Sunday, October 19, 2014

Museum of the Weird: An Evening with Rolly Crump

How familiar are you with this face?

If you are one of the legions of hardcore Disney dorks with whom I unintentionally seem to surround myself, then you probably recognize this as the face of longtime, Disney artist and Imagineer, Rolly Crump.  If unaware of Mr. Crump's contributions to the world, one need look only as far as the 1964 New York World's Fair, It's a Small World, The Enchanted Tiki Room (a personal favorite), and The Haunted Mansion.  Crump's influence is all over Disneyland and, while all of his work garners copious praise, it is his concept art for The Haunted Mansion that really gained him a cult following. 

Rolly Crump describes the Museum of the Weird 
and his contributions to The Haunted Mansion

As anyone who has ridden the Haunted Mansion Ride at Disneyland knows, the Museum of the Weird (developed from 1964-65), as described by Rolly, never really came to fruition.  Elements of his designs are definitely found throughout the darkest of all Disney dark rides, but ardent fans of the weird have continually clamored for a proper Museum of the Weird.

Rolly working on models for the Museum of the Weird

I'm such a sucker for miniatures that if we can't have a full-scale MOTW,
 I'd be satisfied with a display like this at the ride's exit!
(Source)

Alerted to a "Museum of the Weird" tribute art show at the gallery/collectible store, Creature Features, in Burbank, we hopped in the wacky wagon for an evening with the master.

We figured that, at the very least, an art show is usually good for
crudités and a cool drink, but Rolly Crump was actually there "in person!"

Well over thirty artists presented works that paid tribute to Crump's concept art, often transforming what was only a pencil sketch into a fully-realized, three-dimensional art piece.

From paper sculpture to ceramics, paintings, carved reliefs, sculpture, and
dioramas, there was plenty of proof that Rolly's work never fails to inspire! 

Like the first Reese' Peanut Butter Cup in a plastic pumpkin, the "Museum of the Weird" art show really ushered in the Halloween season for the wacky tacky adventure team.  It was a particular treat to attend the opening night of this show, as not one but two of the brilliant art pieces were contributed by amazingly-talented friends.

Our pals, Kevin & Jody, built the nine-foot-tall "Tower of the Weird."
The literal centerpiece of the show, the tower was
faithfully built according to Crump's illustration.

Crump's "Aquarium with Ghost Fish" sketch was the inspiration for our ingenious friend, Suzy's, "Doomquarium."
We were especially proud of Suzy as this was the first piece of the evening to be sold!  
Lucky (and maybe just a little odd) is the person who took this home!

Equally famous for his post-Disney career, Crump continues to inspire fans with work that is sometimes subversive and always off-beat, far-out, and totally weird.  As with all creepy adventures through The Haunted Mansion, the Museum of the Weird, and even tribute art shows at Creature Features, it is paramount to obey that ominous warning...

"Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!"

"The Haunted Mansion" soundtrack



Creature Features
2904 W Magnolia Blvd
Burbank, CA
(818)842-8665



Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kitsch-en Kounter: Apple Pie Without Cheese Is Like A Kiss Without A Squeeze

As I am like to do, I was recently watching a rerun of I Love Lucy in which Lucy offers Fred a slice of apple pie with a "big ol' hunk of cheese" on it.  I was immediately reminded of the saying that has been handed down through generations of my mom's family, "Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze."  Very much akin to, "They go together like bacon & eggs," apple pie and cheddar cheese used to be such an ordinary and inseparable flavor profile that it had its own saucy little epigram.  Somehow, somewhere along the line, cheese lost out to its oh so à la mode cousin, à la mode (since when did a scoop of ice cream become so fashionable?).  How, in such a short time, did what was once so commonplace become completely forgotten to the contemporary palate?  Why, I wonder, did this all-American culinary combo fall so far out of f(l)avor?

