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We were shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Robert Nudelman. He was only 52 and died suddenly when visiting his elderly father in Tuscon.

Robert Nudelman in the green shirt on the far right facing the others.

Over the years I've spent a lot of my spare time working with a number of non-profit organizations to benefit the film and animation community. I feel it's important to give back to the community that has taken me in and counted me one of them. I noticed that in each non-profit organization, while most of us donate what little time we can, there always seems to be one or two individuals who work tirelessly with scant regard for their own interests. These are the foot soldiers, the boots on the ground. These people are always there when you arrive at an event, and can always be counted upon to be the last to turn out the light after sweeping up.

Robert Nudelman was such a person for the organization Hollywood Heritage. An archivist and historian, his passion was to stop or at least slow down the despoiling of Old Hollywood by developers. He was an integral part of Hollywood Heritage and the LA Conservancy, organizations dedicated to preserving what is left of the original buildings that Cecil B. DeMille, Marlene Dietrich and William Powell would have recognized.

I got to know Robert well through HH meetings, parties at the Wattles Mansion, and when we did the Afternoon of Remembrance annual service for the Animation community. Robert was always the one clearing away chairs, setting up microphones, adjusting lights and later locking up. His knowledge of Hollywood history was encyclopedic. For many years he was involved with a project with actress Debbie Reynolds to catalog her huge collection of film memorabilia.

But more than that, Robert was an aggressive champion against encroaching development. He would regularly go downtown to attend longwinded sessions of the L.A. City Council,the Parks Commission, the LA Landmarks Commission and the City Planning Commission. Small wonder several testimonials today are coming from LA City Council Members like Eric Garcetti. He would come back with word of the organization filing suit to save one building, get landmark status for another. He would describe the step by step legal gyrations he witnessed in detail so intricate, he could have James Ellroy shouting "enough already!"

It pained him whenever we lost one, like when the original Brown Derby was demolished. I recall he was furious when Frank Lloyd Wrights' beautiful Bandshell for the Hollywood Bowl was bulldozed in the middle of the night. "Sure they say the new one will have better acoustics and you won't notice the difference" he scowled. " But the fact is, that is NOT the band shell Frank Lloyd Wright built, that Gershwin, Paderewski and Duke Ellington played in! Thats been destroyed forever" He vowed to never go back again. He was even unafraid to go up against the Kennedy Family when they supported the demolition of the Ambassador Hotel, where Senator Bobby Kennedy was shot, to be made into a new neighborhood high school.

That was Robert. Every structure was a battle won or lost. Robert once estimated Hollywood lost a third of it's old structures just in his lifetime. " Tourists who come from Germany or China aren't coming to look at another Starbucks or GAP!"

Robert Nudelman told me he once got to interview Hitler's filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl shortly before she died at age 101. He asked her about her infamous Hollywood tour in 1938, when the only filmmaker who didn't boycott her was Walt Disney. She told him that the reason Walt Disney wanted to meet her was not about politics, but that he was still annoyed that his film Snow White lost out to her Olympia at the Venice Film Festival. Walt wanted to see it, to know why.

He smiled his little sardonic smile when he described how Leni Reifenstahl autographed a glossy B/W photo to him: " To Robert Nudelman, My Favorite Jew."

ADDENDUM: Valerie Yaros of SAG told me she heard that story this way: Leni inscribed the photo "To my Jewish Friend" and as Robert relayed the rest to me: "I told her: 'Well, only half the time.' And she said "You are only my friend half the time"? "And I said, 'No -- I'm only half Jewish.'

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Robert and the people of Hollywood Heritage and the LA Conservancy, more of the public now takes seriously the precious antique nature of central Hollywood, and developers think twice before reaching for that bulldozer. A great international city should have not only modern skyscrapers, but a legacy. The idea of Hollywood is not owned by a few real estate developers, city officials, and fast food salesmen. Hollywood is an idea that belongs to the world. And it is our duty to keep it and preserve it for the world.

When the Kodak Center was built on Hollywood and Highland where the Academy Awards are now held, Robert and his friends were looking over their shoulders to make sure the developers kept their promise to restore Graumann's Chinese Theatre and courtyard to it's original 1927 beauty, getting rid of an ugly aluminium box office and marquee added in the 1950s. When the Disney Company bought the old El Capitan Theater, they first wanted to turn it into a 16 screen multiplex. But Robert and the Conservancy convinced them it would be better to go the other way and restore this old 1927 movie palace where Citizen Kane premiered and the first meetings of the Screen Actors Guild were held. Disney caught the restoration-bug and later restored Manhattan's New Amsterdam Theater,where the original Ziegfeld Follies were performed.

Robert, I can't believe you are gone. There were to be some conferences on the Golden Age Movie Moguls on Memorial Day at the Huntington, I fully expected to meet you there and compare notes on Richard Schickel and Neil Gabler.

Adieu, My Friend. You are now stardust, but your work remains- The restored El Capitan Theater, The Restored Graumann's Chinese, The Restored Pig & Whistle Restaurant, The Max Factor Building, the Cinerama Dome, The Restored Egyptian Theater, the landmarked 3400 Cahuenga aka the Hanna & Barbera Building. The Palladium Theater where Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey brought Swing to the West Coast. The Restored Hollywood and Vine. The restored Ravenswood Apartments where Mae West lived.

Johnny Grant may have been the honorary Mayor of Hollywood, but you were it's greatest citizen. Because of you, your unknown and unheralded efforts, People from around the world can still visit, admire and click their cameras at the stately old landmarks of Hollywood.

