Monday, December 22, 2008

First photo! Pacific Palisades' 76 ball comes down

The Conoco Phillips oil corporation sees little value in the classic orange 76 balls that advertised their filling stations, but the mechanics and attendants at Jakel's 76 on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, California, surely did. They snapped way with their camera phones and disposable cameras as workers arrived Saturday at noon to remove the ball, cut down the pole on which it had spun for fifty years, and drove it away for smashing.

A mechanic on duty this morning told us the station owner Frank Jakel had fought the corporation for years in an effort to keep the Palisades landmark glowing. But he said that Frank sold the place and the new owners didn't care.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Grinch oil company takes Pacific Palisades' 76 ball

The distinctive, revolving, retro orange ball, high above Jakel's Union 76 service station at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Via de La Paz in Pacific Palisades, California-- the last town before Sunset hits the Pacific Ocean-- has been taken down and replaced with a waist-level sign on the corner.

The ball, advertising "76," was removed and its pole sawed down at noon yesterday, according to a service station employee who witnessed the surprise takedown.

A local journo noticed last night that the sky was empty where the spherical sign once shined as a beacon above the station and the adjacent Gelson's parking lot.

This morning, we spoke to attendant Zig, who was working yesterday when the Conoco Phillips troops arrived and got to work quickly and efficiently, removing the ball with a crane and cutting in half the pole it had topped.

"Now no one will even know it was there," Zig said. "That ball was an original, it was up there since the station opened in what, 1955? I asked the guys what they were going to do with it and they said they were going to smash it! Smash it! I thought they'd put it in a museum."

Zig realized he was witnessing history. He said he called the local Palisadian-Post weekly newspaper but got no answer (it was a Saturday).

Note to the Palisadian-Post and LA Times: He also snapped several photos of the ball removal with the disposable camera he keeps in his car. Make sure you pay him for his work!

The ConocoPhillips oil company has been on a campaign to remove all its stations' classic orange balls, despite a fight from preservationists.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chris Montez performs for 15,000 in Belgium

Talk about an international audience! Sixties rock and lounge legend Chris Montez headed off from the first location shoot for his new Frozen Pictures biopic for a quick stop in Antwerp, Belgium-- and a sold-out show for fifteen thousand fans!

Chris starred at Sportpaleis in a wild rock 'n' roll show called Golden Years. Here's what they wrote about him on one Belgian site (translations welcome):

"The Golden Years was op zaterdag 13 december aan een jubileumeditie toe: het 20ste concert in een reeks die van start ging op 17 maart 1990. Misschien doen niet alle namen van de groepen onmiddellijk een belletje rinkelen, maar hun hits ken je zeker, ook als jongere! Lees ons sfeerverslag, ontdek de idolen van je ouders en bekijk hier en daar een clipje uit de oude doos. Een avond vol jukebox hits uit de jaren '60 en begin jaren '70, met niet minder dan 9 artiesten op de affiche...

"Chris Montez laat zich voor zijn set bijstaan door de muzikanten van Billy Joe Royal die na hem zal optreden. Ik denk niet dat opener 'Some kinda fun' hier een echte hit geweest is, maar 'The more I see you' was dat zeker wel! Chris Montez slaagt erin om het publiek een eerste keer van zijn stoel te krijgen bij 'Let's dance', een boodschap die iedereen dus opvolgt. En zelf wil hij ook niet achterblijven, en duikt middenin het nummer tussen het publiek om zelf een danspasje te placeren! Het spreekwoord 'mooie liedjes duren niet lang' is duidelijk van toepassing, want Chris mag nog even terugkomen om 'Let's dance' nog even opnieuw in te zetten!"

And they sent along these exclusive photos from the show that also featured legends like The Troggs, The Hollies, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Billy Joe Royal.

The concert was filmed for the Montez doco.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

...and we say BOO to KCBS and KCAL TV News!

At least one local TV news outlet-- well, two, thanks to corporate mergers and information consolidation-- showed up to cover the Tom Hanks Village Bookstore appearance last night. And then ran away without reporting it.