Immortalized in a 1956 ad for Miss Wisconsin Cheddar
Cheese, the long-lost dynamic duo of desserts
(Source)

The only eatery I've ever visited that offers the apple pie/cheese taste sensation is the world-famous Du-Par's (serving the Los Angeles area for over 75 years).  Just out of high school, on our very first visit to  The Original Farmers Market location, my friends and I were receiving less-than-stellar service from a crusty, old waitress who had been slinging hash for the better part of her 100 years and wasn't about to waste any charm on a bunch of snotty-nosed bad-tippers (a valid supposition, I guess).  After ignoring our table for the entirety of our meal, she came to present the bill and ask in a bitter monotone if we had "saved any room for dessert."  One member of our party who had been looking at the dessert offerings bellowed in disgust, "Yech, apple pie with cheese?!?!?!!!"  Before the waitress could use the rest of her limited strength to lunge across the table and strangle my dining companion, I jumped in with, "Of course!  My mom always said, 'Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze'" (I've always been a bit of a brown-noser).  The change in countenance between the wizened, old waitress and the newly-beatific server was staggering as she quickly became my new best friend.  Knowing all too well the classic pie pairing, she was thrilled to learn a new saying (one that she could use to boost sales), that she brought us a free piece of pie - with cheese!

Tis the season for all things apple, so Mr. Tiny went apple picking (picking the
best apples from the giant apple mound at the grocery totally counts) with pie in mind.
Using a mix of Fuji and Granny Smith apples, I quickly learned why pie seems like
such a special-occasion treat -  peeling and slicing a bushel of apples stinks!

How though, beyond serving the most pedestrian of pies with a single sliver of cheddar cheese, could I recreate the classic American sweet-and-savory dessert dynamo?  It didn't take long before I realized that the king of all cheese crackers would be the perfect vehicle for such a long-awaited flavor reunion.  Like so many times before, it was Cheez-It to the rescue!

I had heard of a Depression-era, mock-apple pie where Ritz crackers actually served as apple proxy; thinking that a similar technique (resulting in a mouth full of cinnamon-sugar soaked Cheez-Its) might be a bit much, I changed direction and ground the crackers to a fine crumb.

Never having made a proper pie before in my life, I waffled between using cheese cracker crumbs for the pie crust or creating a cheesy crumb topping.  Lousy at decision making, I decided to do both - that's right, cheesy apple pie two ways!!!

The evolution of pie
Using a traditional bottom crust and filling, I made a
Dutch Apple Pie with a Cheez-It/pecan crumble topping. 

Introduced in 1921, the Cheez-Its imparted a subtle-yet-solid cheese flavor to the Dutch Apple Pie (are you listening Netherlands?  I've improved your namesake pie!).  While I thought this creation was both tasty and mildly clever, the pie was neither quite as impactful nor as wacky tacky as I knew we could get.  C'mon Cheez-Its, don't fail me now!

I made the base of the second pie in the same fashion as a graham-cracker
crust, using instead Cheez-It crumbs and only a scant amount of sugar.

This pie was filled with the same traditional filling as the first and baked, tented in foil so the apples would not dry out.  After it cooled, it was piled high with homemade, cinnamon whipped cream.  I don't know if it is smart or insanely masochistic to constantly make desserts to which I am highly intolerant (dairy is most assuredly not my friend).

Wanting to get a little fancy and invite a bit of genuine cheese to these pie proceedings,
I made crispy, cheddar cheese/parmesan tuiles to decorate the top of the pie.

With plenty of pie on hand and a favorite cousin visiting from Texas (Yeehaw! Cuzzin Bobbi!!!), the only logical thing to do was throw an impromptu dinner party.

Cuzzin Bobbi, Nick, Cynthia, Lauren, Mr. Tiny, and Mary (taking the photo)
gathered around the old, family table to break bread.  But dinner was a mere
formality, dessert was definitely the star of this show.

