The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: News

Found on EBay – Los Angeles Examiner


This book of Los Angeles Examiner front pages from World War II has been listed on EBay. I’ve only seen these books on EBay so I’m not positive but judging by the vendors’ photos, the reproduction appears to be fairly readable. The Examiner was once the leading paper in Los Angeles but merged with the afternoon Herald-Express to form the Herald Examiner in 1962 and is little more than a memory these days. Bidding starts at $24.95.

Found on EBay – ‘Quick, Watson, the Camera’

Quick Watson Book

A copy of “Quick Watson, the Camera,” has been listed on EBay. Long out of print, “Quick Watson” is terrific survey of photographs by the Watson family and was edited by the late Delmar Watson, formerly of the Mirror-News. Bidding starts at $9.99.

Young Adventurer Sent Home

Nov. 1, 1939, Runaway

Nov. 1, 1939, Runaway
Nov. 1, 1939, Runaway
Nov. 1, 1939, Runaway

Nov. 1, 1939, Jews

Nov. 1, 1939: Charles Conner of Chicago, who ran away at the age of 14 to fight in the war, is sent home after a remarkable series of adventures. At one point, when the ocean liner carrying him was stopped by a British patrol for nine days, he decided to swim 2 1/2 miles to shore … And Jews are fleeing Vienna for “a reservation in former Polish territory.”

Stocks Dive in Frenzy, 1929

 Oct. 30, 1929, Police Chief Edmund Waller “Ted” Gale notes the role of politics in criticism of Police Chief James Davis.

Oct. 30, 1929, Market Crash

Oct. 30, 1929, Market Crash
Oct. 30, 1929: “An incredible stock market tumbled toward chaos today despite heroic measures adopted by the nation's greatest bankers.” What do you suppose the chances are that this sentence could be written today?

The Balloonatics

July 6, 2008, Kent Couch

Photograph by Jeff Barnard/Associated Press

July 6, 2008: Kent Couch prepares to lift off in a lawn chair from his gas station in Bend, Ore., in a balloon-suspended lawn chair at dawn. About nine hours later, he created a sensation in Cambridge, Idaho, across the Oregon desert about 235 miles away, as he touched down in a field by popping balloons with his Red Ryder BB gun. (He also had a blow gun with steel darts and a parachute, just in case.) It was his third flight, and the farthest. He was inspired by North Hollywood trucker Larry Walters, who flew from San Pedro to Long Beach in 1982.

July 3, 1982. Larry Walters, Balloon
July 3, 1982: Larry Walters goes up in a lawn chair tied to 42 weather balloons.

July 3, 1982, Larry Walters, Balloon

April 23, 1983, Larry Walters, Balloons

April 23, 1983: Larry Walters is fined $1,500. Below, 10 years later, he committed suicide.

Larry Walters; Soared to Fame on Lawn Chair

November 24, 1993


Larry Walters, who achieved dubious fame in 1982 when he piloted a lawn chair attached to helium balloons 16,000 feet above Long Beach, has committed suicide at the age of 44.

Walters died Oct. 6 after hiking to a remote spot in Angeles National Forest and shooting himself in the heart, his mother, Hazel Dunham, revealed Monday. She said relatives knew of no motive for the suicide.

"It was something I had to do," Walters told The Times after his flight from San Pedro to Long Beach on July 2, 1982. "I had this dream for 20 years, and if I hadn't done it, I would have ended up in the funny farm."

Walters rigged 42 weather balloons to an aluminum lawn chair, pumped them full of helium and had two friends untether the craft, which he had dubbed "Inspiration I."

He took along a large bottle of soda, a parachute and a portable CB radio to alert air traffic to his presence. He also took a camera but later admitted, "I was so amazed by the view I didn't even take one picture."

Walters, a North Hollywood truck driver with no pilot or balloon training, spent about two hours aloft and soared up to 16,000 feet -- three miles -- startling at least two airline pilots and causing one to radio the Federal Aviation Administration.

Shivering in the high altitude, he used a pellet gun to pop balloons to come back to earth. On the way down, his balloons draped over power lines, blacking out a Long Beach neighborhood for 20 minutes.

