What I groove on

Archive for the tag “groove”

Lucky Lindy we dug you as a flyboy, but what’s the deal with all the chicks ?

OK, we can give the nod to Charles Lindbergh as the first flyboy who flew solo from New York to Paris (has Jimmy Stewart ever been finer?), but the whole America First Committee (AFC) thing, where as the chief spokesman, he campaigned to keep the United States out of World War 2 and was branded an anti-semite for statements he made on behalf of that cause (” The Jews are a race with undue influence in the media, warning that the passions and prejudices of such ” other people” would lead the country to ruin.”) We knew then that there was something dark, twisted, and acheiving a high mark on the weirdo meter, behind his big blues.   He was  a supporter of racial purity and a staunch eugenicist, which is someone who believes in the improvement of the human species through control of hereditary factors in mating.  Lindbergh’s knowledge of this came from breeding animals on the farms of Minnesota.    More black marks on his resume –  he never really retracted his groove of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and made public the invincibilities of the Nazis and their value as a bulwark against the hated Russians, who he regarded as a much greater evil.

(By the way, the AFC was the foremost non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into WW2 that was not started by a bunch of extremest weirdos – but by Yale law student R.Douglas Stuart, future president Gerry Ford, future Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, and future U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart.  Members included Chairman of the Board of Sears, Robert E. Wood,  Sterling Morton of Morton Salt, novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet e.e. Cummings, film producer Walt Disney, actress Lillian Gish and author Gore Vidal.  Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was rejected on “a reputation for immorality.”  (That would leave out all my friends.)

Lindy’s private life was no day at the beach, most of which was his own doing. He married Anne Morrow, daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and stayed married for 45 years. Towards his own family Lindbergh could be cruel, locking his 18 month old son out of the house to foster independence and forbidding his wife to cry when the baby was famously kidnapped and murdered a few months later.  Anne was a very accomplished author and a champion of women’s flight but Lindy was ” physically and emotionally absent” and was a control freak of the highest degree.  Needing someone to tell her she was a groove, Anne entered into an affair with her own physician who provided support and fun – something that Charlie was never good at.

Lindbergh’s real weirdness emerged when after he died of cancer, it was revealed that in addition to his five kids he had with Anne, Charlie had not one, not two, but three separate families living in Germany and Switzerland from which he had 7 more kids.  All were perfectly concealed until after he was gone.  The three lovers bore him  7 kids between the years 1958 and 1967.  The children recall a tender father who always arrived in a Volkswagon beetle wearing a beret (was it raspberry in color ?)   Their mothers told the children that their father was a famous writer from the United States who had been trusted with a secret mission and they should never speak of him.  Their birth certificates declare “father unknown”.   No wonder that the very popular dance ” The Lindy Hop” was named for Charlie.

Then in 1972 , at age 72 , the ” Lone Eagle” crashed to earth, dying of lymphatic cancer at his home in Maui, Hawaii. Always the control freak, he specified the exact dimensions and constructions of his grave (” Father was obsessed with drainage” said son Jon.)  (Aren’t we all?)  He wanted his body wrapped in all cotton sheets, but had to settle on a cotton- polyester blend (all they had at the local store – don’t you hate that).   Only his wife Anne was allowed to sit at his deathbed when” Lucky Lindy ” exhaled his last breath and only then by instructions could she kiss him. He hated to be touched.

Charlie Lindbergh was an excellent flyer, but a flawed man who was a cold customer with deep rooted weirdness.  Maybe  he is guy who could fly you out of a sky full of trouble, but let’s not call Charlie for the good times. Groove.

Gaylord Wilshire – Quack but Cool Cat

Gaylord Wilshire

” Get your I-ON-A-CO electric belt.”” It ironizes your iron and cures everything from baldness, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes and almost any other disease and will change your hair back to its original color.” Ravings from a “pompous-fake,”  a “pointed bearded charlatan, “a natty dressed quacksalver”?  Henry Gaylord Wilshire  was all those things, but he was also a friend of the great writer Jack London, socialist politician and writer Upton Sinclair, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, science fiction writer H.G.Wells, and Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathaniel. He co-formed the exclusive Los Angeles Country Club and helped establish the California Club, the city’s first private men’s club.  But Gay, as he was called by friends, is known primarily as the namesake for the most important thoroughfare in the history of Los Angeles.