There is more about Robert on the Hollywood Heritage website on my links page, and here is a link to his LA Times obituary.,0,6704234.story?track=rss
Quiz: Who were the parents of Robin the Boy Wonder?

Yesterday’s Question: What does the name Mahdi mean?
History for 5/9/2008
Birthdays: John Brown, James Barrie the creator of Peter Pan, Henry J. Kaiser of Kaiser Aluminum, Glenda Jackson, Billy Joel, Candice Bergen, Mike Wallace is 90, Pancho Gonzales, James L. Brooks, Albert Finney is 72
To the ancient Romans this was the Lemuria, the Festival of Death . Like the ancient Greek Anthesterion in February the Lemuria was a deal made with the Underworld that the dearly departed were allowed to visit the surface world and you should leave your door open and leave out food for them. This way they won't haunt you and you'll have good luck all year.
At sunset tomorrow the head of the house (Pater Familias) walks through the house hitting a little bronze gong, he throws a handful of black beans over his shoulder and chants 'With These Beans I Redeem Myself and My Family. O Shades of My Ancestors Depart ! Lemuria has Ended!'

1754- THE FIRST NEWSPAPER CARTOON- Ben Franklin in his Pennsylvania Gazette prints a drawing of a segmented snake with each piece named for a colony with the inscription: Join or Die. ( Okay, it's not Calvin and Hobbs but it's a start).

1785 - British inventor Joseph Bramah patents the beer-pump handle. So pull us a dram for a pint of pure.-i.e. I’d like a glass of Guinness Stout, please.

1887- Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show did it’s first performance in Europe. In London the English public thrilled to displays of trick riding, wild red Indians, cowboys and little Annie Oakley the trickshooter.

1927- Commander Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett fly over the North Pole in a Fokker monoplane called the Josephine Ford. He beats by two days famed Norwegian explorer Roald Ammundsen who flew over the Pole in a dirigible built by Mussolini. Remember Lindbergh hadn’t flown across the Atlantic yet and it was ten years before the Hindenberg disaster, so a dirigible was considered much safer than an aeroplane. Commander Byrd won the Medal of Honor and became a household name. A modern biography based on his diary now contends he really didn’t go over the Pole as he claimed but turned back 150 miles short. He was too drunk to tell anyway. Although a former World War One pilot by now he had grown terrified of flying.

1932 – London’s Piccadilly Circus first lit by electricity.

1935- The First Belch heard on nationwide radio. Melvin Purvis (the FBI man who killed John Dillinger) was doing an ad for Fleischmann’s Yeast when he committed the offense,dubbed “The Burp Heard Round the World”.

1937- ACTOR’S SHOWDOWN WITH L.B.MAYER- In a dramatic confrontation the heads of the Screen Actor’s Guild Robert Montgomery and Franchot Tone go to MGM boss Louis B. Mayer’s beach house during a Sunday garden party. While IATSE-Capone mob gangster Willie Bioff stood by to give Mayer moral support, Montgomery told Mayer he had a 96% strike vote from the actors, so if Mayer didn’t recognize SAG as the sole bargaining agent for actors they would paralyze Hollywood monday morning!
Mayer considered, then gave in. Bioff got from the actors a deal that the IA would back off if the actors would withdraw their support from a rival union to IATSE’s organizing the behind the scene’s technical artists. That night 5600 actors and friends celebrated at Hollywood Legion Stadium. Next morning 200 waited in line to get their SAG cards including Garbo and Jean Harlow.

1937- Burne Hogarth began drawing the Tarzan comic strip. Hal Foster had been in contract negotiations with the syndicate over money and the right to his originals. He had created Prince Valiant as a bargaining chip when the syndicate called his bluff by giving the Tarzan job to Hogarth. Foster went on to greater glory with Valiant.

1955- HAPPY BIRTHDAY KERMIT THE FROG! Washington D.C. station puts on a young Univ of Maryland grad named Jim Henson as filler before the TODAY Show. He antics with his green frog called Kermit, fashioned from fabric from one of his mothers old green coats. The Muppets are born.

1960- Dr. Gregory Pincus introduced the Birth Control Pill Enovid-10, aka The Pill.

1961- John F. Kennedy's newly appointed head of the FCC, Newton Minow, did his first major address to a luncheon of top television executives. In his speech he blasted them for TV’s mindless content and violence and called television: " A Vast Wasteland."
What makes it historic is it's the first time anybody had noticed just how lousy TV is and how badly we are all addicted to it. In the show Gilligan’s Island, the boat they were on was nicknamed the Minnow for Newton Minow.

1970- THE MORATORIUM DAY- Largest of the nationwide youth protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam and Cambodia. President Nixon was obsessed by the protests. He had a bunker command post built under the White House where video monitors observed the “long haired peaceniks” outside. Retired CIA director Bill Gates confessed in his memoirs that as a young operative he took the day off to go protest as well as did a lot of other CIA agents. In Chicago young student and future comic John Belushi was dragged off by friends after being struck in the chest with a fired tear gas shell.

1995-Happy Birthday Ebola! The Center of Disease Control published findings on a new deadly strain of virus appearing near Kinshasha Zaire and called it the Ebola Virus.
Yesterday’s Quiz: The largest independent militia in Iraq today is the Shiite force called the Mahdi Army. In 1881 British Gen. Gordon fought a Sudanese leader called the Mahdi. What does the name Mahdi mean?

Answer: In Sunni and Shiite Moslem theology the 12 Imam is supposed to be the Mahdi, the Expected one, The Ultimate Savior of Mankind as in the Hebrew Mossiach, or Christ, Messiah.