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DOWNEY — In the file with newspaper clippings of 1970 was a story headed, “Students Search for Oldest Book.”
Downey High School journalism students had recently thought they had found the oldest copies of the school yearbook: 1921 and a 1923 issue, until David Shirley brought a copy of his great-uncle’s “Summary” to the school.
The great-uncle, Geroge Francher, now lived in Austin, Tex. Then a few days later, Rhea Rasmussem brought a copy of the 1915 “Summary” belonging to a family friend, Mrs. Minnie Batson.
Poems, jokes, essays and short stories were included in both of the earlier books. Among the seniors in the 1916 book was Wallace Kincaid, father of Wally Kincaid, baseball and basketball coach at DSHS. Cecelia Mandala’s father was a senior and student body president in the 1923 book.
Downey’s first football team was formed in 1921 and the first yearbook now in the journalism files to have a picture of the football team is the 1923 “Summary” brought recently by Martin Logan, a painter working on the new buildings.
The 1915 yearbook refers to the school by its original name, Los Nietos Valley Union High School, but the 1916 book calls it Downey Union High School, indicating that the name was changed between these dates.
Among the songs listed in the 1915 book as favorites of the seniors are “Put Your Arms Around Me Honey” and “You Made Me Love You,” both of them popular at the time.
Among the jokes were such killer-dillers as this:
“Do you know the difference between capital and labor?”
“Well, if I loaned you a dollar, that would be capital; if I tried to collect it, that would be labor.”
Increased enrollment forced construction of a new school in 1921.
OPEN HOUSE: The Downey Historical Society will be having an open house tour of the Dismukes House built in 1887. The date is Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Mark this Saturday on your calendar so you can enjoy seeing how early pioneers celebrated the Christmas holiday. Address is 12540 Rives Ave., just north of Imperial Highway in Downey.
The Downey Historical Society will be looking forward to your visit on Dec. 15.
Bobbi Bruce is a docent for the Downey Historical Society.
“It started with a red flannel hand-me-down Santa suit,” Mark Keller said, “from Sears. Over the years I got high quality pieces to upgrade it. Velvets. And things you might never see, like Santa-size striped socks from All American.”
Mark is this year’s official city Santa Claus, a role he comes by naturally, his uncle and his grandfather having been Santa too.
“I started playing the part about 1985, when I was just out of Warren High School,” said Mark, a Downey native. “My uncle’s kids could always tell it was him, but they never suspected when it was me.
Mark got started as the Chamber of Commerce Parade’s Santa in 1988 “because Marsha asked me to do it.” That would be Marsha Moode, who for years did live commentary on local TV from a Parade-side booth, with guests like Supervisor Don Knabe. All-around genial master of ceremonies and incomparable greeter at the Downey Theatre door, as well as director of the Downey Civic Light Opera, Marsha always volunteered her services at the parade as a public service, as Mark does now.
Mark will ride in the Downey Christmas Parade on Sunday, Dec. 2. “We’ll be the last float in the show, the finale,” he said. “And then on Monday I’ll be the Santa at the Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Civic Center.”
Ever wondered what makes some Santas more real than others? “Spoiler alert,” said Mark. “Three hair pieces. Not two. First the wig, and then I got good advice from another Santa, to get the moustache separate from the beard. So my jaws and chin and beard move together when I talk but the moustache stays put.”
“The make-up is the hard part.” Mark says. “First, a really clean shave,” and Mark indicated his five-o’clock shadow skin. “Then I start gluing on the beard and the handlebar moustache. And the eyebrows. It takes hours.”
But, he admitted, “there are worse characters to play. I could have to walk on my knees, like Jose Ferrer did for Toulouse Lautrec in the 1952 movie Moulin Rouge.”
“God bless my wig man in Long Beach,” said Mark, “he keeps mine in good shape. Babies get their hands tangled in the beard, and of course there’s no eating while costumed for the part. No cocoa in the snowy white moustache.”
Another personal touch: “I even got my prescription ground into the lenses of my Santa wire-rimmed glasses.”
“Doing the Civic Light Operas I met a costumer, and he now hand-makes my costumes for me,” said Mark. “For this year, we have added gold braid,” and Mark pointed to his cuffs. “And I have a specially made leather pouch on my belt that I can get into real fast, for my candy canes. I start out with four dozen. Sometimes a child sitting on my knee will ask for a puppy. I never promise anything, so I say, ‘We’ll see what we can do. But here’s a candy cane for you.’ They’re like Santa’s calling card.”
The theatre is Mark’s passion, especially musical theatre, so creating his Santa as a three-dimensional stage character comes naturally. Mark was the long-time house manager for Moode’s famed Downey Civic Light Opera productions, overseeing all the public audience areas. Later as her technical director, Mark is credited with designing and building the sets for some of the intimate side-stage scenes which were a Moode trademark, notably Jud Fry’s smoke house “lonely room” in Oklahoma.
The Downey Symphonic Society is also dear to Mark’s heart. He is a member of the Board of Directors, and drawing on his years of experience backstage, he acts as stage manager for the Symphony Orchestra’s performances in the Downey Theater. Overseeing all the areas of the property where the performers and technical staff/stage crew need to be in order to do their jobs, his is the invisible off-stage voice you hear saying, “Take note of the Exits, and please unwrap your cough drops now.”
What if it should rain on the parade, which it never does? “I have a Santa Sack,” Mark says, “with emergency supplies. There are ponchos in it, for the kids riding on the float with me.”
How does Mark get to the parade? “I dress at home and drive my car. When I get to where the cops are directing traffic, it’s obvious who I am. Sometime they ask if they can escort me to my place. When it’s over, I walk to my car, and drive home, waving to people as I go.
“I do Santa for the Children’s Christmas Story Reading at the Library,” said Mark, “and the Kiwanis Christmas Breakfast at the Rio Hondo Event Center. Each first or second grade teacher brings a boy and a girl who might not have a Christmas otherwise.”
Mark also does private parties, and occasionally parents will prep him with “the goods” on the children. “Here’s something you can work on,’ I’ll say, taking the parents’ cue.” The children are convinced he really is the Elf who knows when they’ve been naughty and when they’ve been nice.
Biggest present he’s ever brought? “A small two-wheeler bike, not a trainer. Somehow the father and I got it into my sack.”
“Christmas Eve is my big day,” said Mark. “I’m busy from early afternoon till 1 am. So I’m grateful to stay home on the 25th. Although once I did work on Christmas Day. Rick Rodriguez asked me to surprise his son who had just gotten back from duty overseas.”
“And when Joyce Sherwin won the “Rent-a-Santa,” Mark said, “at a Downey Symphony Garden Party silent auction, she asked me if I would come on Christmas morning when her adult children and their families were staying with her. They were all in the p j’s having breakfast, and that’s when she wanted to surprise them. They invited me to sit down, pull off my boots and put up my feet. That’s when my Santa socks showed.”
“Actually,” said Mark, “on Christmas day, there’s no let-down. Just a feeling of contentment. Of completion, of doing my job.”
You must have seen her. She’s almost always there.
Every time I go into the post office, she is standing there, with that big smile. Rosy cheeks roughened by weather. Small, gray, bundled up in layers, summer or fall.
She thanks me and accepts the bill I give her and tucks it away in the purse around her neck. If I remember to look back as I leave the parking lot, she waves goodbye, always smiling.
The last time when I stopped, instead of just pressing a bill into her hand, and a chocolate bar that happened to be in my purse, I asked her. “What’s your name?”
“Julie,” she said. “What’s yours?”
I told her and then she said, “Why do you always look so beautiful?”
I answered her question with a question: “Why do you always have that beautiful smile?”
“I smile to keep from crying,” Julie said, and now I saw that her eyes were rimmed in red.
Almost as shy as she was, I turned to my car and as I backed out of the space, she was still smiling.
She may not possess much, but Julie still had one more thing to give. As we locked glances, she waved. And then she blew me a kiss.
“Next time,” I thought, “I’ll stop longer.” So many questions in my mind. So many things I want to ask her.
“Are you from Downey? What happened to you? What would make it better? Where will you sleep tonight?”
We all have had those little moments, of the terror of recognition, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Life for one person can change so fast.
When I went back this week, I was ready to ask her permission, to ask my questions. But the place where she always stood was empty. No one in the space.
Next time, if she is there, I’ll ask if she minds sharing her story with me. Because now I care.
Without fail, the same thing happens every time Don Lamkin cruises Downey Avenue towards 2nd Street.
“There literally hasn’t been one time where I drove past and someone’s not taking some kind of picture [of Downey Doodle-icious],” Lamkin says, referring to the giant art mural he painted in 2014. “It’s surprising. I never expected anything like this to happen. It’s humbling.”
With its bright colors, cartoonish design, and larger-than-life icons, Downey Doodle-icious has become its own attraction. People walk to Porto’s, but Downey Doodle-icious stops them in their tracks.
Students study the mural. Teens take selfies in front of it. Politicians use the mural as portrait backdrops.
It’s a textbook example of art bringing a community together.
Downey’s Art in Public Places policy has resulted in a scattering of sculptures and murals throughout the city, some more accessible than others. There are also art pieces commissioned by private property owners, and some probably installed under the cover of darkness.
Below is a look at some of Downey’s public art. If I missed something, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1.) Downey Doodle-icious
Location: Downey Avenue, between Firestone Boulevard and 2nd Street
Installed in 2014, Downey Doodle-icious has already become an iconic part of downtown Downey. Don Lamkin originally created Downey Doodle-icious as a raffle prize to benefit the Downey Museum of Art. He created 10 prints, and all sold within 3 hours at the Downey Street Faire.
Lamkin was later asked by the City Council to paint Downey Doodle-icious on the side of the Porto’s Bakery parking structure. Lamkin agreed, with help from Hector Beltran, Jorge del Toro and Liz Moran.
Lamkin doesn’t currently have plans for any more public art in Downey, but there’s one project he would be excited to complete.
“I always thought it would be great somewhere on school district headquarters to have the same style pop art and include every single school mascot or logo,” Lamkin said. “I thought that would be really cool.”
2.) Poseidon, Greek God
Location: 9655 Lakewood Blvd.
This 8-ft. fiberglass statue is titled “Reveal” and depicts Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. According to mythology, Poseidon “was god of the sea, earthquakes, storms, and horses and is considered one of the most bad-tempered, moody and greedy Olympian gods.”
The sculpture was created by Jameel Haiat, a designer at Walt Disney.
3.) Downey Depot
Location: 8150 Nance St.
As far as I can tell, this mural doesn’t have a title. It was installed in 2001 and created by artist Terry Schoonhoven, whose work also appears at Union Station. It’s located at the Downey Depot, near Firestone and La Reina.
Location: 8636 Imperial Hwy.
