Wednesday, September 16, 2009
AN ARBORETUM TRIP AND LLOYD WEBBER DOES OZ
Yesterday, John and I went to the Los Angeles County Arboretum located in the city of Arcadia.-- right across the street from Santa Anita Race Track. We had a nice surprise when we discovered that admission was "free" on Tuesdays during the summer. Well, that saved us $16.00. Of Course, The Arboretum is where they filmed the opening sequences if the hit television show "Fantasy Island" with the late great Ricardo Monteblan. But they also filmed all of the old Tarzan movies there plus some "Murder She Wrote" and films like "The Boys From Brazil. Even Jerry Lewis filmed part of a movie there. It's really a beautiful place-- and it's so quiet and peaceful there. I had gone as a kid in high school with my camera club in the years 1962-1966 where I had taken more pictures than I can ever count. The old Coach barn brought back a lot of photographic memories as did the wild peacocks that roam the grounds there. The site's modern history began in 1875 when Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin purchased Rancho Santa Anita and constructed its buildings and grounds. Baldwin's influence was a strong presence on the site. A certain flamboyance was evident in the creation of a showcase at Santa Anita. Baldwin in some ways anticipated the development of Las Vegas creating Arcadia as a kind of prototype destination resort. The Oakwood Hotel, the Santa Anita racetrack and the creation of Arcadia as an independent city made it possible for Baldwin to become its first Mayor. The first liquor license was issued to his oldest daughter Clara Baldwin. This becomes more significant when one understands that dear old Pasadena which borders Arcadia was dry from its founding in 1886. A major motivation for incorporation being the banning of liquor in the city. Although many towns in southern California were dry, commercial viticulture flourished around the San Gabriel Mission (where I attended church for years) since mission days. Baldwin started an award winning winery to supply the thirsty tourists, sold land to settlers as well as running a private water company and brick works. A partnership with Henry Huntington (The Huntington Library) and the Santa Fe Railroad insured that passengers could arrive by rail from Los Angeles and other locations as well as bringing freight, such as building supplies and taking away ranch produce for sale.The arboretum itself began in 1947 , the year of my birth with the state of California and Los Angeles jointly purchasing 111 acres to create an arboretum around the Baldwin site. By 1949, the first greenhouse had been constructed and the site's plants inventoried. In 1951, the first 1,000 trees were planted, and in 1956 the arboretum was opened to the public. Ongoing construction of gardens and greenhouses took place during the 1950s and 1960s, and in 1975-1976 the Tropical Greenhouse was opened and the Prehistoric and Jungle Garden completed. Construction and renovation of both greenhouses and gardens has continued to this day. A nice day for both John Nugent and myself. I had to laugh when I read this morning that Andrew Llyold Webber is going to write six new songs for a NEW musical adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" that is to based on the book and the movie. He will keep "Over The Rainbow" and many of the other songs. The reason that is a bit funny is number one the "Wizard" is how I started in musical theatre way back in 1980. I wrote an oirginal score and an original libretto for Mark Shipley's Gallery theatre in Ontario, Ca. The other reason that this is a bit funny is that absolute amazing resilience of this classic story. It just keeps being re-invented. We all can guess how much money Stephen Schwartz is making on "The Wicked" (which take the Wicked witch's perspective on the classic story) and "The Wiz" is being readied for a brand new premiere on Broadway next year. There is even a new musical version that takes the story from Toto's point of view? Well, not much else to report. Going to clean my apartment today. Doesn't that sound like fun!