The stunt earned Walters a $1,500 fine from the FAA, the top prize from the Bonehead Club of Dallas, the altitude record for gas-filled clustered balloons (which could not be officially recorded because he was unlicensed and unsanctioned) and international admiration. He appeared on "The Tonight Show" and was flown to New York to be on "Late Night With David Letterman," which he later described as "the most fun I've ever had."

"I didn't think that by fulfilling my goal in life -- my dream -- that I would create such a stir," he later told The Times, "and make people laugh."

Walters abandoned his truck-driving job and went on the lecture circuit, remaining sporadically in demand at motivational seminars. But he said he never made much money from his innovative flight and was glad to keep his simple lifestyle.

He gave his "aircraft" -- the aluminum lawn chair -- to admiring neighborhood children after he landed, later regretting it.

In recent years, Walters hiked the San Gabriel Mountains and did volunteer work for the U.S. Forest Service.

"I love the peace and quiet," he told The Times in 1988. "Nature and I get along real well."

An Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Walters never married and had no children. He is survived by his mother and two sisters.

April 22, 2001, Lawnchair Man  

Photograph by Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Eddie Korbich in the lawn chair and Roger E. DeWitt as Leonardo DaVinci in the musical "The Flight of the Lawnchair Man" in an evening of three one-act musicals called 3hree at the Ahmanson Theater on April 14,2001.

A Feat as Unusual as Piloting a Chair

* 'Flight of the Lawnchair Man's' creators are both from Iowa, but it took a New York pro to pair them up.

April 22, 2001

By DIANE HAITHMAN, Diane Haithman is a Times staff writer

Robert Lindsey Nassif, who wrote the music and lyrics for "The Flight of the Lawnchair Man," and Peter Ullian, who wrote the book, had a history with Hal Prince before he tapped them for this musical.

Prince paired them up for their first collaboration, "Eliot Ness in Cleveland," performed in 1998 at the Denver Center Theatre Company, and in 2000 at the Cleveland Playhouse. The musical was produced under Prince's auspices and based on Ullian's play "In the Shadow of the Terminal Tower."

Musical theater aspirations brought both men to New York, but each has roots in Iowa. Nassif, 41, was born in Cedar Rapids; Ullian, 34, attended the Iowa Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa in nearby Iowa City. They were working independently when Prince suggested that Nassif set Ullian's play to music. "The odds against two guys from Cedar Rapids being put together in New York are astronomical," Nassif observes. "I like to think that means something."

Kind of like the odds against more than one person trying to fly by attaching balloons to his lawn chair -- and yet it happened.

The story has been variously reported, but according to his Times obituary, North Hollywood truck driver Larry Walters piloted a lawn chair attached to helium weather balloons 1,600 feet into the air on his way from Long Beach to San Pedro in 1982. (Walters committed suicide in 1993 at age 44.) In England, another man attempted a similar feat by tying hundreds of helium balloons, the birthday-party variety, to a piece of furniture and taking off. Both acts of gravity-defiance were spotted by the very surprised pilots of commercial jets.

Nassif came up with idea of a musical based on such a flier-fleshed out with the Lawnchair Man meeting the great aviators of the past as he climbs ever higher into the sky. He also added the subplot of a 747 pilot who sees this armchair pilot out his airplane window and suffers an identity crisis.

"Different teams work in different ways," Ullian says. "With Rob, I will write a first draft of the book as if it's just a play, without thinking: 'This is where the song goes.' And then Rob will take the play that I wrote, go off by himself, find where the songs are hidden, buried, and sort of excavate them. For instance, when the 747 pilot sees the Lawnchair Man, originally that was written as a scene. But Rob took the basic arc of the scene-the emotion-and replaced it with a song." Though they were used to collaborating, Nassif and Ullian say there's a big difference between working under the auspices of Prince and actually having him direct a show. Each found the experience to be a revelation.

