In a role originally meant for the actor Michael Madsen, John Travolta breaks out his Trademark Disco Moves perfected in films like “Saturday Night Fever” & “Urban Cowboy”, to take Home the Gold, albeit on a Very Roundabout Random Route to get there… Check Out this great article in Vanity Fair featuring the entire cast along with Pulp Fiction’s Director ~ Quentin Tarantino
In 1970, Los Angeles in many ways as compared to Today, was still kind of a Small Town. 2 L.A. Artists, living founder & still Active Artist Victor Henderson and now deceased co-founder Terry Schoonhoven created the L.A. Fine Art Squad.
In a largely Pre-Gangsta & Grafitti Era, the word Tagger hadn’t been invented yet. These two artists Divided & Conquered Los Angeles with their Epic in Grandeur, Realism and Scale- Urban Murals on the Streets of Los Angeles. In that time, Los Angeles was having a sort of Renaissance Redux and the Rare Ability to Poke Fun at itself.
The film, Shampoo from 1975 and starring Reigning TinselTown Real-Life Lothario Warren Beatty, the Understated Eroticism of Ms. Julie Christie (LOVE her Table Manners), the Overstated & Ultra 70′s Ms. Goldie Hawn and a very Mrs. Robinson-Like Lee Grant. Take your pick George, you Lucky Guy…In a thinly disguised screenplay based on Real Life Hollywood Swingers like hairdressers Jon Peters & Doomed by the Manson Family – Jay Sebring, Shampoo is a brilliant look at 70′s Hollywood Life itself, much the same as Sunset Boulevard had done some Twenty years before. With this Mentality in Mind, The L.A. Fine Art Squad was Born.
Victor Henderson and Terry Schoonhoven began their collaboration in 1969 with the mural, Brooks Street Painting, on the back wall of Henderson’s Venice studio. A portrait of his one-time girlfriend, who lived upstairs.
The house, a few blocks from the Venice Boardwalk has been replaced by condominiums, the mural, as many of the Fine Art Squad’s later works, did not survive, as we shall see.
Schoonhoven & Henderson as a Mural Team were now Clearly Inspired, and from their Humble Beginnings of Brooks Street, came the Dawn of the Seventies SuperGraphics Era. The Newly Christened L.A. Fine Art Squad added 2 New Members, Jim Frazen and Leonard Koren, students of Schoonhoven’s. The Squad nowgeared up Big Time & tackled the 15,000 square foot exterior of the groovy Climax Nightclub, on La Cienega Boulevard…
Beverly Hills Siddhartha ~ A Name that Reeks of 70′s Warholian & Rock N’Roll Culture
Beverly Hills Siddhartha • 1969. LAFAS Completely Covered the 15,000 square foot exterior of the Climax Nightclub in Beverly Hills,. In a time & place that arguably spawns the Birth of the Disco Era. As art, The LA. Fine Arts Squad took a stand against the Staid Studio Standard of ‘contained’ art in a room or gallery and Poking Fun at & For the Community – Art for All and For the Times. Aware of Hollywood Excess, Adult Absurdity and Current California Culture, their art Paved the Way for Future Environmental & Performance Artists who went on to become Much Bigger Success Stories & Shameless Self-Promoters ~ a la Christo.
Within 2 Years new owners would buy the Climax & in true Seventies Stucco over it Fashion, painted out the entire work and exterior in a Bold Stroke of pure blank white. And so…The Fine Arts Squad Marched On to an Increasingly Tongue in Cheek Drummer. Based on a report from 1949 that it had actually Snowed in Venice, the Squad carried out its Next Mission on the Venice Boardwalk. The aptly named ~
Venice in Snow 1970
Photos of the Fine Art Squad works, like the works themselves, are rare. Two of the only existing 70′s era snapshots of the mural (stitched together here) failed to even show the entire work, as evidenced by the missing ‘R’ of the MARKET above.
