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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: May 10, 2009 - May 16, 2009

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Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, May 13, 1959

Confidential File 

At Last, Some Kindly Words for Scarface

Paul_coatesTo look at prosperous stockbroker Benny Rubin today, you wouldn't suspect that he has a past.

But he does.

He used to be a comic. In fact, if you go back far enough, a burlesque comic.

It was more years ago than the dapper, polished stock merchant would like to admit. But, catch him along about sundown, with a cold Martini within arm's reach, and he's likely to become as sentimental about his yesterdays as Sophie Tucker gets over hers.

As a matter of fact, it was a little after sundown when Benny was pointing his finger at me across a white tablecloth at Villa Capri.

"Now you saw how they handled Al Capone in the movie," he was saying, "and in that 'Untouchables' show on TV."

"No," I told him. "I didn't see."

May 13, 1959, Cover "Well," he answered, "I hope you don't judge Capone by the way those Hollywood writers portrayed him.

"As I remember him, back in Chicago," he continued hastily, "that man had no trace of an Italian accent whatsoever.

"Understand, I'm not trying to gild a rotten lily, Capone would say 'tousant' for 'thousand,' 'witcha' for 'with you,' and 'ovahder' for 'over there.'

"But," he added indignantly, "it was Jimmy Colosimo and Johnny Torrio who had the Italian accents."

I shook my head. "These Hollywood writers," I said. "The next thing you know they'll -"

"And another thing," Benny continued, "Capone never yelled at anyone. He'd chew his cigar to shreds and get red in the face, but he didn't yell.

"Or do you think he'd really be caught at a ringside table with people sitting behind his back? He'd sit at a ringside table, but his back would be against a wall.

"Capone," Rubin went on, "could recite names of judges, congressmen and senators, with their addresses, private phone numbers and cash disbursements.

 "He did all his own bookkeeping in his head. He could tell you to the nickel what everyone owed him for alky, bottles, labels, protection."

May 13, 1959, Arechigas "Benny," I said, "you must have known Al pretty well."

In cautious thought, Benny rubbed his chin.

"I met him through a friend in 1919," he started again. "I was the top banana -- the principal comic -- in the Follies at the Hay Market Theater.

"No personal billing, understand. The only billing on the three sides of the marque outside said, 'Max Spiegel Presents the Social Follies.'

"Anyway, after I'd been playing there a while, my friend picked me up at the theater and took me out to dinner one night. Capone -- or Al Brown, as he was called then -- was in the party.

As You Say, Mr. Capone

"During the course of the dinner, Sammy, my friend, asked me:

"'If you're the star of the show, Benny, how come your name's not in lights and who the hell is Max Spiegel?'

"I explained that Spiegel was the producer and that he didn't consider that my name meant anything at the box office.

"A little after that, Capone left the table to make a phone call.

"And Paul, so help me," Benny said, leaning into me, "when I got back to the theater my name -- and my name alone -- was plastered all over the three sides of the marquee."

Benny sighed. "A guy who was that keen a judge of talent couldn't have been all bad, could he, Paul?" he asked.

A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept.: What to Wear for Donating Blood

May 13, 1943, Ads

May 13, 1943

End of Watch -- Jack Horrall, 1926 - 2009

Oct. 17, 1930, Jack Horrall

Oct. 17, 1930: Jack Horrall, 4, is the police mascot.
Retired LAPD Officer Jack Horrall, the son of former Police Chief Clemence C.B. Horrall, died Monday at the age of 82.

The family says: Jack had a truly illustrious life.  He served in the Navy during WWII and after discharge he joined the Army Reserves.

He joined the LAPD in l947 and was assigned for 16 years to the Organized Crime Intelligence Unit, retiring after 27 years of service.  Jack then went to Sacramento, where he was part of the security force for the attorney general and later appointed military liaison to Gov. George Deukmejian, where he served for six years.  He left with the rank of colonel.  He retired in 1989 to pursue fishing, golf, tennis, water skiing, cross-country skiing and snow-mobiling.  He just received his 50-year Masonic membership award and served as president of the Shrine Patrol in 1973.  He was accepted into the Jesters in 2002 and was president of his class.
So, in view of this extraordinary life of accomplishment, please raise your glass to the man who loved a good party at 5:13 pm and toast Jack's successful and fulfilling life.  "Let's have one on the house."

