Sunday, August 29, 2021

IT WAS 55 YEARS AGO TODAY: THE BEATLES AT DODGER STADIUM 8.28.66

 

Yes, it looked this far away. Or more like this far away. Photographer unknown

It was 55 years ago today: The Beatles performed for 45,000 fans at Dodger Stadium, Anaheim, their L.A. area engagement on Aug. 28, 1966, one day before their final show ever at Candlestick Park, San Francisco. My friend Sally A's part of the tale: "I was there. 'Sat with my friend Heather's mother and two of Heather's friends (Rob F. and Carol L.) What a night. Heard nothing but screaming and faint music. But I would not have missed it for the world. My boys......"

I trust the statute of limitations has expired in the intervening 55 years, so that I may answer the unspoken question the world cries out to know, where was HH?  I was with Rich C. as his mule. My beach bag was recruited to carry his giant reel to reel tape recorder with which he had yearned to document the set. Unfortunately as it was returned to its owner, he dropped it and one of the tapes unspooled all the way down the bleacher rows of Dodger Stadium. Even without the hiss of this very public mishap, all that could be heard later in playback was the roar and din of screaming pubescent females. Good times!

My mother was there to chauffeur us all, it only seemed fair to buy her a ticket. Some of us were quite underaged. Rich C. was Carol's boyfriend, so I really was brushing up against possible legal ramifications as a favor to a good friend who was not my date.

Sally A.'s final pronouncement: "Heather is telling the truth. I was standing at the top of the steps and watched as the tape unspooled all the way down the steps. Boy, did we all panic."

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

REST IN PEACE, THE INCOMPARABLE CHARLIE WATTS

The sad news is true: Rolling Stones' drummer Charlie Watts has passed away in London at age 80 after an emergency heart operation. If you want to honor his memory, some of the charities and foundations that Charlie and his bandmates have supported are Doctors without Borders, Make a Wish, Farm Aid, Save the Children. The causes they find worthy are Aids & HIV, Cancer, Animals, Economic/Business Support, Education, Human Rights, Mental Health.

I loved the book Sympathy for the Drummer: Why Charlie Watts Matters by Mike Edison which finally explained what it was that he excelled at to non-musicians like me. Here are some of his chart drawings acknowledging his bandmates' tempo "uniqueness." Further admiration for his staying with his original, pre-fame wife Shirley, and ownership of Halsdon Arabians.

  

Charlie and Shirley Watts with one of their Arabian horses from their Halsdon Arabian Stud Farm, fair use from their farm promotional material, and with their dogs on their bed, photographers not indicated. I'm glad that their animals made this couple so happy: those are pretty genuine smiles...

A very worthy tribute to Charlie Watts can be found here, click LINK * It's a cool piece about his actual friend Charlie Watts, by our actual friend Harvey Kubernik, 
that was just published in Ugly Things magazine.
 
 
 
*http://ugly-things.com/news/?fbclid=IwAR1kCAZT0s96bi51qkg5HDe--GuZvkIPYfVgw8sM3nTyAzqpu5KGhoas1Mk



Monday, July 12, 2021

SANTA BARBARA HORSE SHOW for gaited and other breeds JULY 9, 2021

Cue "I Hope I Get It! God I Hope I Get It!" from "A Chorus Line." Lining up for the final judge's decision at the Santa Barbara gaited horse show at Earl Warren Showgrounds, a National Multi-Breed show, my photos from July 9th of a four day show. 

On left, a Rocky Mountain Horse hopeful, on right, an Andalusian hopeful. The one on the right needn't have looked so worried: she earned a blue ribbon.

                          

Above and below, Mindy Smith, who trained my own Rocky Mountain Horse mare, riding SG's Singing Sinatra owned by Natalie Hodges, in Trail Pleasure Open, stallions and geldings, for this breed.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Below, Mindy Smith and husband Brandon Wayment's gorgeous black Rocky Mountain Horse stallion Sam's Ebony, ridden by the latter.