And, True to Form – who cares it’s just L.A. cement-it-over Urban Renewal-style -Venice in Snow, which stills exists today, has been permanently obscured by a newer building erected directly in front of it on the miniscule plot of land shown. Only in L.A., by Strange Fate the mural is one of the only Fine Art Squad works preserved for years to come, but of course no one can see it. Perhaps sensing this very California Fatalist Feeling, L.A. Fine Art Squad would next create perhaps their Most Recognizable Work ~ one that is Truly Synonymous with L.A. itself .
The Catalyst of 2011 Current World Events and the Impending Doom of THE BIG ONE ~ Itself a California Icon, are what makes Isle of California 1970-1972 one of our most Legitimate Urban Artworks
Down the Road in Zuma Beach at the Same Seventies Time another L.A. Poet Laureate Artiste expressed much the Same Sentiment on his Classic California album Time Fades Away, Neil Young ~
And Indeed even in L.A. City of the Stars….Time Fades Away
L.A. Fine Art Squad carried on their work with a Series of increasingly Surrealist Trompe L’oleil works, mainly in and around Venice. Their murals perhaps never reached again the Epic Timeless Irony as Isle of California conveyed.
Terry Schoonhoven then set off & worked primarily as an individual and rendered the surrounding Venice neighborhood in a Mirror-image Reflection of the Urban View opposite, almost M.C. Escher-Gone to California Style. His St. Charles mural, on Speedway Avenue in Venice at 50 feet high x 100 feet long is his most Enduring Solo Work ~
Like many of their works were destined, The L.A. Fine Art Squad were Fading & Fast Becoming Extinct. New Emerging California Muralists adopted their Witty Slice of Life Style and emulated the Nutty Venice Neighborhood with Increasing Verve & Skill.
A Prime Example of the Fine Art Squad’s Influence on Funky Faux Futurists is Brandelli’s Brig 1973 ~ a Self-Portrait of Artist Art Mortimer, painting himself painting Former 1930′s Boxer, Babe & Betty Brandelli and their bar which lives on in Venice to this day, The Brig.
From the Origins of L.A. Fine Art Squad Emerged The Messiah of All L.A.Muralists ~Kent Twitchell
Artist/Illustrator/Muralist Extraordinaire Kent Twitchell is Easily The Most Prolific Picasso of all L.A. Muralists. Nearly his entire life has contained a Constant Form of Illustrative Expression. Twitchell arrived in Los Angeles in 1968, just at the founding of the L.A. Fine Art Squad and Los Angeles as a World Epicenter of the New Muralists. Pop Culture expressed in the Art & Music scenes were exploding just as Twitchell arrived. From his First Large-scale work -
Twitchell as an L.A. transplant Immediately Conveyed his understanding for Diverse & Angeleno Culture ~ con Respecto
The Mural has existed for nearly 40 years in the Heart of Downtown L.A. on the side of Victor Clothing Co., on Broadway. In a very Telling photo, Angeleno Locale Chicano Grafitti permeates the entire Urban Existence of Los Angeles and is Truly a Legitimate Cultural Art Form in its own right. The fact this mural is un-tagged, albeit the walls all around it, shows a Mutual Cross-Cultural respect not only in Subject Matter by Twitchell, but by the Community as well.
Twitchell’s Immediate Grasp of the Diverse L.A. Neighborhoods & Culture, his huge Illustrative Skill nonwithstanding and his Longevity in the Medium are what has made him THE L.A. Muralist to this day. His ability to choose Offbeat Characters in California Culture that Strike a Chord with Angelenos is uncanny, the Mural even overshadowing the fame of the subject and reinforcing the Un-obvious, as in Twitchell’s next mural of actor Strother Martin at Fountain Avenue & Kingsley Drive in Hollywood ~
Strother Martin Monument 1971
In 1970 in Twitchell’s work around town, his reputation was building & he clearly did not Have a Failure to Communicate..
