Amoeblog

The Second Weekend in August, 1969 ... Part Two

Posted by Whitmore, August 11, 2009 11:05pm | Post a Comment

Some observers see this second weekend in August, the 8th thru the 10th, 1969, as effectively the end of the sixties’ counterculture as seen through rose colored glasses. The Vietnam War (which was never formally declared a war) was grinding on. In 1969 there would be 11,616 US military deaths, the second highest count during the war; almost 22,000 Vietnamese soldiers would be killed that year. This week would see the deaths of 169 US military personnel, over the weekend alone some 84 US soldiers would die. And every night TV newscasts were blanketed with those images. Vietnam is often characterized as the "living-room war" or the "television war." It was the first war to be methodically documented nightly on television, and at a moment when TV was becoming a compelling presence in daily life.
 
Other news that weekend included the discovery of the missing plane, Hawthorne-Nevada Airlines, Flight 708, that crashed just west of Lone Pine on February 18, killing all 35 passengers and crew. It was found on the eastern slope of Mount Whitney at an elevation of approximately 11,770 feet.
 
On August 8, just six days after it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Zodiac Killer’s first unsigned encrypted message was solved by a Salinas, California high school teacher, Donald Harden, and his wife Bettye. The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in the Bay area in the late 1960’s. His name was coined by a series of taunting letters and cryptograms he sent to police and newspapers until about 1974. The initial 408-symbol cryptogram stated, among other things, that the Zodiac enjoyed "killing people because it is so much fun." Harden was an amateur cryptographer and he reportedly took about 20 hours to break the code. Navy cryptographers had attempted to solve it, but without success. Of course some 40 years later, the identity of the Zodiac Killer still remains unsolved.
 
On the 9th, President Richard Nixon announced the nomination of Helen D. Bentley as a Member of the Federal Maritime Commission. Nixon also addressed the nation about domestic programs and a tax reform bill following its passage by the House of Representatives.
 
That weekend also saw the deaths of Russ Morgan, orchestra leader as well as a long time performer at the Dunes in Las Vegas. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, crackpot eugenicist and Nazi physician, died in an automobile accident. Nobel Prize Laureate Cecil Frank Powell died while walking in the foothills of the Alps; he was 66 years of age. A bench with a commemorative plaque can be seen near the site of his death.

On Friday the 8th, Disneyland opened their doors to the new and soon to be classic attraction, the Haunted Mansion. Adorned with wrought iron fencing and surrounded by creepy tombstones, Walt Disney had envisioned the ghoulish Southern-style mansion even before the park opened in the 1954. The Haunted Mansion was originally seen as a walk-through experience, with cast members walking their guests /victims from one scene to the next as the netherworld unfolds. “Welcome fooolish mortals to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host, your ghost host. Ha, ha, ha, ha ...”
 
Meanwhile, in sports, the New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves behind the eventual 1969 Cy Young winner Tom Seaver. At this point in this, their Cinderella season, the Mets were still in second place, 8 and a half games back. The game on Saturday was 3 hours and 14 minutes long and the Mets won 5 to 3 on 13 hits. Seaver would finish his career with 311 wins, 3,640 strikeouts and a 2.86 era in a 20-year career. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the highest percentage ever (98.8%).
 
As for my LA Dodgers, on Sunday they beat the Chicago Cubs 4 to 2 behind the pitching of Don Sutton winning his 14th game of the year, Pete Mikkelsen got the save. Sutton would also wind up in the Hall of Fame, selected in 1998 with a career won lost mark of 324-256.

The 1969 Pikes Peak Marathon, an annual foot race that begins at the base of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and climbs over 7,700 feet to the peak at 14,115 feet, was won by Steve Gachupin, who in his career would win the event 6 times in his 21 tries up the mountain.
 
In professional bike racing news, the World Championship was won by Harm Ottenbros in Zolder, Belgium, edging out the favorite Julien Stevens by just a few centimeters.
 
But of course, the big news, the chilling news that weekend, was the seemingly random and grisly murders in Beverly Hills and the Los Feliz district...
 
