Friday, January 27, 2017

Ghostly Images

                                                                 HCCA Dragon ring
      Charlie Patton was a relentless voice - the drip of a faucet, the car alarm that won't stop screaming. He wouldn't give up until Jerry Brandt agreed to fly Lloyd Cross to Los Angeles to look at the Ballroom and propose a few holograms.

      SATURDAY APRIL 15, 1972
      Lloyd Cross was flown to L.A. to discuss making a hologram for the Ballroom. With less than one week until the doors opened it was doubtful that the holographer's visit would be eventful. I was having my doubts. Nick was out of control. There was a bad taste you couldn't brush away. Doom hung like smog. I didn't care if the club succeeded or failed. I was a light junkie and Lloyd Cross was more important than anything because he could teach me about lasers and light and holograms. He would make Revelation II work. It wouldn't just be another caper story, it would show the world how interesting and spectacular holography could be. It would educate as well as entertain. It would be a revelation.
      Like discovering the religion of light - that three-dimensional image leaping from glass thin as a windowpane -  I was mesmerized!
      "Lloyd, have you seen the holograms at Disneyland?" He hadn't and he wanted to see exactly what they had done to create them in the Haunted House.
      We drove out to Anaheim and like all tourists were shuttled through the exhibit. Lloyd was baffled the first time through. The miniature talking lady's head in the crystal ball certainly looked like a hologram. It had color and parallax - you could see around it - it had motion.
      "See the film being projected?" Lloyd asked me on the second go-round. "The image is being projected from more than one source. Very clever."
      The most spectacular effect was the turn-of-the-century banquet with dancers. It was as if you walked into a room filled with people who suddenly turned into ghosts. To create that effect using holograms would have cost millions. No one had figured out how to make holograms move. Lloyd had a theory that utilized motion picture film prior to holographic emulsion, but to date, no one had attempted anything larger than a moving fish. The banquet scene Lloyd told me was, in his opinion done using a special slit-screen onto which the subjects were projected by parabolic mirrors. There were no holograms in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
       Relieved that there wasn't a raving genius working for Disney, Lloyd took me to Cal Arts AKA Uncle Walt's dream college. Peter Van Riper, his friend and fellow pioneer was teaching holography there.
      Peter Van Riper, Lloyd and I went to his small holography laboratory and made an 8"x10" transmission hologram of an Indian basket shaped like a teapot. Instead of a stable table Van Riper used a sandbox on the floor. Sand held objects in place and served as an interesting background.
      The holographic plate was developed and returned to the plate holder in the sand. I walked back into the darkened studio.
      "Wait!" Peter stopped me at the door. "Which one is the basket and which one is the hologram?"
      I stood there looking down...wondering... Finally, I pointed at the basket on the left. Peter and Lloyd burst out laughing. "Wrong," Lloyd teased. Peter lifted the real basket and I realized that I had identified the laser illuminated recreation of the object.
    Another lesson. Another encounter with one of the pioneers of holography.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Art Meets Science

      While waiting for the Paradise Ballroom to die a natural death I threw myself into the search for a holographer capable of engineering a larger-than-life-sized three-dimensional image. MacDonald Douglas was producing small commercial holograms. Dr. Ralph Wuerker at TRW, a pioneer laser physicist was not interested in breaking away from secure, government funded projects.  Were conventional corporations going to be able to marry art with science? So far, the answer had been No. Enter Lloyd Cross and Jerry Pethick.
      Lloyd (Cross) explained that he and Jerry (Pethick) met in Michigan in 1967. They entertained the notion of combining a scientific process with art - creating a 21st Century art form. Lloyd was tired of inventing for big corporations. He was a physicist and he wanted the freedom to make his wild ideas into practical, commercial products. He wanted to have enough money coming in to pay the overhead: rent, gas, water, power, telephone and transportation. It sounded reasonable. Lasers used a lot of power. Holographic plates cost close to $1 each. Chemicals were expensive. Overhead, no matter how you sliced it was more than the School of Holography was taking in for classes. There just weren't enough students to keep the place going.
      But then, hard times were not unusual in the late sixties/early seventies. Every new technique, every technological advance was met with resistance. Lack of funds, suffering, long hours and lots of junk food were taken in stride. They constituted a common denominator - everybody was 'broke', never poor. Poor meant you were born into poverty and couldn't get out. Broke meant you were temporarily down on your luck. Today you were paying your dues so that tomorrow you could cash in on this great new field called holography.
      Holography was going to change the world. In the future everything would be pictured in 3-D, every picture in a book, every x-ray, every family portrait would be a hologram. Great works of art would never have to leave the museum - they'd be recorded on sheets of glass and displayed everywhere in the world with the flick of a laser to illuminate them.
      It all began in 1969 when Lloyd Cross, the inventor-holographer and Jerry Pethick, the artist-holographer produced the world's first major exhibition of art holograms at the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan. In 1970 they produced the first exhibition of holograms in New York at the Finch Museum. "N Dimensional Space" as it was titled was critically acclaimed and commercially disdained. People showed enthusiasm but when it came to putting money up the subject moved to some other topic. The final reaction was almost as cold as a Siberian winter.
      Lloyd and Jerry had gambled together. They had moved their families to New York and the sirens had let them down. Perhaps San Francisco would sing a more receptive tune. At least they wouldn't freeze to death.
      Next stop Disneyland.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Paradise Lost

