Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Paul Dandridge and John Gilmore: Two Conversations in the Valley

Ray & John: Two Noir Guys, Just Sittin' Around Talkin'
Yesterday, I made the trek from Venice out to the lovely, San Fernando Valley… I had a little business out there.  I had a lunch appointment with my pal and iconic L.A. writer John Gilmore. But before that, I had to get take my car to get a smog check at a place that I’ve been going to for that past few years (I’m a creature of habit and they had sent me a $10 off coupon… it worked for me.) This place (Eagle Smog Check @ 14855 Magnolia Blvd) is really fast, and usually there’s never long wait, well today there was one other person there before me, it turned out to be veteran L.A. TV reporter Paul Dandridge. I’m sure if you’re a native of this town, or have been here for any number of years you know his face, he was always the Johnny on the spot, man on the street with the kinda Bob Redford look about him.

Paul Dandridge's is a heck of a reporter and a great guy!
Eagles Smog Check in Van Nuys
Mister Dandridge did stints on all the major news teams in town. But, I remember him especially as part of the great; Eye Witness News Team on ABC channel 7 (or as I remember K-ABC TV.)  I mentioned to him, that I was working as a page on the same lot on Prospect Ave. in Hollywood during that time. That opened it up for a nice entertaining conversation that made the time waiting for our cars go by rather quick ( I always seem to bump into people from my past lives, my old girlfriend always used to say; "Can't you go anywhere without running into someone you know?")
Paul, told me that he too had started out as a page back in N.Y. at CBS. This made me wonder, why I never made it to the Eye Witness News Team? The closest I got to that, was filling in during the holidays, for the page that usually guarded the door, because of a stalker problem one of the anchors had at the time. But seriously, as a native Angeleno talking to someone like Paul Dandridge for a few, was a real kick! I had had to ask him about the weather detail… you know when it’s snowing, and they send a reporter out to someplace like Ridgecrest or the Grapevine, just to stand in the snow for two minutes, to let everyone know that it’s snowing! I always felt for the reporter that had pulled that detail, can you imagine the miserable drive back to L.A.? He actually said, that he didn’t mind that at the time (but he dosen't miss it.) He said what was worse was standing in front of a locked up empty courthouse at 11 PM after a big trials been over for hours. I happened to have my camera with me in my travels; he asked what kinda stuff that I liked to shoot? I said anything but paparazzi stuff. That lead to him telling me of when he was assigned to cover the death of movie star Rock Hudson in the 80’s and what a crazy frenzy he remembered as the paparazzo’s tried to get that last photo of his body being taken out of his house in Beverly Hills. 
Jerry Dumphy
Baxter Ward
We talked about some of the newscasters of L.A.’s past like Jerry Dumphy and George Putnam, and how there was a time when all the news anchors had to be of a certain older age, the opposite of the way TV news is now. He also talked about how TV news has changed since cable and now off course the smart phone phenomena. I remember the days when the opening music for Eye Witness News was Lalo Schifrin's music from the Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke (from the road race taring scene.) I even threw out the name, Baxter Ward, the channel 7 anchor from the 1960's (hey, I've been around a while, baby!) who in the 1970’s became a L.A. County Supervisor; Dandridge remembers that Ward never shook hands, because he was wary of germs (which he thought was kinda hard for a politician?)  Dandridge also mentioned that the NBC studios in beautiful downtown Burbank was great because of it’s centralized location, and its top notch commissary.
The Gilmore Look
The Hero Shot!

I next paid a visit to my friend John Gilmore (often described as the “quintessential L.A. noir writer” and the only person that I know actually met, one Elizabeth Short a.k.a. the Black Dahlia.) As both native Angelinos, John and I are muy simpatico, so I like to check in with him every couple months for lunch and conversation; this afternoon headed to Corky’s, a coffee shop with pretty blond waitresses on Van Nuys Blvd. Like Paul Dandridge, L.A.’s been Gilmore’s beat longer than prop 13 has been on the books!