On August 9th, a hot, quiet Saturday night -- one of the killers would later comment that you could hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers up and down the Benedict Canyon -- in a home rented by Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent and a eight and a half months pregnant Tate were murdered in violent blood bath, as bizarre, gruesome and insane slaughter of innocents that might ever occur in any dystopia. Less than two days later another grisly murder occurred in the Los Feliz district -- this time it was supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Killed in a similarly ghastly manner, this time a fork was used to carve the word WAR on Leno LaBianca’s stomach and left sticking out of his corpse. Authorities would take nearly four months to track down Charles Manson and his Family. And when they were arrested and prosecuted, the world discovered a terrifying mix of a counterculture gone mad and staggering mind-control. Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel's trials ended in 1971; they were all given the death penalty, though later that was over-turned by the state of California, commuting their sentences to life in prison. Another family member, Linda Kasabian, who stood watch at the Tate house, turned states evidence and served no time.
 
Roman Polanski (The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), who was out of town, was not Manson’s target. The victims were in the wrong house at the wrong time. Manson, an aspiring singer-songwriter and an occasional friend of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, chose the Cielo Drive house because he had once tried to get a record deal from a producer who used to live there, Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day, and Manson knew the layout of the house. Past residents included Cary Grant and his wife Dyan Cannon, Henry Fonda, Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere & the Raiders and Candice Bergen. The final resident of the original Cielo Drive house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who moved into the house in the early 1990s and built a recording studio there. The studio dubbed Pig, or sometimes Le Pig, was an allusion to the fact that Susan Atkins wrote "Pig" in Tate's blood on the front door of the house during the murders. The Nine Inch Nails ep Broken and their classic 1994 album The Downward Spiral were recorded there, as well as Marilyn Manson's debut album Portrait of an American Family. In December 1993 Reznor moved out of the house, taking with him the original front door, explaining that "there was too much history in that house for me to handle." He insists that he didn’t know about the murders when he bought the house, though I thought there was a law on the books requiring brokers to tell buyers about crimes that may have taken place in a home; the real estate term is ‘stigmatized properties.’ Then again, what do I know? In the late 1990’s the house was demolished and replaced with a new mansion and a new street address of 10066 Cielo Drive.


The Second Weekend in August, 1969 ... Part One

Posted by Whitmore, August 10, 2009 11:38am | Post a Comment
I wonder if anything significant about this past weekend will be remembered in 40 years time, other then Sonia Sotomayor being sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and maybe Tiger Woods’ unbelievable play at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. This weekend back in 1969 is definitely remembered for a variety of odd and groovy and trivial and horrifying reasons.
zager and evans 
In the summer of 1969 I was living carefree at 4200 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles near Griffith Park, with my parents, grandmother, two sisters, and of course our Siamese cat Pandora and a Great Dane named Dijo who would eventually, later in the year, attack me without provocation. She was a nutty and twisted beast. And typical of August in LA, it was annoyingly hot and smoggy. If you didn’t live here back then you just don’t know smog-- lung scorching air under a sky colored golden toasty brown to the apex. Now that’s pollution! This was also the first summer I really started noticing music. I culled some change from my mom’s purse to buy my first single, which also happened to be #1 on the Billboard charts this weekend in 1969, and would be for six consecutive weeks -- "In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)" by Zager and Evans. In the UK the #1 song was "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones, which has noticeably survived the tastes of time better then “2525.” The #1 album in the US was the self-titled second album by Blood, Sweat & Tears. Earlier in the year in March it was briefly at the top of the charts, but with three successive Top 5 singles, it returned once again to the number one position. In 1970 it would win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.  
 
Also this weekend 40 years ago, the Beatles posed for one of their most iconic images-- the Abbey Road album cover shot of the George, Paul, Ringo and John at the zebra crossing on Abbey Road. They were mostly done working on their newest album and, having applied the last overdubs that morning to the longest track, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," photographer Iain Macmillan was given ten minutes to get the cover photo done. At 11:35 am on Friday, August 8, 1969, the image was shot. Of course, when the album was released in September, the cover art only fueled the rumors and speculation that Paul McCartney had indeed died in a car crash in 1966 and all the symbolic references only confirmed the sad fact.

