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

San Diego Opera closing a dismal sign for the city

San Diego Opera

The San Diego Opera in action. The company recently announced that this season will be its last.

The San Diego Opera is closing

“After nearly 50 years as a San Diego cultural cornerstone providing world-class performances, we saw we faced an insurmountable financial hurdle going forward. We had a choice of winding down with dignity and grace, making every effort to fulfill our financial obligations, or inevitably entering bankruptcy." — San Diego Opera CEO Ian D. Campbell

I suppose we should have seen it coming months ago.

That’s when the opera, going on 49 years of operation, quietly dropped plans for a 2015 50th anniversary celebration.  That would have been, really, when management determined that California’s third largest and second-oldest opera company, probably wouldn’t be alive at that time.

In any case, when the opera’s board decided by an almost unanimous vote Wednesday to close the curtain on music drama on the Civic Theater stage, it took the classical music world by surprise.  Opera companies in major cities including Baltimore, Boston and San Antonio have closed in the past decade. Even the New York City Opera, which was long both a scrappy competitor to the world-famed Metropolitan Opera and the ladder to the top for a myriad of great singers, was recently forced into bankruptcy.


A Room with a Typewriter? Steve Soboroff snags EM Forster Oliver for $11,401


The Oliver typewriter used by British author E.M. Forster

Steve Soboroff — the local businessman, space shuttle promoter and head of the Los Angeles Police Commission — has about two dozen historically significant typewriters, including ones owned by the Unabomber, Julie Andrews, Andy Rooney, Hemingway, and John Lennon. As he said to Off-Ramp in the past:

"What the typewriter symbolizes now is timelessness, and also a slower, more thoughtful way of life. What is made these days that will be used 60, 70, 80, 100 years from now? I don't think there's anything, and these typewriters have hundreds of years to go."

He brings them to charity auctions and says he's raised hundreds of thousands of dollars by letting people pay for the privilege of typing on them.

RELATED: Steve Soboroff's typewriter time machines

Now Soboroff has added yet another typewriter to his collection: one used by E.M. Forster, the British author who wrote "Where Angels Fear to Tread," "The Longest Journey," "A Room with a View," "Howards End," "A Passage to India," and the scandalous "Maurice."


Pacifica Quartet in offbeat venue does Shostakovich proud

Anthony Parmelee

The Pacifica Quartet. Masumi Per Rostad, viola; Brandon Vamos, cello; Sibbi Bernhardsson, violin; Simin Ganatra, violin.

Stuck right in the middle of L.A.’s West Adams district lies a verdant, five-acre oasis, in the middle of which stands something called the William Andrews Clark, Jr. Memorial Library.

Clark, a Montana copper mining heir, is worth recalling for two reasons. First,  he founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic 95 years ago. Second, he was a major book collector who donated this gem-like Italianate private library and its contents to UCLA.

(UCLA's Clark Library. Credit: UCLA)

But in addition to its two reading rooms, the Clark contains a perfect 100-seat concert hall which has been hosting chamber music concerts to a highly-selective (tickets are chosen by lottery) clientele for 20 years.

Sunday, I discovered just how perfect a concert that perfect auditorium could contain when the Pacifica Quartet played 90 minutes of Shostakovich there.


Huell Howser's 29 Palms getaway sells for $650,000 (update)

Jeff Wysard Realty

Huell Howser's home in 29 Palms, which just went on the market for $395,000.

Update, March 12: Huell Howser's desert getaway has been sold for $650,000 in cash after about 130 came to an open house in February. Jeff Wysard, the real estate agent handling the property, said that the house and the adjoining Autry parcel received multiple offers.

The buyers are staying anonymous for now. Proceeds go to Chapman University to benefit Huell's endowed scholarship and archives. Chapman unveils a permanent Huell Howser exhibit at the end of the month. 

Previously: Huell Howser 's desert hideaway could be yours for just under $400,000. And you could film a decent Western movie on the 70 adjacent acres that are also for sale.

Curbed LA reports:

During travels for his show, Huell passed through the desert burg of Twentynine Palms and loved it instantly; in 1997, when this house there, on nearly 12 acres, went up for sale, he bought it in a day and got to work on remodeling, intent on updating the circa-1953 house while preserving its character.


Rabe calls for new creative heroes, moratorium on the usual suspects

Angels Flight

Los Angeles Public Library/William Reagh Collection

Why not nominate photographer William Reagh, who took this shot of Angels Flight in downtown Los Angeles?

Lancer Books

Looking for a new hero? Why not Margaret Millar?

I'm on a quest. If I see one more documentary, book, or exhibit about Charles Bukowski, Frida Kahlo, or Hunter S. Thompson, I'm going to lose it.

Well, I don't mind seeing this photo of Thompson again:

(What happened, Hunter?)

Yes, they were great. Yes, they used to be wholly unappreciated or under-appreciated. But not any more! We know all about them, they have been appreciated. They lurk in the shadows no more. But they are now overexposed and no better than the Rolling Stones in the way journo's let them suck up space in the public's limited attention span. (Look, I'm fine if the Stones record new albums and go on tour and write books, but why do journo's feel compelled to cover each new thing like there's something new to talk about? I'm fine if you want to do yet another Hunter S. Thompson documentary, but really, couldn't you find someone else?)

This group of artists have become stand-ins for the outré, the underground, the outsider; a subject any sleepy journo or documentarian can revisit on a random fifth or 10th anniversary that will guarantee an audience and some web hits.