December 30, 1927
Christmas is over. Get rid of the tree. Especially if your tree is absurdly large, and its explosion into flame is going to ignite humans.
W. A. Thomas, 2317 Scarff Street, was sitting on a balcony of the Clark Hotel above just such a repulsively titanic symbol of holiday cheer when the spangled, glittering, belighted thing short-circuited. A pop, a flash, a sudden roar, and the tapering fir became a sheath of flame. As did Thomas. He went to Georgia Street Receiving with second and third-degree burns of the face, neck, chest, arms and hands. A Mrs. Ethel Williams of Phoenix took some lesser burns to the face, neck, arms and hands as well.
It would be some years before the advent of the aluminum, flameless variety. (Should you own the Decemberween version of this style, the time is still now to box & basement your shiny friend.) Thank you for your kind attention.
December 6, 1927
Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Be on the lookout for two easily-recognized scofflaws, film stars Reginald Denny and Hedda Hopper. She's wanted for speeding at about 34mph around Melrose and La Brea, he for setting a similar pace in the 20mph zone at Sunset and Vine, and without a valid operator's license, on November 28.
But that's not all! Denny is also wanted for questioning in the origins of the massive forest fire which began near his cabin near Running Springs Park in the San Bernardino Mountains two nights ago, and which hundreds of men are fighting, with 50 to 75 summer cabins already destroyed.
What shall we do with these antisocial celebrities? Perhaps we should just drop by their homes and have a talk with them. Miss Hopper is reported as residing at 1416 Fairfax Avenue, Mr. Denny at 2060 North Vine.
November 8, 1927
Oddities around town:
World class crumb-bum Joseph Peck returned from a trip to Fort Worth only to discover he was to be made an example by the City Council, seeking to alleviate the costs associated with relief payments provided to mothers whose husbands refused to support their families. Blanche Peck, 42, of 2939 West Avenue 37, has been raising five children, ages 1 to 11, without any help from Joseph since December 1925. Now she'll be guaranteed $2 a day for a year. That's Papa Joe's pay for pounding on L.A.'s new rock pile.
In Griffith Park, camera operator Clifford Shirpser was shooting an exploding airplane for a new William Wellman picture when he stumbled over a stone and went ass over teakettle. The heavy camera went up, then brained the fallen technician. He came to after fifteen minutes. (Shirpser was likely shooting additional footage for Wings, which had debuted in New York in August, but which did not receive its Los Angeles premiere until January 1928.)
And wee, noisy Ill Ill the "untamed, tree-climbing pygmy" barker, recently arrested in front of the Dreamland Palace at 539 South Main Street, copped a guilty plea for violating the city's anti-ballyhoo ordinance on two occasions, and paid $100 in fines, thus avoiding a tree-free stint in the Lincoln Heights callaboose.
This Weekend Last
Running around, hosting the Dahlia tour on Saturday and taking photos of the trash incinerator in the backyard of the house next to Greene and Greene’s Merrill House on the Pasadena Heritage tour on Sunday, left me precious little time to blog, but don’t think I was totally shirking my responsibilities to you, dear reader. I still found time to put my feet up and flip through the paper, and on seeing Joan’s posts this morning, was reminded of a couple tales…
Re: She Who Must Be Obeyed, perhaps Frederick Mason should’ve married Mary Agnes Morgan:
As James P. Morgan told it to Judge Bowron, the first twelve years of their marriage went along just swell, until one day in Agnes was struck dumb. She moved her effects to another room, and from there shuffled about in silence, cooking meals and soundlessly accepting her meager Saturday allowance. James finally asked for a divorce on the charge of desertion. Quipped Bowron, “Most extraordinary—never heard of the like. I know men who would say you were blessed beyond imagination.”
And oh, the joys of sweet, innocent youth. You’ve read about the pyro predilections of Joan’s Bakersfield brats—let’s throw kidnapping into the mix.
You know, in your neighborhood, were an infant to be kidnapped, everyone would go apeshit, and there’d be feds everywhere, and News Chopper 5, and so forth. Over in Boyle Heights, they just sigh, and trudge over to Hazel Oden’s house, 2706 Wabash Ave. It seems that Hazel, eight, one of thirteen children, suffers from a mother complex that compels her to steal any tiny infant she sees unguarded; she will nurse and rock the baby for a time and presently forget all about it. (Just like a real mother—how cute!) Policewoman Georgia Robinson had to make the trudge on the 21st to go fetch one Estella Richmond, two months of age, who was sleeping in her buggy outside her home one moment and was wheeled off to Hazel’s the next. Hazel has been sent to Juvenille Hall for observation, where she will be examined by psychiatrists to determine whether or not her impulses may be controlled.
