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Posts tagged “vintage

Birth of the Iconic California Swimming Pool ~ 1927


In honour of a California Tradition, the Super Sunny Summer Holiday ~ A Tribute to the Swimming Pool ~ A Most California Invention…

Kenneth Anger’s book written in 1959, Hollywood Babylon, states, “Hollywood was not yet a dirty word in 1916. It was just a junction of dirt roads, a solitary ‘Mission-style’ hotel, some claptrap bungalows scattered in the orange groves, and the startling apparition of a Babylon orgy in full swing in the sunshine, smack on Sunset Boulevard.”

Faye Dunaway Admires her Latest Leading Man ~ The Day after Becoming Best Actress, 1977

Sunny Los Angeles in the Nineteen-Twenties of Course gets Credit for Popularizing the Pool. In Other Adventures found within Tales Told Herein, The Legend of Russian Actress Alla Nazimova is told, and upon her arrival in HollywoodLand in 1927 ~With proceeds in hand (she was soon earning $13,000 a week) the “Woman of a Thousand Moods”, “the greatest artist of the screen”, as Metro dubbed her, took possession of her mansion, The Garden Of Allah for $50,000.

The ‘Black Sea’ Swimming Pool at the Garden of Allah~ named for actress/owner Alla Nazimova’s homeland.

Set in three and a half acres of tropical plants and trees, with an orange grove, lily pond, cedars and palms, and garlanded with many “bizarre birds” – the feathery kind kept in an aviary she installed; the two-legged creatures, like Chaplin’s wife Mildred Harris, or Valentino’s two wives Natacha Rambova and Jean Acker, paraded on the terrace overlooking the orange groves and vineyards to the hills opposite[7]. She lived here with fellow actor, Charles Bryant, her “pseudo-husband”[8], who was reputedly paid ten percent of her salary for acting the part. Although the two flirted in public, they “had separate bedrooms and led separate lives.”[9]

The Second Player and Undisputed Heavyweight champion in the California Swimming Pool Contest of All-Time History was none other than Gazillionaire Publishing Magnate William Randolph Hearst.

The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of all California Swimming Pools ~ The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

In 1919, William Randolph Hearst gained control of the land that would be called San Simeon. And the ranchero would grow to 250,000 acres after Hearst bought up all the surrounding land. He hired one of the first notable female architects of the 20th Century, the other noted ladies of California Architecture being Lutah Riggs, assistant to George Washington Smith, and the Moody Sisters, ladies with notable commissions for homes & mansions in the Santa Barbara and Montecito areas. Miss Julia Morgan was a diminutive figure, not unlike that of famous Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. However reticent in stature and nature, She was the first woman to graduate with a degree in architecture from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts school in Paris. Throughout her long career, she designed multiple buildings for institutions serving women and girls, The architect of over 700 buildings in California,[1]

Mr. Hearst wrote to her in 1919, “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something…” were Hearst’s words to noted San Francisco architect Julia Morgan whom his mother had utilized to build a home for them in Pleasanton, California. He asked for “something that would be more comfortable” than the platform tents that were in use when visiting the ranch at the time. The project set atop the hill he had camped upon as a boy would balloon into the most expensive private home ever built.

Architect Julia Morgan gettin’ busy with Boss William Randolph Hearst ~ 1920’s

The home, deemed La Cuesta Encantada, follows a Mediterranean Revival theme. Adjacent are three guesthouses, and two pools pictured here- one outdoor, one indoor. The indoor pool, although pale in comparison to the outdoor Neptune Pool, is notable for having real 24 kt. tiles imbedded into the Art Deco style mosaic walls that surround it. Keep in mind, the houses & pools were built before electricity was readily available. Even bringing water to the home- which is built atop a hill 1600 ft above the ocean- was a project in itself. It had to be done with a system of piping and cisterns from natural springs miles away. Workmen labored for 26 years- and still didn’t finish. Parts of the home are clearly half-done. The way they left it is what we see today.

Pool Party Anyone? Another view of the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

Hearst had traveled around the world, and inspired by his boyhood tour of Europe, had been collecting treasures in an endless stream, shipping them back to warehouses on both coasts. Architect Julia Morgan would strive to design the pieces into the home.

The Indoor Pool at Hearst Castle ~ replete with 24kt Gold tiles in the Art Deco walls

Hearst~in True California Fashion opted to leave his somewhat dowdy yet stable-minded wife on the East Coast, as his choice of California Companion was none other than the Beautiful, Fun & Frolicking Flapper Film Star Marion Davies. He was so enamored of her and their California Life together, and who wouldn’t be ? Ms. Davies was the Jennifer Aniston of her day and Hearst a portly and not particularly handsome 60-plus. In True California Advantageous Relationship Fashion, in many ways they were Perfect for Each Other, and she remained by his side for over 30 years. In 1929 while the Castle was still under construction, Hearst had Ms. Morgan design and execute a Fabulous Beach House on then-named Roosevelt Highway (now PCH), on the beach south in Santa Monica.

Marion Davies’ Santa Monica Pool ~ Making a Splash in 1929

Morgan created a three-story, 34-bedroom Georgian mansion on the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. It was accompanied by three guest houses, tennis courts and dog kennels. Called “Ocean House” or “The Beach House,” it was the grandest property in the neighborhood. Rumor has it the cost was $7 million dollars. And, of course, this Beach Babylon came equipped with The Prototypical CaliforniaPool(s), 2 of them as well.

