Guide to Los Angeles
Hi Lindy Hoppers!!!
Here is the City of the Angels


Editor's Note: Swing dancing is very big in Los Angeles, and there are a lot of websites to consult for further information:

  • RETRO RETRO is a web magazine for "anything that was ever cool" - classic 20th century popular culture. It has a great design and lots of nuggets of interest for hoppers going to town.
  • Margie' s 1930's and 1940's Web Links Margie Cormier's love of Lindy Hop has translated into a love of many of the things from this bygone era. Resources Includes Places to Dance, Places to Learn Lindy Hop, Band Contact Information, Vintage/Lindy Clothing Information, and Lindy Hop Links.
  • Great swing site for swing in the Los Angeles area. Links to other sites and home to the Swing Swing Swing web ring
  • San Diego Lindy Hop Society Presents Bands, Calendars, Clubs, in San Diego, California
  • Swing Time Magazine Swing Time Magazine is moving toward national commentary on Swing. The staff has an obvious love of swing and it shows it. Check them out for reviews of events, fashion, and rumors of new swing happenings.
  • Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association We found this website to be very useful in our trip to California
  • Archives of Early Lindy Hop Judy Pritchett maintains this site which contains biographies of dancers from Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.
  • The Web Chachi Spins An unusual, highly individualistic site. Lots of helpful references on HTML and Lindy Hop.
  • USC Dancing Club

NOW: For your choices:

Dancing in Los Angeles
By: Ellen Engle

Don't forget to check out Ellen Engle's own website.]

Hi everyone!
As some of you know, I recently spent 10 days in the Los Angeles area and I've been asked to share my thoughts on the LA scene. I do NOT pretend to know it all or to have seen it all and the LA folks might beg to differ with me! These are just my observances, so, that said, here goes!

The main place in LA that everyone knows about is the Derby. Unfortunately, due to a TV special we were filming, I did not make it there on Monday night. I heard that it was an especially good night and the Derby seems to be the main place where swing happens with any real consistency. Guess I'll have to catch it the next time!!

LA is an extremely spread out city -- 2 different suburbs can be 80 miles or more from each other, so there seems to be small pockets of activity in different areas rather than 1 large integrated community. This offers both a plus and a minus: there is lots of stuff happening if you are willing to drive, but sometimes it's hard to get a critical mass together. As a result, most of the dances I attended felt small and were held at smaller venues. Imagine a steady diet of only the Vienna Grille or the like with no Glen Echo available.

One never knows what sort of reception one might get at a new place, especially alone. All of the dancers I met were very friendly and readily welcomed this new face. I'm sure it helped that I had Chester Whitmore as a partner, so I didn't walk in alone, but the crowd was always friendly and I don't think it would have meant sitting out if I had come alone.

Instead of describing everything I did or every place I went, I thought I'd share the 2 things that really stood out for me:

  • The Viper Room I know it sounds like a heavy metal club & those of you who are into celebrity gossip may remember it as the place that River Phoenix OD'd, but this place was probably THE highlight of my trip. It's a small club on the Sunset Strip, but it features some of the best musician the city has to offer. & Believe me, LA has some fabulous talent!!!! The night we went featured a Boogie-Woogie band that was probably the best I have ever heard! I actually believe this trio to be better than Mitch Woods and that's saying a lot!). Also, the club is arranged in such a way that the people who want to stand around & drink are separated from the dance floor by a ring of tables, so the dance floor is left free for dancers! It really works out well! I recommend a visit there if you happen to get to LA -- especially if a good band is playing.
  • The LA dancers wear vintage clothes just about all the time. Sure, for a rehearsal or practice or something, T-shirts and sweatpants are fine, but when it's time to go out dancing, it's time to look the part. It wasn't just clothes either: hair, makeup, hats, etc. If I could have photographed everything in black & white, I doubt anyone would have known that the photos were recent. It really looked great & help everyone (dancers & onlookers alike) get into the mood a little better. I also think it helped make every event a little bit more special. Maybe we can take a hint from them and try it here a little bit more! I think it'd be great!

If anyone wants more info or is planning a visit out that way and wants contact names and phone numbers, feel free to get in touch with me. I'd be happy to share.

Our Trip to Los Angeles
By: Frank Morra

Sentimental beings that we are, we keep a diary of our travels. You may not want to read everything about our trip, so we have indexed our diary. Click away at the topics that may interest you

DAY ONE- Friday September 13,1996

The Flight to Los Angeles

The big trip began on Friday the 13th. We drove to Dulles in the truck heavily laden with baggage for a nine day trip. I had my garment bag stuffed to overflowing because I had to take normal clothes as well as dance stuff---including the Zoot Suit. Since we were going to be gone for a long time.

We had to park in the remote satellite lot and it took some time to manhandle all the baggage onto the shuttle bus and into the terminal. We boarded the DC-10 and I was a bit disappointed because we were stuck in Business Class instead of in the front of the plane in First. There is no difference in the service but the view isn't as good. Since this was my partner's first trip to the Coast, I wanted everything to be perfect. The flight was smooth, the food was good--- my partner picked a much better entree than I did. The movie was Twister and it was just a bit eerie looking at all that weather disturbance while we were up in the plane. Mother Nature added her own special effects with air turbulence during the climactic Force 5 Tornado in the movie. We landed on time but my partner had a headache.

It was some trouble to get the car from Avis---lots of delays and incompetent help. The car was a Chevy Cavalier. As we drove through the freeways from LAX I took it upon myself to give a long description of all the sights. My partner's headache kept her from hearing anything.

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The Hotel Westin-Bonaventure

This is the hotel that was the basis for the Towering Inferno movie. In addition scenes from Clint Eastwood's In the Line of Fire and Arnold Schwartzenegger's True Lies were filmed there. As we drove up a film crew was shooting an outdoor sequence around the corner and traffic was congested due to the various trucks and trailers associated with the project. The film is supposed to be called Open Secrets or something like that. It was a bad sign when there were neither valet parking nor bell-staff to take our luggage at the door. Apparently these services disappear after 9:00 and we arrived at about 10:00 pm. We were told to drive the car into the garage ourselves. With some trepidation I accepted claim checks from the garage attendant although nobody in the place seemed to speak much English.