With a diverse range of palates surrounding the table, the results as to which pie was best were decidedly mixed.  Lauren, an inveterate "I don't like my food to touch" purist, favored the Dutch Apple Pie.  Cynthia, a world-class extreme eater with adventurous taste buds, gave the prize to the cheese tuiles and Cheez-It crust.  I was so interested in finding out what everyone else thought, that I didn't do my own small sampling until everyone was gone and the dishes were washed.  I love a good mix of sweet/salty/savory and without sounding too self-satisfied, I think the cheese crust is the definite winner!  It's genius inspired everyone at the table to think of other applications for a Cheez-It crust (sweet and savory).

Say "CHEESE!"
The winner, Mr. Tiny and the pie

In any event, after samplings were made of each pie, we collectively came to know the true meaning behind the phrase, "Apple pie without [Cheez-It] is like a kiss without a squeeze [it]!"  Great, now I'm thinking of ways to combine cheese crackers with that sugary, wax-bottled beverage of my youth (remember Squeezits - the drinks that only the cool kids had in their lunches, clearly explaining why I never had one in my lunch?).

Surrounded by loved ones and a bounty of cheesy-apple-pie goodness, I realized that, much like Johnny Appleseed, "the Lord is good to me."  In turn, I feel like I am good to the Sunshine Biscuit Company for giving them a brand new lease on their delicious "baked snack cracker."  In an effort to pay it all forward, I share with you what will undoubtedly become the centerpiece of your holiday festivities.  Give your family what they want this holiday season - Jesus, cheeses, and squeezes!!!

"The Lord is Good to Me" - from Walt Disney's Johnny Appleseed 
Performed by Dennis Day

Are you a Cheez-It fan?  Have you ever had apple pie with cheese?  Did your parents/grandparents hand down the "cheese/squeeze" saying in your family?  Is the apple pie/cheese combo still going strong where you live?  What's the weirdest dessert you've ever concocted (we want to try it)?


Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mr Tiny's Neighborhood Watch: The Haunted Houses of West Adams

Once home to the brightest stars in early-Hollywood's firmament (think Theda Bara, Fatty Arbuckle, Norma Talmadge, Buster Keaton), the area of Los Angeles known as West Adams, while full of historic charm, includes a veritable graveyard of decaying mansions and haunted houses.

As scared as I am of manufactured gore (see: every horror movie ever made), I am equally unafraid of the "supernatural."  Ghosts, spirits, and their ectoplasmic kin just don't bother me...I mean they literally do not bother me.  When the witching hour settles in and most guests have left the party, every friend I have is able to regale the remaining crowd with multiple ghostly encounters.  I, on the other hand, sit there quietly thinking, "You should have an electrician check your breaker box" or "Maybe you have a squirrel in the attic."  I have never had a spooky experience that couldn't be explained by an overactive imagination or the forgetful placement of keys.  The fact is, I'll have a ghost story when I actually see ghost.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I am inviting a demonic possession or anything, but you can classify me as a supportive non-believer; I believe that you believe ghosts are real.  I am the guy that would happily take the opportunity to spend the night in a "haunted house," more afraid of roaches, wayward hobos, and spotty cell reception than visitors from beyond the grave.  Here is just a small, real estate sampler of West Adams' phantasmal finest.

Given that this house is regularly used for filming (most famously for the show, Six Feet Under, according to my brother), my guess is that the rooms have been thoroughly saged, exorcised, and whatever else superstitious Hollywood believes one must do to banish specters.  I'm not saying I wouldn't pee a little if the lights started flickering, but I would love to spend the night in a house with such enticing attic space .

While only one fearless cat remained on the porch, this house is in the running for world's-
biggest, feral-cat condo.  It is clear that someone - or maybe something - is sustaining the
herd, as the side porch is littered in styrofoam plates crusted over with bulk-buy cat food.

Living in Southern California, the land of one million single-story ranch homes, houses like this - even in its current condition - are awe inspiring.  To see a haunted mansion of this magnitude, we usually have to visit Disneyland.  The eerie grandeur of the neo-Classical architecture, highlighted by the seriously-peeling paint job, is done no favors by the rotting baby doll on the front porch???  I admit that if I had the chance to spend the night here I would probably go into shock - albeit of the anaphylactic variety (cat dander is practically deadly to me).

