BACK to Blog Posts

VIEW Blog Titles from May 2007


Blog Posts from May 2007:

May 31st, Thursday
May 31st, 2007

Recquiescant im Pace, Charles Nelson Reilly, 1931-2007. We animation folks will always remember you for Lidsville, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Rock-a-Doodle and Uncle Crock's Block. In showbiz Valhalla say hello to Paul Lynde, Franklin Pangborn and Billie DeWolf for us poor mortals.

Birthdays: King Manuel Ist of Portugal –1495, Walt Whitman, Fred Allen, Clint Eastwood, Don Ameche, Prince Ranier, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Ranier Fassbinder, Brooke Shields, Joe Namath, Richie Valens, Tom Berenger, Denholm Elliot, Peter Yarrow, Lea Thompson, John Bonzo Bonham of Led Zepplin, Colin Ferrell

1873- SCHLEIMANN FOUND TROY. German archaeologist Heinrich Schleimann unearthed the horde of gold known as Priam's Treasure in a mound near Hysarlik Turkey. This proved this site was the Troy of Homer and the Trojan War was not a myth but a real historical event. There were actually 9 Troys on the site- from a Bronze Age village to a Late Roman Empire city. The Troy of the Trojan War was Troy number 4. It showed signs of destruction by fire.

1879- New York’s Madison Square Garden opened. Designed to resemble a Venetian Palazzo.

1884-Happy Birthday Kellogg’s Corn Flakes! Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Michigan patents "flaked cereal and the process for making same." He felt whole foods like Corn Flakes could help gentle Victorian people curb their urge to sexual excesses. Hmm…should I mud wrestle Nicole Kidmann or have a bowl of corn flakes? Decisions, decisions.

1901-THE BOER WAR ENDS. English troops entered Praetoria; Boer survivors signed the Treaty of Vereeniging. On a troopship returning from South Africa, volunteer doctor Arthur Conan-Doyle was told by a Welsh doctor of a legend of a big ghostly dog that attacked people on the moors of his home estate. Conan-Doyle thought this would be a swell story for his character Sherlock Holmes. The Hound of the Baskervilles was the result.

1928- The song “ Old Man River “sung by Pail Robeson came out as a single.

1957- Malaya received its independence from Britain.

1958 - Dick Dale invents "surf music" with "Let's Go Trippin"

1969- John Lennon and Yoko Ono record "Give Peace a Chance." It became the theme song of the Anti-Vietnam War movement. Because of this song and Lennon’s support of the Hippie protestors the Nixon White House kept a file on him. Lennon spent most of 1972-73 under a constant threat of 60-day deportation from the US. The Republican who suggested the INS revoke Lennons visa was Sen. Strom Thurmond.

1979- The nation of Rhodesia reformed as the Republic of Zimbabwe.

1984- Martial arts movie star Steven Seagal married soap opera star Adrienne LaRussa. But what Adrienne didn’t know was he already had a wife named Miyako Fujetani and two kids waiting for him in Japan. A few months after this he fell for another actress named Kelly LeBrock.

1985- John Sculley was a former exec from Pepsi brought in by Apple Computer companies founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to help run the company. This day his solution to help the company run better was to fire Steve Jobs. Wozniak retired and Sculley eventually moved on and Steve Jobs runs the reinvigorated Apple as well as PIXAR and Disney.

1989- "Skinhead Day at the Magic Kingdom" Disneyland refused to admit a rally of skinheads, Nazis and Klansmen.

1990- Television sitcom Seinfeld premiered. It was based on a tv special about the standup comedian called the Seinfeld Chronicles. No Soup for You!

1995- A young Mexican-American Tejana singer named Selena was gaining a growing crossover appeal in pop music and there seemed no limit. This day her career was cut short when she was shot and killed by the Yolanda Saldivia, the president of the Selena Fan club.

2000- The first Survivor show premiered, shepherding in the neverending scourge of TV Reality shows.

Here are just a few more images from John Underwood's great book on Grand Central Airport 1923-1959.
Just click on an image to enlarge it.