There will be no services.


31 Die When Plane Explodes in Midair, May 13, 1959

May 13, 1959, House on Haunted Hill

Emergo was a fake skeleton hanging from a wire that was pulled out into the audience. My little hometown theater didn't have it, alas.
May 13, 1959, Times Cover
There's no shortage of interesting items today. A Capital Airlines  plane en route from New York to Atlanta explodes east of Baltimore, killing all 31 people on board. Another Capital Airlines plane goes off the runway in Charleston, W.Va., killing two people and hospitalizing six.

Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher get married in Las Vegas .. Fred Astaire wants to give back his Emmy award ... and two youths are wounded in an ambush while walking along the streetcar tracks near 8315 Maie Ave. in Firestone. The two wounded youths were members of the Peewees, who had reportedly been looking for a fight with the Quarters Gang.

View Larger Map

May 13, 1959, Crash

"I ran to the back door and saw three pieces of the airplane coming down. All of them were on fire."
May 13, 1959, Crash

A passenger praises a stewardess for pushing him from the burning aircraft. She says: "I honestly don't remember."

May 13, 1959, Nixon

The Times' Robert T. Hartmann looks for lasting changes from Richard Nixon's 1958 trip to South America.
May 13, 1959, Nixon

"Probably the quickest reforms following the Nixon trip were made by the U.S. Information Agency.... The USIA stepped up its efforts to reach the influential new middle class.
May 13, 1959, Kellogg

Leola Buck Kellogg, who joined the California bar in 1919.

May 13, 1959, Arechigas

The Arechiga family's battle over Chavez Ravine moves to federal court.

May 13, 1959, Arechigas

The city's claim to the property will be attacked in the proposed federal suit on the grounds that at the time title to the Arechiga property was obtained by condemnation the city no longer planned to use the property for a public housing project.
 May 13, 1959, Editorial on Chavez Ravine and the Arechigas

"Sympathy for the Arechiga family of Chavez Ravine comes easily and universally and that is one of the reasons we're glad we're Americans. The family will be taken care of, we may be sure, with the same unquestioning generosity that is bestowed on the victims of unheralded calamity."

"But when the Arechicgas are securely resettled, there will be something left of the case that is not so candid as the eviction which an easy-going government had put off for at least six years. What is the motive of the agitators who have been trying for nearly a week to make martyrs of the Arechiga family?

May 13, 1959, Librascope

What the well-dressed IT administator is wearing for 1959. Note the Librascope LGP-30, which had 113 vacuum tubes and 1,450 diodes.

May 13, 1959, Comics

Al Capp continues to decorate his panels with extraneous Ozark babes.
May 13, 1959, Sports

Braven Dyer's got another nickname: whistleball. Make that pro whistleball.

Cars Drive Themselves on Miracle Freeways of the Future!

May 13, 1959, Miracle Car

Found on EBay -- Earl Carroll's

Earl Carroll Menu
This menu from Earl Carroll's nightclub has been listed on EBay. Isn't the artwork great?  Bidding starts at $22.

Matt Weinstock -- May 12, 1959

Moment of Decision

Matt_weinstockdA man who lives on Wetherly Drive phones for a cab and when it arrived the driver helped load his suitcases aboard. In so doing the cabby, recently out of a hospital, strained himself and suffered an injury, later diagnosed as a broken blood vessel in his temple.

The fare, in a hurry to catch a train, was faced with a decision. He could summon help for the stricken driver and probably miss his train or he could do what he did -- phone the taxi company and say, "Send me another cab; your driver got sick here."

The dispatcher sent another cab and also, being aware of the driver's condition, an ambulance.

The questions arises -- should the fare have played the Samaritan and stood by until help arrived for the cabby, a man he'd never seen before, or carry on as he did? A very disturbing question.


May 12, 1959, Wages

1959: Women with a college degree can get jobs as an airline stewardess, home economist or secretary. ($300 is $2,192.19 USD 2008)

THE FUTILITY of man's -- or in this case, woman's -- war with the machine was demonstrated again the other day in Santa Monica. A lady was driving carefully in the right lane when a truck pulled out from the curb directly in front of her.

She braked and swerved in time to avoid contact but to express her disapproval of such recklessness she cut sharply in front of the truck deliberately missing it by inches. And then she saw there was no driver. The truck had rolled, unattended, onto the highway.