We checked in and headed for the room; on the way we heard a piano in the lobby. As dancers, we have lost all sense of restraint; we walked up to the piano player and asked him for "something that swings." He obliged with some boogie-woogie and we did about two minutes of Lindy Hop for the crowd in the lobby. We retired to the elevator with applause. Unfortunately my partner's headache got worse and she wanted to go to sleep---which we could not do because the luggage had not arrived.

After three phone calls and a half hour delay. I finally got through to a manager. He promised to look into things. After a half hour silence, I got him on the phone and threatened not to pay for the night if the luggage wasn't there in fifteen minutes. It took another half hour, but we finally compromised on complimentary breakfasts for the duration of our stay. After reading him the riot act, I was embarrassed to find out that I had forgotten a toothbrush. The manager was kind enough to send up a new one. He was a pretty nice guy after all---but---it was after midnight (3:00 our time).

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DAY TWO Saturday September 14, 1996

Our day began with the complimentary breakfast---we opted for juice, biscotti, and coffee from the lobby Starbucks. It was a beautiful day and we set off to do some walking through the city.

Los Angeles Public Library

The Westin is located right across from the Los Angeles Public Library, one of the world's most stunning examples of Art Deco architecture. When I lived in LA in the 1960s, there was a terrible fire in the library. I remember giving a donation to the restoration, and somewhere I still have a "Save the Books" tee shirt from the campaign. There are a series of cascading fountains leading from Flower Street up to the main entrance; the theme is "evolution". The lowest fountain is fossils, then reptiles, then birds, and then mammals. I absolutely adore the reptile fountain, especially one scaly fish with big teeth.

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The Central Market

This is a rather large open-air market, much akin to Lexington Market in Baltimore. The difference is that most of the vendors sell Latino foods. My partner was very much taken with the cactus. One of the merchants was very patient in explaining how it is prepared. Actually, this is not now that exotic---you can buy all the things that were on sale there at the gourmet Giant Food stores here in DC. When I lived in LA, the Central Market was something really different. I remarked at how "Calfornia-ized" the entire country has become.

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Angel Flight

Los Angeles lies in the coastal plain west of the San Gabriel mountains. It is mostly as flat as a billiard table with one exception---Bunker Hill. This is a noticeable "hump" in the center of the city that may (at most) be 500 feet high. It is a lump of solid granite left over from some prehistoric mountains.

A long time ago Bunker Hill was covered with small houses and apartment buildings, Los Angeles had very good public transportation --- the famous "Red Cars" as celebrated in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Streetcars couldn't climb Bunker Hill because the grade was too steep, so the city built an inclined railway known as "Angel Flight".

Because it was photogenic, it got featured in a lot of films. Jimmy Stewart is shown riding Angel Flight in the opening sequence of The Glenn Miller Story. William Holden witnesses a murder in a tenement near Angel Flight in the 1952 film noir classic, The Turning Point.

Because Bunker Hill is solid granite and offers an excellent foundation in this earthquake-prone region, all the houses and the original Angels Flight were torn down in the 1970s to be replaced with the high-rise towers that were prominently featured in the TV Series LA Law. Recently, the City has built a replica of Angel's Flight, but it is nowhere near as charming as the original.

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The Bradbury Building

The classic film characterization of the Private Detective is a guy who is right on the edge--for all his intelligence and acute perception of the world, he chain smokes, drinks too much, and teeters on the verge of poverty. Invariably, he has a cheap office in a grimy building that has a creaky old-fashioned elevator. Specifically, this conjures up images of Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, James Garner in Marlowe, Edmond O'Brien in D.O.A., and Peter Falk in The Cheap Detective. The location where these and many other films were shot is real, not a set. It is the Bradbury Building, just a few steps from the Central City Market.

When We got there, it had just been restored and was very shiny---a marked departure from the grim and foreboding character it plays in the movies. The building was also locked. After rattling the doors at each of the four entrances, a security guard appeared to let us know that "The building is closed." He was, however, willing to listen to our imprecations and, after a lengthy recitation on my part about the distinguished film history of the edifice---he let us in. In fact, he became downright hospitable. We were even treated to a ride in one of the Bradbury Building's celebrated elevators. I was allowed to roam the halls while my partner took pictures. We were amazed to learn that this building is truly unique. The four exterior walls are quite solid but the entire roof is a big glass skylight. Instead of being dark and dingy it is really a very bright sunlit atrium. I suppose this is the reason that it has been so much in demand as a set. As we left we were thrilled to learn that a unit of the Los Angeles Police's Homicide Division has leased space in the building.

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The Los Angeles Biltmore

There are four truly grand hotels in California and it was my goal to show three of them to my partner on this trip. The first is the Los Angeles Biltmore. It is a frequent location for film action. The Biltmore has a grand entrance but its most "cinegenic" aspect is the porte-cochere on the side. In Chinatown, Faye Dunaway has her 1934 Cadillac V-16 Roadster valet-parked at the Biltmore. The hotel has just been restored by its new owners (one of those big international firms). Many of the beautiful public spaces have been preserved including the Ballroom. However in the era of mega revenue generation there is no economic justification for a big lobby. Thus, what used to be a grand open space now has the ubiquitous "lobby bar." It is however a very good thing that the LA Biltmore has been preserved.

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Old Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown LA had a large mass of theaters night clubs and fancy shops. This area is often depicted in movies. In Steven Spielberg's 1941 John Belushi crash lands his P-40 Warhawk right in the middle of the district while Robert Stack (as Jimmy Doolittle) watches Dumbo at one of the fancy theaters. Much of the structure is still there but it has fallen into severe decay. The movie palaces are storefront churches and the fancy shops sell tee shirts and pagers.