         Above, an equitation class of disparate steeds. Below, Tennessee Walking Horses.













 Above, speed demon Hackney ponies in the Roadster Class. Much of this high elevation of the legs is natural. Carriage horses and ponies were bred that way for 100s of years to safely traverse muddy roads. Where I learned to ride as a child over a half century ago had a Hackney specifically for beginning jumping riders. "Yogi Bear" naturally lifted his feet so high that he never hit a rail of the jumps ever, giving these beginners a lot of confidence.
 
Small equestriennes on enormous, shiny American Saddlebred horses.
Above, stunning Andalusian in a class labeled Iberian Dressage Suitability.
Below, beautifully turned out vintage carriage and Andalusian team in "Concours D'elegance" class.


 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

I AM QUOTED FOR A FEATURE ON THE FILM 'THE SPARKS BROTHERS' r.e. a chance encounter 50 years ago...


                                            Promotional graphics courtesy of Focus Features

 

I haven't seen The Sparks Brothers, the documentary film directed by our household fave Edgar ("Baby Driver") Wright but nonetheless was asked to contribute to Harvey Kubernik's feature about it in Music Connection, published today. Here's my observations, as follows:
 
"Noted photographer/writer Heather Harris provides a unique view of Ron and Russell from fifty years ago which is quite illuminating.

“The Sparks Brothers = The Marx Brothers, geddit? Like most of the UCLA community of artists, musicians, filmmakers and entertainment journalists of the late 1960s/early 70s, we all knew who one another were, despite the student body numbering some 40,000 souls at the time,” recalls Heather.
 
“We all liked the same wide nets cast of pop cultural happenings and would see one another at their gigs and assorted exhibits, film premieres etc., which is why I can verify the filmic reference of the initial name change of the band Halfnelson.
 
“I'll let someone else explain ‘the UCLA Mafia's’ future successes in the entertainment world, but what follows is its origin. Halfnelson and Christopher Milk were the two house rock bands of UCLA in that same era, the latter being fronted by my future better half Mr. Twister who was also a widely published music photographer then and containing amongst illustrious others Rolling Stone and Creem music reviewer John Mendelssohn of assorted notorieties.
 
“We all started our respective creative careers while still in university, partly because the ambitious entertainment sections of The UCLA Bruin, Icon and Index (both of which I was editor of in my last years at UCLA) put one in direct contact with all the record companies and movie studios of the era, who were more than happy to welcome loquacious students to freebie gigs and film previews to expound happily and wordily about their product. They even provided us with travel junkets!
 
“An Icon or Index review, good or bad, was after all a free advertisement to 40,000 young consumers,” she explains. “This made all parties, students, musicians, artists and company publicists alike very happy indeed in this all win/win scenario.
 
“We all liked everything new and cool no matter what medium, usually to incorporate magpie-like into our own effusive creations. Which is why it wasn't unusual to encounter Sparks' Ron and Russell Mael at a rare live concert by Greek avant garde composer Iannis Xanakis in West Hollywood. Xanakis was one of the very few serious musicians to incorporate the then spankin' new synthesizer (Moog or ARP) into his compositions. Since synthesizers were monophonic at the time despite their inevitably multi-tracked use in studios, the brothers probably shared a similar curiosity to see how this could work live.
“After the show I introduced myself as a fellow UCLA student who had seen them play live and I asked when they would do so next,” remembers Harris.
 
“They were cordial and replied that the very next day they were leaving Los Angeles for England to further their music careers, which for once did in fact spell fame and fortune, ‘This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us,’ etc. success ongoing up until today. If this isn't like encountering Secretariat right up at the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby, then at least to continue the equine analogy, it's like encountering Cinderella stepping into her pumpkin coach drawn by six white horses and about to go to the ball. Life-changingness ensued, at least for Sparks."

