green crocodile with a purple eye, ladybug marbles, a squirrel, two glass dragonflies, a caterpillar, another cat named Goldberry and a half moon.

I think some of those objects--the Goldberry cat. a shark, and a glass dragonfly--may be on the low curb behind the planter, on the right. There's a pony on the  left, next to a ladybug.

The effort took about two years to pull off. That's a picture of Prichard above, in the park, from the paper, and she feels the city has allowed the park to deteriorate.

Which must be true, since the city dissolved its Parks & Rec Dept. three years ago. Rusting picnic benches were pulled out last year. How could things not go downhill from there?

Plans to renovate Mac Dutra Park (which is very small) are worrying the artist. Art has gone missing before, and she is concerned that this may happen again. The article does not say where the $200,000 for renovations will come from.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A blog of the Abandoned, Macabre, and Strange

A year ago, I pointed interested readers to Allissa Walker's blog, A Walker in LA, and an article about Los Angeles' original subway system and Terminal Building. She posted some wonderful pictures from Ye Olde Days Underground, as well as new photos taken during a tour. The tunnels have now been condemned and deemed unsuitable for further tours, but .you can enjoy a new post on the underground that she wrote for Urban Ghost Media, here.

Urban Ghosts has other articles on Los Angeles, including this piece on the Hollywood Museum of Death. Did you know we had such a place? We do, since 2000. And besides relics of our own Black Dahlia and Manson killings, the museum also houses the mummified head of Bluebeard.

The Museum of Death even has an online gift shop, so you can sport a tee shirt or coffee mug with the logo, or even one with a drawing of your favorite serial killer. Real serial killer, mind you, not Dexter.

The Urban Ghost site has its macabre side, but mostly it likes to show abandoned spots, not always giving away the location but featuring intriguing photos. Like this post on vintage fire trucks in our foothills (withdrawn from service, but not abandoned, they say).

Another story presents pictures, links, and speculation about the Great Streetcar Scandal of the 1930s and 1940s.

The pictures are the main thing here; the text is downright sparse. But, oh, the pictures!

The posts cover the world, and they're pretty wild. Detroit's salt mines, decaying toy stores, bowling alleys, churches, theaters--no wonder they are cagey about the locations.

Although not all are secret. Here's the link to photos of the plane crash site at Universal Studios. And here--close to my heart if not close to me geographically--are images of a mosaic park in Pennsylvania. Braddock Park was an empty, abandoned lot before artist James Simon came along--the "abandoned" part is what rated it a place in Urban Ghosts.

There are plenty of posts on decaying motels and leftover jets (jetsam, I gues) out in our deserts, too. All in all, a great place to waste an hour or two.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mosaics at the Dalton, Pasadena

Today's mosaic--you can just see it, next to the parking entry driveway--is on the corner of Arroyo Parkway and Del Mar in Pasadena.

Had I known then what I know now (then meaning the moment on Sunday afternoon when I was stopped at a light, thankful that I had my camera with me even though my stomach was growling) I would have cut across traffic and flipped a U turn worthy of Vin Diesel to get back to that corner.

Why? Well, although the building is clearly a fancy apartment house, the street-level business is a shop called "Flour & Tea."

Flour & Tea, it turns out, makes some specialty bakery items. I was hungry and wondered where I could stop, park for free or cheap, and get something to eat. Had I known that the shop in this photo makes a Nutella Cake with "two slathers of Nutella between layers of chocolate cake," nothing could have stopped me from indulging.

Especially since I wound up with a rather nasty tuna sandwich from a Fresh & Easy instead, possibly the worst tuna sandwich I've ever had. (How can you ruin a tuna sandwich? I mean, seriously? Well, they did. I can only say that I was thankful the pickle overwhelmed the fish. . . and that I didn't get sick.)

You can see the Flour & Tea window in this closer view of the mosaic, which faces Del Mar. I hope that the planter box is temporary because it doesn't seem to belong there.

Oops--just saw a photo from 2009. The planter has always been there, apparently.

Facing Arroyo Parkway, there is another mosaic, this one in yellow (below left). Very 50s.

The mosaics are part of The Dalton, a condominium project erected in 2009. Bob Champion was the developer, and he hired Bob Zoell to design the mosaics.

One of the perks of these condos is that they were built with gallery walls, ready to receive private art collections. Floor to ceiling windows too. The Pasadena Star News wrote about the features here.

Bob Zoell has done mosaic tile pillars for the Wilshire/Vermont Station, Metro Red Line. Here is Zoell's Metro biography:

Bob Zoell’s artwork has been featured in the New Yorker magazine and he has authored and illustrated many children’s books. He has been included in exhibitions throughout the world including the Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona and the Center Georges Pompidou, Paris. His artwork is included in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. 

End quote

His a trip. He's done covers for the New Yorker magazine, and in the 80s did artwork on street and bridge underpasses in LA.. He's also done work for the San Francisco Airport and created the Bubble glass wall at the Castaic Sports Complex Aquatic Center. Most of his art is geometric, not mosaic. I learned there are three mosaic murals at the Dalton, so clearly I've missed one. And I do need to taste that Nutella Cake , , ,

One more thought:

In 2010, I mentioned some old mosaic panels in an old strip of shops off Western Avenue in San Pedro, including a very old barber shop. This is the picture from that post.

That strip of shops is now, technically, Rancho Palos Verdes, no longer San Pedro. Still, can you see the similarities between Zoell's work and this--which, for all I know, was his inspiration?

Maybe the unknown artist who designed the panels did the same for many other shops in suburbs and cities throughout the Southland.


Is it possible that little Bobby Zoell got his hair cut in San Pedroin the 1950s? Just wondering.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Update on Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park

The most noticeable feature at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park and Lake Machado these days are the fences. Fences everywhere! They may be breeding . . .

The park is technically still open, though, and you can drive into the parking lot, park and take your children to the play areas. You can also stroll around the perimeter.

I saw folks picnicing and gathered around a couple of barbecues, though the view was not so nice. Who wants to lay back and stare at fences, after all?

On the north end, trees have been cut--though not an outrageous amount--and it looks like the fences have pushed some of the homeless into encampments that are visible from Vermont Ave.

There are booms and boats on the lake:

But I have to add that if anything, the lake looks larger than it did before the work started. I'm guessing that has a lot to do with the filtering mechanisms in place and the way they're cleaning it. Not that I understand it at all, but there are Big Thingies at the south end, and hopefully the waterfowl are enjoying the same access--even though the fences keep most of the visitors at bay.

Took lots of pictures of this guy, who had to be one of the biggest ducks I've ever seen, not to mention having a face so strange it's actually beautiful.