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

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.


CD Review: Schreker's 'The Stigmatized,' a great moment in LA Opera history

Robert Millard

The LA Opera's 2010 dress rehearsal for Franz Schreker’s not quite forgotten 3-hour masterpiece, “Die Gezeichneten,” or “The Stigmatized." It's now available in a 3-CD set from Bridge Records.

Off-Ramp contributor Marc Haefele reviews a newly released recording of “Die Gezeichneten,” by Franz Schreker. It's a 3-CD set from Bridge Records featuring the Los Angeles Opera and soloists under James Conlon, from the 2009-2010 season.

One of the proudest accomplishments in the 28-year history of the Los Angeles Opera has finally gone on the record, literally. It's a production brought to the Dorothy Chandler stage in an unprecedented, if controversial, demonstration of the company’s maturity, raising its international reputation as a leading-edge musical institution.

No, I am most certainly not talking about the notorious  Achin Freya-designed Wagner Ring Cycle, a $30 million fiscal sinkhole that, with a production that looked like a collaboration between Bertolt Brecht and Pee-wee Herman, has hamstrung the company’s ambitions ever since. I'm talking about L.A. Opera’s courageous mounting, for the first time in the Western Hemisphere, of Franz Schreker’s  not quite forgotten three-hour masterpiece, “Die Gezeichneten,” or “The Stigmatized."


Valentine's Day: Crowdsourced non-icky date options, or 'What, they're all out of Cold Duck!?'

LAPL/Herald-Examiner collection

"Heart-shaped box of candy, silver belt, and Valentine greetings found in Eugene H. White's blood-stained car." c. 1947.

Here's the thing. This is bad:

What, they're all out of Cold Duck!? You don't want this in your mouth or even on your table.

But come Valentine's Day, it's the kind of thing you'll get at about 9-million restaurants in Southern California, along with a fixed-price menu, inflexible dining times, and high prices. Even my beloved Musso & Frank is doing it, and is booked solid.

So we put out the call to listeners to show a little #kpcclove and suggest some refuges from the Valentine's Industry.

Note: The following are all possibilities, based on listener suggestions; please call the restaurants themselves to confirm if they have room, and if they're doing the Valentine's shtick.

On KPCC's Facebook page, Kelly Kubik recommends The Park in Echo Park (as of presstime, there was room at 9:30pm). Sean Hise says Rice Thai Tapas on Glenarm in Pasadena is a good option; although I checked and they only have space at 5:30pm. Benjamin Alvarez posted: Taco Joe's restaurant in Highland CA. Nice sit down restaurant. Less than $30 per couple."


From huge to humble: Architect Moshe Safdie at the Skirball

Habitat of the Future, A-Frame Habitat. View of project and surrounding landscape. Part of the Safdie exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Marc Haefele writes for Off-Ramp on literature, arts and and culture. Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie, is at the Skirball Center through March 2.

More than any other living architect I can think of, Moshe Safdie has tried to change the face of the inhabited world, and he’s done this on nearly every continent. For 44 years, he’s been thinking about new ways for people to inhabit places.

Safdie does this in the form of innovative housing that consists of aggregates of units, but he breaks away from the clichés of both suburbia and of the urban skyscraper tower housing block, be they Fifth Avenue millionaire co-ops or Chicago’s Cabrini projects.

He’s brought the same originality to all of his other buildings, public and private.

His latest ideas are on display until next month at the Skirball Cultural Center — which, as it happens, is another creation of Safdie, completed late last year. The exhibit is organized by the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Ark., a creation of the Walmart Walton family. Their museum is another Sadie project.


The Black Dahlia at 67: Archival photos from an unsolved mystery

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's body, as it was found 67 years ago today, except that it's covered by a blanket, hiding the fact that it had been cut in two at the waist.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Will Fowler (center) from the Los Angeles Examiner was one of the first reporters at the scene of the Black Dahlia murder.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is refered to as the "Black Dahlia" case. In this picture Daniel Voorhies sits backwards in a chair facing the camera. He was questioned in the murder investigation and reportedly said at one point, "I am sick. I can't stand it any longer. I killed Beth Short".

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

After the murder the police & the newspaper received various letters and notes purporting to give information to help solve the case. Shown here is a letter with pasted letters on it reading "Yes or No?," supposedly as a followup to an earlier letter.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This is a picture of a telegram found in Elizabeth Short's trunk.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

The man looking away from the camera is Leslie Dillon, 27, alias Jack Sands, a suspect in the 2-year-old "Black Dahlia" murder.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Robert Manley (left), the Black Dahlia murder suspect, undergoes a second lie detector test as Det. F. A. Brown and Ray Pinckert monitor him. The first lie test was inconclusive.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows Robert "Red" Manley embracing his wife, Harriette. A suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Short, Mrs. Manley said her husband was at work all day Tuesday, the day before the body was found, and that night the Manley's had visited friends.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Here another Black Dahlia suspect, George Edwin McNally, is being questioned by Det. Sgt. N.E. Finn. Under discussion are the knives lying on the table, which were all found in McNally's room.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows a postcard received by The Evening Herald and Express, supposedly from the killer.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short's murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case. This photograph shows handwriting expert Henry Silver. After analyzing the patchwork letters received by The Evening Herald and Express supposedly from the killer, Silver says the writer is an egomaniac and possibly a musician.

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Elizabeth Short, whose murder is referred to as the "Black Dahlia" case, is shown here striking a pose at an unidentified beach.

Wednesday marks the 67th anniversary of the day in 1947 when police found the gruesomely mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, a young woman who would become known as "The Black Dahlia" and whose unsolved murder would fuel noir L.A. tales for decades to come.

To commemorate the day, KPCC contributor Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times:

What combination of circumstances makes us remember an otherwise forgettable event? Here’s the recipe, from 67 years ago Wednesday — the Black Dahlia murder. She was a young nobody, a pretty-ish drifter of a type that filled L.A. just after the Second World War. How she lived was unremarkable, hardly admirable; it was how she died, and what the newspapers said about her, that makes us remember the Black Dahlia. Elizabeth Short’s body was found, naked and cut in half, in a weedy winter bean field that, 10 years later, in the manner of Los Angeles, would be a tidy Crenshaw neighborhood.