Automobiles had yet to make an appearance and the Rio Porciuncula still had enough water to sustain a run of steelhead when Wilshire bought 35 acres in Los Angeles for $52,000 in 1895.   He filed subdivision papers announcing his plans to carve a wide magnificent boulevard, but his creation would travel just 1200 feet, then empty into trash filled brush. It was an abandoned barley field as recorded in “Hancock’s Survey of Pueblo Lands” ( Major Henry Hancock, father of Hancock Park’s founder G.Allen Hancock, was the city’s surveyor at the time). Gay had little to do with the growth of the boulevard and several attempts have been made to change the name of the street.   No one would suspect that Wilshire’s 4 block long dusty road would someday connect with El Camino Viejo and other fragments of Indian and Mexican dirt roads, become 16 miles of the grandest boulevard in Los Angeles, and lead us out of the horse drawn era. It would be the first to traverse the entire city, from downtown to the sea.

Having inherited a lot of dough from his father, Gay was known for his voracious hunger for the spotlight, and like a few gents I know, would erupt in long oratories almost always accompanied by groans by those surrounding. He was called the “Millionaire Socialist” but also was a grapefruit grower, gold miner, billboard mogul, inventor, publisher, and made and lost several fortunes. He ran for office at least six times and never won (including office for the British and Canadian Parliament).  His second wife Mary McReynolds studied with Freud and Jung in their early days and eventually opened a psychoanalytic practice in Brentwood. She became the primary earner of the family and bought one of the first homes in Palm Springs.

An I-ON-A-CO Belt

At first, the I-On-A-Co electric belt sold well, but the research institutions and doctors who supported it in the advertisements were made up. It turns out the device was a leather collar wrapped around eight pounds of meaningless wire coils that plugged into a wall socket.    The American Medical Association was hot on his trail when he called it a day on September 6th 1927.

Gay was quite the guy and we would do well to have more characters like him around us. So next time you roll into the H.M.S. Bounty bar (at 3357 Wilshire), when it comes time to take a leak you will be doing so at the residential hotel “The Gaylord”, a once proud establishment named after Henry Gaylord Wilshire. Give the guy the nod and go back into the H.M.S. and pound three more.  Groove.

Untamed, Ready for the Good Time

Lucy Banning

” A Peach”, ” man-crazy”, ” a free-spirited ingenue”, ” the most beautiful woman in California”. My distant cousin was called all these things and much more, some less than flattering. Lucy Banning was one of the richest and most beautiful women in the latter part of the 19th century, a time when Victorian rules where the name of the game, but Lucy had enough dough to play by her own rules thanks to a inherited fortune from her old man, ” Transportation King”, Phineas Banning and the financial windfalls she collected thanks to her gaggle of wealthy ex-husbands.

Lucy was born in1876 in the 23 room greek revival mansion in Wilmington that her Dad had built in 1864.  (still there, site of the Banning Museum). A young gal when Phineas called it a day she now had dough and wanted out of Squaresville Wilmington. Her many suitors included the handsome young attorney Johnny Bradbury whose Pop was a gold-mining and real estate tycoon. The family’s name is commemorated by the famous Bradbury Building in downtown L.A., the town of Bradbury, and Bradbury Estates.

They eloped to San Francisco where they were married on Dec 4, 1893. For four years the marriage seemed to be on a smooth stretch of highway until the couple attended a party in Santa Monica and Loose Lucy cutout with another man, a fellow named H.Russell Ward, a married Englishman. Reporters found them in a San Francisco Hotel. Lucy told reporters ” It is true that I had a beautiful home, that jewels were showered upon me, but all these did not satisfy me. I left simply because I believed that I had a right to plan out my own life; to go in search of happiness.”