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Zoot Suits by El Pachuco

I only wanted one thing from the trip---a yellow Zoot Suit. Thus we made a pilgrimage to Fullerton, one of LA's nondescript suburbs to El Pachuco, possibly the only place in America where the Zoot Suit gets the respect it deserves. I had bought some things by mail from them and I had no idea of what to expect. I was astounded to find an Art Deco building (in turquoise) totally devoted to the Zoot Suit.

The owner is a very nice lady who took some time to talk about all things Zoot. It seems that her husband had been a zoot-suiter and she had revived the craft when a fad had started for turning 1930s vehicles into low riders. She had a large framed picture of her husband in his pinstripe zoot above the door. The place was full of young men being fitted for suits. She produced a great yellow suit that I went for in a big way. The coat fit perfectly but the pants were unlined and would go transparent if I perspired. So I only bought the coat. I was somewhat disappointed but she went back to her workroom and produced a purple suit that fit like it was custom-tailored. I knew that I had to buy it but I insisted that We do a few Lindy steps to try it out. We did a general run-through of all the basic steps and finished with a Fish Flip. The crowd seemed to like it.

The owner remembered some of the Washington crowd who had stopped through---the only name she remembered was Tuan Tranh's. "He's so cute." was her exact comment. I spent about $800 so I hope she remembers us as well.

Zoot Suits by El Pachuco
801 S. Harbor Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92632
phone: (714)-526-3743
FAX: (714)-526-0411

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The Mission Inn in Riverside

Riverside is not a short drive from Fullerton, although I remembered that some of my students commuted from Fullerton to San Bernardino. I really wanted to show the Mission Inn to my partner because it is really quite beautiful. The Inn was built over a period of 40 years starting in the 1920s by a man who wanted to capture and preserve the flavor of Old California. I remember that in the 1960s the Inn came perilously close to demolition because its plumbing didn't meet some code requirement. This is not atypical for California's regard for history during the dark ages of "Urban Planning".

We had a very nice lunch in the courtyard. There was one particular pigeon who watched over us. He had one bad eye and inspired a lot of sympathy therefore earning quite a few bread crumbs. If he could talk, I am sure that he would have asked for "Spare Change?"

The streets of Riverside were blocked off for some sort of go-cart race so we didn't get to see much of the historic area. We walked by a church where a wedding was taking place. I made a remark to the effect that the bride would probably gain forty pounds by tomorrow. The bride's weight was sort of a running gag for the rest of the vacation. My partner did not agree with my assessment.

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The Gamble House, Pasadena

One of my other "must see" places is the Gamble House, a triumph of Arts & Crafts architecture built around the turn of the century by the Greene Brothers for the family of the people who owned the big soap company, Procter and Gamble. (It is not a casino) I have read books about this house and have seen it televised on This Old House and on A&E's Americas Castles. The folks at the Mission Inn gave us directions to Pasadena. They even marked the way on a map. I made a wrong turn and it took quite a bit longer than we had expected. It also took quite a bit of time to find the place. The residents of Pasadena are not as aware of their architectural heritage as one might think. The Gamble House is also "Doc Brown's" house in Back to the Future

Alas, we arrived after the last tour had left. I was only able to marvel at the exterior details. As we looked at the front entrance my eye was caught by the exquisite joinery on a window screen. The entire house is a masterpiece of the woodworker's art. Every detail is as close to perfection as you could imagine both in the big things and especially the small. The house clearly bears the personalized stamp of the creators and it is obvious that the Greene brothers enjoyed their work.

I was very impressed with a low wall around a fish pond that was made of local stones and distressed brick. A docent saw us wandering around and spoke to us at some length. I think that she could tell how excited I was about the house. She mentioned that there were four other Greene & Greene houses in the neighborhood including Charles Sumner Greene's own house. Delighted, we went off to look at them. The remaining houses bore the unmistakable hallmarks of the Greene brothers but had been modified over the years and did not have the integrity of the Gamble House. Charles Greene's house was empty and we prowled about the outside. There was a stack of cedar shingles under the porch and I was sorely tempted to steal one. But, virtue prevailed.

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Hollywood and Vine

Who can go to California and avoid standing at the corner of Hollywood and Vine? You have forget the obvious fact that this is a sleazy neighborhood full of derelicts and conjure up visions of what this place must have been sixty years ago. There is no Schwalb's Drug Store and everything that remains from the Golden Age has been "touristified" almost beyond recognition.

Yet, being physically at this mythic place has some appeal. The legends that we live by were born here. This is the Acropolis of American folk culture. It is in ruins, but some of it remains; we infer the rest with our imagination, which makes it even more romantic.

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Graumann's Chinese Theater

Technically this is "Mann's Chinese Theater" Sid Graumann having sold out and departed this world years ago. In the years when motion pictures shed cash in huge quantities and there were no income taxes it was entirely logical that entrepreneurs would spend lavish sums to create palaces that would give the masses the thrill of their life for a nickel's admission. Sid Graumann was one of these entrepreneurs who built not only the Chinese Theater but also an Egyptian Theater and a Babylonian Theater as well as the Brown Derby Restaurant. All of these edifices featured lavish decor in a strangely exotic foreign setting.

About the footprints: Legend has it that Mary Pickford playfully left her hand print in some wet concrete on the patio. Sid, the master showman noted the effect of this on the crowd and began the tradition of having celebrities leave their hand and footprints in the concrete. It still remains---Groucho's cigar, Betty Grable's Leg, and Trigger's horse shoes---for the tourists to gawk at and marvel about how small Gary Cooper's feet were and feel some kinship to the stars by noting that their hand is about as big as Clark Gable's.

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The Gigantic Wig Store

One of the strangest sights in the strange land of Hollywood was the Wig Store, a long, narrow, dimly lit store with shelves of wigs from floor to ceiling. These were exotic wigs and the mannequin heads had full simulated makeup and long false eyelashes. As I stood there it was as if all the bimbos in the world were looking at met. A very disturbing place.