Though there were 200 people lined up outside, five mysterious security men about, big clear windows looking inside, and an important community story to cover, reporter Christina McLarty brags that she had the story killed because she was inconvenienced--- and ran back to the station two hours before airtime to giggle and complain on the station's blog:

Dec 17, 2008 9:18 PM
Village Books in Pacific Palisades
Posted by Christina

So....the store looks cute. But we went out there tonight (mind you braving the pouring rain and crazy traffic on the 405). The story had been set up for two days, Tom Hanks signing any bought items there in order to help a struggling neighborhood store get by in a tough economy. When we arrived, the store had 4 security guys in front of it. Inside, another security guy. I walked in to talk to the store owner and let her know we had arrived and were ready to start shooting. At the last moment, the owner and Hanks assistant said the star did not want cameras inside the store. About 5 security guards against me and a camera guy...we had to kill the story. But here's what I want to know, did Tom Hanks really pull the plug on a story that is all about getting the book store some notoriety!? Ugh, so frustrating. I have interviewed him before, several times...and he is SO cool! He is always a class act, talks to everyone, and even jokes around with the media! So why the cold shoulder? Ok, enough venting, it's almost Christmas so I wish him and the store well : ) Haha

Haha. What a reporter! Her photo says it all...

Here's one gal who doesn't know a good story!

(Insert corporate conspiracy theory here)

Village Books says Hooray for Tom Hanks!

Close to 200 people braved the unusually harsh elements to crowd into Village Books in Pacific Palisades last night as local resident and Hollywood heavyweight Tom Hanks showed up to autograph books and DVDs to raise money to keep the vital bookstore from closing down.

Store owner Katie O'Laughlin tells us:

"We had almost 200 people who huddled in the freezing cold from 6:30 - almost 9:30! He is awesome. I'll send photos when I get them."

Will Tom's industry neighbors allow the bookstore to close because it's easier to send their personal assistants to Barnes & Noble? Will the town that's been home to Ronald Reagan, Jerry Lewis, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann, Will Rogers and Irving Wallace allow this important cultural landmark to fall to high rents and corportate greed?

The fight to save the neighborhood bookstore continues...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A cold, rainy, windy day in Los Angeles

Save Village Books

We've told you about the hard times for Village Books in Pacific Palisades, California, a perfect local bookshop that was a memorable stop on the Tabloid Baby national book tour nine years ago. Big box stores in the area, empty storefronts on the street and other economic woes-- not to mention the quixotic plight of the indie bookstore-- may soon put it out of business. So tonight, Tom Hanks is stopping by to autograph books.

No, he didn't write a book, but he's showing up at 7 p.m. tonight-- Wednesday-- to autograph "Tom Hanks-related" books and DVDs (the ads make it seem like he'll even autograph your Artie Lange book, which was strange but nice as well). He'll attract cameras and press and it will be a rally to save Village Books. Maybe he feels bad for forcing that lady to close her bookstore ten years ago in You've Got Mail-- look what happened to her with all the plastic surgery and permanent trout pout-- or maybe someone showed him what we wrote a year ago, when we wondered why a town in which cultural big shots like him reside can't support a bookstore, but more likely he's just trying to help out in town. Hanks is a local and he goes out of his way to be normal. We see him around all the time. at CVS, last week at Panda Express. The only difference between him and a real normal person is that he pays in cash from a big fat wad in a money clip. One of the kids noticed that.

Save Village Books. They're not some big indie like Powell's. They're a little shop on the corner. And they take online orders.

And by the way, Larry David should stop by next week. Then Spielberg, then Steve Guttenberg, then Kate Hudson...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oscars to honor Jerry Lewis!

American treasure Jerry Lewis will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards ceremony on February 22nd.

Jerry has has raised over $2 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Association through his annual Labor Day telethon.

His role in the telethon was revealed in the book Tabloid Baby.

Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, described Jerry as "a legendary comedian who has... brought laughter to millions around the world" and "helped thousands upon thousands by raising funds and awareness for those suffering from muscular dystrophy."

Jerry is 82 years young!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Frozen Pictures begins shooting the Chris Montez film biography

We've just gotten word that the team at Frozen Pictures has gotten started on a musical documentary film to follow up their acclaimed, hilarious and heartfelt Neil Innes biopic, The Seventh Python.

The Chris Montez Film Bio Project shines the spotlight on the rock 'n' roller-turned-lounge music prince who, as the Frozen site says: "forged an incredible and incredibly influential journey through modern pop music, from rock ‘n’ roll to lounge, Latin pop to jazz.

"Artists as diverse as Sam Cooke, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and The Ramones have worked with, played with or taken a cue from the Mexican-American kid from Hawthorne, California who went to school with The Beach Boys and was still a teen when was hailed as the successor to his hero, Ritchie Valens."