      Sharon Fay Koch, a Society editor reviewed the opening of the Paradise Ballroom in the View section of the Los Angeles Times. She wrote:
      Conventional society may have stayed away (or come incognito) but the young, the curious and the freaky came in droves to the benefit opening of the Paradise Ballroom.
      The crowd at Thursday night's benefit for the Elizabeth Fry Center, a halfway house for women parolees, was good-natured even though most everyone stood in the street for hours before getting in.
      This included the Ballroom's big-daddy backer, Bernard Cornfeld (who gave a pre-opening cocktail party in his new Southland digs) and other luminaries like Warren Beatty, Dave Garroway, George Hamilton, Jack Nicholson, Lou Adler and former Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown.
      But head guru, Jerry Brandt, whose last brainchild was the Electric Circus in New York, took care of that. He imported a vivacious band from South Central Los Angeles to distract the waiting guests with a street concert.
      The review goes on to point out that the invitations stated 9:30 pm, however the first paying guests got in at 10:30, and lines were still forming at midnight. Guests had been told Black Tie or Bizarre. Bizarre won with many transvestites breaking new social ground.
      Seasoned first-nighters were used to rubbing shoulders with electricians and carpenters on their way out, but this time, most of the workmen didn't leave.
      Chip Monck, the lighting expert for Woodstock, was still in the rafters at 11pm plugging in the last fifteen miles of fiber-optic lighting that covered the former Factory's beams, girders and braces.
      While the opening turned out to be what backers considered a publicity success the "benefit" didn't benefit anyone. In Sue Cameron's Coast to Coast  column in the Hollywood Reporter she     wrote: FIASCO, DISASTER AND BUST are just a few words that are on the lips of people who went to the opening of the Paradise Ballroom.
      Apparently, the public can read because only a handful of freaks showed up for the dance marathon. Ms. Cameron said the Ballroom would last six months. It lasted less than two.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Backstage Pass!

      You may need a magnifying glass, but if you look closely you'll find some pretty impressive people listed on the Sponsoring Committee: Congressman and Mrs. Alphonzo Bell, the Honorable Edmund G. Brown (former governor of California), Senator Alan Cranston, Senator John V. Tunney.
These are all 24 carat gold politicians - serious individuals who would have had heart failure if they'd known what was going on behind-the-scenes. Hollywood sponsors included Warren Beatty, Diahann Carroll, Ossie Davis, Cary Grant, Shirley MacLaine, E.G. Marshall, George Plimpton and Nancy Wilson.
      In retrospect I ask myself: How is this even possible?!? On some level Jerry Brandt had to have been a genius. As a reader you can appreciate the irony. On one hand no one is getting paid, the workers are doing whatever it takes to keep going 24/7, and the invitations are in the mail. Anticipation is building on both sides - the Paradise Ballroom people are on the edge of a nervous breakdown while the public is expecting an L.A./Cirque du Soleil event. Here's a diary taste from backstage.
April 20, 1972
      8:30 PM Panic in the dressing room. Everyone thinks it must be 9:30. The sound is still being worked on. Floors swept, dope smoked, guards dressing in Santa Claus suits, crazies mingling in the dressing room. Crowded. Panic in the air. The club won't open.
      9:30 the sound still isn't working. The great Chip Monck is on the scaffolding, in the sound booth, everywhere he can imagine the problem lies. The Sparks Brothers wondering if they should go on at all since the sound system has never been checked. 
      10:30 A meeting with Nick Casey and Joyce from the Hog Farm in the Pillow Room. All listening for our new time slots. You follow the Oingo Boingo Band and that's after the roller queen. Nick has the bullhorn. Panic-stricken J.B. enters hysterically demanding the bullhorn. The lights in the penny arcade are out. In fact, all the lights on the left side of the building are out, as are every other store on the block plus the traffic signal.
      Wendy's downstairs answering phone calls and organizing the arriving charity guests and the press. The press is everywhere. Guy Webster weaves his way in and out of the dressing room and the catered food.
      Past 10:30 and the guests can't wait anymore. They're admitted in one crush leaving another thousand outside. The rooms fill, overflow, nobody can move and still, no sound system. The performers - the Oily Scarf Band goes on playing their non-electronic instruments. The Oingo Boingo Band does a stint. The performers, like troopers, mingle, pass flowers and incense.
      11:30 the sound system is fixed. The first band goes on. There are too many people to do anything but mingle through the crowd and nibble on yummy hors d'oeuvres. I take the Eat Me Girl through the crowd of straights and flipped out hip types. It's an enthusiastic crowd. The club is going to be a success. I perform my flower trick for Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. Sly and the Family Stone are going to play. 
      2:00 AM and the police insist we close. The Hog Farm goes on with their Flying Dog act. The performers can go home without performing. We're all exhausted.
      No Fellini film could come close to last night's fiasco. From a disaster to a HAPPENING. Luck? Maybe. It was a stroke of something magic that made it all come together into the greatest happening in L.A.