“I painted only a black and white face of Strother at first. Word got around and he drove over to see it. Then he called me and we became friends. As I was painting the afghan he agreed to pose for me and I added the figure on the left…” Kent Twitchell
Twitchell’s Next Work proved to Be Brilliant not so much in Subject Matter, but perhaps his awareness that in L.A., everything is about location Location LOCATION…
The Freeway Lady 1974
No Angeleno who has Been Around Town for any length of time has not seen & felt the presence of The Freeway Lady. She watched over California Travellers on the 101 Freeway in Downtown L.A. for years, like an Aging Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Twitchell has this to say about her ~
“I am told this was America’s first freeway mural. I painted it in 1974 to honor my grandmother who lived in Hollywood. I chose actress Lillian Bronson as my model and we remained friends. She overlooked the Hollywood Freeway for 12 years and was suddenly destroyed. I am now painting her again, thanks to the Valley Institute of Visual Art (VIVA). A new front afghan was created by members of the Crochet Guild of Sacramento. The flying afghan streamer is being created by Peggy Baxter of Long Beach. The new mural will be on the west wall of the VIVA gallery at 13261 Moorpark at Fulton in Sherman Oaks . . . . Update: VIVA was prevented from putting the mural up and now it may possibly be painted on the campus of Valley College, visible to the public streets outside.”
His Work & Ethos show a repeated Sensitivity to the Surrounding Environment and ability to Reach the Hearts of Hardened L.A. City Dwellers through his Astute Choice of Freeway-Close Commercial Canvases to Paint. Perhaps this is what makes Kent Twitchell’s Legacy as one of California’s most Enduring Artists, much like that of one of his Most Famous Subjects ~
Ed Ruscha Monument 1980
“I Painted it to Honor All California Artists” Kent Twitchell
In True Jaded Faded California Fashion, Twitchell’s 6-story tall Hill Street L.A. work suffered the Fate of many works by L.A. Fine Art Squad so many years before, as Ed Ruscha Monument Mysteriously Just Disappeared one day in 2006…
Twitchell was able to sue & gain a substantial Million-Dollar plus settlement as to the loss of his Iconic Homage to all us California Artists. He has gone on to Create several other Noteworthy Works and indeed remains a living Active California Cultural Treasure to this day. Urban Graffiti for 30 years now has become a Valid Art Form as well…Case in Point ~ Elusive English Artist Banksy arriving on the L.A. Art Scene just in Time for the 2011 Academy Awards, with a Decidedly Reminiscent Wit, Message and Look of Early Pop Art. All Valid & Legit & Honored as an Innovative Modern Artist ~
Charlie Burn 2011
Thanksy Banksy for Comin’ to Town ~ but us California Creators Been There Done That ~
Ed Ruscha • Burning Gas Station 1966
“The spray paint vandalism was at the core of the end of the mural movement. L.A. started the murals in the late 60s with those of us who thought of ourselves as hippies and it travelled around the world, helped by the media attention unusual things in L.A. get. Ironically LA has now become the one place where murals cannot survive. Most of the murals that were painted over were done so because they were covered with graffiti. Efforts to clean the tagging eventually compromised the paint surface and the perception was that the paint was not lasting. Today perception is more powerful/influential than truth and people began thinking of murals as ugly graffiti-laden walls that would have been better left unpainted. Spray paint vandalism and the murals have now been tainted with the same understandable discrimination and the days of the late 60s through the mid 80s are a memory for those of us who were there. The “Mural Capital of the World” has become the” Graffiti Capital of the World” and LA has officially outlawed murals along with building-sized commercial ads. That doesn’t stop the taggers of course. It’s a strange new world. You are absolutely right though. We thought that we were in Florence. That’s why we put so much into our paintings. We thought the world was good and that people just all wanted to be nice.”
~ Kent Twitchell, 2010
L.A. Times- Feb 17, 2011 • Urban Outfitters, who have made a few bucks off the work of street artist Banksy through the years, now allegedly want his “Crayola Shooter” piece, on the wall behind their Westwood store, to be painted over.
