Once again, if you take anything with you from this blog, it should be this: When traveling in a place you've never been before, ALWAYS. HANG. WITH. LOCALS. Seeing a city with alongside a person who understands it and has lived in it opens the city for you in a way it never would if you'd stayed behind the plexiglass barrier that is being only a tourist.
Category Archives: Beauty
From our home at the southwestern end of the San Fernando Valley, we can reach the beach in less than a half hour, the high desert in a little more than that. And in about fifteen minutes, my family and I can be exploring the Santa Monica Mountains at Malibu Creek State Park.
We’ve been coming to Malibu Creek since we moved to Woodland Hills twenty years ago. We go several times a year, and we’ve enjoyed it in all seasons. Each season has its own beauty — but of all the seasons, Malibu Creek shows itself best in the spring.
Located just south of the junction of Las Virgenes Road and Mulholland Highway, the place is a nearby paradise. After you paid the $12 vehicle fee and parked the car — within minutes you can hike to vistas where it’s impossible to tell whether you’re anywhere near civilization. You can almost imagine what the Chumash saw when they settled among these live oaks and sycamores 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.
When we first brought our daughters to Malibu Creek State Park, the length of our family hikes were largely determined by our little girls’ enthusiasm for the expedition. We had to carry them along the trail sometimes, but eventually they became just as excited as their parents about spending some quality time at Malibu Creek.
The chaparral-covered mountains that dominate the park are green in the spring and golden by fall – and have been coveted by Hollywood for decades: 4,000 acres of beautiful scenery within an hour of downtown Los Angeles.
They’ve been shooting movies at Malibu Creek since the silent film era — and in 1946, 20th Century Fox bought 2,000 acres of what’s now the park to shoot movies like How Green Was My Valley, Love Me Tender, Viva Zapata, and Planet of the Apes.
But the production for which the park is most famous was shot for the small screen. And that is why, the Barrosse family sets off along the trail to the M*A*S*H site: where from 1972 to 1983, the Santa Monica Mountains stood in for Korea on the classic sitcom, starring Alan Alda. When the girls were young, a couple of rusting Army vehicles were all that indicated you’d reached your destination.
But once you arrived at the M*A*S*H site, if of a certain age, you could easily recognize the jagged hills through which the helicopters passed and the plateau where they landed. You could even see the path that Captain Hawkeye Pierce climbed to meet the incoming wounded.
Since former cast and crew celebrated the 25th anniversary of the series’ last episode in 2008, the M*A*S*H site has gotten a facelift.
It’s a Jerusalem cricket. They’re not really crickets, and they’re not from the Holy Land, but you might find one at Malibu Creek State Park.
Damon Runyon would have loved it: a splendid day at Santa Anita, the crown jewel of So Cal horse racing.
Of course, Runyon was a New City habitué, following the ponies at Aqueduct rather than the historic track at the foot of the mountains in Arcadia, California.
But the guys and dolls who gathered at The Turf Club to mark our great friend Jim Newton’s 50th birthday were the kind of colorful characters that Runyon would have loved to populate his classic stories.
It’s fitting that Runyon was a newspaperman, because “Gentleman Jim” Newton — and so many of our dear friends who joined us at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, February 16th – are journalists who have toiled at The Los Angeles Times.
My wife Victoria, daughter Eva and I were attending Santa Anita Park for the first time – nearly eight decades after the oldest racetrack in Southern California opened on Christmas Day 1934. Movie producer Hal Roach – the guy who brought us Laurel & Hardy and The Little Rascals – helped to open The Turf Club: the very same swanky section of the park that we gathered to celebrate Jim’s birthday.
We were all dressed appropriately for the venue — and ready for an afternoon of adventure at the track.
In its glory days, Santa Anita attracted Hollywood luminaries including Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Jane Russell and Cary Grant. Bing Crosby and Al Jolson were among the stockholders. Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, and “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek have owned horses that raced at Santa Anita. (One of horses racing the day we were there is owned by pro golf great, Greg Norman.) Santa Anita was the place where, in 1940, the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap in his last start.
Of course, historian Jim Newton was quick to inform me that from 1942 to 1944, Santa Anita Park was used by the U.S. government as a transport center for nearly 20,000 Japanese-Americans bound for internment camps like Manzanar in California’s Owens Valley.