Marion Davies Styling It at her Pool Pad in Santa Monica ~ No Dowdy BF Hearst in Sight

SurfRiding Santa Monica at Marion Davies’ Santa Monica Beach Bungalow, 1930s

With California Celebs like Nazimova, Hearst, Davies and their Movie Pals seen Galavanting all-smiles Poolside, another California Cultural Development, along with the growing popularity of the automobile and California Car-Culture arrived on the scene. The ‘Motor Hotel’, or Motel as it became known, made its Debut. where else ?

The first ‘Motel’ in the United States was built alongside El Camino Real, Highway 101 just north of San Luis Obispo, midway between L.A. and San Francisco in 1925. The original plan of the Milestone Mo-Tel was to include both bungalows and attached apartments with parking outside each unit, though some would have a private garage. Each location of the chain was to include laundry facilities, a grocery store, and a restaurant.

Each unit included an indoor bathroom with a shower, obviously a level of privacy not found at campgrounds. Arthur Heineman’s first “Mo-Tel” sign garnered reports of an apparent misspelling. He added the hyphen to emphasize to compound nature of the word and the building’s architecture and use.
The exterior of the buildings were modeled after the Spanish missions in California; the three-stage bell tower was a reflection of the Mission Santa Barbara. The motel cost $80,000 to build in 1925. It originally charged $1.25 per night per room.[2]

However, even after spending All That Money on a Great Idea with All Those Amenities, something was missing…

It took some Wiseguys from the East Coast, a little California Ingenuity, and a Postwar Pool Popularity to really Get Things Heated Up Poolside…

As the California Car Craze sped up, auto reliability increased, people were really starting to be able to Get Around in Style. Highways improved and a new kind of  “freeway” let people hit the road like never before. Of course California led the way with the advent of the Pasadena Freeway opening in 1939. Access to the Mountains, the Desert and the Sea let people enjoy all parts of California & beyond they never dreamed of…

El Rancho Vegas ~ The First Hotel on the Las Vegas ‘Strip’, early 1940s

The El Rancho Vegas was the very first hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip (US 91). It was located at 2500 Las Vegas Boulevard, at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara,[1] and opened on April 3, 1941. While most credit Benjamin Siegel (don’t call him Bugsy, if you know what’s Good for Ya) & ‘The Mob’ with The Flamingo Hotel being the first on ‘The Strip’, El Rancho Vegas beat Da Boyz to The Bank by almost 10 years. The Flamingo opened in 1947. El Rancho Vegas, not being in an old Clapboard Cowboy storefront building downtown was arguably the first Vegas Hotel with a Pool.

The Curvilinear Esther Williams ~1946

With the advent of Gambling available just over the Nevada border to Californians, and autos that could get there from L.A. in around 5 hours, what better thing to do after riding in a not-so-cool no air-conditioned, no sunroof Rotisserie of a Car for hours, but Hit The Pool? Man, look at that Rancho Vegas postcard…sure looks a lot better than the Las Vegas of Today. Other distant Resort spots like Palm Springs offered the traveller an Exotic Destination to Get Away From it All..

The Fabulous Mira Loma Hotel ~ Palm Springs. Please take me there right now.

Suddenly Everybody in California Had To Have One…Even William Holden in Sunset Boulevard

” The Poor Dope, he Always Wanted a Pool…”

Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate ~ Palm Springs 1950. Julius Schulman photo

One of the Trippiest, Offbeat Hollywood 60’s films Starring Burt Lancaster and Co-Starring several of Connecticut’s Upper Crust Perfect Pools is “The Swimmer“, from 1968….to quote Will Doig, and his essay on the film ~ The Swimmer, the 1968 surrealist film based on a John Cheever story, makes hay of the phony glamour of swimming-pool culture. Burt Lancaster stars as an aging sexpot whose enviable life with his loving family has vanished. He’s had an affair, he’s bankrupt, and many of his friends have abandoned him…

The film opens poolside, with Lancaster at a neighbors’ house, when he realizes that all of the pools in the neighborhood form a virtual chlorinated river that leads all the way to his house; he dubs it the Lucinda River, “in honor of my wife,” and whispers, peering deep into the middle distance, “I could swim home.” And he does, hopping from one pool to the next, conversing with increasingly hostile neighbors along the way, each interaction revealing another piece of the story of his tragic downfall. When he reaches his old, now-empty house, he pounds on the door and wails, then curls into a ball on the stoop and wails some more. It’s a scene so daringly preposterous, so amazingly overacted, you have to admire its chutzpah.
In The Swinging Sixties, Suddenly everyone was either, Naturally –  A. A Swinging Single, creating a Huge Market for Singles Housing, AKA The ‘Apartment’…

David Hockney • Portrait of Nick Wilder, 1966. Acrylic on canvas 72 x 72 in. (183 x 183 cm) Private collection

And everyone living in those was
B. Looking to Have a Family, creating the need for C. The House with a Pool.
The Pool Company was a new New California Creation, one of the First & Foremost being a company called Anthony Pools. This excerpt from the Anthony Pools History on their website says it all:

Anthony Pools promotional ashtray~ 1950s

Phil Anthony founded the company in Southern California in 1947 and, like Silverman on the East Coast, he took advantage of the postwar building boom to establish a thriving enterprise. Bernard Forester took over the company in 1973 and began to diversify beyond the seasonal swimming pool business, acquiring a wide range of businesses that he placed under the corporate shell of Anthony Industries, which he operated out of the Los Angeles, California, suburb City of Commerce. Forester’s approach was to target recreational and sporting goods companies that had some brand-name recognition and were leaders in small niche markets. In 1974 Anthony acquired Hilton Active Wear, a Chicago company that produced bowling shirts, athletic jackets, and other imprintable items.

Anthony Pools Sales Brochure~ 1960s. Sign me Up.