Make Art Not War ~ Cheers, Federico
Simon Rodia at work on his 30 Year Art Project ~ The Watts Towers, 1951
At the Turn of the 20th Century, California Couture had Little Identity ~ an Emerging Beach & Coastal Sportswear Couture was beginning to Evolve with Influences from Europe & Hawai’i. The Matson Lines Steamships Would Soon Run Regularly from The Hawai’ian Islands to California, Bringing Culture and Couture Ideas Back & Forth Between on the West Coast. Well-Heeled Travellers able to Visit the European Beaches of the Day were introduced to the
French ‘Maillot‘, by Izod ~ A New Ladies ‘Tank’ style one-piece Swimsuit first seen on the Shores of Le Riviera ~
The Earliest Maillots were of Wool ~ and often covered with a Second Layer of Fabric for Even More Fun in the Sun, no doubt on a Hot Summer Day creating the Added Benefit of Reducing Mademoiselle’s Figure under 2 layers of Wet Wool. Add Surf & Sand to that Combination and the Poor Beach Girl of the Day would Daresay be a Trifle Uncomfortable while Making the Scene at Le Plage. However like All Good Ideas, Designers stuck with the Concept, rapidly Paring Down the Look and Streamlining Cuts to Suit Ladies and Men alike, in a Classic Tank/Trunk that would Stay in Style through the Roaring Twenties ~
Perhaps no one was More Responsible for Creating a Look that would Evolve into the Coastal California Style of Today than George Hoyningen-Heune, one of the Earliest Modern Fashion Photographers. A Russian Immigrant who would become the Chief Photographer of French Vogue, 1n 1925. His Classic Images of European Bathers and Swimwear of the Early Nineteen-Twenties and ‘Thirties would go on to Influence SwimWear Designers Everywhere, and Inspire Modern Day Designers Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Photographers Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts and many others with his Suave, Cool Timeless Images… These Would have All have Direct Effect on California Couture Style ~
In 1907, Australian Swimming Star Annette Kellerman Travelled on American Tour as an “Underwater Ballerina” – a Predecessor to Synchronized Swimming. Ms. Kellerman wore a Swimsuit with exposed arms, legs and Somewhat Low in the Back, thereby finding herself temporarily Busted in Boston for Excessive Exposure. And As Often when Something Initially Seen as Racy Behaviour becomes Trend, people like John C. Bentz, Proprietor of Sweaters & Undergarments maker Bentz Knitting Mills in California took notice and Had a Brainstorm ~ To use the Appropriately French term as its Origins would Imply…
Voila ! The Catalina SwimSuit was Created ~
Initially John Bentz re-named his Company Pacific Knitting Mills in 1912, to Reflect & Capitalize on the New SwimWear Trend in California. His Earliest Wool Suits were Almost Unisex, with Tank Top-like Uppers and short Breeches. Indeed on the Early Suits, many of which were All Black, he No Doubt thought after Mr. Henry Ford who stated about his still-new Model ‘T’,
“You can have any color you want…
…as long as it’s Black.” ~
During the Roaring Twenties in Southern California, being Prohibition and All, a New Paradise Playground began to Take Shape 26 Miles Across the Sea on Catalina Island. Fun-Seeking Folk would Fire Up their Chris-Crafts and Set Sail to visit Gambling Boats & Rum-Runners lying offshore of the L.A. Metropolis Night…
…Beckoning them with the Illegal Pleasures of the Day. Soon Catalina Isle became a Destination for Debauchery, as Chicago Chewing Gum Baron & Cubs Owner William P.Wrigley now owned & developed the Island, after buying it Lock Stock & Barrel at a Fire Sale Price years before after a devastating wildfire scorched Catalina. The Town of Avalon became a Home Away from Home to Hollywood Heroes & Well-Off California Carousers ~
Big Band music was broadcast live from the Avalon Ballroom in the Casino Modeled after Monte Carlo to a Nationwide Audience. Flying Fish Cavorted in the Channel & Glass-Bottom Boats Cruised the Harbor. Hollywood HeavyWeights like Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, Orson Welles and John Wayne came to Fish, Drink, Dance & Romance ~
