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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: December 7, 2008 - December 13, 2008

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Found on EBay -- Bullock's Wilshire


A jacket (sorry it's a small) has been listed on EBay, bidding starts at $14.99.

Black students riot at high school, Laker peace conference, December 13, 1968

Actress Tallulah Bankhead dies at the age of 65 ... or 67.

1968_1213_sports Nothing new about a coach clashing with his star player. Nothing new for such controversies to involve the Lakers.

But this wasn't Phil against Shaq or Kobe. It was an old-school battle: Butch vs. Wilt.

Things were bad enough that Fred Schaus, the Lakers' general manager and their former coach, made headlines by calling a team meeting that The Times billed as a "peace conference."

Schaus said there were more issues than Wilt Chamberlain's complaints to and about Coach Butch Van Breda Kolff. Right.

Star and coach made dueling appearances in John Hall's column, with the coach complaining, then the star defending himself.

Van Breda Kolff: "I've reached a point where I don't give a blank. All I plan to do is keep coaching the way I coach. That's all I can do. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen."

Chamberlain: "I've never professed to win any popularity contests but I'm not going to say the same thing as the coach. I'm not going to say I don't care. I do."

Chamberlain apparently was unhappy about being benched (the coach called it rest, just like fellow superstars Jerry West and Elgin Baylor received) and having to play outside the low post.

--Keith Thursby

Food lessons from the Great Depression


Photograph by Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

CHILD OF THE '30s: Pat Box grew up in a large family in Boyle Heights. No one went hungry, but it took ingenuity.

Food lessons from the Great Depression

Today, learning how to cook on a budget is becoming important to more families. In the 1930s, making do was a kitchen art, honed by necessity. Sour grass soup, anyone?

By Mary MacVean

When she was a kid, for a treat Pat Box and her seven siblings got "water cocoa," which is pretty much what it sounds like and nothing special today. But that was in the 1930s, when her father's business was reselling bakers' barrels to coopers, and the family would get first crack at them, scraping the wood for any traces of sugar or cocoa left behind.

With luck, they'd also have rye bread and fresh butter they'd buy on Brooklyn Avenue."It was wonderful," said Box, 87, one afternoon while she gathered with friends at the Claude Pepper Senior Center on La Cienega Boulevard, just north of the 10 Freeway.

At a time when Americans face frightening and disorienting economic uncertainty, the Great Depression provides valuable lessons. For many people, putting a meal on the table without turning to processed or takeout foods is no longer something just for a weekend dinner party but a skill they must learn. People who remember what it was like to eat during the Depression talk about thrift, growing their own, sharing with neighbors and learning to cope with what they had.

Box grew up in Boyle Heights in a time of desperate need, but no one went hungry at her family's house, though it took work and ingenuity.

Read more >>>

Father charged with leaving son, 4, in car parked on skid row, December 13, 1953

This is one of those haunting stories from The Times. I wonder what happened to Kenny Ross and whether he ever became a writer.

Found on EBay -- Bullock's Wilshire

A pair of pumps from Bullock's Wilshire (including the 1950 price tag) has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $17.99.

Found on EBay -- forgotten bestseller

Tom Chamales' "Never So Few," which The Times' Robert Kirsch called, "Easily one of the best novels to come out of World War II," has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $9.95.

Vandals paint swastika on Hollywood synagogue, December 12, 1938



Vandals paint a swastika on Temple Beth El, 1508 N. Wilton.
1938_1212_page2 Nazi police censor sermons of Vienna's Catholic priests.
The former temple photographed by Nathan Marsak, who wrote a wonderful post on the 1947 project.

Today's edition of The Times offers a fairly stunning array of prejudice, whether it's the great white hunter and dim-witted natives in Africa, vandalism of a synagogue or hate speech by Father Coughlin.

Father Coughlin was an extremely influential and controversial broadcaster, although he seems tedious, long-winded and didactic today. Pay particular attention to his Nov. 20, 1938, broadcast in which he quotes Henry Ford rebutting a published interview, saying that Jews in Germany weren't persecuted and that Jewish refugees wouldn't be happy working in his factories.

Also note Coughlin's charges that advertisers control newspapers' content.

Carole Lombard as Scarlett O'Hara?

Giants upset Packers, 23-17.

Mystery photo

Photograph by Bob Potwin / Los Angeles Times

I suspect that regular Daily Mirror readers will guess him right away.
Update: Gardner McKay in 1962 with his dog, named Pussycat.
Photograph by George R. Fry
Los Angeles Times
Please congratulate Dewey Webb for recognizing our mystery guest. Here's our fellow with another animal.

