Monday, January 31, 2011

Some of My Favorite Photos From 2010: Featuring Norman Corwin, Dennis Hopper, Dr. John & Jackie Bisset, among other people, places & things! Photo copyright Ray Ramos

Classic Writers: 100 year old Norman Corwin makes a point, Ray Bradbury in the background.
Veteran's Day; Westwood Veteran's Cemetary
American Gothic 2010?: Alison & Nin, two people that I miss & adore!
My pal & L.A. writer, John Gilmore at home... with his pet tiger.
A rare photo of my pal writer, David Mamet, laughing! ... so, the blur didn't bother me!
Comic Con, San Diego; Hey, The Green Lantern's gotta eat lunch too!

The Century City Towers

The L.A. Marathon, Hollywood Blvd.
Dennis Hopper, hugs pal Jack Nicholson for the last time.
My Family does an unexpected Abby Road -type shot, in the Capital Records parking lot in Hollywood.
Sunset Blvd.
The View at the Venice Canals

Blonde: Santa Monica Pier

2011 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Inductee: Dr. John @ SM Pier.
Leonard Knight of Salvation Mountain & The Newlyweds
Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood
Los Feliz: The Artist & her Clown
JACKIE BISSET @ the 30 Tribute to Steve McQueen
The Last of The Magnificent Seven; Robert Vaughn: @ the 30 Tribute to Steve McQueen
Satisfaction: Artist, Griffin Lauerman
Jessica, the beautiful lady in red & Michael J. Anderson (of HBO's Carnival) confer.
This unplanned three way shot! Featuring famed NATGO photographer, Michael "Nick" Nichols & my dear friend Aloma (a wonderful photographer in her own right!)
L.A. Zoo: I love Gorillas: Thank you Honey, for giving me this shot! I'll comeback and see ya soon!
Yogi & Whitey & Jose & Victor

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Núñez & Schwarzenegger: "Don't worry Fabby baby, your kid will be out in less than three years!"
Okay, I’m one of the dumb Californians who voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger (twice!) for Governor. I fell for that whole jive, that he was a man of the people. He was a wealthy man, so he was his own man! Well so much for this phony Teddy Roosevelt wannabe… Arnold was defiantly no Colonel Teddy! But it was such a great story; Austrian immigrant comes to the United States, with nothing but a suitcase and a dream and with only a couple words in English. He makes his way to Venice's famed Muscle Beach and against all odds becomes Mister Universe. And even crazier than that, he becomes a gigantic movie star (not to mention a very savvy business man.) It seemed like a man could do know wrong? Wrong! In 2003, Arnold shook the entertainment industry when he made the jump from movies to politics, defeating incumbent California Governor Grey Davis in a historic recall election. There was a new sheriff in town; Arnold was going to straiten out the state with his non-partisan politics… he was going to clean up Sacramento! Well Arnold, you should have kept his day job, you was adequate at best? So much for Venice, California’s number one adopted son saving California! You left us in worse shape than ever.

So right before he left office earlier this month (replaced with reto-Governer Jerry Brown) Arnold really showed that he was no better than any cliché politian, when he reduced  former California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez’s, 22-year old son Esteban's, sixteen year manslaughter prison sentence to eight… with time served & good behavior, what are we looking at three years maybe? Arnold gave the Sacramento political gravy-trainer and his punk ass kid, a blatant favor No if, ands or buts about it! 

I've sold out!
The crime was a 2008 incident, when Núñez and his pals (they called themselves “The Hazard Crew”) took a party road trip from Sacramento to San Diego, where they attacked a group of strangers with knives after being denied admittance to a collage party. The aftermath left one person dead and one person seriously injured. The man Núñez stabbed was lucky enough to live, but that’s not the point (even though Arnold disagrees.) The punk-ass posse high-tailed it back to Sacto and quickly destroyed the evidence… but luckily the law soon caught up with The Hazard Crew. The little shit Núñez told his crew that his dad would get them out of this mess. Núñez's political hack pals (including sadly, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) wrote letters to the judge on this punk ass kids behalf. Well, his dad and our so-called action hero governor, Arnold kinda did. Originally, to escape a murder trial, Núñez and his friend Ryan Jett agreed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter. The judge even told Nunez during sentencing that his actions after the crime showed a "callousness to human life -- evil."
Fresh Meat on the Cell Block! Come & Get it While You Can!
I don’t write too much political stuff (yet!) But this crime against justice really stuck in my craw… I couldn’t sit on my hands any longer. I’m don’t consider myself, conservative or liberal… I just like what’s right and fair (I’m a dreamer right?) And this just was so; “you gotta be kidding me or he did what?”  What was the saying... and justice for all!