Seeing All of This Go Down as a Marketing Opportunity, Pacific Knitting Mills Maestro John Bentz changed the name of his growing SwimWear Company after his best-selling swimsuit, ‘The Catalina’. Of Course Now it was time to develop a New Line of Sleeker, Sexier Suits to Show Off more Skin than Ever Before, Hollywood Style ~
As World War II Heated Up ~ Catalina Took Off Big Time when California Created the Pin-Up for All those Soldiers in Far-Away lands…
… And They sent photos back from Exotic Outposts like Waikiki, wearing ‘Aloha Shirts’ & Inspiring a
New ‘California Tropical’ Look ~
As Catalina SwimWear Cruised into the Fifties, John Bentz Scored another California Coup ~ Catalina became a Sponsor for the Miss America Beauty Paegant, Supplying Suits and Inventing another Great California Tradition in the Process ~
The SwimSuit Competition…
Now the Old Knitter John Bentz & Catalina were Really in Business ~ All of America Saw his Swimsuits on Some Seriously Hot Tamales Right in their Living Rooms on this new Thing called Television. And if That wasn’t enough for All Us OverHeated California Boys, Hollywood Really Got in on the Act ~
And on the Beaches of California, Now Catalina was Everywhere, On Every Girl ~
Then Once Again the Ever-Enterprising French Got Busy & A Guy named Louis Reard Turned Up the Heat on SwimWear with His Explosive Invention named after a Bit of Cold War Atomic Testing on a Little-Known Island called the
Bikini Atoll ~
California’s Conservative Catalina was Caught a Bit Off Balance along with the Rest of the World by the Bikini in 1946. Originally Banned in Several Countries and even Scorned by the Pope Himself & The Vatican, the Bikini Became a Much Bigger Explosion than the original Atomic Blast it was named for. Guys like Bond, James Bond & his Beauties helped out Along the Way as well to Permanently Put the Bikini on the Map ~
Catalina Stoically Stuck by the One-Piece Maillot, having created a Classic California SwimWear Icon with it for Many Years, and though The Bikini certainly was a Bit More Revealing and Therefore Became Preferred by a Whole New Generation of California Girls, it takes a Certain Kind of Lady to Look Equally Muy Caliente in the Maillot ~ Thereby supporting the Theory that Sometimes ~
Less is More ~
Whatever One’s Preference in California SwimSuit Style, We can thank Catalina SwimWear for Being One of the First Ones, bringing European and South Seas Style to the California Coast, Pioneering a Multi-Billion Dollar Swim and Surfwear Industry Worldwide, Way Before the QuikSilver’s, Roxy’s, Brazilian Bossa Nova & even the Victoria’s Secrets of the World…
Helping Keep Us Californians Looking & Feeling Fab Along the Way ~
In the Fall of 1946 ~ All Was Quiet in the Los Angeles Sleepy Hamlet Suburb of Mar Vista…
Dateline : Los Angeles, 1946 • (F deC Science & Technology Dept.)
After Enduring 4 Years of Seemingly Endless War & Toil Overseas in the Armed Services, Aircraft Factories and Shipyards, Los Angelenos were Sleeping In. After All, They Deserved It. Times were Good. What with the Local L.A. Economy Flush after a Never-Ending Stream of Defense Contracts, a Down-Winding Military Machine after a Monstrous WorldWide Buildup & Murderous Mayhem, G.I. Bills & Bobs were literally Paving the Way for a Whole New Suburbia Soon to Come and A Baby Boom on its way. Californians were Chilled Out…
But Not Everyone. Some were Still Hard at Work, Experimenting and Analyzing…Being Quiet Out There
What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building
He has subscriptions to those
Magazines… He never
Waves when he goes by
He’s hiding something from
The rest of us… He’s all
To himself… I think I know
Why… He took down the
Tire swing from the Peppertree
He has no children of his
Own you see… He has no dog
And he has no friends and
His lawn is dying… and
What about all those packages
He sends. What’s he building in there?