Unfortunately, it would be another forty-six years before Hasbro introduces BabyAlive.
Nick Santangelo saw my post about the historic cobblestones exposed when Lincoln Heights was getting its roads repaved, and wanted to share photos of some of the brick streets and gutters in Highland Park and near Union Station. Some of these have already been covered over by insensitive city workers.
Nick says: The brick gutters on Avenues 41 and 45 (on North Figueroa) reminded me of Kim's post. I have tried to get public works to stop paving over them as they are unique and historic but have not had any luck. I even sent some pics to the Highland Park Historical people but I never got a response. The new Homeboy Industries building near Phillipes sits next to a cobblestone street (Bruno, I think).
Sure, on a well travelled street it's probably unreasonable to ask that archaic building materials bear the brunt of multi-ton SUVs... but can't we somehow save the brick gutters in places where they're still holding up so nicely?
July 23, 1927
Detective Lieutenants Kallmeyer, Werne, and Roberts spent all day searching for the three contemptible men who cruelly drove away from a hit-and-run accident which left nineteen year old Aristo Santelanto of 712 Clara Street, dead at the scene.
The hardworking Santelanto was with a crew of men repairing railway tracks at Washington Street and Cimarron Avenue when an automobile that was traveling at approximately sixty miles an hour struck him. Without slowing, the death car sped away.
A sharp eyed witness to the crime furnished detectives with numbers from the car’s license plate. The investigation was complicated because the crime car had traded hands several times over a period of six months. Undeterred, the cops persisted in their search and as a result, A.T. House, 32, of Lankershim (now North Hollywood), was handcuffed and taken into custody for suspicion of manslaughter.
House’s passengers, Eugene Long, 20, and Paul Post, 32, both of Lankershim, were picked up by police at Sunset Boulevard and Wilcox Street, where they were employed. The two men were taken to the City Jail and charged with failure to render aid.
June 29, 1927
near Cordova, Alaska
Hollywood death came to the far north today, in the loss of stuntman Ray Thompson, 29, a player in a white water rapids stunt gone wrong on the roaring Copper River in remote Abercrombie Canyon. Thompson was on location for the new M-G-M picture Trail of '98, starring the fiery Dolores del Rio, under the direction of assistant director Harry Schenck. Numerous small boats were in the stream packed with stuntmen and cameramen shooting a thrilling scene of Gold Rush-era peril, when Thompson and F.H. Daughters of Spokane fell into the water. Joseph Bautin of Juneau jumped in to try to save the men, and joined them in death; his was the only body recovered. Also in the water that day, stunt man Gordon Craveth, who managed to swim to shore.
Motion Picture News previewed the film and its innovative projection technique, but made no mention of the blood shed in its production:
"A big picture, easily of roadshow size, and big because of spectacular sequences this is our opinion on The Trail of '98, directed by Clarence Brown for M-G-M. More pointedly, it is a presentation of the right sort, by which we mean that the presentation is the picture itself, through the "Fantomscreen," of which more later.
As to the artistic greatness of The Trail of '98, we don't know. Who does? But big at the box-office it will certainly be, unless we miss our guess.
The story is the Klondike Gold Rush, and is of epic dimensions. The cast- Dolores del Rio, Ralph Forbes, Tully Marshall, Karl Dane, Harry Carey, George Cooper, and others- is, excellent, with Carey in the forefront as to honors, and Dane and Cooper mostly carrying the
The frenzied rush to the Klondike from all corners of America, and what happened to the individual in his or her fight against the perils of the North, form the story background.
The handling of the characters in this screen version of the Robert W. Service story is dwarfed by the spectacular features. These are four in number: a breath-taking snowslide; the running of the rapids in frail boats; the Chilkoot Pass stuff, with big panorama shots; and the burning of Dawson City.
For the snowshoe sequence, the screen is suddenly enlarged to twice normal size, and moved down to the curtain-line. The effect is, of course, electrifying and carries a big punch. The same method is used with the running of the rapids, a remarkable spectacle. The "Fantomscreen" device, which moves the screen forward or back without interrupting the picture, is a great piece of show manship.
