The show goes on -- without Endeavour
Confetti flittered from the sky and dancers swooped through the air on suspended rings as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took the stage at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza – but the celebrated guest was nowhere in sight.
"Are you guys ready for the shuttle?” Villaraigosa said to the crowd, as four planes burned a flyover trail in the afternoon sky. “Yes, it's coming – I promise."
But Endeavour was running late. By 6:30 p.m., the space shuttle’s final mission to the California Science Center was more than four hours behind schedule, thanks to a particularly narrow stretch of roadway and an LAPD truck that blocked the shuttle's path.
The delay forced organizers of a choreographed dance party at Crenshaw Plaza to pull the trigger early.
"I thought it was going to be 1 p.m., then they said 2 p.m., then 3, then 4," choreographer Debbie Allen said. "When they said 5 p.m., I just said, ‘OK, let's do this.'"
The celebrations began three hours late, about 4 p.m., with a dance routine to "Living in America" and a performance from 10-year-old Sebastian De La Cruz from "America's Got Talent." Dancers will still welcome the shuttle when it finally arrives, Allen said, but some things– the confetti, the airplane flyovers – cannot be repeated.
The performance had to take place during daylight hours because the stage wasn't outfitted with lights, Allen said. She said that many in the crowd of hundreds had been waiting since 10 a.m. in the heat. A local WalMart donated a case of water that volunteers distributed. One shuttle-watcher was taken away on a stretcher by the Los Angeles Fire Department.
"Where's the shuttle, Debbie?" someone asked. "Play some music, Debbie!" another shouted.
"Yeah, the shuttle is coming,” Allen said. “Should we do it again?"
"Yes!” the crowd roared.
"It’s hot,” Elyse Arbour from Brentwood said, as she and her husband sat on the blacktop in a strip mall parking lot off Stocker Street. “No facilities, and they keep saying ‘One hour, one hour, one hour.’”
"How’s everyone doing tonight?" she said, shortly after 5 p.m. “I have been told that the shuttle is 30 minutes away.”
"Debbie!” one woman in the crowd shouted. “You're putting us to sleep!"
At 6:30 p.m., the shuttle had still not arrived. Some young dancers left with their parents. The Crenshaw High School marching band went home.
-- Frank Shyong and Joseph Serna in Leimert Park
Photo: Dancers at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza/Credit: Frank Shyong / Los Angeles times