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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: December 2009

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Matt Weinstock, Dec. 31, 1959



   Dec. 31, 1959

Modern Shepherd

Matt Weinstock

          It is an era of compulsions.  Apparently everyone has had them all along but now it’s considered not only proper but fashionable to express them, no matter in what murky paths they lead.

          Publicist Doris Hellman, for instance, cannot abide the sight of a market cart separated from its flock.  When she sees one standing lonely and downcast on a lawn or sidewalk, sometimes several blocks from its home, she stops her car, identifies it, and phones its location to the market.  She cannot understand how shoppers can be so inconsiderate as to leave them stranded.

          At first she was caring for only one market’s homeless carts.  The compulsion grew and now she keeps on the lookout for the grocery chariots belonging to five stores in her neighborhood. 

          Along Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood she is known as the little shepherd of the lost market carts.

::

          MEET THE PEOPLE -- A girl at the perfume counter of a North Hollywood store doused herself with some stuff that was supposed to make her alluring and paraded back and forth, announcing, “See, I’m excited!”  Her girlfriend said, “Not you, silly, it’s supposed to get the boys excited!” . . . A young woman in a Crenshaw Blvd. store couldn’t find the china bed-tray breakfast set she wanted, nor could she make the clerk understand what she was looking for.  Despite her explanations, the clerk said blankly, “Do you want a service for 8 or 12?”  Retorted the young woman, “I don’t know that many people that intimately!”

::

ADVICE TO REVELERS

Drink hearty at the party,

And when you’re

                speeding home

Chock-full of your booze,

Be sure the life you lose

Is your own.

                --GUY SHORTELL

 

::

 

image           FOR 17 YEARS desert rat Harry Oliver has been Peg leg Smith’s press agent.  Each Jan. 1 he staged the Peg Leg Smith Lost Mine Trek and Liar’s Fete in the Borrego Desert.  This year, Harry reports sadly, Peg Leg has gone soft.  He will ride on the Palm Springs float in the Rose Parade, which has as its theme, Tall Tales.

          Harry swears there once was a Peg Leg Smith and he did show up one day with a sockful of nuggets.  But neither he nor anyone else, the tale goes, was ever able to locate the mine they allegedly came from.

          Harry has kept the legend alive all these years, spiking its, ahem, authenticity occasionally by strewing a few weathered peg-legs in the desert.  Excited rock hounds would find them and claim they were on the trail of old Peg Leg’s lost mine.

          Harry did his job too well.  Tomorrow his favorite ghost gets a ride in the parade.

::

          PUBLIC AT LARGE -- A West L.A. resident hopes that for 1960 the phone company there will change the size of envelopes it encloses with subscribers’ bills.  They’re one-eighth of an inch too small for a normal-sized check which, as a result, must be folded . . . John Kernitzki , 3, came down with a stubborn virus recently and his mother has been taking him almost daily to a doctor’s office for tests and shots.  While there the other day he asked, “Hey, mommy, why are all these people coming into our office?”

::

          AT RANDOM -- While covering the Rose Parade last year for his TV adventure program, Bill Burrud gallantly lent his topcoat to a girl shivering in the dawn chill as she waited for her float to get into position.  He hasn’t seen the girl or coat since.  Tomorrow he’s wearing a sweater . . . The San Fernando City Council approved a business license for William B.Vokes to operate a car agency.  That’s right, a Volkswagen shop . . . Cheering note from The Insider’s Newsletter:  A Pentagon scientist, after studying statistics, concluded that the average driver makes 10 million successful decisions before making the wrong one that gets him killed.  So start counting . . . Same source:  An optimist is a man who says this is the best of all possible worlds.  A pessimist is one who thinks the optimist may be right.

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 31, 1959



 Dec. 31, 1959, Mirror

So We Call Them as We See Them, Sort Of

 

Paul Coates(News item)   CHICAGO, Dec. 30 -- Wilbur Geoffrey Gaffney, associate professor of English from the University of Nebraska, today revealed the results of a 10-year study on the significance of names.

          His conclusions:  You are what your name has made you.  Your career is determined by your character and your character is determined, perhaps unalterably, by the name under which you grew to adulthood . . .

          Now some of you think the professor is a bit of a kook to make that claim.  I don’t.  For a long time I’ve had the feeling that a person’s given name is a clear indication of his personality and his occupational possibilities.

          It gives me pause to wonder at the parental sadism that would cause a mother to name her son, let us say, Horace.  Or, for that matter, Wilbur Geoffrey.

          In fact, it almost happened to me.

          I’ve never publicly revealed this before, but I came perilously close to being named Percival -- in reverent memory, I suppose, of some slightly far ancestor.   