I love this house!  Like a long-forgotten lodge found in the most deeply-wooded area of my imaginary version of the Black Forest, this freaky fairy-tale house reminds of me the one belonging to Shelley Winter's in Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (an early-'70s, Victorian retelling of Hansel & Gretel).  I would spend my night in this house searching for secret passageways and underground tunnels...and maybe hysterically sobbing in a corner (I told you that I have an overactive imagination)!

Without even setting foot inside, it is undeniable that these houses are creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky.  Given the all-together-ookiness of West Adams' many old mansions, it seems like a more apt spelling might be West Addams; any one of them could have easily stood in for television's coolest manor of the macabre.

The theme from The Addams Family

Do you have any haunted houses in your neighborhood?  Are you afraid of ghosts?  Do you have any scary stories that you tell in the dark?  Would you willingly spend the night in one of these houses?


Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Silly Cinema: The Parent Trap (1961)

Have I mentioned (less than one million times) that The Parent Trap (1961) is my favorite movie in the whole wide world?  Coming from a classic-movie nerd, this might seem like a questionable choice, yet I make no apologies.  The casting is perfect.  The sets and locations are incredible.  The script is hilarious.  The music is stellar.  And the costumes...don't even get me started on the costumes.  The Parent Trap is my "happy place" movie, a movie that I can watch any time of any day in any mood.  It is a movie for which I, an unyielding critic, am forever willing to not only suspend my disbelief that two people would actually separate their infant twins only to never speak to/of said twins again, but to love them all the more for the zany story-telling opportunities their poor decision making created!

"Oh El Capitan, my El Capitan..."

When my dear friend informed me that there was to be a "Throwback Thursday" screening of The Parent Trap at the historic The El Capitan Theatre (est. 1926), I cleared my already-empty schedule and headed straight for Hollywood!  Unfortunately, I wasn't warned that this was not to be a sing-a-long/talk-a-long performance; with a view count reaching into the hundreds, I come prepared with memorized score, script, songs, and a full-arsenal of character voices!

I was more than excited to go to The El Capitan; the only time I had ever been inside was not to see a film, it was to be a character extra in a photo shoot for a restaurant at Disney's California Adventure Park.  Sadly, according to reports, I didn't make it into the restaurant's final design as it was determined that no one could look at my face and keep their food down.  Be that as it may, I was still happy to return to the scene of my crimes against photography.  Often overshadowed by its neighbor across the street, The Chinese Theatre, The El Capitan holds its own as a true movie palace.

If you don't believe me, just take a look a look at the ceiling of the forecourt!!!

And a few of the other glorious details!

Can you believe that we got all of that history and beauty plus popcorn, a drink, and a raffle ticket for only ten dollars - and that was before the movie even started?!!  Once inside the theater, we were further treated to a small display of artifacts from the film. 

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the original puppets used in the
opening title sequence of The Parent Trap.  I had heard from a few insiders
that despite the warehouses full of material, Disney has gaping holes in its
archives.  At only 5-6" tall these pieces could have all easily gone the way
of "Marcia's" hair...

The Parent Trap (Opening Titles)

As I am of the opinion that Maureen O'Hara is the most beautiful creature to have ever roamed the face of this earth, my favorite things to see were the costume sketches for Margaret McKendrick (Maureen O'Hara); her evolution from uptight "well-bred, ladylike, Bostonian matron" to earthy, barefoot goddess is thoughtfully executed in costume by designer, Bill Thomas.

Cold...

Getting warmer...

HOT!  HOT!  HOT!!!
Step aside, Ava Gardner, there is a new "Barefoot Contessa" in town!
I have actually made a version of this outfit for Mary because I could
never get it out of my head!

From clothing design, to architecture (I would KILL for a real version of Mitch Evers', Brian KeithCarmel ranch), to comedy, to music, it probably goes without saying that this film has informed much of the wacky tacky sensibility.  Having only ever seen the movie on the small screen, however, it was a rare treat to capture some of the finer details on the big screen.