So, the Rest is History. Take a Plane into or out of California & look out the window…there they are.
And without the Iconic California Swimming Pool, so many other Groovy California Inventions & Pool Vernacular would not have Come to Be like The Pool Slide, Diving BoardWater PoloPool Party, Marco Polo (or just) “Polo!”, The CannonBall, the list goes on & on…
And without those, would we have The Spa, The Hot Tub/Jacuzzi, and All That They Imply? So of course, Once Again Us Californians Prevail ~ The Purveyors of Pool…

Jay Adams Ripping the SoCal Drought-Era DogBowl, Beverly Hills~1977

Got Pool ? Ever Creative Californians Carve Up a Crazed Anti-Establishment Pool-Riding Chapter into DogTown History ~

David Hockney • Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1971. Acrylic on canvas 84 x 120 in. (214 x 304.8 cm) Collection David Geffen

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Pastel Blue Dodger Days ~ The Businessman’s Special and Koufax in the Series • 1965


An Unforgettable Day ~ The kind of Memory Every Dad & Every Kid can Hold Forever. My Dad’s not around anymore, my Best Friend, Big Brother and just my Biggest Role Model Ever.

A Brilliant Blue Warm California October Day ~ the 11th, his Birthday. His 40th. I remember that Fall brightness, dramatic long shadows and a Santa Ana dryness in the Air. Still my favorite. As usual I mounted my trusty Sting Ray for the less than a block ride to school, lamenting on yet another long year of class drudgery in the 2nd Grade. Back then – at least at my school kids couldn’t wear shorts to school so it was basic chinos. The off-white ones were always my favorite, with perpetually grass-stained knees. Our street dead-ended at the schoolyard, an endless green lawn with huge Eucalyptus trees bordering 2 baseball fields, my home away from home. A Cold-War era Paradise of Escape. I motocrossed at high speed riding wheelies to school, gripping my lunch sack with ‘Freddie’ on it. Crummy Monday SchoolDay.

Miss Watson was my 2nd grade Teacher. I was still trying to appreciate her Mildly Dowdy, Quasi-Secretary Style. In the First Grade, I had Mrs. Klenz, who was to say the least, An Absolute Bombshell. She was a Model-Quality Brunette, straight out of Mad Men – about 5’8, I remember she wore Red a lot. Tight A-Line dresses with bare legs and those pointy Jackie-O heels. White ones. Around ChristmasTime Mrs. Klenz would let us boys sit on her lap and seems to me there was a certain amount of kissing involved. Now, at this point in time my Mom wasn’t really around. My Dad and I were Batchelors. I remember him coming to Parent/Teacher night Dressed to Kill for Mrs. Klenz. She was a Hot Tamale and I was Six. What the Hell, I Dressed to Kill for her too. She’d probably be in Serious Trouble these days for some of her suggestive behavior toward us boys, but who cares? Let’s say she was developing in us a Healthy Attitude Toward Women.

Kiss me Mrs. Klenz – You Make My Heart Go Boom

So now it’s On to Second Grade and Miss Watson, who was a bit more of a bookish but fetching Secretary-type. School had only been on a month so I was still trying to figure her out, get her number so I could charm her with my Nerdish Debonair. My seat was in the middle, not quite in the Coveted Back of the Class, nor the Dreaded Front. So I had to watch it, mind my P’s& Q’s as they say. I was still staring out the window across the hallway at Mrs. Klenz, sashaying around out there.

Miss Watson can I Stay After School ?

Aimlessly Admiring the wafting Santa Ana’s, daydreaming about recess & mildly scheming on my Next Prank. My desk top was up, concealing my Coveted Cigar Box, I’m checking out my stash of marbles, pencils, comic books, pocket knife, rubber bands, bubblegum & Other Cool Stuff. Double Bubble. Accept no substitutes. Back Then we’d do the Flag Salute, belt out 1 or 2 Patriotic Hits like “My Country ‘Tis of Thee“, and “America the Beautiful“. Then Chalkboard Time – Miss Watson will Have Her Back Turned. Prepare to Fire Rubber Band.

We actually did the Duck & Cover drills under our desks every day. There were air raid sirens on towers in the neighborhood going off all the time, and once during an Air Raid Drill, I was going to Bill’s Ranch Market in the car with my Dad when the sirens went off. In the field opposite as we drove, a missile silo opened up out of seemingly bare ground and a sinister cluster of 4 Nike ground-to-air missiles rose up in a menacing angle pointed at the sky. The Russians were a Real Threat – and everyone was basically Scared Shitless of Them back then. Nasty loud Fighter Jets were Blasting around all the time – Badass F-104’s – Sonic Booms – BAM.

Nukes in the Neghborhood – Should I be Fascinated ? Or Terrified ?

In the middle of all these Kennedy-Era Nuclear Panic Schoolday Shenanigans, who should appear at the door of my class, silouhetted against a brilliant October sky, but My Dad. 6-foot-two, 200-plus, short-sleeve white dress shirt, skinny black tie, size 11 Wingtips. Presenting a Serious Threat if I’m in Trouble. A Furious instant-Adrenaline rush of Sheer Panic ran down my spine. Immediately Sweating Profusely, my mind raced to think what Horrible Thing had I done to have my Dad show up at class? What girl’s honour did I insult ?  Whose eye did I almost take out with a Deadly Rubber Band/Paper Clip shot to the forehead ? Remember that one? STOP THAT BEFORE YOU TAKE SOMEONE’S EYE OUT ! A Million Times. In a millisecond, all this is causing me to start thinking up an excuse for something I haven’t even been Blamed For yet… He confers with Miss Watson as I Await my Fate. I pretend to be casual about it…’Oh, Hey Dad’. A designed-to-charm Adults-Casual Wave. COME UP HERE SON. The entire class goes silent – pondering my crime. I shuffle to the front, Dead Man Walking.

