"From the Desert to the Sea, to All of Southern California." - Jerry Dunphy

Search This Blog

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jane Russell & Bugsy Siegel

Tonight I was going through my Dad's old papers when I came across the bit of a newsletter from the time we lived in the apartment owned by Jane Russell. The newsletter mentions a play Mrs. Russell will be staring in called, "Catch If You Can".

In my Dad's file were some other papers relating to our time at "Taos West". Before we moved Jane Russell sold the apartment complex to a couple who lived in Beverly Hills. When we moved they tried to retain a pet deposit I had put down for my dog. We filed a claim in small claims court to get the deposit back. Eventually the couple settled and returned the deposit and appears to have covered the court costs as well.

While looking through the court papers, the address of this couple in Beverly Hills jumped out at me, and I proceeded to see if my hunch was right. It was. It turns out the couple lived next door to the house where Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the infamous Los Angeles gangster was killed.

My connection to old time Los Angeles organized crime continues to grow. In an earlier post I mentioned that when my family moved to Van Nuys, and settled near the corner of Sherman Way and Woodman, we were about two streets away from where the other notorious gangster, Mickey Cohen lived before he went to jail.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kester Ave. Elementary School 1960

I just found this class picture from 196o on the Vannuys66.com website. I noticed that on the far left there are two older women, one of whom, in the back, is my old downstairs neighbor Lucille Flanders. I knew she was a teacher but had forgotten at what school. She was a great friend to our family. I would go downstairs and visit with her from time to time. Unfortunately for her she lived right below our apartment on Haskell Ave. in Van Nuys. This was about the time I was getting heavy into music and liked to blare my small stereo.

One day she gave me a complete set of a World Book Encyclopedia from 1959. I loved that set and used to read from it all the time. I had it until a few years when I moved and had to get rid of a lot of stuff. I wish I still had it. I especially loved the smell of the old binding.

Thank you Lucille for being a good friend and neighbor.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Flying Tiger Lines, LAX, Summer Picnic

Guitar Rat and his Mom at the FTL terminal in Detroit Michigan

Old Man Needs Help Remembering:
Phone Rat and I were talking today and got on the subject of our Dad's and the summer picnics their companies used to have. My Dad worked for Flying Tiger Line in Burbank and than at LAX. I remember driving the Golden State Freeway (I5) to the place north of the San Fernando Valley where the picnic was held. I want to say it was held at a place called Sunset Farms, but I'm not sure that is right. I recall driving north and passing the aqueduct on the right side of the freeway. I also remember parking on the dirt and having to walk a long path to the right of the green area which had a baseball diamond and probably more.

As you walked in the picnic are there were some small buildings on the right where I remember seeing the teenagers dance to Elvis and whatever else was popular in the early sixties. Further into the place there was a mostly dry creek that ran along side the picnic site. I remember my Mom seemed to win a prize every year. I recall her winning an intercom system and a mixer.

Are there any former FTL employees, or family members who remember the name and exact location of where these picnics were held? Or if you have memories please feel free to share them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Magnolia Blvd.

Photo credit to Phone Rat

Today I reflect on the years I lived on Magnolia Blvd. in Valley Village. I moved there in the mid 90's. The apartment building was a small, well kept older building with the virtue of a decent rent and quiet neighbors. I had wanted a place near this part of town and was lucky to find it. I was in walking distance of a major drug store, a great pizza place, a market, a bank, a liquor store and Dutton's bookstore, which was ideal. When I moved in the owner of the building told me my apartment had been previously occupied by an actor who played a "Ferengi" on the TV show Star Trek The Next Generation. That was mildly interesting to know.

Also living in the building at the time was an older man named Herbert Wiere. Herbie as he was called was a member of the Vaudeville act, The Wiere Brothers. They once appeared in an Elvis Presley movie and for a brief time had their own variety show on television. Herbie was a nice but quiet man who parked his Karmann Ghia next to us. The building owner told me Burt Lancaster used to come and visit Herbie.

Two doors west of us was a house that used to belong to Merv Griffin. When I moved in it had become a rehab house and to my knowledge still is.

In January of 1997 Bill Cosby's son Ennis Cosby was murdered by a man named Mikail Markhasev. When he was finally captured I learned that he lived in an apartment building across the street from me and a little west from our location. He had worked at a second hand shop down near Laurel Canyon called Manly Seconds.

I lived a short walk from the corner of Magnolia and Whitsett. Those familiar with the area probably have seen the castle like structure on the south side of the street just before Whitsett which house a US Postal Office. A few more doors west, just across Whitsett, across from the Rite-Aid, is a small neighborhood bar called The Fire Fox Room. This bar was used in the 1999 movie, Magnolia, starring Tom Cruise. I'm not really a bar person but I have been there a few times. It is a little too dark and small for me, but it seems to be popular in the neighborhood.