Looking down Flower St towards Sonora Blvd in 1929. If you know the area you know we are overlooking the Walt Disney Imagineering Main Building where the theme parks are conceived and built. The little house is the Kitter Farm, where the family cooked meals for wayward aviators who dropped in. In the 1960s a bowling alley was there, but Disney bought it in 1988 and converted it into part of the WDI complex.

The Grand Central Airport in 1940 and the terminal today.

Last I heard the terminal was owned by Disney but I don't know of any plans to restore it. Down the block on the corner of Grandview and Airway is a large aluminum shed. This was once the hangar and tool shed for Howard Hughes Hughes Aircraft.
Other cinema inhabitants of the area included Toon Disney, the ARL Research Library, now moved, Stan Winston's Creature shop and John Van Vliet's efx house Available Light.

Birthdays: Czar Peter the Great, Benny Goodman, Mel Blanc, Stepin Fetchit, Keir Dullea, Boris Pasternak, Irving Thalberg, Milt Neil, Howard Hawks, Gale Sayers, Michael J. Pollard, Wynonna

1431- At Place de Vieux-Marche’, in English controlled Rouen, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. She was 19. The Maid of Orleans was made a saint in 1920. Her last request was for a priest to hold up high a Crucifix so she could pray aloud above the flames. When one English knight watched the maid call out to Christ as she died, he exclaimed in grief: "Brothers, we are lost because I think we have just killed a Saint! ".

1821 - James Boyd patents Rubber Fire Hose.

1848 William Young patents the ice cream freezer.

1930- The Lockheed Terminal rededicated as Burbank Airport.

1935 - Babe Ruth's final game, he goes hitless for Braves against Phillies

1955- The New York chapter of the Catholic League of Decency pressured Loews Theater on Broadway to take down a giant 30-foot billboard of Marilyn Monroe trying to push her skirt down.
Me? indecent? Jiminy!

1972- Director choreographer Bob Fosse filmed a live performance of Liza Minelli’s one-woman show Liza with a Z. It was telecast in Sept. and became a sensation.

1994 - Death of Baron Marcel Bich, Italian-born French engineer and industrialist who created an empire through his disposable BIC pens, lighters and razors.

Here are some more images from the Glendale industrial area where the Disney 2D Renaissance of the 1990s was born and Dreamworks is now headquartered. It was LA's first airport from 1923-1959.
In 1942 an army B-17 skidded off the run way and fell into the LA River, by my estimate where Dreamworks will one day stand.

[i]Grand Central Heliport 1958. The corner of Grandview and Flower St was a fuel farm for KTLA traffic copters and later LAPD choppers.

Dreamworks campus under construction. The artists being toured around. Hank Mayo is at the left looking at the camera.

Birthdays: King Charles II Stuart (the "Merry Monarch"), John F. Kennedy, Bob Hope, J.G. Chesterton, Patrick Henry, Oswald Spengler, T.H.White, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Josef Von Sternberg, LaToya Jackson, John Hinckley Jr., Al Unser Jr., Beatrice Lilly, Danny Elfman, Annette Benning, Melissa Etheridge, Rupert Everett

1908- Teddy Roosevelt signed the first ban on child labor in the U.S.

1911 -The first running of the Indianapolis 500

1912- 15 young women were fired by the Curtis Publishing Company for dancing "Turkey Trot" during their lunch break.

1932- The" BONUS MARCHERS "announce their march on Washington D.C.
Men who joined the army during the Great War were promised a huge extra bonus to be received in 1945. But by 1932 the Great Depression had so ruined people's lives a movement was started by a Portland Oregon veteran named Captain William Waters to have a bill in Congress to get their bonus early. Veterans would lobby congress by mounting a poor people's march on Washington. People's marches of this sort had happened before, like "Coxey's Army" in 1896, the Civil Right's march in 1964, and the Million-Man March in 1995. Veteran's groups came from all over the nation and by the time they got to Capitol Hill they numbered around 80,000. The set up shantytowns on the Mall nicknamed “Hoovervilles”. Everyday Senators going to work had to slip through a huge line of homeless men shuffling silently around the Capitol Building. The Hoover government panicked and believed Soviet-style revolution was imminent. The opposition to the bonus bill was led by Senator Howard Vidal, father of writer-activist Gore Vidal and uncle to Al Gore.

