Tag Archives: pasadena

“Back to the Future” at 25

The Marty McFly house at 9303 Roslyndale Avenue, Arleta.

I couldn’t just let July slip away without acknowledging the 25th anniversary of the debut of the comedy Back to the Future.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the beloved opening chapter of the time-travel trilogy (and if you’re out there, I would really like to know why that is), the plot follows young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) who accidentally goes back thirty years into the past in a time machine made out of a Delorean. He is aided on his quest to return to the future by his friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), but before he can return he must manuever his parents into a first kiss, or risk never having a future to go back to.

Back to the Future debuted on July 3, 1985. I can’t quite recall why it took me so long, but I didn’t see it until October 26th of that year. I remember the date because in the film, October 26, 1985 is when Marty travels back in time to 1955. It was like I was watching the film in real time.

Back to the Future was filmed in several locations around Southern California, including Universal Studios, Pasadena, Burbank, Whittier, and Puente Hills. I drove by two of the locations today: the Burger King that Marty skateboards past on Victory Boulevard in Burbank, and Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch near my home in Santa Clarita where the Peabody Ranch segment was filmed. 

The street where Doc Brown races his Delorean down (and over) in "Back to the Future."

My family and I visited another of the locations earlier this week in the San Fernando Valley community of Arleta. The house at 9303 Roslyndale Avenue served as the McFly family home. It’s here during the opening minutes of the film where we see the McFly family car being towed away. This is also the place where Marty returns to a transformed house and family at the conclusion of the film. Out front is the tree-lined street where Doc Brown blasts the Delorean off to future sequels.

The setting looks much the same as it did in 1985 – which is what you would expect from a “timeless” classic like Back to the Future.

It’s Been A Long Time Since I Haven’t Seen You In Awhile

"King John" Fischer at the 2008 Colorado Street Bridge Festival in Pasadena. His band "Snotty Scotty and the Hankies" performs in the background.

Everybody has a favorite King John story. I have dozens, which often revolve around his creative use of English.

Like the time he bumped into a man at Disneyland and said, “I’m sorry sir. I didn’t know you were in my way.” Or how he once asked what day it was by inquiring, “What is the name of tomorrow?” Or how when he sings with the rock and roll cover band Snotty Scotty and the Hankies he turns Route 66 into Room 66; I Fought the Law becomes Hop Off the Log; and Double Shot of My Baby’s Love somehow morphs into Can’t Find My Baseball.

Jonathan Fischer, who turns 57 tomorrow, has a condition called Willams Syndrome (WS). People with WS are known for having heightened musical abilities and for being extroverted, polite, and very sociable. This describes John perfectly as he loves meeting people, often employing the icebreaker, “Do you live near a fire station?” In spite of his many physical problems, which are commonly found in individuals with WS, John is one of the happiest people I have ever known.

The first time I ever saw John was about twenty years ago in a bar in Pasadena called The Old Town Pub. The house band, then as now, was the Hankies, and during their set the bass player riffed the opening for I Can’t Turn You Loose. The crowd went nuts as the singer introduced “Dr. Martin Luther King John Fischer Boulevard Junior” to the stage. An extremely overweight man in overalls took the microphone and fearlessly tore through a couple of standards, butchering the lyrics along the way. The audience lapped it up. I remember thinking, “This guy has style.”

Over the past two decades John has been a beloved friend to me and my family and we’ve accompanied him to dozens of outings around Los Angeles, including the Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena every year, where he earned his nickname by being elected “king for life.”

At the time I first met John he resided in an assisted living facility in Pasadena and his weight hovered around 400 pounds. He later moved to a different facility in Long Beach where he lost 260 of those pounds by, in his words, “sweatin’ to the oldies.” He currently lives with his sister Susie in Van Nuys, where we will be tomorrow night helping him celebrate his birthday.

I’ve always said that it’s impossible to spend more than twenty minutes with John and not hear him say something that you will remember forever. We’ll only have time to stay with him for a couple of hours tomorrow night, so if the average holds, we will leave Van Nuys with a half-dozen new quotes to repeat for the rest of our lives. … While smiling.

(Here’s a video of John shredding on Wooly Bully (which he sometimes sings as Willie Bowman) with the band at the 2008 Colorado Street Bridge Festival: 2008 Bridge Festival)

First Link in the Chain: Baskin-Robbins

The world's oldest Baskin-Robbins at 561 South Lake Avenue in Pasadena.

I lived for several years in Pasadena just a stone’s throw from a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop on Lake Avenue. I stopped in many times over the years for a couple of scoops of pralines and cream, which is one of the reasons why today I am carving an hour out of my morning to ride a stationary bike at the gym while I write this.

I was surprised to learn recently that my old neighborhood ice cream store at 561 South Lake Avenue is not just another of the 5500 franchises worldwide, but is in fact the oldest operating Baskin-Robbins in the world.

The Baskin-Robbins story goes back to the end of World War II when two brothers-in-law, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins, each opened an ice cream parlor – Irv’s at 1130 South Adams in Glendale, and Burt’s Lake Avenue store in Pasadena. Within a short time the two men partnered together and started franchising their ice cream stores. The “31 Flavors” motto came soon after which gave customers a different flavor for each day of the month.

The site of Irv Robbins' first ice cream shop at 1130 South Adams in Glendale.

The two men earned many fortunes over the years, and sold the company shortly before Baskin’s death in 1967. Co-founder Irv Robbins passed away in 2008 at the age of 90. Today, Baskin-Robbins is owned by Dunkin’ Brands of Canton, Massachusetts.

Ironically, Irv’s son John is not just another mint chocolate chip off the old block, as he is now a famous dietician who campaigns against the use of dairy products!

Burt Baskin died in 1967. Perhaps from drinking too many of his 2300-calorie Heath Bar Shakes?