Going east on Magnolia you come to a spot just a short distance before Lankershim, on the south side of the street where Julia Roberts, starring as Erin Brockovich pulled away from the curb and was hit by another car at the intersection of Lankershim Blvd. I forget if it was there then but right on the North West corner of Magnolia and Lankershim is, or was, a restaurant called The Pitfire. I used to eat there from time to time and the food was very good. Sitting outside during the good weather made it a great experience.

Across the street from The Pitfire is the Academy of Television Arts. While technically on Lankershim, it spreads back along Magnolia. You may be aware of the life size statues in front of the building of famous TV personalities.

Heading east from the Academy you come to the corner of Magnolia and Colfax Street. Here is North Hollywood High School. It has its fair share of celebrity alumni including, Scott Baio, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alan Ladd and many more.

Now let’s head back west until we come to 14277 Magnolia Blvd which is now an apartment complex, but it used to be the home of Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame. It is right next to the Horace Heidt Estates. The estates were once part of the Hardy property. Next to his home Hard built a small comedy club called The Fun Factory at 14155 Magnolia Blvd. The Fun Factory was torn down in 1962 to make room for Horace Heidt Estates. TV actor Dick Van Patten once lived in the estates. Last I heard he no longer is there, but had another home on Magnolia Blvd.

Author Nathaniel West who wrote one of the great books about Los Angeles called The Day of the Locust, once lived at 12706 Magnolia Blvd. with his wife Eileen. The house was situated on two acres of walnut and pear trees. On December 22, 1940 West and his wife were killed in an auto accident in El Centro California. They were returning home to attend the funeral of their friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer of The Great Gatsby.

Buck Jones, a famous cowboy actor of early Hollywood built a house on the southeast corner of Magnolia and Hazeltine Ave. Jones died in an infamous fire in Boston in 1942 at the Coconut Grove. The house later became a school called, Mar-Ken.

Finally we drive east again, past all the beautiful Magnolia trees which I truly miss. We drive across Whitsett and park in front of my favorite pizza place, Joe Peep's. I used to get their Blue Collar thin crust pizza and their great steak sandwich. They deliver, but not to Iraq.

So now that I feel totally homesick I will go downstairs and make my wife miserable whining, again, about how much I miss home. Thank God for the internet and Google Earth!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cold War Babies

This morning we turned on Turner Classics Movies and they were playing the movie, Fail Safe, starring Henry Fonda. Fail Safe is a cold war drama about a computer failure in the Fail Safe system of the United States during a normal response to a UFO sighting and how the tensions between the Soviets and Americans come to a tragic conclusion. If you haven't seen it I won't spoil it for you.

Of course being a Baby Boomer and therefore a Cold War baby it brought back some disturbing memories of my early childhood. I entered Kindergarten in 1960 at the age of 5. Before that I had no real awareness of events beyond my small world. I do recall watching the Nixon Kennedy debates on TV in the fall of 1960. I have a vague awareness of the Cuban Missile crisis, but my main memory of October 1962 was the New York Yankees beating the Giants in the world series.

Eventually I became more aware of world events through TV and my parents discussions. I remember thinking Khrushchev seemed like a scary figure. I remember hearing about Communist China and having the same feelings about Mao. But the thing that really sticks in my mind, as I think it does to many kids back then, are the drop drills we used to experience in school. The sound of my teacher yelling "drop!" still rings in my ears. I guess I was a little too young to really have a sense of the destruction a nuclear bomb could impose on my tiny school desk. That sense slowly dawned on me as I saw nuclear test films on TV, and listened to the rhetoric on both sides.

Many of us remember the sound of the air raid sirens which were set off at the end of the month. I realized later that unlike our parents who lived through WW2 and experienced an actual attack on U.S. Forces, my generation grew up with drills and sirens and the specter of all life ending for me and all those I knew at the time.

It all became more real as the Viet Nam war escalated and found its way to the front pages of the newspaper. As well the assassination of our President and the age of Sputnik came to influence us in ways perhaps still not realized. Perhaps it is understandable on some level that many found escape in music, drugs and protest. Perhaps it instilled a sense in many of us that growing up was a dangerous thing because these problems we felt were created by our parents generation or at least not seriously addressed by them. It was an inaccurate perception but it existed.

While I'm not seriously scarred by any of this but it does make me wonder what the Cold War Age, the age of Sputnik, the assassination of our President, and the well intentioned spoiling of my generation by our parents has brought.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10 Ways the Computer Has Affected My Life

1. While this is an old picture it still shows that I now require two desks instead of one. One for the computer and all the hardware, software, and electronicware it requires, and the second desk to actually read, write and look out the window from.