With that hook light
On the stairs. What’s he building
In there… I’ll tell you one thing
He’s not building a playhouse for
The children what’s he building
Tom Waits • “What’s he Building in There ?” 1989
Double Agent ~
Beautiful but Deadly Mata Hari
During World War I, the Netherlands remained neutral. As a Dutch subject, Margaretha Zelle was thus able to cross national borders freely. To avoid the battlefields, she travelled between France and the Netherlands via Spain and Britain, and her movements inevitably attracted attention. She was a courtesan to many high-ranking allied military officers during this time. On one occasion, when interviewed by British intelligence officers, she admitted to working as an agent for French military intelligence, although the latter would not confirm her story. It is unclear if she lied on this occasion, believing the story made her sound more intriguing, or if French authorities were using her in such a way, but would not acknowledge her due to the embarrassment and international backlash it could cause.
In January 1917, the German military attaché in Madrid transmitted radio messages to Berlin describing the helpful activities of a German spy, code-named H-21. French intelligence agents intercepted the messages and, from the information they contained, identified H-21 as Mata Hari. Unusually, the messages were in a code that German intelligence knew had already been broken by the French, leaving some historians to suspect that the messages were contrived.
On 13 February 1917, Mata Hari was arrested in her room at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris. She was put on trial, accused of spying for Germany and consequently causing the deaths of at least 50,000 soldiers. She was found guilty and was executed by firing squad on 15 October 1917, at the age of 41.
The facts of the case remain vague, because the official case documents regarding the execution were sealed for 100 years, although, in 1985, biographer Russell Warren Howe managed to convince the French Minister of National Defense to break open the file, about 32 years early. It was revealed that Mata Hari was innocent of her charges of espionage ~
Howard Hughes ~ The Original California Big Brother… He’s Got The Goods on You.
Legendary Lurker Howard Hughes surely Goes Down as the Ultimate California Big Brother, Spying on Everyone in (and Out of) Sight, including The Guys who were ‘Supposed’ to be Doing the Spying, the FBI and early predecessor to the CIA, Office of Strategic Services, the OSS. In fact, they were Unwittingly Paying Him to Do So. Hughes’ XF-11 was a Reconnaissance- Spy Plane. The Twin-boom, high wing Monoplane Designed by Big Brother HH and manufactured by (who else?) Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City. Because of the A-Bomb, the need was ‘Greater than Ever’ to know what other countries were Up To. The United States Government contracted Howard Hughes to build a High-Altitude Spy Plane that could go above radar with a special camera using newly developed fine grain film. In True California Stranger than Fiction Fashion ~ HH Managed to spend all that Big Government Contract Money only to Crash Into a Lovely Pair of Spanish Revival Homes in Beverly Hills.
Setting the Neighbourhood Ablaze, California Style… in Beverly Hills.
In Typical Hughesian No Harm No Foul Logic ~ The Ever-Elusive Mr. Hughes simply Escaped to The Confines of his Creepy Concrete Deco Compound & Secret Starlet Laboratory at 7000 Romaine Street in Los Angeleez, to Continue his Secret Spying Ways on Everyone, Especially Every Sweet Young Thing that Crossed his Creepy Crescent Heights at Sunset Path….