John's a friendly fella
Over potato leak soup and corned beef on rye, the topics of our visit ranged from John telling me about a current crop of interviews to promote some of his past books: LA Despair, Severed (the best book ever written about the Black Dahlia case), etc. all that are coming out in digital book form. The conversation then steered to Tony Curtis. John had been approached to participate in a French documentary on the late actor. Ten years John’s senior, he had met the 50’s matinee idol a few times, when he used to hang around at Universal.  As a young man, Curtis had made an impression on him. He said that he’d met him in the commissary shortly after Curtis had made the picture Criss Cross, where he had a famous dance scene with Yvonne De Carlo, John’s recalled that the young brash actor exclaimed to him, “I had three lines, and those *!#@$uckers cut them out of the picture!
Yvonne De Carlo & Tony Curtis: Criss Cross
John asked me, if I remember an actress named Faith Domergue? She was mostly remembered as one of Howard Hughes’s starlets. He recalled how she was working on a picture at Universal called, Cult of the Cobra, and he hung by the set to try and met her. I said I know that movie ... David Janssen and Richard Long were in that, right? John laughed, impressed that I would no such an obscure B horror movie (and, so was I actually.) 
Faith Domergue
We also talked about his favorite watering hole, Musso and Frank’s, which Gilmore’s been patronizing since the 50’s. Located on Hollywood Blvd., M & F has been the premier L.A. hangout of such classic writers as Fitzgerald, Hammett, Faulkner, Fante, Cain, Chandler and West (and the list goes on and on.)
I didn’t mention to John that my current "writers hang" when I can swing it, is Costo; with its hotdog and Coke, $1.50 combo. We also touched upon places that are now long gone, such as Oblatt’s  (John spoke of meeting Marilyn Monroe there for lunch while she was doing some looping for her final film The Misfits) and I brought up Nickodell, yet another classic watering hole nnow gone, it sat right next to Paramount (it had telephones in the booths that went directly to the studio operator. I got to enjoy a little time there before its last call in 1993.And ironically it was famous for being Jerry Dumphy's joint when he went to K Cal 9 to do the news, as it was located right next door... rumor has it that "Dumph" was a little more relaxed during the 10 PM news broadcast (FYI, I did not hear that from Paul Dandridge! That was just the town legend... from the desert to the sea...) I also remember some classic paintings of naked women that adorned the walls at Nickodell... they were very famous to the patrons of the place.
And John got to here me bitch over the really uninspired architectural design of the apartment complex that now sits on the site of the old Perino’s restaurant, which was located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Norton Avenue. It was were the Hollywood stars would rub elbows with the L.A. gangsters. It was used for years as a popular film location. John looked up and said, "I can see that classic Perino’s sign right now."
Always the writer, John always spoke of the epic novel that he’s doing battle to finish, with two more novels on deck after that. (John used a couple of my photos for the cover and the title page of his last book; Hollywood Blvd.)
I mentioned to him of the some one noir-ish one acts plays that I’ve just written, and how I hope to put up in some manner soon (hopefully this year.)  He liked that one of the characters in one of the pieces happened to be a carnival clown (in homage to the great silent film star Lon Chaney... and possibly the greatest actor who ever lived?) 
Lon Chaney don't play that!
I also, told him about this very blog (I guess, I had never mentioned it before?) together going on my second year.) After lunch we swung back to his home to wrap up our visit, until it was time for him to get back to his writing and me back on the 405 before rush hour, it was a good day hangin’ with two classic L.A. dudes; "three" if I count myself?

Lindsey Lohan! Sarah Bernhardt! Julia Roberts! Maura Tierney & Lawrence Tierney!: Doing Time in Venice!

Lindsey getting ready for the Boardwalk?
Usually helicopter fill the skies of Venice late at night at night, their spotlights usually searching the Oakwood area of town. Well, this morning copters filled the air of Venice, not with police choppers, but with the news kind! All because, Miss Lindsay Lohan, our communities latest transient celebrity was again off to see the judge (if you remember she's accused swiping a $2500.00 piece of jewelry from a shop on Abbott Kinney Ave. ) Venice, California has been a favorite "celebrity hang" since the days when Sarah Bernhardt used to perform and stay in our lovely little beach town all the way back in 1906.
Sarah Bernhardt was brought to Venice by Abbott Kinney himself!
Julia Roberts graced Venice with her big toothy smile for a short time.
Heck, even "The Queen" Julia Roberts, did some slumming here in Venice a few years back. She bought up a couple huge properties on the walk street; Nowita Court. Not many have the lasting power to hang here like: Orson Bean or Dennis Hooper. I'm pretty sure ER star, Maura Tierney's still here? Gotta give it up for this classy gal, she used to hang at "The Original Brig!"
Tommy Fernandez, owner of  "The Original Brig" in Venice; always spoke highly of this lady!
Lawernceo! As they called him in Spain, for a while was to toughest guy in town! 
It's funny, film noir tough guy (Reservoir Dogs) Lawrence Tierney (no relation to Maura) used to live down the street from me for a short time on Penmar Ave. (but, that's another story! In fact, I'll have to write something one day , about the time I took Larry to buy suspenders at the ROSS on Lincoln Blvd.) Well, what are you gonna do? All the celebs want to be cool like us and chill in Venice... at least for a little while.

Cat Power - Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tangled up in blue

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TWIN PEAKS: In The Trees, 20th Anniversay Art Exhibit - Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria

Clifton's on Broadway was happening this night!
I'd like to interrogate this one!
The Famous, Brookdale Bear.

