Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Hide the cognac and put your daughters in the cellar! Napoléon is coming!

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Some very cool stuff is coming to Muzeo in Anaheim, starting October 11. (Muzeo bills itself as "Southern California’s newest museum." It’s at 241 S. Anaheim Blvd. 92805.) They’re bringing in hundreds of articles with a connection to Napoleon, including personal effects of the infamous Corsican, like, according to Muzeo:

-- the earliest known letter in his hand
-- his camp bed from the Battle of Wagram (Napoleon actually slept here!)
-- the valise that brought him the signed Louisiana Purchase documents from America
-- the sword used to proclaim him Emperor at Notre Dame Cathedral
-- his personal map of the French Empire (with Michelin stars!)
-- the clothes he wore soon before his death
-- the first will he wrote during exile on the desolate island of St. Helena
-- the centerpiece of the exhibit, one of the hats he wore during the Battle of Essling in 1809.

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Luis Van Rooten (1906-1973)

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The other day, I was editing the part of my interview with Ed Asner where he talked about breaking into acting with the radio program "The Eternal Light," a weekly show that presented great scenes and figures of Jewish history. Asner mentioned his awe at being in the same room with actors (and voices!) like Alexander Scourby and Leonard Rose ... and a man I hadn’t heard of, Luis Van Rooten.


Besides his work on "The Eternal Light," Van Rooten was in radio's "The Mysterious Traveler" and the serial "Chandu the Magician," and did broadcasts for the US military in several languages. His film work included playing Himmler in “Hitler’s Madman” and “Operation Eichmann,” among many roles. He narrates this anti-Communist (anti-Soviet, really) propaganda film, produced for Radio Liberty to promote its worldwide operations. It’s rather beautifully made.

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Richard III - sociopath or a casualty of war?

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We had a great time Sunday afternoon at A Noise Within’s production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The whole time, I thought it was about how people are just damned naïve and don’t want to believe there are sociopaths, like Richard, of Madoff, or whoever, in the world.

But director Geoff Elliott says it’s about the wartime mentality versus the peacetime mentality: Richard was useful during the war because warriors need to be somewhat sociopathic. But when peace comes, you better figure out a way to handle him.

I’ve posted an lightly-edited version of the interview, which includes the ultra-creepy wooing scene, where Richard woos Lady Anne after he’s killed her husband and she … well, listen and find out.

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Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl

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We listened to Dudamel’s Bowl performance at home on KUSC. It was transcendent. We felt connected with everyone in Los Angeles. I am dying to find out how many listeners they had last night -- a stat this is now knowable because of Arbitron’s new People Meters. If KUSC’s weekly total in SoCal is 850,000 (as announced 8/31/2009), and only a few thousand could make it to the Bowl last night, could 250,000 or 500,000 have tuned in last night? More? It’s the Big Thing for their core audience.

My only complaint about the broadcast was that the announcers should have followed Ernie Harwell’s lead. When the Tigers won the pennant in 1968, and the crowd at Tiger Stadium went crazy, the Hall of Fame announcer simply said, “Just listen to the Bedlam,” and let us listen to the roar for many seconds before coming back in and talking. But when the final note of the complete Ninth arrived, and the Bowl erupted, the hosts jumped in right away and talked over the noise. Better to let it ride, so we could all share in the joy. That said, huge kudos to Dennis Bartel for asking Maestro Dudamel, “What kind of beer is that?” in the postgame interview. A wonderful moment.

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