"When you work with Hal as a mentor, you go out and work and rehearse, and then bring in what you've done. Here, you are working with Hal one-on-one; there was more of a sense of him as a colleague," says Ullian. "It was more of a hands-on experience, less theoretical and more practical."

Some reviewers have called "3hree" old-fashioned-in a nice way. "Hey, They Do Write 'Em Like They Used To," said the New York Times headline for the paper's review of the 2000 production at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia. But Ullian says Prince never forced his hand on that matter, either.

"I think our approach was to write it as the material demanded, and I think what's gratifying about that headline is that I hope, in some way, all three shows have managed to tap into and honor what is great about the musical tradition," Ullian says.

"For instance, our show has a lot of musical underscoring [music composed for background] during the dialogue scenes, it's a musical architecture for the whole piece, and I think that's true of the other pieces as well. It's a little different from the tradition of shows like 'Guys and Dolls' that are song-scene-song.

"And there are moments when there's a song, then a little bit of a scene during a bridge, the songs and the book are integrated in a way that, while I wouldn't say it's radical, it's a little bit different. But we're not trying to do a sung-through musical like 'Evita' or some of those others, or a rock musical like 'Rent.' In that sense, we have definitely embraced the traditional book musical.

"I read a quote from Hal somewhere in which he says that actually a traditional musical is more difficult to write. There is nothing more difficult than writing the book to create a point where the song can come through as logical, where you've 'earned' the song. Earning the song is not an issue when you are singing all the time."

Nassif calls Prince the "invisible master hand" when it comes to directing. "He sets you in the right direction; a fine director doesn't tie your hands, he frees you.

"I think we really need brave producers, not just corporations," Nassif adds. "Musical theater has become so expensive-some wonderful shows like 'Lion King' can come out of it, but I think we also need brave producers of vision. It is the unique shows, I think, that last. Shows that a committee recognizes as 'produceable' do not necessarily have an enduring life. There has to be a vision."

Black Dahlia Revisited

Jan. 16, 1947, Examiner Cover

I need to make a few points about the coverage of the Black Dahlia case before I move on. The killing and the subsequent investigation are incredibly complicated and the false claims, ridiculous "true crime" books and crackpot websites have only muddied the waters even further. So I'll keep this brief.

The Los Angeles Examiner was Hearst's morning competition to the Los Angeles Times. Hearst's afternoon paper was the Herald-Express, created in the early 1930s in the merger of the Herald and the Express. There was also the Daily News (not related to the current Daily News of Los Angeles), which was founded in the 1920s. 

After World War II, The Times acquired the Daily News and incorporated it into the Mirror, which became the Mirror-News, an afternoon paper competing with the Herald-Express. The Mirror (where I got the name for the blog) was intended to be a more sensational counterpart to the staid, traditional Los Angeles Times.

In 1962, The Times folded the Mirror-News and Hearst folded the Examiner, leaving The Times as Los Angeles' sole morning paper and the new Herald Examiner as the sole evening paper. (Of course the region had many other suburban papers--but I'm keeping this simple). Because the names Herald-Express and Herald Examiner are similar, many people, especially younger folks who don't remember the Examiner,  confuse the two.

Paul Cardinal writes:

"I am a 73-year-old who was about age 10 when the Black Dahlia murder happened. The actual name of the paper then which was an afternoon paper was, the "Herald Express." What most people today would not believe, is, when the Dahlia murder happened, initially, the Herald actually had front page photos of Elizabeth Short's Torso and Morgue photos. Yes, they actually did that in 1946 or 47. The morning delivered Times nor the Examiner would never have anything to do with printing those photos and of course the Herald in their eyes printed them to boost circulation. I don't make this stuff up. The former Examiner Reporter either wasn't around at that time or doesn't have much of a memory."

As Vincent Bugliosi says: "The palest ink is better than the best memory." Actually, the Examiner ran a Page 1 photo of Elizabeth Short's body with a blanket painted over it, shown above. The Herald Express and the Daily News followed with heavily retouched morgue shots on Page 1 in an attempt to identify her.

The Times, in one of its most questionable news decisions, ran the story inside every day with one exception: The arrest of Joseph Dumais as a suspect.

