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Category: artists

George Zoritch in Arizona

George Zoritch When Jory Hancock was discussing taking a job at the University of Arizona, he learned the opening was created by the retirement of ballet legend George Zoritch.

"You don't replace George Zoritch and that's really how I approached the job here," said Hancock, now the director of the School of Dance and interim dean of the College of Fine Arts. "I had heard about him my whole life."

Zoritch, who died Nov. 1 at 92, remained a force in Arizona's dance department after retiring in 1987. "He was 70 and taking classes," Hancock said. "We would use him to demonstrate. ... He was the [Mikhail] Baryshnikov of his time.

"He really pushed [students] along. He paved the way for good things to happen."

Hancock and his wife, Arizona dance professor Melissa Lowe, drove with Zoritch to a hotel restaurant to celebrate his 90th birthday. Zoritch, who by then had trouble walking more than 30 steps at a time, wanted to drive his car.

"He drove like 90 miles an hour," Hancock said. "There was still a bit of the Russian spirit in him with the gas pedal."

-- Keith Thursby

Photo: George Zoritch in 1937. Credit: Zeitgeist Films

A tribute to August Coppola

Thanks to reader Patricia Vidour, an artist from Argentina, for passing along a video tribute to August Coppola by his son Christopher Coppola, who is a filmmaker. August Coppola, who died Oct. 27, was a former literature professor who had been living in Savannah, Ga., while he was writing fiction. Coppola had planned to use some of Vidour's paintings in a future novel. You can see her work in the video and at her blog,   

-- Claire Noland

Brendan Mullen, L.A. punk promoter

Brendan Mullen, the founder of the Masque punk rock club in Hollywood that helped launch that vibrantly anarchic music scene on the West Coast in the late 1970s, died Monday after suffering a massive stroke two days earlier. He was 60.

Mullen died at Ventura County Medical Center, his companion of 16 years, Kateri Butler, said Monday. The couple had been traveling through Santa Barbara and Ventura celebrating his 60th birthday, which was Friday. "The doctors are completely perplexed," Butler said. "They can't figure out why he had a stroke -- he had none of the indicators, his cholesterol was perfect. One of the neurologists summed it up best when he said, 'Sometimes, your number is just up.' "

At the Masque, Mullen created an underground space that served as a crucible for the musicians and fans who felt alienated from mainstream society. Anger, frustration and self-deprecating humor flowered in the assaulting music that had been roiling in New York and London as L.A. bands including the Weirdos, the Germs, the Dils and the Screamers turned up regularly at the Masque for some of their earliest performances.

"He was the first promoter of punk rock in this town," veteran promoter Paul Tollett of Goldenvoice said Monday. "Everything started with him."

Once those seeds had been planted, other bands quickly followed, and the Masque became home to X, the Go-Go's, the Dickies, the Plugz, the Flesh Eaters and many more.

"Many bands existed before June '77, when I moved into the space and got a free month's rent to clear out 15 years of debris from the Don Martin School of Radio Broadcasting, the last business which operated in the basement," Mullen wrote in his book "Live At the Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley," published in 2007 on the 30th anniversary of the short-lived club that closed in 1979. "For the record, I never claimed to have 'started punk in L.A.'…I'd prefer the Masque epitaph to be 'Where the SoCal scene originally came together.' "

--Randy Lewis

Note: We'll have a full obit in Tuesday's print edition and later here.

Jerry Burchfield and the El Toro Marines


The death of Orange County artist and educator Jerry Burchfield brought back some fond memories of the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

Burchfield used photography to document two significant but very different areas in Orange County -- Laguna Canyon Road and the El Toro base. There was more than a bit of politics involved in photographing Laguna Canyon because at one time developers had plans for the area that could have changed it forever. The photography project helped the environmental movement that stopped the development.

There were plans for El Toro too -- using the air strips and other facilities there as a starting point for a regional airport. But Burchfield and his colleagues mostly had history in mind while they took thousands of pictures at El Toro. Mark Chamberlain, a Laguna Beach artist and gallery owner who worked with Burchfield for decades, said the Marines deserved some lasting memory of their time and service in Orange County.

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