Monday, January 31, 2011

Bringing Sexy Back

New post at Vanishing Phoenix

Bringing Sexy Back

If you have been to the movies recently you might have seen previews or even attended a screening of the popular movie Burlesque.  That movie is helping to fan dance the flames and create new audiences for the once vanishing art form.  Recently at The Duce in Phoenix's Warehouse District there was a special performance by Scandalesque that showcased burlesque with a modern edge.  Several years ago this same troupe used to perform regularly scheduled performances at the now closed and very missed Paper Heart art gallery and performance space on Grand Avenue.

[caption id="attachment_1053" align="alignright" width="240" caption="1955 Quebedeaux Chevrolet designed by Victor Gruen and Ralph Haver "][/caption]

The 1955 building originally began life as Quebedeaux Chevrolet designed by Victor Gruen of California and local supervising architect Ralph Haver.  Both were iconic designers of the Midcentury Modern era.

The modern shopping mall was attributed to Victor Gruen.  It was the perfect place to see an old school burlesque show.  Sometimes they'd feature Satan’s Angel, an amazing performer and superstar in the burlesque world even after age 60.

[caption id="attachment_1045" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Matchbook from the Gilded Cage (missing the signature neon bird cage and woman)"][/caption]

Back in her heydays she could have performed at a local place called the Gilded Cage.  A couple years after it closed there must have been a void, because directly across the street another high-end establishment opened where Valley "movers and shakers" would congregate with bunnies.

[caption id="attachment_1054" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Former home of Phoenix's Playboy Club (1960-83)"][/caption]

Yes, that would be that would be the world famous Playboy Club (across the street from the current Park Central Mall). It featured spectacular views of the city.

[caption id="attachment_1046" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Phoenix's Playboy Club "][/caption]

I recently read a report about the reopening of the London Playboy Club.  Personally for Phoenix, I would much rather have the Victor Gruen space on Grand Avenue reopen.  What about you?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Marshall Shore: RetroSpectacular Celebrates 1 yr.

Thursday, Feb 10, beginning 7p at Phoenix Metro Retro, 708 West Hazelwood St. Will kick off the One year Anniversary of Marshall Shore:Retro Spectacular with highlight s from the year.

Admission is still only $5 and access to latest t-shirts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Year of the Sign: 2011

Check out my newest Vanishing Phoenix Post

The Year of the Sign: 2011

Once upon time there were a couple of crazy kids fresh transplants from New York City. They found full time access to a car exotic and Mesa a far off undiscovered land. A road trip was planned, lunches packed, film camera and tripod check…. So off we went into the outback in search of the elusive neon sign. Woweee did we strike a mother load of vintage signs, a flower shop, the Hambone, amazing hotel neons, and an unexpected treat the Buckhorn Baths.

Buckhorn Baths, Mesa AZ sign designed by Glenn Guyett

Kon Tiki, Phoenix, AZ Sign designed by Glen Guyett
Recently amidst discussions of building, signs have seeped into the mix. The Valley used to be full of these. The herds have been thinned to almost the point of extinction. What used to line many streets; such as Van Buren are now only a pale comparison to what they where. Back when the Kon Tiki still stood. Bill Johnson’s Big Apple is a hold out from that era. Marshall Shore: Retro Spectacular had the honor of hosting Glen Guyett, and unsung hero in the creation of the valley’s fabric. Read the Phoenix New Times Review of the event.

During a recent road trip saw that Mr Luck’s is for sale, building and sign. A little further north was the Crystal Motel.

Which is now barren land. The My Florist sign could be in jeopardy.

Many road trips I have been on seem to involve signs on the trip, while in Albuquerque noticed that many signs still stand even though the building is gone. In Las Vegas the Bone Yard or the Neon Museum is a must stop and see. The Vegas signs where leased from the sign company, not built outright like most other places. They have an amazing collection of signs. Some are being refurbished and displayed around town.

After the Marshall Shore: Retro Spectacular with Glen, there was a flurry about signage across the state. So expect over the next year sign to be a hot topic and keep reemerging. In fact, next week will feature the Mesa, AZ diving lady and the efforts to save her. What were some of your favorite signs standing or not?

The Year of the (Neon) Sign: 2011

Once upon time there were a couple of crazy kids freshly transplanted from New York City.  They found full-time access to an automobile exotic and the town of Mesa a far off undiscovered land. A road trip was planned, lunches packed, film camera and tripod tossed in the back seat.  So off we ventured into the outback in search of the elusive neon sign.

[caption id="attachment_908" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Buckhorn Baths sign"][/caption]

Woweee, did we ever strike the motherload of vintage signs: a flower shop, the Hambone, amazing hotel neons, and an unexpected treat: the Buckhorn Baths.

Amidst recent discussions of our built environment, signs seeped into the mix.  The Valley of the Sun once was full of them, but unfortunately the herds have been thinned to almost the point of extinction. 

[caption id="attachment_909" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Kon Tiki sign"][/caption]

What signs that once lined many streets, such as Van Buren, are now only a pale comparison.  Gone is the Kon Tiki  Fortunately, Bill Johnson’s Big Apple restaurant is a holdout from that era. 

Last Thursday, "Marshall Shore: Retro Spectacular" had the honor of hosting Glen Guyett, an unsung hero who created a good deal of our urban fabric.  Read the Phoenix New Times review of the event.

During a recent road trip, we saw that Mr. Lucky’s on Grand Avenue was for sale (both the building and the large sign).  A little further north is Crystal Motel (now barren land).  The My Florist sign on W. McDowell could be in jeopardy since the restaurant by the same name closed unexpectedly in 2010.