Did He Kill Laura Palmer?
You might know that I sometimes consider myself, well a bit of a private eye, so thanks to great,The LA WEEKLY newspaper (hey, gotta give props when there due) I found myself leaving Venice and taking a drive east (yes, I know... unheard of to many Westsiders) to downtown old Los Angeles ... I was on an investigation of sorts, I was going revisit possibly the most famous murder case in the State of Washington. So what out of state lady was elbowing in on the turf of The Black Dahlia? A gorgeous blond, named, Laura Palmer from a small town called Twin Peaks.
Laura Palmer in LA on The Black Dahlia's turf!

David Lynch's Twin Peaks phenomena just won't die as easily as say, ah Laura Palmer?  On February 12th, 2011, the scene of the crime wasn't a small logging town in the State of Washington, but downtown L.A.'s  Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria. The Brookdale with it's famous rustic log cabin decor was the perfect place to pay homage to the Television show that had a short, but impact-full run on ABC from 1990 - 1991. That night my usual Twin Peaks partner in crime was nursing a birthday hangover. So my sidekick that evening just happened to be a fellow named appropriately enough "Cooper" (no relation and he wasn't in the FBI.) And a little side note; I was actually working as a page at ABC during the time of The Twin Peaks run and I remember doing many a press tour with the show... it was an interesting and exciting time for television thanks to Mister Lynch.

Ray Wise by Grace  Zabriskie.

The end of the line!
"That Man," had fun this night!
It was quiet a happening that evening, when my friend and I first drove by there was a long line down Broadway Street. After finding the cheapest parking we could find a few blocks on Main Street, (and after ducking into the Nickel Diner for a bite) we found our timing was just perfect as the line was now gone. Not to say that Clifton's wasn't still packed with a mix arty hipsters, most weren't even old enough to remember FBI Agent Dale Cooper. In fact, it wasn't hard to over hear the conversations between hipster one, to hipster two, that kinda went like this; "Now, I'm gonna have to watch this show", "Yeah, you really should, it's great."

I really liked this piece.
The evening was an art show as well as a grand party. Twin Peaks inspired art work by David Lynch, as well as show alumni such as; Grace  Zabriskie and Richard Beymer were featured (as well as a slew of other talented artists TP inspired artists.) Hey, they also had free beer (I don't remember that on the show?) so yes, we closed Clifton's down that night (and found our way to another cool place downtown called The Edison. and in between ran into some UCLA coed's who were coming or going to something called; Zombie Prom? )
I hope they do more of these woodsy TV inspired art shows at Clifton's? How about maybe: Northern Exposure? Here Come The Brides, maybe? F Troop! Hey, I'm down with that!

Laura Palmer reincarnated?

A Damn Fine Piece of Art!
Michael J. Anderson in a box.
You Don't have to go home... but ya gotta get the heck outta Twin Peaks!

All this and Zombie Coeds too!
Brains... ah no thanks... I just had some "damn fine pie."
A Mural, Inside The Edison.
Ohhh, this is my kinda Fairy.


On The Waterfront & A Star Is Born, after a rain: Do you know how bad I want this photo?
Hey, you wanna be a time traveler? How about setting the dial to New York City, circa 1954, a real amazing time in that cities history. Well, here's the next best thing. Imagine finding a box of film negatives taken by your grandfather who died way back in 1964. Then when you put them up to the light they seem to be images from all over New York City, then when you start to develop them you find that these weren't merely just snapshots from your old granddad, but photos from a gifted photographer, a true artist, of a time in the Big Apple that was is really golden! Here and now, one of Los Angeles's most respected photo gallery's, The Perfect Exposure has presented these images for your viewing pleasure.

Frank Larson's trusty Rolleiflex.
Frank Oscar Larson (1896-1964) from Flushing, Queens, was this photographer. In his later life, he would venture out into the city in the morning with his trusty Rolleifelx camera. He'd hit; the Bowery, Chinatown, Hell's Kitchen, Time Square, Central Park, etc. He captured images from a time in New York that is almost mythical now. A rough-looking fella putting beer kegs out on a sidewalk, a shot of a monkey through the glass of the studio of the old Today Show, A kid hanging over the rail on the East River. If you love good old fashion freakin' black & white photography (and I know you do!) and if you love the city of Gotham, you won't want to miss this exhibit! I swear that there was at least a half dozen images that I wanted REALLY BAD! (And, if I had some room on my credit card... ) It's truly heartbreaking to me that Frank Larson's work wasn't recognized in his lifetime (how many times have we heard that before?)

Hard Luck on The Bowery
I always say; "that a camera is a true time machine."

MANY OF THESE PHOTO HAVE NEVER BEEN PRINTED, MUCH LESS SEEN BEFORE NOW!! The Larson family has lovingly exhibited these amazing photos as a tribute to their grandfather... and I find that to be just as wonderful as the photos themselves. NOW GO! Tell them; "That Man Ray from Venice" sent ya, heck "Tell Them Willie Boy" sent ya, I don't care! 

Exhibit Dates: Feb. 10th - March 12th, 2011

Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11- 5 PM
The Perfect Exposure Gallery
3519 w 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA, 90020