Thursday, October 29, 2020

“Get Your Kicks…

…on Route 66!” So go the lyrics of the 1946 song by Bobby Troup, recorded by Nat King Cole. Celebrating the road that went from Chicago to Santa Monica, it became a huge chart-topper. When I moved from Indiana to California in 1999, one of my goals was to explore the remnants of old Route 66. Once I got in my piece-of-s$%t vehicle, all I wanted to do was get to my destination and the original plan went down the toilet.

Driving back from Vegas, I saw a sign for the historic Harvey House in Barstow (coming soon!) and pulled off the freeway to explore. I discovered that part of Route 66 was nearby so of course I sniffed around there as well! I can’t say that I'd get any kicks in Barstow…the place looks more like it’s been kicked. However, there were still a number of interesting things for my camera to document, like the murals that adorn the main street of town (once known as Route 66).

I love the rusted remains of this old neon sign that once touted the Village Cafe and Motel:

Like the old Route 66 itself, the main drag just looks forgotten and neglected:

In even worse shape is the El Rancho Motel:

The Yelp reviews are not encouraging:


One of the worst hotels I've ever seen makes the tenderloin in San Francisco look like Disneyland or the Ritz-Carlton.

The ghosts of a once thriving town do remain, like this tile entryway advertising what was once a drug store:

Good thing Bobby and Nat aren't here to see this place.

See more Barstow, California photos at my main website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Rat Pack was here

This vintage color photo shows the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop) standing in front of the marquee for the Sands Hotel on the Vegas strip,.

On a recent trip to Vegas, I was doing my typical early morning photo stroll (capturing the scenery without the clutter of tourists!) and came to the Venetian Hotel, which opened in 1999.

Even though I have been here many times and even stayed inside, this was the first time I noticed this marker at the entrance. Was it new? Had I just not seen it before?

The plaque states:

The legendary photo of the “Rat Pack”…was taken at this spot in 1960 adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip. In the early 1960’s, the five stars were headliners at the fame Copa Room inside the Sands hotel. The footprints below mark the approximate location of where these legendary stars once stood for this photo.

Wow…who knew? The Sands hotel was torn down in 1996 to make way for the “new” strip.

Which performer’s footprints would you want to stand in?

See more Las Vegas photos at my main website.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Temple Tuesday: A TALKING Picture!

Fans of the classic 1952 MGM musical “Singin’ in the Rain” will remember the cameo by actor Julius Tannen. He is the rather toothy man who startles the 1920s partygoers as the speaker in a promotional talking picture. In his slow and perfectly annunciated dialogue he states: “Note how my lips and the sound issuing from them are synchronized together in perfect u-ni-son!…My voice has been recorded on a record. A TALKING picture! Thank you! Goodbye!”

Tannen is the same actor who portrayed Emory T. Hawkins sixteen years earlier in Shirley’s film, “Dimples.” He played one of the creditors who was swindled by Shirley’s grandfather (Frank Morgan).

“If you don’t pay me now, I’ll have you in jail by tonight,” the actor roared.

Where does Morgan get the money to pay his debt? By selling his granddaughter to a lonely but very rich woman (Helen Westley). “Dimples” has a happy ending, but plenty of icky moments throughout; it is not one of my favorite Shirley films.

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Calico Cemetery

\ I crossed another one off the bucket list by finally making the trek to Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, California. Today’s post focuses solely on the town’s cemetery, shown in this July 1961 image, followed by the contemporary shot that I captured one morning at sunrise.

Sunrise at Calico…sounds like a tasty beverage or maybe a Lifetime TV movie.

Sometimes called Boot Hill Cemetery, this burial ground is about as rustic as they come, with very few decorative flourishes.

The cross on the hill offered little protection, as over the years, the original headstones were pilfered.

In the 1960’s, the great mystery of how many people were actually buried here began to be discovered.

Some of the headstones that remained were discovered to be fakes, such as the one claiming Wyatt Earp to have been buried here. All in the name of tourism.

Thanks to the research that was done, it appears that approximately 160 people were buried here, with only about 49 of those able to be identified.

One day I hope to return again to be able to walk around this historic graveyard when the gate is actually open.

See more Calico Ghost Town photos at my main website.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Long Beach Interlude

I had a photo shoot in Long Beach this summer. Although barely an hour from San Diego, I rarely stop here on the way to L.A. I could probably spend a long weekend here and take a ton-o-pictures of the architecture and sites, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t happen. Here are a few I DID manage to snap during my brief stopover this summer. The first one shows the Convention Center, which I am guessing is not getting a lot of action these days.

The harbor area gives some gorgeous views. This is a really neat area with lots of restaurants and shops; it was super early in the morning so I really don’t know how vibrant it currently is during the pandemic.

A look back from the promenade towards the Convention Center:

The stairway from the promenade down to the harbor. This type of architectural element over the spiral staircase is worth the dizziness it caused in shooting this photo.

Long Beach is probably most famous for its long-time inhabitant, the Queen Mary, who is permanently docked here.

