All posts for the month August, 2010

I remember watching the Emmys years ago, seeing an actress accept her award by gushing something to the effect of thanking “the people of this town for your support.”  A few minutes later, David Letterman, either as host or winner, dryly wondered aloud whether when she referred to the people of “this town,” she was referring to Hollywood… or to Pasadena?

From 1977 to 1997, the Primetime Emmys were held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.  Between 1998 and 2001, Pasadena was relegated to the Creative Arts Emmys.  Now, there are none handed out here at all.  The awards are coming up this weekend and I thought we could take a look back at some great Pasadena Emmy moments.

So let’s take our Emmy time machine to that magical decade known as the 80’s and see the glamour on the red carpet on Green Street.

Not much has changed at the Auditorium since 1980.  Though the area around it is quite different these days, now that the new convention center next door is complete.  Let’s run across the street and watch the stars as they arrive…

Why there’s Danny Glover in 1985.  And what’s that behind him?  It IS!  The Plaza Pasadena mall, replaced by the Paseo!

Could anyone outdo Danny’s fabulous outfit?  Of course Betty White can.  There she is, sassy as always, nominated for her role on “Saturday Night Live.”  I mean “The Golden Girls.”  Jamie Lee Curtis has a warm glow around her.  And there’s Fred Savage, and Tim Reid!  All from 1989.

Let’s sneak inside…

The 1980 set design is definitely pre-high-def.

But I don’t want to miss the action out front.  Back outside we go…

What happened?!  Our time machine seems to have malfunctioned and taken us back to 1932.  These unidentified young ladies happened by a construction site and posed for a picture in front of the nearly completed building.  Just look at them there.  What riffraff.  What commoners.  They don’t know the meaning of well-dressed or style or glamour.

At last.  Back to the 80’s.  I’ll leave you with some well-dressed celebrities arriving in their Emmy finest for television’s most important night.  What style!  What glamour!

Happy Emmy watching!

The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards.  Sunday Aug. 29, 8:00ET (5:00PT), NBC.

(Images from the LA Public Library Photo Collection)

Pasadena’s Memorial Park is has all kinds of interesting treasures hidden around it.  The park is basically in Old Town, and the Gold Line stops right next to it.  If you haven’t explored Memorial Park, here are 5 things to see you may not know were there:

1.  Civil War Memorial (1906)

2.  Vietnam Veterans Memorial (2004)

Originally dedicated in 1993 at City Hall, it was rededicated in the park nine years later.  Inscribed on the granite are the names of the 31 Pasadena men killed during the Vietnam war.

3. Miniature Pasadena Train Station Playground

I don’t know when this playground was built or the story behind it, but stumbling upon it inspired me to write this entry.

Bult in 1935, Pasadena’s actual Santa Fe depot was shuttered in the early 90’s.  It was moved, integrated into the Del Mar Station development, restored, and now houses La Grande Orange Café.  Lots more on the station here. (Photo via

4.  Memorial Library Arch (1955)

Pasadena’s public library was erected on this spot in 1890.  The building was damaged in the Long Beach earthquake of 1933 and was demolished in 1954.  The archway was restored in 1955 but was subsequently damaged during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  It’s been fenced off ever since, and is an unfortunate exhibit of of crumbling bricks and pigeon guano.  Here’s the accompanying plaque:

5.  A show at Levitt Pavilion (1930’s)

New York philanthropist Mortimer Levitt made his fortune selling custom made shirts at his nationwide chain of stores.  The Levitt Foundation he created in 1966 has restored and endowed several open air bandshells around the country through public-private partnerships to bring free live music to the community during the summer.  Since 2002, the Levitt Pavilion Pasadena has featured music and children’s shows five nights a week from June through August.

Soul Funk’s Motown Revue on August 12, 2010.

Lorene Yarnell, half of the mime team Shields and Yarnell has died.  Some of my early memories of TV were of them doing their robot act.  According to the LA Times obituary, she got her start as a dancer on variety shows before marrying and collaborating with street mime Robert Shields.  She also played the robot Dot Matrix in Spaceballs (voiced by Joan Rivers).

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Here she is doing what she wasn’t famous for.
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Shields and Yarnell doing what they did best.

I didn’t know until I stumbled across this today that Liza Minnelli collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys in 1989 to produce her album Results.  And the song “Losing My Mind,” originally from Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 show Follies was a bit of a hit.  (Warning: If you don’t like watching ironically posted videos of pop culture train wrecks, skip to the last video right now…)

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Here’s Ms. Minnelli performing live with the Pet Shop Boys.  For some reason, the BBC director is fixated on their adding machines.

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A live Pet Shop Boys show from 1991 without Liza.  I don’t think the people on the leashes were in the original musical.

There are about 75 others clips on Youtube of various “live” performances of this song, as well as a horrid music video.

This is all evidence that, among other things, the 80’s were not kind to women’s fashion and hair styles.  Or men’s fashion and hair styles for that matter.  I’ll be burning my high school yearbook now.

I love Liza Minnelli and like the Pet Shop Boys, but for some reason, I have a tough time getting into this version of the song.

Directed by Harold Prince and Michael Bennett, Stephen Sondheim’s Follies opened on Broadway in 1971.  Though not a commercial success at the time, it’s regarded in retrospect as a groundbreaking work of musical theatre.  It’s a is a show about middle aged adults reliving their years of missed opportunities and bad decisions with bitterness and regret.  Dorothy Collins created the role of Sally and was nominated for a Tony.  Here she is singing “Losing My Mind” around what appears to be some time during the original run:

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Now THIS is how it’s done.  The dress.  The hair.  The earrings.  The posture.  Her incredible range.  The seemingly bottomless well of pain so subtly expressed.  Watching this, 1971 seems like 100 years before 1989.

(My ’89 high school yearbook proves otherwise.)

I’ve seen Peter Schickele, the Weird Al of classical music, perform PDQ Bach shows several times, and was fortunate enough to meet him at a record signing in Pittsburgh some years ago.  He’s invented a number of odd instruments that he plays as part of the show, though video is quite hard to find.  A few very old clips are available for purchase, but you’ll have to roll the cursor over each one in order to view them.

One of Peter Schickele’s longtime collaborators is Jorge Mester, former music director of the Pasadena Symphony, and several of Schickele’s works have had their world premieres with the orchestra.