South Central Los Angeles R&B Venues of the ’50s and ’60s

By Domenic Priore and Brian Chidester, Summer 2007

Los Angeles is quite often overlooked as a major center of R&B and Soul during the first rock ’n’ roll era. The Cenral Avenue Jazz and R&B scene from the ’20s through the early ’50s is well documented by the book and companion CD box set Central Avenue Sounds. That fantastic series ends as the Central Avenue scene disperses with the integration of L.A. jazz musicians into the clubs and movie soundtrack work to come in Hollywood. After that, a neighborhood Northwest of the core Central Avenue area would flourish as a new African-American nightlife center. Beginning near the corner of Pico and Western Avenues, then heading South to Santa Barbara Boulevard (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), with a right turn (West) to Crenshaw on MLK, a myriad of new clubs would open up and host some of the most brilliant R&B from the period.

An example of why this scene might be glossed over in history so far, is that local hit records by artists such as Richard Berry (“Louie Louieâ€Â), the Rivingtons (“Papa Oom Mow Mowâ€Â), the Olympics (“Good Lovin’â€Â) and the Vibrations (“My Girl Sloopyâ€Â) would be more successfully covered by white garage punk bands from all over the country, such as the Kingsmen (from the Pacific Northwest), the Trashmen (from Minnnesota), the Young Rascals (from New York) and the McCoys (from Ohio). Picture here is Richard Berry.

This phenomenon can be traced to the wilder, ’50s-style R&B still practiced in L.A. during the ’60s, which stemmed all the way back to the Central Avenue era, as opposed to the more unified soul recordings from Detroit or Philadelphia. The above photo is of the Rivingtons.

Los Angeles was more aligned with New Orleans, with Specialty Records (Little Richard) and Imperial Records (Fats Domino) based in L.A., and records like Chris Kennner’s “Land of a Thousand Dancesâ€Â making their way on that pipeline to places like East L.A., where Cannnibal & the Headhunters would make it a huge hit. Picture here is the Vibrations.

As black musicians became more common in Hollywood, the avant-garde and psychedelic music scene in turn gravitated to spaces in this area of South Central. The overall effect during the ‘60s led to a full-color, Mod L.A. soul scene that produced incredible, unique sounding records. This travelogue is not meant to be definitive documentation of all the artists who broke from here during that time, but will give you a good idea of the kind of action that was going on.

During the early ’60s basketball legend Wilt Chamberlin became a partner in a club housed in this building called the Basin Street West (1304 S. Western Avenue)

The Basin Street West, as pictured on a comedy album recorded at the location

Major jazz acts like Woody Herman would record inside the Basin Street West

The No War Toys Coffeehouse moved to the neighborhood in 1965, and was akin to other liberal outposts in town such as the Fifth Estate and Fred C. Dobbs on Sunset Strip, and Mother Neptunes in the Silver Lake area.

All that remains of No War Toys Coffeehouse is the picket fence, a palm tree, a crumbled sidewalk, some grass and a front entrance parking lot. (2472 W. Washington Boulevard at Arlington)

An early gig for the Doors was a benefit for the No War Toys Coffeehouse

Across the street was an old venue called the Hippodrome, which would be used for a happening. (1853 Arlington at Washington Boulevard)

Ferus Gallery and Pasadena Art Museum director Walter Hopps teamed up with Art Kunkin of the Los Angeles Free Press for this South Central event.

Ted Brinson built a studio in his garage, reputedly with some of the finest equipment in town, plus a fortress of entryway locks.

Some of the records recorded by Ted Brinson included the Wipe Out album by the Impacts (a Del-Fi Records surf group featuring Hawaiian steel guitar) and the original version of “Just Like Meâ€Â by the Wilde Knights (later covered by Paul Revere & the Raiders).

The most well-known disc to come out of Ted Brinson’s is “Earth Angel,â€Â a 1955 R&B vocal group smash by the Penguins. The Olympics also made good use of the room for many of their hits between 1958 and 1967.

The driveway from the front of Brinson’s old house led to the studio. Notice size of palm trees in the background. (2190 W. 30th Street)

With decidedly shorter palm trees, here is Ted Brinson’s studio during its prime years.

Comedian supreme Redd Foxx had his club Jazz Go-Go nearby, close to the corner of Western and Adams. Burlesque, and the top names in comedy and jazz showed up to perform all the time.

The building where all these wild times took place is still standing. (1952 W. Adams Boulevard)

Only two blocks West of Jazz Go-Go was another top-notch venue, The Rubaiyat Room, in the lounge of the Watkins Hotel. Tonight, you could see Babs Gonzalez author of I Paid My Dues, Good Times… No Bread: A Story of Jazz, who also recorded Tales of Manhattan for Jaro Records.

The Watkins Hotel as it stands today, with the Rubaiyat front entrance at ???? Adams.

The same frontage back in the day.

A Reprise Records LP from the Rubaiyat Room.

One of the top ’50s locations for R&B was the Oasis, with its Middle Eastern theme.

The Oasis Club building still stands at 3801 S. Western Avenue at 38th Street. This still sits near an old Pacific Electric Railway line, which will soon be redeveloped into part of the new L.A. subway system.

Happenings inside the Oasis Club. (Question, readers; is this L.A. Dodger shortstop Maury Wills dancing?)

The Treniers wail inside the Oasis Club underneath an amoeba-shaped Modern roof.

The desert palm tree motif was cool in soulful, sunny L.A.

The Californian Club remains one of the most legendary R&B venues of the city during this period, along with the 5-4 Ballroom and the Million Dollar Theater downtown. (1759 W. Santa Barbara Boulevard… now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard)

In crowd ’63 at the Californian club included Bob Relf of Bob & Earl (“Harlem Shuffle,â€Â second left), Sam Cooke (“You Send Me,â€Â “A Change is Gonna Come,â€Â fourth left), Bobby Day (“Rockin’ Robin,â€Â fifth left) and Johnny Taylor (“Somewhere To Lay My Head,” “Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day,” far right). All artists had been based in Los Angeles since the 1950s.

The Sunset Strip scene makes it down to the Californian Club in 1967 for a purely inter-racial freak fest every week.

Brenda Holloway (“Every Little Bit Hurtsâ€Â) was an L.A. gal who was signed to Del-Fi, then Motown Records during the ’60s, and was one of the opening acts for the Beatles at Shea Stadium (along with East L.A. group Cannibal & the Headhunters). Photo courtesy The Chuck Boyd Archive, as seen in the book Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ’n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood.

The Blossoms, featuring Darlene Love (center), perform on the ABC television show Shindig!, taped at their Prospect Avenue studios in Los Feliz. Darlene Love made great records with Phil Spector including “Today I Met The Boy I’m Going To Marryâ€Â and “Christmas Baby Please Come Home,â€Â as well as singing lead on the Crystals’ “He’s A Rebelâ€Â and “He’s Sure the Boy I Loveâ€Â.

Marty’s on the Hill was a top jazz place in L.A. during the ’60s, located at the top of Baldwin Hills on LaBrea. Bossa Nova hitmaker Walter Wanderly (“Summer Samba,â€Â 1966) makes the scene.

The location of Marty’s on the Hill, with it’s front parking lot. A view of L.A.’s South Bay and airport loomed in the distance to the West. (5005 S. La Brea Avenue at Stocker).

The Gerald Wilson Orchestra recorded a live album at Marty’s on the Hill, and from these sessions came the version of “Viva Tiradoâ€Â that was covered in 1969 for a hit by El Chicano.

Saxophonist Earl Bostic recorded a bunch of LPs for King Records and hit with “Harlem Nocturneâ€Â in 1954. He’d moved to L.A. after a stint in Lionel Hampton’s band with Teddy Edwards. Bostic opened his R&B club during the 1950s.

A change in logos took place during the animated ’60s. Earl Bostic passed away in 1965, with his family keeping the business going until 1969, when it was purchased by Jerry ???. Jerry’s father had owned Bop City in San Francisco.

The exterior of what is now Jerry’s Flying Fox at 3724 W. Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The original neon of the Flying Fox

Swervy interior bar and dance floor at Jerry’s Flying Fox (award winning Gumbo served on Fridays)

Dumb Angel editors Domenic Priore and Brian Chidester talk to Jerry underneath the club’s entrance corridor.

Jerry ???? is a real cool guy.

Billy Preston, performing here on Shindig!, was one of the many great artists that was a regular on the L.A. R&B scene during the ’50s and ’60s.

In 1966, a new kind of club opened on Crenshaw Boulevard. Thoroughly absorbing the psychedelic and Playboy Club themes prevalent on Sunset Strip, John Daniels opened Maverick’s Flat. (4225 Crenshaw Boulevard)

An early ad for Maverick’s Flat featuring the Olympics, a “Go-Go Nite,â€Â the play “For My Peopleâ€Â and a weeks upcoming engagement by bongo man Willie Bobo.

On opening night of Maverick’s Flat in January of 1966, the Temptations played. When he got a load of the interior, songwriter and producer Norman Whitfiled told Maverick’s owner John Daniels, “Man, what you’ve got here is a psychedelic shack!â€Â The Tempations later recorded a hit single by that name, with the album cover evocative of Maverick’s.

Exterior night shot of Maverick’s Flat today.

The entrance lobby of Maverick’s Flat. Cubist paintings hang behind the ticket booth.

In the Temptations’ song based on the club, they sing “you can have your fortune told, you can learn the meaning of soulâ€Â. Here is the fortune teller in the entrance of Maverick’s Flat.

Maverick’s Flat is loaded with fluffy couches, including this one in the funk-tique entrance.

African artwork graces many of the doorknob handles at Maverick’s Flat.

Owner John Daniels adapted Maverick’s Flat from what was once an old Arthur Murray dance studio, as evidenced by a logo which remains on the entryway floor.

The dance floor is braced by an observation table glazed with colored glass artwork.

A space age reclining den is adjacent to the main room.

One of several romantic getaway rooms situated inside Maverick’s Flat.

The colored glass mosaic detail in the getaway room shows a debt to the work of Simon Rodia at the Watts Towers.

The exotic flavor includes an individually decorated ceiling fan.

The main stage of Maverick’s Flat, plus mirrored surroundings.

The cavernous atmosphere of Maverick’s dance floor and stage.

One of the local acts that played Maverick’s Flat was Brenton Wood (here backed by Senor Soul, a Double Shot recording artist). Wood’s hits include “Gimme A Little Sign,â€Â “The Oogum Boogum Song,â€Â “Baby You Got Itâ€Â and “Me And Youâ€Â.

Senor Soul evolved out of a band called The Afro-Blues Quintet + 1, who recorded for Mira Records. Even earlier, members had been in the Creators on Dore Records (“Burn,â€Â 1965). The Afro-Blues Quintet + 1 also held down house band dates at Shelly’s Manne-Hole and The Living Room, a lounge upstairs behind Ciro’s Le Disc on Sunset Strip.

A promotional photo for their first LP Senor Soul Plays Funky Favorites. The band would have a further evolution and became War in 1969, backing Eric Burdon at Thee Experience and recording “Spill The Wineâ€Â with him. They had their own hits including “The World is Ghetto,â€Â “Cisco Kid,â€Â “Slippin’ Into Darknessâ€Â and “Low Riderâ€Â.

The psychedelic experience hits South Central in this Maverick’s Flat mural. This is well before the Bitches Brew album by Miles Davis.

A groovy long shot of the Maverick’s Flat exterior with neon ablaze.

Nothing better than being Est. 1966, is there?

New Nightclub photos by Larry Underhill

Just released is David Anderle’s book of art, entitled Better Late Than Never. Of note are 1966 portraits of both Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson during their psychedelic phase. These portraits, as well as a host of other paintings, are inspired by the physically elongated mythological style of Modigilani.

And now, for an out-take teaser from the newly-released book by Domenic Priore, called Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ’n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood (foreword by Arthur Lee, Jawbone Press, London), available at bookstores and online everywhere.

The Yardbirds Building.

Currently under reconstruction on the Southeast corner of Sunset and Vine is a place I’ve been referring to for a while now as “The Yardbirds Building,â€Â which was formerly highlighted by a club with a swinging Modern motif, “Room At The Topâ€Â. The advertisement makes note of this being a cool place to hang out after a performance at Greek Theater or Hollywood Bowl.