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Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard is a very unusual street. It begins in Hollywood in the trashy seedy "Sunset Strip" featuring adult entertainment both in the bars and stores as well as on the street corners. It passes the Chateau Marmot where John Belushi met his end and winds into Beverly Hills (a city) and by the entrance to Bel Air the nation's first gated community. Then it threads through more middle-class Brentwood and passes both Bundy Drive and Rockingham---one could almost see O.J.'s white Bronco making the mad dash between the two. After a while the sidewalks disappear and Sunset becomes a country road where it dead ends into US 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, and Malibu. In a sense, Sunset Boulevard is all things American:

  • urban decay
  • upper-class escapism
  • middle class hopes and
  • rural simplicity.

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Topanga Canyon

Make a right turn from Sunset onto US 1, drive about a mile, and turn right. Welcome to another universe---Topanga Canyon Road. A long time ago this area was strictly rural what one might even term "hillbilly country" in the middle of Los Angeles. The two-lane road corkscrews up the mountainsides that form Topanga Canyon. In the space of ten miles the road climbs to about 3,000 feet of altitude from sea level at Malibu so "steep" is an understatement. Most of the land is uninhabitable but a few brave souls ventured here in the 1930s. They were joined by a celebrity invasion in the 1970s but the isolation and terrain have kept the mini-mansions and townhouses at bay.

Best of all, there is really no place to build a shopping center. In a sense, the Canyon is a place where Mother Nature has said a firm "NO" to Californiazation. Of course only the Very Rich can live in this splendid isolation---and put their Ferrari to the kind of use for which it was actually designed as they downshift through the switchbacks on their way to the Studio or the Law Office. At the summit, one can park and look out across the city and into the San Fernando Valley. It is very hard to believe that so much real estate has been paved and dotted with street lights.

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The Topanga Canyon Fish Market

I wanted to show my partner The Malibu Inn [see below] and in my very dim memories of the 1960s, it was located on Topanga Canyon Road. This proved to be false. It was about 8:00 and we were getting hungry so we stopped at a very interesting place [interesting that is because it was the only commercial establishment open on the very lonely road] called the Topanga Canyon Fish Market. It proved to be well worth the stop.

We entered and found no staff---only a series of arrows and signs that pointed us to a central area to place our order. The decor was an eclectic combination of paintings of frogs, ship models, and a chalk board with the day's selections. We placed our order with the apparent proprietor, a man very aptly named "Froggy". He is a very nice guy with a perpetual smile who seemed to be very much at peace with the world.

My initial impression was (a) too much LSD in 1968 or (b) too much Prozac this afternoon. Regardless, he was a friendly guy; our orders were taken and we were directed to the next room where our meal would be served to us. It turned out to be a large hall filled with picnic tables. A roaring fire blazed in a "walk-in" fireplace at one end. We got a table near the fire which was fortunate because it was quite chilly at that elevation.

The frogs and ship models decor continued into the dining hall. Many of the patrons had brought their children and I was amazed to see the amount of real family warmth that was expressed. It was very unusual for a restaurant because the children seemed like an integral part of the place. There was a good deal of running around, but it struck me that this was a community where adults and children felt at ease. There was so much love, peace, and good vibes in the air that it was almost like being transported back to 1968. The food was good, too.

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Santa Monica Pier

We took US1 into Santa Monica and stopped at the world-famous Santa Monica Amusement Pier which is a big carnival out over the ocean. The pier is featured in Spielberg's 1941. It is true that a Japanese sub commander thought it was an oil refinery and fired a few rounds at the Ferris Wheel. No damage was done, but this was the only attack on the mainland USA during World War II. The pier is also famous as a location for The Rockford Files. Jim Rockford and his dad were shown fishing on the pier in numerous episodes. I had hoped to find a place to dance, but alas, nothing was happening.

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Wilshire Boulevard

This had been a long day, but since it was only about 10:00 pm I decided to go back to Los Angeles on Wilshire Boulevard rather than on the Freeway. This adds considerable time to the trip. Wilshire is another "slice of America" streets that wanders through neighborhoods great and small. My partner was very tired and I had to wake her up to see Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. (It is only about two blocks long) On the long drive back, one passes a very large number of big apartment houses. In fact a very large number of people in Los Angeles live in apartments and condominia, something that runs contrary to the myth of Californians living in a ranch house with a pool. As my partner will attest, it takes a l*o*n*g time to drive from Santa Monica to downtown LA on Wilshire Boulevard. When we finally got in at about midnight there was a phone message from Tom Koerner about a dance at the Derby. We had missed our chance to dance in LA.

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DAY THREE Sunday September 15, 1996

We began our day with the manager's complimentary breakfast coupons once again opting for coffee and biscotti at the Starbucks. Since checkout time wasn't until 1:00 we decided to do some of the "close-in" things first and then head off on our way to Santa Barbara.

Olvera Street

In the 1920s, the city fathers decided to preserve one small segment of the city as it might have looked under Spanish rule. They "preserved" about two blocks of Olvera Street near the railroad tracks. Later, a small park was added. There are two blocks of old buildings that are largely devoted to the vending of tee shirts, jumping beans, huarache sandals, and bullfight posters with a few "Mexican" restaurants tossed in to feed the gullible. There is also an open-air market place where you can buy cactus candy in addition to jumping beans, huarache sandals, etc. "Just like in Mexico," they say.

Today, however, was Mexican Independence Day and actual Hispanic persons outnumbered tourists from Dubuque by about two to one. There was quite a bit of celebrating in the park. I got the idea that, although Olvera Street is a cliche, these folks looked at it with the same sort of nostalgia that I feel when I see the image a grinning Italian chef with a giant black moustache printed on a pizza box. Everyone seemed to be having fun. My partner bought some jumping beans and cactus candy. It was fun.

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Union Station

I have always been fascinated by trains. When I was in business, I shamelessly jiggled my schedule to ride the trains although in the Amtrak era they were not the trains of legend. The most fabulous train of all was the Super Chief which thundered from Chicago to Los Angeles in slightly less than 48 hours. This was an extra-fare all luxury train that featured gourmet meals, a barber shop, a masseur and an on-board secretary. It was de rigeur for Hollywood notables to take the Super Chief for a two-day party on their way to and from the East Coast.

