The Celebrity Interview

March 14, 1907
Los Angeles

Harry C. Carr, future author of “Los Angeles: City of Dreams,” visits Fely Dereyne, who is starring in the San Carlo Opera Company’s touring production of “Carmen.”

Accompanied by Times artist Harold R. Coffman, who sketched the singer, Carr conducted a backstage interview with Dereyne with the help of two opera company members who served as translators. As an interview, it is disjointed, poorly organized and frustratingly incomplete; the early work of a green but talented writer who is somewhat smitten with his subject. And yet it is fresh and immediate.

“Dereyne dutifully remarked that she didn’t study Carmen” as a character, Carr says.

“Just natural,” she said in French. “I am just like that myself.”

“Gee,” said the artist, uneasily, “have you really got a temper like that?”

“Sometimes,” she said, with dancing eyes.

“Well, then, I hope you like this picture.”

“Oh,” she said airily. “Sometimes I am ver-how do you call it? Ver’ nice.”

“Like the little girl that had the little curl?”

Dereyne looked troubled. “I don’ know zee ladee; who is she, please?”

“This was a great moment in Dereyne’s career,” Carr wrote. “She was about to learn the tragedy of the little girl who had a little curl. It took two newspapermen, an opera manager and a second tenor to do it.”

Dereyne, an incredibly obscure figure today, was described in The Times as “one of the best Carmens who has ever been seen upon the local stage, for with her vigor and vivacity she never loses sight of the vocal demands of the role. At all times she sings. Her stage work and byplay are constantly assertive.”

She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in November 1907 as Musetta in a performance of “La Boheme” with Geraldine Farrar and Enrico Caruso. Her last Met performance was in 1908 as Nedda in “Pagliacci.” After that she seems to have vanished from the stage.

And there you have it; a moment backstage in a theater (Philharmonic Auditorium) that is gone with people who are, except for Carr, entirely forgotten. That’s what I love about research.

E-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

An Apostle of the Past

Jan. 28, 1907
Los Angeles

William Jennings Bryan stepped from the Owl train to be greeted by a long-waiting crowd.

“In appearance, Mr. Bryan has changed but little since he was last in Los Angeles,” The Times says. “In his manner, also, there has been little, if any, change, and he greeted his friends with the same fervor and showed the same remarkable talent for remembering names.”

From the Arcade Station, Bryan and his wife were transported by auto to the home of Nathan Cole on Pasadena Avenue. They took the Mt. Lowe railway and in the evening, he addressed a capacity audience at Simpson Auditorium in a benefit for the Lark Ellen Home for Boys.

At 47, Bryan was no longer the fiery orator of his youth, The Times says. Instead, he was a gentle idealist who “talked of the thousand little things that had found his favor on five continents, and a packed audience listened with almost breathless attention.”

“They liked the esthetic idealism of this older Bryan,” The Times says of the audience. “All along the many curving rows of seats, there was a leaning forward, as if to catch some word that had been lost, and a whispering sigh of regret.”

“In soft, sweet periods, reminiscent of ‘Gray’s Elegy,’ he lauded the age of belief, the age of dreams. Touchingly, he quoted from John Boyle O’Reilly, ‘For the dreamer lives forever, but the toiler dies in a day.’ ”

“William Jennings Bryan, making a simple discourse of so pretentious a subject as ‘The Old World and Its Ways’ showed himself still, as in the promulgation of strong beliefs that lie near his heart, the apostle of the past.”

The next day, there was a trip to Santa Catalina Island for the Bryans and 100 guests, followed by banquet hosted by local Democrats. Before leaving for Salt Lake City, he addressed the students of Polytechnic High School and attended a reception at the Chamber of Commerce.

Eighteen years later, Bryan and Clarence Darrow met in Dayton, Tenn., for the Scopes Monkey Trial. He died two days after the trial’s conclusion.

E-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Los Angeles Panoramas

My little ode to my favorite city, covering a roughly 20-year period centered on 1907 with the idea of giving a general introduction to Los Angeles from the 1890s to the eve of World War I. (The Times bombing and the air meet at Dominguez Hills were in 1910, for example). The Skunks of Los Feliz actually discovered this sometime back but I didn’t want to tip my hand by saying anything. Fortunately, I received some very flattering comments. Although the music sounds very contemporary, I chose it because it was written in 1907.

Here’s a high resolution version, but it only works with the newest versions of Windows (sorry folks with Win 98SE) and doesn’t play well with Mac OS X.