This painting isn’t particularly complicated or exotic, but it’s fun and received a ton of attention at Dona’s Donuts’ height of popularity earlier this year. The backdrop is still a popular image on Instagram.
5.) The Flamingo
Location: 11006 New St.
This nearly 6-ft. tall pink flamingo showed up after Sandoval Bail Bonds closed up shop earlier this year. The building is now vacant and being prepared for a new tenant.
6.) Florida Restaurant
Location: 10025 Lakewood Blvd.
After doing some digging, this appears to be the work of Hector Ponce. He’s been called “the Warhol of the walls” for his street art in Los Angeles.
7.) Good Vibes Only
Location: 11405 Paramount Blvd.
Located on the side of boutique fashion store Gypsy Queen, this painting was done by painter and tattoo artist Alfonso Garcia. He owns a private studio in Los Angeles.
Location: 8027 Firestone Blvd.
The uniform doesn’t have a number, so I can’t say definitively that it’s LeBron. But yeah, it’s LeBron.
This 280-ft. painting was done by Long Beach artist JC Ro, who has completed similar projects throughout Los Angeles.
Location: 9102 Firestone Blvd.
It’s isolated and can be difficult to find, but this mural was created by LOVE Crew. It’s located on the side of Research Vintage, a consignment store near Big 5.
10.) Descending Sphere
Location: 7622 Firestone Blvd.
It’s quite the juxtaposition, a piece of abstract art outside a smog check facility.
Titled “Descending Sphere,” this sculpture was installed in 2008 by artist Jon Seeman, whose work can be found around the world, including in Dallas, Las Vegas and Tokyo.
11.) John Gately Downey
Location: 11111 Brookshire Ave.
This bust of John Gately Downey was created by Irish sculptor Mark Rode and installed in 2010. An identical sculpture exists and it’s located in Roscommon County, Ireland, Downey’s birthplace.
12.) Fallen Officer Memorial
Location: 11111 Brookshire Ave.
I hesitated to include this as “art,” but I think it depicts beauty in its own unique way.
The statue pays memory to the two Downey police officers who died in the line of duty. Most striking is that the monument includes space for future names.
13.) Veterans Memorial
Location: 11111 Brookshire Ave.
This art piece was installed in 2012 in honor of Downey’s military veterans. The sculpture was created by James T. Russell and is modeled after the veterans monument in Cerritos.
Location: 8241 2nd St.
The artist known as Bumblebee has been known to create illicit art pieces under the cover of darkness. While this painting was also done at night, it was created with the full permission of the property owner, so it still stands today.
This 20-ft. artwork is located on the side of the Coba Cabana Hair Salon, just around the corner from Downey Doodle-icious.
Surrounded by beer joints, wrecking yards, and mom-and-pop markets, how could one ever believe that fantasyland existed in the midst.
It came in the form of Mason’s Drug Store, our very own “Good Ship Lollipop,” with glass covered bins containing an assortment of candy along with the scoops for scoopin’ it up. We left prints on the glass from smooshing our faces up against it to get a closer look at the array of yummy sweets.
There was also an old-fashioned soda fountain that served up a variety of ice cream novelties; malts, milkshakes, floats, sundaes and banana splits. It was nothing fancy, just a fun little place with old-school charm where the neighborhood gathered for licks and sips.
Customers were seated around the sit-down counter with stools that kids would spin, driving the adults crazy! The frenzy was then compounded when adults caught their kids peeking under the counter and being mesmerized by the mess of years of gum and yuk stuck under there!
I recall skating in front of the drug store one day and hearing passersby yelling out the car windows that: “The war is over.” It didn’t mean much to this eight-year old at the time. I was probably just thinking: “Oh goodie, that tasty Fleer’s Double Bubble will be available again at Mason’s Drug Store!”
You know the one…it had comics and fortunes inside. You could blow a bubble so big that it popped and landed on your nose and cheeks. Then you took the gum out of your mouth, used it to remove the gum from your nose and cheeks, then popped it back into your mouth and started chewing and blowing all over again! Fun!
Not long after that, the Masons must have retired or sold the drug store, because a shoe shop soon occupied the space. So, we began taking our shoes to be re-soled, plus all our leather goods in need of repair, to the proprietor, a Mexican man, who was very adept at his craft, and soon fit into the dynamics of the neighborhood.
But it was never quite the same without Mason’s Drug store, our very own “Good Ship Lollipop.”
Sharon Benson Smith is a student in the writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.
DOWNEY – “When you see a falcon,” said Carolina del Toro, “That means you are seeing the spirit of someone who has passed. It is a lucky omen.”
Carolina is the face and heart of Downey’s Dia de los Muertos, one of the most popular festivals in Southern California for the Day of the Dead. El Dia de Los Muertos is a family affair, a celebration of life and a time to honor those generations that have already passed. That dancing skeleton in black lace mantilla and roses? She could be your abuela. That skeleton in a black top hat and cane? Tio Marco.
“My daughter asked me how I keep my energy,” said Carolina, Downey Arts Coalition vice president who also organized the art show in the theatre lobby. “It is my passion.”
“I told her that this morning, after I got here at 6 am to be sure everything was starting all right, and went home, showered and came back, I felt myself sinking a little. As I went into the theatre I said, ‘Oh God, give me strength.’ And then inside the theatre, I saw a baby falcon. I felt my spirit lift and I know I had energy for the whole day.”
Did someone rescue the fledgling bird? “My husband Jorge captured it and took it outside,” Carolina said, and she showed a picture on her iPhone to prove it. “He took it out into in the trees, so it would could get away.”
Not everyone gets that kind of encouragement, but then not everyone puts as much time and effort and love into making something like this festival work.
Say “Hallowe’en” in Europe and visions of mist at midnight or the chalky rays of a ghastly ghostly full moon are conjured up, with witches and goblins, stranger to all the villagers, casting evil spells and kidnapping children. Or worse.
But one of the most distinguishing customs of El Dia de los Muertos is the building of the altars, to honor specific deceased and beloved family members. It’s two different ways of marking that death is coming, customs as opposite as a sunny family fiesta is from the story of a vindictive hag, the Cutty-Sark, pursuing Tam O’Shanter at midnight over the Brig o’Doon. Different strokes for different folks and their folk-lore and traditions.
Carolina, who was born and raised in Nyarit, Mexico, said that the altars, or ofrendas, are the most prominent feature in a Dia de los Muertos celebration.
"Altars are created to show the souls of the dead that they haven't been forgotten,” she said, “by displaying many of the good things the loved one liked while she or he was alive.”
So many people and organizations came to Downey to share that passion.
The Avenue of the Altars, curated by Carolina, was nestled in the green space in front of City Hall.
“I’m happy to announce that Lupita Infante will be building an altar to honor her father, Pedro Infante, Jr., and her grandfather, Pedro Infante,” Carolina said. “Also the amazing singer, my dear friend, Margarita Luna De Guadalajara, will be building an altar to honor those talented singers who have left us, like Ma. de Lourdes, Lola Beltran, Mercedes Sosa, and Celia Cruz. Some of their old original vinyl discs will be paced on the altars.”
The marigold is the flower of the dead because its brilliant sun-gold color and pungent odor, which are said to lead the souls of the dead to the festival. The marigold-strewn altars had photos of the ancestors when they were young, as children, and as they grew very old.
The favorite foods of the deceased are cooked and placed with sweet bread, and fruit drinks and shot glasses of tequila were placed on the altar table, with candles, which Carolina said were one if the most important parts of the altar. Mementos like a prayer book and beads, a doll or lucky coin sit between skulls wearing sombreros. Luminarias are printed with the name of the deceased and the life data.
Stepping onto the Plaza in front of the Downey Theatre, one saw a kaleidoscope of colors and much larger-than-life figures made from painted papier-mache, sent by Tios Tacos in Riverside. There were giant bicycles and voluptuous women with skeleton features and boney hands in lace mittens. Families posed for pictures beside the characters, mothers with little children, grown men, teenagers.
The first booth encountered inside the Plaza in front of the Downey Theatre on the Firestone side was run by a mother and daughter team from the Soroptimist Club of Paramount. Soroptimist means best for women and children, and the Paramount and the Downey Club sponsored the booth.
Paulina and Cecilia Gonez, both with their faces painted beautifully and wearing crowns of flowers and feathers, handed out informative flyers about Soroptimists, women who speak out against domestic violence and human trafficking. Soroptimist of Downey is holding a session on education and awareness of these epidemic problems on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at Los Amigos Golf Club.
Everywhere the theme was life happily mingled with death, the dead and the living. Young girls had faces half painted, one side a blue and white skull, the other as alive as when they woke up this morning.
The art show, curated by the Downey Arts Coalition (DAC), emphasized this theme. Rosa Ma. Alvarez displayed embossed and painted tin plaques of skeletons and skulls in silver and gold, circled in a repoussée frame.
Jorge del Toro’s boney skull sculpture was painted bright red and blue and green, and black and white. Lights twinkled from within the cavity. The piece was untitled because “I don’t like to limit the imagination,” said Jorge, fresh from his adventure with the baby falcon.
Art Montoya manned the DAC table, and told us he graduated from UC Irvine but is now a law student La Verne, trying to decide on what kind of law to practice. He exemplifies the young people who are active in the recent renaissance of the arts in Downey.
Organizations with booths with information and congratulations were set up by Avenue Printing, Downey Adult School, Downey Federal Credit Union, and the Downey Symphony. More specifically to the point of the interests and needs of the patrons, the Los Angeles County Registrar/Clerk’s office had a booth offering voter registration forms, and information about the new voting laws that take place in 2020. Michele from Norwalk, who works for the county, wore a pair of earrings with long bony fingers dangling from pink roses in her ear lobes.
“If someone here wants to fill out a registration form but lives in Orange County,” Michele said, “we can forward that on for them.”
Greg Welch, who with his wife Barbara Risher Welch, operates the independent, family-owned Risher Mortuary and Cremation Service in Downey was one of the thousands walking around the exhibits. Greg goes on humanitarian construction missions around the globe with Downey Calvary Chapel, and also has time to act as this year’s president of the Rotary Club of Downey.
Although the morning began with dense fog, by noon the mist had cleared and the blue sky of October was shining. The event had begun with plumed Aztec dancers singing and enacting blessings in the plaza in front of the library,
Now it was time to sit down inside the Downey Theatre and enjoy folklorico dancing with the Resurrection Group. Children danced, their faces painted chalky white. Then women came out in long white flounced dresses to do the ribbon dance, soon joined by men in overalls and caps and red scarves.
The next number started as a devil figure in red with horns faced off with an angelic dancer in blue, soon joined by women in the long traditional skirt and men in red and blue serapes and sombreros. Women in the audience also dressed in the graceful long Victorian dresses, with bustles in the back and everyone had flowers in her hair.