Lucy and Ward were charged with adultery, but like the cavalry of the old west, Lucy’s Mom came to the rescue and paid off the “Society for the Prevention of Vice” and the charges against her were dropped. Not so for the polo playing Ward who faced the charges alone. Johnny Bradbury stated that  “H.Russell Ward had exerted an undue influence over my wife, and that she would never have done what she did had it not been for his uncanny spell over her.” Reconciliation seemed complete and bliss resumed, but not so for the unfortunate  Mr. Ward.  Johnny Bradbury is not the first nor the last, to find that a strong nudge to the small of the back from a speeding train can make certain troublemakers go away – for this was the fate of Mr. Ward.  Suicide, accident, or murder Mr. Ward would not embarrass J.B. again.

Lucy’s marriage would not endure. After moving to Mexico and returning to Los Angeles divorce proceedings from J.B. were under way – for Lucy again fled to San Francisco. Just two months after the divorce, Lucy took up with Charles Hastings of Pasadena. Rumors concluded that the two would marry, but these predictions did not come true. Lucy took up acting (translation: she took up actors) and soon married Shakespearean actor Mace Greenleaf who worked at the Burbank Theater (see what happens when you slip on some tights). Mace was no Romeo off stage so Lucy dumped him and  married Robert Ross, the son of a prominent judge.  “I am through experimenting, I am prepared to settle down” declared Lucy then 42.

And so she did until 1925 when she went to the Olympic Auditorium and laid eyes on Japanese wrestler Setsuzo Ota. Witnesses said  “she tossed her evening handbag into the ring at Ota with her calling card inside.” Lucy went to Ota’s hotel room and “she took my shirts, ties, everything out of the closet and dresser, put them in a suitcase, closed it and said “We go now.”, Ota exclaimed. Ross divorced her and Lucy, 51 and Setsuzo, 31 drove to Seattle (interracial marriage was not allowed in California) to be married.

This marriage did not last long either, but not because of the usual reasons. While vacationing in Italy Lucy caught pneumonia and passed away, shortly after her 53rd birthday. According to Ota, Lucy knew she was dying and her last words were “I’ll get criticized for this too.”  Lucy left almost $400,000 to Ota, but because of lawyers and family disputes he walked away with $6,000. Setsumo Ota took his own life in 1963.

So comes the close to a wild gal who set her own rules, took advice from few, and lived the untamed life on a path she choose alone.

Many thanks to Tom Sitton, author of ” Grand Ventures, The Banning Family and the shaping of Southern California”.

No Ordinary Street

Useless, Insignificant, Poetic

Sam the Butcher from the Brady Bunch, Colonel Klink from  Hogan’s Heros, and the Chief from Get Smart – they all lived within a couple of blocks from the  home at 231 North Bundy Drive where my family lived for close to 40 years. Our house was modest, but filled with comfort, fun, and love – all the handy work of our Mom and Dad. One can tell by the status of the TV stars that lived around us that our neighborhood was attractive, yet unassuming, built-in the 40’s.

I was disturbed when reading of Bundy Drive that it was called “notorious” and “infamous” because of the knifework on Nicole and Ron by that depraved reprobate O.J.   Bundy Drive deserves much better than to be associated with that coward.

Bundy Drive was named after real estate developer  Tom Bundy who was also a three-time winner of  the Men’s Doubles at the U.S.Tennis Championships. Tommy married May Sutton, who at age 18, won the Women’s single title at the U.S. Championship and also became the first American and first non-British woman to win a Wimbledon singles title. Their daughter “Dodo” Bundy Cheney became the first American woman to win Women’s single title at the Australian Championships.

But the real claim to fame of Bundy Drive are not the tennis champs or a knife wielding liar, but The Bundy Boys, a glorious group of actors, writers, painters and ner do wells, who made the Rat Pack look like the Vienna Boys Choir.  As a young lad I would play with my friend Stan who lived a couple of blocks north of where I was raised. His home was shaded by a large redwood tree which would bring splintered sunlight, cooling shadows, and possibly a hint of the location’s devilish past. On the large wooden door was a brass lion door knocker with what appeared to be a family crest with two unicorns surrounded by the words “Useless, Insignificant, Poetic .”  This was the home of The Bundy Boys some 30 years before Stan and I rolled around in that precious dirt.