Posing in front of Room At The Top’s ground-floor entrance fountain is the Grass Roots, who in 1966 were riding high on the local charts with “Mr. Jones,â€Â a garage punk cover of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Manâ€Â. The group also charted that year with “Where Were You When I Needed Youâ€Â.

Checking out the pool-like effervescence at Room At The Top, The Yadbirds, as far as I’m concerned, seem to own the building. Therefore, it is theirs, philosophically. It would be pretty difficult to imagine anyone cooler levitating this space. Left to right, Keith Relf, Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Jeff Beck and Paul Samwell Smith, 1965.

Riot on Sunset Sunset Strip: Rock ’n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood by Domenic Priore
Book Tour, Symposium Series, Film and Radio Events

The Dumb Angel Website invites you to please drop by any of these (mostly free) events that will be circling around the release of Dom’s new book this summer. He’s worked on it for nine years, and as his collaborator on past projects, I’m floored at what he was able to come up with. – Brian Chidester

Friday, July 6, Booksmith, 1644 Haight Street, San Francisco (guest Michael Stuart-Ware from the band Love)

Thursday, July 12, Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Strip, West Hollywood (guest Michael Stuart-Ware from the band Love)

RADIO on Wednesday, July 18, “Quiet City” on, 6-9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. A Riot on Sunset Strip set will be featured w/ Domenic at the turntables

Thursday, July 19, Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers, Williamsburg (218 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn) guest TBA

Friday, July 27, Bluestockings Radical Books, 172 Allen Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan (1966 Sunset Strip slide show and guest TBA)

RADIO on Sunday, July 29, WFMU “The Gaylord Fields Show,” 3-5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (

Tuesday, July 31, Barnes & Noble, Astor Place, Manhattan (between Greenwich Village and East Village, near the corner of Broadway and Lafayette). Special guest Barry Feinstein, photographer of the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” fisheye LP cover and director of 1966 L.A. scene documentary “You Are What You Eat”

Friday, August 10, Secret Cinema @ Philedelphia Society of Free Letts (Latvian Society), 531 N. 7th Street, Philadelphia PA. Screening of “Riot on Sunset Strip” plus 1966 Sunset Strip slide show and DJ/dance after-party. Contact: Jay Schwartz (917) 446-3087 – $7 @ 7 p.m.

RADIO on Saturday, August 11, special New York City edition of “Riot on Sunset Strip” featuring DJs Phast Phreddie, Domenic Priore and Audrey Moorehead. 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Sunday, August 12, Academy LPs/CDs, 96 N. 6th Street, Williamsburg (Brooklyn) featuring an in-store performance by the Nashville Ramblers (who appear on the Children of Nuggets box set) performing tunes by the Leaves, the Bobby Fuller Four, the Dovers, the Addrissi Brothers, the Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds etc. Free show starts at 6 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m.

RADIO on Wednesday, August 15, “Quiet City” on, 6-9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. A Riot on Sunset Strip set will be featured w/ Domenic at the turntables

Thursday, August 16, McNally-Robinson Booksellers Inc., 52 Prince Street, Nolita, Manhattan. (guest TBA) Seems we’ll be gathering at Lombardi’s Pizza after this one…

Saturday, August 18, East Coast Beach Boys Fan Convention, Southbury, Conneticut, Crowne Plaza Hotel. Beatnik Beach slide show (L.A. coffeehouses and jazz joints of the late ’50s and early ’60s). Noon. (cover charge, please check online)

TENATIVE GUESTS in the New York City book stores include artist Gary Panter (Screamers, Pee Wee’s Playhouse), Jim Pons (main guy in the Leaves, of “Hey Joe” fame), Artie Kornfeld (West Coast/East Coast mid-’60s record producer/songwriter who saw it all and later organized Woodstock) and Laura Kenyon (of Lyme & Cybelle… a duo in which her partner was a very young Warren Zevon).

Saturday, September 8, Vroman’s Book Store, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (guest TBA) 4-6 p.m.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 14, 15 and 16, Riot on Sunset Strip Weekend at the American Cinematheque, Egyptian Theater, Hollywood Boulevard. Features (so far) include a Friday night show with “Riot on Sunset Strip” and “You Are What You Eat,” Saturday night it’ll be “The Trip” and “Mondo Hollywood” and we’re still setting up Sunday, possible matinees and live music, and possibly, a bazzar in the Egyptian’s entrance corridor.

The story so far… later events at the West Hollywood Book Fair, Sponto Gallery in Venice, and plans are in the works for events in Austin and Seattle. If you’re interested in booking an event, please contact Kevin Becketti (Jawbone Press) at (510) 528-1444 extension 235


Jan Berry has been dead for more than three years now. We’re getting endless Beach Boys re-issues . . . but where’s the love for Jan & Dean? We need a comprehensive box set of Jan & Dean material including the original mono versions of the singles and album cuts, as well as studio outtakes and backing tracks.

We also need an official release of CARNIVAL OF SOUND (1968) . . . the last great diamond in the rough for Jan & Dean. This is one of the last mysterious unreleased albums from the Psychedelic era. It was a major studio project (recorded at United, Western, and Goldstar) for a major label (Warner Bros.).

Let your voice be heard . . .

Please sign the petition:

Also . . . stay tuned for a cool Jan & Dean interview with Mark Moore . . . on FM radio from the New York City area. We’ll post the details and air date as soon as we get them.

— Dumb Angel

Jan & Dean: Carnival of Sound and Other Musings

Jan Berry in the Studio

Mark Moore Interview

Discussion of Jan & Dean history, and the forthcoming album project honoring Jan Berry as a writer, arranger, and producer. From The Back Porch Show with Jammin’ Jay. KBIG Radio, Dallas, TX. January 21, 2007.

NOTE: This is not the actual audio that was broadcast on the show over the Internet. KBIG does not currently archive its shows; and this audio was recorded by staff at KBIG as a favor to Jan & Dean fans who couldn’t hear the original broadcast. Thus, there’s a delay in the background, as well as other voices and sounds in the studio . . . mixed in with the actual interview . . . so listen closely.

The songs from the show . . . the original mono versions of “Dead Man’s Curve” and “New Girl In School” . . . plus our tribute covers of “Anaheim” and “Blowin’ My Mind” . . . are omitted here because of the audio limitations of this recording.

Rough drafts of our tribute versions of the songs can be heard on our MySpace site at:

Listen here . . .

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

The album will feature guest artists such as Sky Saxon of the Seeds, David Marks (original member of the Beach Boys), P. F. Sloan, Jill Gibson, Tom Bahler, and others.

Producers: Cameron Michael Parkes and Mark A. Moore

Beatnik Beach Film Night

Thursday, December 7, 2007
7:00-11:00 p.m.

Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th Street at Valencia, Mission District, San Francisco, California

Authors Domenic Priore and Brian Chidester (Beatsville, Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece, Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long) will present a unique one-hour slide show documenting the Beat Generation’s long stretch over the Greater Los Angeles area between 1956 and 1966, via visuals of coffeehouses and Jazz joints from the Sunset Strip to Malibu, Venice and Newport Beach.

Legendary locations only heard about in books or in liner notes, from the Gas House and nearby Venice West, to the Unicorn and Shelly’s Manne-Hole in Hollywood, the Lighthouse and Insomniac Cafe in Hermosa Beach, then all the way down to Cafe Frankenstein (owned, operated and painted by Burt Shonberg) in Laguna Beach.

Artists from John Altoon to Eric “Big Daddy” Nord gave these places a colourful splash, as did the wide variety of Folk singers and poets who performed on their stages. Accompanying the slideshow will be a rare screening of Dirty Feet (1965), shot primarily at the Prison of Socrates coffeehouse in Balboa. Special guest speakers TBA, there will be another short Beat film or two (including a color one shot inside Venice West), plus a few new routines by San Francisco’s own Devil-Ettes to jazz the room.

Contact the Roxie at: (415) 431-3611

Contact Domenic Priore at: (323) 333-2116

Lesley Gore / Party for Preservation


Lesley Gore

As most of us know, 1964 was a pretty big year for music. The English youth scene was just taking off and the British Invasion had just begun to take over America, even as American pop music was coming into its own. The Beach Boys were rocking out, having huge hits all across the country, spreading their sun-bleached love to teenage girls everywhere. James Brown & his Famous Flames were creating a stir, and Motown was starting to make it big with the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and the Tempations all happening at the same time. Lesley Gore, who was born in Brooklyn, New York had her first pop hit, “It’s My Party” in April 1963 and her star kept rising throughout the next few years.

In October 1964, The TAMI Show was shot in front of a live audience of screaming teenagers at The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Southern California. The biggest names in music of the day were there, Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Miracles, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, the Rolling Stones (the latter three representing for the Brits), Provincetown, Massachusetts’ own garage godz the Barbarians and then, Lesley Gore, with hosts Jan & Dean. The TAMI Show was a huge concert that captured the excitement over everything that was happening in music at the time, and everything was new.

The theme from The TAMI Show, sung by Jan & Dean, written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, told of all the amazing acts that were going to be performing (“here they come, from all over the world”) and wrote in “the representative from New York City is Lesley Gore, now, she sure looks pretty.” And Lesley did look pretty, with her gorgeous smile and her signature flipped hair. It’s quite possible that because she was so young and so pretty, she left a strong impression on the Beach Boys, who she hung out with at the taping of The TAMI Show.

Lesley Gore — TAMI action with hosts Jan & Dean in the background (right)

The next summer, the Beach Boys came out with their great album Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!!) that featured the song “The Girl From New York City”. Connection? Probably. Lesley Gore wasn’t someone who was easy to forget. She had a very distinctive voice, deeper than was usually normal for pop stars, and almost raspy in some songs like “Hey Now.” She was very pretty, and very energetic, two things which probably helped her become a star.

While Lesley did sing many songs like “If That’s The Way You Want It” (Tell me that you aren’t ready to settle down with one / Want to keep me on a string while your having fun / If that’s the way you want it / So be it, my love) she also went out on a limb with songs like “You Don’t Own Me” (“You don’t own me / I’m not just one of your many toys / You don’t own me / Don’t say I can’t go with other boys / And don’t tell me what to do / and don’t tell me what to say / and please when I go out with you, don’t put me on display”), which she recorded in ’63, and she was rewarded with a number 2 hit.

While Lesley is known and remembered for her voice and her catchy pop hits, I am a fan of hers for an entirely different reason. I love her hair. Lesley Gore is my undisputed hair idol.

I have the greatest hits collection, It’s My Party; The Mercury Anthology and the photo that was used on the cover really is something else. I would have to imagine that it’s one of the first publicity photos of Lesley Gore because she looks very young, and her hair is done up into this magnificently tall, gravity-defying bouffant with these saucy bangs.

Lesley Gore — It’s My Party

I remember seeing this picture of Lesley Gore amongst my mother’s extensive CD collection when I was growing up, before I ever listened to it, and was always amazed by the pretty girl’s hair. Lesley’s hair almost seems like it’s so tall that it continues outside of the frame for at least another foot.

Lesley Gore seems to have managed to have the perfect hair for every era of hair fashion during the ’60s, if her publicity photos are anything to go by. She had a short, bobbed flip for most of her early career, but she also had a long flip kept in place with headband, and various bouffant hairstyles (some better than others); I have even seen an amazing photo of her that was probably taken in the late ’60s with this large bouffant compiled of large soft waves with white beads strung throughout.

I have been trying to imitate Lesley Gore’s different ’60s hairstyles for a while now, but can only pull off a half hearted flip. I probably just need to use more AquaNet hairspray, lots more.

Late this last winter my mother found out that Lesley Gore was going to be speaking live in front of an audience at the 92nd St. “Y” and immediately bought tickets. I was thrilled, I couldn’t wait to see her, have her sign my much listened to Mercury Anthology, and inspect her hair. When Lesley walked out on stage I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed, just knowing that the woman standing in front of me was Lesley Gore, my hair idol. But after a few minutes of a boring interview, the shock wore off, and I looked, really looked at Lesley’s hair.