Rightly so, the parents of Luis Santos, the 22-year-old college student who was killed in the confrontation is suing former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento on Thursday, claiming he violated their constitutional rights under the state’s Victims' Bill of Rights. And last I heard Santos’s parents were going to sue the father and son team of Estaban and Fabian in a civil suit… good for the Santos family. Even though they’ll never retain what they’ve lost, at least they’re not going to go away quietly! When you’ve been dealt a dirty hand, kick over the table and let the chips fly!

The Victim: Luis Santos
I know how it feels to have family member fall to the hands of violence (several times over, I might add) and I know the anguish it casts, the giant shadow of sadness that always looms over a family after such a tragedy . So yeah, I’m feeling really betrayed by Arnold “Mister Action Hero” Schwarzenegger. Even after he was a wash out as the governor, I still felt that I could at least sit through one of his movies… I saw the film, The Expendables last year, and I enjoyed the little tongue and check scene with him, Stallone and Willis. But, I don’t think I can even do that now?! Was this Núñez punk worth ruining my enjoyment of; Conan the Barbarian, Predator or T2?  Whose ass are you kissing Arnold? You’ve really put a giant monkey wrench into any thought of a future movie career!

Stay Hungry
 Back in 1976, my dad had a cinema class at Santa Monica College. I remember him taking me and my pal Robert to see a preview of a film at MGM in Culver City. The picture was about body building, called STAY HUNGRY, starring Jeff Bridges and Sally Fields. After the film was over there was a Q & A with director Bob Rafelson, Sally Fields and (in his first major Hollywood film) Arnold Schwarzenegger… so I’ve kinda been following (and pulling) for Arnold’s career since I was a 14 years old kid, way back when he was in his body building prime… and this is where our road together ends, pal! And who would have thought,  after all these years, Jeff Bridges of all people would become the mythical lawman Rooster Cogburn? And you, Arnold would become the un-upholder of the law? Arnold, you really let me (and a lot of people ) down, man! Well, Sacramento can lay claim to you now! And please whatever you do California; DO NOT EVER VOTE "POLITICAL HACK" FABIAN NUNEZ BACK INTO OFFICE! Oh, and one more thing, Arnold do yourself a favor and stop dying you hair orange! On second thought, that’s the right color for a damn clown! Where's Charlie Bronson when you need him!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just Remember Y.A. TITTLE: When Life Kicks the Shit Out of You!

Photo by Morris Berman of N.Y. Giants Quarterback Y.A. Tittle

With the Super Bowel teams (the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers) all set to go, I thought I might share with you this amazing photograph. It's a photo that really gets me every time. When I see it I'm pretty sure that my heart stops beating for a moment. Taken in 1964 by photographer Morris Berman of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, it shows New York Giants quarterback Y.A. (Yelberton Abraham) Tittle after losing a battle to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Looking every bit like someone's grandfather praying, he's on his knees, ribs broken, blood flowing down his head like a river. This was in the days when football players went at it; like they where trying to take Pork Chop Hill! But, it's not just a great photo depicting the golden age of football... this image just captures the human condition, and the realization that sometimes we lose. Like Hemingway's Cuban fisherman Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, who says; But a man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated. Sometimes we don't make it... sometimes we get our teeth knocked out (and handed to us) Papa knew it, and Y.A. learned it the hard way. Hopefully, one can return one day... to get another shot. Yeah, I love this photo... when I'm feelin' beat to all hell... I just think of Y.A. Tittle beaten and broken on that field and I don't feel so alone.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

ROBERT CRAIS @ DIESEL: A Book Store… and Joe Pike & Elvis Cole in VENICE!

