A summer Beatles-fest…Looking back but enjoying today

Of course I loved the Beatles from the time they hit the American shore. I sing with gusto to the music that marks my life from about 12 years old until they broke up my senior year in high school. As they moved into solo careers and formed new band configurations I wasn’t always as interested as I had been when the Fab Four performed, but they were never completely off my playlist.

Through the years I’ve met a few people who were fortunate to have seen the Beatles in concert when they first came to Los Angeles 50 years ago and it’s always struck me that it would be a real treat to have that remarkable memory.  I can’t make that claim, but I am still smiling after seeing Paul McCartney return to play at Dodger Stadium, the first time since the Beatles braved screaming and hysterical fans 48 years ago.

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McCartney returned to Dodger Stadium Los Angeles as part of his Out There Tour, an ambitious performing schedule including 41 concerts in North America, 8 in South America, 6 in Asia, 3 in Europe and 1 in Central America. Starting in May 2013 and ending in October 2014 the total  59 concerts is impressive for anyone, and especially for 72-year old McCartney who puts on a fantastic and energetic show.

For more than 3 hours, no intermission, McCartney never left the stage, performing 40 songs, if I counted correctly, spanning his entire career from Beatles to songs new and recently recorded.  It was a beautiful summer evening with the Supermoon as the perfect backdrop for Paul’s verbal and musical salute to John Lennon and George Harrison.

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I could go on and on about all the ways this concert filled my nostalgia cup!  I have many little clips of the concert saved on my computer and at one point I thought about sharing them, but if you’re really interested you can always take a little trip over to YouTube and get your fill.

See this guy?

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Double-fisted video recording. Was he even enjoying the concert? Maybe he’s responsible for this nearly 90 minutes of boot-legged concert. You can get a little of the flavor HERE.

And that could have been quite enough, but this past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles appearance at the Hollywood Bowl, August 23, 1964.

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I wanted to help celebrate, and I’m  never disappointed at the Bowl. My friend Linda and I  had a wonderful evening and spent a few hours together reminiscing about our teen years and the music we loved.

Was it just the music that kept me glued to my little turquoise transistor radio?

I was so happy to see Bob Eubanks and Dave Hull (The Hullabalooer) introduce the show.  I was a fairly average teenager with a love for the music of the day, and I feel really fortunate that in my youth the disc jockeys were such vibrant and energetic personalities, delivering background on the artists and mixing in humor and entertainment that was compelling enough to make the deejays local stars.

One long summer in the middle of my high school years we briefly entertained the idea of moving to Northern California. I was at my aunt’s house 550 miles away from Los Angeles, missing my friends and feeling very homesick, and somehow my little radio, the same little turquoise transistor, picked up Pasadena-based KRLA and I was thrilled. The radio was my friend, and so were those on-air personalities.

Bob Eubanks was responsible for the Los Angeles promotion of the Beatles coming to the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium and in the early 1960’s Bob was a fixture in Los Angeles teen radio, KRLA. It was only right he should introduce the evening’s commemorative performance. And he also introduced Dave Hull–sometimes referred to as “The Fifth Beatle” because of all he did to have the inside story on the band.

In the 1960’s every teenager knew Dave Hull. Oh my goodness! He had a massive fan club and was always up to mischief somewhere. For instance, there was the time he gave out the Beatles phone numbers on-air or the time he stowed away on their plane. He appeared at events all over the Pasadena area, knew all the big names of the day and no one was off-limits or immune to his wickedly playful sense of humor.

Sunday I walked up to shake his hand at a book signing at the Bowl and had a wonderful walk down memory lane with this charming 80-year old Los Angeles legend.

He inscribed the book, “To Debra. You and I go way back! Don’t tell anybody! We hope you enjoy our story!! Dave Hull (the Hullabalooer) 2014

I can’t wait to read the book and continue with fond reminiscence. Do you have a favorite radio personality? I wonder if young people today can even imagine how much fun it was to listen to music on a scratchy, raspy sounding little turquoise transistor–what IS a transistor? Those were the days! *sigh*

The amazing survival of the Asian Sacred Lotus of Echo Park Lake

My previous post introduced you to Echo Park Lake. If you haven’t yet read that, you might want to start HERE before moving on to the story of how the Lotus have survived.