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

REESI ROCCA and MISS JJ in BE THE SUPER HERO YOU, newly published children's book

Be the Super Hero You by Reesi Rocca, a highly positive children's book for all ages is newly available on Amazon, Kindle and paperback. It features an illustrated version of Reesi and her real life cute Golden Retriever Miss JJ throughout the book, dealing with some surprisingly dark issues. Solution? They give back to their neighborhood and concentrate on doing good deeds. Balancing the bad with good is a great lesson for all, and there's nothing preachy or pretentious whatsoever, rare in children's literature. And who doesn't dream of a better life with super powers shared with their best friends/pets?

 

I have photographed and supported Reesi's work over the years because of the unusual arc of her endeavors: no matter how outlandishly imaginative the ideas (Michael Jackson in a flying supercar with her dog and her; music videos with stadium lights and dozens of dancing girls) she makes them happen for real. And how many wildly creative artists can say that? (all photos by me)

And here's her most elaborate video, cut&paste  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnnDlUHgqUE




was it all a green screen dream?

 

 

  

 



 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

PETER BEARD OBITUARY of sorts

 For those who doubt bon vivant Beard's sincerity to the cause of saving African wildlife, today's Women's Wear Daily offered this: " For those who doubt bon vivant Beard's sincerity to the cause of saving African wildlife, in the Seventies, Beard once found a game poacher on his 49-acre (Kenyan) property, tied the man up in his own animal snare wires, stuffed a glove in his mouth and left him there. That deed cost Beard a week in an African jail...
In the Seventies, Beard once found a game poacher on his 49-acre (Kenyan) property, tied the man up in his own animal snare wires, stuffed a glove in his mouth and left him there. That deed cost Beard a week in an African jail."

Bad news not crisis-related...Police searched unsuccessfully for famed photographer Peter Beard after he wandered away from his beachfront home in Montauk NY on Tuesday 3.31.20. Beard, 82, has dementia and was described by police as “vulnerable.” Beard has lived a controversial if adventurous life, but it's undeniable that his 1965 photo book "The End of the Game" was a major force in jump-starting awareness of the doomed plight of wildlife in Africa.

 the rocky cliffs of his Montauk estate...
x

BETTY MABRY DAVIS: THEY SAY I"M DIFFERENT. AND HOW!

 

                                                    fair usage from the front cover of Betty Davis debut album

My take: the world is definitely a better place for the existence of the 2017 documentary Betty Davis- They Say I'm Different. Buy it! Stream it! Whatever it! Its filmmaker Phil Cox faced an EVEN MORE ELUSIVE subject than Steven Kijak did with Scott Walker: 30 Century Man. Take in the director's fifteen minute explanation of context and Betty's own contribution in the special features, which then makes this shortish film complete. (my educated guess is that contractual obligations relegated all this pertinent info to the special features addenda. And then those glimpses of the lady, both visual and information-wise add up nicely.)

She was an awfully important total pioneer to have dropped off the face of the earth without having died. Betty's explanation in the special features of her total withdrawal from the music world made perfect since to me, since it was in our fellow artist's jargon of metaphor. In Japan for a performer's live residency, she welcomed a spiritual hike on Mt. Fuji. There she saw a poor mother monkey carrying around her dead infant. One couldn't tell if the mother knew it was dead or not, but the monkey couldn't take the next step to stop carrying it with her. 

Betty created an unprecedented career of writing, producing and performing her own audacious funk (the first African American woman to do so,) so different for her career era (1968 - 1979) in its authenticity and specificity of everyday sexual concerns of young women. It was so very ahead of its time (way before Madonna, Prince, Lady Gaga, Fugee Lauryn Hill, etc.) that what she had given birth to could not survive alone. And unlike the monkey mother, she took the next step and stopped carrying it with her...