Here's more on the early history of Los Angeles' newspapers, from 1932.

Sept. 4, 1932, Newspapers

Sept. 4, 1932, Newspapers

Khrushchev -- Postscript

Book Cover
Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs include an interesting anecdote about his stop at San Luis Obispo on the trip to San Francisco. While mingling with people at the train station, he lost a gold medal of Lenin presented by the Society for Peaceful Coexistence.

Back on the train, Henry Cabot Lodge handed Khrushchev the medal, which had been returned by a man in the crowd.

"A feeling of respect for this unknown person welled up in me. After all, someone else might have just kept what they found as a souvenir or have been tempted to hold on to this treasure because the medal was made of gold," Khrushchev says.

David Middlecamp of the San Luis Obispo Tribune has more about Khrushchev's visit.

CIA 'a Farce,' Khrushchev Says

Oct. 4, 1959, Khrushchev
Oct. 4, 1959, Republic Corp. President Victor M. Carter describes comments made by Nikita Khrushchev during a tour of housing developments in the San Fernando Valley. Khrushchev told ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge that the Soviets had intercepted and read secret messages between President Eisenhower and foreign leaders.

Oct. 4, 1959, Khrushchev
Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson asked Carter to serve as a guide because he was Russian-born and spoke the language fluently. However, there was evidently friction between Carter and Khrushchev. The Soviet leader remarked that Carter could not be a true American, apparently because Carter was a Russian Jew and was born in Rostov, the site of massacres by the czar's cossacks, according to a 1959 analysis by The Times.

According to The Times, Khrushchev's motorcade visited a housing tract centered at 16200 Rinaldi St. 

View Larger Map

Next: The Ambassador Hotel.

Khrushchev Arrives in L.A.!

Sept. 19, 1959: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev arrives in Los Angeles.

Sept. 19, 1959, Airport
Photograph by the Los Angeles Police Department

Four tiers of scaffolding are set up for photographers and TV cameras, which are already in place. Khrushchev's travels required three aircraft: One for the Soviet leader and his entourage, another carrying the press and a third hauling luggage, The Times said. 

Sept. 19, 1959, Airport

Photograph by the Los Angeles Police Department

Reporters and observers (is that Paul Coates  on the left?) stand along a chain-link fence, separated from the U.S. military plane carrying Khrushchev and his entourage. Because the State Department failed to send press credentials to Los Angeles in time, only reporters with LAPD press passes  were admitted, the Mirror-News reported.

Sept. 19, 1959, Airport Photograph by the Los Angeles Police Department

Police Chief William H. Parker, center-right, inspects the Cadillac Fleetwood limousine that will carry Khrushchev to Twentieth Century Fox studios for lunch. The Cadillac (note the whip antenna on the rear bumper) was replaced with a Chrysler Imperial for Khrushchev's trip to the Ambassador Hotel.

Sept. 19, 1959, Khrushchev's Plane Photograph by the Los Angeles Police Department

With a row of officers lining the interior perimeter, a Chevrolet station wagon leads the plane carrying Khrushchev to the reception area. The aircraft is now at the Museum of Flight south of downtown Seattle.

Sept. 19, 1959, Flowers Photograph by Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times

Nina Khrushchev receives a bouquet of bird of paradise, the official flower of Los Angeles.

Sept. 19, 1959, Airport Photograph by Ben Olender / Los Angeles Times

Khrushchev stands near a microphone that has been set up for him.
Sept. 19, 1959, Airport Photograph by the Los Angeles Police Department

Khrushchev at the microphone.
Sept. 19, 1959, Airport Los Angeles Times file photo

Translator Oleg Troyanovsky, center, delivers remarks on behalf of Nikita Khrushchev as Nina Khrushchev listens. 

Sept. 19, 1959, Khrushchev, Hat
Photograph by Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times

Khrushchev waves his hat to the crowd.

Next stop: Twentieth Century Fox!