Joe Pike & Elvis Cole? Nah. Just Robert Crais and that man from Venice.
I love books, and I love meeting the folks that write them. Last week I noticed in The LA Weekly (our town’s great free go to magazine) that kick-ass L.A. crime writer Robert Crais was going to be doing a release party in Brentwood at the independent book store; Diesel (in the Brentwood Country Mart.) I figured what a great way to spend a damp Tuesday evening (and also a great way to start my yearly journey into photography.) So with my camera I made the twenty minute drive from Venice to Brentwood. 

Robert Crais's latest: THE SENTRY
I actually got a little lost on the way over and got there a little late. So when I entered the book store, I found everyone out in the cozy back courtyard where author Crais was charming his peeps. He was sharing antidotes of his correspondence with his outspoken fans with the crowd  (most notably on Facebook ... of all places!) Crais also poked a little fun at his crime writing competition… he wondered how Michael Connelly felt that Crais has a pizza named after him at the Sidewalk Café on Venice Boardwalk? Then Crais got down to business and went to read a few select pages from his newest book, THE SENTRY. The book is the newest adventure featuring his popular fictional L.A. based private detective characters, Joe Pike and Elvis Cole. By coincidence this time around most of the action takes place in Venice... now how cool is that?! 

The Books

Robert got a big laugh, when he recounted one of his readers asking; when are Elvis & Joe finally going to kiss?

After Crais finished his reading he went into the book store to do his signing. This event I might add was really nice! The restaurant next door to Diesel called FARMSHOP did a continuous tray passing of the tastiest items (a pleasant surprise indeed!) They had this one item that night, I believe it was a cubes of Kobe steak… man, it was so delicious it was like steak candy... ! Farmshop and their friendly staff get big thumbs up from me (and I’m sure all that attended!)

Them Kobe cubes didn't last on the tray too long!

This young lady was a delight... and so were those chocolate cookies she was handing out!

Hey kids love crime novels too!
 And as for Mister Crais himself, what a pleasant fella, you can tell that he really enjoys meeting his readers. He took time to chat (and joke) with everyone as they got their book signed. I was one of the last folks to get signed that night. Mister Crais and I had a great little chat about Venice (my hometown... if you hadn't all ready guessed?) Crais had mentioned that he’s spent a lot of time in Venice and has always wanted to find a story where he could use the colorful part of L.A. as a backdrop for his tough guy heroes. Crais was even cool enough to let me shoot an impromptu portrait of him, like I said, cool guy. And FYI in this novel, Crais's stoic P.I. Joe Pike takes center stage… but as expected his partner Elvis Cole isn’t to far away. So pick up, The Sentry… and if you’re from Venice, Mister Crais promises you'll dig it!

Ray - Venice rules. You'll see places ya know!

Quick portrait: Robert flashes the David Janssen furrowed brow for me!

Monday, January 10, 2011


Andy Garcia meet Paul & Gloria

Right before the last New Years Eve, I was checking out the weekly email I receive from a company called Goldstar, a really great company that gives you discounts for shows and events around town (I think they are in numerous cities?) They were offering some tickets for contemporary torch singer Jane Monheit at the legendary LA jazz club Catalina’s Bar & Grill (can you believe me, the L.A. native had never been?) By the time I decided to go the limited tickets they were offering for the show had sold-out. Oh well, I thought?  Before I logged off, I noticed that Andy Garcia (yes, the actor) and his Cuban band were going to play Catalina’s in a week or so… and they had just three tickets left… hmm, I thought? My parents just had their 50th wedding anniversary a couple weeks back, and my brothers and I took them to dinner at a very cool restaurant called Dear John’s in Culver City. But I thought that this might be something else fun to do with them?… mom’s always liked Andy Garcia’s movies and my dad’s into the jazz scene and with Gold Star the price was just about right. Yeah, I gave GS a little plug, but I think it’s a good deal, and it’s FREE to join.