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I finally have the opportunity to sit down and give some backstory to why I find the Echo Park Lotus so intriguing. Much of my current enthusiasm for these Lotus comes from very recent events.  I find the story so compelling I haven’t wanted to leave a bit of it on the cutting room floor. So I’ll get on with it and see how we do!

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You might want to know why this so-called lake is sitting in the middle of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Just a couple of blocks from here you’d stumble upon Angeleno Heights, a unique collection of Victorian homes representing a very well-preserved Victorian-era suburb. Echo Park Lake is even older, started as an 1860s drinking water reservoir when Los Angeles was heavily populated with farms and ranches.

The lotus were introduced long after, in a period of the early 20th century when horticulturists were flocking to the promise of a fertile California.

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There are a variety of stories surrounding how lotuses came to the Lake. I have a favorite.

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If you don’t know the name Aimee Semple McPherson, then you’re missing out on an entirely different story that I can’t really tell here, but as a simple frame of reference she was a famed evangelist skilled in the art of using modern media. She was the second woman to hold a broadcasting license.

McPherson started her preaching career in 1913 and drew huge crowds to her theatrical healing services. She was instrumental in raising thousands of dollars in War Bonds during WWII and her dramatic style of preaching made her one of the most famous personalities of her day. And of course there’s the story of her kidnapping, You really do need to know Sister Aimee!

Her 1923 “theater house,” the monumental Angelus Temple, still sits adjacent Echo Park Lake.

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One of the most credible of the stories suggests that McPherson brought an Asian Sacred Lotus to the Lake following a missionary trip to China. That one Lotus is credited with reproducing by the hundreds until by 1972 the blooms were so spectacular the city began celebrating with an annual Lotus Festival. As many as 150,000 people came to admire the blooms.

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And then it all came to an end. By 2008 ALL the lotus were dead. How could that happen? You don’t really want to hear me carping about the city’s ridiculously inadequate maintenance with storm drains and chemical run-off. Some say there was simply natural die-off. It’s probably a mixture of both.

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Of course you could just repopulate the lake with new plants, but the originals were a unique cultivar. After spending 80 years in the Echo Park mud the lotus were unique. While the city figured out what to do they drained the lake and set out on a two-year revitalization project.

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And here’s my favorite part of the story. While conversations whirled about where to obtain new lotus stock there was one person thinking about the best way to enter into the negotiations and how he was going to tell the city officials what he had in his personal greenhouse. Randy McDonald, a commercial gardener, contacted one of the festival organizers and told him he had the Asian Sacred Lotus.

What? How could that be?

My mother-in-law would have loved this story. She, too, felt that taking a little “pinch” off a plant in a public or private botanical garden or commercial nursery was just fine.  She theorized she was doing the plant a favor by pinching it back and forcing new growth, and if it meant you had a little piece at home for rooting, it was all good.

Randy McDonald had his own excuses. He explained that he watched as the lotus were neglected, and in 2005 he took a hacksaw blade and made five cuts to a leader, put the pieces in a plastic bag and took them home to cultivate for his interested clients. In his pond-filled greenhouses he cultivated the lotus and was able to supply the city with 378 containers of lotus tubers. He also was paid $30,000 for his “trouble.”

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The Lake reopened in June 2013 and draws a huge crowd on the weekends. The Lotus Festival returned in July,  the paddle boats are once again in operation and birdwatchers and artists regularly make themselves at home.

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But the jewel of the lake is the blanket of Lotus that will continue to reach deep into the mud and provide a spectacularly colorful display each year, hopefully at least another 80 years!

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I hope someone has thought ahead this time to cultivate a few spare tubers and leader plants, don’t you? They are now netted in a way as to discourage good-natured thievery. We just got lucky this time!

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Credit for much of this information goes to Kelsi Maree Borland’s article, “Sacred Offering” in the July 2014 Los Angeles magazine.

Welcome to Echo Park Lake–Such a beautiful surprise!

Now you know you have a history lesson coming. There is so much I would like to share with you, but the story can wait.

 I am so enthusiastic about the completion of this two-year $26 million project to revive and invigorate a 13-acre lake that provides an oasis right in the shadow of Los Angeles’ downtown skyline. Oh the history…but later.

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For now, maybe these gorgeous lotus flowers will speak to you as they speak to me.

“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. … The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. … Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.” From Goldie Hawn’s memoir, “Goldie, a lotus grows in the mud.”