Lionel Rolfe is interviewed on AOL’s online local history video series What Remains. Rolfe is coauthor with Nigey Lennon of Bread and Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles, which offers a history of the utopian colony that flourished in the Southern California desert during World War I. His interview, interspersed with historic photos, shows us Job Harriman’s Llano Del Rio utopian socialist community, set in the Antelope Valley between 1915 and 1918. Harriman had run for U.S. Vice President on the Socialist ticket with Eugene V. Debs, and was narrowly defeated for Mayor of Los Angeles in 1911. His Llano Del Rio community at its height had some 1,000 residents who lived a communal life and had homes and jobs provided by the community. It was located in the desert east of Palmdale.
By LIONEL ROLFE
Venice, CA: A City State Of Mind by John O’Kane. Hard cover edition is $26.95.
The traditional happening places for the arts in Los Angeles are two–and it’s been this way since the ’20s and earlier. One is Echo Park near downtown and the other is Venice by the sea. But Venice has captured more of the romance, perhaps because its history has been rich and porous enough there’s this terrible tendency to want to sum it all up, to say what exactly it means. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
After watching a recent episode of the entertaining, but often maddening HBO series, “The Newsroom,” I decided that someone on that staff needs to empty the office fridge of its 5-Hour Energy drinks and brew up a big pot of decaf. No, make that several pots of decaf!
The friends I hang out with simply do not converse in the rapid-fire staccato cadence that the characters on this show engage in. Either start that decaf brewing soon, or have the producers of the show provide me with some helpful subtitles at the bottom of the screen.
Creator Aaron Sorkin’s smart, but smugly self-congratulatory series is presently airing in its second season. As with his previous work, he’s captured a big audience and considerable acclaim. The series chronicles the behind-the-scenes events of the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel. Sorkin’s characters seem to be constantly reminding us of how smart, witty, and acerbic news people are. When the show slows to a comprehensible pace, it becomes one of the most compelling and thoughtful series on television. But the tiring dialogue, infused by its forced frenzy, gives it a staged and choreographed appearance.
By PHYL VAN AMMERS
“It wasn’t Indians that were important nor adventures, nor even getting out here. It was a whole bunch of people made into one big crawling beast. And I was the head. It was westering and westering. Every man wanted something for himself, but the big beast that was all of them wanted only westering. I was the leader, but if I hadn’t been there, someone else would have been the head. The thing had to have a head.” Grandfather’s speech to Jody in The Red Pony.
The Central Coast roughly spans the area between the Monterey Bay and Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. Robert Louis Stevenson’s background for Treasure Island may be the Monterey Bay Coast; at any rate, Pt. Lobos was the location for the 1934 film of the book. Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony,” is set on his grandfather Hamilton’s farm near King City, and the other The Long Valley (1938) stories are set in the Salinas Valley, as is Of Mice and Men (1937) and East of Eden (1952 – in his letters, Steinbeck referred to East of Eden as the “autobiography of the valley.”) is set in the Salinas Valley. Jolon — 17 miles south of King City –is the primary setting of To A God Unknown (1933). Artists and writers from San Francisco moved to Carmel after the 1906 earthquake and – further down the coast—an Ur Beat movement thrived in Big Sur for a time. Robinson Jeffers’ poetry is about the Central Coast. James D. Houston’s Continental Drift explores the dark changes in the lives of paradisiac Santa Cruz at the end of the hippie era. Read more
Boryanabooks is pleased to announce the publication of a new essay collection by its regular contributor Leslie Evans. Titled More from the Shaggy Man, it is now available in paperback from Amazon.com.
On sale now from Amazon for $12.19
Below is the Preface from More from the Shaggy Man.
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Here in this second Shaggy Man collection are fifteen essays written between May 2012 and August 2013. They appeared first on The Shaggy Man’s Place (www.shaggman.com) and on my publisher’s website, www.boryanabooks.com, as well as one from the socialist journal Against the Current. They range from the rightward evolution of the Republican Party to recent discoveries about the ancient Jewish religion known as Gnosticism.
“On the Track of the Elusive Baron Long” offers the only extensive biographical sketch of one of Southern California’s most fascinating characters. I became interested in Baron Long from having written previously on the history of the little industrial city of Vernon just southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Surprisingly for a tiny town with virtually no residential district, composed of slaughterhouses, factories, and warehouses, Vernon before Prohibition hit in 1920 was the nightlife capital of Los Angeles. Two institutions were the cornerstones of its appeal: Jack Doyle’s Saloon and its adjacent boxing arena, and Baron Long’s Vernon Country Club. The Country Club is reputed to have been the first real night club in America, combining a restaurant with an orchestra and floor show. The Baron, as he was always called, was for years the bête noir of the Los Angeles Times, before he struck it rich with a string of night clubs, became part owner of the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, then of the world class Agua Caliente hotel and racetrack in Tijuana, finally ending as the owner of the Biltmore Hotel. Read more
By LIONEL ROLFE
The death of keyboardist George Duke at 67 last week brought back memories of the ‘70s when I smoked dope with him nearly every day.
I had hooked up with Nigey Lennon, to whom I would be married for about a quarter of a century, and I used to go with her to Frank Zappa’s rehearsal space on Sunset Boulevard near Bronson Avenue where Zappa’s Mothers of Invention worked on such albums as “Roxy and Elsewhere” and “Over-Nite Sensation.”
It was a cavernous airplane hangar-like building, a former movie sound stage which oddly enough I had worked in some years before when I was a teenage gofer on a movie about Rosa Parks. Now the space had the feeling of a night club, with an obnoxiously loud sound system and lots of blaring spotlights. Dead center on the stage, haloed by the main spot, was Frank’s chair, where he chain smoked Winstons and guzzled endless cups of 40-weight coffee from a Shop Vac-sized thermos pot. When he wasn’t playing, he was tyrannizing the musicians, which bothered me because I was used to the much more genteel and civilized way great classical musicians work together. Read more
By LIONEL ROLFE
A couple of days ago I was in a deeply melancholic state because of various personal struggles, including health and financial issues and an ex-wife I still love, but it all is leavened with the sense that as one approaches the end of life, the world becomes a much more apocalyptical place.
Sitting here in Los Angeles, I gazed at recent photographs of Nelson Mandela in South Africa wearing a kind of a beatific smile. It left me wondering if he really felt that sanguine about the planet he is leaving soon. I pondered these matters in part because it evoked some powerful links in my own life.
Mandela, as we all know, was a compatriot of another great Apartheid leader–Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who I saw in 1999 at Westminster Abbey in London at a memorial for the violinist Yehudi Menuhin–who also is my uncle. Read more
By Honey van Blossom
(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)
Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat,
And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will, I’ll try it on,
My condition can’t be worse;
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis munny in my purse.”
(1878 poem by Black Bart, a Concord elementary school teacher, at the site of one of his stage coach robberies, that one on the road to Oroville)