Also in the special features is an all too familiar tale (particularly to Stooges fans of 1972-4 Raw Power era. Ask me sometime to recount my own Antiques Roadshow moment of discovering I had 50% of their known live footage in the universe) of the rarity of film footage of such pre-video, pre-digital artists. It took really expensive, specialized equipment to shoot low light indoor stage film footage then. But I'll save that tale for director Phil Cox to tell. Other favorite moments: her former band reassembling for a conference call to her, reassuring her "The big record companies don't control everything any more. Come back!" plus Betty echoing the very words of another similarly named icon, Bettie Page, who both declined being filmed in the present tense saying "Nobody wants to look at an old lady... 🙁 "

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

ATLANTA NIGHTS, TRIUMPH OF THE SWILL!

 

 


Once upon a time a publisher publicly impugned science fiction writers, so a bevy of science fiction writers deigned to embarrass selfsame publisher.  Three dozen fantasy and sci fi writers under the nominal guidance of James D. McDonald devised a  perfect revenge--their own equivalent of the "Bad Hemingway Competition" or the "Bullwer Lytton Bad opening sentence to a nonexistent turgid novel" competition-- and wrote a smoldering trainwreck of a terrifyingly bad novel entitled Atlanta Nights, authored by "Travis Tea." They did not consult with one another to guarantee zero continuity whatsoever, and let the typos, plot holes, nonsensical passages, grammatical errors and legendary incongruities rip.

Those legendary incongruities would be: characters change gender and race; characters die and reappear without explanation; there's a missing chapter; two chapters have the same number; two chapters are word for word identical; the denouement, such as it can be, is in the middle of the book; and lastly, the most incoherent chapter of all was "written" by a random text generator based on patterns found in previous chapters. 

And the impugning publisher accepted the manuscript on Dec. 7, 2004 for impending publication. Legal advisors to the wacky bunch promptly convinced them to divulge the truth, and the offer was retracted. However, available in print it remains to this day, and all proceeds go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

ONCE UPON A TIME AT ONONDARKA RIDING SCHOOL...

 

 

Once upon a time in 1960, this was the place in the L.A. basin where kids went to learn English horseback riding if one didn't want to deal with that harsh fellow at Flintridge or sit Saddle Seat at Portuguese Bend, Palos Verdes. Everyone else wanted to be a cowboy. I sure didn't, so my begging paid off and finally my parents drove me all the way out there. It was so long ago that there wasn't a 405 freeway: one went thirty miles along Sepulveda Blvd. from Los Angeles to Newhall, then followed now lost highways to the riding stable. The 1960 brochure pictured herein even features this now  unfamiliar map. 

 

ALERT- let me explain what "drag hunts" (second pic) used to mean, nothing to do with Ru Paul! In formal drag hunts like Valley Hunt Club a lone rider would drag the scent of fox or coyote (usually its urine, came in a bottle), hunting hounds would follow the scent all over the land, and riders would follow the hounds. An arbitrary end was chosen. I never experienced Onondarka's drag hunts, but since they kept no foxhounds, I presume a lone rider with a huge head start left markers for the other riders to find over a large hunt field. Activities like this were more prevalent in East Coast Pony Clubs. English riding styles, as I wrote were still in the distinct minority.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For two years I enjoyed a weekly group lesson at this heavenly place (my sole raison d'etre in my dysfunctional family environs.) The horse camp was for families more well-heeled than mine, despite the insane pre-inflation prices listed. Onondarka's star teen rider when I was there was future Dressage Olympian ☆☆Hilda Gurney ☆☆☆

 


 

 

 I wish to reiterate to my blog friends that I had no genuine riding talent, just persistence over the years. That and the love of animals, which the domesticated ones pick up on, were my sole equestrian safeguards. Onondarka (said to be a Native American vernacular for Place of Horses) had effective and humane methods of instructing young horse-crazy kids, so effective that they served me well thirty years later when I could afford to ride under my own steam. Onondarka Riding School eventually was subdivided and paved over, but at least its instructors founded another English equestrian place a further forty miles away called Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village, around the western-most end of the San Fernando Valley.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

CHILDHOOD BOOKS, EQUINE THEMES


Private reserve of my childhood books, all, dare I say, dog-eared and thoroughly re-read. Despite the Arabian peninsula and deserted island fantasies of the first and second books, the Walter Farley 'Black Stallion' series were based largely upon, believe it or not, modern Thoroughbred and Harness racing of the author's era. One gets a hint of this direction in the ending of the fabulous 1979 "art movie for children," The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard with visuals courtesy of the greatest cinematographer in the entire film business, Caleb Deschanel.

