EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS Armagedon in Los Angeles is “Carmagedon”: Connections #40

Aerial Photo of 405 Freeway in 1963 with Mulholland Bridge at bottom of picture

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was standing in the roadway of the about-to-be-dedicated and opened 405 Freeway.  I was a newsreel cameraman shooting  film for KHJ-TV of the dedication ceremony presided over by then Mayor Sam Yorty.  The year was 1963.   I was 24-years old.  I remember thinking how damned high that Mulholland Bridge looked, and then someone told me the bridge was constructed from the top down.  Hmm, top down? Yes, that’s correct. The person went on to explain the pylons supporting the bridge were sunk into the mountain, much like a pile driver pounding a steel girder into the ground. Next, the concrete roadway was built , and then all of the dirt was scooped out, and voila, there was the Mulholland bridge.  I marvelled at the fact that scafolding didn’t have to be built, and men didn’t have to work on scaffolds at dizzing heights.

Mayor Sam Yorty, an affable enough gentleman, gave a brief speech, followed by a ribbon cuttting ceremony, and then coming over the rise beneath the impressive Mulholland Bridge were a bunch of antique automobiles.  ‘Old meets new’ made a nice shot .  Mayor Yorty then was whisked away by helicopter, I presume to go back to work at City Hall. Little did I know that I would direct and photograph the “This is the City” openings for the hit TV show “Dragnet ’69.”

Traffic on 405 Freeway near Mulholland Bridge

Fast forward to July 15, 2011, when half of the bridge is being demolished in what many people are calling Carmagedon.  I’m not going to predict whether or not traffic throughout Los Angeles will be a nightmare.

I remember the prediction the 1984 Olympics would be a nightmare for City Folks.  But guess what?  No traffic jams.  In fact, no traffic congestion at all, and no smog, a magnificent royal blue sky everywhere one looked.  Then the milllenium computer scare. The clocks inside our computers would stop, thus shutting down main frame computers and personal computers in Los Angeles and all over the world. But , again, this didn’t happen!

So, here we are approaching this momentous occasion.  What actually will happen no one knows for sure.  But one thing I do know is that I will miss that damned bridge, or rather half of that damned bridge, perhaps more than anyone else.

In 2012, for nostalgia’s sake, I may decide to find a way to stand in the middle of the closed 405 Freeway again, just before they tear down the other half, and then I would be  the only person in the City of Los Angeles to lay claim to having said a personal “hello” and “farewell” to the Mulholland Bridge.

In closing, Good Luck dealing with all of the traffic this weekend!

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EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS “Atlas Shrugged” Opens Today at the Bigfoot Crest Theatre in Westwood, California” Connections #38

“Atlas Shrugged” has gotten its second wind.  After playing a successful exclusive engagement at the Regent Theater in Westwood, California, this movie with its powerful fan base has moved to a nearby theater for its second engagement at the Bigfoot Crest Theatre.

How ironic for me, this historic theater built in 1940 was a second-run theater in 1962, until I held  the U.S. Premier of “A Matter of WHO,” starring British Comedian Terry-Thomas,  there. Then it was called the Crest Theater.  The major studios took notice and Westwood became the venue for many World Premieres of major motion pictures .

Years later, Disney took over the Crest Theater and renamed it the Majestic Crest Theater.

Now there is a new operator Bigfoot Entertainment who has renamed it the Bigfoot Crest Theatre  I wrote a Blog about the new owner back on April 8, 2010.

After all these years, I’m returning to the Bigfoot Crest Theater — I do prefer the name Majestic Crest — with my  single card credit as Post Production Producer.

Wikipedia List of Historical-Cultural Monuments on the Westside...

This is the screen capture from  Wikipedia.  Just in case you thought I was kidding.

By the way, today is Friday the 13th.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! IT’S ACADEMY AWARDS TIME: Connections (#35)


Oscars

It’s that time of the year again, and an especially exciting time for me, with the Academy Awards Show airing tomorrow night.

I’ve been busy since September working as Post Production Producer on the feature film “Atlas Shrugged.” We had our first private screenings at Sony Studios on Tuesday and Thursday.  Tuesday morning I had a technical screening for financier John Agigularo, his wife Joan Carter, and producer Harmon Kaslow. Afterwards, Joan told me she was crying (with tears of joy) as the “hero scene ” played on the big screen.  I do not want to give it away. I will only say it has to do with The John Gault Line.

Two time Academy awards winner Al Ruddy, who was once involved with “Atlas,” said the movie turned out much better than he had ever imagined.

I watched all the screenings from the projection booth at Sony Studios, as “Atlas was being digitally projected to stellar audiences.  Each screening was an overwhelming success.

Two days ago, I took AMTRAC’S Pacific Surfliner from Santa Barbara, California to Solano Beach, just north of San Diego,.  The event was The CATO Benefactor’s Conference held at the Grand Del Mar, one of the most luxurious hotels I’ve ever stayed at.  CATO is a Libertarian Think Tank and this weekend they were raising funds to build  a headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

The screening of “Atlas Shrugged” was warmly received and John Agigularo and Harmon Kaslow received a standing ovation.

I will talk more about “Atlas” as I travel across the country to show the movie to members of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Then at Tribecca in New York City.   And at a venue in Palm Beach, Florida.

