Saturday, September 30, 2006

That Energetic Brown Fox

Sept. 30, 1907
Los Angeles

Who says research can’t be any fun? I wonder what the WCTU would say about five dozen liquor jugs.

Dr. J.Z. Quack? Not a reassuring name, is it?

Bonus factoid: In French, it’s “Voyez le brique geant que j’examine pres du wharfe.”

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Loud Pipes Save Lives

Sept. 28, 1907
Los Angeles

Members of the Los Angeles Motorcycle Club have written to officials in support of a measure banning loud exhaust pipes on motorcycles.

“The motorcycle club says that it has been making a direct crusade against open mufflers and that all members of the club are forbidden to open their cycle mufflers within any city or town limits,” The Times said.

“We wish it generally understood that those riders of motorcycles making this ‘popgun’ noise, which causes so many complaints, are not members of the Los Angeles Motorcycle Club,” the group said.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Public Guardian

Sept. 27, 1907
Los Angeles

Ringling Bros. manager Charles Davis said farewell to Los Angeles, leaving $50 ($1,026.18 USD 2005) and some choice words for local authorities.

Child welfare officer Robert W. Reynolds spent several days attending the circus to ensure that there were no performances by underage children (The Times is a bit vague, saying younger than 16 in one story and younger than 12 in another).

“I went out to the circus grounds Monday night and saw several children I believed less than 16 years old performing,” Reynolds said. “Of course, I had no proof that such was the case, however, and as the district attorney had warned us to be careful of our cases before making a complaint I did nothing at that time.”

Reynolds returned to the circus and asked the parents about their children’s ages. “I was ordered from the grounds, but Mr. White [it isn’t clear who this is—lrh] came along and, on being informed who I was, gave orders that I be allowed to go where I pleased.”

The children were withdrawn—all but one of them.

“In the evening I came out and saw Manager Davis before the performance began,” Reynolds said. “He told me that if he took off the little Jap the performance would be spoiled. I told him that I did not want to do that but that I was there to see that children under 16 years of age did not appear.

“I stayed that night and saw several children whose parents said that they were underage.”

Davis had his own side of the story—and he was not alone. Davis complained that Los Angeles authorities waited until the circus was about to leave town before bringing charges, forcing him to pay the fine or remain behind to contest the allegations.

“The little ones accompany their parents and are properly cared for,” Davis said. “They receive training in the business they are to take up. Circuses have had children performers for years and years. Anyone with a thimbleful of sense knows that there are always children with a circus.”

“This is the second time Reynolds has taken such action at the eleventh hour,” The Times said, “and local theatrical managers have wired East, warning companies booked for the winter season of the treatment they may expect.”

“Many of the Eastern managers are refusing to book shows for Los Angeles this winter because of the fact that they are treated in such an unfair manner,” one theater executive said. “The prettiest plays are those with children in them, but Los Angeles may be cut from the list if this sort of treatment continues.”

Jackie Coogan thanks you.

Screen Actors Guild information for young performers

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dial Tone

So you’re wondering if James Ellroy called, as he said he would when we taped a segment of “America’s Most Wanted.”

Not yet....

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Sept. 26, 1907
Long Beach

Marco Vessella, conductor of Long Beach’s Royal Italian Band, has had nothing but trouble with Special Officer W.D. Cason after firing him from his job as ticket taker.

On one September evening, Vessella and a young lady were waiting for a streetcar when Cason taunted him, calling him “spaghetti face” and “a longhaired dago.”

Vessella was an extremely popular and respected musician in Southern California. The Times said: “Vessella clings to no past traditions, is a follower of no particular school and is not an exclusive nationalist. He plays with equal facility representative compositions of French, German, Italian, English and the best American composers.

“In addition, he is a clever composer, and each month sees something added to his already excellent list. His “Independent” march, intermezzos “Teasing Heart” and “Dulgura,” his “Ebell” minuet and his latest symphonic interlude “Midsummer,” all created since his arrival in Southern California, are not only seaside popularities but are brilliant studies in harmony and musical conception.”

Witnesses said Vessella fired Cason because he was flirting with the conductor’s women friends. On the night of Sept. 10, 1907, Cason ran into Vessella and a young woman named Mabel Wilson at the Huntington station and began insulting the maestro. Asked in court to explain his comments, Cason merely shrugged.