My & the Folks!

My Andy Garcia tales go back to 1991, when I worked my first Oscar show and one of the people  I was assigned to help during the show that year was Andy Garcia (he was nominated for best supporting actor for Godfather III.)  And I've been a fan of his acting since I caught him in picture 8 Million Ways to Die ( ) Andy was also presenting an award for something that night also? I can’t remember what? Hey, it was a long time ago, but I do recall his wife was very pregnant at the time.  Unfortunately for Andy, he didn’t win that night. When you’re assigned to a nominee you gotta root for them, right? So I was bummed that he didn’t win naturally (Denzel won that year, my pal Rafael was assigned to him.)  During the Oscar show the best supporting actor award is given early on, right off the bat! It must be rough, you gotta sit there all night and not look too pissed (unless you’re Eddie Murphy, just get up and leave your choice seats for the fillers to warm all night. Well, later during the show when I saw Andy, I felt I had to say something? I was like; "hey Andy, you’ll get’um next time pal,” something like that? Heck, I didn't know what to say? But, I do remember his reply thought; he said; “don’t worry I’ll be back.”  I liked his attitude, I don’t think he’s been nominated since, but I don’t doubt that he will be back.

Andy tickling the ivories!

I also worked on a great little film called, The Man from Elysian Fields (2002) that Andy Garcia made while I was associated with the film department at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. If you get a chance check this little gem out. Andy plays a married Pasadena writer who somehow finds himself becoming a gigolo. The film also featured one of my cinema heroes, James Coburn (in his second to last role) as a famous dying writer whose wife Garcia services. The picture also had some great scenes of my beloved hotel in that movie too. Yes, I know that I’m digressing!

So you see with all this Andy & Ray history, not to mention my photo-journalistic trip last year to Havana, where Andy was born ( I wish we could have chatted about that.) His family escaped to Miami, just as the Cuban Revolution was heating up. Well sir, I ready to get my Cuban on! So my folks and I made the short hop from Venice to Hollywood last Saturday night to Catalina’s Bar & Grill (which is now located just east of Highland Ave. on Sunset Blvd... FYI.)

AG banging the bongos!
Catalina’s is a great place to see a show (a very intimate room.)  Garcia’s band consists of eleven musicians (counting Andy who plays percussion and piano) who perform whenever Andy can get them all rounded up (because they’re usually touring or recording with major acts.) Andy joked his band rarely gets to rehearse… in fact, he joked “they never rehearse!” With the exception of some sound problems, Andy Garcia and CineSon All Stars sounded pretty darn good. It's basically a great Cuban music jam session! The packed house really had a great time. I even noticed Andy’s lovely daughters in the house… I wondered which one that his wife had been carrying during that Oscar show... those many years ago. Before the show I waved Andy over and he was nice enough to take a photo with my folks. I nice memory for them of the night... thanks pal.

Andy talks of Cuba
With my experience managing crowds and venues, I knew we best leave during Andy’s final number to avoid the car stack up at the valet service (and another crowd was lined up for a second sold-out show that night!)  I was relieved that my folks and I were cruising down Highland, while people were standing Soylent Green style with their valet tickets in the parking garage. 

Between to legendary photographers: Gerd Ludwig & Douglas Kirkland
Also at Catalina’s, I had the great fortune to run into a wonderful photographer that I know from my association at the Annenberg Space for Photography; Douglas Kirkland (and his lovely wife, Francoise.) This gentleman is one of my favorite people, a true giant in his field (he has a great book of photos from his night photographing Marilyn Monroe.) Douglas told me that he’d recently photographed Andy (who had invited them to the show that night.)  Also at his table was the great National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig, I was lucky enough to get a great shot with these two legendary photographers.

Moral of this blog?…there's a lot of fun little things to do around this town… so maybe take your parents out sometime… you’ll have a great time and you never know who you might run into? And if you ever get a chance, go see Andy Garica and the CineSon All Stars! Hey Andy, next time put ol' Ray on the guest list for ol' time sake, will ya!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Here's a simple fairy tale, the story of a brave young girl who tricks a knight and mean one-eyed giant into making a quest with her into a dangerous land… now if you make it a western; with guns and horses... this fairy tale becomes True Grit.