We know Chris from songs like Let's Dance and Call Me. The Frozen boys are set to reveal what we don't know-- like getting him to spill the real story of what went on during that UK tour of March 1963 when the Beatles opened for him, and he and John Lennon got into a fistfight (Paul broke it up). Not to mention going to school with the Beach Boys and jamming in the Wilson brothers' living room under the watchful eye (he only had one) of crazy dad Murry.

Principal photography got underway late last week. They shot at the Deerwood Studio in Simi Valley, where Chris and producer Vic Germano are laying tracks for three Montez albums-- jazz, Tejano and a rock 'n' roll one with Joe Brown's band, The Bruvvers. (Another Beatles and Neil Innes connection. Look it up and report back!)

The shoot will be international. That's got to be expected, as Montez is no relic but in demand around the world. In fact, his manager tells us that right now he's on his way to perform in Belgium. And with fans on the oldies circuit, among the rock and roll crowd, the lounge movement and millions of Latinos, this film is bound to have w-i-i-i-de appeal.

Exclusive photos abound here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kennedy Center honors for George Jones

While the "mainstream" media focused on Barbra Streisand and even made a mention of paedophile Pete Townshend receiving Kennedy Center Honors in Washington last night, the real national treasure who got to wear the medal around his neck is the greatest singer in all the land and inspiration to us all, George Jones.

Congratulations to The Possum!

We were just listening to George's duet with Randy Travis, A Few Ole Country Boys.

What's your favorite George Jones song?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Requiem for Dr. Ruehl's public access dream

A new California policy that takes effect January 1, 2009 will allow cable television companies to pay cities a fee instead of producing public access content for their channels. That means public access channels that provide a daily collection of independent talk, entertainment and discussion shows will be canceled. That means Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D., whose legendary sci fi and paranormal show, Mysteries from Beyond The Other Dominion, has been a vital part of alternative culture for more than two decades, will lose its television base.

Dr. Ruehl sent us this requiem for his dream:

The Quietus of A Grand Era!

Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.

A weekly series! Numerous specials! Wide-ranging pilots! These are among the many and varied projects that I was able to produce over the past 24 years on public access in southern California. But sadly, the public access era is coming to an abrupt end as of December 31.

I just taped my 349th and last episode of "Mysteries From Beyond the Other Dominion" the other day for airing in December. No additional production dates are available.
No longer will individuals such as myself be able to express their creative drives in television productions in a professional setting at a very modest cost. Indeed, the only expense entailed purchase of professional 3/4-inch tapes (recently replaced by DVDs).

When I started out in 1984, all but 1 of my 1st 100 episodes were produced in a small room (the satellite studio for Century Cable in Sherman Oaks) with just a single cameraman and hand-made credit placards that I pieced together myself. Actually, despite my profound lack of artistic ability, those amateurish placards still look pretty good today!

As we had limited facilities, with no VHS recording capability, I could only record the episodes on my own audio recorder. My mother co-hosted the show for the initial six episodes, but bowed out after that, disappointed that a national network had not picked up the show!

"...That has been one of the primary virtues of public access:
to permit individuals to express their creativity and determine
if television production is really for them. It has allowed everyone
who has had even the slightest scintilla of a dream
of entering the TV production realm to try his or her hand at it."

Just as I had completed my 100th episode, the outlet was closed in 1987, but, coincidentally, United Artists Cable was just gearing up its public access facility in nearby Van Nuys. I got in on the ground floor there, and while we bounced around from one room to another, including using the green room and kitchen for some shoots, the production values were somewhat improved. But still, Hollywood was not calling.

When I guested on the Pat Sajak talk show, the segment producer asked me if I was not tired of doing the show after five years, still confined to the public access arena. I replied that I loved every aspect of producing my programs and would continue as long as public access existed!

Fortunately, a write-up on my program appeared in the "Characters" section of L.A.Style Magazine, and a chap (Marc Lafia) leafing through it searching for photos shot by a friend of his noticed the entry concerning me. He and his associate (Todd Stevens) were looking for a TV show to develop and soon thereafter produced a number of pilots of my show.

Unfortunately, none was picked up, so Todd, with his contacts, became an associate producer on "Major Dad" in its penultimate season, shooting at Universal. He showed my tapes to Michael Lansbury (nephew of Angela Lansbury), head of new programming, and incredibly, within a few months, Universal and USA Network jointly purchased the fledgling Sci-Fi Channel which the creator could not get off the ground.