          At the last moment, fortunately, my mother balked and named me Paul.  I grew up believing that this had an obvious connection with the fact that my grandfather’s name was William John Paul, which gave me a nice warm feeling of identity.

          It wasn’t until years later that I learned otherwise.  I was sitting one night in the parlor with my mother, who had a severe head cold and was nursing it with an old family remedy of ours, Rock & Rye.

          After medicating herself two or three times, she looked at me with tenderness and said, somewhat wistfully:  “Did I ebba tell you about how you happ’id to be dabed Paul?”

          “Well,” I said, “it’s because grandpa’s name was William John--“

          She interrupted me by shaking her head and smiling mysteriously.

          “Nobe,” she said.  “Id was years before I med your father.”

          “Mother,” I suggested gently, “here’s my hanky.”

          She took it, used it and continued: “I used to go with a very lovely boy.  He played violin in a German restaurant on Coney Island.  His name was Paul.”

          Mother cupped my chin in her hands.  “I always said,” she said, “if I ever had a son, I’d name him Paul.  It’s such a strong name.”

          My father might have found that an entertaining piece of information, but for me it had a rather peculiar effect.  I built up a fixation that all Pauls in the world were, or if they weren’t, should be, second violinists in Coney Island hofbraus.

          The fixation doesn’t involve just me.  I categorize everybody by his first name.  For example, while I don’t recall, I must have once known an A&P clerk named Charlie because I cannot today meet anyone named Charlie without a kind of unconscious feeling that no matter what he does for a living, he really belongs in a white apron, standing next to a vegetable bin.

          To me, everybody named Carl has a small radio repair shop and trouble making the rent.  All Hanks are minor league first-basemen with mottled, yellowed teeth from chewing snuff.

          All Als are bookmakers, with the exception of one who’s a rug maker.

 

A Slight Handling Charge

 

          Most Phils are appliance dealers who confide in their manicurists that their wives don’t understand them, and who don’t realize that their manicurists are married to their barbers, who all are named Tony.

          And all Quincys are -- I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

          If I’ve missed any of you, just send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope and I’ll forward by return mail, your occupational analysis.  Please enclose 10 cents to cover the cost of handling, because, after all, I can’t make much of a living playing the violin in Coney Island these days.  Off-season, you know.

A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept.: Your Movie Columnist




 Dec. 31, 1942, Hedda hopper 

 
Dec. 31, 1942: "Woman substituted for man power on the "Coney Island" set the other day when one of the boys in a dance sequence was ordered to his draft board instead of his studio. Starlet Vanita Wade put on a tuxedo and took his place," Hedda Hopper says.

Monkey Business on ‘Inherit the Wind’ Set



Dec. 31, 1959, Rose Parade 

Sheriff John covers preparations for the Rose Parade!

 image

Sept. 4, 1971, Charles F. Sebastian

Dr. Charles F. Sebastian dies, Sept. 4, 1971. You may recall him from the Harry Raymond bombing.



View Larger Map


The Central Receiving Hospital was replaced by the Rampart Division station, shown by Google maps’ street view.

 Dec. 31, 1959, Inherit the Wind



Dec. 31, 1959, Sports
Stanford's Dick Norman says: "Take 6 1/2 points or whatever you can get on Washington in tomorrow's Rose Bowl game."

 
Dec. 31, 1959: Joe Hyams visits the set of “Inherit the Wind” and captures some of the horseplay between Frederic March, Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelly. Tracy says: "I thought last year's [Oscar] broadcast reached a new low in entertainment when they did that community singing bit. This year might be better because they've got the good sense to let someone else pay the tab. The years the industry paid for the telecast itself it was pretty terrible."

Cult Leader Accused of Molesting Children



 Dec. 31, 1919, Briggs
“Somebody Is Always Taking the Joy Out of Life,” by Clare Briggs.
 

Dec. 31, 1919, Mazdaznan Cult 

Dec. 31, 1919, Mazdaznan Cult
 
Dec. 31, 1919: Ottoman/Othoman Zar-Adusht Hanish, "little master" of the sun worshiping Mazdaznan cult, arrives in Los Angeles. He is accused of "revolting offenses against young boys and girls," The Times says. His real name is Otto Z. Hanisch, son of Richard Hanisch, a Milwaukee piano teacher, the story says.

Man’s Skull Fractured in Assault




Dec. 31, 1909, Assault 

 
Dec. 31, 1909: Former stockbroker Henry SO. Clark  is hospitalized after hitting his head on the pavement at Spring and 9th streets when a man struck him for talking to his wife. 