"The King's Speech"

Now on to the Academy Awards.  Colin Firth is a shoe-in to win an Oscar for Best Actor.  It will be a wonderful experience for him, and a delightful experience for me.  Twenty-two years ago, I worked with Colin on the wonderfully quirky motion picture “Apartment Zero.” He played a projectionist in a small movie theatre showing “Art Films” in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  He had “star” quality even back then, and now he’s a real “movie star” with his magnificent performance in “The King’s Speech.”   Colin, I can’t wait ’til tomorrow night to hear your acceptance speech.

My hat’s off to James Franco who’s nominated for an Oscar for his extraordinary performance in “127 Hours,” directed by Danny Boyle. I worked with Franco on “Camille,” a lovely motion picture that sadly underperformed at the box office.

James Franco won’t win an Academy Award — he did win the SPIRIT Award last night — but the next best thing to winning an Oscar is to co-host with Anne Hathaway the Academy Awards show tonight.

I’ll be watching Colin and James, along with millions of fans world-wide, with fond memories of our working together.

As the old Show Biz saying goes, “Break a Leg.”  In the case, since I’ll be rooting for both of you, “Break Two Legs.”

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EXTRA! EXTRA! PASSINGS Busboy in Kennedy Assassination Photo Asks for Forgiveness: Connections (#31)

Kennedy Busboy Pays Tribute at Arlington Cemetary

As a skinny teenage busboy, Juan Romero knelt beside a mortally wounded Bobby Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  On Saturday morning, more than 42 years later, he knelt again, this time beside RFK’s grave on what would have been Kennedy’s 85th birthday. Getting up the courage to visit Arlington National Cemetery was not easy for Romero, a construction worker from San Jose who has been haunted for decades by the events of June 5, 1968. Under a soft blue sky, with fall colors exploding across the velvety slopes of the cemetery, Romero walked off to be alone and have one last good cry before visiting the grave.Romero was wearing a suit for the first time in his life, saying it was the proper way to show his respect for a man whose memory he has tried to honor by living a life of tolerance and humility. “Sorry,” he apologized to his daughter, Elda, and friend, Rigo Chacon, who had made the trip with him from California. “If I can get it out of the way now….” Maybe a good cry would help him keep his composure, he said, when he finally stood at the grave.

Romero is kneeling at the senator’s side, comforting him. He was shot while shaking Romero’s hand. Ever since, he has felt partly responsible for his death. He believed that if he had not been so determined to congratulate Kennedy after winning the California primary, he might have seen and stopped assassin Sirhan Sirhan.

That busboy, Juan Romero, has lived the last 42 years trying to honor the memory of the man he admired.

The site of the shooting, Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel, has since become a learning complex named after RFK.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Photo: Busboy Juan Romero, 17, kneels by mortally wounded presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968. Credit: Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times

I’ve been busy working in Los Angeles on the feature film “Atlas Shrugged.” The accompanying news story in the L.A. Times almost got by me. Such is the pressure-packed responsibility that I’ve been assigned to deliver this long-awaited motion picture based on the novel by Ayn Rand to theaters on April 15, 2011.  I promise I’ll speak more about “Atlas Shrugged” and share lots of interesting factoids with you in my future posts. But with the limited time I have, today it has to be all about RFK.

On June 5, 1978, I was running the Filmed News Dept. of KHJ-TV in Los Angeles. That’s when “film at eleven” was really “film at eleven.” I had just finished watching the celebration of RFK winning the Democratic California Primary Election on TV. Since it was broadcast live there was no need for my Film Crews or myself to be at the Ambassador Hotel.

Having just turned off the TV, my telephone rang. It was the News Desk at KHJ, who told me that RFK at been shot and I was to go to the Ambassador Hotel as fast as I could. I slipped on my clothing, ran out the front door and jumped into the KHJ-TV mobile unit parked in my driveway. I vividly remember speeding on the Ventura Freeway, weaving in and out and passing slower vehicles. Then the events become a blur. The next thing I knew I was inside the Ambassador Hotel Ballroom– the specifics of where I had parked and how I got inside are lost in the whirlpool of my emotions and fog of memory.

Nevertheless, there I was, standing alone in the very spot where RFK’s Victory Celebration had occurred earlier that evening. A uniformed LAPD officer stood guard at the doorway. Confetti littered the floor. Balloons were strewn about. My imagination ran wild and I heard the sound of the celebration in my mind. What I do remember is walking around the empty Ballroom and shooting footage of confetti on the floor and balloons dangling from the ceiling. Tears streamed from my eyes and blurred my vision, making it difficult to frame the images that Viewers would see on later that night on TV.

After leaving the Ambassador Hotel my next stop was Good Samaritan Hospital. RFK had been transferred from Central Receiving because of the lack of a qualified Neurosurgeon. I set up my Auricon sound camera next to all of the other film cameras in the dirt lot. The camera lenses were all pointed toward a solitary room, located on maybe the sixth or seventh floor, with its light on. Crowd psychology permeated the chilly night air and we all agreed that’s where RFK was fighting for his life.

RFK was mortally wounded and didn’t make it. He joined the likes of his brother JFK and Martin Luther King. The next and last time I saw RFK was on the south side of LAX. A transport plane was parked in an area that was cordoned off to the public and a fork lift was raising the U.S. flag-draped casket to the open cargo door where it disappeared inside.

Two years ago, I was invited by Miramax Films to a Special Screening of “Bobby” at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. All of the people who were at the Ambassador Hotel that night were asked to speak. We all shared our stories about what we had experienced that fateful week. For me, it’s that image of the flag-draped casket disappearing inside the cargo door of the aircraft parked at LAX that I shall never forget.