National Salad Week & the Brown Derby's Culinary Input

Posted by Whitmore, July 27, 2009 08:23pm | Post a Comment

July 25 to 31 is National Salad Week. And don’t forget the salad dressing. According to a recent consumer survey conducted by Synovate, 95 percent of Americans consume salads, or at least lettuce, at least three times per week. Not only do most Americans eat salads regularly, but they perceive other salad eaters as healthier, happier and, according to the Atlanta-based Association for Dressings and Sauces (ADS, a national trade association representing the manufacturers of salad dressings and condiment sauces), salad lovers are thought to be sexier. In other words, if you want to impress, eat a salad, though you might want to avoid the onions...
 
One of the most popular salad concoctions was invented here in Los Angeles, just around the corner from Amoeba, in glamorous old Hollywood at 1628 North Vine Street; the former location of the Hollywood Brown Derby. That delicious meal in a bowl would be none other then the Cobb Salad.
 
But first: The Brown Derby was a chain of four restaurants in Los Angeles. The first and the most iconic of these was located at 3427 Wilshire Boulevard. Shaped like a man's derby hat, its diameter was 28 ft and it stood was just under 18 feet tall. The restaurant was started by Bob Cobb, eventual owner of the Hollywood Stars baseball team of the Pacific Coast League and Herbert Somborn, the former husband of the screen siren Gloria Swanson. Opened in 1926, the building was moved to 3347 Wilshire Boulevard in 1937 and after being sold and renovated in 1975, it was quickly euthanized in 1980 by a strip mall known as the Brown Derby Plaza. The doomed domed structure was incorporated into the third floor of the building where there is supposed to be a cafe, but to be perfectly honest, its dignity and splendor is long gone.
 
Designed to catch the eye of passing motorists, the architectural inspiration, according to one story, was the hat worn by New York governor and the perennial Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, who was a good friend of Somborn’s. Another version has Somborn playing with the idea that a great restauranteur could serve food anywhere, even out of a hat, and still be successful.
 
The second Brown Derby opened on Vine Street on Valentine's Day in 1929. Close to the studios like Paramount and RKO, it was here that the Derby legend was made; the Hollywood elite would wine and dine, wheel and deal, meet to compete. It didn’t hurt that legendary gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper plied their trade and rivalries at the Vine Street location, setting up shop to play their wicked little games. Unfortunately most of the building was destroyed by a fire in 1987. A small portion of the restaurant's original facade remains and is being incorporated into the new W Hotel and Condo development, project completion is set for the fall of this year.
 
The third Brown Derby was built in 1931 near Rodeo drive at 9537 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills; it resembled the Hollywood branch in its Spanish Mission style. It was closed down and demolished in 1983. The fourth location at 4500 Los Feliz Blvd is the last remaining original Derby standing. Cecil B. De Mille, legendary director and producer and a part owner of the Wilshire Blvd restaurant, bought at auction a restaurant named Willard's, converting it into a Brown Derby in 1940. Willard's was a country inn serving "Far Famed Chicken Steak Dinners," and its dome shaped roof design actually had a function. Water was pumped to the top of the dome and then run down the sides into a trough, creating one of the first "air conditioned" buildings in Los Angeles. Willard's also kept live poultry in cages on the grounds; they had the slogan: "chickens whose feet never touch the ground.” Sounds yummy ... and humane! The Los Feliz Brown Derby became one of the first restaurants to combine both high class upscale food and a 24 hour drive-in, perfect for the burgeoning So-Cal car culture. The restaurant closed its doors in 1960 and became Michaels of Los Feliz. In 1992 the building was transformed once again, this time into a nightclub, The Derby, and a restaurant; Louisa’s Trattoria. But in 2004, the Los Feliz property was purchased by Hillhurst/Los Feliz LLC with an idea to raze the structure and build a condominium/retail complex. An independent coalition called "Save the Derby" fought to prevent its demolition, and on May 19, 2006, the Los Angeles City Counsel voted unanimously to designate the structure as an official Historic Cultural Monument.
 
But I digress, back to the whole point of today’s blog: Salad Week.
 