Unlike those unfortunate internees during that infamous episode in Santa Anita’s history, we came to the racetrack voluntarily – and once we beheld the glorious view from the grandstand, gazing out across the exquisitely groomed grounds to that mountainous backdrop – it was hard to understand why, after more than 20 years of life in Los Angeles, we’d never been to Santa Anita before.
Spending the day at The Turf Club made our Santa Anita experience even more special. You can’t find a better place to people-watch between races.
With its dress code strictly enforced and its aura of opulence and classic, old school charm, the Turf Club is a bastion of civilization in a rapidly changing time.
Over the course of the 10 races that day, Victoria and I placed our wagers on thoroughbreds with names like God Of War, Smil’n From Above, Great Hot (an 8-1 shot that earned Victoria $80 on a $10 bet), Camille C, Jubilant Girl, Jesse’s Giacomo and Hard Buns.
I should have bet on Judy In Disguise to win in the 8th race. My rock & roll instincts told me to go with the filly named after the 1968 hit song by John Fred and his Playboy Band (also covered by Gary Lewis & The Playboys later that same year) – but I second-guessed myself. Judy in Disguise won the race going away.
One of the horses was named Ghost of a Chance. C’mon. Really? How can you put your money down on a horse his owner calls a Ghost of a Chance?
By the time the last horse crossed the finish line, Victoria and I broke even betting on the ponies – but our day at races was a clear winner.
And here’s a sure bet.
It won’t be another two decades before we pay our next visit to Santa Anita Park.
Eva is the youngest.
She’s just recorded a handful of songs that she wrote. You can click on her photo – or click here – to hear what she sounds like.
Her mother and I believe she got that smoky, bluesy voice by screaming and crying herself hoarse as a tiny child. (Guess that’s how she paid her dues.)
Emilia is the middle child: the wild child.
For some reason, she’s taken to writing and performing comedy sketches. Where did that come from?
You can enjoy Emilia’s comedy here – or by clicking on her picture. She’s been making us laugh since she was very young. Emilia wrote her first joke when she was four years old.
“Why do dinosaurs smell so bad?” Answer: “Because they’re ex-stink!”
She sings like an angel – and writes with soul.
You can catch her solo act as Ms. Maura, or see her perform with various bands in Los Angeles. You can explore what Ms. Maura is up to by clicking on her photo – or clicking here. Check her out live – or download her album, Reversible Lobotomy.
I was just a young, working class Cleveland boy — two months shy of my 6th birthday — and what happened on this day, 49 years ago, at 8:00 pm ET on Sunday February 9, 1964 became an unforgettable moment in my life.
On that incredible, magical, epochal day, The Beatles – Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — made their first live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York City. There were just three TV channels in those days – and most televisions in America had their rabbit ears tuned in to the Sunday night broadcast that marked the U.S. debut of the rock n’ roll band that would soon transform international pop culture.
Upon their arrival in New York and in the months to follow, I was besotted by The Beatles. My older brother Peter and I would hang out beneath our neighbor Dino Zaccardelli’s bedroom window on West 33rd Street, listening to the glorious, transformative album that Dino’s mom had just bought for him: Meet the Beatles.
I vividly remember how Peter and I listened to that thrilling album over and over, playing passionately along on badminton rackets posing as guitars. Unfortunately, we rocked out while standing on his older brother’s car – and that got is in trouble. (We left a lot of jubilant, rocking footprints on his hood and fenders.)
At the time, I had no clue that Meet the Beatles was actually the second Beatles’ album released in the United States. Ten days before the release of Meet the Beatles, Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records released the Beatles’ first U.S. album, Introducing…The Beatles.
As far as my brother Peter, Dino and I were concerned, Meet the Beatles was where it all began – and The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS 49 years ago was our introduction to full blown Beatlemania.
From those indelible days in February 1964, my life was changed in ways I am still learning to appreciate. To have grown up during Beatlemania is a formative, fundamental blessing that subsequent generations cannot possibly understand or fully appreciate. (Because they take rock & roll for granted.)
My daughters learned to love The Beatles.
49 years ago – my brother Peter and I got lucky.
All us kids got lucky.
Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Christmas 2012 blessed me with a lot of great gifts from friends and family – but none more wonderful than the one you can listen to by clicking on the link above.
My three darling, soulful daughters, Maura Murphy-Barrosse, Emilia Barrosse and Evangeline “Eva” Barrosse recorded a song I wrote back in 1984, with my son-in-law Nicolas Fournier (a talented record producer and sound engineer) at the controls.