Like Father Like Son

“Alright son, C’mon, let’s go.” With an embarassed nod to Miss Watson, I’m out the door, my Dad’s Triumph TR-3, top down, Pastel Blue, gleaming in the sun at the curb. “Get In”. Next thing I know I’m strapped in and off to my Destination & Fate Unknown…

I try to Play it Off as casual as possible…”Hey Dad how’s the birthday going?” Just bobbing & weaving, wondering if I’m being driven to Reform School…

“And uh, hey Dad, by the way, where are we goin? “Oh, you’ll see son”. Great, Jesus – at least I know I’m too young for the Penitentiary.

Suddenly we’re on the freeway, going north, into Urban Sprawl. I have No idea. No Clue (as usual). I start to Relax. My dad’s got a mild Cheshire Cat Grin going..and it IS his Birthday, so it finally hits me..We’re going to Do Something Super-Cool ! I just don’t know what. As usual I’m just happy to be cruising in an open Sports Car with those Triumph cut-down doors, Buzz-Cut in the Breeze, sun on my face as always and pretty much my whole M.O. since. The Only Way to Fly…I was lucky to grow up with said Triumph, Jaquars, Lotus, assorted American Muscle and a constantly-changing assortment of Cool Wheels ~ Cool Jazz on the Radio. I had yet to acquire one of the approximately 8-10,000 pairs of shades I’ve had since, I remember thinking,’I need to get some’. Mr. Six-year old Cool.

And it Suddenly Comes to Me… ‘Dad ! Dodgers ! World Series !’ And he couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. Yep, that’s right. My Dad on his 40th birthday – Busted me Out of School to take me to Game 5 of the ’65 World Series against the Minnesota Twins. The Twins to me, in my Lifelong L.A. Dodger World, were Nobodies. I was born in L.A. in ’57. The Dodgers Came to Town in ’58. My Mom was a Brooklyn Dodgers Fan. Way more hard-core than my Dad ever was. It’s in my blood, which is Dodger Blue.

This day, none other than One of the Greatest Dodgers of Them All, Sandy Koufax is Pitching.

Koufax ~ The Greatest Major League Pitcher – Ever.

I had seen Koufax pitch. I have seen Drysdale. Juan Marichal of the Hated Giants. I have seen a lot of Great Pitchers. Bob Gibson, Vida Blue. Nolan Ryan. Fernnando Valenzuela in his M.L. debut. Since it opened and partially because of this day, I have been going to Dodger Stadium my whole life. 50 years. Another of the greatest modern pitchers I’ve ever seen is Mariano Rivera of the N.Y. Yankees.

When you look at pictures like these of that Pastel Blue L.A. sky that matched the awnings and seats of the Stadium, they have a particular washed-out look to them… partly because of the film quality of the era and partly – which is never mentioned now, L.A. was Incredibly Smoggy in those days. Everything was perpetually Hazy. Nobody gave a damn about Air Pollution back then.. The EPA? What’s that? Didn’t exist yet. All those Hazy Colors in a Haze of Smog. Fill Up the Rocket 88 with Hi-Test. Put a Tiger in Your Tank.

The other Great Thing about the Stadium back then…T.V was still relatively new, having only been around about 15 years at that point. And some of the games were broadcast on T.V., some were not. Then everybody, Everybody – had a Transistor Radio. It’s rare these days at the Stadium, but a great Dodger Tradition has always been the Businessman’s Special. There were many more Day Games back then in the Era before Prime Time this and that. All the Businessmen came to the Stadium with Transistor Radios in their shirt pockets, and earphones. They left work midday so they could listen to Vin Scully. Then and Now. The “Official Voice of the Dodgers” since 1949. No Mega-Video Screens, just big scoreboards & Union 76 Balls in the Sky. ‘Fast Food’ was a Dodger Dog and a Beer. Still the Best thing Ever at the ballpark. The Best.

Koufax Blew Away the Twins that day. 7-0. The third straight game they won in the Series, which of course they went on to win. The L.A. Dodgers could do no wrong in those days. The days before the owners aired their divorce or drug habit, or infidelity in the media. Days before personal scandal made bigger headlines than the game, or the players themselves. This story isn’t about Sports Facts, Trivia or History.

The Incomparable Vin Scully with His Dad ~ Early 1960’s

ESPN shows the same loop of ‘highlights’ and innocuous meaningless rhetoric. 5 ‘sportscasters’ lined up trying to say what the Incomparable Vin Scully can do with one phrase or sentence to Paint the Perfect Picture of the game. He is truly the Greatest Sports Story of our time. Irreplaceable. There will never be another like him. My Dad’s gone now, and my Mom as well, the Biggest Brooklyn Dodger fan ever. When I go to the ballpark now, or hear the most esteemed Mr. Scully on the airwaves. it takes me back to that day. His voice is literally the only audible voice I have left of that time, and I cherish the sound of it for the memory of that day so long ago, in Second Grade. Koufax and his immortal high kick, and a Fastball Out of Nowhere.

2006~40 Years Later at the Stadium


Sidewalk Surfin’, StingRays & Hessians • Life in Surf City 1968


The 'Chopper', post-Sting Ray wanna-be. Definitely Not Cool for School.