While I suppose her current style is a good, modern choice for someone her age, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. Her hair was bleached blond, straight, and cut into a choppy, short look. Compared to her hair from her youth, it was pretty boring. I kept picturing her stylized hair that curled up around her cheeks, drawing your eyes to her smile, bouncing as she walked, and her current hair that just fell flat around her face couldn’t compare.

Lesley Gore belting one out in Paramount’s Girls on the Beach (1965), also featuring the Beach Boys and the Crickets

In the middle of her interview Lesley broke into song, getting a roaring ovation from the crowd who was thrilled to be hearing the songs they love her for, but again, she disappointed. Instead of giving the crowd what they wanted she sang a short medley of her hits and then sang a song off of her new album to scattered applause.

After the interview, Lesley sat in front of the auditorium to sign her albums, old and new. I approached her with my old CD and tentatively said, “I’m a big fan of yours.” Lesley didn’t look up, but silently signed my CD and pushed it back to me.

I mustered up all the courage I had and said, “Lesley you’re my hair idol.” She didn’t look up; she was busy signing another CD. I’m sure she just didn’t hear me.



This month Dumb Angel noticed a short paragraph by Steve Lopez of The Los Angeles Times that pretty much sums up how we have arrived at our journalistic approach to Los Angeles, the music industry, the film industry and all that goes on here in mainstream circles that we prefer to avoid and circumvent. It’s the same for everything here, so listen close to Lopez:

And standing up to people is what I like about (former NYC Police Chief, now in L.A.) Bratton. We all know by now that Broadway Bill likes to run his mouth, which isn’t a bad thing around here. Los Angeles is corrupt and content, and one reason for it is the unwritten code that calls for polite and cordial relations among local leaders. It’s an old boys’ network, you might say, with one guy covering for the next and expecting the same in return.

We’ll have none of that at Dumb Angel. We spent our first year back in Los Angeles eliminating this backwards “booster” mentality from our work environment . . . we mean people surrounding “the music business” . . . who carry the same kind of mentality that would have you tearing down the Cineramadome and the Capitol Tower. Industry back-watchers are the kind who would go along with the pack and say it’s o.k. to dismantle such area-identifiers and put up a shoddy mixed-use development instead. (Example: how much does the music biz spend to sell bands like Velvet Revolver?)

New York City soldier Carmine Priore’s photographs and postcards of Hollywood on a stay during World War II. The NBC Radio Studio on the corner of Sunset and Vine is long gone, but the Hollywood Palladium, CBS Radio Studio and Earl Carroll’s Vanities buildings remain . . . if mixed use developements don’t rape what’s left of Hollywood’s most historic district. (Thanks, dad, for the pix…)

Today, the Hollywood Palladium, the original CBS radio studio next door where the Byrds, the Monkees and Brian Wilson recorded during the mid- ’60s, and especially 6230 Sunset Boulevard, just East of Vine . . . are all threatened by mixed use developers. The latter building was originally the home of Hollywood’s most glamourous nightclub, Earl Carroll’s Vanities, which became the Moulin Rouge (often headlined by Louis Prima and Keely Smith with Sam Butera & the Witnesses), the Hullabalo (same for Love, the
Yardbirds and Jan & Dean), the Kaleidoscope (the Doors, Big Brother & the Holding Company), the Aquarius Theater (Hair, Zoot Suit) and a bunch of other stuff as the years passed. Someone’s gotta stop this kinda cultural destruction from happening; these are all major landmarks of Los Angeles history.

Therefore, we present photographs of a recent party held by the people who are doing this kind of work. After checking out our February blog on Balboa, it was decided that the birthday party for Chris Nichols, speaker for the Los Angeles Conservancy’s ModCom Division, would be held in the Balboa Fun Zone area. Yes, there was news that the Balboa Fun Zone too would be torn down by developers, but the end result was reasonable; all of the oldest attractions would be staying, and the Maritime Museum they are putting there is basically in the space of a structure that was not a part of the Fun Zone’s early charm. (We are losing, however, a very cool haunted house in the deal). All that said, here are the pictures from the the ModCom birthday party for Chris Nichols this past June, 2006.


From the south side of the Balboa boardwalk heading north (through a bustling summer crowd), this vintage neon for the Bay Arcade is the first thing you see . . . inside they still have a photo booth from the mid-’60s (with original Peter Max-style artwork and Mod-girl sample photos on the side — see our first blog about Balboa). Photo by Larry Underhill.

The entrance to the Ferry Boat, from the Balboa Peninsula side, boasts the old ferris wheel and another classic neon depicting a Populuxe family. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Ahoy, skipper! The Auto Ferry boat to Balboa Island. Photo by Larry Underhill.

A wide-angle view of the Balboa Pavillion with carvings in the foreground from a cruise boat dubbed, The Tiki. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Ferry Landing . . . The theme of the party was a mad Scooby Do chase scene in Balboa . . . bring a portable a.m. radio to hear Bubblegum music and clues . . . and wear a scarf, Hanna-Barbera style . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Only fun is in store . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Groovy Go Go girl Maria Basaldu diggin’ the sounds and gettin’ clues to solve the mystery. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Dumb Angel editor Domenic Priore tunes in . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

DJ Penelope Pitstop spins Bubblegum records out over the local airwaves (shortwave radio transmission blanketed Balboa all evening). Listen to her radio show Bubblegum & Other Delights each Friday nite from 7-9, PST on . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

John Arroyo gets advice on the mystery from his talking monkey. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Held up as a relic o’ the times, Balboa stages and original bumper car next to the ferris wheel. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Balboa Fun Zone bumper cars. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Dumb Angel’s front cover design man Chris Green tries out the photo booth. Photo courtesy of Chris Green.

Daniel, Aimee, Domenic, Brian, Steve, Jason, Chris and Vincent love the psychedelic photo booth in the Bay Arcade. Photo courtesy of Chris Green.

DJ Senor Amor hams it up with Jill McGraw. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Hanford Lemoore and tiki journalist Humuhumu. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Beatniks rule — Todd the barber and the lovely Elvia. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Julian Nitzberg with Chris and Charlene. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Cap’n Sharkey Waters reminisces about his tuna canning days whilst handing out the clues to solve our Scooby Doo mystery. Will the group solve it? Will they catch the bandit? Stay tuned . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Meri Pritchett and her boy Nathan think they’ve got the mystery solved! Photo by Larry Underhill.

8-Ball Naomi with Book of Tiki Sven Kiersten, Greg and Domenic Priore . . . check out Naomi’s bitchin’ store in Burbank, on Magnolia, and visit her website at . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Stephanie, Shikaya and Rachel — our teenage detectives. Photo by Larry Underhill.

The entrance to the Balboa Fun Zones haunted house ride . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Enter at your own risk . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Inside the haunted house ride, neon warnings light up like in a crowded montage. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Gretchen and David Zalkind go deep undercover. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Dionysus Records head-honcho, Lee Joseph. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Dig . . . Dumb Angel #4 cover artist, Chris Green (in blue shirt), with Vincent, Marjorie, Jason, Steve . . . eating nothin’ but paper napkins. Photo by Larry Underhill.

The gang tries to “Play Faro” with the great Merlini, but he keeps eating the cards. Photo by Larry Underhill.

The great Merlini as portrayed by Charles Schneider. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Guk-guk-guk-guk-guk . . . Dino Fantini, the REAL Popeye. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Daniel Paul and the lovely Aimee Boice. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Alan Leib (left) talks with friends by the Balboa Fun Zone carousel. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Caretaker Kent really kept this place clean. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Are those g-g-g-g-ghosts? . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

The gang gets ready to pin down the monster… Photo by Larry Underhill.

Now inside the Balboa Pavillion, Chris Nichols drags the captured sea monster through the crowd . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Who is it? Is it Sharkey? Is it the caretaker? Is it Merlini? . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

Har Har! It’s Greg Brady! [Barry Williams] . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

“And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

“Well, I do know a little choreography!” – Barry Williams . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

“I think I’ll go for a walk outside now the summer sun’s callin’ my name (i hear ya now) . . .” Photo by Larry Underhill.

“Everybody’s smilin’, sunshine day . . . everybody’s laughin, sunshine day . . . everybody seems so happy today!” . . . Photo by Larry Underhill.

The birthday boy, Chris Nichols, with Barry Williams. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee chair Adriene Biondo enjoys a Balboa moment. Photo by Larry Underhill.

Photo selection and captions by Brian Chidester, Chris Nichols and Domenic Priore

“For anybody who grew up in Hollywood, who went to school here, what’s happened to it in the last 25-30 years is heartbreaking. Groucho Marx once said that, you know, ‘all of the places, when they talk about ‘the good old days,’ that what they’re really longing for is their youth. That the hotels were dirty and cold and so forth. What they remember was that they were young’. As a kid, everything looked rosy, but the place was much cleaner, physically and geographically”. — journalist Nick Beck, from from the Morgan Neville film Shotgun Freeway

Expressions from Venice, California

Sponto Gallery, 7 Dudley Avenue, Venice, CA — July 19th 2006, 6:30 p.m., Dumb Angel presents a Beatnik Beach Film Screening, featuring Dirty Feet (a 90-minute film shot in 1965 at Balboa’s Prison of Socrates coffeehouse), plus a slideshow of Southern California Beat Generation hangouts and live surf instrumental music by the Insect Surfers. For information call (310) 399-2078.

Venice West (also known as Venice Beach or Venice-of-America) was a tributary European conception by wealthy eccentric Abbot Kinney. Kinney’s vision was to transplant Venetian culture to the West Coast of America with Italian-designed architectural masterpieces created during the early 20th Century. By the late ’50s/early ’60s, Venice boasted two of the most subterranean of all Southern California “Beat Generation” hang-outs — the Venice West Café (7 Dudley Ave.) and its mad-hatter counterpart, the Gas House (1501 Ocean Front Walk).

Gondola rides on the Venice Canal created an American / Italian flavor. A neighborhood of these canals still exists, cool and funky along with the counterpart shopping groove on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Equator Books, outsider Surf wear shop Hydrolab, tiki store Cruz Vintage, cool coastal furniture shops Surfin’ Cowboys and French 50s-60s are a few of the highlights. The literary center, Beyond Baroque (open Fridays and Saturdays) is nearby on Venice Boulevard.

Windward Avenue served as an opulent entrance to the Venice Ocean Front Walk area. Abbot Kinney’s original concept for Venice West was to bring world-class art galleries and opera to his settlement. Pop culture and carnival atmosphere out-paced the highfalutin setting early on. As decay set in during the ’50s, an art scene unforseen by Abbot Kinney would call Venice West home.

NOT “The Girl in the Mini Skirt” whose praises were sung by The Era of Sound in 1966. And . . . she doen’t look too interested in the Arcade games. But, you can stand in this location on Windward Avenue today and still absorb a pretty interesting environment. In our time, retro clothing and book shop Animal House is across the street, where she’s facing, while to her left, Small World Books sits alongside our fave local eats place, the Sidewalk Cafe. These shops, along with a few of the places mentioned on Abbot Kinney, carry Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long. Behold, some of the columnated ruins that didn’t domino.

Royal family of the Venice West Beat scene during the 1950s — Wallace Berman with his wife Shirley and son Tosh on the boardwalk of Venice, California. The backdrop here is leftover set decorations used to simulate Tijuana for Orson Welles’ 1958 noir masterpiece, Touch of Evil

The Bathing Pavillion was the defining edifice of early Venice. Like most of what you see here, it’s all long-gone.

Theatrical Asian mythology meets European gothic in this striking example of Venice Beach vernacular architecture. The mix of grandiose and carnival became commonplace in California during the first half of the 20th Century (a style now referred to as “California Crazy”)

Another Venice example of California Crazy . . . here a molten edifice dubbed “The Grand Canyon”

The Venice Ballroom was one of many out by the oceanside catering to Angelenos who wished to engage in ballroom dancing. Apparently, like the Sunset Strip in 1966, Los Angeles authorities weren’t too keen on dancing around the turn of century, so it was primarily done at this unincorporated beach area, away from provincial hassles. In 1967, the same thing would happen when the Venice Ballroom became the Cheetah.

Ballroom dancehalls provided the large venue space needed to accommodate the popularity of new dance crazes at the dawn of the Jazz Age and Swing Era

Café Nat Goodwin’s, an early movie biz hangout. The original film stars would imbibe at the Alexandria Hotel in downtown L.A., but soon enough, the loose atmosphere around Venice became the main draw.