The group included actors W.C. Fields, John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, Anthony Quinn, Vincent Price, John Carradine, painter and forger John Decker, screenwriter Ben Hecht whose credits include Some Like it Hot, Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, and Mutiny on the Bounty, and many other notoriously  flamboyant life livers.

Gene Fowler, journalist and life long member said this: ” That brown beamed studio was a place of meeting for still lively survivors of Bohemian times, an artist’s Alamo where political bores never intruded and where breast beating hypocrites could find no listeners…these men live intensely as do children, poets, and jaguars.”

Their boozy self destructiveness was spectacular, their drunken brawls foolhardy, they spent their fortunes quicker than they made them, and all were committed to their friendship and their right to destroy their careers,  and themselves by any means necessary.

The house is gone now. Torn down along with the redwood. In its place is a sad property line to property line mansion that has the soul and depth of an ashtray. I am sure there are ghosts there, unhappy ones at that. As W.C. Fields said ” Life is a funny thing. You are lucky if you can get out of it alive.”    

Vicious Combo

 A gun, a prayer-book, and a lot of booze. Though we have all faced these non-grooves at one time or another, the facts are that together they will possibly ruin your evening (not always…but that is another story). Christina Griffith was confronted with this combo and it was none of her doing, but the doings of her loathsome scoundrel of a husband Griffith Griffith. Religion, a firearm, and enough alcohol to kill a Clydesdale was about to bring a big hurt on Mrs. Griffith Griffith.

It was the sultry evening of September 3rd, 1903 in Suite 104-5 of the fabulous Hotel Arcadia, the grand dame of Santa Monica. Built in 1887 it was named for Arcadia Bandini De Baker, who was the wife of the co-founder of Santa Monica, R.S. Baker (also where the name Bakersfield comes from). Located where the Loews Hotel is today, the narrow Arcadia steps with a gold painted archway  is all that is left of the original hotel. The Colonel, as he called himself (I have tried for years to be called the Chieftain or the Commodore but as of yet none of these names have stuck) though he never was in any country’s service, made his money when, as a reporter for mining stocks, he used inside information to amass millions. A tiny gent he made up for his lack of stature by carrying a gold-headed cane and was described as a “midget egomaniac” who had the exaggerated strut of a turkey gobbler. To endear himself to society he gave the city of Los Angeles 3015 acres – creating the largest municipal park in the world, Griffith Park. He was also one of those crazy hidden boozers who publicly aligned himself with the temperance movement all the while slurping down copious amounts of brown booze.

Any semblance of respectability and social groove came to a screeching halt that night at the Arcadia.  G.G., out of his head on booze, carrying a pistol in one hand and a prayer-book in the other, demanded that his wife kneel before him. Muttering something along the lines that she was aligned with the Pope to kill him he fires a shot point-blank into Christina’s skull, the bullet hitting her left eye socket and careening away. She staggers to her feet and leaps out the nearest window, falling two stories on to the veranda roof of the Arcadia. Not what one usually sees falling on a beautiful night in Santa Monica.

A sensational trial follows, with Griffith hiring the famous mouthpiece Earl P. Rodgers and the one-eyed Christina the ex-governor of California, Henry Gage. Rodgers puts up the “alcohol insanity” excuse (who hasn’t used that one before), but G.G. is found guilty only to serve two years in the Big House.

After prison Griffith offered the city $100,000 to build a popular observatory atop Mt. Hollywood (formerly Mt. Griffith, but had been renamed while in prison). He also offered $50,000 for a Greek Theater. Though the City of Los Angeles refused all offers because of his past, G.G. would not be denied setting up a trust fund providing for the two facilities after he was gone.

Well, the Colonel died rich, but unloved…and it shows one must consider all options and combinations before they step out into the evening.

A shot to the head gets your name on a map…

Hello, my name is Lee….Lee Vining. I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to say that to a fellow inebriated patron at a local establishment and perhaps I will someday. I recently spent a few hours in Lee Vining, which is off the glorious 395 on the way to Reno, Tahoe, and places further and wondered how the name of this small hamlet came to be.