Matt Weinstock, Dec. 30, 1959



  

Year-End Recess


Matt Weinstock

            Again this year there’s an unmistakable though unorganized trend toward calling everything off between Christmas and New Year’s Day and letting the week drift itself out, which it does anyway. 

          Nobody feels up to anything, especially answering the phone or paying attention to the stern, year’s end admonitions by savants and politicians. 

          They’re recovering from the Dec. 25 overindulgence and bracing themselves for the Jan. 1 bacchanalian revel.

          Actually all they’re interested in, besides having a little fun, is getting through the week alive or at least not spending a night in the drunk tank.  Everyone is frightened by the traffic statistics.

          So they operate at half speed, maybe exchanging unwanted Christmas gifts or going to the market for a loaf of bread for turkey sandwiches. 

          A candidate for president could make a lot of hay coming out foursquare for declaring Christmas week a national holiday, dedicated to meditation.  No, not medication, mister printer, meditation.

::

          THE WIND blew down the Christmas decorations, including some pine cones, on a Woodland Hills home and the 10-year-old boy who lives there was trying to reassemble them when a neighbor boy came along.  Their fathers work at the same aircraft plant and they are usually playmates.  But this time the visitor was mischief-minded and kept tugging at the decorations, pulling them down again.  Finally the boy who lives there exclaimed, “If you don’t stop that I’ll have my dad fire your dad!”  Anyway, it stopped the mischief maker.

::

                START TO FINISH

A football coach at the

                season’s start,

Unbeaten, untied, untired,

Is all fired up.

                At season’s end

The chances are he’s

                just fired.

                --RICHARD ARMOUR

 

::

          SECOND STREET between Main and Los Angeles Sts. has been barricaded to traffic, forcing motorists to detour, not a simple matter in Civic Center traffic at the rush hours.

          Not only that, high wooden barriers painted green on the sidewalk side have been erected along the curbs, apparently to prevent people from seeing what goes on in the ripped-up street.  This is frustrating to sidewalk superintendents, who have become accustomed to gawking through peepholes.

          One theory about the block-long blinders is that the contractor really is about to dig for the buried treasure of that early-day L.A. resident, Don Hidalgo De Nada.  Another is that the operation is a publicity stunt for the motion picture “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

          So I asked an aluminum-hatted workman, busy lifting large timbers from one spot and dropping them five feet away.  He said cryptically, “Strum dren.”

::

            AS IF ALL THIS were not enough, there are also strange goings-on in the next block on 2nd St., between Main and Spring.  Many months ago a scaffold was put up on the county engineering building so workmen could remove the overhang without endangering passers-by.  Nothing happened except that all this time pedestrians have had to thread their way through the metal framework supporting the scaffolding.  But a few days ago the job was quickly done and Monday the scaffolding was taken down.  And then yesterday it was put up again.

          This corner has long suspected that a sinister clique meets regularly in a dark room and plots ways in which to bedevil the public.  Obviously they’ve been at it again.

::

          AT RANDOM -- Attendance at Disneyland last Saturday exceeded 40,000, bringing the week’s total to more than 100,000.  The license plates in the parking lots tell the story.  They’re from almost every state, including Hawaii, but particularly Washington and Wisconsin . . . Speaking of which, Nick Nickcevich of Long Beach says he has a bad case of “ennui-sconsin ” from reading the sports pages . . . Smirnoff has got out a “rescue kit” – a flask of vodka, a can of tomato juice, a headache remedy and dark glasses.

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 30, 1959



 Dec. 30, 1959, Mirror

Pappy Coates Cases Learning With Kids

 

Paul Coates          Feeling good all over, today.  In this age of neurotic juveniles and delinquent parents, I, at least, have met my responsibility as a father.

          Maybe you don’t know “Where Are Your Children, Tonight,” but I know where mine were, last night.

          They were with me, getting a firm foundation in their religious training.

          While other youngsters were out carousing in poolrooms, dancing in dance halls and lounging in front of pizza parlors whistling at girls, mine were in the balcony of Fox Wilshire Theater.

          I took them there to see “Solomon and Sheba,” a wall-to-wall, silver-screen, religious epic about two nice kids in love.  In living color.

          Bloated though they were with hot buttered popcorn and box after box of Black Crows, my children emerged from that theater with shining faces at the knowledge they had gained.

          And I learned a thing or two myself.

          The way I had always read it, the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon was an elaborate but routine social call.

          She came bearing gifts of spices, precious stones and gold.  She had a few summit conferences with him.  They became good platonic friends and she left, carrying with her gifts of spices, precious stones and gold. 

          That, according to my book, was all there was to it.  Her visit didn’t start any wars.  There were no earthquakes.  No pagan orgies.  No intrigue.