They've skipped one little detail
In the rapid transit fuss:
Nothing can travel faster
Than a not-in-service bus.



THE QUIET old folks who live near the upper level of Angels Flight at 3rd and Olive are not easy to surprise but they got a good one yesterday.

A bunch of maniacs showed up at noon and stood on the launching platform and sipped champagne, munched barbecued ribs and rode up and down on one of the two cars, commandeered for the lunch hour.

Not only that, photographers kept shooting pictures of some joker named Jim Hawthorne as he stood on the west end of the ascending and descending car like a touring politician. For the occasion a sign had been placed on it, "Save Angels Flight." What had the natives nudging each other was the tuxedo Hawthorne was wearing. This is strictly sport-shirt territory.

It seems, Hawthorne, who has a show on KTTV, had some time to spare yesterday and decided to save Angels Flight whether it needed saving or not. No one is certain. The owners, L. B. Moreland and his wife, who were present, attended the recent hearings on the proposed redevelopment project and there was no mention of the one-block railway's future. Neither was it included in the bright new plans for the hill after it is leveled and the architects start fresh.

Odd thing about yesterday's proceedings was that hardly any of the gentlemen busily saving Angels Flight had ever ridden on it before.


May 12, 1959, Abby AROUND TOWN -- A young mother of two small daughters is relieved that Mother's Day is over for another year. They bought and insisted she apply blue fingernail polish ... Del Mar, as horse players know is "where the turf meets the surf." Art Petsch Jr. reports that a home-towner referred proudly to El Segundo as the place "where the sewer meets the sea" ... Harry Oliver, the desert rat, has two new dogs -- Dot, which has no tail, and Comma, which has a tiny one ... A girl in Vancouver, Wash., wrote the UCLA library for information about a former student, one Jack London, who became a pretty good writer. She will doubtless be sorry to learn he dropped out of school in 1897 without leaving a forwarding address. And it was Cal, not UCLA ... Gene Hackley reports this sign on a window screen store on Lankershim Blvd. "Hang Yourself; 20% Discount."

Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, May 12, 1959

Confidential File

Chavez Has Become a State of Mind

Paul_coatesBe quiet, all of you.

Stop that frantic whispering. Calm down.

I'm not going to begin until I have your complete, undivided attention.

There, that's better.

The subject of my travelogue lecture today is "With Rod and Gun Through Chavez Ravine."

And don't move for the exits.

Just because I've never been there doesn't mean that I'm not an authority.

Let's face it. We're all authorities.

And besides, every absolute, positive fact with which I'm going to enlighten you is based on indisputable, carefully researched and documented hearsay.

The truth of the matter is, there're some folks in that gully who some other folks wish were someplace else.

Those are just my surface observations.

I go deeper.

May 12, 1959, Mirror Cover, Liz and Eddie But before I do, I want to make one point clear:

I'm for those families who refuse to be budged.

I take this stand partly because I believe that the people are honestly and genuinely fighting against what they believe is injustice.

And partly because I don't like to be spattered with tomatoes by emotional strangers.

However, before I sign any petition, I'd like to review a few of the facts:

The Arechiga family, on whom nearly all of the Chavez Ravine publicity has centered, had its property legally condemned half a dozen years ago. The family was told to leave then. Since 1953, a check for $10,050 (the condemnation price of the property) has been waiting for them.

But the Arechigas didn't leave -- and as a result, they've been living rent-free and tax-free on the property ever since.

The amount saved by them adds up to quite a bit.

But there's another matter to be considered.

The property was condemned to make way for a public housing project, which never materialized.

May 12, 1959, Liz and Eddie Therefore, legally and morally, should the city be obliged to return all properties seized to their original owners? Or to those owners who still want to buy their properties back?

Legally, apparently not.

But morally, I wonder.

Obviously, the city felt it had no moral obligation. And the city's stand was endorsed by its citizenry, which voted in favor of the Dodger contract on a very tense day last June.

The question as to who's right and who's wrong, I'm afraid, is a moot one.

I'm just sorry that some people in Chavez Ravine got the boot so ungracefully.

I'm even sorrier for them if the "principles" which made them martyrs weren't 100% their own. If some other parties gave them a bum steer or two.