Stay tuned for the reviews.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lloyd Cross: The Seach Begins

      When one embarks on a journey with naive, unbridled enthusiasm there's bound to be a certain amount of confusion. I was in the midst of what felt like a cosmic swirl. There were no guarantees. The tables had turned. It was either come up with an act for the bawdy night circus or nothing. And, even though they had had a special clown suit made for me, I had to audition with the cattle call. I found an abandoned mannequin from the old Factory days and turned her into The Eat Me Girl. She wore a Carmen Miranda hat, had a handle on her back and a board with wheels beneath her feet. Candy was attached to her netting and we were ready to audition.

Friday Match 10th, 1972
Jerry fired all the carpenters except for two from the Black Rabbit. Rehearsed the night show. Jack taught us basics of tap dancing.

Tuesday March 11, 1972
      One month later and I'm ready to start the search for someone who can make a prototype of the larger-than-life-sized hologram for Revelation. Charlie says that Lloyd Cross is the physicist-genius for the job.
      Flew to San Francisco with Charlie Patton. We made our way to Shotwell St. where we met Lloyd Cross at the new School of Holography. The minute I met Lloyd and his partner, Jerry Pethick, I was impressed. Their simple multi-mode laser and their plans for four 4'x5' camera rooms and a pulsed laser were going to revolutionize the visual arts.
       From the school we piled into Lloyd's Keinholtz type car (his side was totally gutted), and we went to Jerry's house. His wife, Margaret is English and lovely. She made dinner for all of us. I had a spiritually uplifting experience downstairs in the dark room filled with granular ruby red laser light. Touch the sandbox (holography table) and the light pulsates in orgasmic patterns. Lloyd is patient, he explains everything beautifully in a soft, kind voice. Lloyd took my face in his light, gentle hands and positioned me in the laser light. He wants to shoot a hologram of me.
      Not worrying about drunk Charlie we drove to Lloyd's city view house near Daly City. While I waited at the front door he chased a burglar around the back. Our timing couldn't have been more perfect. Then I noticed a crib through the front window. It totally freaked me. Indeed Lloyd was married, but never mentioned it. His wife and child had been living in Hawaii for the last four months.

Wednesday April 12, 1972
      All of us went to the Exploratorium, then Charlie and I flew home so that I could audition for the Paradise Ballroom. Joan Nielsen did my clown make-up. I literally flew home, picked up 'The Eat Me Girl', flew to the Paradise Ballroom where a Tin Pan Alley band was auditioning. Jerry and Nick zoomed over to me and Nick said, "You're hired! Money's lousy, but it'll get better!"

Monday, January 16, 2017

                                                          SMOKE & MIRRORS
      In two short months the Paradise Ballroom had gone from the most anticipated new club in L.A. to an over-budget project on life support. Deals were being made - I'll pay you $100 now and another $100 the end of the first week - and rumors of bribes to city inspectors were circulating. No one knew what to believe. With the arrival of Nick Casey - the genius from New York -what started out as an open door to creative freedom was about to slam shut.

Tuesday April 4, 1972
Tonight we met with Nick Casey at the Ballroom. Long curly hair, dark glasses, Alex Cord fine features. Talks with his long, artistic hands. Recorded every word on tape. Paranoid, coke. Girl walked in and he said, "What's your name? They're so many". She gave her name, sat down and watched us. Jerry (Brandt) felt guilty and split. Nick insists that people audition for him. Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm, etc. He's seeing lots of theater groups. We're suddenly, after two months, one of many. Even the Children's Theater is one of many. Joan Nielsen lost her job because Dante was jealous of her relationship with Blue. Victor can't decide if he wants to be a man or a woman. It's like running full speed ahead and having someone stick his arm out and jam it into your chest.   

We persevered.