All of these trips began and ended in the Mission/Art Deco Union Station in Los Angeles. In fact the building itself is the star of a movie (Union Station, 1950, starring William Holden). Everything is more-or-less still there but the glory days are most assuredly past.

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The Queen Mary

After checking out, we set out down the freeway for Long Beach the port of Los Angeles where the Queen Mary the grande dame of ocean liners is permanently moored as a floating hotel. She has her own freeway exit. Although the vessel is huge, our attention was immediately drawn to an even larger tower erected close to the Queen's bow. At one time it may have been a dock crane. The thing that caught our attention was a man at the top of the crane; more specifically it was a man who jumped off the top of the crane. It seems that the developers of the Queen Mary Park have added bungee jumping as an attraction. If you have a spare $50, you too can jump off a 200 foot crane and narrowly miss the bow of the greatest ocean liner ever built. This, too is Californiazation. We were able to take a tour of the bridge and some of the decks and believe me this is one big ship. There was an interesting exhibit of the Queen Mary's role in World War II and a replica of the famous Crows Nest Bar where the rich and famous danced until dawn. We had some coffee and read the Sunday papers seated in lovely teak deck chairs on the First Class promenade deck. This was definitely the way to travel.

All of the staterooms are panelled in luxurious veneers and it is not hard to see the origins of the waterfall style of furniture in the appointments of the Queen Mary. The entire ship is truly an Art Deco treasure.

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Venice Beach

Frank Lloyd Wright once observed that the United States must have been tilted and all the loose nuts rolled into California. I was able to demonstrate this to my partner with a visit to Venice Beach.

Sometime around the turn of the century, a developer had the bright idea of building a replica of the city of Venice, complete with canals. The project went bust and most of the canals silted up. What was left was a lot of cheap but pleasant beach front real estate in a rather isolated area. Over time, the place acquired a certain Bohemian flair. One part attracted physical culturists and earned the name "muscle beach." Venice has traditionally attracted the offbeat and---in a culture whose only constant is change---we were not disappointed. As we promenaded along the beach, we were treated to all sorts of odd and exotic characters amid a backdrop of perfectly developed and scantily clad persons of both sex on roller blades.

My favorite was a fellow whose philosophy was "offend everyone." He had set up a booth to distribute pamphlets which attacked every religion and political philosophy. I looked through some of the stuff and I have no idea what he stood for. my partner seemed to be taken with a fellow who had a large collection of snakes and parrots.

You could get your fortune told, have a massage or acupuncture, get a tattoo or pose with a rather bedraggled mannequin that looked like a life-size cabbage patch doll. There was even a Santa Claus (in a white suit) who would listen to your Christmas list.

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The Malibu Inn

We spent more time in Venice than we should have, but I will admit that it was a real hoot. Next time we go back, we will have to bring rollerblades. Our plan was to drive to Santa Barbara (about 100 miles) along the Pacific Coast Highway taking in all the beautiful scenery with a final ooh and ahh at the sunset over the ocean. Now, it looked like we would only get half way before the sun went down. As we headed north, we passed through Malibu. As we rounded the bend, what should appear but the Malibu Inn, the subject of last evening's quest. I had last been there with Jeff Begin and Howard Shore, some old friends from Pittsburgh---I think it was 1970. Everything snapped back into place. Howard lived in Topanga Canyon and we turned right onto US1 to get to the Malibu Inn. I remembered the right turn---but I was wrong in my memory that Howard lived in Malibu.

So, fate delivered us to the doorstop of the Inn and a waitress named Teresa. The building is quite typical of the old style of California ranch architecture. The roof beams are exposed and the ceiling is actually the bottom of the roof so it may have been a barn at one time. The walls are filled with autographed photos of the great and near-great who frequent the place. Teresa swore that Tom Cruise eats there regularly. The food is standard bar fare although I had a great plate of huevos rancheros. Teresa gave us a window table so we were able to watch the sun set at Malibu just like the movie stars.

Thus ended our altogether too brief visit to Los Angeles.

Disneyland Swings
Get Into the Swing of Things :
Vintage moves meet vigorous youth at this Disneyland dance night.
Orange County Register June 26 1997
The teen-ager clips his pocket-watch chain to his custom zoot suit and checks the time. His dancing partner, a fresh-faced Orange County beauty dressed like Betty Grable, helps him slick back his hair with Brylcreem.

It's time to swing. We're at the "Jump 'n' Jive Boogie Swing Party," a happening thing every Friday night this summer at the Carnation Plaza Gardens at Disneyland, right under the shadow of Cinderella's castle. Saturday night may belong to the big bands at the Disneyland bandstand, but Friday night swings to the jive crowd. It's a new scene at the Magic Kingdom and has proved to be a popular one.

"We started noticing a resurgence of swing dancing around 1994," says Stan Freese, show director and host of the Swing Party. "It was around the time the movie `Swing Kids' came out." The film, released by Disney's Hollywood Pictures, wasn't a box-office hit, but it spawned a cult of swing dance around the country. The 1996 film "Swingers," also a cult hit, added to the allure of the retro lifestyle.

Attracted by the fancy moves and the young stars of the World War II-era musicals, 1990 seven teenagers started venturing into classes and ballrooms that previously catered only to their grandparents' generation. Some also raided the family attic and began dressing in vintage fashions.

Soon, as Freese and other longstanding purveyors of swing happily noticed, a minor craze was born. Here's how Freese explains it as his staffers prepare the bandstand for the show: "Swing offers some of the same things the punk and alternative movements offer: There is a costume, a hairdo, its own moves. You know, punk also has its dance. Actually, the mosh pit is kind of the downside of swing."

Freese thinks that some Orange County kids, turned off by contemporary styles, have embraced the swing aesthetic as a more wholesome choice. "It gives them a chance to show off the retro clothes: spectator shoes, zoot suits, the whole thing," says Freese, smoothing his zoot pants for his preshow entrance. "It's also really energetic. It's a clean vibe; you need all your energy. You have to be in pretty good shape; you need to be athletic. It's not like a real couch-potato thing."