Update: In 1977, McKay retrieves a pet cheetah named Kenya from the roof of the garage at his Coldwater Canyon home.
Times file photo
Here's a big clue to our mystery fellow.

Update: This is McKay in a 1960 publicity photo for "Adventures in Paradise." The Times cropped it down to a one-column mug shot. No bare-chested, hunky guys in The Times, folks. As late as 1971, the art department painted a shirt on a photo of bare-chested Charlton Heston in "The Omega Man." Incredible. 
Los Angeles Times file photo
I'm getting lots of correct guesses. Let's see who else figures out the name of our mystery guest.

Update: McKay in 1974.
Times file photo
Gardner McKay in 1981.

As almost everyone guessed, this is Gardner McKay, who starred in the TV show "Adventures in Paradise" and then abandoned his acting career for other pursuits, including writing. Several of his works are listed on

Voices -- Bettie Page, 1923 - 2008


ALLURE: Pinup Bettie Page had a long moment in the sun, with a modeling career that went from 1949 to 1957.

A Golden Age for a Pinup

Bettie Page -- Nurse Bettie, Jungle Bettie -- soldiered in the sexual revolution. At 82, she finds her image earns a respectable living.

March 11, 2006

By Louis Sahagun,
Times Staff Writer

Bettie Page was plunging into the day's work: autographing pinups of herself in various Naughty Girl personas, with kitschy bangs, high heels, mesh hose and tasseled underwear.

Nurse Bettie. Jester Bettie. Substitute Teacher Bettie. Maid Bettie. Voodoo Bettie. Cowgirl Bettie. Jungle Bettie. Wild Orchid Bettie. Banned in Boston Bettie. Crackers in Bed Bettie.

The task ahead was arduous given her many ailments, including diabetes and stabbing pains in her back, legs and hands.

But the 82-year-old Page -- a taboo-breaker who helped usher in the sexual revolution of the 1960s -- is not a quitter.

"I'm about ready to roll," she said in a Southern drawl, freshening her bright red lipstick. "But I'm going to go slow. I won't squiggle if I write slow."

CMG Worldwide, the company that markets her image, had organized the event at its Sunset Boulevard penthouse offices. The idea was to get Page's autograph on as many prints as possible, because demand for anything Page-related is soaring.

Between 1949 and 1957 she was immortalized in thousands of saucy photos. Those images have spawned biographies, comic books, fan clubs and numerous websites, as well as commercial products -- Bettie Page playing cards, Bettie Page lunch boxes, Bettie Page beach towels, Bettie Page action figures.

According to her agents at CMG, who control the images of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, Page's official website,, has received 588 million hits over the last five years. That's cult status.

For the last 13 years, she's been living in seclusion in various Southern California communities. Nearly five decades after the last photos of her appeared in magazines like Chicks and Chuckles, Page is finally earning a respectable income for her work.

"I'm more famous now than I was in the 1950s," she said.

Page needed about a minute to get through the 10 letters of her name. As she pushed her pen, she reflected on her life and faith and work.

"Being in the nude isn't a disgrace unless you're being promiscuous about it," she said. She added with a laugh, "After all, when God created Adam and Eve, they were stark naked. And in the Garden of Eden, God was probably naked as a jaybird too!"

"You're right about that, Bettie," said Maricel Hildalgo of the Tamara Bane Gallery on North La Brea Avenue in L.A. The gallery had hustled $100,000 worth of paintings and posters to CMG the moment Page agreed to make herself available for autographs.

"My land! Is that supposed to be me?" asked Page, surveying a painting of her reclining in a negligee with an ecstatic smile on her face.

Putting pen to canvas and concentrating mightily, she muttered, "I was never that pretty."

But to generations of men, she was.

She was born Bettie Mae Page in Jackson, Tenn., 105 miles southwest of Nashville. She was the oldest girl among Roy and Edna Page's six children. Roy, an auto mechanic, "molested all three of his daughters," Page said.

Edna divorced Roy in 1933 after he got a teenager pregnant, but life didn't get any easier for Bettie.

"All I ever wanted was a mother who paid attention to me," Page recalled. "She didn't want girls. She thought we were trouble. She didn't help with homework or teach me to sew or cook.

"She didn't go to the school plays I was in or go to my high school graduation.

"When I started menstruating at 13, I thought I was dying because she never taught me anything about that."