See more Long Beach photos at my main website.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Wednesday in the (not so) Wild West

This undated 1950’s image shows early Disneyland. Looks like the bad guys and the good guys are exchanging stories in Frontierland (I see Black Bart and Sheriff Lucky in this one). Closing in we can see the “office” of Willard P. Bounds, blacksmith AND U.S. Marshal of Frontierland. You can also see Eddie Adamek’s trick ropes for sale, strewn in a semi-circle over the counter.

Farther on the right you can see the sign for the Miniature Horse Corral (which closed in 1957):

See more vintage and contemporary Disneyland Frontierland photos at my main website.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Temple Tuesday: Community Chest

This October 1939 photo shows Shirley Temple promoting the Community Chest, right around the time she was filming “The Blue Bird.” When I saw this photo, all I could think of was the game Monopoly. Little did I know that the first Community Chest, “Community Fund,” was founded in 1913 by the Federation for Charity and Philanthropy in Cleveland, Ohio. There were more than one thousand Community Chest organizations by 1948. I would guess that Shirley was doing her part to promote an annual giving campaign. By 1963, “Community Chest” was replaced by the name “United Way” in the United States.

Community Chest does live on though as the name for a gameplay feature in the popular board game Monopoly.

How many of you remember the relief in getting a yellow Community Chest card instead of an orange Chance card?

Well, except for that pesky maternity ward bill!

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Motor Boat Monday

This August 1963 colorful gem shows the Disneyland Motor Boat Cruise attraction. This slow-paced ride was not a huge hit, but definitely has/had its fan base. Guests who just wanted to relax and have a slow leisurely ride around the waterways at Disneyland loved it. Those who were easily honked off about the mechanical failings of the boat and the lack of interesting scenery avoided it.

Since 1993, this area has sat vacant, alternately used as an outdoor smoking area and a place for guests to relax. The last time I shot it was in 2011. It is surprising that the Disney Corporation would let prime real estate like this languish, especially considering its proximity to it's small world and the Fantasyland dark rides.

See more vintage Disneyland Motor Boat Cruise photos at my main website.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday on the Field of Dreams

I recently re-discovered this classic when I stumbled upon the still-in-the-wrapper blu ray on my shelf. Once again it left my tear-ducts dry at the end. “Field of Dreams” begins with Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hearing a voice in his cornfield: “If you build it they will come.” SCENE SPOILER ALERT! From this and a vision he gets, he decides to plow under his crop and build a baseball diamond. What makes this funky fantasy of a film so memorable? Here goes my viewpoint…

For one thing, it’s one of those rare films guaranteed to make grown men cry. Although it may seem to be about baseball, it’s really more about father-son relationships, the regret of lost dreams from youth, and how a supportive and loving partner can really make your life pretty damn wonderful. What man can’t relate to the scene of Costner in bed one night, relating his regrets to his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan), and worrying that he is turning into (gasp) his father? Or at least what he negatively perceived his father to be.

Amy Madigan gives a memorable performance as the rare partner who has both a sense of the spontaneous as well as a grasp on reality, knowing when it’s time to listen to reason. She gives support and love to her husband without making him feel like a fool. So many times in movies (and sadly in real life), her role would have been written as a henpecking shrew who constantly nags.

James Earl Jones was brilliantly cast as Terrence Mann, a writer from the sixties who went into seclusion and stopped practicing his craft to the chagrin of readers everywhere. In the novel that the film was based on, “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella, this part was written as real-life author J.D. Salinger (“Catcher in the Rye”). Wisely, Phil Alden Robinson, director and writer of the screenplay, decided creating a fictional character would serve the plot better.

The scenes between Jones and Costner are fun to watch. Ray attempts to coax Mann out of his apartment to help make his field of dreams come true. Jones commands the screen with every frame he is in, but is never over the top.

Burt Lancaster also shines as an aging doctor, Archibald Graham, who once had a dream of being a big league baseball player.

One of my favorite scenes has actress Anne Seymour as a writer at the local paper. She reads the obituary that she wrote for Doc Graham to Ray and Terrence. It is a small part, but memorable. This was the last film the actress completed. I know at least one of my readers will remember her as Mrs. Tarbell from Disney’s “Pollyanna.”

The tears really start to flow when Doc Graham must choose between a career of baseball or the life of a healer. The shot showing the transition of his shoes is brilliant.

The final tear-inducing scene is when Ray’s father (Dwier Brown) appears on the field. What tortured father-son relationship could resist the opportunity to make amends like this?

My one negative about the film is Kevin Costner’s performance. For the most part, he was the right choice for the part. I just wish that the director had more carefully coached his performance. Too many times he gives off an artificial “Aw, gee whiz, look how much of a humble midwest farmer I am” vibe. And then there are the times that he truly nails the part. It’s just a minor gripe. This film really deserves to be watched again.

Did you took over $25,000 worth or irrigation to make the cornfield grow? During filming, Iowa was experiencing one of the worst draughts in its history.

See more pop culture photos at my main website.