          But, I must admit, the version I read was in a pretty old book.  The new, revised United Artists’ edition tells quite a different story.

          What my kids learned was that Solomon was a bit of a rake who wore a jazzy toupee which he miraculously managed to keep from going askew in his vigorous, passionate displays of jujitsu with the Queen of Sheba, who talked like Chef Milani and had a fixation that she was going to be smothered if she wore any attire above the waist.

          They learned about battles that never took place.  And they heard about goings-on between Sheba and Solomon that even the wise men who wrote the Bible never heard.

          That’s about all, except, oh yes!  She becomes pregnant with Solomon’s child. And then finally, having clearly overstayed her welcome, she goes home.

          It’s not the Bible.  But it’s box office.

          And that brings me to my next point.  I’ve got a little plot for a quickie which could be a real sleeper, if we don’t use any name performers.  It’s about David and Goliath, see?  And this Bathsheba.  Now, they’re both in love with her.  But Goliath, is like, you know, a regular Vic Tanny.  And David is one of those 97-pound weaklings who always come through when the chips are down.

          Then we’ll take the bundle we make on that and we’ll do a Civil War thing.  It’ll be about Grant.  How when he takes Richmond, he meets charming Dolly Madison.  You follow me?

 

Socko for the South

         

        Then there’s this big scene at the climax.  We film it right at location at Appomattox. Lee surrenders his sword.  But Grant shakes his head.  He refuses to take it.  You get the picture?

          Then he makes his impassioned speech that he cannot accept Gen. Lee’s sword because in all truth the Union Army didn’t win.  As far as he’s concerned, it really ended in a draw.

          I know.  I know what you’re thinking.  But let’s be practical.  We don’t want to ignore the whole southern market, do we?

Three Tristans Update



image7 

 
No credit in Season Book
"courtesy of Metropolitan Opera Press Department"
??  Three Tristans update: I sent this item to bass-baritone  Alan Held, who’s appearing in the current Metropolitan Opera production of “Tales of Hoffmann.”

Held says, “ I have been in several performances where a singer had to be replaced midway through the night--most memorably was a Tannhauser at The Met where we went through 2-3 tenors in one night (can't remember). It seemed we went through the entire list of Met tenors during that show. I also did a lot of Tristans in Barcelona that seemed to have a revolving door of tenors. My own professional debut was made while jumping in as Colline in Boheme.  These things happen all the time in opera--sometimes a singer really isn't sure if he can make it through the night but wants to give it a try and then once confronted with the dryness of the stage, things change. And I've been in countless performances where the singer isn't sure they can even start the night but ends up singing the best performance of the run. These are special nights and can bring a lot of excitement to the show.”

Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept.: Your Movie Columnist



Dec. 30, 1941, Hedda Hopper 

Dec. 30, 1941: “Jackie Cooper is studying the finer points of drumming with Buddy Rich of Tommy Dorsey's band these days and doing so well that he sits in with the band at the Mocambo now and then just to get used to playing before an audience.”



On the Brink of the 1960s



Dec. 30, 1959, Hedda Hopper

Hedda Hopper tapes a “Ben-Hur” segment with Stephen Boyd, Francis X. Bushman and Ramon Novarro, but not Charlton Heston.

Dec. 30, 1959, Heston

Dec. 30, 1959, Traffic


Los Angeles officials struggle once more to deal with congested streets. I have said this before, but it bears repeating: Traffic in Los Angeles is 100-year-old problem.


image


Dec. 30, 1959, The 1950s

Dec. 30, 1959, The 1950s
Dec. 30, 1959:  “Americans came to the end of the 1950s with more of everything, more wealth, more cars, more schools and churches, more gadgets, more babies--and more self-doubt--than ever before.

“A vague shadow of uneasiness spread across the land.

“ ‘There is an overwhelming feeling here that somehow we have lost our way,’ wrote James Reston, Washington correspondent of the New York Times. ‘Nobody seems to know just how or why. But everybody feels that something's wrong.’ ”



A Poem for the New Year



Dec. 30, 1919, Railways  

Isn’t this a great drawing? I suppose in 1919 smokestacks meant progress and not pollution.

image 

Enumerators prepare to take the 1920 census and have a few questions. Is a lone man or woman without any known relatives a family? Yes. When is a chicken ranch not a chicken ranch? When it earns more than $250 a year. Then it’s a chicken farm.  

Dec. 30, 1919, Poem

Dec. 30, 1919:  George Steunenberg writes:


"Our streets will be real thoroughfares instead of auto parks;
And not a feature will remain to merit the remarks
Of those gol-darned New Yorkers who say our town is slow--
L.A. will be a city in the year One-nine-two-O."



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