The year was 1967 or ’68, Somewhere in There..I was hanging in Downtown Huntington Beach ~ Surf City USA. I never lived there when I was a kid (I did later) My Cousin Joey Batchelor did. Joey looked & acted exactly like a 9 year-old Jan Michael -Vincent. He was Just Like that guy. Spitting image. Blonde straight surfer hair, all over on one side. We were Hell-Raisers. Joey & his Mom Marlene & her other kids lived in this Thrasher Spanish Bunglalow right on the PCH in Huntington. Man, that lady could not Keep House at all. It was always a Pigsty. It was just near the Gordie Surfboards Shop. It’s Long Gone but Gordie’s was a Classic Calif. Surf Shop, 8 & 9-foot longboards all lined up out front, Tropical Pastel colors, redwood stringers, Pre-Shortboard Era. Oil Wells for a backyard. Stainky things, they were still Everywhere then, leftover from the whole 20’s ‘There Will Be Blood’ Era.

My Dad had been dating Joey’s Mom but ended marrying her Twin Sister. Damn, that must have burned her. What a Player. I had to Shake my Head at his Macho Gall even then. So I would Go Down there & Hang & we would Skate the whole Downtown. This is all way pre-Dogtown Z-Boys era. Joey was a year younger than me but we were always Competing on Everything, about Even. My Swinging 60’s Dad had married Joey’s Mom’s Sister by then so I inherited a fresh Brother & Sister & several Cousins, including Joey. Me & Joey ( I know, but that’s how I would’ve said it back then), used to skateboard down Main Street in Huntington Beach to Downtown, Main & PCH, Surf City Ground Zero. We had been shredding the concrete outdoor hallways of our school already for a few years. We made our 1st skateboards from 2×4’s, and we would schmooze the neighborhood girls & snag their Roller Derby white lace-up roller skates & pry the riveted-on wheels off with a screwdriver. Hammer the plates flat & nail ’em to the bottom of the 2×4. Skateboard ! STEEL 3/8″ wide wheels, no trucks, Pre-Clay wheels, Way Pre-Urethane. We didn’t ride pools like the Z-Boys later in Dogtown Venice did later. We had no concept of pool riding. We were ‘Sidewalk Surfers’ shredding the flat concrete. There was this one corner, a hard right-hand 90-degree downhill sweeper, that was Dead Man’s Curve. You would always hit the smallest rock & Go Flying trying to make it. Sprained ankles, wrists, raspberry knees & elbows, ripped-up pants. Standard Skater Fashionistos.

Then Came Revelation! A Revolution! Clay Wheels. 3 times as wide as Steelies! Stores started carrying manufactured Skateboards. My first store-bought skater was The Black Knight. An Oak plywood deck with real clay wheels, badass ball bearings & trucks, actual turning-action & all-round a totally new machine.

Now we could shred the Banks on the local Miniature Golf Course. We’d sneak in there at night & just burn up the Turf.

So now you could hit Dead Man’s Curve & MAKE IT all the time. I saved my allowance for Weeks & bought it at Leonard’s Department Store… Cool Black Knight ! It was around $7. or $8. bucks That was A lot.

We would Skate to the Surf Theater & Checkout the Whole Scene. It was around .75 to go to the movies. Raquel Welch was Up there in a Shredded leather Bikini Bigger than Life. Why can’t SHE be my Mom?

‘Champion Surfer’ Corky Carroll was always Hanging Out down there trying to impress everyone. He was an Ass. Total Short Man Syndrome. Then David Nuuhiwa Came to Town. Corky Shut Up real fast after that. Corky was a Kook.

Joey & I would go drive the Model T Ford Cars-a ride at Knott’s Berry Farm. Knott’s wasn’t a big Theme Park then. It really had been a farm, they had a few rides, the whole place was still very quaint & rural. It was cool. It was right on Beach Blvd. next to the real highway just over the fence. The cars weren’t on tracks, had small engines & ran on gasoline. They went about 20 mph. Pretty fast when you’re 9. Those cars probably had been running that track for 20 years. They were Thrashed. We floored those things for all they were worth.

We would actually pass the Tourists on the Track. It was a Dirt track & you could just literally slide & blow a rooster-tail of Dirt in their Faces. 2 California Kids razzing the Tourists. They Kept & Fixed all the Cars in that Barn there. I wanted to Work there So Bad. Later they put the cars on tracks and paved the track which was Not Happening  at all. Like the Autopia slowpoke Cars at Disneyland.  We were Not Happy about This. We had already Been Drivin for Real’. So that’s how I learned how to Drive. I was a Pro by 16. Got a 100% on my Test.

We used to go there All the Time. Buena Park. How California of a name is that?

We would buy our StyroFoam Surfboards at the Grocery Store. They cost like $2.99, maybe less.We could stand up & Surf on them ’til they’d break in half. ‘Styrofoam’ was a brand new material then. High-Density surfboard foam came from the Military in WWII originally. But the low-density cheap-o kind was new. Nobody had Cool Plastic Coolers or those ‘GetAway’ ones or whatever they are back then. All there was were the Styrofoam kind with these yellow rope handles on them, like Waterski tow rope. Of course they were just big enough to hold a Sixer, but that did not occur to me then. So many things were still made by hand back then. Everything said ‘Made in Japan’. I guess we Forgave Them.

De Riguer Supermarket Quiver-H.B. Pier Here I Come !

The StyroFoam Surfboards were up in front of the store wrapped in Plastic with the Charcoal and Dog Food. Everybody fed their Dogs canned Dog Food. There was dry then but it was pretty basic. No Dog would Eat it. Steel Cans. Aluminum cans weren’t invented yet. Sodas, Beers, Tuna, all Steel. This all way before Recycling, No IAMS Dog Food for the Eco-Bio Dog like now. People burned their Trash in Outdoor Incinerators in their backyard whenever they wanted. The Neighborhood smelled like a Campfire all the time because people were burning their trash back there – Mexico style. Your basic Household Trash Cans were Steel, like old war-surplus Oil Drums. My Dad would heft those over his head, Clean & Jerk up to a Full Military Press and Carry ’em out.. All the other Dads rolled theirs out to the Curb. Now I do the same thing whenever I pick stuff like that up. But he was a lot Stronger than I’ll Ever be. He drank this beer called Brew 102.