I Hear Ya Knockin’, But You Can’t Come in ~
Hmmm…Lots of Electronics & Phony Telephonics Going On in there. As We Have All Come to Know , Thanks to Mssrs. DeCaprio & Scorcese, The Aviator Hughes was Up to All Kinds of Shady Shenanigans, Hollywood Style. And he Taught A Lot of Other Corporate Communicados How to Do Just That…
There’s something Awfully Familiar about the Dick Tracy Wrist Radio every Kid Had to Have in 1946…
On January 13, 1946 Comic Strip Creator Chester Gould changed Dick Tracy forever with the introduction of the 2-Way Wrist Radio, having drawn inspiration from a visit to inventor Al Gross. This Compact Communications Device, worn as a wristwatch by Detective Tracy and Members of the Police Force, became one of the strip’s most immediately recognizable icons,and can be thought of as a Precursor to Later Technological Developments,
Such as that iPhone InYour Face, you know, the one Connected to BlueTooth, Twitter, Tattler, TMZ, TCM, e-mail, IM, Chat This-and That, FaceBook GPS & BIG BROTHER.
Did America’s Obsession with that Oblong Oval Glowing in their Living Rooms actually Hook Them Up to an Early Form of GPS ? Maybe They were Skype-ing Us and We Didn’t Even Know It.
Poor George Jetson, Hassled & Micro-Managed by Maniacal Boss Cosmos Spacely, while he’s Really Supposed to be Working, Being Busted Web-Surfing Again…
Meanwhile, Ms. Judy Jetson is At Home in her Stylish Modern Living Room Logging On & Video-Chatting with Wilma Flintstone (who is still on DSL) about Girls Night Out ~
So Thanks for Coming Around & Logging On, But Remember,
Even Federico Knows When You’ve Been Here….
There are 2 Esteemed California Boys, both Associates & Friends that have Given Me A Lot & all you who have Chosen to Read along, All 175,000 of You, in Australia, Austria, Brazil, The Cayman Islands, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, The U.S., & Sri Lanka…Inspiring People These Two Have Been for me & Hopefully for You As Well…
Of Course I, like Any Californian worth Their Salt ~ knew of him.
Some Time Many California Light Years Ago, at the Beginning of Federico’s career, he was in an elevator at a Big California Clothing Expo. Around 1985 or so. The Door Opened and in walks this Dude who was well, Electric. And All these Other Dudes & Hot Surf Chicks are Checking Him Out, throwing out Surf Mags for him to Autograph, old school Instamatics Going Off. So I tried to Be Cool. He’s got that Vibe, that this is his Brief Respite from being ‘Shaun Tomson’. And as Soon as That Door Opens, Back At It ~ kind of A Celebrity Chilling for a Moment. And Then he was Gone.
Flash Forward 20 Years ~
As a Graphic Designer who chooses to Live In ~ as they say, a ‘Small Market’, Federico often Finds Himself Hustling for Work. So at one point there’s a very, very short, briefest of brief work-for-hire listing for someone of my Particular Skillsets. I Drop Round for a Visit to meet Surf Star Royalty Shaun & Ms. Tomson at their Clothing Biz Office. There he is ~ Same Dazzling Dude from the Eighties Elevator with an Equally Dazzling Wife. Federico is given a Project Brief and and is Off on His Way to Do His Thing. Then I’m Back. and Back Again. Pretty Soon I’m just There All.The.Time. Working at the Surf Star Clothing Biz. Which Was Cool and Challenging and Pressure-Tested Creativity. Designing and Making Stylish Pressure-Tested Surf-Inspired California Casual Couture ~
And How Is he Inspirational, Federico? Because, other than the Great Hawai’ian Duke Kahanamoku, Shaun Tomson is the Greatest Ambassador of his Sport? Dude- Because he’s the Gnarliest Tube Rider Ever? No.
Shaun Tomson defines Cool Under Fire.
Whether facing a Wall at Backdoor Pipeline
or a Wall of invoices or orders, Adventure or Adversity,
He’s a Great Husband ~ Married to The Same Ms. Tomson for Many Years. A Great Dad No Matter What Goes Down ~ and Just a Straight-Up Nice Guy. With Style, Grace, Charm, Intelligence & Eloquence. Successful Designer, Writer, Film-Maker, California Renaissance Man. Surfer. ST Handles It.