1941-THE GREAT WALT DISNEY CARTOONISTS STRIKE. This bitter dispute was the first salvo in a wider war for control of all Hollywood Studios involving rival unions, the mob, the feds, and an animator or two. The picket line and campsite went up across the street where St. Joseph's Hospital is today. Chef's from nearby Toluca Lake restaurants would cook for the strikers on their off time and the aircraft mechanics of Lockheed promised muscle if any ruffstuff was threatened. Striking assistant Bill Hurtz's future wife Mary was Walt Disney's secretary and they would meet at a chain link fence to swap gossip. Picketers included Hank Ketcham (Dennis the Menace), Walt Kelly and Margaret Selby (later Kelly) (Pogo), Bill Melendez (A Charlie Brown Christmas), Steve Bosustow and John Hubley (Mr. Magoo), Maurice Noble and Chuck Jones (What's Opera Doc?), George Baker (Sad Sack), Dick Swift ("the Parent Trap") Frank Tashlin (Cinderfella) and four hundred others. The strike was eventually settled by Federal arbitration and a little arm twisting on Walt by the Bank of America. Many of the artists who left the studio afterwards set up U.P.A. and pioneered the 1950's style.

Striking Disney animators. Art Babbitt standing at the left, very stylish with the open collared shirt and white slacks.

1942- JOHN BARRYMORE- The great dramatic actor, the first American to dare to play Hamlet in England, died of alcoholism at age 46. Whether the infamous prank actually happened where Raoul Walsh, Bertholdt Brecht, Peter Lorre, W.C. Fields and some others (the"Bundy Drive Boys") kidnapped Barrymore's body from Pierce Brothers Funeral Home and propped it up at the poker table to scare the willys out of Errol Flynn is a matter of debate. Flynn and Paul Heinried said it was true, writer Gene Fowler said it was false. The Barrymore family has a history of brilliant acting and alcoholism. Barrymore's father and grandfather were famous actors who drank themselves to death. His daughter Diana overdosed on sleeping pills and his son John Drew Barrymore just barely saved himself from drugs in the 1960s and dropped out of show business. His granddaughter Drew Barrymore started drugs and liquor at age 9 and was a recovered alcoholic by 17.
John Barrymore's last words were to screenwriter Gene Fowler:
"Say Gene, isn't it true you are an illegitimate son of Buffalo Bill?"

1942- Bing Crosby records "White Christmas," debatably the greatest selling record to date. In 1975 the song was played over Saigon radio as a code signal to US forces that the helicopters were coming to evacuate personnel from the US Embassy.

1952- Edmund Hillary and Sherpa guide Tenzing Norga become first men to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

1954- New York Police raid the studio of Irving Klaw, the photographer of the Betty Page kinky pin-up photos. Klaw tried to appeal to the Supreme Court but couldn’t get a hearing.

1956- Hollywood director James Whale (Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man) drowned himself in his pool. His career was over and his health was deteriorating from a series of strokes. Bruises were found on his head and at first the public suspected foul play. It wasn’t until 1989 his gay lover made his suicide note public. His head had struck the pool’s bottom as he jumped in causing the bruise.

1973 - Columbia Records fires president Clive Davis for misappropriating $100,000 in funds, Davis will start Arista records

1978 - Bob Crane, actor (Donna Reed Show, Hogan-Hogan's Heroes), died at 49 under mysterious circumstances. He was found bludgeoned to death in a Tucson hotel room surrounded by pornography. Its been whispered that the murder was not robbery but a sado-masochistic session that went wrong.

1987 –Eccentric pop singer Michael Jackson attempts to buy the nineteenth century remains of Joseph Meredith a.k.a. the Elephant Man.

1999- Hikers in Malibu California discover the remains of Phillip Taylor the bass guitar player of the 60’s band Iron Butterfly. The musician had disappeared four years before. Now his skeleton was found sitting in his Ford Aerostar at the bottom of a steep ravine.