Besides the ancient Oz books I inherited, the newer ones also have an equine theme. For instance, "The Silver Princess of Oz" featured the title character's sidekick steed (pictured below.) "Ojo in Oz" and "The Emerald Wand" were both plot-heavy with unicorns.  

Half the alchemy of the Oz series was its illustrations. Although the writing became public domain, no reprints succeed except those with the original or with the best possible retro illustrations which also encapsulate the magic. Most older titles use its initial publication art by John R. Neil, a contemporary of original Oz authors L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson.

All illustrations pictured here are by Neil with the exception of the third one, cladistically placed with the unicorns, fair usage © by William Stout, an always amazing contemporary artist also justly celebrated for his paleontology and fantasy paintings.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 







Thursday, January 7, 2021

HOUSE ARREST PROVENDER: PERRY MASON, HBO 2020 LIMITED SERIES



Screen captures from the second episode of the 2020 limited series HBO remake of Perry Mason, as set in 1931 Los Angeles. Great looking series with unpredictable plot twists, and time travel window into the very lost world of old L.A., where any building older than a year is considered a teardown.

Note extinct public transportation system "the Red Car" trolley in the background which they tell me went from the beach to the next county inland, hence the extreme spread of Los Angeles. Imagine, you could take comfortable public transportation from Santa Monica beach to San Bernardino county. Imagine, you could take comfortable public transportation from Santa Monica beach to Redlands. It took me a while to recognize the red car, seen in this first screen capture, because they had just been dismantled in my youth.

Perry Mason features great ensemble acting and diversity that's part of the normal tapestry just like in real life, with strong women's roles, and the best Private Investigator since Jim Rockford (The Rockford Files.) Granted,the character is a much more troubled guy, but just as interesting and gets beat up just as much! Three of its most interesting casting choices: Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) as a fictional Aimee Semple McPherson character; Chris Chalk (actor/writer/producer) as Paul Drake, whose character traverses the nasty Jim Crow vestiges of 90 years ago; and Veronica Falcon (iconic Mexican actress/choreographer) as a main character's love interest (and boy, does she convey instant acting authority!)

 

You can't beat the visuals, it's like a big budget film. In a place where so much of our history has been deliberately demolished, L.A. as it once was within living memory of some is fascinating for us locals. This looks like my paternal grandparents' daily world. Plus guessing what was filmed where provides extra fun for us locals. Here's a link for the curious *LINK

 

 That's a character weeping on the floor to the left of Perry Mason (actor Matthew Rhys.)

It's nothing like the dramatic but charming, 1950s original television series with Raymond Burr. With no small amount of violence, it's an intelligent re-thinking of the same Earl Stanley Gardner character as a younger man in 1931 L.A. In fact one of the writers placed an insider's joke with someone instructing Mason, new to the law, that "nobody confesses on the stand in court!" which of course was the hallmark of the TV series! This 2020 HBO 8-episode, limited series was much better received than perhaps even the cable network had guessed, with high audience approval and solid positive reviews. It was renewed for a second season, but disrupted like everything else.


My better half  Mr. Twister says the actor is looking in the wrong place for the viewfinder, despite the authenticity of the vintage camera, but adds "well, maybe he could see through the viewfinder of his Kodak (Nagel) Vollenda 127 like that."

 *https://www.atlasofwonders.com/2020/06/perry-mason-city-filming-locations.html

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