Because of Todd's connection, my program was one of the four new shows to premiere on Sci-Fi when it was launched in September of 1992. This was a classic case of "not what you know, but
who you know"! And I can definitely attribute this degree of success to having my program on public access!

However, despite enjoying the highest ratings among the new entries and Universal execs praising me, the show was not renewed beyond 1994. So I returned to public access where I have been ever since, with more sophisticated equipment involving three-camera set-ups and multiple roll-ins, endeavoring to rematerialize on the national scene.

But with the quietus of public access, those forlorn hopes have apparently been dashed to the ground.
While I produced 349 episodes, and some individuals a far greater number, the vast majority of producers have created far fewer. Many, for instance, have tried their hand at it and left after only one or two or a modicum of shows.

But that has been one of the primary virtues of public access: namely, to permit individuals to express their creativity and determine if television production is really for them. It has allowed everyone who has had even the slightest scintilla of a dream of entering the TV production realm to try his or her hand at it. It will truly be missed.

Personally, I have not yet come to grips with its loss, as I am always researching material for forthcoming episodes, and thinking of possible ways to enhance the show. It represents an essential part of my life which is now being replaced with an enormous void that cannot be filled.

But I am genuinely grateful that I at least had an opportunity to partake of it while it existed.

May the Power of the Cosmos be with You!

Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.

Dr. Ruehl carries on with his popular Realm of Bizarre News spots on the Internet.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

TV news picks up our tsunami sign terror story

By watching this site, you can see how a Good Story spreads. We began by pointing out the TSUNAMI HAZARD ZONE terror signs that popped up along the Pacific Coast Highway. In the days to follow, at least one website, then a newspaper, picked up the story, and last night the story reached a far wider audience when KTLA news reporter Lu Parker chased down the story for the KTLA Prime News 10 pm broadcast.

Emmy-winning Lu, one of the most respected broadcast journalists in Los Angeles, caught the story online and took it to that next level.

Stay tuned her to see where this good story winds up next!

(FUN FACT: Lu Parker was the 1994 Miss USA, succeeding 1993 Miss USA Kenya Moore, who starred in Cloud 9, the classic 2006 comedy from our pals at Frozen Pictures.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Santa Monica newspaper picks up our tsunami sign terror story; finds prospects of a local disaster to be unlikely

Our coverage of the sudden proliferation of TSUNAMI HAZARD signs on and around the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles has spread throughout the Los Angeles media and been picked up by several news outlets.

The Santa Monica Daily Press newspaper today takes the reportage in a new direction. In a Page One story, Reporter Melanie Hanatani finds that the signs are part of a "public education campaign" by various city and state agencies, including the city of Santa Monica, although "the likelihood of a disastrous tsunami is highly unlikely because much of the city is protected by the bluffs.

"According to Paul Weinberg, the emergency services coordinator for the SMFD: 'The worst we would expect in the city of Santa Monica is ankle-deep water at Main Street.'"

Santa Monica Daily Press
December 2, 2008

Tsunami warning signs posted along PCH


Daily Press Staff Writer

Burt Kearns was enjoying a walk to Will Rogers State Beach with his two young children recently when an unfamiliar sign put a damper on the trip.

Illustrating a giant wave, the sign informed the trio that they were entering a Tsunami Hazard Zone.

The placement of the sign was perplexing to say the least for the Pacific Palisades resident.

“I was upset my son was suddenly worried to go walking on the beach,” Kearns said.

The Los Angeles Emergency Management Department began posting the signs along Pacific Coast Highway between the Santa Monica and Malibu borders and in Venice last week to warn of the possibilities that a natural disaster could strike. The signs identify tsunami hazard areas and point out evacuation routes.

The signs are part of a public education campaign being undertaken by coastal cities up and down the state to prepare residents for how to survive a tsunami, which is a series of waves usually brought on by an earthquake.

Many had no idea of the dangers posed by tsunamis until the catastrophic 2004 Sumatra Tsunami in Southeast Asia that killed more than 225,000 people.

“Any time an earthquake happens out in the western seas away from us, it could have an impact on us and the coastal communities,” Richard Deppisch,the emergency preparedness coordinator for the city of Los Angeles, said. “I think a lot ofthe public realizes that it could be dangerous if they live close to the water.

“Whether or not it happens in our lifetime, you can’t say.”