Baron Long’s Ship Cafe was the other main hangout during the early days of cinema. MGM Studios would open in nearby Culver City, and that non-Los Angeles township became thee thespian watering hole during the Jazz Age. Frank Sebastian’s Cotton Club (gigs by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s Plantation Cafe and Danceland (all on Washington Boulevard) were the top venues there.

‘A crowd of people stood and stared . . .’ — turn-of-the-century Venice Beach, Sgt. Pepper style.

“C’mon Baby, Let’s Do the Swim!” Bathing Pavllion, Venice.

Outside view of the Venice West Café, now the Sponto Gallery (7 Dudley Ave.). On July 19th, Dumb Angel will host a “Beatnik Beach” film screening at Sponto, featuring a slideshow of SoCal Beat Generation coffeehouses, including more on the Venice West Café, plus others

Inside the Venice West Café . . . behind these jazz cats, on the wall, is Wallace Berman’s bohemian benediction: “Art is Love is God.”

1959 — Lawrence Lipton’s discerning look at the Venice West Beat scene, featuring tales of the Venice West Café and the Gas House, as well as its many poets, artists, scenesters and entrepreneurs.

Lawrence Lipton (left) with Ed “Big Daddy” Nord, owner of the Gas House

The Gas House. A huge civic battle raged over the existence of this place in 1960. Early 20th Century comedic phenoms Groucho Marx and Stan Laurel pitched in some bread to help save the Beats. The Gas House was razed, but not before Venice poet and author Stuart Perkoff made a brilliant appearance on You Bet Your Life. The history of the Venice Beat scene has been well-documented more recently in John Arthur Maynard’s book Venice West: The Beat Generation in Southern California (Rutgers University Press, 1991).

Portrait of the Gas House gang in Venice, drawn by Shanna Baldwin, circa 1960 (Used by permission, courtesy of Shanna Baldwin and S.E. Griffin)

Overhead view of the Venice Pier area during Abbot Kinney’s day

The same pier, rennovated and re-opened in 1959 as Pacific Ocean Park

“And Disneyland and P.O.P. is worth a trip to L.A.” sang the Beach Boys in “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” from Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!!), 1965. The Modernist entrance, Raymond Lowery-inspired sky ride and cheese-cut Neptune fountain entrance added up to the perfect Nautical-Modern experience.

At the end of the pier, Pacific Ocean Park featured a Tiki ride, “South Sea Island,” sponsored by U.S. Rubber.

Surrounded by the sky ride orbs above and a waterfall below, South Sea Island provided a relaxing, last outpost from L.A., positioned
as it was out on the ocean

Bas relief of the South Sea Island entrance. “An unforgettable visit to the tropics via an exciting Banana Train ride through a volcanic crater, erupting geysers, an earthquake and a tropical storm.” — P.O.P. brochure

South Sea Island took you on a tour of a volcano interior, with Martin Denny-styled music filling out the sound

Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys pose with models at Pacific Ocean Park for a summer, 1966 photo spread in Teen magazine’s “Giant Surfari Issue”. A sunshiny photo of Cheryl Tiegs graced the cover. Bass harmonica and theremin were already thick in their music.

Clearly, the old Venice Ballroom served a good purpose when it was opened as the Cheetah in early 1967. Headliners were primarily groups that had flourished in the suddenly-banned teenage nightclubs of the Sunset Strip during 1965/1966; Love headlined a Cheetah bill featuring Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. The Standells and the Leaves held the place in rapture another night. The Doors and Iron Butterfly played as well. Tonight, it’s Sky Saxon’s birthday party with a performance by the Seeds. Photo courtesy Hillary Paine.

The Cheetah was the California offshoot of New York City’s incredibly successful Cheetah club, opened in 1966. The Cheetah Boutique was also opened inside of both clubs, with a line of clothing designed specifically for the Mod set. Opening for the Seeds at this engagement were the Boston Tea Party (who released a cool LP on the Flick-Disc label) and the West Coast Branch (regulars out at the Flying Jib in Redondo Beach . . . with 45s of “Spoonful” on Valiant in ’66 and “Colors of My Life” on A&M in ’67). Photo courtesy Hillary Paine.

Big Brother & the Holding Company came down to Venice from San Francisco to play the Cheetah; Janis Joplin had tried her first marijuana cigarette in a Venice coffeehouse in 1962. In from Arizona, a regular opening act at the Cheetah were the Nazz. They later signed with Frank Zappa’s Bizzare/Straight Label and became Alice Cooper (due to the Pennsylvania band who’d recorded “Open My Eyes” already bein’ around). The Strawberry Alarm Clock made their appearance in Psych-Out at the Cheetah — despite the film being based in San Francisco. On the first episode of The Mod Squad, the Other Half were shown performing “No Girl Gonna Cry” at the Cheetah. Just prior to opening, Herb Alpert filmed a dramatic segment in the old ballroom for one of his TV specials. Photo courtesy Hillary Paine.



On Thursday, June 2nd, Dumb Angel attended the debut of Kitty Diggin’s incredibly well-thought out theme club Dandy at Safari Sam’s on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The first night’s soiree was subtitled An Evening of Candy Stripes, Brocade, Ruffly Sleeves and Absinthe-Inspired Visions. The audience came decked out in ’20s gear, with DJs Prickle and Shauna spinning an intense mix of songs somewhere between Duke Ellington’s “The Mooch” and Peter & Gordon’s “Lady Godiva”. The correlation between ’20s and ’60s fashion and music was complete, with the Kinks’ “Dandy” somewhat defining the direction of ensuing affairs. “1960s Carnaby Street had this wealth of appreciation for the ’20s,” Diggins told Dumb Angel, “Lavender velvet pantsuits, paisley shirts with ascots and scarves, plus the flapper bob hairstyle were all a huge part of Carnaby’s flair and lasting appeal.” A group of appropriately-attired Go Go dancers were workin’ all night, with the evening’s musical highlight coming from New York City’s Armen Ra — Master of the Theremin. Classically-trained, and from a family of musicians in Tehran, his Middle Eastern melodic sense raised the bar in an already unique evening of fun, dancing and sound. The next Dandy (July 13th) promises to be every bit as enlightening, this time subtitled: Bastille Day Go For Barouque.


A wild tyme was had by all at Dandy. Photo courtesy of

Miss Primm. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Sir D’Andy Luxe and Kitty Diggins. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Creekbird. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Miss Primm. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Prince Poppycock. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

A few Absinthe-Inspired Visions. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Mr.Uncertin and the Pobelle Twins aka “Uncertwin.” Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Armen Ra w/ Theremin. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Armen Ra takes the mood beyond. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Dandy attendee Melissa Jean on the veranda, Sunset Boulevard in the background. Photo by John Scott Perreira.

Master Showman Kitty Diggins. Photo by Dr. Mangor.

Dandy audience member Tiffany

Dandy ended with an incredible ’20s / ’60s DJ mix by Prickle (who took most of these photos) and Shauna. In this rockstar-free environment, the participants were the headline act.

In tribute to the cool vibe at Dandy, Dumb Angel here reprints a series of photos from a similar party covered in Surfing Illustrated during February, 1966:

Surfer girl goes Bonnie Parker

Mickey Munoz and Hidie Edwards dance it up in their flapper attire

On a Loony Tunes level . . . host Greg Noll receives a bomb for his new surfboard factory from shaper / competitor, Hobie Alter

Promotional program for Dirty Feet, from 1965, written by producer/director Ted Nikas about his experiences in making the film around his coffeehouse, the Prison of Socrates

To see all of this and more, please join Dumb Angel at Sponto Gallery (7 Dudley Ave., Venice, CA) on July 19th, 2006, at 6:30 p.m. The screening will include boss clips from various beatnik-related films, a slideshow of SoCal beat coffeehouses, the Dirty Feet feature film and live music by the Insect Surfers. Ted Nikas, the filmmaker who created Dirty Feet, will be on-hand for Q&A


The hidden gem of old Surf Route 101

Long-gone venacular architecture, Surf Route 101, Encinitas, California

Moonlight Bay, Encinitas, California, 1960s

Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship, opened in Encinitas during the early 1950s. Surfers saw this sitting above one of California’s greatest surfing locations and (in a primitive manner) dubbed the spot “Swami’s,” like, “hey, that’s where the swami’s go!” In 1963, the Beach Boys referenced this in “Surfin’ U.S.A.” when they sang “at Haggerty’s and Swami’s” . . .

The terrain surrounding Swami’s. The hills curve perfectly to create a beautiful, long ride on the waves.

Surf Route 101 became the title of the Gary Usher album for the Super Stocks, and, a different song by Jan & Dean (from their Drag City album) written by Jan Berry, Roger Christian, and Brian Wilson — featuring boss spoken interludes by Jill Gibson. Usher’s Surf Route 101 album includes a song called “Oceanside,” which is also nearby in San Diego County.

The Longboard Grotto is the only place you can purchase most of the independent Surf movies from the 1950s and 1960s discussed in the article “Cat on a Hot Foam Board” from Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long. They definitely deserve a plug . . . it’s to your benefit; call (760) 634-1920 . . . or reach them at

The La Paloma Theater is where the Crawdaddys used to go see The T.A.M.I. Show . . . it has operated as an underground theater for years.

An excellent Psychedelic boutique with lots of Mod gear exists today in the heart of Surf Route 101, Encinitas

Flashbacks has done a great job with the design of their store posters and logos . . . a definite point of interest (and where I bought that Waltah Clarke shirt seen on the 2004 Ear Candy website).

There are two outstanding Taco joints on Surf Route 101 in Encinitas. Karina’s stands out because they make their own fantastic sauce, the shredded beef is bitchen, and they havea nice, hard shell. They also own a refreshing fruit smoothie shack right next door . . . all home made. But, as Geetz Romo said on the How to Speak Hip album, “Juiceheads are the lowest, man.â€Â

Juanitas Taco Shop is a bit more popular with the locals in Encinitas, and was featured on Huell Howser’s PBS television show California’s Gold. The sauce is in no way comparable to Karina’s, but, they make up for it with heavy doses of cheeze, lettuce, meat and a nice, crackly shell.

Superb coffeehouse Panakin is spacious, relaxed, and rests inside an old, wooden train station. Artist Mary Fleener, Folk singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, and author (plus ’60s editor of Crawdaddy! magazine) Paul Williams are some of Dumb Angel’s fave rave local residents in the Encinitas / Leucadia area.

Pre-Panakin still exists on Surf Route 101

We need more Cheese-cut architecture like this in the world.

This Modrian-logo booze shack sells a great, independent trail mix inside.

The ideal place for dry-cleaning your threads

Uh-oh . . . yes, it’s an irony-bored trailer park next to a ’70s salty sea dog-themed restaurant-bar . . . if you’re only here for the beer.

Lou’s has always been one of the best record shops in the San Diego area. This, too, can be found on old Surf Route 101, as well as some great health food restaurants, and some wonderfully-refurbished Motor Hotels on the North side of Encinitas (in Leucadia).

Without a doubt, Ducky Waddles is the most interesting book store / art gallery in the San Diego area.

Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long will soon host an art show here featuring Mike Dormer (Hot Curl, Shrimpenstein!), Frank Holmes (the 1966 Smile album cover) plus John McCambridge and Jay Nelson of Mollusk Surf Shop in San Francisco (see January blog). Live Surf instrumentals will be provided by the Sand Devils, a San Diego combo who wow’d ’em this year at Tiki Oasis.

Art, architecture, Burlesque . . . u-name-it cool, Ducky Waddles can match any book joint in New York, San Francisco or L.A. for a groovy presentation and content . . . it’s that good.



Dumb Angel is back with our fourth installment of Newport/Balboa coolness. This month, dig on some classic imagery from Corona Del Mar — a Modernist community that sits along a half-mile sandy beach framed by cliffs and a rock jetty to form the east entrance of Newport Harbor. Corona Del Mar is also a popular area for surfing and diving (see review below for Thump, a film about Corona Del Mar’s famous bodysurfing spot, the Wedge). Also, more recent finds from Balboa music venues like the Prison of Socrates and the Rendezvous Ballroom.