The evening's program began with an medley of Disney favorites played on
a gorgeous theater organ, after which a Disney archivist presented a slide
show highlighting some special behind-the-scenes moments.  Then the real
fun began!

Our old pal, Richard Sherman, one half of that inimitable writing duo,
The Sherman Brothers, was on hand to play, sing, and charm the audience
with stories about the song-writing process for The Parent Trap.  He explained
that he and his brother, Robert, basically composed the entire soundtrack, with
each new song an attempt to name the movie ("Let's Get Together," "For Now,
For Always," etc.).  It wasn't until Walt Disney came to them with the name
"The Parent Trap" that they composed the film's title song and the rest is history.

Leaving the stage to a standing ovation, Mr. Sherman joined the audience and the house lights dimmed so the movie could begin.  If, for whatever reason of moral delinquency, you've lived your entire life without ever having seen The Parent Trap, then repent now for the kingdom of Hayley Mills is nigh.  Should you not have access to a glorious movie palace, a television, a dvd player, or a pirated movie stream, then you are welcome to the wacky tacky clubhouse for a viewing; The Parent Trap DVD is more than likely already in the player.  Should the power go out, I can always perform my live-action version for you, in which I play every role.  C'mon, "Let's Get Together!"

"Let's Get Together" - Hayley Mills & Hayley Mills
from The Parent Trap (1961)

Do you have any beautiful movie palaces where you live?  Have you seen The Parent Trap?  Have you seen it as many times as I have and committed it to memory?  If you could die and come back as any person, would it be Hayley Mills?

The El Capitan Theatre
6838 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
(818)845-3110



Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hollywood House Hunting: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

There is a gene in my lineage that manifests itself in a physically-humiliating way upon unsuspecting generations of family members whenever it rears its recessive head - a solid yellow stripe right down the back.  Yes, for ages a super-strain of Scaredy Cat-ism has plagued members on the weakest branches of my family tree, not the least of which is Mr. Tiny.  I, in particular, do not like horror movies.  Psychological thrillers and mildly-spooky films are okay when strictly relegated to daytime viewing, but slasher/monster/nightmare-inducing movies are totally unacceptable (remind me sometime to tell you how I still have visions of a headless Christopher Lloyd lurking outside my bedroom window).  So saturated is my yellow streak that it took me until the dawn of my nineteenth year to get up the nerve to watch What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

"I've Written A Letter to Daddy" - Bette Davis from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Now if that doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you, I don't know what will!!

Before there was Misery, there was What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, made all the more scary by the family dynamic.  I knew from the first viewing that it had become a film favorite.  Such a richly-disturbed character, Baby Jane Hudson is now a Halloween fixture; every year, for the last few years, I've had at least one friend dress up as Baby Jane complete with baby doll.  I, myself, have considered going as the mercenary heavy, Edwin Flagg, but it doesn't really translate well from film - a fat guy in a suit is just a fat guy in a suit.  Rather than focusing on the film's  costumery during this the spookiest of all seasons, I thought I'd instead search for the home where the sisters Hudson played out the ultimate in sibling rivalry.

Home of the Sisters Hudson - Hancock Park, CA

It is no wonder that location scouts for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? sought a Hancock Park home for Jane and Blanche Hudson.  Hancock Park is exactly the kind of neighborhood about which California dreamers dream.  Terrific estates built at the height of old Hollywood's heyday are perfectly authentic to the homes that budding movie stars would have purchased with their studio contract riches.  But buyer beware; I've heard that homes in this neighborhood are often prone to "rats in the cellar!"

Aside from the addition of some tasteful awnings and a
trespassing freak, the Hudson home remains eerily unchanged.

Bette Davis as Jane Hudson with Victor Buono as Edwin Flagg
in a scene from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Looking very much like a soundstage replication of the actual residence,
one can see that the iron gates and scrolled window screens original to the
home have been maintained on-set and off.

Have you ever seen What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or the lackluster remake starring real-life sisters, Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave?  Rather than the Redgraves, I would have much preferred to see real-life sisters and bitter rivals, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine duke it out on screen (Team Joan all the way). Wouldn't that have been something?!!