Doing research for this article I come to find that all these people collect old Beer Cans. Buy and sell them on e-Bay, that sort of thing. Too bad they didn’t know us back then, we burned up 100’s of those things in the Backyard incinerator every Saturday, contributing to the demise of the Atmosphere & Environment of the Greater Los Angeles area. We could’ve saved them for 45 years & got all that Beer Money back on e-Bay.

Brew 102.

Not Me. looks Like Dana Point. But you Get The Drift.

Another Big Breakthrough in Modern Technology for us was the Invention of the Schwinn Sting-Ray. We had been riding a whatever hodge-podge of Bikes, and may have already had a Thrasher mini-bike or 2 around by then also. I’ve had so many wheeled vehicles I don’t remember the exact whole cross-over from pedal to power. The Sting-Ray was just THE COOLEST bike back then and it pretty much still is. THIS WAS A MUST-HAVE… If you did not have this bike in your equipment line-up, well it was pretty much the equivalent of not having Air to breathe. Your basic Sting-Ray came in around 5 colors.I could look it up but that just wouldn’t be right about this…I should remember… Red (as shown), A Cool Metallic Blue, Gold and Metallic Green. I think that’s it. I do know you could choose from a Knobby (treaded) tire in back, if you were a Quasi-Moto-Crosser (or ‘MX’ for short) this term had not been invented yet either. In Europe it was called ‘Cross’, I believe. We’ll get to that later. Or, if you were a ‘Dragger’, you could get a cool Drag Slick tire in back. THIS was the Hot Set-Up. You also had your choice of a plain White seat (shown), or Leopard print seat, which was so BEYOND COOL it was almost unbelievable. When I first saw this bike, maybe on T.V., it was almost Diaper Time, a throwback of about 6 years for me at this point.

Red (as shown), A Cool Metallic Blue, Gold and Metallic Green. Wish they had Black.

So FINALLY Xmas came & I got one. It wasn’t exactly the one I wanted. It was Metallic Green & I think had these lame wrap-around 10-speed-style ‘Rams-Horn’ handlebars instead of the Bad-Ass Ape Hangers as shown. Also I got a Knobby tire in back. Well, I was a little peeved, but I was never the kid that spelled out exactly the Christmas List B.S. I always felt that to be a bit presumptuous & damn, my Dad took really good care of me, so I Bit the Bullet on this one.

I never really got over it. Plain Blue with the White seat & Slick was Cool. Very Drag-Style. Leopard seat..beyond Boss, which was we called everything Cool back then. That is SO Boss! That’s What I Really Wanted. But somehow there was a lesson to be learned there somewhere…& even then I knew it. Damn, no Slick. Apparently I never got over the Leopard Seat thing either, because ever since I’ve always loved Leopard-Print. I have some very Cool Leopard Bar-Stools that used to be in my Leopard Bar in my house. Whenever I see a woman with Leopard on, I go Weak in the Knees Immediately.

There were these Bikers that lived a ways away in a Different Neighborhood, on the other side of our school. They had all these Greasy Dirty Harley rigid-frame Panhead choppers in the driveway. They had full-on ‘Colors’, Levi jackets with the sleeves cut off & covered with patches. They had Chains hanging off & Biker Boots, which are Red-Wing railroad Lineman’s or Engineer boots. The Jackets all said HESSIANS on the back, with cool skulls.

These guys were the Real Deal, and we were not supposed to think they were cool, but they were so Counter-Culture, Evil-looking, nasty, dirty with Loud, ratty bikes, well of course, we did. They were Cool. Their beat-down tract house was right on Magnolia Street, directly across the street from the front of our school parking lot. While we were in class they were over there all day raging, in & out, bikes everywhere, front door open, Full-on torn down Panhead motors laying on the Living Room carpet, Grease & Oil Biker Mania. Joey & I Had to Check it Out.

We were specifically Not Allowed to cross Magnolia Street. “Under Any Circumstances”. Yeah,Right ! It was a super-busy street, fast cars hauling ass by, not our ‘hood, too far from home. So of course that’s where we were headed. There was a kid from the Hessian Biker House that went to our school. He was scary, older than us and a Bad-Ass and we didn’t really know him. He Blew us Off. He was a Real Biker Kid. We were just kids.

So One Day we ride our Sting-Rays over there, sort of nearby but not too close so as not to raise attention. We were wearing standard Converse All-Stars and the usual candy-ass JC Penney school gear.

The Chopper Kid comes Flying out the front door Ready To Kill Us or Beat Us Down, so we ride, ride, RIDE as fast as we can back to our street, barely ahead of him. He would’ve Kicked Our Ass. After that, he didn’t come on our block and we didn’t go on his.  Mind Your Business.


Forget it Jake, It’s Only Chinatown ~ Fact or Fiction? A Film Noir View of L.A. • 1947 – 2010


In the movie Chinatown,

there’s a reference made to the

Hollenbeck Bridge…

Morty: Yeah, he drowned too.

Gittes: Come again?
Morty: Yeah, he got drunk. Passed out in the bottom of the riverbed.

Gittes: The LA River?
Morty: Yeah, right under Hollenbeck Bridge. What’s wrong with that?