The picture will be roadshowed by J.J. McCarthy, who handled the six great roadshows of the industry's history: The Birth of A Nation, Way Down East, The Ten Commandments, The Covered Wagon, The Big Parade, Ben Hur."
On routing duty in advance of the June 16 John Fante tour, Richard and I zipped down to 826 Berendo, where the master penned his great Ask the Dust, only to discover it the most heartbreaking sort of eyesore, boarded up yet all too easy to access, home now to the sorts of miserable edge-dwelling citizens who were, after all, his particular interest. One of them has a talent for charcoal portraiture.
Richard returned with photog Meeno Peluce and documented the miasma, then began calling city agencies in hopes, not of delaying the inevitable demolition, but of at least getting a plaque or street sign to honor the author and the work. Sadly, it seems the city only provides plaques for buildings that have been designated historic, and the only designation this poor, abandoned place is likely to get now is "Pee-YOU!" But we'll keep trying; Fante deserves as much.
Stephen Cooper, author of Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante says, "When Ask the Dust was published in 1939, the young novelist John Fante was living with his wife Joyce at 826 South Berendo. Today the story of Arturo Bandini and Camilla Lopez is widely considered the starting point of Los Angeles literature. If the abandoned apartment building where Fante realized his masterpiece is torn down and hauled away, the neighborhood will be removing an eyesore but the city will be losing a piece of its history. I join with all who urge that this site be recognized in some concrete and permanent way so as to preserve the memory of the incandescent time when John Fante called South Berendo home."
Meanwhile, just a few miles north, a short portion of Berendo has been renamed for another notable L.A. author, L. Ron Hubbard. It would be sweet if the same could one day be said of the 800 South block and Fante.
June 1, 1927
For some time now Francis Grierson, better known in San Diego as Jesse Shepard, has been quietly living at the boarding house of a Hungarian benefactress who had taken in the aged author, spiritualist and improvisational musician and his longtime friend and secretary Lawrence Waldemar Tonner and was forgiving about their inability to pay the rent. Such is so often the fate for one like Grierson, who all his life fought Materialism despite great creative success.
Several days ago, Grierson had just completed one of his extraordinary piano performances, during which he channeled the creative energies of deceased musical geniuses and presented previously unheard compositions from beyond. As the music ceased, Grierson became very still, as was his habit... but after a long moment, his audience grew restless, and Tonner went to the piano to shake his friend. Grierson was dead, aged 79, most probably from heart disease exacerbated by malnutrition.
As a self-taught child musical prodigy he was the toast of Europe, a friend of Whitman and Verlaine, praised by Dumas pére and by Kings and Czars. Of his four-octave voice, the poet Stephane Mallarmé marveled, "It is not a voice, it is a choir!"
He claimed to be a silent partner to Madame Blavatsky in the founding of the Theosophical Society. His books (Modern Mysticism, The Valley of the Shadows) were best sellers, and in San Diego, the High Brothers built a fabulous home for him, the Villa Montezuma, in a vain hope that we would stay and sprinkle his spiritualist stardust over their sleepy burg.
But time moved for him, as it must for all of us, and in recent years he made a bit of a fool of himself, lecturing on "The Secret of Eternal Youth" with his lips and cheeks painted crimson, a toupee on top and a very obviously dyed moustache.
Just last week Grierson took a break from working on his new book of verse and pawned a gold watch given him by King Edward VII. But it wasn't enough. Tonner went to the Assistance League begging support for the once celebrated man, and they were willing, but the aid came too late. Now they will take over his funeral arrangements, and ensure his disposal is a fitting one.
Francis Grierson (1848-1927) lies in state at Pierce Brothers, Washington and Figueroa. Won't you go and pay your respects to one who flew so high and fell so far, before he is cremated tomorrow?
May 24, 1927
Whoo-Whoo! Get outta the road, here comes a cop, or an ambulance. Jeez, usually they drive better than that. This guy doesn't give an inch. Muscling his way south through heavy Vermont Avenue traffic after midnight in his Essex, he pushes through the Third, Sixth and Seventh intersections with only some shattered nerves and shouted curses.
By this point he's picked up a tail, Detective Lieutenant Vanaken riding with Auto Club man Harry Raymond, who wonder what the deuce this yutz thinks he's doing, and if this could be the same siren-happy individual who's been reported around town these past three weeks. And then at Wilshire, the inevitable sickening crash of metal on metal, leaving A.J. Hanker and cabbie Oscar Ruiz, thankfully uninjured, sitting in their wrecked cars as Vanaken forces the automotive bully to the curb a block south.