Rocket on Moon; Russia Jubilant

Sept. 14, 1959, Khrushchev Ad

Mr. Khrushchev is not coming to the United States to offer significant concessions or recant his lifelong enmity toward us and our values. He is coming prepared to score a propaganda victory, with confidence in his ability to arouse false hopes, weaken our resolves and cause us to make substantial concessions. He must not succeed in such a mission.

Sept. 14, 1959, Times Extra

Vice President Richard Nixon urges Americans not to get overly "excited or hysterical" about the Soviet moon shot. ... and dress designer Gilbert Adrian dies.

 Sept. 14, 1959, Reaction

 Sept. 14, 1959 Letter

At left and above, people from all walks of life voice their dismay over Khrushchev's visit.

Sept. 14, 1959, Moon
A University of Michigan astrophysicist doubts the Soviets actually hit the moon.

Setp. 14, 1959, Comics
"Little Do These Simple, Unsophisticated Folks..."

Sept. 14, 1959, Sports

The pennant race was on at the Coliseum.

The Dodgers fell two games out of first place after a 4-3 loss to the Pirates. Wally Moon homered over the screen in left, but Johnny Podres gave up three home runs. The Times' Frank Finch referred to the Pittsburgh shots as rodent raps or gopher balls. Learn something new every day.

There were only 12 games left for the Dodgers.

--Keith Thursby

'Victory or Death' -- Hitler

Sept. 2, 1939, Hitler

Sept. 2, 1939: Hitler puts on a field uniform, saying he will take it off "only in victory or in death."

Sept. 2, 1939, Times
People gather outside The Times building to read the latest news.

Sept. 2, 1939, Cover
Nazi air raids sweep Poland.
Sept. 2, 1939, Runover
Wartime events stun the people of Germany.

Hawaii Becomes 50th State; Redskins Beat Rams

Aug. 22, 1959, Cover

Aug. 22, 1959: The Redskins beat the Rams in The Times annual charity game ,,, Sir Thomas Beecham, 80, marries his 27-year-old secretary ... and Hawaii officially becomes the 50th state. The House Un-American Activities Committee cancels hearings on communist influences in California's schools. Teachers subpoenaed by the committee will instead be interrogated by their local school boards.  

Aug. 22, 1959, Gun Ad

Our favorite Pasadena gun store has a sale on Webley .38s and riffs on Nikita Khrushchev's upcoming visit.
Aug. 22, 1959, Hawaii

Hawaii becomes the 50th state and Bruce Russell provides one of his cryptic editorial cartoons: The American eagle wearing a monocle that says: "Hawaii." Presumably Mr. H-Bomb, the Dove of Peace. Uncle Sam, the Russian Bear, the Taxpayer and other stock editorial cartoon characters had the day off.

Aug. 22, 1959, Stephen Nash

Stephen Nash, one of the most despised men on death row, is executed in the gas chamber. Seeing prosecutor J. Miller Leavy among the witnesses, Nash winks as he's being strapped into the death chair.  

Nash, who killed 11 people, gazes at Leavy and  says: "Unfortunately, I've never been able to live like a man. However, I expect to die like a man."


Aug. 22, 1959, Hedda Hopper

Hey, look! It's Si Zentner!
Aug. 22, 1959, Nancy Valentine

Above, Nancy Valentine relaxes after the stress of making Jack Webb's "-30-" by doing yoga at the Self-Realization Fellowship center in Encinitas. According to The Times, she spent three years at the fellowship's Mt. Washington center before deciding to return to the outside world.

At left, an increasingly irrelevant Hedda Hopper (d. 1966) says good Americans will boycott Charlie Chaplin's films and blathers about "the good old days" she witnessed at the Garden of Allah, which is to be torn down. I recently saw her in "Midnight" and she was dreadful.

Aug. 22, 1959, Christ in Bronze

Philip K. Scheuer reviews "Christ in Bronze," a Japanese film about the persecution of Christian missionaries. Scheuer makes the film sound interesting, but alas, it's not on Netflix.

Aug. 22, 1959, Nancy

Nancy is a resourceful young lady!

Aug. 22, 1959, Sports

The Giants beat Philadelphia, putting them 2 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers in the pennant race.

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