Two weeks before her final exams in high school, her mother's much younger lover "tried to pull me into his car. My mother nearly murdered me over that, then made me live with my father. So I couldn't review my exam notes, which were at home.

"Because of that I got beat out of graduating valedictorian by a quarter of a grade point and lost my dream of getting a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University," she said. "It was the worst disappointment of my life."

As she continued to labor on the autographs, Page marveled at a portrait of her as a teacher -- albeit one in impossibly high heels and with voluptuous curves encased in leather.

"Look at those big long legs on 9-inch heels," she said. "I look 9 feet tall."

But she could relate to the painting's basic theme. After high school, Page earned a teaching credential. But her teaching career was short-lived.

"I couldn't control my students, especially the boys," she said.

She tried secretarial work and marriage. But by 1948 she was divorced and had moved to New York and enrolled in acting classes.

Strolling the beach at Coney Island, Page crossed paths with New York police officer and amateur photographer Jerry Tibbs, who introduced her to shutterbug clubs and suggested she wear bangs to help cover a slightly protruding forehead.

From the start, Page -- whose measurements were 36-24-37 -- preferred the skimpy outfits she designed and sewed at home.

"I made all of my bikinis and most of my lingerie," she said. "My favorite was my first bikini. It was green with a little rickrack all around it."

Almost overnight, she became an underground sensation, attracting the attention of Irving Klaw and his sister, Paula, who operated a mail-order business specializing in cheesecake.

Page soon became the Klaws' busiest pinup and also starred in their peekaboo short films, "Varietease" and "Striporama."

They also had her pose with whips, tied up in chairs and wrestling with other women in their underwear. To hear her tell it, Page was deeply depressed and aimless when she joined the Klaws. The bondage shots are the only part of her modeling career she regrets.

"I had lost my ambition and desire to succeed and better myself; I was adrift," she said.

"But I could make more money in a few hours modeling than I could earn in a week as a secretary.

"But I never whipped anybody in my life; it was all pretend. Under my arrangement with the Klaws, I had to do at least an hour of bondage poses in order to get paid for the other modeling work."

Her most acclaimed photographs were taken in 1955 by fashion photographer Bunny Yeager. They included shots of a nude Page lounging with leopards, frolicking in the waves and deep-sea fishing, and a January 1955 Playboy centerfold of her winking under a Santa Claus cap while placing a bulb on a Christmas tree.

During her brief career, she became the obsession of thousands of men -- a fact that mystifies her to this day: "I have no idea why I'm the only model who has had so much fame so long after quitting work."

Writer Harlan Ellison suggested an answer: "There are certain women, even certain men, in whose look there is a certain aesthetic that hits a golden mean. Bettie is that. Marilyn is that."

Richard Foster, one of her two biographers, called her "the trendsetter in American sexuality."

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner put it another way.

"Exactly what captures the imagination of people in terms of pop culture is something hard to define," Hefner said.

"But in Bettie's case, I'd say it's a combination of wholesome innocence and fetish-oriented poses that is at once retro and very modern."

Perhaps that explains fans like Minnesota artist Rick Volkmar, who has spent years painstakingly touching up old black-and-white Bettie Page photos, erasing rips and tears and thousands of tiny white specks with a fine brush to rebuild the mesh of her stockings, the sheen of her hair, the shadows on her face.

In the process, Volkmar developed carpal tunnel syndrome and learned a lot about her anatomy.

"Her right eyebrow slants up and is shorter than the left one; her right nostril is higher than her left nostril," he noted. "The indent beneath her nose and above her upper lip is unusually wide. Her four front incisors are larger than normal.

"Her right eye is lower than the left one and slants down.... Her right knee has a dimple in it, and there is a famous notch on the back of her right thigh, four inches above the knee. Her thumb and hands are muscular, almost mannish. Same with her feet.

"Her rear end is noticeably squarish, and there are two creases under the left buttocks and one under her right buttocks....

"It all adds up to this," he said. "She looks like fun."

That alchemy of asymmetry and temperament inadvertently unleashed a cultural movement.

A motion picture, "The Notorious Bettie Page," is scheduled for release in April. Artist Olivia De Berardinis, whose work Page was autographing, expects to publish a book this year featuring her own idealized portraits of the woman once known as "The Queen of Curves" and "Dark Marilyn." De Berardinis' large paintings of Page sell for about $1,500 without Page's signature.

In 1955, Page was summoned to Capitol Hill by Sen. Estes Kefauver, a moral crusader known for wearing coonskin caps. Kefauver, a Tennessee Democrat, was investigating the pornography business.