O Weep Ye for O'Malley

May 12, 1959, Mirror Comics I'm sorry for the sheriff's deputies who were given the very dirty job of bodily removing the reluctant families. It's too bad that the officials who botched up matters in the first place weren't ordered to put on their old clothes and do the evicting themselves.

And while I'm sympathizing, I suppose I ought to say a kind word about poor Walter O'Malley.

When he was at the bartering table with our city fathers, he was assured that the city and the people standing between him and Chavez Ravine would iron out their differences peacefully and amiably.

Now, through no fault of his own, he's the most despised landlord since Squire Cribbs tried to kick out poor old Missus Wilson.*

* A reference to "The Drunkard" -- a melodrama that was performed for decades in Los Angeles.

A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept. : Your Health, 1940


May 12, 1940.



Found here >>>

Chavez Ravine Revisited

May 9, 1959, Chavez Ravein Photograph by George R. Fry Jr. / Los Angeles Times

May 8, 1959: Councilman Edward R. Roybal meets with the Arechiga family at Curtis Street and Malvina Avenue, where they camped out in their fight against being evicted from Chavez Ravine.

Sept. 18, 1959, Chavez Ravine
Photograph by Harry Chase / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 16, 1959: Groundbreaking for Dodger Stadium.

Eric Avila is an associate professor of Chicano studies, history and urban planning at UCLA. His book, "Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight," deals in part with the Dodgers’ decision to move to Los Angeles and the construction of Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. He answered questions about the Dodgers and Chavez Ravine in an e-mail interview with Keith Thursby.

Aug. 9, 1950, Chavez Ravine 1. How did you start studying Chavez Ravine and the Dodgers' move?

I realized that Dodger Stadium was another component of this new suburban culture that was taking shape in L.A. during the postwar period. Along with shopping malls, television, theme parks, movies, Dodger Stadium emerged as one of the new cultural institutions that defined the identity of Los Angeles during the 1950s. Thus, I saw the need to include it in my book.

2. There's a wonderful passage in your book from a former Chavez Ravine resident describing life there before many of the residents were moved out for a housing project that never happened: "There were dances in the churchyard. Pageants held in the streets. Weddings in which the whole community joyously participated." Reading The Times' coverage in 1958-59 provides no idea what the community was like at that point. Can you describe life for the remaining residents. How many people were still fighting the Dodgers' planned move?

Jan. 9, 1952, Chavez Ravine

Photograph by Hackley / Los Angeles Mirror-News

Jan. 9, 1952: Homes being cleared from Chavez Ravine.


It's not surprising to me that the Times didn't cover the conditions of community life in the Chavez Ravine during the 1950s, except to emphasize that the ravine was a worthless piece of land -- a "junkyard," I think it called that neighborhood -- in need of redevelopment. But it's important to remember that by the time the Dodgers had agreed to move to Los Angeles, most of the residents of the ravine had already moved out, based on an earlier promise from the city that public housing was going to be built in the area. I can only speculate on their disappointment when they learned that the project was canceled, fueled by the later discovery that the city was going to subsidize O'Malley's bid to build a stadium on the site.  And that was the crux of the opposition to the "Sweetheart deal" between O'Malley and City Hall: that the city reneged on its promise to build housing for poor people because government-subsidized housing was "socialistic," then turned around and subsidized (Walter) O'Malley's bid to build a stadium in the area (I spell out the terms of that deal in my book).  Many Angelenos saw that as pure hypocrisy (and it very much reminds me of current accusations of "socialism" in the U.S.).

3. How would you describe the role of The Times?

April 14, 1959 The Los Angeles Times wholeheartedly endorsed the plan to build a stadium in Chavez Ravine, and mocked the plight of the Arechiga family as staged theatrics. Over and over again, the LAT emphasized the imperative to build Dodger Stadium in the ravine -- this was after it denounced public housing as a "socialist scheme" -- and it played upon local fears that if the public did not approve the construction of Dodger Stadium, that the Dodgers would pack up and go back to New York. Basically, The Times initially played upon local Cold War anxieties to defeat the proposal to build public housing in the ravine, and then became the biggest cheerleader for bringing the Dodgers to Chavez Ravine.

4. The campaign for the stadium included the passage of Proposition B, which approved the Dodgers' deal with the city. How did the city leaders approach that campaign and what did you think of the tactics that were used?