Leroy Vining was not a bandito who committed crimes of the darkest hue like our friend Tiburcio Vasquez (of Vasquez Rocks fame) who was a terror throughout California in the 1860-70s and was finally captured in an adobe at the current location of La Cienega and Melrose Place in West Hollywood in 1874 . No, Lee was a miner who organized a mining camp in the area then had the misfortune of accidentally shooting himself to death in nearby Aurora, Nevada. After attempting to call the town Lakeside (sorry, already taken) and Poverty Flats (a realtors dream) the Powers that Be in 1953 settled on Lee Vining.

Makes you wonder: did Van Nuys trip on a stained carpet, fall down some stairs, and break his neck at his small sordid apartment off of Victory Blvd and then got the nod by the Powers that Be ?

Please, next time I am sitting next to you at a bar let me introduce myself: Lee….Lee Vining.

The Truth Be Told

In 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold,who was one of the first of many enterprising English explorers, was sent to the New World to collect sassafras root, a highly prized aromatic plant of tremendous value back in England, and to attempt to colonize New England (which at that time was called Virginia.) Doubting the weather of the fog bound rocky shores of Maine, he sailed southward stopping at a sandy promontory where his sailors caught so much fish he named it “Cape Cod”.  His next stop was a beautiful vine draped island he named “Martha’s Vineyard” after his daughter.  Soon his ship’s hold was filled with tons of the root. The small colony of Cuttyhunk was established which was soon abandoned.

But the facts are that Bart was loading up on sassafras because it was a supposed cure for syphilis, the most evil of the  “Poxe” raging through Europe. So one could say that English Massachusetts, the most Puritan of colonies, had first been settled because of a venereal disease. Makes one look at the Puritans and the Pilgrims  with a slight nod and a wink. An enigma to the respectable, a delight to the sinister.  Groove.


So there I am – flaming west on  Sunset Blvd in my convertible Ford. Going too fast, but that’s ok. It is 1927 and the country is being constricted by that huge Anaconda: Prohibition.  It’s night, my throat is as dry as the Gobi, and here come those Santa Ana Winds again. You know those nights. Marlowe said it best : “It was one of those hot, dry Santa Ana’s that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair. make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that, every booze party ends up in a fight. And meek little housewives feel the edge of a carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen when the Santa Ana blows in from  the desert.”  I need and want a drink.

I turn left on Rustic Canyon in the Pacific Palisades and head down to The Uplifters Ranch. I pass eighty year old Redwoods and one of the last natural creeks in Los Angeles that isn’t covered in concrete. I had remembered that big galoot Harry Haldeman tossed me a pass last time I saw him at Musso and Frank’s. Harry is a big, jovial Chicagoan who likes to light the Good Time lamp and is one of the founders of the Uplifters Ranch. Too bad his Grandson H.R. Haldeman turned out so creepy. He was one of the muscle lugs for Nixon’s regime. Got caught in the Watergate caper and did an eighteen month stretch in the Big House. Deserved more.

In 1922, Harry and his buddies bought 120 acres, built a clubhouse with tennis courts, a swimming pool, and   amphitheater, most of which are still there. Many members began to build summer and weekend cottages and lodges on land leased from the club. The homes are situated in a lush, dreamy landscape close enough to the ocean to get the gentle breeze. Many contain huge ballrooms, fanciful card parlors , prohibition style basement bars, and log cabins hauled over from silent movie sets.

The Sign ” Uplifters” hangs over Latimer road. Their creed: ” To uplift art and promote good fellowship”. Please – it’s just a place where the wealthy and the powerful can throw back a dozen or so drinks and not get busted by the  chief of Police because he is sitting next to them. Actors, politicians, sports heroes, they are all there. Over in the corner is L. Frank Baum, one of the founders of the Uplifters along with Haldeman, who of course wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” After he throws down a few scotches he is known to babble on about forcing the extinction of the American Indian. ” Having wronged them for centuries we had better, to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the Earth.” I just wish he felt that way about those annoying Munchkins and made them disappear. Sitting on a bar stool like he is sitting on a flagpole, is that loud mouth lout Ernie Ball , who wrote ” When Irish Eyes are Smiling” although he never laid his bloodshot eyes on the Emerald Island. Of course there are good guys who are members: Will Rodgers, Harold Lloyd, Leo Carillo, Walt Disney, Edgar Rice Burroughs ( Tarzan’s guy) and many more. Over the years a lot of well knowns have lived  close to the Uplifters Ranch: Johnny Weissmuller, Angela Lansbury, Aldous Huxley, Earl Warren, Randy Newman, Lee Marvin, , John Densmore, and at different times Meryl Streep and Wilt Chamberlain rented the same cottage though there is no way  Meryl was one of Wilt’s 10,000.