Live+Work ~ Robin Donaldson AIA
Most of Us ~ At the end of Our California Day, think about What We did That Day. Uh, did a Spreadsheet. Mowed the Lawn & Washed the Car, Pickup the Kids & Went to the SuperMarket & BlockBuster. This Guy Designs & Builds the Houses and Buildings we Live+Work In. Fourth-Generation Californian Robin Donaldson has A Lot Going On Up There. I have seen the guy design a house with One Hand while eating His Lunch with the other. We’re Not talking about – no offense if you live in one, Your BasicTractHouse, either. Something More Like This ~
oh, and you’re Not Sure what To Do with the Inside ~ (architects call this ‘The Interior’). Well, how about throwing out the Cable Rug Grandma Gave You and those Plastic Milk Crates you Balance your Big Screen on for something, well…like this ~
Robin, when he’s not Dreaming Up Someone’s Phantasmagoric Phantasy Pad is Basically a Regular California Guy. He’s got a Great Family, a Big One, with a Dome-Headed Dad and a Bunch of Dome-Headed Brothers with Big Brains (Hence the Domes) and a Foxy Wife and 2 Genius-in-the Making Boys that Rip on Electric Guitar and they’re not even Old Enough to Drive, not Even Close. The Guy Drives a 10-year-old Ford Truck with Surf Stickers on the Back Bumper and Boards Inside so he can Surf when he’s not Dreaming Up more Dome-Headed Stuff like The Office You Wished You Worked In instead of those Crappy Computer Cubes Most of Us think of as ‘The Office’. For Instance ~
Robin Donaldson doesn’t Do All of This By Himself ~ He’s got an Equally Brilliant Partner and Mentors a Staff of 25 Equally Brilliant Staff Members to Design & Build these Incredible Spaces in Places like Abu Dhabi, Mexico and Of Course, California.
His Architectural firm, Shubin+Donaldson has 2 offices in California and Clients are Coming & Going Constantly in what for many is an Extremely Challenging Economy. But This isn’t about All of That ~
So What’s the Point ?
Robin Made a Book. It’s Called LIVE+WORK. And That’s the Point. That’s What We All Do. It’s How we Choose to Do It. For Damn Sure Federico doesn’t always Do it Right. which is why these California Guys Inspire Me & Can Inspire You…
Robin Said Two Things to Me That I Try to Remember…Once when Federico was Lamenting the Loss of Yet Another California Country-Club Style Crushing Hot Blonde Girlfriend, Robin’s words were, “You’ve Got to be Tougher”. That’s It. No Sugar-Coated “Sorry, Pal” for Federico. And he was Right.
And on the subject of What You’re Reading, All of It, A Year & 25,000 Readers Later…he told me
So I Do.
This Journal of California People, Places & Things was Originally Inspired by Two Other California Guys who, at the Outset of My Journey to Write over 2 Years Ago ~ Taught me so much about Where We Live. My Grandfather & Father were practically Inseperarable their Whole Lives, and when I was Lucky Enough to Come Along, there were Three of Us California Boys ~
They showed me the Mountains, The Sea & The Deserts of California. They Played me Cool Jazz, Mambo & Mariachi, and I discovered Rock N’Roll, R&B and Roots along the Way. They taught me about Animals & History, to Play Music, To Laugh at Yourself Sometimes, To Work Hard & Work with Your Hands, and To Hold a Door Open for a Lady.
As much as I think about them Every Day and All that We Shared, the fact they’re not here anymore has taught me about Mortality, that Nothing Lasts Forever. What I Choose to Write is Hopefully a Small Way To say Thank You to Them, To all of you Out There, and Thanks to wordpress.com as well. The F deC Readership is an almost Equal Split between Senores y Senoritas in Many Far-Away Lands from California ~ from ages under 13 to over 60 who have chosen to Stop & Read Along the Way ~ which Makes me Happy.
Gracias al Todos ~ Federico
photos : © Steve Wilkings, Dan Merkel, Shaun & Carla Tomson, Ciro Coelho & Shubin+Donaldson Architects