At 8 p.m., recorded music starts blasting from the speakers, welcoming the packs of retro-clad boys and girls that boldly take up the area surrounding the bandstand.

Disneyland estimates that more than a thousand people have been showing up every Friday night for the Swing Party since it kicked off this month. That includes a large number of amused tourists who look at the costumed kids and assume they're Disney employees. As the youthful dancers mingle and compare outfits, some of them recognize a song by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, a modern band that plays its own swing tunes. The Zippers have a video full of retro-visuals for their song "Hell," which is played on MTV alongside the latest Marilyn Manson and Bush offerings.

The kids approach several tables immediately by the dance floor, where a group of athletic senior citizens hold court. "Those are the old-timers who have been coming here to the Saturday shows since the park opened," Freese says.

The affection between the septua- and octogenarian guys and dolls and the young swingers who ask them for guidance is palpable. The common music of the '40s unites the generations; looking at the older couples with their fresh-faced disciples, it's as if the intervening 50 years never happened.

Dubbie and Rose Dublino are among the older couples excited about this communion with the teens. "We've danced here at Disneyland for 32 years," Dubbie says. He and Rose proudly wear the park's jackets with their names embroidered on the chests. When it's time to dance, the jackets come off to reveal matching outfits.

"I love the people and we love the kids and we love doing things for Stan Freese," Rose says. "He gives us a lot of things to do for the kids. We started teaching them how to dance. We gave them the steps, and we told them to develop their own style."


Before tonight's band, Swing Town, takes the stage, neophytes are invited to take a quick lesson, courtesy of Erin and Tammy Stevens, co-owners of the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association. "We teach basic swing, with variations," Erin says. "You don't need a partner. We line up everybody and pair them up."

The Stevens sisters have been teaching ballroom dances for 15 years and were caught by surprise by the swing craze. "When we started, the words `Lindy Hop' meant nothing to people," Erin says. "Now, we get people asking us to teach them how to jitterbug."

While Erin and Tammy patiently show a crowd of Goofy-T-shirt-wearing tourists a set of simple moves, the swing kids warm up for the main event: the dance. Ashley Hill, 17, and Joe Blair, 16, are two local teens who enjoy the dress-up, peppy atmosphere of the Disneyland swing scene. "I started about a year ago," Blair says . "It's great fun, so much better than the other rap stuff." Ashley agrees with her (nonexclusive) partner. "There's more to this. You need actual talent to dance like this."

At 8:30, the lesson gives way to Swing Town, a very youthful combo led by a grizzled band leader who plays trombone and electric guitar. "We are rotating six or seven swing bands this summer," Freese says.

As soon as Swing Town starts playing, the swing kids swarm to the dance floor. The dress code is '40s, but it's hardly uniform. Zoot suits mix with vampire look-alikes. Some even wear World War II uniforms. Girls swing their wide skirts around, unbelievably keeping their heavy makeup smudgeless. Some ingenues coyly change partners mid-dance; others dance with the assertiveness of Joan Crawford. From the sidelines, the old-timers are thinking back to their own youth.

"We never danced like this," one outspoken lady complains. "I don't know where they got all these kicks." But she is promptly hushed by her friend, who corrects her memory. "We did dance like that back then," she admits with a giggle, watching with nostalgia as the retro-teens swing across the dance floor, having the times of their lives.


  • Where: Disneyland, 1313 Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. Swing Party takes place at Carnation Plaza Gardens.
  • When: Friday nights through Sept. 5. Lessons start at 8 p.m.; dance sets at 8:30, 9:45, 11.
  • How much: Included in Disneyland general admission ($36, $26 for children ages 3-11)
  • Who: Call: (714) 781-4565

End of the Disneyland Article

Lindy in Los Angeles
By: Bill Locey
April 3, 1997, Thursday, Ventura County Edition, Los Angeles Times
SECTION: Calendar; Part F; Page 49; Zones Desk

This weekend at Nicholby's in Ventura, it's the second annual Monsters of Swing Weekend, sort of the Super Bowl for swing dancers. There will be musical monsters both nights--Indigo Swing on Friday and local heroes, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, on Saturday.

Event organizer, dance instructor and bar manager at the venue, the busy Lee Moore, is excited about the lineup. "For the club swing scene, these are the best two bands we could possibly get. It's going to be so cool. Indigo Swing owns San Francisco; they're sort of like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is here."

Swing dancing started in Harlem at the Savoy Theatre in the late '20s, growing out of ragtime and the Charleston. A further refinement, the Lindy Hop, was named after Charles Lindbergh. A few years later, with the popularity of Benny Goodman, swing was introduced to the white population. Though it's been around all this time, lately swing is the thing. There are swing dance lessons nearly every night of the week.

"Swing dancing used to have a cult following," said Moore. "There would be a dance maybe once a week and the bands were limited. Then it hit the mainstream about four years ago when Royal Crown Revue started the Derby gigs in Hollywood, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy started about three years ago. It's so out of control now, it's hard to keep up with it."

Swing dancing can be somewhat intimidating to the few of us left on the planet who cannot do it. One sees couples out there gracefully spinning and gliding, looking so good at what they're doing that they shame everyone else off the dance floor. Ain't necessarily so says Moore.

"Even if you show up by yourself, no problem. Here's our secret: We attract really nice people and make them feel welcome. Then they, in turn, make the new people feel welcome. We don't have any snooty little cliques, and there's not a bunch of lounge lizards waiting to scoop up the new chicks. Here's the deal: You meet great people, you go to cool clubs, hear cool music and do a cool dance."

OK, so swing dancing does look cool, but suppose you have all the dance floor moves of an oak tree? And suppose the bar doesn't stock enough liquid convincer to make you try it?