The city and The Times used scare tactics to the effect of "if you don't vote for Proposition B, then the Dodgers will leave L.A. and find another city more willing to accommodate their interests." No evidence of this, of course, but that's how The Times advocated its side of the controversy. What many people don't realize is that Proposition B passed by a narrow margin: Many people did not approve of the deal between the city and the Dodgers, as they felt that the city was giving away too much to bring the Dodgers to L.A. In other words, the Dodgers arrived amidst a great deal of controversy and by no means was there any kind of consensus about their arrival in Southern California.

5. You linked the building of Dodger Stadium to the development of high culture in neighboring Bunker Hill. Can you explain the connection?

May 23, 1960, Chavez Ravine As far as I can tell, the Times -- historically a major proprietor of downtown real estate and business -- was invested in boosting the centrality of downtown, especially in light of the rapid suburbanization that was occurring in the larger urban region.  Thus, both the Music Center and the stadium were central to downtown revitalization -- one would attract wealthy elites and the other would attract middle and working class consumers.  It was all about their geographic proximity to the downtown core.

6. We're approaching the anniversary of the Arechiga family evictions. What were the longer-term implications of those evictions, which many people outside Los Angeles saw on television?

The long-term reverberations of the evictions left a residue of bitterness among many local Mexican Americans, who remember a much longer history of displacement and dispossession in California and the U.S. West.  For many of these people, the televised spectacle of this Mexican family being forcibly evicted from their homes resonated within a larger historical context of the American conquest of Mexico and the subordination of Mexican Americans within a new political, economic and racial order.

7. How did the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles fit in the cultural changes happening in the region in the late '50s and early '60s?

This essentially is what my book is about, so I can't recite the entire argument for you here, but basically, Dodger Stadium was another component of a new suburban culture that took shape in Southern California that catered to white middle class suburban consumers who sought safe, convenient and controlled cultural experiences that were removed from the historic diversity and perceived dangers of the city.  Disneyland, shopping malls, freeways were all part of this new suburban culture.  True, Dodger Stadium was in the heart of the city, but it was a self-contained island of sports entertainment (defined at the time as "wholesome family entertainment"), lodged upon a hilltop ravine, insulated by a massive parking lot and easily accessed by the new freeways.

May 2, 1964, Chavez Ravine
Photograph by Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times

May 2, 1964: A large crowd packs into Dodger Stadium for a Sunday afternoon game. It looks like every parking spot is taken.

8. Let's talk about another scenario. What do you think the Dodgers would have done if they were somehow not able to play in Chavez Ravine? What might have become of the area and the people still living there? And would the Dodgers playing somewhere other than Chavez Ravine been better for the region in the long run?

Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight Before Walter O'Malley announced his decision to move his team to L.A., he quietly purchased some 11 acres of land in South-Central L.A. which included, I believe, an old baseball diamond known as Wrigley Field.  Initially, there was some speculation that O'Malley would build his stadium there.  And in fact, the African American community--loyal fans of Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers -- expressed its great hope that the Dodgers would settle somewhere in the vicinity of South-Central L.A.  The city, however, boosted by the cheerleading of the L.A. Times, proposed what was essentially a gift of the Chavez Ravine (since it had already been cleared initially for a defunct public housing project) to O'Malley, which O'Malley accepted in exchange for the 11 acres in South-Central, much to the chagrin of the black community.  The huge irony of course is that now there is some talk about moving the Dodgers out of the ravine somewhere closer to downtown to build one those retro ballparks that are in fashion now, which likely could have been Wrigley Field in South-Central LA. All the makings were there, but instead the city and The Times opted for the Chavez Ravine.  As for the community that occupied the ravine prior to its clearance for public housing, I suppose it may very well have become gentrified in the way that Echo Park has become in recent years.  Imagine a craftsman home in the heart of Elysian Park!

Nuestro Pueblo

May 12, 1939, Nuestro Pueblo

On Location: Farrah Fawcett, 1976

oct. 17, 1976, Farrah Fawcett Majors in Cougar Commercial

Oct. 17, 1976: Farrah Fawcett-Majors makes a commercial for Mercury Cougars.
Oct. 17, 1976, Farrah Fawcett Films Cougar Commercial


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