Every seat in the auditorium was taken, and enthusiastic applause greeted the end of each number. Regions of Mexico were represented, like Chiapas and Jalisco. A final tribute perhaps derived from Aztec Mexico City had girls in white with pastel stoles of pink, blue and mint pantomiming the throwing of flowers to the audience.
Then a short animated art film was shown, El Trompetista, about a little cadet in a gray army band who plays a red hot trumpet, which lands him in jail where the notes he plays come out blue.
His opponent, a sadistic drill sergeant who plays square notes and looks like Lee Marvin on a really mean day, has no chance against the creative power and individual spirit of the boy. Finally, all the cadets trumpet notes of the purest colors and patterns and designs, and the bright band marches off into a pink and gold sunset.
The film, from Mexico, was experimental in style, with no frame to the picture, the screen black except for spotlighted and side-lighted figures. In Spanish with English subtitles, it was directed by Raúl Robin and Alejandro Morales Reyes and written by Raúl Fuentes.
The parking lot in front of the library had been turned into a pedestrian mercado and a corridor for food trucks. The library had displays of Frieda Kahlo and Pabla Neruda’s sayings.
As the day went on more and more people appeared with their faces painted like skeletons, the women and girls with jaunty floral wreaths and dangling earrings, sitting at the benches beside the food trucks, posing for pictures with each other. One could buy an embroidered flowered dress here without having to go all the way to Oaxaca to find one, or get a miniature wedding party of figurines dressed in lace and satin, feathers and pearls; bouquets, top hats and tails; a complete maricachi band with tiny instruments; bright party dresses and miniature boxes of juice to drink – all skeletons.
Music was playing, little girls were coloring chalk pictures on the sidewalk on the Embassy Suites side of the plaza, under pink-flowered trees, or sitting on a carved wooden throne with a peacock feather crown as again the family took pictures.
Although the space became crowded everyone was cordial and polite, making room for young parents with babies in strollers or older people navigating with a walker. It was definitely fun and fiesta, as promised, with the emphasis in family.
Next year will be even better, if Carolina del Toro and her team have anything to do with it.
DOWNEY – Pancake batter bubbling on the griddle, each one adorned with Mickey Mouse ears. It must be the 70th annual community breakfast served by the Rotary Club of Downey, to benefit the Downey Family YMCA.
Fine jeweler Angelo Cardono’s secret for the ears? He pours them meticulously from a special batter bottle with a tiny spout, and the crowd loves them. Chocolate chip sprinkles were optional.
Brainchild of Angelo, the event has served hundreds of thousands of Downeyites over the years and enabled the Y to buy special equipment for its gymnastic and aquatic programs, and yoga mats for instructor Lupe Baeza-Martinez’s hatha classes.
“Starbucks donated their Pike Place coffee,” said Y Executive Director Lori Tiffany. “Our staff secured the gift from the Starbucks at Firestone and Lakewood. We rent the gas grills.”
The morning feast is presented alternately at Downey and Warren high schools, this time in the Downey Quad, where red metal benches and seats placed around trees gave some shade, which helped, because the day was another perfect October California day.
Busy former Mayor Meredith Perkins, a member of the Downey Optimist Club, made an early appearance. Keeping an eye on the proceedings were Dr. John Garcia of the DUSD and fellow Rotarian Larry Garces.
“Even more people are here than last year,” commented Lori, as the loud speakers pumped out aerobic dance music and students from the Y demonstrated their moves. In the background white-jacketed youngsters put on a karate show and weightlifters raised heavy tires above their heads. Colorful YMCA booths exhibited pictures from summer camp near Lake Arrowhead, and other moments from Y programs.
Rotarians arrived at Downey High kitchen at 6 am to start cooking sausages and mixing the pancake batter, so they could open at 7:30, with orange juice and butter and maple syrup to go with the pancakes and coffee.
“We close about 11,” said Roger Brossmer, Assistant Superintendent of the DUSD and the man in charge of the breakfast for Rotary. Seen in a purely supervisory capacity was Mike Pohlen.
Also seen cooking and serving were Rotary President Greg Welch, Pam Powers, Manny Castro, Paul Granata, Dr. Dan Fox, John Lacey, and at the orange juice table Tom Hutchinson and Jorge Lopez, both graduates of Downey High.
Also seen enjoying the pancakes were Rotarians Harold Tseklenis and wife Anna, and Jorge Montero with Maru.
Raul Lopez helped with the flapjack flipping, and later attended to grandfatherly duties with son Alex and Alex’s wife Jenette, both Downey Rotarians, and their boys, twins Nathaniel and Benjamin, and Teddy, possible future Rotarians all.
DOWNEY – “Good concert etiquette is not to applaud after the second movement of Oscar’s Concerto, no matter how much you want to,” said Lars Clutterham as he interviewed David Van Maele, the evening’s virtuoso clarinetist. “The second movement is slow and melodic, and you want to let the poetry of it sink in.”
Before the program began, in the pre-concert remarks, Lars interviewed composer Oscar Navarro, who flew in from Spain for the North American première of his Third Concerto for B Flat and E Flat Clarinet. Lars is a Downey composer himself and audiences will hear his new piece, “Arc of My Life,” at the Jan. 19 concert.
“This is the Downey Symphony’s 60th year,” said Don Marshall, president of the Downey Symphonic Society, as he welcomed the audience. “And sixty years ago something else happened: the Dodgers came to town. Right now they’re up by one run in the seventh game of the playoffs.”
Don had another first to announce: Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard came on stage to congratulate and thank the Symphonic Society for their program which contributes to National Hispanic Heritage Week. “This proclamation shows that I have put this Downey achievement into the Congressional Record,” the congresswoman said.
State Senator Vanessa Delgado also presented an illuminated proclamation congratulating the Symphonic group on its sixtieth year. Mayor Sean Ashton, a staunch supporter of the Symphony and of the arts, presented President Don with a citation from the City Council recognizing the Downey Symphonic society for its 60 years of providing excellence in music for Downey. Josh Bell, the most recent baton winner, received a plaque for his contribution.
Even before the audience began filling the auditorium, early-arriving patrons enjoyed the art show in the lobby. Board Vice President Carol Kearns and husband Frank, a poet and publisher of the boutique Los Nietos Press, checked out the oils and pastels and water colors in the show, which was curated by Andrew Hernandez of the Downey Arts Coalition. Javier Herrera’s depicted the evening’s theme of Viva el Arte with a field worker harvesting sugar cane with a machete. Lindsay Yost and Debbie Davidsohn also showed.
The Ugandan artist Emmanuel Lugano who also showed at Glennfest, was the art coalition’s featured artist and he had a corridor of his paintings on the patio. One of his personal favorites is a giclée “Broadway” ballet scene, all graceful shapes and flowing colors.
No show is complete without a work by Carolina Estrada-del Toro and she had two on display, as well as a painting by husband Jorge. No ceramic this time. Carolina will curate the art show this weekend for Downey’s Dia de los Muertos.
“This will be my second Bolero with Sharon conducting,” said Andrew Wahlquist, founder of the Downey Arts Coalition. “The first was in 2011.” Andrew’s wife, actress Lana Joy, introduced the artists from the stage, and they stood so we could recognize them. They mostly were wearing red, while Lana was splendid in a long flowered gown.
Spotted before the music began were Anna and Harold Tseklenis, talking with Ryan Keene and Tom Hutchinson, all Rotarians. Kiwanian Larry Lewis, a former president of the Symphonic Society, attended with wife Marge, long-time Assistance League member.
Board members Mary Stevens and JoAnne Gronley held forth in the lobby, distributing the evening’s program and also pencils for the audience survey to be found interleaved in the program. It’s important for the Board’s Marketing Committee to know how they can reach a wider audience.
While the stage was still empty, one noticed that the percussion section held some unusual instruments. There turned out to be six percussionists, one who had three tympani plus two other large drums to manage. There was a xylophone, and two keyboard marimbas (the marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala), which kept one more percussionist busy. Plus hanging chimes, bongos, a cymbal and a gong.
Oscar likes his percussive sounds: any instrument that makes a sound when it is hit, shaken, or scraped is percussion. A harp completed the section, but the players also played the occasional castanets, clackers and other unexpected instruments.
Off-stage voice Mark Keller, just after asking the audience to check the nearest exit, and unwrap those candies now, not later, then announced, “The Dodgers are up by one run and they have the bases loaded.” It was time for the concert to begin.
Sharon Lavery came out and conducted the National Anthem which sounded like cannon and fireworks, with the heavy artillery in the percussion. Oscar Navarro’s Downey Overture, by now an international favorite, displayed a gorgeous combination of Latin tempos and L.A. traffic.
Oscar studied music at USC and then worked here for a year, arranging and composing for films. At the conclusion of the piece, Maestro Sharon, who has conducted it at Carnegie Hall, held out her hands toward the audience where the composer was sitting, and Oscar rose and blew kisses to her and the orchestra, then turned to bow to the applauding audience.
Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s Suite Andalucia had lively and lovely melodies, and ended by gliding into the fiery Malagueña. Conductor Sharon surprised us by announcing a Cuban encore, the widely beloved freedom song by Jose Marti, Guantanamera. The audience received it enthusiastically.
The big piece of the evening was Navarro’s Clarinet Concerto #3, for both the standard-range B Flat instrument, and also the much rarely played E Flat one, which is in a higher register with a clear piercing quality. Belgian soloist David van Maele displayed his dexterity, alternating gracefully between the two.
Navarro wrote the piece specifically for Van Maele and he knew what a difficult task he was setting for his friend. The labor deserves the rich rewards. The first movement began with a tempest of tympani booms, and then the clarinet appears almost bird-like and quick, with showy cadenzas and a shower of light in its wings.
Soloists appreciate playing for conductor Sharon because she is always aware of their movements, and ready to turn them over to the audience in the difficult and showy passages, of which this Concerto had plenty. The entire orchestra became involved, louder and softer and louder again.
The music glides into the Second Movement, dedicated to the son the clarinetist lost when he was 6. “I am happy when I play this,” David said, “because I see Mattiece and I am with him again.”
The melody becomes almost a lullaby and at the moments when the orchestra took the development of the theme, David stood, head bowed, and waited. The high pitch and clarity of the E flat clarinet lifts the orchestra to almost a heavenly plane, as the movement ends on a high note and then silence.
The moment was held without interruption, and then the lively, quick and complex Third Movement began. The E flat instrument is brilliant and edgy, and the piece ends with the brass leading the ensemble in a triumphant statement, flutes valiantly striving to match the clarinet, strings soaring.