"Think you can't do it? Oh man, not a problem," said Moore. "Doing the East Coast Swing is so easy. I used to only dance after I had a belly full of beer, then I'd hide in the corner and do the white man two-step. But with swing dancing, not only do you look cool, dance cool and look cool doing it with a cool chick, but East Coast Swing is a very simple form of swing. It's just a basic two-hand lead. Even if you don't know how to dance, you can do this."

Moore himself was once upon a time in the oak-tree mode, now he teaches swing dancing. "My sister-in-law started dancing about 3 1/2 years ago in Pasadena," he said. "My wife is her twin sister, so she started doing it too, and they dragged me along, sort of a husband thing. I hated it at first--I thought it was lame--and I walked out. The second time I went, Flattop Tom was playing and he started dancing and doing flips and stuff and I decided that I wanted to do this right now."

And there are the clothes. Many swing dancers dress to impress--much like someone who fell out of a '40s movie and landed in the '90s, and landed dancing.

"We do the full-on costume thing. That's part of the fun," said Moore. "And it's not expensive like skiing or any of that. I've got a red zoot suit."

Moore and his wife, Terri, started giving lessons at Nicholby's 2 1/2 years ago on Wednesday nights. The first night they had 24 people but now they routinely get upward of 80 people, plus they've added Tuesday night classes for the more difficult Lindy Hop.

For Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Nicholby's is their home court. Since bandleader Scotty Morris reinvented the Voodudes three years ago, they routinely pack the place. It was more of an eclectic blues band before they became a swing band. "We're sort of a psycho swing band," said Morris. "Old swing music didn't have an electric guitar, but ours does." They've also been expanding their horizons of late. BBVD were on the soundtrack of the movie "Swingers," and recently played the S X SW (South by Southwest) festival in Austin. They do Wednesday nights at the Derby, in Hollywood, a gig that has been sold out for the last six months. And, according to Morris, they are about to sign with a major label.

"We're still keeping control of all our stuff. We're good at what we do, but if we had the budget-- well, we'll see. I haven't had a day job for two years and I want to keep it that way."

Our Fabulous Week in California
By: Debra Sternberg

Well, by this time most of you have probably seen the list from the US Open that Rayned posted. You cannot imagine my shock and delight to see that Tom and I placed 4th in the first US Open Lindy Hop division!!!! The week we spent in the Los Angeles area could not have been better (for me, anyway) and I honestly didn't think we'd done that well in the competition. To find that we not only made the top 5, but finished 4th, was icing on the cake!

The week was absolutely wonderful. Tom and I went to compete in the Lindy division and Carolyn Biczel and John McCalla (PsychoBoy) decided to try their hand in the Strictly Swing division. Fun was had by all. I'll try not to bore you all with too many details but rather hit the high spots. Oh, forget it. Here's the week in all it's glory:

Sunday: We arrive at Tom's brother Todd's place in Manhattan Beach, change and run back out to meet me and Tom's idol and friend Jean Veloz (star of Groovy Movie and Swing Fever; you may remember her as special guest at the 1996 VA State Open); Gil Brady, a famous California Lindy Hopper of the 1950s and a featured dancer in Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley and the Comets; and dear friends Marcus Koch and Barbl Kaufer who were in LA to pick up their second Feather Award in a row, at a place called Bobby McGee's. I thought this place used to be West Coast but the DJ was playing superlative swing. There we ran into people we'd met when we went to Swing Camp Catalina back in June, plus a new couple, Erik and Sylvia. They just knocked me and Tom for a loop!! They're doing this fabulous Dean Collins-style west coast Lindy Hop just like Jean Veloz does, along with some great shag stuff that Tom and I forgot we used to know. Dancing for only 11 months, they were both amazing. All their stuff is lead-and-follow, they're both full-time teachers these days, and they have the 1940s look down to a T! I mean, they could have just stepped out of a movie! I danced with the legendary Gil Brady and could have stopped right there and gone back home, I was so happy.

When the dancing there stopped, we piled in the car and all drove to Pasadena for more dancing. We got horribly lost on the way there (ended up in Palm Springs and we're STILL trying to figure that one out!) but as we pulled up next to the restaurant, I could hear the familiar strains of Sing, Sing, Sing along with cheering, and I knew the jam was well in progress! We ran in, threw our stuff on some table, and Koerner and I jumped into the circle, chasing Simon Selmon and Rusty Young out! We did what we did best--a few moments in the spotlight to do our biggest tricks and then get the hell out! John and Carolyn could not be convinced to get in, unfortunately. (I think they were both car sick!) All the fabulous local dancers were there and it was heady and exhilarating.

Monday: Headed for the legendary Derby, formerly the Brown Derby or something. Found a beautiful club with a teeny dance floor in front of a very 1920s band which reminded us all of Doc Scantlin. We four didn't really enjoy the dancing that much and spent a fair amount of time in the large overflow room where we once again played with Marcus and Barbl, John Hudson and Jean Shelton (John was the guy in the yellow zooty suits at Flying Home) and cadged stuff from Erik and Sylvia. Chester Whitmore came in and hugged me and jumped around and used me to demonstrate aerials. He told us to make sure we showed up at his dance the following night at the Hollywood Athletic Club.

Tuesday: We had plans to meet the adorable Jean Veloz for dinner and were joined by Craig Hutchinson. Had a lovely meal and told Craig all about Erik and Sylvia. He went to a West Coast place with Jean for a short while and then joined us at the Hollywood Athletic Club to see The Kids, as we'd taken to calling them. Before he showed up, I danced with a million fabulous LA guys and was charmed and delighted. Chester was a warm and welcoming host and kept saying, "Gotta get you guys out to LA again!" Craig came in, met the kids, and went nuts.

Wednesday: On to Music City, where Ryan and Jenny were having a nice time dancing socially. There was to be a dance contest and I know it's no surprise to anyone that Tom and I and John and Carolyn were the first two couples to sign up! However, the contest was cancelled because only one other couple entered. Harrummph. I danced a whole mess with Bernie, who was kind enough to show us some new stuff in that California Lindy style Koerner and I are so mad about. STILL couldn't get John and Carolyn in the jam, though!

