Tag Archives: griffith park book

Eleven-Eleven-Eleven

This past week, there was another palindrome granted to us by the calendar gods (Do geese see god?)

Barring the creation of the immortality pill (Will you please get on this, Eli Lilly!), this will likely be the last 11-11-11 we will experience in our lifetimes. (Of course, at the rate I’m going, if I do happen to make it to November 11, 2111, I’ll just about be finished with my degree and the back yard).

This type of timekeeping symmetry is just what I needed to rouse me back to the keyboard to share updates on some of the “DD” posts for the non-palindromic past.

I promise you’ll hear from me again before 12-12-12.

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I’m giving tours at Warner Bros. these days. One of the places I like to point out (especially if I have a graying group along for the ride), is the intersection between the Mill building and Stage 16. This was the place where Pink Floyd’s iconic 1975 Wish You Were Here album cover was taken over 35 years ago.

As part of a new Why Pink Floyd? marketing campaign, last week EMI re-released WYWH as both a 5-disc “Immersion” edition and in a 2-disc “Experience” format.

Speaking of Pink Floyd, 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon passed a major cultural milestone this past June when it charted on Billboard for the 1000th week!

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Speaking of milestones, Deadwrite’s Dailies will pass 75,000 views for the year sometime in the next day or so. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by for a peek.

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It’s a bit after the fact, but October 12 was the 40th anniversary of the passing of rockabilly legend Gene Vincent, who is buried in Newhall’s Eternal Valley Cemetery. My family and I pass by this cemetery a couple of times a day driving on the Antelope Freeway and often call out a “personal Hi Gene” to the late legend.

I learned an interesting fact around the time of the anniversary. I had always thought that Gene had died at the Henry Mayo Hospital in Newhall back in 1971. It turns out, that hospital hadn’t been built yet, and thanks to some great investigative work from my friends Chris Bouyer and Tony Newhall, the real location was found to be what was then the Inter-Valley Community Hospital at 21704 Golden Triangle Road in Saugus. The place is known today at the Hillside Professional Center (and it looks kinda creepy).

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I don’t know if you caught this or not, but President Obama recently authorized the deployment of a small contingent of troops to Uganda to help fight a brutal guerrilla force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA, under the leadership of Joseph Kony, has been carrying out a campaign or murder, dismemberment, and kidnapping in central Africa for decades.

This was welcome news to African activists all over the world, including our friend The West Wing actress Melissa Fitzgerald, who has been campaigning for the citizens of Uganda for years. Well done.

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BTW – Congrats to the late, great cowboy hero Roy Rogers, who would have turned 100 on November 5.

Twenty years ago on November 7, Magic Johnson made the stunning announcement that he had the HIV virus. Magic, glad you’re still with us and going strong!

So long to the Western Black Rhino, which was due to poaching, was declared extinct last week. (When are we actually going to learn to live on this planet?)

On a personal note, my second book will hit the shelves tomorrow. It’s called Griffith Park and was co-authored with Hollywood historian Marc Wanamaker. The book covers the story of L.A.’s “Central Park,” with tons of photos of some of the hundreds of films that have been shot there. Keep watch for details of upcoming lectures and book signings.

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Griffith Park: Born of a Curse?

 

The obelisk in the center of the picture marks the grave of Col. Griffith J. Griffith at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Griffith Park Observatory, which he donated to the city of Los Angeles, hovers overhead.

As anyone who has ever jogged there after dark can tell you, L.A.’s Griffith Park can be a pretty eerie place. But did you know that the park actually exists because of a curse?

The story begins during the Mexican era when the land that eventually became the park was part of the Rancho Los Feliz. Don Antonio Feliz inherited the property and lived on it with his blind niece Dona Petranilla. When Antonio died in 1863 the land was swindled away by a neighbor and his crooked lawyer, leaving the girl with nothing. Petranilla was said to place a curse on the chiselers as well as on the land, which she punctuated by promptly dropping dead.

If the stories are to be believed, everyone connected with the con met untimely ends and the land passed down to “Lucky” Baldwin, whose luck quickly ran out, when the ranch and dairy he started on the property went bankrupt and he was shot to death by bandits. A few years later the property passed into the hands of Col. Griffith Jenkins Griffith.

Griffith J. Griffith, a man with the same first and last names to go along with a dubious military rank, was born in Wales in 1850 and emigrated to the U.S. around the end of the Civil War. Six years later he became a publisher in San Francisco and within a short time was the mining correspondent for the newspaper Alta California. He was able to glean enough knowledge about mining to become an expert at discovering gold and silver. He netted a large fortune which he and his wife Christina used to purchase the former rancho.

Griffith created an ostrich farm on the site, which was run by a man named Frank Burkett. Sometime around 1884, there was a lightning storm which severely damaged the property, but what really frayed the ranch hands’ nerves that night was the appearance of the ghost of Don Antonio Feliz on horseback. Griffith soon closed down the farm, which enraged Burkett enough for him to shoot Griffith down before turning the gun on himself. Griffith survived, but the curse wasn’t quite through with him yet.

Griffith, trying to rid himself of the haunted property, donated it to the city of Los Angeles in 1896. After this, he became increasingly paranoid, believing that his Catholic wife was conspiring with the Pope to poison him. In 1903, while staying in Santa Monica, he shot her in the eye. She too survived, but Griffith ended up spending two years in San Quentin after pleading insanity.

After he was released from prison, the city spurned his gift-giving. It was only following his death in 1919 that the city accepted a $1.5 million fund from his estate to build the Griffith Park Observatory and the Greek Theater.

So, the next time you are out jogging past dark along the park’s equestrian trails, make sure the horse and rider ahead of you are real, and that it’s not Don Antonio out looking for some swindlers.

(FYI – Marc Wanamaker and I started work this week on an Arcadia Publishing book entitled Images of America: Griffith Park. Look for it in 2011.)