The audience gave the piece and the performer a standing ovation, and standing O’s are difficult to get in Downey – and a curtain call. Shouts of “bravo” were heard as composer Oscar Navarro came up to the stage to embrace his good friend David the clarinet player, and to hug the conductor, whom he has known since his USC days, where Sharon is a professor at the Thornton School of Music.
To send the audience into the intermission happy, Mark Keller’s voice announced, “You can go out knowing that the Dodgers won.” That put them into the World Series. Later Mark confessed, “If they had lost, I never would have said anything at all.”
The buzz on the patio at intermission confirmed the success of the new composition. Bernice Mancebo Stumps, with Roy and Barbara Briley Beard, praised the performance, as did Nancy Ramage and Ruth Hillecke, board secretary. Greg Welch, president of the Rotary Club of Downey was spotted, with Adam from Senator Delgado’s office.
We missed Barbara Risher Welch, Greg’s wife and a past District Governor of Rotary. Also seen were Dr. Jose Torreblanca and wife Carmen, whose support helped bring Osar and David to the concert.
Dorothy Pemberton looked snappy in black to match the black sling holding her right arm immobile after her recent shoulder surgery. Dorothy now heads PTA HELPs, a food pantry for needy families, and her other arm was scratched, having been mauled by her own cat Cosmo when she tried to rescue it at midnight from neighbor dogs. Never a dull moment with Dorothy.
Frank Kearns commented that he had met David during rehearsals. “Great performers are transformed when playing,” Frank said. It’s like what Allen Ginsberg said about meeting Bob Dylan in his early electric days at a Newport Folk festival when Dylan performed his first electric concert.
For the second part of the program, Alberto Ginastera’s Estancia had Conductor Sharon practically dancing on the platform to the Argentine rhythms. And then the 17-minute show piece of the evening, Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” began, innocently enough, with just a flute carrying the melody and a single snare drum tapping a quiet beat.
The cellos and basses pluck their strings, as does the harp, signaled by delicate finger gestures from the hand of the conductor. The shadows and tension grow deeper as more instruments, a saxophone, then the brasses and woodwinds, join in. The bolero is a dance rhythm, and the audience unconsciously nods and begins to sway, tapping their fingers or toes in time to the beat.
Still the violins and basses hold off and pluck their strings, the players cradling their instruments like a ukelele. Oboes and bassoons take up the insistent melody, and the uninterrupted plucking and tapping became more demanding, as Sharon’s arm movements and shoulders grow heavier.
Cellos held back, as do the big drums until at last the suspense is broken and the full orchestra, strings leading, takes up the melodic theme and everything rises to a crashing crescendo with tympani, bass drum, cymbal, gong and a high piercing E flat clarinet wildly changing key in the last few phrases until, with a flourish of the baton, it is over. The audience applause was deafening.
At the champagne reception on the patio afterward, to which all the audience was invited, artist and host of the Green Salon Roy Shabla commented how “the Bolero is so familiar, no one takes it seriously. Until tonight, with Sharon’s interpretation.” Bill Hare, Treasurer of the Symphonic Society Board, allowed as how the evening was a success.
What a gift to Downey, great classical symphonic music presented by a fine regional orchestra, a hard-working Board and Guild helped by ticket sales, memberships, and donations and grants. The other side of the effort is the comprehensive Music in the Schools Outreach Program, aided by the Downey Unified School District, the City of Downey and Kiwanis Foundation. But tonight was the night for the orchestra to shine, through the works of great composers like Ravel and Oscar Navarro.
Tonight it was all about the music, an emotional evening. It’s not a bad thing for the 60-year old Downey Symphony to be to be linked with the Dodgers. The Dodger might say the same thing about Downey.
DOWNEY – Tacos. Burgers. More tacos.
For a community as culturally diverse as Downey – where Cubans, Mexicans and Greeks are increasing in both population numbers and local political influence – this city’s dining options haven’t always reflected the shifting evolution of Downey’s demographics.
Only recently have we begun to experience culinary ambition in Downey, with menus that inspire creativity and celebrate ingenuity. For those restaurants that stick it out, the success appears to be there.
Examples are Gaucho Grill, the Lock & Key, Green Olive, The Olive RestoBar, and Caña by Tropicana, each of which are receiving rave reviews on Yelp for their unique twists on otherwise traditional dishes.
Barriles RestoBar, formerly Mi Cielo, also recently revamped its menu with platters intended to appeal to the young, working professional (chilaquiles burger, anyone?).
The latest addition to Downey’s new foodie scene is Pita GR (the GR stands for “Greek”), sandwiched in the middle of a strip mall a few doors down from See’s Candy. The address is 9905 Paramount Blvd.
Barely a month old, the restaurant is owned by the trio of Dino Marougas, Valentin Flores and Joseph Manacmul, who collectively saw a need for a Greek street food concept in Downey. They purchased Cafe Opa in early 2018 and spent the next six months remodeling the interior and developing a menu.
The fruit of their work was revealed Sept. 24, when Pita GR opened to the public.
As a fast-casual restaurant, customers order from a register at the front of the store and have their food delivered to their seats. Servers work in teams, allowing customers to order additional food or receive help from any of the staff members on the floor.
The restaurant offers most of the traditional Greek offerings -- lamb and chicken souvla, pork souvlaki, roasted potatoes -- available as either a pita, salata (salad) or merida (plate).
Unlike most other Greek restaurants, Pita GR sells its protein by the kilo. Souvla lamb, lamb chops, pork souvlaki and pork yeero can be purchased by the half-kilo (enough to feed 2-3 people), or a full kilo (3-4 people).
There are five choices of dips: skordalia (a mixture of potato, olive, garlic and chives), tirokafteri (Greek cheese blend, roasted hot peppers, and oregano), revithosalata (garbanzo, tanhini, garlic, lemon and evoo), tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill), and melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant, tahini, walnut, garlic, parsley and evoo). “Evoo” is extra virgin olive oil.
Featured on the a la carte menu are dishes such as saganaki (pan-fried Greek cheese), avgolemono soup (traditional egg-lemon soup with chicken and rice), and the original GR salad (tomato, cucumber, red onion, anaheim pepper, feta, kalamata olives, oregano and evoo).
This reporter tried the lamb rotisserie pita, stuffed with avocado, tomato, cucumber, fries, pickled red onion, chives and a htipiti spread. It was paired with a side of seasoned garlic fries. For dessert, both the vissino and baklava GR frozen yogurt.
“Greek street food is the common food that one would eat on a daily basis if you lived in Greece,” explained Marougas, who also helped develop the menus at Poached Kitchen and Gaucho Grill.
“On every corner of any city in Greek you will find souvlatzidiko. This staple Greek eatery consists of a few things: yeero (pork or chicken) and souvlaki, and they are almost always served two ways: wrapped in a warm pita or a la carte by ½ kilo or kilo.
“This is equivalent to the American burger stand and it is eaten for lunch, dinner and late night after hours.”
What makes Pita GR different from other Greek restaurants?
“Our food is authentic and carries all the ingredients of what you would find in modern-day Greece,” Marougas said. “Our food is refined and the ingredients touched with intent. For example, the red onion is still the red onion but pickled to invoke sweet, sour, and spice. This helps accent the fat content in the lamb and brighten up the flavor profile.
“Greek cuisine has too long been related to Greek immigrants that served their mothers’ food and a menu of food that has been Americanized to accommodate a palette that was less adventurous before the days of Food Network and Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Parts Unknown,’” Marougas added.
“What Americans know as ‘yeero’ or ‘gyro’ is actually not served in Greece. This product was produced in Chicago by a Greek immigrant, again to accommodate the American palette at a time when pork was deemed to be unhealthy.”
Marougas, Flores and Manacmul already have plans for their next project -- Louks Greek Baby Donuts at 9232 Lakewood Blvd. -- but for now their attention remains fixed on Pita GR.
Pita GR is located at 9905 Paramount Blvd. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
DOWNEY – “Whoever wants it the most will win.” That’s Tom Houts, Principal of Downey High School speaking.
“I haven’t seen Warren play, so I can’t say anything about them. But whoever wins,” he said, “it won’t be an upset.”
Is this a grudge match, or a love fest? It’s Spirit Week, the days preceding the Big Game, the intra-city rivalry, Downey versus Warren. But instead of dividing the city, the game has always unified it.
The teams and the schools show such respect for each other, that it’s the talk of the country. And it’s the Rotary Club of Downey’s pleasure each year to invite representatives of both schools to have luncheon with us and share the excitement.
Not to say that there aren’t animated feelings within the club. Bill Kirkwood sported a deep crimson sport coat (that’s the Downey Vikings, crimson and white), and brought with him a guest who actually played for Downey High in 1960. And Downey beat Warren that year.
Walking farther into the room toward the buffet table, once might encounter a table all in navy blue (that’s navy and gold for the Warren Bears), and someone in maroon, like Larry Garces, might be told to sit on the other side of the room.
There’s even contention on the staff of the Hubbub. Dan Fox has his own Warren letter jacket, and this reporter wears her son Jeff’s from his sophomore year in 1975 at Downey High.
“It’s a huge, huge deal,” said Dr. John Garcia, “to be Superintendent of the School District where I grew up, and where I played for my school in the game.”
“I love the excitement, the energy of Spirit Week,” Dr. John went on. “It’s going to be a fantastic game. There are only so many seats in the stadium, so get there about 4:30 in the afternoon to get in line.”
As Dr. John remembered it, “During the game you see the line of people standing outside, watching through the fence.”
“I can recall my last game I played exactly,” he said. “We scored two touchdowns but lost by two points, a two-point after touchdown conversion.”
“This will be my 30th game,” Principal Houts said. “I started at Warren. And now I’m at Downey. It’s something else, the way the game is sold out. And the band music is really great to listen to.”
The coach of the Vikings, Jack Williams, then came to the podium and introduced members of the varsity team, and assistant coaches.
“We’re really excited,” said Laura Rivas, Principal at Warren, as she pumped her fists. “We’ve been excited all week. Go Bears!”
She then introduced the football coach, Raul Lara, who called on his varsity players to stand.
Some of the team were still relatively small, on a high school-age scale; some looked big. Most flashed a V for Victory sign.
“We look forward to overcoming adversity,” said Lara.
“Last week, something happened,” said Dr. John, “that has never happened in the history of high school football in Southern California. They postponed the football matches.”
Cause? It was lightning strikes, this reporter recalls. Football teams play in rain and mud and cold or heat. But lightning? When Mother Nature puts on her own show, there are rules in place. Shutting down to protect the players on the field and the spectators in the stands is one of them. No appeals.
“Downey was to play Lynwood,” said Dr. John. “St. John Bosco versus Mater Dei. All postponed. But now we have the game, and it has its own electricity.”
Showing the healthy balance in the School District between sports and curriculum and social responsibility, each school next introduced their All Student Body officers. The Viking leaders, coincidentally all girls and dressed in crimson tee shirts with their office printed on the sleeve in white, introduced themselves, then stood by as the cheerleaders performed.