Although it is difficult to imagine any two people
loathing each other more than Bette and Joan!
There's just something about those eyes...

I love What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, making this Hollywood House Hunt particularly meaningful.  Standing in front of this house, I couldn't help but consider the very real possibility that one of my siblings will hobble me, psychologically torture me, and keep me as a prisoner in my own home.  With two brothers and two sisters, the odds are decidedly against me...or maybe it's just my cowardly imagination.

"Bette Davis Eyes" - Kim Carnes


The Hudson Home from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
172 S McCadden Pl
Los Angeles, CA


Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Crazy Crafty: You Don't Know JACK-O-Lantern!

As I age, I fear that I am regressing emotionally.  Holidays about food and family and wholesome activities become of less consequence to me as I yearn for the zany indulgence of Autumn's favorite gimme-gimme holiday.  In stark contrast to the traditional holidays, Halloween requires no heavy meals, no gift exchanges, and no forced marches to awkward family gatherings.  It is one night to live with abandon - dressing up, misbehaving, and bingeing on loads of candy without the typical, withering, do-you-really-think-you-need-that glances from those holier-than-thou grocery store cashiers.

As I consider the importance of Halloween in my life, I am forced to truly ponder what Halloween means to me.  As a Halloween romantic, I discovered that all of my love for the day stems more from my belief of what Halloween ought to be rather than what Halloween actually is.  Captured so beautifully by the images in the Dennison's Bogie Books, Halloween should be one big, spooky, Cole Porter musical with Jack-O-Lantern footlights and costumes reminiscent of Erté!

Scepter, wand, cane, crook, staff - a recurring element in many Deco-era
Halloween costumes was one kind or another of stick.  Impressed by the
pumpkin scepter of Little Bo Creep (center), I decided to see if I could
DIM, do it myself.

I started with a seven-foot-long bamboo pole and a twelve-inch, orange paper
lantern, both found at my favorite craft supply emporium - the dollar store!
With a budget totaling two dollars plus tax, this was a provident beginning!

I had the materials, now I just needed a face.  I took to the internet and reference books but was having difficulty deciding on a pumpkin face that I loved well enough to commit to dollar-store lantern.  This was to be a huge decision; once the paint was on, there would be no turning back!  I had considered adapting one of those leering faces found on vintage, German, papier-maché candy containers, but after flipping through one of my favorite Halloween resources, Halloween in America, I knew I had found my face!

I couldn't get beyond the lovable Jack-O-Lantern face of
this Dennison's crepe-paper Halloween apron, dated 1918.
(Source)

I embraced ( and thanks to my unsteady hands, perhaps even magnified)
the loose quality of the inspiration art.  It would be pretentious of this
seriously-untrained "artist" to label my work as "mixed media" when all
I did was sketch on the face with a #2 pencil and fill it in with whatever
I could find around the house, including paint (undiluted yellow
watercolor from a tube of unknown origin and nearly-expired, crusty,
black acrylic from high school art class) and a black sharpie.

With better light and less chance of overspray, I do all of my spray painting in the front yard; given the kind of wacky tacky crafting I am wont to do (see: Pickles the Pink Piggy Purse), I spend quite a bit of time painting in the front yard.  If my neighbors had a questionable opinion of me before, they must have serious concerns over my mental capacity after watching me play a one-man game of ring-around-the-rosie, applying several coats of glossy, black spray paint to a seven-foot pole stuck in the ground.
 

Even I had to question my sanity when I went into the wacky tacky
costume archives and couldn't find the cape I wanted...because there
were too many homemade capes in the way!!!

I tried riding a broom but it wouldn't hold me...

I may perform a few minor tweaks/additions before All Hallow's Eve but for a two-dollar investment, I think I did pretty well!

Lit from within by battery-operated lights that I had on-hand, it has sort
of an eerie, reverse Jack-O-Lantern effect...but I still like it.