2. My posture has become even more slumped since I tend to lean in and rest my chin on my hands while reading on the computer. I used to be 6'2". I think I am now an even 6 feet.

3. Being an old man in his 50's I have to fiddle more with my glasses in order to see the screen clearly. I often lift them up to use the bifocal to see the screen. Especially when a long legged brunette finds her way to my screen.

4. I no longer have a butt. It's flat. I am sure all those years of watching TV on the couch has no impact on my posterior.

5. Writing is much easier as I can cut and paste, and correct things in an instance. The problem is I tend to write most of my stuff by hand, often with a fountain pen, and than have to transfer it to the computer.

6. My big stereo is downstairs and my computer is upstairs. I now use the computer almost exclusively to listen to music. Granted I have a decent speaker system and sub woofer and recording and editing music is a snap, but it doesn't sound as good as my 1,000 watt system downstairs.

7. I can now get all the news I want or don't want online. I no longer get a paper, though that has to do more with the aim of the paperboy than anything else. I have never depended on TV news for my news since it is so bad and skewed, and now the internet gives me more than I can ever absorb.

8. My legs swell, my hand cramps, my eyes ache and I continue to sit at the computer a good part of the day. My last job required me to be in my office and work on the computer all day answering e-mails, writing and creating ad work and so on, so you would think I would have had enough.

9. The computer is one floor above the refrigerator so it makes snacking more difficult. However I do stash snacks and drinks up stairs but I have to descend into the bosom of the family, scary in itself, to raid the ice cream.

10. The computer allows me to rant and rave in this blog which I hope helps a few to bring back a few happy memories. No blog rants allowed here.

Matchbook Collection

Here is a rather poor photo of some of my very small matchbook collection. I'm sure many of them you know and they probably bring back some pleasant memories. Some are from L.A., some are from Las Vegas and a few other places. At the top left is a matchbook from a private club called Tiffanys which my Dad belong to back in the 1970's. As I recall they were located on Ventura Blvd. They had a few celebrities and sports figures on their letterhead but I don't recall much more.

I am sure many remember the restaurant Bob Burn's which used to be on Laurel Canyon Blvd. Where the Lamplighter was until a few years ago. Rustler used to be a steak house located on Van Nuys Blvd. Somewhere in a box I have one of their knives. Which was probably lifted by my Mom, who was otherwise an upstanding citizen.

Alphy's was a small coffee house type of restaurant which has a few locations around the valley. We used to go to the one on Sepulveda at Sherman Way. It was sandwiched between Hi Lo Drug and a market which was first Food Giant, then Food King and was a Lucky's at one time.

The Playboy Club matches are from the Century City club. My Dad was a member and was otherwise an upstanding citizen. We went there a few times, yeah a few.

Pea Soup Andersen's was always a stop on our yearly trip up to San Francisco. I once went to the Odyssey with my girl friend Patty. I don't remember much but I have a cool matchbook.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don Drysdale's Father at Van Nuys High School 1929

Our friend Bob Walance just sent me these scans of a 1929 Van Nuys High School class yearbook which contains class photos of Scott Drysdale, the father of L.A. Dodger pitching great, Don Drysdale.

I remember going to my first baseball game back in the early 60's and seeing Sandy Koufax pitch against the Milwaukee Braves, who featured Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn. I saw Aaron and for some reason remember Sphan pitching that game but I could be wrong. Perhaps with the internet now I can do a little research. Anyway in 1963 Mr. Koufax and Mr. Drysdale lead the Dodgers to a four game sweep in the World Series of my beloved Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees. Time has healed the wound, but at the time I was devastated.

We also remember Don Drysdale's restaurant on Oxnard in Van Nuys. I never ate there but I recall going by it many times. Thanks again to Bob for the great yearbook photos and Van Nuys memory.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hazeltine Ave. Elementary School 2010 Pictures

Our intrepid Van Nuys corespondent Bob Walance stopped by Hazeltine Elementary School this past weekend and took quite a few pictures of our old school. With the exception of a portion of the playground now being filled with storage units and new classrooms the old school looks much the same. They are in the process of painting the exterior of the school. I may be wrong but I don't think the color of the school has changed much since we were there back in the 1960's. Bob also took a few shots of the surrounding area. Some has changed and some remains. Pinecrest School is still across the street. Thanks Bob for the trip down memory lane. Google street view is great but nothing beats Bob and his camera. Bob asked if he could enter the school to take more shots but he was told no. Still what he got is fantastic. Here is the link: