Rainbow Gardens Gone except in memory
more on the 1960s mexican music scene
(from east LA to Pomona)
"The El Monte American Legion Stadium was home to legendary “oldies but
goodies” DJ Art Laboe-sponsored concerts but had been demolished. Some
of these sites were also far away from East LA, including Pomona’s
demolished Rainbow Gardens and Fullerton’s Rhythm Room. Some venues were
simple union halls, like the Big and Little Union Halls and others were
schools like the St. Alphonsus School Auditorium."
(Daniel Kramer, a recent graduate of Stanford University, is an intern at the Los Angeles Conservancy)
Night time radio listening
Across the radio waves at night received even in Claremont... Earl Bostic!
Rainbow Sunday afternoons 4 to 10 pm
The more romantic Sunday afternoons at the Rainbow (for the slow dances).... the Jaguars!
Rainbow Gardens Sundays Four to Ten PM
Playing in Spanish: Toma a tu Chica (Get Your Baby)
with a photo of the band. c. 1964?
Foreclosure, Richmond, 1967
Yes, the surf records went during the time of the quick record sale in 1967 to help stave off eminent foreclosure of that Winslow Arizona trinket shop (with house attached). Some of them I had parked with a friend, and hadn't retrieved them, but who said later they had been ripped when her whole record collection was stolen. The way of the material world.
the real surf music you know
Arthur (Lee) liked surf music and came to my house in Claremont a few times to spin records and talk about all things surf and life. There was even a visit that ran into slightly after sundown. He didn't mention if he got a traffic or parking ticket as a result of this visit. He enjoyed tunes like this (which he brought over):
But he very much enjoyed the flip side of a surf record I owned, "Church Key" and we spoke at length about this one in a broad and sometimes larger cosmic kind of way. I was unaware there was a predecessor released, this one:
This is what you'd hear on my record player back then, surf music .... instrumental ... THAT was SURF MUSIC .... in case you don't know the real origins. And the sound waves pounded up against the walls (sometimes my Dad came in to complain: "What's going on in here? What's the matter with you kids! Keep it down! I'm missing the best part of 'Gunsmoke'!")
Premiers on a Sunday Night
The importance of being Susie
I just have one more thing to say. Did you ever notice a plethora of "Susies" in your school and neighborhood and a number of "hit songs" using "Susie" as the fill in name for a girl? Did you know that since the 1950s, according to the social security index of birth names which is utilized as the prime source for statistics for popular names, "Susie" has remained the 3rd most popular name for girls in the United States. Think about that! I myself personally knew perhaps eight Susies while I was growing up, pretty much all of them in Claremont, even though they'd spell the diminutive differently sometimes to individualize themselves.
Seems like I'm repeating myself as far as Frank Zappa is concerned. And I don't want to reveal someone else's hardwon research by gossiping ahead of time as some people are known and have been known to do, carrying stories told in a kindly sharing way that once heard become "their" stories. So until I can dredge up something from my own memory banks about Frank and his history in Claremont, I will remain silent on this topic. I could continue to write about books and records and meals out and small adventures in the environs, and people we knew in common, but I await inspiration before heading down those avenues.
In the meantime, I will only mention that sometime in 1971 perhaps I spoke with my sister on a rare telephone call. I was in Berkeley at the time, and she recounted how Frank had been injured during a trip to London, was in a lot of pain and in a wheel chair.
"He was really hurt!" she emphasized.
She regarded him as a friend always and always was concerned about his welfare and state of being and lauded his successes, as did I, I must admit because of all the history we had shared together. I sympathized truly with Frank's plight, but by way of example, the only one I had at the moment, I spoke of another of my friends who had recently been shot in the spine and the doctor in charge of treatment announced he would never be able to walk again. And on to the proud fact that he didn't really believe his doctor and within a year or so his wheelchair though kept for convenience was in a corner, while he gamboled about on crutches and wasn't "disabled" at all. We as humans always try to keep people inspired and believing in possibility of great outcome, or at least the happiest sort of ending we can currently find in life.
Aside from sitting with a glass of my grandmother's white zinfindel in front of him on the genuine Italian marble table, as he leaned back into the dark brown Danish modern couch, his ankle on his knee in a casual I'm comfortable here leg cross, and smiled obviously enjoying himself, I never that I remember saw Frank
take a drink. My sister told me he would sometimes be kidded by everyone in the clubs
for sipping on a soft drink all evening.
Although as soon as I say that, I recall him accepting an occasional
glass of wine at meals with us because my father’s doctor had recommended one
glass of red wine at dinner to reduce stress and help heal his heart (this was 1961 or 62 we're talking about). But after the initial tip of the glass to my
Dad and Mom (you know, one of those Czech toasts) and raising the glass dramatically, his glass would
sit there untouched. My sister would
sweep it up along with the plates when we were clearing the dishes from dinner,
she’d toss it down her throat once she got into the kitchen. Dinners with my parents could sometimes be
Out in the world, Frank got a
ribbed a lot by certain people in those fast times jazz clubs. Some would make a point of ordering by
saying, “And a Shirley Temple for my friend here.” That would piss Frank off and he would say
so, especially if he regarded the person saying that as having not too much to
offer other than a round of drinks. And some of those were expensive places to get into, or with a drink order minimum. The fancier of the venues served drinks with black napkins on the table as they were so hip (yes, it's true) and occasionally depending on the place, a little umbrella in the drink (which my sister would bring home as a souvenir and keep in her drawer.)
also got to see first hand that show biz (we're talking vaudeville here, but that *was* show biz once upon a time) can wreak havoc on families in ways that can
continue on down the generational ladder.
Being intelligent, he was sometimes impatient with people
slower to catch on. One of his favorite
phrases at that time was “watch your mouth” when a person’s only contribution to the
conversation or venture at hand percolated down into mere foul drivel. Sometimes, he could be angrier and I heard
from someone else he would say to or about a horn player to “just stick that in your
mouth and suck on it. Maybe you can get
something out of it that way.”
When Frank came to visit, my sister would always break out the
electric coffee pot and make a big pot of coffee for him.
She was determined to show Frank around Los Angeles, all the cool places she knew of. Jazz clubs were one. Jazz itself was another. Our family outings were a way of showing him the town, so to speak, the new and unusual like going to Seibu, or the tried and true like China Town, Olvera Street, and Catalina Island.
He'd join us for meals out in restaurants (my mother got mad at Spaghetti Village in Claremont because Frank and my sister sat separately from us and just ordered coffee, and she presumed he would like a nice Italian meal and so suggested that restaurant even though she didn't like it herself. When she saw them sitting there alone, not eating, she grew concerned: "People will think something is wrong" she said. She was always concerned about what the neighbors might be thinking and how they might respond. Well, you can't be ruled by what other people might be thinking. But I must admit in Claremont, a small geography then of 1100 residents all seemingly possessing a small hick town nosiness, people did have to walk and talk carefully and be mindful because everything you did in that small geography was noticed, commented upon, or acted upon in some way.
My mother was surprisingly kind in other ways. Not just Frank came to stay with us for a few days.
But one of my friends, a bit older than I, now an artist's wife, with a young child, who would occasionally be frightened of her husband's behavior when he was in a drunk artist mood and so he behaved in an inexplicable but not unpredictable way, such as taking all her money from her purse to go buy more wine for his friends, she came to rest at our house one time. Before that, she would spend time as usual laying on her back in bed shaking in fear and holding her purse to her chest. One day, she came by and she laid down in my room for hours to try to get some rest, she was still shaking and holding her purse to her chest as she first laid down. She had dropped most of the other kids off to be minded elsewhere, but brought her young daughter with her. Who my mother entertained while my friend got some rest for the afternoon. My mother understood the fear and confusion surrounding her own life, having been raised in the same house as her rabidly alcoholic father. My father never knew of this event of my own friend being provided sanctuary, not that I know of, because he was at work at the time of the visit. Needless to say, my mother approved of Frank because he did not drink alcohol.
Frank's parents and my parents had similar backgrounds, from recent immigrant background (on my Dad's side at least) just having survived the Depression as young adults coming into their own in the world, and World War II, and the leveling out and flattening of society in the scare-mongering fifties. That taken together with a lot of geographic relocations, rather than us kids being brought up our whole lives in the same small town and knowing all the same people all the time you grew up. A bit different than the WASP townspeople who would trace their lineage back to the American Revolution and talk about their relatives "class" in society as a result and assume that rank and privilege for themselves as if this was something they had inherited and only they had personal rights to.
Given the nature of the town as I was seeing it, I was so fortunate to go see Ella Fitzgerald at Bridges. I used a huge sum of money I'd hoarded to pay for my ticket and I even bought a program with glossy pages held between gray cardboard covers (looked like the same Pomona printer who did the Jr High School "annual" got this contract, too), which Ella autographed for me after the show. Ella was surrounded that warm evening outside at Bridges when I met her by the sweet scent I recognized, that of Chanel No. 5.
In the early 60s in a town with esteemed faculty in prestigious institutions, there were also an abundance of artists (both freespirited and the more commercial variety) and lofty, private, and very expensive institutions offering art classes for the well heeled children of rich people, so collage for a time became the rage in my house at least. People could (and did) criticize such a form, pointing out this was mere assemblage of individual images already created by other artists (photographers usually as these images were clipped from magazines). Frank enjoyed the notion of collage because you could be so creative with it, assembling figures that held a separate distinct meaning into a grouping with a different intent and so a different effect on the viewer.
Frank also liked the joke I made up at the time: "I guess I'll go to collage and study Arp."
Because, as I said, we made fun of everything.
(I have copywritten that joke and the original resides in the Library of Congress. If you use it, you have to pay me $10 for each use. )
Rainbow Gardens Ballroom
Following performance at the Richie Valens Memorial Concert held in Long Beach, Dec 31, 1961 , in the beginning of the new year 1962, an up and coming group called the Beach Boys played the Rainbow Gardens in Pomona, CA
Feb 16, Feb 17, March 9, March 23, March 30, 1962
(Reconstructed dates courtesy of a dedicated fan
But you could also go hear recognized jazz great Cal Tjader Quintet with Vince Guardi on piano at the Rainbow Gardens. The Quintet shared the bill with "Treni Menor and his Latin American music" April 7, 1957. My sister was really starting to get deeper into jazz at this time. She didn't go to THAT show as we hadn't moved to Claremont yet. But she may have succeeded in seeing the Quintet on Nov 1, 1958 at the Rainbow, with the bill including the Luis Arcaraz Orchestra.
(Vince Guaraldi's Timeline
My sister dug Cal Tjader, so did Frank. We'd spend time looking at the different cartoon figures of the bullfight ring on his big yellow album and talk about jazz. (This is a bright red disc inside, and on the album cover art hidden amongst the massive crowd was to be found the Lone Ranger, a naked lady, a man giving the finger, with a balloon coming out from the crowd shouting "Nixon Go Home!")
Say, do you kids remember how to do the Pachuco Hop? (If you do, you know this is too fast a beat.)
The Premiers were one of the "East Side Bands"
. This link is to a genuine labor of love site.
For scholars in what is now called Ethnic Studies, here's a monograph on some of the Hispanic music scene
as it revolved around Latin Holidays in the Los Angeles area in the old days (which mentions the Rainbow Gardens and which takes a very long time to load in, kind of like the big bands of the era).
Here is how the East Side Sound developed per Gaversa.
(People listening to Los Angeles radio of the time most definitely would recognize the music of Rosie and the Originals, but might not have known this was an East Side Sound.
Rosie's other huge local hit was "Angel Baby"
(of course Frank listened to these, as I was in charge of the record player sometimes and these were some current favorites of mine).
And what discussion even a casual mention of the East Side Sound would be complete without an interactive map from EMP?
Which helps prove you needed a car or at least a ride to and from
places involving music both then and now.
And novelty records were de riguer, as Burrito Joe
by the Armenta Brothers Orchestra
shows. A 15-piece band, they mostly were famous at El Monte Legion Stadium, but they did perform at the Rainbow Gardens Ballroom. Just to give you some idea of the flavor of the club.
Frank would make fun of the Castillian accent or "lithp" when some spoke Spanish, as we generally enjoyed making fun of everything, you see.
An artifact from when I worked as a long distance telephone operator, back when you heard the coins drop into the box (a higher sound for a dime, a quarter sounded "deeper" than a nickle), clips for the cords, and mechanical timers, pencils for bubbling in the number of minutes, headsets, cords, uncomfortable chairs, and this ....
Because this subsidiary also served some small portion of the local area, every once in a very great while I heard a voice I recognized.
I strongly suspect the "hypnotist" cited as having an influence on "Freak Out!" is likely Dr. Benjamin Simon (of Boston) from this famous UFO case of the time (The Hills were Unitarians
, which made them a bit more believable, and they perhaps at the time the most notorious of Unitarians, plus they were also involved in the NAACP. Though they soon attempted to evade reporters, news and reports spread throughout the nation like wildfire. My sister, usually indifferent to anything to do with the science fiction end of paranormal, especially mentioned this case on a number of different occasions, and with new information each time, as if someone were following the case in various articles and giving her a blow by blow accounting of new facts revealed. This was 1961 that the event occurred, but the Hills did not discuss this matter with their church until March, 1963 and did not undergo hypnosis til December 1963.
Sometime between February and June, 1974, in the vicinity of Berkeley, CA, an actor friend of mine said someone gave him tickets to see "Flo and Eddie" somewhere in San Francisco. He invited me to go to the show, and I declined. I wasn't such a music junkie then, having just returned from living far away in the woods. Anyway, I was currently mourning what I knew would be the loss of Mandrake's soon as I had just stopped in there.
Seibu, the Department Store 1962-ish
I can't find where I posted some of this before on some music writing blog. Anyway.
On a family outing one evening, carrying Frank with us, we went to a startling new Japanese department store holding items for sale that were very different than the usual "cheap" Japanese imports flooding the US of the time. This huge new building was located as I recall near Wilshire Blvd.
This was a special evening outing of some kind, likely on a weekend night, as my Dad would be acting as chauffeur. After a dinner, which was likely more superior than the usual fare as we were imposing on my father's good will, we loaded into the car and my Dad drove us all to Los Angeles.
I recall what a splendid sight it was to
view the traffic and city lights outside the building from within the
building as you rode down an escalator inside. We ascended and descended, up and down on the escalators, peered at the merchandise all up and down the aisles. My sister and Frank each bought a pair of tabi (held in assorted sizes in small thin boxes with lids). I just remembered the name of the place, I am thinking Seibu. As a business, this venture failed as a commercial establishment, as the timing and the market was off, as general consumers were not ready for that high end (actually quite upscale) Japanese imports at that time.
(The above photo is of a rare triple level server from Seibu Los Angeles of the '60s, to give you an idea of the items. And the manikans in the store were Japanese figures dressed as Geisha).
Who's in that photo
The Grand Opening Made TIME
What Seibu looked like then
Seibu per wikipaedia
Here's what was demolished to make room for Seibu (which we would have seen prior to destruction)
Pages from a book on the demolition (History of Miracle Mile in Los Angeles)
My sister and I always noticed the Geller Theater Workshop, for example, as she knew a jazz saxophonist named Herb Geller. (As I recall, there was still a brass plaque on the front column showing the old historic name of the building despite the official name change). We learned enough about Hollywood (as such facts fly at you from everywhere in the media there) to know Natalie Wood had attended the Workshop.
On a separate outing, we went to another Japanese store or building constructed somewhere out near Compton or signal hill. This was a monumental structure, probably 6 storeys, nearly all of glass. I could imagine what a splendid sight it was to
view the traffic and city lights outside the building from within the
building as you rode down an escalator inside. But I didn't go in, and I haven't found the name of that place yet.
A researcher on Japanese retail history found the 1962 Seibu photos and was "shocked".
So was I -- "shocked", that is, as it was all I could humanly do to dredge up the correct name Seibu for the department store we took Frank to. I'm putting in all this background, because we didn't eat downstairs, my parents may have actually taken an expensive brew in the beer gardens upstairs and looked at the reflecting pools, but all I remember of the outing is the sensation of the escalator ride, the fact that two people bought something (tabis), and that Frank was with us. That tea room looks familiar, though.
A different world Los Angeles was, just 35 miles away. How different Seibu was from the local high priced and pretentious department store of the time in Claremont. Snooty, despite being located next to a feed store.
And one time my sister, Frank, and I went to Griffith Observatory, where the rumble from "Rebel Without a Cause" was filmed.
Just so you can get the citations straight when discussing an album title ("Absolutely Free") and Zappa recognizing Camus as an influence on the "Freak Out!" list, here is the original quote from Albert Camus:
"Le seul moyen d'affronter un monde sans liberté est de devenir si
absolument libre qu'on fasse de sa propre existence un acte de révolte."
It comes from "The Rebel
", (French title
: L'Homme révolté
Read in English translation c. 1962 in the Pomona Valley. There were only two bookstores in the village that sold this very edition, although the title was likely available at the college bookstores. One was adjacent to Barrett's Drug Store, the other on Yale and Bonita kitty corner from the Sugar Bowl Cafe. Camus had just died a few years prior to these readings in 1962.
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
In Claremont, when I knew the folkies, the girl who wore moccasins and fired raku (she loaned me that Bob Dylan record, remember?) knew all the words to this song (though I'll bet she was singing the words she learned from a Dave Van Ronk record). Her version had a faster rhythm and was more "comedic" though could be regarded as "shocking" to many of the other residents in the village.
The Sheepskin or maybe the Sheepsgrin
Oh, thank goodness. I finally and officially got out of High School (I had already spent a semester at that poop college in the desert.)
I returned to town June 1964 for the important "ceremony" which as my life would have it none in my family other than I attended. I'd returned to Claremont for the express purpose of taking part in the "ceremony" and to walk across the stage for my rolled up faux diploma (I would have to pick up the real one later, or have it mailed to my home I think). My mother was truly disappointed I would not be attending the prom, but I glossed over this and softened the blow, assuring her the only reason I wasn't going to the prom is that at this late date I couldn't find a mudbrown formal as I would likely be going there on the back of a motorcycle.
After the ceremony, which I had attended only because I thought my folks would want me to, I ditched the gown and heels, rode on the back of an artists's motorcycle or in his convertible sportscar to LAX to bid adieu to the fella who was going to become Captain Beefheart's road manager. He was flying off to England a few hours after I got my sheepskin. I was surprised when I was rushing to the gate that there had been a switch in gates, and then I was surprised again when suddenly I heard my name being paged to go to the white telephone, which I did do, and the guy on the phone told me to go to such and such gate instead. So I proceeded there.
So the guy was leaving, maybe breaking my heart a bit in the process or certainly making me feel even more insecure, and I was trying to say goodbye to him and wish him well and I had hopes for me, too.
He came tip-toeing down the aisle, spotted me and was so very surprised to see me and we were saying goodbye as we stood for a moment, and who else shows up to show he was a friend and would help me get through this? Kenny Edwards!
I was surprised to see him and rushed over to give him a big hug, and told the guy who would become Beefheart's manager not to worry about me a bit while he was away, I had a couple of good friends who would look out for me while he was gone. Kenny and the other handsome young man on a motorcycle who was a fine artist. Kenny's appearance was a major surprise to me, but as it all spinned out in the airport aisle, turnabout is fair play sometimes. I had fine friends. The guy who would become Beefheart's manager sported an odd expression, a strange smile played out on his face, almost forced.
Everyone read books in Claremont or so it seemed, as the locale was such a literate place.
In 1961-1962, Mimi's new boyfriend Richard Farina recommended I read a thing by Orwell as he'd liked it, and I went off in immediate search of the book .... which because Claremont was a literate place and had at least five little bookstores (not counting the ones at the colleges), was easy to find. Not so easy now for you, so here is a link to the complete book online that you can read if you want.
Down and Out in Paris and London
I met up with them maybe at the Chase's house, I can't remember where exactly or who pointed me there or why, but they were hanging out together in the back room of a house, more like a summer room with high narrow windows. There was a nice wooden bedstand by the brass bed, gauzy material used to cover the top of the nightstand, and a big thick book atop that. Maybe Richard was renting that room and Mimi went up to visit him there, or just kind of moved in with him?
Richard wrote a book about himself which echoed the Orwell title (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me), and I later read that as I knew him once. Mimi hung with the art and music people in Claremont and we shared mutual friends, good friends because we were good people. Mimi, such a bright spirit, everyone loved her!