Just above Balboa Island lies the untouched 1950s Modern residential community of Corona Del Mar

Arial view of the vintage coastline settlement

The tides of Corona Del Mar roll in around a set of jagged rocks. This low-angle postcard suggests the Noir elements of the sea were captured perfectly with nautical blues numbers by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, such as “Taboo,” “Lamento Gitano,” and “Reed Rapture” (all recorded locally at the Rendezvous Ballroom between 1941-42).

More rugged Corona Del Mar terrain, 1960s; close enough to land’s end for teenage adventure

Overhead view of the popular public beach; the Balboa Jetty to the left is where civilization last saw Gilligan, the Skipper, Tina Louise and the rest of the castaways. The Wedge lies just to the other side of the Jetty.

Chillin’ by the groovy beach pads in Corona Del Mar, 1960s

A scene from an episode of Where The Action Is, shot in Corona Del Mar in 1965.

Thump is the only film I know of so far that is solely devoted to the Wedge, a famous bodysurfing spot in the Newport-Balboa-Corona Del Mar area, which Bruce Brown dubbed “The Dirty ol’ Wedge” in his 1965 indie-surf flick, The Endless Summer. But before you slide Thump into your DVD player, be sure to que up the grittiest LP of surf instrumental garage music you have in your collection. Try the Crossfires . . . no, better yet . . . the Original Surfaris. Yeah, okay . . . now grab that TV remote control, hit the “mute” button, drop the needle on your record player and press “play” on the DVD. Because here’s the bad news, folks . . . Thump is a near-nauseating compilation of whimpy punk-pop and heavy metal that sits behind some seriously mesmerizing footage of the Wedge. The most egregius section of this film — titled “Super-Size It!” — marries a set of amazing surfers riding perfect big waves to a backdrop of death metal music. Adding insult to injury, the title card suggests that a McDonald’s happy meal slogan best sums up the magic of the Wedge. Some of us know better than to swallow that pill. Don’t say I didn’t warn you . . . but also don’t be disuaded from buying Thump either. With a little imagination, you can make this footage work to your advantage. (Thump is available at the Balboa Pharmacy).

Mark 56 Records was best known for the 1966 Surf instrumental album Real Cool Hits by the Avengers VI (sponsored by Good Humor Ice Cream). The label released LPs for businesses who wanted to advertise via vinyl. L.A. grocery store Alpha Beta sponsored this ’40s nostalgia disc, with cheezy artwork namechecking Swing-era ballrooms of the Greater Los Angeles area. Balboa is represented by a prominent showing for the Rendezvous Ballroom, with the Balboa Beach Ballroom right above it. Also included are Huntington Beach’s Pavalon Ballroom, Anaheim’s Harmony Park Ballroom (like the Rendezvous, later a Dick Dale & his Del-Tones venue during the ’60s), The Hollywood Palladium, The Pasadena Civic Auditorium, The Glendale Civic Auditorium, The Biltmore Bowl and the Trianon . . . wait . . . where is the Palomar Ballroom? (“On Third and Vermont,” say the echos of Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and Anita O’Day).

Fuck A Mighty Wind . . . dig Fink Records recording artist Susan Rennaker going it alone at the Prison of Socrates in Balboa. You can see her in the film Dirty Feet, playing one night only at Sponto Gallery in Venice on July 19, as the feature of Dumb Angel’s “Beatnik Beach” film event.



One of our readers asked us about the recent national articles covering the controversy surrounding the “official” location of Surf City in Southern California. The naming convention had been the subject of a public squabble between Orange County’s Huntington Beach (where Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean resides) and the town of Santa Cruz to the north.

In the end, the town of Huntington Beach secured a federal trademark to use the phrase “SURF CITY USA” as a marketing slogan and money-making venture for Huntington Beach.

It’s a controversial subject . . . but in the end, it’s much ado about nothing. Huntington Beach (mentioned in the Jan & Dean song “Surf Route 101”) gets to use the phrase “SURF CITY USA” to help sell products and make money for the town, and for Dean Torrence and others connected with the #1 smash single by Jan & Dean from 1963.

Despite the controversy, it’s important for people to understand that it’s merely a marketing ploy, and that the song (by Jan Berry and Brian Wilson) was not written about Huntington Beach, or any other specific location in Southern California.

This means that the town of Santa Cruz can indeed continue to use the moniker “Surf City” in marketing its various establishments associated with the SoCal beach culture.

And it’s a safe bet that the town of Huntington Beach will not go after the beach towns on the East Coast which were incorporated as “Surf City” long before the 1960s, and long before the famous Jan & Dean song was written.

What’s in a name? . . . It just depends on where you live and who you know.

To read more about this issue, be sure to check our “Comments” section, linked at the end of this blog.

To learn more about our forthcoming Jan Berry / Jan & Dean tribute album, please visit our site on MySpace:


Dumb Angel’s Potpourri, Vol. 2

This month’s DUMB ANGEL blog features a mish-mash of cool happenings, groovy releases we’ve deemed worthy of (cyber) ink and a tad more of that lost coolness that we’ve dug up from the far corners of SoCal’s beach towns.


Dig a few new releases that we felt were worthy of special attention…

A Review of Mama Guitar Holiday

In a world where so-called “rockers” often can’t name four Chuck Berry songs, an all-girl trio from Japan has found the Chuck Berry-meets-surf tone that absorbed the entirety of the Beach Boys’ 1963 garage-band opus, Surfin’ U.S.A. One listen to Mama Guitar’s “Ready to Go” from their newest EP, Mama Guitar Holiday, and you’ll realize that their sound is no mistake. “After Dark” is a breezy, summer-night instrumental, replete with Mama Guitar’s gentle ‘la-la-la’ harmonies, akin to Brian Wilson’s blissed-out “Passing By” (from the 1968 Friends album). In keeping the vibe of 1963 real, during the break of Holiday’s “When We Put Our Bikinis On,” lead singer Jun asks, “Am I so cute?” To which the chorus of Iris (bassist) and Yoko (drums) scream, “Yeah!” Jun retorts, “But I don’t wanna go!” Chorus: “Why not?” Jun: “Because I’m fat!” Oh no… this is all by design, friends. The lyrics and music only gets groovier from there. Dig these lunar lyrics to “Tomorrow’s Sea”:

It’s time to leave here,
We’re in the sea breeze.

Somewhere else we’ll go,
Anywhere you want,
Dreaming of tomorrow’s sea.

White sand, moon, stars and you,
Only that moment, all of them are mine.

Mama Guitar’s Holiday

Dumb Angel co-editor Brian Chidester sat down with Mama Guitar for a little Q&A.

Who are your biggest musical influences?
Jun (Guitar/Vocals/Songwriter): Brian Wilson, King & Goffin, Greenwich & Barry, Phil Spector
Iris (Bass/Vocals): Shangri-La’s and more.
Yoko (Drums): The Beatles!

What inspired you to do MAMA GUITAR HOLIDAY?
Iris: It’s a secret!
Yoko: Peaceful days.
Jun: We just put together some summer songs we already had been playing, and added a few more new songs.

If you could play anywhere in the world, at any venue, where would it be?
Yoko: California’s beach or big grasslands somewhere.
Iris: I want to go to anywhere we can go!

Do you have a boyfriend?
Jun: No . . .
Iris: It’s a secret.
Yoko: I’m married!

What kind of boys do you like?
Jun: I like people who are kind, friendly and funny.
Iris: Gentle, and who has nice smile person!
Yoko: A gentle and bright person.

Favorite thing to do on a date?
Iris: Lunch in the park.

Mama Guitar, Hamburg Tour

Favorite bands?
Jun: The Beach Boys, the Zombies, the Hollies, the Beatles, the Monkees, Four Seasons.
Yoko: Sly and the Family Stone, the Kinks, the Beatles, the Zombies, the Hollies.
Iris: Shangri-La’s, Kinks, Serge Gainesbourg.

Favorite singers?
Jun: Annette, Robin Ward, Shelley Fabares, Ronnie Spector, Claudine Longet, Yui Asaka, Brian Wilson, Colin Blunstone
Yoko: Colin Blunstone, Ronnie Spector, Carol King, James Brown, Bob Dylan.

Favorite album?
Jun: The Beach Boys Today!
Iris: Anna.
Yoko: The Beatles’ Rubber Soul.

Your hobbies?
Yoko: Collecting dolls and cute things, and shopping.
Iris: Making sweets, sewing and frogs… I’m keeping many little frogs!
Jun: Taking naps.

Favorite movie?
Jun: The Trouble with Harry
Iris: Anna, Betty Blue.
Yoko: Toto the Hero, Times and Honors, Buffalo 66.

Favorite TV show?
Yoko: Animation of the Beatles!
Jun: Sukeban Deka, Little House on the Prairie

Favorite food?
Jun: Steak, Potatoes
Iris: Ice cream and spicy food.
Yoko: Cheese, seafood, chocolate.

Favorite candy?
Jun: Yogurt flavored Chelsea.
Yoko: Milk-flavored soft candy.

If you were trapped on a deserted island with one person, who would that person be?
Jun: Msama.
Iris: My darling.
Yoko: My husband.

Favorite Sanrio character/animal?
Jun: Pigs, hippos and elephants.
Iris: FROG!
Yoko: I’m not interested in Sanrio character, but I love Monchicchi! It’s a monkey baby’s doll.

Personal plans for the future?
Jun: I don’t have any yet.
Iris: For now, I want to lose my weight!
Yoko: I want to be an owner of a little shop and I want to be a tender mother!

Are hippies ever cool?
Jun: It’s not really my kind of style, so I don’t have an opinion.
Yoko: I think so!

Do you like what Gwen Stefani is doing with pop culture today?
Jun: I don’t know her, sorry.
Iris: Sorry, don’t know her.

—Brian Chidester

Mama Guitar’s Holiday EP

A Review of Jan & Dean’s Popsicle (CD Reissue by Sundazed Records)

This is as good a place to get started with Jan & Dean as any. It’s pure 1966 marketing, which in itself is an enlightened thing. The Popsicle album was released by Liberty Records that year after Jan Berry’s accident, and the Sunshine Pop single climbed immediately up the charts… the last real Jan & Dean hit, in sequence. But… get this… “Popsicle Truck” (as it was originally titled) had been released on the Drag City album in 1963. That’s the beauty of Popsicle; Liberty found a bunch of album tracks of ambient merit for 1966, and just pumped ’em out there. One can immediately recognize the quality of Jan & Dean’s work, that is, stuff lyin’ around on their albums that coulda been singles, or that worked in another time zone. It actually becomes a collection of their most interesting material outside of the obvious hits, and therefore a new listener can come to the group with the whole thing being a fresh experience.

Jan & Dean’s Popsicle LP Cover, 1966

These great tracks are also sequenced in a groovy manner that makes for cool and casual listening. Side two runs through a vibe so lucid, it includes a Jill Gibson song, a Brian Wilson song, a Brian Wilson song, then another Jill Gibson song… all collaborations with Jan Berry (with pals Roger Christian and Don Altfeld pitchin’ in on occasion).

Once the side kicks off with a very, very Psyhedelic Surf Pastiche Washout version of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” (love it when Jan Berry emulates and eventually uses sitars, like later on “Fan Tan,” “Mullholland” and others from the still-unreleased Carnival of Sound album from 1968), it goes to the Jill Gibson/Jan Berry duet “A Surfer’s Dream.” For my money, this is the most idyllic song of the whole surf shebang. Jill shows up again on the Brian Wilson/Jan Berry chillout “Surf Route 101”, this time doin’ the sexy voice of the girl who tags along for a surfari . . . Jill intones “I dig your Woody, lover, let’s disappear.” Next we cut to a brilliant, generally unheard Berry/Wilson rocker, “Surfin’ Wild,” where Jan finally figures it out; “Well I know what I want, yeh, got it all planned, gonna surf all day then sleep in the sand.” Sounds good to me.

The expansive Jill Gibson number “Waimea Bay” follows, showing Jan Berry already capable of arrangements on the level of what Brian Wilson would achieve by the time of Pet Sounds. This earlier production fits in with the 1966 feel perfectly.