Kefauver's committee never compelled Page to testify, but the uproar caused the Klaws to close their business. At 35, Page quit modeling and moved to Florida, where she married a much younger man whose passions, she later learned, were watching television and eating hamburgers.

"Six weeks into the marriage, on New Year's Eve 1959," she recalled, "I wanted to go dancing with him at a nightclub. He said he'd rather get drunk with his brothers."

Page charged out of the house in tears, wondering whether to divorce him. Down the street, she noticed a white neon sign over a little white church with its door open.

"The Lord took me by the hand and we stepped inside," she recalled. "I was crying in the back row about my sins. I turned my life over to the Lord."

In her new life as a born-again Christian, Page immersed herself in Bible studies and served as a counselor for the Billy Graham Crusade.

"I'm more proud of my work with the crusade than of anything else I've ever done," she said, trying not to cry. "I get emotional just thinking about it. If ever there was a man of God, it's Billy Graham."

In 1967, she married her third husband. After their divorce 11 years later, Page plunged into a depression marked by violent mood swings. She got into an argument with her landlady and attacked her with a knife. A judge found her innocent by reason of insanity but sentenced her to 10 years in a California mental institution.

She emerged from San Bernardino's Patton State Hospital in 1992 to find that there was new interest in her story and her old poses.

A movie called "The Rocketeer" and the comic book that inspired it contained a Bettie Page-esque character, setting off the revival, among women as well as men, that continues unabated.

"Bettie Page is much different than our other clients," said CMG Chairman Mark Roesler, referring to a pantheon of American icons including James Dean and Babe Ruth. "But she has an international following. Only Marilyn Monroe rivals her in terms of Internet traffic."

In the autumn of her life, Page is learning to accept what her modeling meant for her and for American popular culture.

"Young women say I helped them come out of their shells," she said. "And 13 rock groups have written songs about me. One song has these lyrics all the way through, 'I love Bettie Page. I love Bettie Page. I love Bettie Page.' "

Still, she shuns the public eye, rarely venturing out even with trusted friends. These days Page spends most days reading the Bible, listening to Christian music and country tunes, watching oaters on television and catching up on the latest diet plans and exercise regimes.

But a few weeks ago, with confidant and CMG executive Richard Bann as her escort, she joined Hefner at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles for a special screening of "The Notorious Bettie Page."

Page had a beef with the title.

"Notorious? That's not flattering at all," she said. "They should have used another word."

In an interview, the film's producer, Pam Koffler, said, "The title was meant ironically. Bettie Page gained such notoriety for her modeling, but the real person and her life were exactly opposite of all that."

Page had one request for this story -- that her face not be photographed.

"I want to be remembered," she said, "as I was when I was young and in my golden times.... I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people's perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form."

But this much can be shared. Her face remains smooth and fresh, and one can still see the face of the young woman in the old. Her eyes, bright blue, still sparkle.

It was late afternoon when Page, visibly fatigued from all the autographing, was presented with a special request. A man who had purchased 10 Bettie Page paintings wanted a personal dedication on a blank piece of paper.

"What do we know about this man?" she demanded to know. "Is he a nice guy? Would I love him like a brother?"

"His name is Jeffrey," Hildalgo said. "He's a nurse at San Quentin."

"All right then. Don't wiggle the table, please," Page said. "I want to get this just right."

"To Jeffrey," she wrote. "Much love, Bettie Page."

Found on EBay -- Bullock's Wilshire

Talk about a period piece. Here's a boy's sweater from Bullock's Wilshire listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $24.99

Cult members describe bombing, December 11, 1958

"Venta will return and be resurrected."

Known as "the barefoot people."
Above, followers of Krishna Venta describe life at the Fountain of the World religious compound and the bombing that killed 10 people.

"A tower of blue and white flame erupted into the sky. It seemed to go as far as the eye could see," says Brother Martin, who joined the cult three weeks earlier.

At the sect's compound in Alaska, Venta's wife, Mother Ruth, says: "Don't use the word 'dead,' He is the Christ and we do not believe in death. His body won't be found."

Leader born Francis Pencovic.

"We know we are on a mission."

Missionary objects to being portrayed by "evil woman" Ingrid Bergman.

NCAA investigates alleged
recruiting violations at USC.

Breakfast of death; voodoo cult killings, December 11, 1938

I defy anyone to insist that the past was "a kinder, simpler time" after reading this page. But don't take my word for it -- see for yourself.

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