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

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.


Review: LA Opera's 'Billy Budd' hard to surpass

Robert Millard/LA Opera

Greer Grimsley (top) as John Claggart and Keith Jameson as the Novice.

LA Opera performs Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd" through March 16 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The opera is based on Herman Melville’s book of the same name, adapted by E.M. Forster and Eric Crozier, and features baritone Liam Bonner as Billy, tenor Richard Croft as Captain Vere, and bass Greer Grimsley as Claggart in a production by Francesca Zambello. James Conlon leads the LA Opera orchestra and chorus.

“Billy Budd” was Herman Melville’s literary time bomb. A parable of guilt and innocence, it wasn’t until long after the great novelist’s death that this story was found unfinished in his archives. But it instantly took its place, alongside “Moby Dick,” as one of his major works.

Perhaps because it is both great and incomplete, people ever since have struggled to make whole Melville’s tale of a near-perfect man destroyed by his own goodness. I first saw it as a live TV play in 1955, when it starred, of all people, a very young William Shatner as Billy.


Marc Haefele: Sid Caesar saved my childhood



Comedian Sid Caesar in the backyard of his Beverly Hills, Ca., home on May 11, 1982.

I think it was Matt Groening who said that the prime virtue of television was that it allowed  families who wanted to kill one another to sit together  peacefully for hours on end.

That’s exactly what the various iterations of Sid Caesar’s “Show of Shows” did for my beleaguered family unit back in the early 1950s — my mother wasting away from a series of degenerative ailments for which she refused to seek medical attention,  my father abraded on the millstone of a dead-end white-collar job, and my brother and I struggling through troubled early adolescence with a minimum of positive parental attention.

In other words, we were like many, perhaps most, of the real-time families of that Eisenhower era, silently miserable in an age of plenty for many — and hypocritical happiness for all.