When I first started working for Walt Disney back in LA ( I had started in London working on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)I began working not on the main lot, but in some converted warehouses five miles away in Glendale. Disney Feature Animation had been moved there in 1984 and stayed until the Robert Stern building, known as the Hat Building, was built in 1995. Disney Imagineering had been headquartered there since the 1960s, the oldest building there called the Maypo building, for Mary Poppins.

click on image to enlarge

During my sojourn there I noticed a curious art-deco tower near one of our buildings. We called it the Casablanca Tower, under the impression that the farewell sequence of the famous Humphrey Bogart film had been shot there. That sequence was shot mostly on a Warner soundstage and the only exterior scene needing an airport-when Nazi Major Strasser arrived and was welcomed by Captain Renault, was actually shot at neighboring Van Nuys airport.

It turns out our antique tower belonged to Los Angeles' original airport- Grand Central Terminal. Build by L.C. Brand, mogul who also created the Brand Library. From 1923 until it was closed in 1959 it was the landing point for the great transcontinental Ford Tri-Motors and the terminal of movie stars, moguls and politicians. Cecil B. Demille, Amelia Earhardt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and Will Rogers walked it's tarmack. Howard Hughes took off from there in experimental monoplanes to try to break air speed records. A zeppelin airship called the Spirit of Glendale was once moored there.

Grand Central Airport in 1930, image courtesy of John Underwood and Arcadia Publishing
If you know the area I'm speaking of, Airway Street was the road to the terminal, Grand Central Ave. was the runway. When the airport was closed in 1959 the only remaining facility was a heliport where KTLA's traffic helicopters would refuel. In 1997 this land was used to build Dreamworks.

Amelia Earhardt at the terminal after crossing the country in an Pitcairn AutoGyro-1931

Pat got me this wonderful book recently by John Underwood entitled Grand Central Air Terminal as part of the Spirit of Aviation series of books for Arcadia publishing., 2006. It is richly illustrated and I reccomend anyone interested in, Hollywood or aviation history to pick one up.

1420 Flower St. entrance now bricked up. In this building Disney animators created Oliver & Company, the Little Mermaid, Mickey's Prince and the Pauper and Aladdin.

The Hart-Dannon Building(named for the previous tenants), where we created the Lion King and Pocahontas.

the Sorbus Building on Flower St, where we planned much of Fantasia 2000 and Dinosaurs.

The old tower terminal next to the building 1400 Airway, where we did parts of Roger Rabbit, Tummy Trouble, and Beauty and the Beast.

One of the truisms you learn when you come to LA is how much of the real magic of the movies is done hidden behind ugly, faceless walls in bland industrial neighborhoods. The glamour is reserved for the screen, studios just need lots of cheap industrial space.

After the success of Lion King, CEO Michael Eisner toured our warehouse studios and commented:" Gee, you guys do such beautiful stuff and I got you in such a dump!" They moved Feature Anim to the Hat Building and the rest, as we history.

Birthdays: Solomon -970BC-?, Noah Webster, Dr. Joseph Guillotine, Ian Fleming the creator of James Bond, Jim Thorpe, The Dion Identical Quintuplets 1930, Gladys Knight, Jerry West, Dietrich Fisher-Deiskau, Sandra Locke, T-Bone Walker, John Fogarty


For those who are curious why America celebrates Memorial Day in May instead of November 11th like most of Europe and Canada, it is because of our Civil War.
The main Confederate field armies surrendered in early April; it took this long to stop the final hostilities, the final action happening on May 27th. Once the countryside was finally at peace, the U.S. government declared a Day of Remembrance of the fallen. An abolitionist named James Redpath began having black children in South Carolina decorate the graves of fallen union soldiers with flowers. The early name of this holiday was Decoration Day.
In rebel strongholds like Mississippi children decorated the graves of Southern dead but had to be forced at bayonet point to decorate the graves of Yankees.