Closing side two’s sequence is a nod to the fashion controversy of the decade, Rudi Gernreich’s topless bathing suit. That’s another beauty about this LP. Jan & Dean got this wired during 1964 with “One Piece Topless Bathing Suit,” which made for an even better environment on Popsicle, due to the growing promiscuity 1966 seemed to envelop. The greens and yellows so prominent in clothing and album covers that year are nothing more than a shift toward sunlight and lovers lyin’ around in the tall grass with marigolds all around them. “One Piece Topless Bathing Suit,” the grand dandy of ’em all, makes for an optimistic closer, a good vibe, a good feeling, evocative of graphic design where sunlight through her tan hair became a stock, indelible image always harking back to that very 1966.

Jan & Dean’s tour booklet, designed by Dean Torrence in graphics class at USC, 1965

Then you get side one, too. After the joyous vibraphone and nonsense backing vocals of “Popsicle” comes “The Restless Surfer,” kicking in the feel of wanderlust right away. This Gary Zekley tune title is what I plucked as a non-de-plume when I wrote the liner notes for those Surfer’s Mood albums way back in the early ’90s (another golden decade, for people who loathe hessians, like me). Dean’s falsetto on the end of “The Restless Surfer” may also rank among the top yearning vocal moments in rock ’n’ roll, fully encompassing desire in the heart of the protagonist.

Next up is another boss, neglected Brian Wilson/Jan Berry number “She’s My Summer Girl,” originally the flip side of “Surf City” — the first in a series of Berry/Wilson hits including “Drag City,” “Dead Man’s Curve,” “The New Girl in School” and “Ride the Wild Surf”… (which you may already have somewhere). “Down at Malibu Beach” is a casual Chuck Berry workout; guitarist Billy Strange gets to pull a few hot licks, and that’s followed by another Malibu callout on “Summer Means Fun.”

Without a doubt, this a cooler version of “Summer Means Fun” than the hit by Bruce & Terry, or the Fantastic Baggys’ fine version (which shares the same backing track as J&D). Jan Berry’s lead vocal just seems to capture the meaning of the lyric better, and in this respect, he’s in league with early Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry… again, having a real feel for rock ’n’ roll at its source. “Tennessee” closes, and at first it seems out of 1966 feel, but it’s great to go back to this 1962 track and hear Plas Johnson’s “Surfer’s Stomp”-like saxophone solo. It’s a hark back to R&B vocal times in a way similar to what the Mothers of Invention would achieve when they recorded Cruisin’ with Ruben & the Jets in 1968. Already, the psychedelic world was ready for a throwback.

The only cut that seems to be missing from this slapdash affair is Jill Gibson’s “It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3.” But we won’t spend time second-guessing the uncredited Liberty Records employee who had the good sense to sequence this thing brilliantly otherwise. A year later, Paul Williams would write a review for The Byrds Greatest Hits in Crawdaddy! (later available in his book Outlaw Blues) describing the packaging and sequencing of this particular greatest hits package as an art form in itself. Popsicle manages that same artfullness for a collection of songs that, by Jan & Dean standards, would be their “underground” selections.

That packaging matched the gorgeous Watts Tower photographs of the 1966 Jan & Dean tour program designed by Dean Torrence — a precursor to his Kittyhawk Graphics work. In a year’s time, Dean would be designing for the Turtles and did a similar tour program for the Mamas & the Papas. Jill Gibson also wound up in the Mamas & the Papas for a while (singing on the hit “Look Through My Window,” and on plenty of the group’s second album). Popsicle, as packaging, can be seen as leaning in that direction, a sojourn both Jan and Dean would find on their own when recording the Psychedelic Surf Pastiche Washout masterworks Carnival of Sound and Save for a Rainy Day respectively. Popsicle, as music, shows that they had these expansive instincts with them during what may be considered, to some, as a more primitive juncture in their career. A time, however, that was high in both creativity and success.

If only their 1966 TV show pilot Jan and Dean on the Run would have been able to continue… a special nod here to “Time and Space” and “Capitol City” from that ready for Psych-Surf-Pastiche project. Oh well…

—Domenic Priore (with Mark A. Moore)

Jan & Dean at Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers


The editors at DUMB ANGEL have dug up more goodies from the seemingly endless well of coolness that has come out of Balboa. In a now-recurring theme of this blog site, we present you with a pair of reviews, a batch of film glossies and a summary of DUMB ANGEL’s April 2nd gig, in the Newport/Balboa area (at Sid’s Blue Beet).

From the Balboa segment of Lord Love A Duck

Lord Love a Duck (1965)

United Artists, B&W, 105 Minutes
George Axelrod (Producer/Director)
George Axelrod and Larry H. Johnson (Screenplay)
Based on the Novel by Al Hine

Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld . . . punks in the classroom

The dark side, inner-workings of Beach Party-era star-making is just one of many social phenomena satired and deconstructed in the opulent, punk-spirited Lord Love a Duck. The hypocrisy and wasted time inherent to religion, the education system, psychoanalysis and used car sales are all equated; nothing is taboo. Roddy McDowall is a Dada-meets-Go Go version of the somnambulist in Fritz Lang’s The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari, one step ahead of everyone in his world. Tuesday Weld plays his foil, a High School vamp who is part and parcel to McDowall’s schemes. Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles, The Carol Burnett Show) is typically despicable as the school principal. Students look bad-ass wearing sunglasses in class. Weld graduates from the lame rules of the Cashmere Sweater Club in school, and becomes a beach flick movie star, getting everything she wants through McDowall’s wise-guy maneuvers. On a trip to Balboa Island for Spring Break, the director of “15 beach movies” spots Weld and eventually turns her into a 16-year-old version of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. There is much twisting, hully-gully-ing and watusi during the Balboa segment, and punk music is soundtracked by both Neil Hefti (“Batman” theme) and the Wild Ones, a New York City combo who were then house band at Arthur (they also made a great appearance in The Fat Spy with Jayne Mansfield, played the After Hours shows at Hullabaloo on Sunset in ’66, and at the L.A. version of Arthur when it opened at 666 N. La Cienega Boulevard in 1968).

—Domenic Priore

New York Go Go in a Hollywood way, 1965

Tuesday Weld, mid-’60s

Back to Balboa, by the Stan Kenton Orchestra (1958)

Stan HentonIn 1958, Stan Kenton organized his latest version of the Stan Kenton Orchestra and took them back to where Kenton Mach One broke in 1941… the town of Balboa (and more specifically, the Rendezvous Ballroom). Back to Balboa was recorded live during the Kenton Orchestra’s last residence at the Rendezvous in 1957-58, and features a bevy of placid Lennie Niehaus sax solos, adding to the album’s overall lounginess. Label this another seaside tone-poem to be included in DUMB ANGEL’s ever-growing pantheon of Balboa LPs and singles. Several cuts feature the word “blue” in the title (a locale-description later employed by Joe Saraceno for his moody Mar-Kets hit “Balboa Blue”), while “Rendezvous at Sunset” wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the seasonal ’50s flick A Summer Place. The symphonic trumpet blasts that open the song (in classic Kenton pomp) quickly give way to a mellow moodiness rarely found in ’40s or ’50s Kenton. The dawn of “Champagne Music” had arrived.

—Brian Chidester

Dumb Angel Co-Editor Brian Chidester at Sid’s Blue Beet. © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

The Orange County Launch Party for Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long… Featuring the Ghastly Ones, the Boardwalkers and special guest Billy Hinsche, Sunday, April 2

Last night’s show at Sid’s Blue Beet in Newport Beach went off like a charm. The Boardwalkers kicked open the bill and impressed everyone with their fine-tailored surf instrumental skill. Billy Hinsche followed, providing the folk enlightenment for the evening. He performed “Two in the Afternoon,” “Tell Someone You Love Them,” “Lady Love” and “Thru Spray-Colored Glass” (the theme song from 1969’s surf movie soundtrack, Follow Me), plus songs from his career retrospective Mixed Messages. The show was closed with an absolute punk-out by the Ghastly Ones, who brought the house down with their organ-drenched, garage-fuzztone. Tunes from the Ventures’ psychotic Wild Things! album were performed (“Fuzzy and Wild”). Celebrities in the audience included Rockin’ Jelly Bean (from Jackie & the Cedrics), Darian Sahanaja (of the Wondermints and Brian Wilson’s band), 1976 World Surfing Champ Peter Townsend (who doubled for William Katt in Big Wednesday) and Jim Frias (from the original 1964 Santa Ana surf band, the Nocturnes… also a short-term member of the Chantays and the Trademarks). Here’s a few pictures from Sid’s, we’ll have more next month.

The Boardwalkers: Dan Valentie, guitar; Mark Hoeschler, bass; Marty Tippens, drums — © 2006 William Robert Thompson. All Rights Reserved.

Boardwalkers guitarist: Dan Valentie — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Boardwalkers bassist: Mark Hoeschler — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Boardwalkers drummer: Marty Tippens — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

DJ Penelope Pitstop — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Billy Hinsche provides the folk of the evening, giving the night a Five Summer Stories legitimacy. © 2006 William Robert Thompson. All Rights Reserved.

Formerly with the Beach Boys during the mid-’70s, Hinsche’s band (Dino, Desi & Billy) recorded “Thru Spray-Colored Glassesâ€Â in 1969 for the surf movie soundtrack, Follow Me. Tonight he performed the song, for the first time anywhere, at Sid’s Blue Beet. © 2006 William Robert Thompson. All Rights Reserved.

Debbie Shair (Marizane, Candypants) and Darian Sahanaja (Wondermints, the Brian Wilson band) share a moment of meditation and reflection with Dumb Angel Co-Editor Domenic Priore — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

Surfer’s mood with Billy Hinsche. © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

DJ Brian Chidester — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

DJ Penelope Pitstop confers with DJ Domenic Priore — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

Jim Frias (left), original Surf-era saxophonist of the Nocturnes (from Santa Ana), drops in to the Blue Beet . . . and was stoked to hear DJ Domenic Priore spin the 45 “Baha-Ree-Bah” by the Trademarks (another band he performed with back in the day). The Nocturnes’ recordings can be heard on Rare Surf Vol. 2 (AVI), while the Trademarks were comped on Wail on the Beach (Satan Records) — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

The Ghastly Ones — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Go Go Dancers Kari French (left) and Monique groove with the Ghastly Ones — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

Boss Go Go: Monique — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

Boss Go Go: Kari French — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Go Go bohemia with the Ghastly Ones, shot from the 2nd floor crow’s nest. © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

Ghastly Ones organist: Dave “Captain Clegg” Klein — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Ghastly Ones drummer Norman “Baron Shivers” Cabrera steps out front, Trashmen style. ©2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Ghastly Ones bassist: Kevin “Sir Go Go Ghostly” Hair — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Ghastly Ones guitarist: Garrett “Dr. Lehos” Immel — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Go Go Relief: Monique — © 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

DJ Penelope Pitstop chats with Domenic Priore and Audrey Moorehead (the It’s Happening crew) while friend Ingo Pfenning, visiting from Germany (lower right), checks out a Greater L.A. area environment that hasn’t been seen since the release of How To Stuff A Wild Bikini in 1965. — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

We’d like to think Morey Amsterdam (as “Cappy”) is looking down on us from above — © 2006 David Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

© 2006 Christopher Grisanti. All Rights Reserved.

Newport by the Pier

The Orange County Launch Party for Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long

Featuring the Ghastly Ones, the Boardwalkers, and special guest Billy Hinsche, who will be performing songs from the 1968 psychedelic surf film soundtrack for Follow Me — Sunday, April 2 — 6:00 p.m. to Midnight.

Balboa Beach

Do you smell it? The fresh salt water, the smell of seaweed crashing up against the pier barnacles, and the whiff of fresh seafood coming out from behind basin doors at the Dory Fleet?

There’ll be plenty of places to park right along the pier and oceanside, April 2nd, for the show at Sid’s Blue Beet

Balboa Beach

The Dory Fleet boats bring in fresh fish. Sid’s Blue Beet is in the alley between the brick buildings at the center of this photo.