First let me say that I’m extremely happy that the Coen brothers have made what looks like a hit western (you see Hollywood, it happens with the right talent!) But, I must admit when I first saw a post on Facebook, that True Grit was being remade I thought it was a joke? How anyone could have the sand to remake John Wayne’s Oscar winning western? When I found out it was being done by the Coen brothers and starring, the greatest underrated actor living today; Jeff Bridges! Well sir, if anyone was gonna take a crack at this… well, I curious to say the least?  I had been hearing the great reviews of the "New Grit", and all of its performances. This was the one film that I was waiting to see this holiday season, so New Years day off I went.

Now, I’ve been hearing how the new film was more true to the book; I had read the book many years ago and thought that the original picture was pretty damn close? The books author, Charles Portis supposedly wrote Rooster Cogburn with Wayne in mind (I do recall that Portis described him as looking like President Grover Cleveland?)  For those not familiar with the original film (or have never scene a western; shame on you!) 

The Showdown

 As the new Cogburn, Bridges does make the character his own; where as Duke Wayne (yeah, I can call him that!) played Rooster as a drunken bull in a China shop, a fearless rascal who couldn’t give a shit what anyone thought of him. But deep down, he’s kinda got a big teddy bear quality to him, (the kinda through back to the roles actor Wallace Berry used to play that 30's... anyone remember him?) But if a bad man crossed paths with Wayne's Rooster, he's wouldn't think twice to shoot him dead for a reward. Bridges plays Rooster with melancholy, he’s tough and mean and a little lost (kinda like a homeless man on Venice Beach or Nick Nolte?) his adventure with Mattie seems to be the just the right thing for him, something to get him out of his sunken bed. His Rooster mumbles and grumbles, as apposed to Wayne’s distinctive growl. As stated earlier the dialogue in both films at times is almost the same word for word... it's so interesting to compare the two wonderful performances.

One of the big changes from the 1969 version is the casting of age appropriate actress to play the young girl who is the catalyst of the manhunt for her father’s murderer. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld really shines in the role originally played with impish gusto by Kim Darby (who was 21 at the time, hey it worked back in 69!)  


But, I say the biggest change is the films cinematography, (with the exception of a couple scenes that have      that Coen touch... you'll see...) shadow and light master Roger Deakins and the Coen’s wisely decide to have much of the films action moved to night (and the daylight scenes are shot in muted flat colors.) This move does at times give it (in my opinion) a storybook feel to it... (perhaps a Grimm fairy tale?) TG's original cinematographer, the master Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch) and veteran director Henry Hathaway's (who in real life, may have been the most like the fictional Rooster Cogburn) version was shot in the lush western state of Colorado.This give's the comparison almost a night and day feel. True Grit also offers fine performances by Matt Damon as La Boeuf, the Texas Ranger who joins the the two in the hunt for the killer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin.) The two respectfully take over for the original players; Glen Cambell and Jeff Corey. I must say that if you've never scene the original picture, it featured great memorable supporting performances by scene stealing Strother Martin and a couple young actors named; Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper.
I love the fact one of cinemas greatest iconic western showdowns, is on horseback (beautifully shot by Lucien Ballard) and is between John Wayne and Robert Duvall (think about it?!) This scene is recreated in the new version with Bridges and another great actor Barry Pepper as outlaw Lucky Ned Pepper (did he even have to read for the part? Think about it!) It's good, but it misses the bravado that Wayne gave it. The film's a love  story, about two tough minded characters, both who end up having "true grit." Look, you can probably guess which version I prefer? Hey, I was amazed by Peter Jackson's version of King Kong (another great American fairy tale) but I still ultimately dig the old noir King Kong the best. Like I said, I'm glad the Coen's made a western... I hope that this won't be their last... they're kinda getting the hang of it! GO SEE TRUE GRIT PILGRIM... then revisit the ORIGINAL!