1941- THE WALT DISNEY STRIKE- Labor pressures had been building in the Magic Kingdom since promises made to artists over the success of Snow White were reneged on and Walt Disney’s lawyer Gunther Lessing encouraged a hard line with his employees. On this day, in defiance of federal law, Walt Disney fired animator Art Babbitt ,the creator of Goofy, and thirteen other cartoonists for demanding a union. Babbitt had emerged as the union movements’ leader. He has studio security officers escort Babbitt off the lot (a custom that still happens today.). That night in an emergency meeting of the Cartoonists Guild, Art’s assistant on Fantasia, Bill Hurtz, made a motion to strike and it is unanimously accepted. Bill Hurtz will later go on to direct award winning cartoons like UPA’s "Unicorn in the Garden" and the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Picket lines go up next day in cartoon animation’s own version of the Civil War.
Walt Disney nearly had a nervous breakdown over the strike and a federal mediator was sent by Washington to arbitrate. In later years, Uncle Walt blamed the studio’s labor ills on Communists. The studio unionized but hard feelings remained down to this very day.

1954- Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 3D premiered.

1960- George Zucco, 60, a character actor who specialized in horror movies like Blood from the Mummies Hand, died of fright in a mental hospital in San Gabriel California. He was convinced that H.P. Lovecraft's Great God Cthulu was after him.

1977- As was the practice at the time, after opening in a few select theaters, this day George Lucas film Star Wars went into wide release.

1981- The Bambi Murders- Police hunt Playboy Bunny Bambi Bemenek for shooting her husband’s ex-wife in Milwaukee. She was captured but escaped prison in 1990. Just follow the little stiletto high heel footprints.

1987- A young German student named Matthias Rust rented a small Cessna airplane in Helsinki and flying low to avoid radar, flew into the heart of the Soviet Union. Evading a forest of missiles, jet interceptors and anti-aircraft weapons, he put his plane down smack in the middle of Red Square in the Kremlin. The ensuing furor and humiliation cost many Russian generals their jobs.

1998- After a dinner at the Encino Italian restaurant Buca Di Beppo, Saturday Night Live comedian Phil Hartman was shot to death by his wife Brynne as he slept. She was a heavy drinker and pill user. At 6:00 AM as the LAPD were knocking Brynne turned the gun on herself.

2005- The great London clock Big Ben mysteriously stopped ticking for 45 minutes.

May 27, 2007 sun
May 27th, 2007

Birthdays: James 'Wild Bill' Hickock, Julia Ward Howe, Aemelia Jenks-Bloomer, Dashell Hammett, Vincent Price, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Leopold Goldowsky- the inventor of Kodachrome film, Hubert Horatio Humphrey the Happy Warrior, Herman Wouk, Christopher Lee, Rachael Carson, Harlan Ellison, Joseph Feinnes.

1930- Mr. Richard Drew of Saint Paul Minnesota invented cellophane tape, marketed by the 3M Company under the brand name Scotch. Three years later Drew invented Masking Tape as a way for car manufacturers to paint cars in two tones.

1933- Disney’s cartoon“The Three Little Pigs” premieres, whose song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” becomes a national anthem of recovery from the Depression.

It was also a favorite song of Adolph Hitler. Napoleon liked to whistle' Malbrouk seva'ton Guerre', the French version of 'The Bear Went Over the Mountain'- I'm not sure what Stalin's favorite song was but I know he loved Busby Berkely musicals like 42nd Street and Footlight Parade. Director of the short Burt Gillette left Disney afterwards to run the Van Beuren Studio in New York. After that studio closed he returned to Disney to a diminished career.

1935- The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Franklin Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act (The NRA) program. Roosevelt responds by stacking the court with judges more to his liking. He angrily referred to them as 'The Nine Old Men', a sobriquet Walt Disney would later borrow for his animators.

1937- San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opens.

1949- Actress Rita Hayworth married Arab playboy Prince Aly Khan.

1961 - 1st black light is sold

1969 - Walt Disney World construction in Orlando begins.

1977-The Sex Pistols release their single God Save the Queen, the Fascist Regime, in time for the Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee year.

1995- Actor Christopher Reeve was left paralyzed from the neck down after falling from his horse in an equestrian event in Charlottesville, Va.