Wearing short white tunics piped in crimson with a crimson megaphone emblem on the chest and big crimson bows in their hair, the award-winning squad exhorted the team to “Go Vikings Go.”
Warren All Student Body officers were up next, and each gave a short speech, showing the poise that marks the effective public speaker.
“School spirit means so many things,” their president said.
Warren showed a short film, “Spirit Week,” which showed the different activities that take place each day at school to build up momentum during the week. Backwards Day, Costume, and Adventure-themed Days, charge the atmosphere.
“It’s duck hunting season” one banner exclaimed, amid pink powder explosions, referring to the derogatory name the Bears have for the Vikings. You don’t have to be a teenager to understand.
The girls of the cheer squad, with their boy leader, made it easy for us. “W-A-R-R-E-N,” they spelled out, with emphatic thrusts of their gold pompoms with each letter.
Wearing the same white tunics, with a capital W logo on the chest in navy and gold, their smiles were enough to almost sway the Downey supporters.
Dr. John closed with a personal touch, urging the students to “take a couple of minutes to know that you are in a special place and time. And School District. It will never come again.”
DOWNEY – One hundred and forty or so Rotarians and their family and friends recently gathered for a Winner’s Night at the Embassy Suites, a fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Downey’s many service projects in the community.
Besides annual benefits for the Arc and the Y, proceeds from this fundraiser support the Rotary Club’s other good deeds. TLC – the Downey School District’s True Lasting Connections - gets a share, as does a new Interact Club at Columbus High School.
Dinner tables were festively strewn with oversized playing cards, and poker chips of heart-red, diamond-white and clover-blue clubs were scattered over the spade-black table cloths. In addition to the dinner tables, there were play-money blackjack, and craps stations, and a Texas hold ’em poker table set up.
With the “funny money” they won, players could take a chance on an elaborate set of prizes, ranging from a three months’ membership and training program at the Downey Family YMCA to a 2-night stay at the fellow Rotarian Maurice Casaus’s deluxe Downey Embassy Suites.
A low hum from the rapt gathering accompanied Master of Ceremonies Larry Garces as he stood for an hour and fifteen minutes and read off 248 numbers and names.
A boring recital? Not so. Each name was followed by a sigh or a cheer, the emotions intensifying as the opportunity drawing game eliminated contestants down to the last few left figuratively standing. Nate Mahoney, Dr. Dan Fox and Russell Skersick helped out with keeping tallies.
Dinner was served at long buffet tables spread with white napery and an impressive line of chaffing dish entrees: meaty lasagna; summer sausage on a bed of ratatouille; chicken Marengo tomato-style sauce. There were colorful pastas and salad, and grilled rounds of buttered and parslied French bread. Diners enjoyed dessert of chocolate mousse cake and strawberry-decorated cheesecake, and table conversation flourished because there was no loud background music threatening to down them out.
Raul Lopez, under whose presidency the first winner’s evening tradition began in 1995, was there with his wife Arlene, a Soroptimist, and both are proud parents of Alex Lopez, a young professional Downey Rotarian in charge of the evening, and also a past president of the club. Keeping it in the family, Alex’s wife Jenette, also a member of the Downey Club, helped Alex with his chores.
Spotted in the crowd was Kevin MacDonald, former executive at the Arc of Downey, enjoying a conversation with the current Arc director, Donna Lindley, both Rotarians. Bernice Mancibo Stumps, patroness of many of Downey’s good causes, attended, and spread the word about the upcoming Aerospace Legacy program. Feeling lucky were Rotarians Diane Davis, Judy Reynolds and Harold Tseklenis.
The bigger winner was the Rotary Club of Downey, as the proceeds go to its many projects. Ultimately the grand winner is the community of Downey, whom Rotary, like all the other worthy service clubs in town, seeks to serve.
The evening was strictly business and pleasure combined – Rotarians having fun, doing good.
DOWNEY – On Saturday, Sept. 29, the KIWIN’S of Diamond Division (student leaders) led by Lieutenant Governor Diana Mae Baliscao, a junior at Downey High School, spent their Saturday morning at the Downey High School library helping those in need.
The students packaged over 300 personal care kit packages which were given to Convoy of Care and Caring for Others, non profit organizations based in Atlanta who have been delivering supplies to the victims of Hurricane Florence.
Their goal is to deliver much needed supplies to the flood-ravaged communities in the Carolinas and assist storm victims who are now staying in emergency shelters due to the flooding that took place after Hurricane Florence.
“These are hygiene care kits,” explained Wendy Galvan, president of the Downey High School KIWIN’S. “They have toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, hand towels, wipes, shampoo, combs, and bandaids, and much more.”
Students also wrote encouraging messages on cards to be sent to those affected by the storms and included them in the personal care kit packages.
“I feel very proud of all these amazing student leaders who showed up to help those in need and I am proud of the city of Downey residents who donated supplies, it shows that our city cares and that our future is bright, said Diana Mae Baliscao, Diamond Division Lieutenant Governor.
As of today, a total of 12 tractor-trailers stationed at WSB-TV and at the Caring for Others’ warehouse have been delivered with bottled water, diapers, household cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene kits to help Hurricane Florence survivors in the Carolinas.
When I got the go-ahead to write a couple of Halloween themed stories for October, my head went to the obvious: movie reviews, haunted house reviews, costume ideas, etc. So, originally, this was going to be a review of Halloween Horror Nights, which I attended last Friday.
But here’s the thing: I realized I can offer so much more than just the usual, fluffy review articles due to my specialized expertise that some readers may or may not know about.
For eight years, I was a “professional monster.” A “scare-actor.” A “haunter.” A “slider.” I suited up at several different haunts, including Knott’s Scary Farm, Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare, Six Flags Fright Fest, and eventually ended my “career” at the 17th Door.
So instead of just saying where to go and why, I decided to go the more “How to survive route.” This week: How to survive that Haunted House you just bought tickets for.
First, be safe and contribute to a safe environment for you, other guests and the “monsters.”
Everyone at the haunt (actors included) are there to have fun. Still, it can be a bit chaotic with all the scaring, screaming, running, and chainsaw hacking.
Safety is the priority at every haunt. While scare-actors are trained, things can and do go wrong. The best way to avoid incident or injury is to not contribute any excess chaos.
Don’t “pregame;” if you must drink, stay as sober as possible. Always be mindful of the environment, actors, guests, and equipment (such as fog machines and props) around you. Do not try and be funny and scare another guest. And most importantly, never, ever touch the talent.
Secondly, leave your machismo at the door.
We get it, your girlfriend got scared. That doesn’t mean you get to chest bump the axe-murderer up against a wall.
You might not realize it, but it takes one individual with a bad attitude to soil an entire evening for themselves, their group, and scare-actor involved.
Worst case scenario, it takes one shove from a bad boyfriend to get escorted out of the attraction. In some extreme cases, full out brawls break out.
When it comes down to it, you and your party paid to come into an area and get scared. Each scare-actor is being paid (or sometimes volunteering even) to put on a horror movie-esque show. Don’t be upset when that’s exactly what happens.
Finally, remember that there’s a real person behind that mask.
School teachers. Contractors. Medical staff. Students. You’d be surprised how much people are different from their costumed personas, how “normal” they are under the rubber, latex, and makeup.
For many haunters out there, working these events isn’t so much a job as it is a hobby. Many of them make up the horror fanatics and misfits of the world. Haunting isn’t a paycheck, it’s a bit of a lifestyle.
Many of the masks, costumes, and props that you may encounter may very well be home-made or customized to each individual, to show a bit of personality between each monster. Dedicated scare-actors are known to put hundreds of dollars and hours of their personal time into their looks and gear.
Did a “slider” just fly past your feet? He spent $70 on his knee pads. That zombie-girl’s mask was custom made by a professional mask maker, and it cost her over $100. That crazed clown hand-painted his puppet prop.
Shifts are long. The wear and tear on a haunter’s body is great. The sleep deprivation is real. And the pay isn’t all that great on top of it.
Every scare-actor you encounter is a person first, and a “monster” second. Make sure you remember that the next time you decide to show off or fool around with them for a cheap laugh.
Halloween and haunted houses only come around once a year. Have fun and enjoy them! Just make sure the experience is good for everyone, and you should have no problem “surviving.”
I’m writing this on Sept. 24. It’s my 26th birthday, and after a weekend spent celebrating with family and loved ones you’d think I’d be bursting at the seams.
But I’m not. In fact, I feel pretty much the same way I’ve felt for the last several months. Trust me, that’s not a good thing.
Speaking about anxiety and depression can be taboo; for many it’s a giant elephant in the room.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1 percent of the population every year. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
These illnesses are not black and white; I’d caution to say they’re even gray.
When these disorders develop, they do so seemingly indiscriminately. They don’t necessarily form due to any one thing. You can suffer because of your physiology, your personality, your experiences.
As a journalist, it is my daily goal to bring information forward for the public knowledge and use. Because everyone’s experiences with depression and anxiety are different, the only way I know how to do my job here is to do so by sharing my own battle.
I’ve only recently started to open up about my struggle with anxiety within the last year or so. While I’ve frequented a psychologist off and on since I was a kid, he never truly got the full story.
For me, as I’m sure it is for many other people who struggle, I didn’t want to admit that there was something so totally wrong going on in my head. I didn’t want to seem weak. For years, I’d brush off anything I was feeling so that I could help someone else with whatever their struggle was.
“I’d rather I worry about you than you worry about me,” I’d say.
The problem with that mentality is none of your feelings resolve. They sit. They marinate. They fester. They boil.
Dealing with these illnesses is more than just feeling sad or nervous. For me, depression and anxiety are this:
It’s walking down a hall, but feeling like you’re walking through water and being held back.
It’s the air feeling heavy. It’s a simultaneous fluttering and heavy feeling in your chest.
It’s sleeping on the couch for a month instead of your own bed. You don’t know why, but you just do.
It’s still being embarrassed about little mistakes, errors, and bloopers that you made days, months, or years ago that others have long forgotten.
It’s feeling like you’re annoying your best friend because they didn’t text you back right away.
It’s feeling like you’re going to walk into losing your job every time you put the key in the door at work.
It’s seeing your name on a byline week after week, but seriously doubting anyone ever reads your articles.
It’s cleaning off your desk little by little of the bits of your personality that make your workspace feel homey because you’re ashamed that your personality includes a love of pro wrestling, Spider-Man and Power Rangers.
It’s not playing your saxophone as much anymore because you’re sure that the neighbors hate it.
It’s staying up until 3 a.m. agonizing because the girl who gave you her number and seemed interested in going out with you didn’t respond.
