Wednesday, August 16, 2006

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