Thursday: Thanksgiving. Tom now has two brothers living at the beach, Todd and Tim. So Mrs. Koerner the Mom flew out that morning to make us all Thanksgiving dinner! Uncharacteristically, we ate and laid around on the living room floor watching bad movies on TV. No dancing that night.

Friday: Off to Anaheim to begin the US Open. Competitors meeting at 4:15 where we saw Ryan and Jenny again, greated Sing Lim and partner Andrew, saw Paolo and Janice from New York (you'll recall they competed in the VA State Open), Tricia Reneau who was competing with Alan Rocoff from New York, and a million other people. Koerner and I have been inserting ourselves into this scene so long, we know and are known to many. It's always fun to get to these things and see people you only see at dance weekends and competitions!

John and Carolyn were dancing that night in the Strictly Swing division. Our understanding of this division was that it was to be any swing dance, unchoreographed and uncostumed. Carolyn had spoken with event-organizer Mary Ann Bridges, who had assured her that Lindy Hoppers would be welcome in this division.

Unfortunately, this was not really the case. John and Carolyn were the only non-West Coast Swing couple out of 19 entrants; the music was ALL slow, blues and R&B. They got really lucky with a song that was thunderingly fast by West Coast standards at 130 beats/minute and with a slightly swingy feel to it. They danced masterfully, with a lot of style and fun, making great connection with the judges and the audience. John did a nice job of matching their movements to the the tempo and the feeling of the music, and lemme tell you all, they really danced! I thought they looked fabulous and so did many others. Other event-organizer Jack Bridges stopped them to compliment them, and Craig Hutchinson made a beeline to John to congratulate them on a great dance. All night long, people kept coming up and telling them they looked great and were a pleasure to watch. However, politics won out and they didn't even make the cut to the last seven couples. My highlight of the evening was rising star Matt Auclair asked me to dance and we had a ball. John and I got in a real bad mood and made Tom and Carolyn leave with us. Bad feelings were assuaged only by many donuts.

Saturday: The big day for me and Tom. Our category danced at 4 in the afternoon. It was a great showing for a new division. Ryan and Jenny and Sing and Andrew were, of course, phenomenal, but everyone seemed to dance extremely well. Tricia Reneau and Alan Rocoff did a wonderful dance to a favorite Louis Prima tune, "Buena Sera," a song Alan has always dreamed of dancing in a competition! Couples from Singapore, Arizona, Washington State and local LA-ites all did a great job. I was delighted to realize that, when I stepped out on the floor, there was not one butterfly in my stomach--all those jams really help take the edge off! Tom and I did not dance perfectly, but got through our number with a lot of energy, style and panache.

The rest of the evening was a joy. Who should I spot in the crowd but Catrine Lundggren of the Rhythm Hot Shots, in town for a while and out slumming with us at the US Open. I also got a chance to dance with Phil Trau, one of the pillars of that West Coast Swing world, and the amazing and fabulous Ramiro Gonzales, whom I am ready to marry. Stayed up dancing until 3 am, I think, then into the car where I watched John wolf down 3.5 donuts without breathing. Absolutely amazing!

So that's the overview of the trip. Again, for me personally, it couldn't have been better. I danced with people I've only dreamed of before, ran into international friends, made new friends, danced my fool head off. Every once in a while we had something to eat. Stayed up way too late, slept late in the morning. Had a wonderful time with John and Carolyn. Only had one fight with Koerner. It was a GREAT trip.

Love to all, and it's good to be back.
---Auntie Deb

Iver Cooper Visits LA
By: Iver Cooper

Here is my report on the Lindy Hop scene in Los Angeles during the Holiday season. It was not the best time to visit; only a few groups were meeting.

I was advised that in L.A., the best groups for Lindy Hop were the Rhino Room (Weds., Huntington Beach) and Music City (Thurs., Fountain Valley). However, neither venue was hosting a dance during my holiday.

Fortunately, the Derby was going full steam ahead despite the season. The Derby is located on Los Feliz Blvd., very close to beautiful Griffith Park; a trip to the park during the day may help cleanse the spirit in readiness for a night at the Derby. The Derby is associated with an italian restaurant, and there are other dining spots in the area.

The Derby hosts a class from 8-9, and general dancing from 9-12+. The class is beginning East Coast Swing on Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday; intermediate ECS on Tuesday, and beginning Lindy Hop on Monday. I was warned that the Monday Lindy Hop there was Dean Collins Lindy (much more upright, smoother, etc.), and that "the music didn't really swing." My local informant thought I would have a better chance of finding the Ryan Francois-style Lindy on Wednesday night, in view of both the band, and the fact that the regular Wed. dance at the Rhino Room was not meeting (so Lindy addicts might descend on the Derby). Anyway, a trip to Disneyland on Monday left me with little energy for dancing, so Wednesday night was my night of dancploration.

The dance floor at the Derby is of moderate size, larger than our Vienna Grille, but no competition for our Glen Echo. Curiously, the music was piped in (presumably from the restaurant), so there was no direct interaction between the dancers and the band (on the other hand, the band didn't take up valuable floor space, either). Not surprisingly, given the lesson, the crowd was predominantly doing ECS, but by 11 or so there were 5-10 couples doing Lindy. I didn't see any St. Louis Shag or Balboa, which disappointed me. On the other hand, I didn't see any WCS, even during slow numbers.

At one point, a local asked me about dancing in D.C. I said that until recently, WCS had been dominant, but that Lindy Hop was now probably equally popular. She then asked me, "what is West Coast Swing?" Given that I was ON the West Coast at the time (just fishies if you head much further out), I found this a rather surreal moment. Also an uncomfortable one, as I know very little WCS, and am therefore not the best person to ask to explain what is different. I tried anyway.

I guess that the ECS and WCS crowds in LA don't mix much.

The jam session was a little different from that in D.C.; the couples usually danced one or two phrases of music, instead of the 4-6 that I consider to be the D.C. norm; on the other hand, couples sometimes returned to the floor for a second routine during the jam. Also, fewer couples did acrobatics.

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