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Matt Weinstock, July 18, 1959

July 18, 2009 |  4:00 pm

July 18, 1959, Peanuts

Those Towers

Matt Weinstock By the nature of their work, artists are individualists. But they have become united as never before by the condemnation of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers. It has become a cause celebre to them, and every day those who can spare the time appear at the hearings in Room 216 of City Hall to back up their speakers.

The Building and Safety Department says the towers are unsafe and should be torn down.

Artists, art lovers and plain interested citizens say no. Their arguments go beyond the possibility that the 104-foot towers, built by immigrant stonemasonRodia of concrete, scrap metal, ceramics and seashells, may be toppled. To them the debate is one of culture vs. ignorance.

LET DENNIS M'CALIB, L.A. artist, have his say:

July 18, 1959, Dennis "Simon Rodia's towers are an expression of 33 years of a vision embodying the most instinctive verities of great art. Since 1921, through rain, sun, and the depredations of small boys, his monumental masterpiece, with its intricate embellishment representing grueling toil, has risen. Now a deadly shadow has fallen across his work, the shadow of persecution and official presumption.

"Simon Rodia's lifetime work of love and mystic devotion to the ideal of beauty is in danger of being cruelly destroyed. Why? Because he did not obtain a permit and because the Building and Safety Department maintains his towers constitute a danger to habitations and persons in the area. Mr.Rodia did not use his materials as building materials per se . He is an artist, not an engineer. If a danger exists, as is claimed, why not simply prohibit children getting near the towers without adult supervision?"

Meanwhile Simon, 81, sits in retirement in Martinez, Cal., aloof from the battle.


July 18, 1959, Arabs Beauty Contest AT LAST REPORT rattlesnake hunters were closing in on the deadly reptiles, forced into the open by the heat and drought. If the hunters run out of inspiration, they might call for Marsha Hunt, the beautiful actress. She's an expert.

Not long ago she knocked off one with 10 rattles in her Sherman Oaks yard -- with a shovel. When disbelievers -- I was one -- sound off, she disappears for a moment and comes back wearing the handsome belt she had made of the skin.


A LATE afternoon plane was in position on the runway to take off from S.F. to L.A. the other day when it became apparent something was amiss. The pilot taxied back to the apron and after a systematic search the crew found what it was looking for -- a box marked "Dead case" containing a load of ice cubes.

The plane was a little late arriving here, reports a passenger, Sydney Rosenbert, American Building Maintenance president, but nobody cared.


FOR THE LAST couple of years, Natividad Vacio has played a Mexican gardener in the TV series "Father Knows Best." Jerry Hoffman, publicity man at Columbia Pictures, where the episodes are made, has become acquainted with him and unconsciously addresses him as Feliz. Natividad, who by the way teaches the third grade at Solano Ave. School, has never corrected him.

July 18, 1959, Abby The other day Jerry saw him on the set and said, "How are you, Feliz?" Herb Wallerstein, assistant director, heard him and asked, "What's this Feliz business? You're mixed up. Are you trying to wish him a merry Christmas?" Feliz Navidad is Merry Christmas.

Made Jerry realized he'd built up a memory association blur. So he has compromised. He now calls Natividad Vacio Chris.


AT HOLLYWOOD Park one recent Saturday Mrs. Hazel Roberts of Highland Park met some friends who suggested she and her husband occupy their grandstand seats, which could be located by the white scarf over them. When they got to them Mrs. Roberts found her sister and family in the next row. They'd come down from Sacramento on a surprise visit and hadn't yet announced their presence. Suddenly it was reunion time. Quite a long-shot with 50,000 people at the track.