Can you see it? There’s Charlie’s Chili, and next to it is the Sea Shell Shop . . . they have stuffed models of huge Alaskan crabs and Sand Sharks. You walk along the beach, there’s a ledge to sit on and watch the sunset. There’s plenty of waffle cones, corn dogs and strips to be eaten. And then you can get up and make your way to the end of the pier . . . just another wide-angle view at the end of the earth. You can look down the coast and see where others watch land’s end. Piers each way; to the North, Huntington Beach Pier, to the South, Balboa Pier, and you’re in the middle at the Newport Beach Pier in Newport Beach, California.

Beneath the Newport Beach Pier

Do you hear it, or will you hear it? Phil & the Flakes pounding out crunch-chords at Sid’s Blue Beet, a brick cabaret open since 1912, but more recently (1950s/1960s) a Beatnik Folk club hosting Flamenco guitarists, Bebop Jazz, Bluegrass and Folk music. Folk festival performers such as Jess Boggess would sing, or Chuck McCabe – real drop out kind-of shit . . . he was inspired by a girl he met at a clothing-optional resort. And when you walk out the beat goes on, via the angry young man pounding his bongos on the beach. All around, beach-side, angular apartments are rented by Surfer teens looking for girls or guys over the verandas, while the carry-all record player inside blasts out the Beach Boys’ Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!!) album. This is how it was in 1965.

Balboa Beach

Let’s Eat! D.I.Y. dining cultivation at the Newport Beach Pier, 1960s

When you drive up to the pier area, the overwhelming scent of good food, and the ocean, hits you right in the face. There’s a fancy, Victorian-looking steak restaurant, Pizza joints, the smell of Bay seasoning at the Crab Cooker, Fish and Chips at Woody’s Wharf, Mexican food aura everywhere . . . and the tar of the salt water . . . this smells like California.

Balboa Beach

The environment around the Newport Beach Pier, 1960s

The Ghastly OnesWhat we’re trying to do here on Sunday, April 2nd is bring actual Surf instrumental music back to the area, back to a place long-forgotten even in Los Angles, a locale purely “local” in recent years. In bygone times, the whole of the Greater Los Angeles area shook to phenoms from Balboa – the Stan Kenton Orchestra (’40s) and Dick Dale & his Del-Tones (’60s). This year, 2006, we’re bringing two of the finest Surf instrumental combos on the planet – The Ghastly Ones and the Boardwalkers – to Sid’s Blue Beet. On top of that, an acoustic set by Billy Hinsche (formerly of Dino, Desi & Billy, who also recorded great versions of “Mony Mony” and “Honkin’ Down the Highway” with the Beach Boys during the ’70s). Billy will be performing songs in support of his new CD, Mixed Messages, along with Beach Boy related songs written with Brian Wilson and performed by Carl Wilson. A few Dino, Desi & Billy gems will be thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss it! The sound will dwell into the deep pumice underneath our coastline existence. Go Go dancers will quake and shiver above the equatorial splendor of sounds right out of The Munsters theme. You just have to be there.


Balboa Beach

SID’S BLUE BEET – 107 21st Place, Newport Beach, California – Sunday, April 2nd from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Ghastly Ones, The Boardwalkers, Go Go dancers Kari French (etc.) and DJs Penelope Pitstop, Domenic Priore, and Brian Chidester – editors of Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long. Plenty of parking next to the pier on Sunday nights.

Directions to Sid’s Blue Beet:
From the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5) or the San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405), go to the NewportFreeway (55) and head West toward Newport Beach . . . all the way to the end. This becomes Newport Boulevard. As the road splits, bear to the right (Balboa Boulevard). Finally, make a right on West Oceanfront. Park in the lot next to the Newport Pier, which can be seen in postcard #2 from the ’40s on this blog. Sid’s Blue Beet is in the first alley in the brick-walled business district seen in that same postcard.

Domenic’s suggestion: Spend the afternoon seeing the Balboa Fun Zone, have an early dinner in the Newport Pier area, or head to the Blue Beet at 6:00 when the Boardwalkers start playing. Sid’s Blue Beet serves burgers, fish ‘n’ chips and a bunch of other stuff.

Donna Loren

This is what it will look like at Sid’s Blue Beet on Sunday, April 2nd, 2006
at 6:00 p.m. Don’t be late!

Billy Hinsche

Billy Hinsche, formerly of Dino, Desi, & Billy . . . with the cover of the soundtrack for Follow Me



Newport’s own version of Don the Beachcomber

Newport Balboa Savings

The Modernism of Newport-Balboa Savings, 1960s


Charlie's Chili

Dig the resemblance between the Charlie’s menu art and Michael Dormer’s classic boho mural during the credits of Muscle Beach Party

Charlie's Chili

Charlie’s Chili (established 1967)

Dory Fleet

Dory Fishing Fleet (established 1891)

“To live in an old shack by the sea, and breath the sweet salt air. To live with the dawn and the dusk, the new moon, and the full moon, the tides, the wind and the rain, and know the thrill of lonliness, to lose all sense of time… and be free.” – eden ahbez

Collecting shells and sea creatures of this size is a competitive tradition amongst locals of Newport Beach

Oceanic book shelf of Terry Beattie (a.k.a. the Shell Guy)

21 Oceanfront Restaurant boasts a sleek Victorian dining room akin to a high-class New York City steakhouse. The paintings on the wall here are inspired by 18th Century Rococo whimsy, with hints of exotic oceana.

This painting sits above the side exit at 21 Oceanfront . . . the door dumps you out onto the pier area, with an incredible view of the ocean.

Established 1963 . . . just in time for the reign of Eddie & the Showmen

Newport Beach is home to one of the last beachside stands that offers strips . . . thee classic snack treat of surfers and beach-dwellers from the ’60s.

1960s postcard drawing from the Crab Cooker. Many locals did great Beat drawings of restaurants and cafes . . . The best of these artists was Earl Newman, who drew such classic venues as Shelly’s Manne Hole, the Insomniac Café and Pacific Ocean Park . . . L.A. artist Frank Holmes employed a similar style for the front cover of Brian Wilson’s 1966 Smile album. The artist signature on this postcard is Hart Lawrence. Other artworks unknown.

The Crab Cooker (established 1951) — not the Whisky a Go Go corner, but an incredible simulation . . . and much cooler these days, for sure.

A great example of the California Crazy signage genre.

Woody’s old boat sits on top o’ the restaurant. All other fish & chips plates must kneel before Woody’s Wharf

Mermaid tiki carving along the wall of the entrance to Woody’s Wharf. Inside you can have dinner right on the Bay waters

We had a great reaction for the ’60s Stuft Shirt photo from last month’s blog about Balboa. So, for all those out there clamoring for more . . . here’s a color shot of the building taken in March, 2006. The restaurant is long closed, but water reflection still dances beneath the shell-curves of the cantilever roof.

Ed “Kookie” Byrnes takes his date to the Stuft Shirt building (here designated the Captain’s Grotto) in a mid-’60s issue of the 77 Sunset Strip comic book

The Balboa Pharmacy Library

Why Balboa, you ask? Which town did Gilligan, Skipper, Tina Louise and the rest take off from? Where did Dick Dale & his Del-Tones, in the summer of 1961, take off from? Where did Van Dyke Parks first witness crowds of surfers pack in the Rendezvous Ballroom to see the Beach Boys one night? He witnessed this standing in front of the Prison of Socrates folk club, across the street in Balboa. And what would you say if I told you that one segment of the Pet Sounds/Wall-of-Sound musicians started life as members of the Stan Kenton Orchestra? And that their concerts at the Rendezvous are where Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and his pals would head to in the late 1940s? What locale, in the head-spinning summer of 1963, did Sports Illustrated choose to depict on its cover as the center of “The Beach Explosion in Southern California”?
Balboa Beach

Dig the Sea & Ski and Coppertone tanning lotion Pop art beach umbrellas

Let me back up for just a second. Let me tell ya how it came to me. Here’s a quotation . . .

“So listen, man . . . Paul Johnson (who played his song “Mr. Moto” at the Rendezvous with his band, the Belairs) once told me this . . . are you ready? Paul Johnson said to me, ‘You know Domenic, this whole California Myth thing . . . it’s really neat and compelling and all. But the truth is always more bizarre and interesting.'”

Balboa Peninsula - Pavilion

Balboa Peninsula boardwalk and beach, featuring summer teen fashions from the mid-’60s — Balboa Pavilion in the background

Thus started the day I traveled with Domenic Priore through Orange County’s Pacific Coast Highway selling new copies of Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long to stores in the region. We headed down there with the intent of reminding the natives of Balboa about their groovy, locally-derived music scene.

Photo Booth

Bay Arcade photo booth. A perfect example of how sometimes, American “Mod” outstrips the British variety, as heard in those Garage 45s from ’65/’66. (Photo by Brian Chidester)

Photo Booth

The Wet Seal clothing boutique — mid-1960s

Before you, behold the locally-produced library of Balboa history and folklore we found when we got there:

Old Balboa Island StoriesOld Balboa Island Stories from 1907 to the Millenium by Jim Jennings (No Publisher)

  • An old man’s personal history of daily life in Balboa. However, he tells it with a sense of wisdom and inherent coolness from simply living through this quieter era, that it’s to reading what listening to an Arthur Lyman album would be like.

Tales of BalboaTales of Balboa by Jim Fournier (No Publisher)

  • An encyclopedia of important people and places in Balboa’s history, told by the town historian. Sort of a miniature version of Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County (University of California Press)

Newport - Balboa MapThe Newport/Balboa Map

  • General Newport Beach, Balboa and Corona del Mar area map, including illustrations of key locations and a list of phone numbers for local businesses.

Newport Beach PostcardsNewport Beach: A California Postcard History by Jeff Delaney (Arcadia Publishing)

  • Postcard shots of Newport/Balboa/Corona del Mar from 1900 on.

Newport BeachNewport Beach: Images of America by Pamela Lee Gray (Arcadia Publishing)

  • Archival photo paste-up book about Newport and Balboa’s history. Besides a host of deserted beach shots from the Victorian Era, there are four shots of the Rendezvous from Stan Kenton period through to Dick Dale, and ultimately when it burned down in 1966.

Newport Beach HarborNewport Beach by Gayle Baker, PhD (HarborTown Histories)

  • A linear account of how the Newport/Balboa towns developed during the early 1920s. The best re-telling of the Rendezvous Ballroom origins, and an unseen photo of the structure to boot. I would consider this to be the most literary of all the Balboa books thus far.

The Wedge DVD

  • Documentary of the ‘Dirty ol’ Wedge’ . . . the spot with the most intense body-surfing experience in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Dirty Feet DVD

  • 1965 feature film about Balboa folk singer Tim Morgon, shot on location at the Prison of Socrates coffee-house. To watch this movie is to be transported to a way of life that no longer exists, with shots of Morgon’s cool girlfriend Vicki passing out flyers to surf dwellers near the Balboa Pier, and rowdy folk music enthusiasts tearing up the joint by movie’s end.

We are proud that Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long has joined these fine books and films in the Balboa Pharmacy Library

Special thanks to Mike and Tom of the Balboa Pharmacy for keepin’ it real.

Balboa Pharmacy - Pavilion

Balboa Pharmacy and Balboa Pavillion, 1950s

Balboa Pharmacy - Pavilion

Coppertone clock relief — Balboa Pharmacy. (Photo by Domenic Priore)

Rounding out the sphere . . .

The complete collection of albums and singles on the Fink Records label (all of which were local-artist albums released out of Balboa’s Prison of Socrates coffee house).

  • Artists include Tim Morgon (“Dirty Feet” b/w “Mike Fink”) and Phil & the Flakes (“Chrome Reversed Rails” b/w “Blower Scoop,” 1965).

By BRIAN CHIDESTER (with editing, ideas and lots of laughter from Domenic Priore)

More detail about Balboa can be viewed and discussed at Sponto Gallery, in Venice, on July 19, 2006. Dumb Angel will host a screening of the Dirty Feet film, plus Bob Denver’s wild beatnik surf scene in For Those Who Think Young, Michael Dormer’s painting during the opening credit sequence of Muscle Beach Party (soundtracked by Les Baxter) and a slide show of all the long-gone beach coffee-houses in the Greater L.A. area during the ’50s and ’60s (indeed, Sponto was one of them — The Venice West Café). Others featured will be the Insomniac Café in Hermosa Beach, Sid’s Blue Beet in Newport Beach, Prison of Socrates in Balboa, and Café Frankenstein in Laguna Beach.