Cason was convicted and fined $15 ($307.85 USD 2005), but the animosity between the men wasn’t over. In October, Cason accused Vessella of challenging him to a fight.

“The case itself was a joke,” The Times said. “It was a sequel to the piteous complaint made by the Italian bandmaster to the Los Angeles [note: Long Beach] police against the man who insulted his feelings by calling him ‘a monkey-faced dago.’ ”

The jury deadlocked and the case was dismissed. Vessella left Southern California the next year.

He did leave behind a recording of the “Pasadena March” and a number of other recordings.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

The Melancholy Prizefighter

Sept. 25, 1907
Los Angeles

Meet Joe Gans, a boxer whose name once echoed among fans of the ring now buried in the dusts of sporting history. Gans may well have been one of the finest fighters whoever lived—among sportswriters, he inspired long and lofty stories about his artistry in dispensing with an undistinguished opponent. But Gans puzzled the men who tried to capture him in words; not a braggart, nor a thug. He was thoughtful and at heart, mournful, they said.

Gans was training at Lucky Baldwin’s ranch in Arcadia for a match with Jimmy Burns at the Pavilion—20 rounds.

“Gans’ face during the maddest of the fighting was curiously unangered,” The Times’ Harry Carr said of the easy victory over Burns. “No clenched teeth; no frenzy of battle; not much tension; merely the puzzled, wrinkled look of the expert coming to the critical part of the operation. He wasn’t any more angry than a good matador should be while he waits, sword in hand, for the bull just to turn his head into the proper position.”

An anonymous Times writer did his best to render a complex portrait of Gans as he trained in Arcadia, but the story is handicapped by an extremely small palette restricted by the limited vision of the era: “He is not in the least like a prizefighter. As a general thing a prizefighter is an excessively offensive person whether he be a Jimmy Britt and attempt an intellectual pose or a roughneck like Tommy Burns and affect a valet and cane.

“Gans is a meek, humble mulatto with the saddest face the writer has ever seen. It is a puzzling and remarkable face. Someone has written that Gans has the face of an Egyptian or an Arab and not that of a Negro—and it is true.”

“No one could look into the eyes of the picture printed at the top of this group and not be impressed. They are not the eyes of an ignorant Negro and the face does not have that peculiar flitting appearance of momentous emotions written only slate-deep that characterizes so many of his race.

“The tragedy and pathos of his race and not its merriment are written in the deep eyes of Gans. His puzzled look is not the fretful peevishness of stupidity; it is the look of one who sees and wonders why.

“It is as if he were asking why it should be his destiny to beat men’s faces with padded gloves.

“The man who discovered that his face is not a Negro face may also have suggested that it is not a pugnacious face. It is the face of a general or a war eagle; not of a brawler. Gans fights because he knows how to destroy, not because he is a fighter.”

“The writer of this sketch has seen Gans in an hour of great triumph—the day after the Goldfield fight, when the sporting world was chasing him round the mining camp to wring his hand. He was no different. He was just as melancholy and his eyes were just as sad.

“There is no intention here of trying to make out this Negro prizefighter a paragon of virtue. He is said to be a desperate gambler. He says himself that he has gambled away nearly all the money he has ever made.”

The Times said: “Down in the bottom of his heart, Gans hates prizefighting. He may not know it, but he does. This in spite of the fact that he is, without doubt, the greatest expert the world has ever known in the use of the human fist.”

A year after his fight in Los Angeles, Gans apparently contracted tuberculosis and died in 1910.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Our Prolific Poets

Sept. 24, 1907
Los Angeles

A First Day in Los Angeles

Roving, roving, ever restless, drifting
On from strand to strand.

Have I see the years slip by me,
Seeking for the promised land.

From the palm trees of Jamaica and
The Golden Spanish main.

To the gray and sullen northland when
The snow was on the plain.

But today I cease from roaming and
My soul is well content—

For the gypsy came among you and
He pitches his world-worn tent.

But the old desire was silenced for he
Found his long-sought rest.

In the City of Angeles, in the
Sunset of the West.

Walter Adolf Roberts

557 Crocker St
., Los Angeles.

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