Inside, Dr. R.B. King, 25, X-ray technician out Alhambra way, who denies causing the accident, though he admits he used his siren while not on an official call. Well, since he's a doctor, they book King on charges of failing to stop and render aid at an accident scene, and hold him in the City Jail. Meanwhile, we trust, police mechanics are cutting that siren off the Essex, and none to carefully, either.
Frankie the Fire Goat is on Myspace... be his friend?
Please click here to sign our petition demanding fire-fighting goats to protect our city! Please note, protest signatures will not appear or be counted. (Below, Channel 7's Elsa Ramon with Frankie the Fire Goat)
The citizens of Los Angeles are deeply concerned after serious wildfires in the Griffith Park and Hollywood Hills have destroyed vast swaths of urban wilderness and killed or displaced thousands of animals during their breeding season.
These fires feed upon unchecked dry undergrowth, and endanger lives, homes, historic monuments and our enjoyment of the city. It will take decades before Griffith Park is restored to its pre-fire condition.
We the undersigned demand that the City of Los Angeles and the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks respond to this continued threat by bringing in shepherds with herds of goats to graze on the dry hills, a plan previously implemented with great success by UC Berkeley in the aftermath of that community's devastating 1991 fire.
Goats are economical, ecological fire-fighting machines that produce fertilizer as they clear hills and canyons of weeds, poison oak and dry chaparral. Additionally, the animals are charming, newsworthy ambassadors for fire safety, a subject that needs to be more widely discussed.
We want to save our parks and mountains. We want goats!
Please click here to sign our petition demanding fire-fighting goats to protect our city! Please note, protest signatures will not appear or be counted.
May 27, 2007
It is more than two weeks now since the graders came and removed the surface layer of the asphalt on Avenue 20, between Albion and Broadway, then went away without finishing their work. For all that time, the NO PARKING signs have hung on the telephone poles, and the regular parade of shortcutting commuters have bounced along on their unhappy shocks, as the street beneath them grew more uneven and dilapidated.
After a week, a flash of red edged by corroded silver was visible on Avenue 20 just before Broadway. A careful peek between passing cars revealed a long-buried light rail track, with a row of handsome, narrow brick placed alongside it.
For this neglected area, just NE of downtown on the far side of the river, was once a thriving commercial and residential community, with trains running frequently down the middle of the streets.
Here is a map of the immediate vicinity, drawn in 1906. The yellow lines demark the Yellow Trains of the Los Angeles Railway Company, and just in the middle heading approximately north-south you'll find the line that ran along Avenue 20, passing between Main Street and Downey, now known as Broadway. Behind the dead end at Main, the Los Angeles Brewing Company, now the Brewery Arts Complex. Avenues 21 and 22 are ghost streets, their rows of Victorian cottages bulldozed so the 5 can whisk folks away at speeds unimaginable in '06. Mayden too is no more. And the red line along Daly is a Pacific Electric Railway Company train.
Back to the state of the very sad street. Well into the second week with the gravel laid bare to constant steamrolling by SUVs and minivans, new patches opened up closer to Albion Street. Viewed from behind the windshield, these had a strangely archaic quality that demanded further inquiry.
Here is the intersection, with the peculiar patch visible in situ. You can see how dangerous it is to get close to the quarry:
But your intrepid reporter would not be daunted in her quest to see if that was really what it appeared to be. Wait for it... wait and... wait and... dash out and take a snap!
Aaaaahhh! Yes, those truly are cobblestones, that timeworn weapon of the disenfranchised European citizenry, laid alongside the old tracks in the heart of 21st Century Los Angeles. And somewhat haphazardly mortered, too. How extraordinary!
City of L.A., your street services suck, but I can't really be angry that you scraped up my block and disappeared, because the sight of long-covered cobblestones have a peculiar calming effect on history geeks. So thanks a million for the cool experience. I'll never look at the street the same way again. Now will you please get some guys over here to pave the freaking street?
April 18, 1907
On the one year anniversary of the terrible conflagration that struck down our northern neighbor, the great town of San Francisco, the citizens of Los Angeles send fond wishes for its continued rebuilding... but hasten to point out that the climate, society and business atmosphere south of Tehachapi is far superior to anything offered on that shaking, scorched penninsula.