Prison of Socrates Mural

Original mural from inside the Prison of Socrates folk club, now displayed at the Balboa Historical Museum on South Bayfront Ave. The mural is in a section of the museum devoted to Balboa’s folk scene during the early ’60s. The display also features a selection of Tim Morgon album sleeves, one of Tim’s guitars and various Prison of Socrates posters, including one for a Hoyt Axton show. (Photo by Domenic Priore/Brian Chidester)

Dirty Feet Soundtrack — Tim Morgon, Susan Renaker, John & the Bazooki Band (Fink Records LP 1007)

Dirty FeetNever has one album so summed up the general feeling of Balboa during the early ’60s than this 1965 soundtrack to the rare indie film Dirty Feet, starring folk singer Tim Morgon and his sidekick Vicki Arthur. Morgon contributes two vocal numbers, the anthemic “Dirty Feet” and the hootenanny sing-a-long “Mike Fink.” What lies between these captures faithfully that rare environment between Balboa’s Island, Pavilion and Pier. The “Prison of Socrates” instrumental cut is traditional Greek folk music, and sets the stage for musical references that informed the Middle Eastern exoticism of many surf instrumentals. The moody “Gamblin’ Man” breaks stride with what is, otherwise, essentially a folk album . . . this being a breezy surf instrumental inflection of the night-time moon and tides. “Camping Song” sounds like surfboards sliding through the pilings . . . it works as happy music for anywhere. The Grecian formula-flavored “Odessey” rolls along with its combination of Amerian rock ‘n’ roll and European flair, and can be DJ’d along with any other Bosstella numbers you may prefer (not as frantic as the soundtrack to The Day the Fish Came Out, but on the way there). Next up, the instrumental backing track to Tim’s vocal number “Dirty Feet” works as somber 12-string guitar “walking music.” Susan Renaker’s “Summertime Wine” sounds like an ode to Joan Baez, with a strong falsetto vocal landing somewhere between “Kum-Baya” and an exotica siren. (NOTE: “Summertime Wine” is the title of a book that Tim Morgon is reading during the opening credits of Dirty Feet, his feet set on a bamboo table with empty bottles.) “Angel’s Camp” could refer to the Sunset Strip-esque Pop and Op shop, at 614 N. Doheny Drive back then, or, someplace in the San Gabriel mountains. Either way, it’s killer surf. “Cotton Candy” mind checks the prime dietary capital of the Balboa Fun Zone, and is a romatic surfer’s mood number. It’s followed by a slowed-down version of “Odessey” and a chugging Folk instrumental rendering of “Mike Fink.” The “Dirty Feet” theme is reprised vocally by Morgon in a profound, slowed-down version, and the LP closes. Generally speaking, the Dirty Feet soundtrack employs the same placid moodiness found in the Mar-Kets’ “Balboa Blue” single, only spread across an entire album. Though the whole affair might seem like a mind-altering trip to some lost astral plane, when you watch the film and walk around the town of Balboa, you get a sense that it is all really real, and that this type of music poured into the streets on any given 1964 night.


Prison of Socrates Building

The Prison of Socrates Building Today. (Photo by Domenic Priore)


Dirty feet, dirty feet . . .
Say that youth and life are much too sweet,
To be bound or confined.
Shoes are things that steal my peace of mind.

I want to feel the good earth under me,
The warmth of the sand beneath my toes.
Even mud squish when it rains,
It’s my life and I don’t care who knows.

Let me be foot loose and free,
Then with music every step will sound . . .
Though I walk with my head in the clouds,
My feet will be on solid ground.

Dirty feet, dirty feet . . .
Tell of summertime that was too fleet.
Soon enough, I will be,
Saying ‘fare thee well’ to liberty.

But now I must run barefoot through grass,
And find what waits over the hill.
Skipping puddles in the rain,
There’s part of me that’s a kid still.

I am sure as can be,
Lots of folks would find life more complete . . .
If they took off their shoes for a while,
And ran around in dirty feet.

Happy dirty feet!

— “Dirty Feet,” by Tim Morgon, 1964

Balboa Fun Zone

Barefoot Action — ’50s Balboa Fun Zone — You can almost hear ‘Surf Beat’ just by looking at this shot!

Balboa Blues

Sublime, early Psychedelic Surf Pastiche Washout disc, 1965


From Christopher Peake’s column “Take a Walk on the WARPED side,” in his 1984-1986 ‘zine 45-45

Phil & the Flakes “Chrome Reversed Rails” b/w “Blower Scoop” (Fink 1010)

A long-time favorite, it’s the label copy that gets your attention right off (see photo copy). This demented surfer (P. Pearlman is the writer’s name for both sides) is putting on a joke; it can only be. Top side starts out with what gives the listener the impression is going to be a good Surf instrumental tune, but then we get a two-part vocal group coming in and adding more to the intro, and then Phil comes on with his opening line; “When I go surfin’, my baby loves me so, she loves my chrome rails, how they gleam and they glow; . . . It’s my chrome reverse rails, woe-oh, that stuck my baby on me; . . . shoo-be-do-wah-pa-do-wah” (it’s just gotta be heard)!! All this is going on with the two-part female “vocal backup” now doing it up to a true “warp level 13,” with one part singing in unison with Phil on his lines, and one part which resembles (for lack of better likeness coming to mind), doing some Turkish harem-trip kind of high warbling part!? The lyrics remain just as cool throughout, until the mid-break, which sports some of the hottest Surf-guitar playing ever laid down!! “Blower Scoop” is right in the same groove (with another super Surf-guitar break), but the lyrics maybe get evermore far out there (if that’s possible). We know you don’t believe us . . . (editor’s note: . . . so check out the incredible Surf comp Wax ‘Em Down for a good repress of the flip).

“It seems that Phil and his pals were cruisin’ to drag and get in a quarter mile showdown with a rod equipped with a blower scoop. Well, just as the scooped coupe is about to pass, Phil’s buddy throws his ICE CREAM CONE into the oncoming supercharger and puts the kibosh on the guy’s mill! This genius platter is on Fink Records, who obviously felt proud enough of Beardo Weirdo Phil to put his hairy mug on the label.” — Deke Dickerson and Johnny Bartlett, from the liner notes of Wax ‘Em Down, 1995.

Phil & the Flakes were a house band in 1965/1966 at Sid’s Blue Beet, on the North end of the Balboa peninsula, near the Newport Beach pier.

Listen to “Chrome Reversed Rails” at Pegg Records.

For the full story of Phil & the Flakes, plus other related projects from this artist, checkout The Beat of the Earth.

Rendezvous Ballroom - Before and After

Photo by Brian Chidester

The Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa . . .
The two most important live recordings from the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa can be heard on these records:
Rendezvous Ballroom - Before and After

LEFT: The Original Rendezvous Ballroom / RIGHT: The Rendezvous building today. (New photo by Domenic Priore)

The Kenton EraThe Kenton Era — Stan Kenton (Capitol EOX 569). The opening eight numbers from this definitive early-’50s release were recorded live at the Rendezvous from July through September of 1941. The selections include “Artistry In Rhythm,” “Two Moods,” “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good,” “Lamento Gitano,” “Reed Rapture,” “La Cumparsita,” “St. James Infirmary” and “Arkansas Traveler”. “With the college and high school crowd that colonized the little resort town on weekends, holidays and vacations,” wrote Bud Freeman, “the young Kenton was an immediate success. Red Dorris, tenor saxist and vocalist, became a local idol within a few weeks. Howard Rumsey, who played amplified bass with spastic abandon, was known by his first name to every Jazz enthusiast in the area.” Rumsey later held sway with his Lighthouse All-Stars at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. The Kenton band would nourish, through the ’40s and ’50s, the school of musicians later referred to in Jazz circles as West Coast Cool.
Surfer's ChoiceSurfer’s Choice — Dick Dale & his Del-Tones. Released in early 1963, this collection is crucial to any Surf music collection. Most, if not all of the tracks were recorded live at the Rendezvous, including the insane “Surf Beat” (lots of great audience noise that pushes the actual content of the record), “Sloop John B.,” “Let’s Go Trippin’,” “Surfin’ Drums” (a takeoff on Bo Diddley’s “Hush Your Mouth”), “Mr. Peppermint Man” and the expanded guitar workout “Miserlou Twist”. Some of the Del-Tone 45s (“Jungle Fever,” notably) also feature the Rendezvous in rapture.
Stuft Shirt

The Stuft Shirt Resaurant

Balboa BluesBalboa Blues — A lounge piano album featuring the bar room keyboard masters from the Stuft Shirt, Berkshire’s and the Reuben E. Lee restaurants. Side one opens with a cool cocktail take on “Satin Doll,â€Â and ends with a night/tide version of “Girl from Ipanema.â€Â Side two starts out with some standard Broadway fare, including “Hello Dolly,â€Â sprung from the Reuben E. Lee (a riverboat/restaurant out to sea). Best of all, the piano lounge players are boarded on Balboa’s Ferry Boat (with a grand piano) for the album cover. — BRIAN CHIDESTER

“Henry Mancini keeps a boat here.” — from the liner notes to Balboa Blues, Mark 56 Records, mid-’60s.

Ruben E. lee Matchbook

Reuben E. Lee Matchbook


Balboa Memories “Balboa Memories” b/w “Long Way Home” by the Breakers (Marsh 206)
What you have here is a Cascades-esque trip through the teenage hot-spots and inherent romanticism of Balboa, circa 1963. The Breakers slide effortlessly through a swirl of vocal harmonies and lyrics which suggest the whole city of Balboa was once akin to the P.O.P. theme park in Venice (with mentions of the Fun Zone, Bay Arcade, Ferry Boat and the Jolly Roger). The backing track is mid-tempo and Modern, bringing images of mini-yachts, cotton candy and sea shells to mind. Their world must have seemed perfect. — BRIAN CHIDESTER
“Those Memories of You” by the Bobby Fuller 4
Written by Jim Pewter, his original 1964 demo appeared on Surfin’ Roots in 1977. Pewter produced another cool version with Dick Dale for GNP-Crescendo in 1975.

Ace local photos of Balboa from a resident can be viewed and purchased at

Dumb Angel Readers,

I thought I should share this with you. Brian Chidester and I went to Orange County on a Monday afternoon in January, and it was just empty . . . “off season” for these beach towns. We did our sales thing, but the sky had this forever sunset that was just amazing . . . Catalina fully visible over the Dana Point/Laguna Beach area . . . and while the sun was dipping outta sight, we crossed from Balboa Island to Balboa on the Ferry, looking West . . . Without cueing it, we just happened to be listening to “Busy Doin’ Nothin'”and “Diamond Head” from the Beach Boys 1968 Friends (!) album while on the Ferry boat, floating on the water, in the car. Outtasight!!! . . . to hear those steel guitars and percussion emulating volcanoes . . . true Brian Wilson Exotica music on a slow boat. Here’s Chidester’s e-mail to me the day after. I think you’ll appreciate the sentiment in it.


Balboa Ferry

LEFT: The Balboa Ferry in the 1960s / RIGHT: The Ferry Today. (New photo by Domenic Priore)

I’m still riding high from that trip yesterday. I was just so sad and overwhelmed by how amazing Southern California once was. But zoning in on just the cool elements and having that music in the background, it melted my heart and made me long so hard for the days when beach houses and mini-yachts looked the way “Let Him Run Wild” sounded. Crossing that empty street on Balboa Blvd. to walk into the pharmacy . . . I had the most odd feeling. It was as though the wind was whipping some salt-air comfort over me, whistling the tunes of Tim Morgon out of the Prison of Socrates and Dick Dale playing “Greenback Dollar” from the Rendezvous. I felt so at home talking to that local in the Pharmacy and looking at the books and the homemade documentary about the Wedge. How could I get that sense? I never lived through 1963. I felt the way a scientist must feel when he makes a discovery that he knows is so profound, yet is going to be impossible to explain to the outside world. It was really heavy. Hard to even put into words. If we would have heard Jill Gibson’s “Easy As 1, 2, 3” last night after eating at Woody’s Wharf, I would have cried. Seriously. I would have balled my eyes out. I felt so emotional about SoCal last night . . . it was ridiculous. Such a cool day.


Balboa Map