Gittes: It’s dry as a bone, Morty.
Morty: It’s not so completely dry.
Gittes: Well, he ain’t gonna exactly drown in a damp riverbed no matter how soused he is.

Morty: We got water out of him…He drowned…

7th Street Viaduct ~ L.A. 1910

There is no Hollenbeck Bridge in Los Angeles, as referenced in the film ‘Chinatown.’ The only bridges over the Los Angeles River are on Broadway, 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th and Olympic. 6th Street once had a bridge that spanned Hollenbeck Park, but that would not be the bridge in ‘Chinatown’ because that film specifically remarks ‘on the meager amount of water existing in the Los Angeles River, too low to drown a human.’ The producers of the film Chinatown most likely used poetic license to provide a ‘more Los Angeles’ allusion in describing the scene, rather than simply calling it a numbered street bridge. The producers of the movie used the 7th and Olympic Bridge as the ‘Hollenbeck’ Bridge.

Trapped and Desperate in L.A. ~

Evelyn Mulwray pulls her Pistol to Escape her Fate on the Mean Streets of Chinatown..

Faye Dunaway ~ Chinatown, 1974

Directed by Roman Polanski, now exiled  from returning to Calfornia to escape a statutory rape charge, Chinatown is easily one of the best films ever to depict period L.A. a la 1947.

Raymond Chandler would have approved.

In a Ironic ‘Film Noir’ real-life twist of fate, A Foreign Director makes one of the best films ever about L.A., only to be exiled by that same city, having endured the Torture of having his pregnant wife, Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, brutally murdered by the Manson Family in the Hollywood Hills 5 years before. Then raping a 13 year-old girl a few years later, convicted in absentia for the offense, only never to return and living in exile 40 years later because of it…

Only in Hollywood.

L.A. Chinatown-setting for the final scene in "Chinatown"

Downtown L.A looking north ~ 1951

Downtown L.A. looking north, 2010

HOLLYWOODLAND ~

The Hollywoodland sign was built by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler as an epic $21,000 billboard for his upscale Hollywoodland real estate development, the Sign soon took on the role of giant marquee for a city that was constantly announcing its own gala premiere. The “billboard” was massive. Each of the original 13 letters was 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall, constructed of 3×9′ metal squares rigged together by an intricate frame of scaffolding, pipes, wires and telephone poles.

A giant white dot (35 feet in diameter, with 20-watt lights on the perimeter) was constructed below the Sign to catch the eye. The Sign itself featured 4,000 20-watt bulbs, spaced 8 inches apart. At night the Sign blinked into the Hollywood night: first “Holly” then “wood” and finally “land,” punctuated by a giant period. The effect was truly spectacular, particularly for pre-Vegas sensibilities. Originally intended to last just a year and a half, the Sign has endured more than eight decades – and is still going strong…

The original houses are still there as well, in Beechwood Canyon. They look just the same and are some of the the most well-preserved 1920’s homes in Hollywood today…

1951: Looking toward Hollywood. The four-level interchange, with the new Hollywood Freeway leading away from it, can be seen. The Hollywood sign is on the hill at center background. The Hollywood Sign took on the role of a town constantly announcing it's own Gala Premiere, Then and Now.

In 1932, Peg Entwistle, a New York stage actress, became the symbol of the dark side of the Hollywood dream. Emboldened by her Broadway success, the ambitious young actress soon set her sights on the silver screen. She packed her bags for Hollywood and moved in with her uncle on Beachwood Drive – virtually in the shadow of the Hollywood Sign.

Unfortunately, Peg failed to make a splash, and she spent most of the brutally hot summer of ’32 hanging around her uncle’s house, waiting for a phone call that never came. Finally, on the evening of September 18th, Peg told her uncle that she was going to meet some friends at a nearby drug store, but this was a sad lie.

Peg instead made the arduous hike up the canyon hill to the Hollywood Sign, her one-time beacon of hope but now a symbol of failure and rejection. She climbed 50 feet up a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and plunged to her death. Peg Entwistle – dubbed by tabloids as the “The Hollywood Sign Girl” – was only 24 years old.

In Yet Another cruel Hollywood twist of irony, a letter to Peg arrived the day after her death from the Beverly Hills Playhouse. She was offered the lead role in a play … about a woman driven to suicide. Moral of the Story ~ Always Wait One More Day Before Killing Self…

Hollywood Sign on the Hill ~ 2010

L.A. 1947 0r 1997 ? The Film L.A. Confidential

Kim Basinger 1997 • Veronica Lake 1947

Another great movie to depict L.A in the Day is the film L.A. Confidential

Set in essentially the same ‘Noir’ period, the early 50’s as in the L.A. photos above, the film outlines the Seedy Pulp Fiction-style underbelly of  L.A. Filmed almost entirely on Location in L.A. in 1997, it illustrates how little some scenes in the City Have Changed and Remain the Same…Now as Then.

Dubious Character Pierce Patchett from " L.A. Confidential"

In the Film a Dubious ‘businessman’, Pierce Patchett, lives in a Groovy Post-Modern Pad high in the Hollywood Hills, Drives a Stylish 50’s Red Jaquar roadster & Lives a Little too Large for his Own Good…and That Pad is Actually…

The Lovell House, Richard Neutra, 1927 ~ One Cool Pad


I'll Take it, Who Do I make the Check to..? Lovell House Interior

Site Plan • Lovell House, Richard Neutra

The Lovell House is the first steel-frame house in the United States. The steel frame was erected in just over a month. The Pre-fab panels were built off-site & trucked to the site. Good Design is Timeless...the Lovell House was added to the list of Registered Historic Places in Los Angeles in 1971. It is nearly 85 Years Old.