According to Hollywood myth it was a dark and stormy night ... actually, it was in 1936 or ’37, owner Bob Cobb hastily concocted a midnight snack for the famished and very powerful theatre owner Sid Grauman, owner of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Cobb grabbed a few leftovers and whatever he could find in the refrigerator; a head of lettuce, avocado, tomato, some cold chicken, a hard-boiled egg or two, a little bacon, and Roquefort cheese -- different versions of the story list different ingredients. He chopped everything into a fine dice, fancied it up a bit with some leafy lettuce, laying out each ingredient on top in a clean, straight row, added some French dressing. Viola! The next time Sid Grauman came in he asked for the salad; the Cobb salad was born and soon became the signature menu item. Bob Cobb may have passed away in 1970, but his name lives on in restaurants across the land.
 
But as I dug deeper, trying to separate fact from fiction, another version of the story emerged. This account claims the salad came about because Bob Cobb had had dental surgery and since the pain wouldn’t allow him to open his mouth very wide, his chef fixed him a salad, dicing each item into small bits. Sounds plausible, but personally I like the Sid Grauman story better. It’s more Hollywood-like; I see an unlikely hero and an unlikely, yet inevitable, happy ending. As the writer James Warner Bellah asserts in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, ''When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.''
 
Anyway, I’m heading out to dinner ... though I’m more in the mood for pizza.

Vinyl Confidential, 2.1 -- The Brief History of 45’s, Part One

Posted by Whitmore, May 28, 2009 08:42pm | Post a Comment

The whole brief history of 45’s comes down to about two and a half minutes of heartbreak and a music industry coked up on millions of nickels and dimes from ten year olds spending their allowance. Aaah! But the joy in the weird, seemingly up the arse, off-the-cuff business decisions arbitrarily slung together.  
Why seven inches, and not six… phallic compensation? Why a big whole instead of a small one … phallic compensation! There must be some kind of underlying order and logic to all this, I guess. Then again, I'm no expert on logic and order-- I spend most of my thinking time in the absurd, geeky universe of 45's.   
 
The 7” 45 rpm record was introduced in 1949 by RCA as a smaller, more durable and marketable way to sell records to teenagers. In between crashing jalopies and begetting the next generation at lover’s lanes across the nation, all the flattop cats and the dungaree dolls were done playing Dad’s deadsville 78 rpm shellac platters at sock-hops. The Second World War brought new technology into the marketplace, the unbreakable disc was born, changing and dominating the industry for the next 40 years.
 
The first 45 rpm records were monophonic...and probably should have stayed there in its sepia toned aural perfection. But a few years later technology once again wielded new brawn, cutting a swath through the new middle class’ piggy banks and their want for shiny new electric toys. In the 1950’s and 60’s stereophonic sound looked too fancy to ignore, capturing the imagination by way of graphic designs carving up the backs of entire album covers with a geometry textbook fill of charts, dials and numbers. To starry eyes, this was the conduit to the modern world, chock-full of jetpacks, personal robots, self guided automobiles and scrumptious TV dinners. Except for the occasional monophonic promo record pressed for AM radio play, by the early 1970s almost all 45 rpm records were produced in stereo, though coincidentally, we’re still waiting on everything else promised by those rosy sci-fi prognosticators. I suspect color TV was invented specifically to take the edge off all the disappointments.  
 
Records, like bodies, like the Earth, are not necessarily made to move smoothly on curved orbits by a force called commerce. The cheapest and quickest way for record companies to track the newest new thing in a curved space was always 7” singles. Etched into each side is the shortest distance to a musicians sound, the fastest way to contemplate their muse, value, and the least painful way to navigate the unknown until the slow fade at grooves end has left your head either bopping or shaking. But sometimes the manufactured pre-determined length of a 45 was woefully insufficient. Old school set of natural law insisted three minutes was more than adequate. (Though on occasion editing could be conspicuously delicious, slicing out the unnecessary crap to get to a song’s hook: for example, the original single versions of "American Pie," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and "Thong Song"...) Eventually 12” 45’s, unhampered by space and time, boogied down the pike and unhinged the pulse, setting off the ballroom floor, teaching matter how to dance and in particular small objects traveling along the straightest possible lines in curved space. Anyway, the cosmos continues to evolve in its typical way; Earth continues to revolve -- though not at 45 revolutions per minute -- and my blather continues to dissolve in its typical way ...

Women's history documentaries

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 14, 2009 10:19am | Post a Comment









              

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