Take a moment (actually 3:26) to listen to sound of a father’s heart bursting with loving pride.
And you can dance to it.
Everybody who has ever played guitar remembers their first guitar. That’s the simple premise behind my friend Julia Crowe’s new book, My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords now available on Amazon. In her passionate, revealing and entertaining book, Julia shares years of intimate conversations that she’s had with many of the world’s greatest guitarists on a subject close to their hearts: their first guitar.
A pantheon of guitar gods from Jimmy Page to Les Paul to Albert Lee and Dick Dale sat down with Julia to talk about the instrument that started their lifelong love affair with six strings. Or, in Roger McGuinn’s case, 12 strings.
Guitar heroes like Elvis Presley’s lead guitar player, Scotty Moore; jazz man Pat Metheny; and rockers from Peter Frampton to Graham Parker, Melissa Etheridge and Tom Morello are among the more than 70 stars featured in Julia’s excellent book – the first she’s ever written!
Heck – Andy Summers, the great lead guitarist of The Police, wrote the freaking forward!
I remember my first guitar all too well.
I came to the guitar late for a guitar player, sometime in the 7th or 8th grade. In fact, I don’t regard myself as a guitar player. I’m really just a guy who can play well enough to write a decent song and keep a campfire going with a credible “Michael Row The Boat Ashore”. But even a guitar player of limited skill remembers his first guitar – and so do I.
My first guitar was a cruel and merciless instrument: a smallish dreadnought with thick, inflexible wood, thick steel strings – and action nearly a half inch off the neck. My digits ached and bled just trying to finger those strings. I suppose if I’d known anything about guitars, I could’ve adjusted the bridge – but my damn guitar teacher never suggested it. He was too busy trying to teach me how to play “Santa Lucia”, for godsake!
Luckily, my awful first guitar taught me very well what a guitar should not be. As a result, I’ve had far more satisfying affairs with my subsequent guitars. Some have even resembled love.
In “My First Guitar”, Julia tells a lot of true love stories. Including her own. She’s an accomplished classical guitar player in her own right. And now, she’s an accomplished author as well. Bravo, Julia!
You can hear Julia Crowe talking about her book with our mutual friend and Madison, Wisconsin radio personality Casey Fox (WORT) by clicking on this link.
Just click ‘Play’ on the line that says ‘Guilty Pleasures’ — and Julia is the first hour.
It’s a rare thing to experience an artist of the highest caliber in his element. Imagine being in Picasso’s studio watching him paint. Try to picture yourself on a Hollywood movie set as Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Just think of sitting in a Harlem club listening to Louis Armstrong blowing his horn.
That’s how you’ll feel listening to Larry Schanker at the piano.
And if you live anywhere near southern Michigan, northeastern Indiana or northwestern Ohio – you have a chance THIS WEEKEND to see true genius in the flesh.
On this Sunday, September 30th, you have a chance to enjoy one of the most brilliant pianists alive — Larry Schanker.
Larry will perform at the Acorn Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan. For tickets, click here.
According to the New Buffalo Arts Council program, Larry’s “concert will consist of several three-piece thematic suites, in styles ranging from traditional classical music to classic rock. Dr. Schanker’s original music will be interspersed, including a solo version of the 4th movement of his Concerto for Jazz Piano. Rounding out the afternoon will be a showing of “In the Park”, a Charlie Chaplin short film with Dr. Schanker improvising the accompaniment.”
Let me say two things:
1. Larry’s Concerto for Jazz Piano is like Gershwin on steroids – and only Larry could possibly play it!
2. I haven’t seen Chaplin’s “In the Park”, but I have seen Larry play live accompaniment to a Buster Keaton film – and he was amazing.
I’ve known Larry Schanker since our college days at Northwestern University when he was the piano player who kicked our Mee-Ow Show comedy revues up more than a few creative notches. After that, he was the man behind the piano for several history-making Practical Theatre Company comedy revues, as well as an original member of Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation.
Since then, Larry’s work has run the gamut from Shakespeare to Chekhov, to The Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol, and Second City in Chicago. This past summer, Dr. Schanker (did I mention that he’s a very smart guy?) presented an evening of silent film as part of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Casual Classics Series — and at the Indiana University Cinema, he accompanied a 1920 silent film version of Hamlet.
Yeah, yeah, yeah – he’s REALLY good. Go see him play. That way, you can say, “Oh! I saw Larry Schanker play in 2012 in New Buffalo!”
And everybody will wish they could have been there.