So next time you are in the area swing on down to ” The Uplifters Ranch” and ask for a drink ( the clubs demise came in 1947 so really don’t do that) for the ghosts are there. You just have to shut your eyes and look for them.

Print The Legend

The strange  dusty road of Truth has many hairpin turns and hazy stretches. It collides with Myth at a billion miles per hour and leaves chunks of reality mixed in with lumps of fantasy. Yet truth is stranger than fiction. An example of that is that Richard Dawson, the host of Family Feud who recently passed away, married one of the contestants and that the descendants of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s were contestants on the show in 1979 where they played for cash prizes and a pig. ( The Hatfields won).

Like in Western History there are some who believe that myth is more important than History. That myth transcends the truth, and like religion, is beyond fact. Truth is a much harder sell for we Americans don’t really study History we shop for it.  Stephen Jay Gould , paleontologist, Harvard instructor, and a great baseball guy said that “humans have a psychic need for an indigenous creation of myth. That we need to come up with an explicit point of origin rather than accept that most beginnings are gradual and complex. We need to identify heroes and sacred places while evolutionary stories provide no palpable particular thing as a symbol for reverence, worship, or patriotism.”

Many Baseball heads credit Abner Doubleday for “inventing Baseball” one day in a cow pasture  in 1839. Now Abner was a cool cat : a Union officer who is credited with firing the first cannon blast while defending Fort Sumter, which was the opening battle of the Civil War, and after the war he moved to San Francisco where he obtained the patent on the cable car , but he never claimed to have invented Baseball. The man who gave him posthumous credit for creating the sport was later judged ” criminally insane”on murder charges. There is clear evidence that our ” National pastime” evolved over decades from English games such as Rounders and Stool Ball. Now that cow pasture is where the Baseball Hall of Fame resides in Cooperstown , New York.

Rhode Island, which is not an island, got its name from a geographic mixup with Block Island, which Gio De Verrazzano thought  resembled the Greek Island of Rhodes. ” California” is believed to derive it’s name from Calafia, queen of the tall black Amazons, whom 16th century Spaniards conjured up as occupiers of the Golden State. And two continents, North & South America, bore the name of Amerigo Vespucci, who never set foot upon them and wrote fantasies about lands he never saw.

As they said in “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance” when ” The Legend becomes fact, print the Legend.”


Life is Good

I recently had the utmost pleasure of spending Memorial Day at my Sister’s pad in Del Mar (God’s Country if you are a believer) where I drank copious amounts of wine and spent time with her local friends trying out the Vertical Wine tasting method which involves wines from different vintages, but all the wine from the same winery  (in this case Spring Mountain). As opposed to Horizontal Tasting which is drinking wines that all come from the same year, but different wineries.

It really isn’t very confusing unless you are a dilettante like myself whose sophistication level took a big leap when I stopped drinking from the bottle and started using a glass. One has to be impressed when you hear conversation like: ” I believe there is a hint of pencil shavings”, “I sense the complexity of the interior of a 65′ Impala” , “Have you surveyed your tongue map lately?”, and “What about the Cork Taint ?  I need to know!”      The facts are that I am more interested in why Zac Brown and The Edge wear those knitted beanies – and if the reason is so obvious, is that my future?

In the end, as I felt a bit of self induced fermentation, I was less impressed with the wine and the hoopla of the complexity of the analysis, as much as I was impressed with the wonderful group of friends my Sister has collected over the years, the genuine laughter which comes so easy to them all, their fondness for their mates and each other, and the sometimes intricate flow of groove  which my Sister presents with such ease and taste.

It was a pleasant form of lark indeed.

A lucky Man am I.

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