California’s Baddest HotRodding Family • The Chrismans ~ 1948-1965


What Was the Baddest Hot Rod I ever Saw..? Jack Chrisman in his Nitro-Burning Comet Super Cyclone~Fontana Drags, 1965

Ed Losinski/Chrisman’s Garage ’32 Highboy-El Mirage Dry Lake-1949

In the early 1950’s, Compton was a Respectable, Sleepy Suburb of L.A. I know, my Aunt Ruth & Uncle Bill lived there in a little white house with roses & a Bird Bath in the backyard.

Art & Lloyd Chrisman lived in Compton, too, and the Chrisman’s Garage turned out some of the Nastiest, most Innovative, Well-Designed -Built, Fast & Feared Hot Rods anywhere.

This is the Story of the Chrisman’s – California’s Baddest HotRodders.

In 1950 Art & Lloyd had been racing a modified ’32 Ford roadster on the dry lakes like Harper & El Mirage, north of L.A., near Palmdale in the Mojave. Then in 1953 they set their sights on the Salt Flats at Bonneville & built the nastiest Ford coupe they could conjure up. Based on a 1930 ‘A’ Coupe, Art & Lloyd built a very hi-tech for its day-tube frame, dropped in an injected, bored & stroked Flathead V8, running on a 50/50 Nitromethane & Pump Gas mix – behind the driver with a sectioned, lightened chop-top body channelled over the frame, and an ingenious streamlined nose made from 2 ’40 Ford hoods laid top-to-bottom, the Chrisman’s built what could be considered the world’s first Fuel ‘Funny Car’. A design concept basically shared by all Fuel dragsters & Funny Cars racing today, over 50 years later. but no one knew that…yet.

The Chrismans roll out the very High-Tech Chrisman Coupe – ‘Straight Outa Compton’, 1952

2 Very Rare Photos ~ The Chrisman Roadster & Coupe in the Background, Bonneville

The Chrisman Coupe • Wendover Motel, Utah ~ Ready to Make History

In 1954 the Chrismans returned to Bonneville, with a new Ford V8 in the Coupe, and used its previous engine for the Roadster, now fielding 2 cars on the Salt, and sponsoring a third. It would be 15 years before other Race Teams would have the organization, skill and funding to field 2 and 3-car teams. Today it takes millions of company sponsorship dollars to do so. Sporting a new Super-Flathead V-8, with Ardun ‘Hemi’ heads, the predecessor to all current drag-racing engines, The Baddest Motor Scooter of its Day. With about 285-300 hp available, the Chrisman Coupe was approaching 200 mph on the salt.

In 1955 The Chrisman Boys returned again, this time with a blown Chrysler Hemi, capable of pushing the Coupe well over 200 mph. The Chrismans withdrew from competition after a friend was killed that day in another car. Shortly thereafter the Chrisman Coupe was sold, never to be raced (by Art & Lloyd) again. In 2008, the restored version of this car was sold at auction for over $500,000.00 and is displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, not far from where it was built in the Chrisman’s Garage in Compton, not 5 miles away, 50-plus years before.

Evil Chrisman Bros. Coupe- Bonneville 1954. Nasty & Feared by the Competition.

The Chrisman Coupe set up for Drag Racing, Pomona, CA 1954 

In between runs, The Chrisman Coupe chasing the 200MPH Club at Bonneville

Jack Chrisman ‘SideWinder’ Dragster-Lion’s, Long Beach 1959

Keeping it All in the Family, along came nephew Jack Chrisman, following in his Father’s and Uncle’s footsteps…in the late 50’s, Jack built early innovative race cars for the dragstrip like the ‘SideWinder’ – one of the first with a rear-engine (and sideways-mounted, for balance), preceding the current practice not widely used until 15  years after this car was first built & ran, in 1959. About 5 years later, having earned a reputation as some of the Baddest HotRodders Anywhere, and now getting some albeit, Undercover Financing from the Ford Motor Company, Jack Chrisman stuffed a leftover 427 Big-block Ford engine into a brand-new ’64 Mercury Comet. My Mom drove the innocuous economy car street version. Jack Chrisman unleashed his Monster Comet on the Drag Strip and sanctioning body NHRA didn’t even know what to call it or how to classify it, the Ultimate Sleeper – The World’s First ‘Funny Car’. Chrisman created a spectacular Mind-Blowing Crowd – Pleaser – a California Hot Rod Revolution that would set Drag Racing on its ear, and Detroit scrambling to create cars to emulate that Evil ‘MuscleCar’ Style….The Chrisman Comet Super Cyclone. A Small, Safe-looking Family Car with a 750-horsepower Monster Motor . I saw it when I was 8 years old and, having seen a lot of Hot Rods already at that age, the sight of what looked like Mom’s Car laying down 500 feet of Nitro-burning tire smoke at 160 mph changed my life forever. The Baddest Hot Rod I ever saw.

Art, Lloyd & Jack Chrisman had and would go on to build several other Winning, Feared, and ultimately Legendary Hot Rods and Race Cars over 30 years, some of which now reside in Museums. Not all are shown here – But to me, because of their innovations – and adoption of into a sport known for design, technical innovation and  by nature, always moving forward – These famous Chrisman Dragsters are the most noteworthy.

The Compton, California Chrisman Boys, did first and best, initially without major financial sponsorship what would Evolve into the Multi-Million Dollar Industry that has become Today’s Spectacular Spectator Sport -Nitro-Burning Top Fuel & Funny Car Drag Racing- California Style.

Jack Chrisman-Nitro-Burning Blown Hemi Super Cyclone- The 1st ‘Funny Car’ -1964