It’s not going to church for over a month because you don’t feel worthy of being there.
It’s not necessarily thinking about hurting yourself, but feeling like if something catastrophic did happen to you it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
It’s being angry at your brain for the chemicals firing in it that make you feel this way.
For anyone dealing with anxiety and depression who reads this, I pray that you take something from it. Reach out to someone. Get help. Don’t let what you’re feeling consume you.
The hardest thing to do, above all else, is to try and remember that you’re not alone.
For more information on dealing with a mental illness, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
For more serious situations, the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
DOWNEY – The GlennFest is Glenn Stephens’s gift to the citizens of Downey: a week-long celebration of independent films foreign and domestic.
Twenty-nine films ranging from “Dancing Beethoven” to the live Cuban Ballet accompanying “To Dance Like a Man,” to “Monster Island,” to “Between,” to “Cold Skin,” a mystery horror show. All in eight days plus an art exhibit. What more could you ask for?
Four venues: Epic Lounge, Downey United Masonic Lodge No. 220, Studio Movie Grill, and the Downey Theatre, all thanks to the generosity of local businesses, non-profits, the city of Downey and sponsorships. Mission: to bring to the general public quality films of special interest through a week-long film festival.
Just a few years ago, a sweeping arts movement began to trickle through Downey, and one of the results was the Downey Arts Coalition. Before that, art and film enthusiasts were expected to drive for 30 minutes (or longer) into Downtown LA to enjoy the festivities of public art events, including film festivals.
Realizing the importance of introducing art and film to underserved areas, GlennFest founder Glenn Stephens concentrated his resources on incorporating independent and artistic films by way of a film festival. Glenn knew that these films, though excellent works of film making, may not get the opportunity to screen in areas that don’t have art-house theaters, because they lack broad commercial appeal.
And so, in 2012, GlennFest was born. The festival boomed from a small, single weekend event to a multi-day celebration of films in various languages and from various countries. Billed as “movies of special interest,” Glenn approaches his film selections with an eye toward movies that appeal to niche audiences.
“Thank you GlennFest,” said Downey Councilman Alex Saab, “for organizing this for the community.” Alex and wife Giggy caught a special live ballet performance and then the flick, “To Dance Like a Man” at the Downey Masonic Lodge.
“We attended one of today’s films,” Alex said, “about a set of Cuban triplets who are training to be professional ballet dancers and the immense training that goes with it.”
“Amigos,” said Cuban Heritage L.A, "The Los Angeles Cuban Ballet is proud to be a part of the GlennFest Film Festival 2018, our hour long ballet performance before the featured film showing of ‘To Dance Like A Man,’" a great film about ballet dancers, which will help to bring awareness of the arts and Cuban Ballet to a larger audience in L.A.. Thanks to your donations to the arts in our community.”
“Thank you,” responded Glenn,” for a beautiful performance.”
“This morning,” said Glenn, “we had ‘Monster Island’ for special needs children. They love animated films. We had a party for them, with balloons and candy.”
Country Workers Union Local sponsored the film and Maria Burgess of juvenile hall and Yolanda Roybal held forth at a table.
“We work with Glenn on behalf of disabled children,” they said.
Next up that morning: “The Greatest Showman” singalong with Hugh Jackman. At the Epic Lounge patrons enjoyed a great night Wednesday with Broadway star Hummingbird Meadows during the screening for “Hurricane Bianca.”
An added bonus, in the theatre lobby was an art exhibit curated by Pat Gil for sponsor the Downey Arts Coalition. Outstanding artist Emmy Lu, short for Emmanuel Luega, is from Uganda, and his paintings have been acquired by such luminaries such as Princess Diana and Prince Charles, Denzel Washington and Magic Johnson. Emmy Lu has shown at the Museum of African American Art in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
A musician as well as painter, Emmy is perhaps most known for his jazz pieces.
“I studied in London at the School of Art in the 70’s,” he said, “which was unusual at the time.” His works in the show were giclée reproductions, vibrant with color and swirling forms. One eye-catching one, of New Orleans Musicians, is called “Southern Composition,” and it reflects the same African cultural style that once inspired Picasso to launch Cubism.
Annie and Debbie, friends of Pat’s from San Pedro, said they have been coming to the GlennFest for several years.
“Seeing these films has made me more open to other experiences and other ways of life,” Annie said. “I am more receptive and can empathize.”
Jorge Montero who hails from Ecuador was encountered in the Downey Theatre lobby. He was waiting for “Retablo” to start, a Spanish language movie about a boy on his way to a community celebration in the Andes when he accidentally observes a situation that shatters his whole world.
“More people should be coming to the festival,” Jorge said. “This is a fantastic opportunity. And it’s free.”
Alistair Hunter, who directs plays for the Downey Arts Coalition, echoed Jorge’s remarks: “This is the eighth annual GlennFest free film festival in Downey, with movies of all shapes and time lengths.”
This reporter chose Saturday to go to see and hear choreographer Maurice Béjart’s “The Ninth Symphony,” which is a performance of Beethoven’s masterwork with the focus being entirely on the dancers who interpret the music. The Tokyo Ballet company along with the Béjart Ballet Lausanne has dancers reflecting every ethnic make-up, with Aryan features alternating with Asian ones – world harmony in action.
Starting with a bare stage the color of a burnished cello, crisscrossed with white circles and lines, the film is a triumph of the theatrical spectacle maker’s art. Color, lighting, costumes and stagecraft dominate, but the Orchestra and its instruments are never shown.
Not one French horn, not one violin. Instead they glow above the stage like a dark nest from which the dancers may have fallen. Only twice, at the beginning, is the conductor’s face shown, and he is Zubin Mehta, formerly of our L.A. Philharmonic, this time conducting the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.
The camera focuses on a lone male dancer, clad only in tights and stripped to the waist. Gradually he is joined by more, their buff torsos accentuating their youth. The colors change from movement to movement, starting with a matte gray for the males and a simple bathing suit style in mauve for the females, mostly barefoot, but the ballerinas in toe shoes in the second section.
In succeeding segments the colors change, to white, and then finally a rich tawny orange. Emphasizing the geometric complexity, the overhead point of view shows the dancers whirling in more and more complete harmony. The dancers executed classic ballet moves, jetés, arabesques and beautifully held extensions with absolute elegance and strength.
Beethoven’s music can never be said to take second place to any other art form, but it does seem for a moment in the adagio like a movie music moment for the dancers, movie music that is, if the composer is John Williams and the movie is “Star Wars.”
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been interpreted in many ways: embryonic emerging of cooperation; the developing relation between men and women; the idea of world peace and harmony and brotherhood. Beethoven wrote it as a statement of freedom during a repressive political time. Clenched fists, a prominent gesture, become not war-like and aggressive but triumphant exultations of thanksgiving.
There is no doubting the majesty of the final movement when the Freude/ Joy theme is sounded, first like a clarion call from the orchestra, then taken up by a mighty choir three times as numerous as the orchestra, dwarfing it as they stand above the dimmed instruments, and then the corps de ballet appears, expanded to 250.
The premier danceurs and première danceuses from each movement appear, linking arms as they move in a dizzying circle filling the stage. The poem, Shiller’s “Ode to Joy” inspired Beethoven to create this monumental work, and music, song, poetry, dance and stagecraft collaborate to create the kind of moment that changes the viewer, and ultimately, could change the world.
At the final curtain calls, the audience applauded muscular choreographer Maurice Béjart who uncannily resembles Rudolf Nureyev.
“I love this picture,” said Glenn, “I’ve seen it many times. Whenever I’m stressed and want to relax, I put this on. We showed another movie, ‘Dancing Beethoven,’ which explains what the choreographer was doing with each of those moves.”
“Dancing Beethoven” was nominated in the 32nd Goya Awards for Best Documentary Film.
In the past, GlennFest’s featured films have ranged from a Dutch comedy, to an award-winning Chinese animated feature, to an awe-inspiring Latin American documentary. GlennFest generally focuses on films of special interest, but also screens musical, comedy, and other types of films. Some of the films selected have gone through the film festival circuit and others are rising from the reel.
Cannes and Sundance, eat your hearts out. Downey’s got GlennFest.
Things You Didn’t Know About Downey
With the past few weeks of heat, it’s hard to believe that Downey has had a history of snow.
In looking at some notes from Ethel Donaldson, she stated that the first time she remembered it snowing in Downey was 1920, shortly after her family moved to the area. She stated the white stuff came floating down and lay on the ground, and there was enough of it that it lasted well into the next day. There was enough remaining in the most shadowed, sheltered spots till the second day after.
Ethel lived on Crawford Street, in the block between 2nd and 3rd streets, and on the day it snowed the road crew was repairing the street. Men stopped work and took shelter at first and then they reverted to their younger age and began pelting each other with snowballs, washing each other’s faces, and doing all the things that go along with having fun in the snow.
That is until a hard-thrown snowball went astray and hit the windshield of a lone parked car. Sudden stillness, and the men simply melted. Not a soul was to be seen anywhere.
The owner of the car never found out what happened, as nobody was around and he found no rocks to blame the damage of the cracked windshield.
Ethel remembered making candy and putting the pan out in the snow to cool. She tasted no better candy ever made.
Ethel also stated it snowed once in 1930 and 1940’s. We have in the yearbook of 1949 a picture of some students making a snowman on campus that year.
ADOBE HOUSE — An article dated December 1970 titled “Warren High Discovery” told the story of Warren High School California history teacher Bill Boyd and his four students who he sent to find the old Jose Manuel Nieto adobe.
The students, Rick Larson, Mike Lapp, Walter Lawrence and Mike Pilling, did considerable research and leg work to locate the site of the old adobe house, which was built by Nieto in 1790 and destroyed in the flood of 1867.
According to their research, they pinpointed the site as being where the 605 Freeway and the San Gabriel River meet in Santa Fe Springs. No remains of the adobe could be located, having been all washed away by the flood. The area where it would have been is under the freeway.
The students presented the notebook to the Historical Society along with two maps of the area.
TRIVIA QUESTION — What major motion picture star appeared in her first “talkie” at the Meralta Theatre on Christmas Day, 1929?
Joan Crawford. Her first all-talkie film was called “Untamed.”
DOWNEY – First event of the season for the Downey YMCA is the board social, the installation of the new Board of Managers, and a lively crowd mingled in the new dining room of Ebie Ghaneian’s re-christened Gatherings ’N Stuff.
After 30 years, Cafe ’N Stuff in Downey is being “repurposed.” Just opened after remodeling as Gatherings n’ Stuff, it’s a boutique venue for meetings, training classes and special occasions. And they still do catering. Shades of blue and a mirrored wall reflected tables set with crisp white and blue linens. Spotted were a number of long-time Y board members; former Mayor of Downey and Optimist Meredith Perkins, Larry Lewis and his wife, Marge, Bill Hare, and Dr. Stephen Ferraro.