The city of Los Angeles and Santa Monica City Hall are among 14 Los Angeles County cities in the Operational Areas Tsunami Task Force, which formed in 1999 after several studies suggested that agencies formulate an emergency preparedness strategy much like they do for earthquakes.

The task force is currently waiting for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to complete a new map that identifies the tsunami hazard zones. The map, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2009, will allow the task force and its member cities to identify where warning signs should be posted, according to Jeff Terry, who heads the multiagency group.

The L.A. Emergency Management Department is the only member that decided to move ahead with its sign program, Terry said.

Once the map is completed, the task force will launch a demonstration project in several cities to gauge residents’ response to the signs.

The project is estimated to cost about $250,000. In the event of an emergency, the National Weather Service would send a tsunami warning to Sacramento, which would forward the notice to all local counties, which in turn would contact its coastal cities. Each city would then set into motion its own emergency response plan.

In Santa Monica, that plan would entail collaboration between the Santa Monica Fire and Police departments who would send out a mass notification for all affected residents to evacuate.

The impacted areas in Santa Monica include Palisades Beach Road,which is located north of the Santa Monica Pier, and the neighborhood west of Fourth Street in Ocean Park.

But the likelihood of a disastrous tsunami is highly unlikely because much of the city is protected by the bluffs, according to Paul Weinberg, the emergency services coordinator for the SMFD. “The worst we would expect in the city of Santa Monica is ankle-deep water at Main Street,” he said.

“About 99.9 percent of the city is absolutely protected.”

Weinberg said he expects to see similar evacuation and warning signs posted in Santa Monica. The signs could be covered by federal funds.

The office of L.A. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl contributed about $4,000 for the signs that were posted in Los Angeles.

Rosendahl said he has not heard any complaints from residents about the signs.

“The ocean is right there, it’s in our immediate presence,” he said. “It’s a precaution to do this.”

But some residents have wondered whether the signs are necessary.

Kearns, who runs the blog, commented about the new signs on his site, upset about the impact their presence would have on visitors.

“What’s next? A shark hazard zone, a fat people in Speedos zone?” Kearns said. “Everyone knows that we live in an earthquake area and that there’s the possibility of a tsunami.

“It seems to be an anti-tourist move.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tsunami sign terror campaign is statewide

Thanks to the LAist Los Angeles news site for noticing our story on those TSUNAMI HAZARD signs that have that have shown up along the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles (and for noticing us in our first weekend of operation!). They're the first to take our probe a step farther, finding that the California Department of Transportation is responsible for the signs, and is offering cities and towns along the coast a variety of styles and warnings (above).

And Tabloid Baby has just learned that the signs that appeared on the PCH along Pacific Palisades are set to be posted on beaches in Santa Monica and Venice next week.

In fact, the signs are set to appear along the entire California coastline, and have been posted for about a month in northern California, causing Franklin Stover of The Humboldt Beacon to ask whether the signs are the work of anti-development types and if their placement will drive down property values along the coast:

"... Approximately 400 of these signs were installed by Caltrans with a 5 percent loss due to sign stealing...

"The State of California's Seismic Safety Commission states in their Dec. 2005 'Findings and Recommendations On Tsunami Hazards and Risks' that 'over 80 tsunamis have been observed or recorded along the coast of California in the past 150 years, 9 causing minor damage in ports and harbors and 2 with major impacts.' It goes on to remind us of the Cresecent City tsunami of 1964 that resulted in four deaths. Finally, in that same paragraph, the study says, 'local earthquakes can produce damaging tsunamis that will provide very little warning time.'

"This brings me to ask what value the hazard warning signs have if I'm a motorist on 101 and a big tsunami reaches up and devours me and the road with it. In the time alloted (nearly zero) to respond, there's no way to move to high ground unless one is aided by extraterrestials.

"True to human nature, we've known about the risks of living by the coast for 150 years, but homes, highways, a mall, a community college, and a nuclear power plant dot the landscape along an area marked as a hazardous tsunami zone.

"Another thing that the hazard signs accomplish is that they tend to discourage development of those areas. This may be to the delight of progressives who don't want that kind of progress, but it brings up a question of declining property values. Now that these hazard areas have been carefully delineated, could land there be devalued since the risks of living there or running a business are at odds with Mother Nature? Should it be appraised at a lower level, however, economic opportunities within the tsunami hazard zone could be unleashed. Still, one must bear in mind what nature may have in mind.