Of course, after my craft was completed, my next trip to the dollar store
was met with row after row of battery-operated, jack-o-lantern style,
paper lanterns.  Nevertheless, I am happy with the chance to get into
the Halloween spirit with some custom Crazy Crafty!!!  

Yes, Mr. Tiny's Halloween threads will be built in stylistic conjunction with his Jack-O-Lantern walking stick, but you'll just have to wait until the day draws nearer before the entire costume is revealed.  How about you?  Are you gearing up for the Halloween season?  Are you feeling crafty?  Do you have a great idea for your costume?  Whatever you decide to be this October 31, remember that it's Halloween...

LET'S MISBEHAVE!!!

"Let's Misbehave" as performed by Irving Aaronson
Written by Cole Porter


Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pole-toberfest II: Return to Pierogiville

With a proper Polish princess as a distinguished member of the wacky tacky adventure team, the opportunities for cross-cultural exploration are both frequent and fun.  Getting restless remembering our "Doin' the Dozynki" exploits of last year, we excitedly donned our butter-stained pierogi bibs and headed for  Our Lady of the Bright Mount (Southern California's premiere Polish parish) for the 2014 Los Angeles Polish Festival.

Now we know why Warsaw is the capital city.

I've said it before but it shouldn't go unstated that, as a regular attendee of our local German club, card-holder of our members-only Asian grocery store, patron of the southland's two European marketplaces, and investigator into the local Dutch club, it is clear that I am in the midst of a chronic cultural-identity crisis!  The only thing my family had that tied us in any tiny way to our Yugoslavian ancestry was "Toshka," a mac-and-cheese/mashed potato hybrid dish that my great-aunt made on special occasions (I have found zero substantiation anywhere online to verify the authenticity of the more-than-likely-midwestern foodstuffs).  With every new dip into the Polish pool, however, I feel like I'm moving in the right easterly-European direction; now an old pro on the festival circuit, I knew that my mission was to find and document the three "F's."

FOOD
The line for pierogies was so long that I could only capture the first third in the picture.
Exhausted by the wait, we soon gave up on sampling much of the Polish cuisine -
except for my preferred prune-filled Polish pastry, the paczek (it doesn't look like
 much...actually it kind of looks like turd but it is really good).

FASHION
I believe this is what is referred to as the Polish Tuxedo.
Cynthia was quickly taking style notes for next year's festival.

FOLK DANCING
Without question, my favorite Polish dances are hip-hop, the tango, and the Zorba...
Wait, those aren't indigenous to Poland?  Well, it looks like some of these dancers were
experiencing a cultural identity crisis of their own.  Seriously, there was a Polish hip-hop
number with a routine that culminated in the king of Greek dances - it was AWESOME!

As much as I enjoyed our one-day excursion to Mother Polonia, I was even more excited by the festival venue.  On the grounds of an Edwardian-era estate, I had heard whispers that the beautiful house once belonged to a Hollywood movie star.  I figured that it must've been a star of Polish descent who deeded the enormous estate to the church upon his/her death.  After doing some investigating, I learned that, rather than Pola Negri or Theda Bara, the true owner of was one of Hollywood's most infamous legends.

wacky tacky polish festival
Fatty Arbuckle lived here (a fourth F)!!!
Clad in high-fired terra cotta block, the Vienna Secessionist-style house was completed in 1910.
Unfortunately, the only access to the interior that we were granted was the basement bathroom/library (a brilliant, if completely un-photogenic, combination).  The terraced backyard has enough remaining details to have our wacky tacky imaginations running riot thinking about the amazing parties thrown here.

This adventure was definitely a "twofer" - Polish festival and Hollywood house hunt all in one!  I was thrilled to find that the fourth "F" of our festival experience stood for Fatty; sometimes it feels good to know that you're not the only fatty waddling around.  Neither fatty, Arbuckle nor Tiny, claims any Polish lineage, but His Holiness loves us just the same.  Dziekuje, PJP II...see you next year!

Our Lady of the Bright Mount Parish
3424 W Adams Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
(323)734-5249



Cheers!

Mr. Tiny