The Y’s efficient office manager, Jennifer Pineda, greeted guests at the door, and staff instructor Lupe Baeza-Martinez graciously helped everyone find a seat.
Russell Skersick, secretary of the board, accompanied by Nicki, played emcee and welcomed everyone, and new executive director Lori Tiffany went from table to table saying hello. Lori and Russell are Rotarians, as is Hop Morrison, also present.
Kiwanians Blanca Pacheco led the flag salute, and Bob Earl gave the invocation. Bob’s wife, Joanne, was with him, looking good but recovering from a scary bout of pneumonia. “I was her nurse for nearly a month,” Bob said proudly.
The variety of affiliations shows the striking nature of the Downey community. Volunteers from all the city’s organizations work with each other, serve on several different board structure, and cooperate, to improve the quality of life in Downey.
Other Kiwanians present: Eric Pierce, Bill Hare, Larry Lewis with wife Marge. Giovanna “Giggy” Saab, an active Downey Soroptimist, is running for school board. Scott and Yadira Ramey (she is a returning YMCA board member) told us of the month they recently spent in Italy, the entire last week in Rome. Favorite spot: “We loved the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, and walking to the Piazza Navrona at night after dinner,” said Scott.
First person we saw was Christine de la Torre, vice chairperson of the Downey Family YMCA board. Where is Hector? “He’s in Sacramento right now,” said Christine. He was appointed to the California Air Resources Board, which checks pollutions and seeks innovative solutions. Downeyites will remember Hector as our outstanding Assemblyman from 2004 to 2010.
Before that as a member of the City Council, Hector led South Gate residents in a grassroots campaign to recall corrupt elected officials and restore public trust. For those who’d like an update, he still works for the public good, on the American Health Council, and LA Care Health Plan, the largest non-profit insurance company in California. He’s also a trustee for Occidental College.
Lori welcomed us on behalf of the Y, and then we enjoyed a fiesta buffet, with beef and chicken fillings for tacos, a tomato, red and green pepper and onion ratatouille, and a variety of fillings and toppings: sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, with guacamole made from Ebie’s special recipe.
For dessert, a stack of churros, melt-in-your-mouth warm, rolled in sugar and cinnamon.
Excitement always builds up for the revelations of two closely guarded secrets at the installation: the Distinguished Service Award, and the coveted Red Triangle.
The nominations for the awards are made by and voted on by all the past recipients of each recognition, and no one knows till the dinner who has won.
“They always ask me to give out these presentations,” said Steve Roberson, who was accompanied by Darlene. “So I asked who this year’s winners were, and when Lori told me, I said I’d be happy and honored to give the citations.”
First one, for Distinguished Service. Steve said, “goes to a volunteer who has contributed to the development and the good of the Y itself. You can try to guess who this is, with a little game of questions that narrow down the identity.”
“This person is a great individual,” said Steve. “If you ask whether he – yes, it’s a guy – will do something, he never says no.” No guesses form the audience so far.
“He’s a team player; a guy who likes to eat,” Steve continued. “It’s Jeremy Fitzl.”
“As for the Red Triangle,” said Steve, “it goes to a leader who has dedicated time, service and treasure on behalf of the YMCA and in the Downey community.
“This person also rarely says no. He likes kids. And he was a wife who’s much too cute for him.” Amid the general laughter, Steve announced the name – Eric Pierce.
This is Eric’s week, because just the night before he was inaugurated as lieutenant governor of Kiwanis District 13, which covers all the clubs in California, Nevada and Hawaii. Not only is he the Editor of the Downey Patriot, and a realtor besides, he’s also a member of the board of the Downey Symphonic Society. Too bad cute wife Nicole wasn’t here to see Eric’s surprise, but she’ll get to choose where to hang the large and handsome plaque that bears his name.
“This award tonight was completely unexpected. It was extra special because Steve Roberson presented it to me,” said Eric. “I’m lucky to be part of the Downey community, where so many people care for each other. “
“This can be a depressing world we’re living in. But you know what helps? Working to improve your community.”
Next came the installation of new board members, and each was introduced separately so we could get to know them. There’s so much to being a board member. The board is charged with overseeing all the aspects of running the Y, from Program and Camps to Finance and Budget. And a major responsibility is fundraising.
One new member was Nathan Mahoney, realtor and president-elect of the Rotary Club of Downey.
“It is an honor,” said Nate, “to be inducted into the Downey YMCA board this evening. They do a lot of great work in the community and I look forward to being a contributing member towards that effort.”
Other new members included Jose Duran, a journeyman lineman with Edison, and Lori Reeves, a senior vice president at Financial Partners Credit Union.
Members to be re-elected this year rose and included Bill Hare and Larry Lewis. Also present was member of the board in the class of 2019, Maurice Casaus; 2020, Anthony Zamora, and Barbara Briley Beard, treasurer of the Downey Museum of Art, Women’s Club advocate, who has served the Y long and faithfully. Barbara was one of the first of the women chairpersons, joining an illustrious line that includes such leaders as Rosemary Ferraro and Jean Brazelton, remembered with love and respect.
Board Chair Charles Gregorio closed by thanking Raul Pineda and his staff “for holding us together while the reconstruction work was taking place. You’ve done an outstanding job.”
Emcee Russell Skersick ended the evening by praising new Executive Director Lori Tiffany, saying, “You make an excellent addition to the team.”
And as Eric said, “Help pick up litter. Tutor a student. Buy someone a cup of coffee. Just do something - anything - to help make your community better.
You’ll feel better, I promise.”
DOWNEY — Overlooking the terrace and the great green lawns of the fairways of Rio Hondo Golf Club, from tables in the event center banquet room spread with silver cloths set with silver swirls, and dozens of play diamonds sprinkled over everything- you know you’re at the Garden Party Gala celebrating the Downey Symphony’s 60th – diamond – anniversary.
Downey Mayor Sean Ashton attended, as did former Mayor Meredith Perkins, and such fans of the arts as David Devis, owner of Epic Lounge. His tastes range from the Blasters to Beethoven. A Marilyn Monroe look-alike in a white halter dress sang a breathy “Happy Anniversary Dear Symphony,” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” while guests checked out tables of silent auction offerings.
To raise money for its season of three concert performances in the Downey Theatre, and for the Music in the Schools program for Downey’s kids, the Downey Symphonic Society held its annual Garden Party Gala.
“It’s the first day of fall,” said Pat Gil, chair of the event, “but the temperatures are in the low 80’s, the sky is fair, and it’s summer all day long.” Don Marshall, president of the Society’s Board, welcomed the guests and then musical director and conductor Sharon Lavery gave a preview of the exciting season ahead.
Sharon, splendid in a black jacket with caviar beading, previewed the three evenings of classical concerts planned for the Downey Theatre, starting with Viva Musica! on Oct. 20. Young composer Oscar Navarro is coming from Spain to premier his new Clarinet Concerto, and Lavery will conduct pieces like Ernesto Lecuona’s Andalucia Suite, which ends with the fiery piece better known as “Malaguena.”
January 19th’s concert will feature Salzburg’s favorite son, Mozart, and Lars Clutterham, a Downey resident, who will premiere his orchestral piece, “Arc of Life.” A dramatic rendition of the whimsical Peter and the Wolf will then delight the audience.
Final concert on April 6 will be an All Gershwin!, honoring Dr. Jacquelin Perry of Downey Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. World renowned Dr. Jackie, a pioneer in locomotion studies, was a longtime Downey resident and classical music enthusiast.
Priscilla Winslow, twice winner of the baton auction, came down from Berkeley to her hometown of Downey for the party. Her father, Paul, had been a member of the Board of Directors of the Symphonic Society. Also spotted was busy person around town and tireless worker for the Downey Woman’s Club, Barbara Beard.
Barbara flew back from a Women’s Club Convention in San Francisco just to come to the Garden Party. Downey’s Women’s Club, founded in 1898, does amazing things on the cultural and education scene, and supports the Downey Rose Float Association. Barbara is an example of the cross-organization support in the community for Downey’s volunteer doings.
Adele Alexander, former president of the Downey Assistance League and long-time Symphony supporter, was there with husband, Alex, and Joe Commodore, staunch Kiwanian. Other Kiwanians were Larry Lewis and Bill Hare, both former presidents of the Downey Symphonic Society.
Bill conducted the live auction at the end of the evening, and helped raise money for Symphony projects like sending a quintet to every K-5 and Middle School in Downey, with an entertaining program written for the Symphony by the late Dr. Tom Osborn, which teaches children about tempo, melody and other musical matters.
“We use all kinds of music, classical, Romantic, jazz, mariachi, Chinese, to teach the kids,” said Sharon. The kids love it.
The pay-off for the children’s musical education comes with a real symphony concert at the Downey Theatre, one each for all the third graders in the DUSD, the other for fifth grade, to which the kids are bussed, courtesy of the Downey Unified School District. But it takes three continuous concerts each morning to give each child a chance to come.
For these concerts, the orchestra musicians are professionals and they are paid, to rehearse and to perform, and for that, the school district contributes, as does the Kiwanis Foundation, in a big way. That’s one of the reasons why the Symphonic Society produces the Garden Party as a fund-raiser each year.
White jackets and tuxedos made some of the men guests resemble the James Bond cut-out at the door, from “Diamond Are Forever.” Games played at the tables involved guessing the number of diamonds in a bottle, and the prize for each table was a rose gold pen topped with a ginormous emerald-cut diamond.
Women’s wear ranged from summer pastels to Carolina del Toro’s black number with diamond (rhinestone?) strappy neck décor. Her husband, ceramicist Jorge del Toro, sported a formal tux as did “Gil,” Pat Gil’s husband. Pat wore a simple black dress with a deep V neckline completely filled with an amazing bib necklace of “diamonds” which sparkled whenever she moved.
Joyce Sherwin of the Symphony board, who plans the 60th anniversary events, wore a striking purple silk tunic jacket with a diamond musical clef pin and finished her ensemble with classic white summer pants.
“Buy raffle tickets in a strip as wide as your arms can stretch,” said Pat, and the winners got spirit bottles. Downey Rotarian Harold Tseklenis was there: he first joined the Symphonic Society board 59 years ago. Hop Morrison of the Rotary Club of Rio Hondo was there, along with wife Karol, a board member. Bernice Mancibo Stumps, who attends all the volunteer functions and donates to all of them, won several prizes.
Twenty items graced the silent auction tables, ranging from a bottle of 15-year-old Glenlevit Scotch; a painting by Carolina de Toro; costume jewelry featuring mock diamonds; spirit baskets, a Hallowe’en basket full of masks and skeleton faces along with cookies and candy; Downey artist Terry Walker’s glass creations; and “Rum Chata.”
Tables set with silver pitchers of white hydrangeas and stalks of white snapdragons seated at least 120 guests, a healthy increase even over last years’ crowd. A sign of prosperity, and people allowing themselves to indulge? Let’s hope so. The evening moved along, with a lot of new and young faces in attendance and bidding.
While the USC Brass Quintet played bluesy and rag-time versions of “Stardust” and “My Way,” guests dined on salad and a tender and juicy creamed herbed chicken roasted with vegetables, and a raspberry coulis atop French Vanilla cheesecake. Thanks to Sharon’s position with USC’s Thornton School of Music, she is in the best position to get us talented musicians. We could hear how good they are.
For the live auction, Bill Hare cajoled and guided bidders into getting good value for their money. Bill has a knack of quickly identifying serious bidders, even in a big room, and since he knows everyone by name, there is no disappearing after you make an offer. Bill offered two premier tickets at Segerstrom Hall with special lounge privileges; tickets to “Hotel California,” the Eagles Tribute concert in January at the Downey Theatre, with a dinner certificate at The Green Olive (Dave Devis bid on that).
The grand prize which always excites the bidders and the room was the opportunity to attend, seated right on stage, a Downey Orchestra rehearsal before the January concert, and dinner with Maestro Sharon. This was so hotly contested that Sharon graciously offered to be available for the same combination for the April concert, with the Rhapsody in Blue piano soloist too if at all possible.
One of the winners was Carol Kearns: she writes thoughtful articles on current Downey matters for the Patriot and her husband, Frank, a Downey poet, operates Los Nietos Press, a bijou publishing press for local poets. Carol and Frank are active in the Downey Arts Coalition, a renaissance movement here in town.
The other winner was Bernice Stumps, who circulated information about the upcoming Aerospace Legacy Foundation October event, “Exploring the Imagination of Science” at the Columbia memorial Space Center.
Each symphony concert in the Downey Theatre this year will end with a champagne reception, the October and April complimentary to the entire audience, the winter January concert just for season ticket subscribers. Tickets are available at the Downey Theatre box office site.
“After the concert, come find your way back stage. I would love to meet you and talk with you,” said Maestro Sharon.
Auction item winners win twice, because they get the featured article for their own, plus they have the satisfaction of contributing to the quality performances of the Symphony.
Musician’s salaries plus rent, insurance and miscellaneous costs have to be paid every concert, and the Downey Symphonic Society always pays for the best they can get to come and play here.
Lorine Parks is the Downey Patriot’s society editor.
DOWNEY – “Lucky Seven” is the theme for the seventh annual GlennFest Film Festival, a full week of free movies that starts Sunday, Sept. 30, and continues through Monday, Oct. 8.
There will be 24 free movies showing in four different venues—the Downey Civic Theatre, Studio Movie Grill (what used to be the Krikorian Theater), Downey Masonic Lodge #220, and the Epic Lounge, all located in Downtown Downey.
Presented in conjunction with the Downey Arts Coalition, and with sponsorships from Discover Downey, the Epic Lounge, SEIU Local 721, Index Two Studios, Bob’s Big Boy, and the Los Angeles Cuban Ballet Company, this year is the largest GlennFest Film Festival to date.
In addition to the free movie screenings, there will be a free art exhibit showing at the Downey Civic Theatre Oct. 6-7.
Many of the film screenings will be accompanied by live performances and interactive activities for the audience, such as a ballet performance by the Los Angeles Cuban Ballet Company to celebrate World Ballet Day (Sept. 30), a Q&A with the star of the movie “Between,” Stella Damasus (Oct. 7), a Halloween dress-up event for kids and young adults with special needs (Oct. 6), and even a group sing-along with a very popular musical.
Below is the full schedule:
Sunday, Sept. 30: GlennFest kicks off with its celebration of World Ballet Day and four dance documentaries, all at the Downey United Masonic Lodge #220. The day begins with “Hot to Trot” at 11:30 am, a film about same-sex competitive ballroom dancing, and the four men and women who train their bodies, deal with their families, and navigate through their personal ups and downs, on the way to winning a championship.
“Dancing Beethoven” follows at 1:20 pm, which chronicles the hard work of ballet dancers and musicians as they prepare for a Tokyo show set to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The film delves into the philosophy of dance, music, and art, both from the European perspective of the ballet’s choreographer Maurice Bejart, as well as from the Japanese perspective of the Tokyo Ballet company.
This documentary, is a prelude to “The Ninth Symphony by Bejart” on October 6, which is a film of the actual, complete Bejart ballet. This film is in multiple languages with English subtitles.
At 4 pm there will be a live performance of various dances by the Los Angeles Cuban Ballet Company, followed by “To Dance Like A Man,” about identical triplets determined to become great ballet dancers. It’s shot almost like a home movie, with a candid style that makes you feel as if you’re right there with the boys, during their days of training at Cuba’s National Ballet School. In Spanish with English subtitles.
The day finishes with “Dancing Across Borders” at 7 pm, about a 16-year-old Cambodian boy, already a dance prodigy, who is transported to the United States to become a professional ballet dancer. All of these dance documentaries show subtleties to the art that most of us have probably never thought about, nor explained in such detail. In English and Khmer with English Subtitles.
All movies on Day 1 will be showing at the Downey United Masonic Lodge #220, 8244 3rd Street, in Downtown Downey. RSVP for your free tickets at glennfest.com.
Monday, Oct. 1: GlennFest continues at 6:45 pm inside Studio Movie Grill for a free screening and gala of the 25th anniversary of “The Wedding Banquet,” a comedy farce about a gay landlord and his female tenant who agree to a marriage of convenience, but his parents arrive to visit and things get out of hand.
This is one of director Ang Lee’s earliest movies, two years before his Golden Globe winning “Sense and Sensibility” and seven years before “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Gala includes light refreshments. In English and Mandarin with English subtitles.
“Summer of '67” follows at 7:45 pm, also at Studio Movie Grill. The movie is based on real life events and chronicles the turbulent times of the ‘60s, as well as the struggles faced by men and women impacted by the Vietnam War. Its cinematography and use of colors, set pieces and character development will immerse you in the past.
A short walk away is the Epic Lounge, where “A Silent Agreement” will screen at 9 pm, showcasing Auslan (Australian sign language) and how a gay couple navigates communicating with each other when one is deaf and the other has a speech impediment.
The Studio Movie Grill is at 8200 3rd Street and Epic Lounge is at 8239 2nd Street, both in Downtown Downey. RSVP for your free tickets at glennfest.com.
Tuesday, Oct. 2: GlennFest presents an Aussie comedy double feature of “A Few Best Men” at 6 pm (featuring Olivia Newton-John and Rebel Wilson), about a groom and his three best men having to come to grips with his starting a new life away from them. The sequel, “A Few Less Men” follows at 7:40 pm, where we follow the continuing adventures of David, Tom, Graham and Luke, as they try to get back to London to attend a funeral.
Wednesday, Oct. 3: GlennFest will be showing “Hurricane Bianca” at Epic Lounge from 6:45-8:15 pm, bringing “Saturday Night Live” alum Rachel Dratch and the legendary RuPaul along for the comedy storm.
Roy Haylock transforms himself into Bianca to wreak havoc at a small Texas school, and proverbial hilarity ensues. After-show hosted by Hummingbird Meadows. Stay for karaoke fun after the movie.
Thursday, Oct. 4: It's a GlennFest international double feature at Studio Movie Grill, beginning with “El Callejon” (Mexico) at 6:45 pm, about a country singer who meets a woman while she waits for news of her missing husband. In Spanish with English subtitles. Next is “AUX” (UK) at 9 pm, about the ghost of a WWII British soldier who terrorizes the locals because he thinks the Nazis have landed in England.
Saturday, Oct. 6: GlennFest has a full day’s worth of movies from 9 am through 10 pm, as well as an all-day art exhibit in the theater lobby. The first show is a special screening of “Monster Island” for special needs kids and young adults at 9 am (bonus--everybody gets to dress up in their Halloween costumes!) After-party and karaoke fun.
Then at 1 pm Glennfest will host Downey’s largest sing-a-long (the movie is a secret, but it’s listed on glennfest.com). After that is “The Ninth Symphony by Bejart” at 3 pm, where 250 ballet dancers perform to a version of Beethoven's 9th at Tokyo's NHK Hall.
The day continues with “Retablo” at 4:35 pm, about a boy who wants to be a story-box maker like his father, but must deal with the chauvinistic world around them. In Peruvian with English subtitles. Then there’s “Venus” at 6:15 pm, about a transitioning woman who discovers that she's the father of a 14-year-old boy.
The day finishes with “5 Weddings” at 8:15 pm, a comedy about an American journalist who travels to India to write about Bollywood weddings.
All of Saturday’s screenings will be at the Downey Civic Theater.
Sunday, Oct. 7: GlennFest and the art exhibit continue with an artist reception in the Downey Civic Theatre. The first screening is “Ma Ma” at 10:25 am, with Penelope Cruz's incredible performance about a mother dealing with breast cancer and how it affects the lives of everyone around her. In Spanish with English subtitles
Then at 1:45 pm is a secret screening (the name of the film can’t be publicly revealed at glennfest.com), about a young man from Mexico who doesn't speak German, but through a series of events winds up in Germany, where no one speaks Spanish. Hint about this movie: it’s a beloved favorite in Mexico. In Spanish, German with English and Spanish subtitles.
At 4 pm comes the North American premiere of “Between,” about a marriage counselor who has to reevaluate her single life after meeting a man who is about to change her perspective on love. Make sure you stay after the movie, because there will be a bonus Q&A session with the movie’s star and co-producer, Stella Damasus.
The day finishes with “Cold Skin” at 6:55 pm, about a weather observer that must survive a year on a desolate island, living in a lighthouse, while trying to fend off strange creatures that come out of the ocean at night.
All movies on Sunday will be playing at the Downey Civic Theater.
Monday, Oct. 8: After a week-long celebration, GlennFest concludes at the Studio Movie Grill with a Middle Eastern double feature, beginning with a United Arab Emirates film, “Fan of Amoory,” at 6:15 pm, about a boy who dreams of becoming a professional soccer player while facing opposition from his family, friends and neighbors. In Arabic with English subtitles.
The final film of the festival is “The Judge” at 8:10 pm, a documentary about Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih, the first woman appointed to a Shari’a court in the Middle East, whose career provides rare insights into both Islamic Law and gendered justice. In Arabic with English subtitles.
For more information and to reserve your free tickets for any of the films, visit the festival’s official website at glennfest.com.
For updated event announcements visit GlennFest’s social media accounts: Facebook.com/GlennFest, Twitter.com/GlennFest, and Instagram.com/GlennFestFilms.