[caption id="attachment_911" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Las Vegas signs"][/caption]

Many road trips I have been on seem to involve signs.  While in Albuquerque, I noticed many signs still standing even though the adjacent building was gone.  In Las Vegas, the Bone Yard, also called the Neon Museum, is a must stop and see.  The Vegas signs where leased from the sign company, not built outright like most other places.  They have an amazing collection of signs.  Some are being refurbished and displayed around town.

[caption id="attachment_926" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Mesa's "diving lady""][/caption]

After the "Marshall Shore: Retro Spectacular" with Glen, there was a flurry of Facebook and e-mail activity from Route 66 country on down to Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe and further south to Tucson about the future signage across our state.  So expect over the next year or so, signs to be a hot topic (including a presentation by Jonathan Mabrey, Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Tucson, at the 2011 Arizona Historic Preservation Conference).  Way before that, I'll feature Mesa’s “diving lady” and local efforts to save her.

[caption id="attachment_910" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Crystal Motel sign (demolished)"][/caption]

What are some of your favorite neon signs -- standing or not?  What can you do to help the cause?  SIGN up today!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A lesson from Las Vegas

I discovered that right after New Year's Eve (NYE) is a great time to travel because most people have gone home after the holidays.  In Las Vegas the period between NYE and the Consumer Electronics Show has hotel rates similar to Arizona summer resort prices.  This trip was focused mostly on vintage Vegas, although the vintage shopping was akin to hitting Fashion Square in terms of prices.  It made me glad we have Zinnia's and all those other places along 7th Ave.  There was  a tour of the Neon Museum, but I'll write more about that after Thursday's Marshall Shore: Retro Spectacular featuring Glen Guyett, sign designer extraordinaire.

[caption id="attachment_833" align="alignright" width="189" caption="Kon Tiki from Modern Phoenix"][/caption]

The Kon Tiki Hotel is one of Glen's iconic signs.  The Kon Tiki was designed by Ralph Haver (check out Modern Phoenix for more about Haver) and forever immortalized in Morrissey's 90's video My Love Life, although by this time it was a liitle down on its luck and well worn.

So I'm announcing the theme for Marshall's Monday: Tiki... Tiki... Tiki!

Did you know there was a national Tiki Trend?  Check out the Los Angeles Times.  Las Vegas has Frankie's Tiki Room, which is very much a throwback to the Tiki of the '50s right down to the custom-made tiki glasses filled with sweet libations.  The decor began with something that looked like Phoenix's own original Bikini Lounge, but then filled with stuff combed from the beach, like the original "Don The Beachcomber."

Tiki used to have a much stronger foothold in the Valley of the Sun.  The Bikini is the only original Tiki bar in the Valley, opening in 1947.  For a modern take on Tiki in Scottsdale, there's Drift Lounge and relocated Trader Vic's at the Valley Ho.  Phoenix has Hula's right on light rail.  Grand Avenue had the Bali Hi Resort.  What I wouldn't give to be able to run across the street and take a dip in that pool.

Back in the day while driving down Van Buren, you would have encountered the Samoan Village, Tahiti Inn, and Tropics.  There was the Islands Restaurant, a Polynesian-themed restaurant that stood at 4839 N. 7th where drinks in Easter Island statue shaped glasses were served.  I raise my Mai Tai to you and hope you have enjoyed this small tour through the Valley's Tiki culture.  Please share your Tiki-filled memories of Arizona!

[caption id="attachment_829" align="alignnone" width="185" caption="Tahiti Inn, Phoenix"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_830" align="alignnone" width="189" caption="Tropics Motor Hotel"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_827" align="alignnone" width="170" caption="Bali Hi (Phoenix Modern)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_826" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="Samoan Village, Van Buren St., Phoenix"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_832" align="alignnone" width="240" caption="The Islands, Phoenix"][/caption]

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sign of the Times

The next Marshall Shore: Retro Spectacular[caption id="attachment_335" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kon Tiki, Phoenix Ariz"][/caption] will be Thurs, Jan 13 at Phoenix Metro Retro (708 W. Hazelwood St.)

Show starts at 7p and will feature a presentation by Sign Designer extraordinaire Glen Guyett. Think Mr. Lucky's, Buckhorn Baths, Bill Johnson's Big Apple, Kon Tiki....He really will be talking about a unique slice of Valley History

Masque of the Yellow Moon @ Vanishing Phoenix

[caption id="attachment_331" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Masque of the Yellow Moon"][/caption]Check out my new post at Vanishing Phoenix

What is Masque of the Yellow Moon? Read about this Phoenix event that was compared to Mardi Gras and that I am reviving it in 2011.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Greening of the Masque

Hello 2011!  New Year's Eve (NYE) found me at a couple different gatherings filled with holiday cheer and great conversation.  Somehow a long standing obsession of mine was brought up at both events and discussion ensued.  Fancy that! Which obsession?  No... not Tiki, not Hello Kitty.... but "Masque of the Yellow Moon."

[caption id="attachment_734" align="alignright" width="150" caption="First program for Masque of the Yellow Moon (1926)"][/caption]

Recently the Masque was mentioned in Phoenix Magazine’s 1920‘s issue under its first year, 1926.  The Masque ended in 1955 having run for almost 30 years, except during World War II.  What was the Masque of the Yellow Moon?  At its height over 3,000 high school and college students performed for two nights in front of an audience of 15,000 people.  Compared to Mardi Gras by LIFE magazine, it drew a statewide audience.

There were newspaper articles that mentioned holding tickets at the door for Prescott Valley residents. The best description I heard was that it was like a Super Bowl halftime show, including the marching bands, sets, costumes, dancing, and skits.

[caption id="attachment_735" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Montgomery Stadium, Phoenix, AZ"][/caption]

You might be wondering were the event took place?  It had to be somewhere that could accommodate the crowds both on the stage and in the stands.  The event was mainly held at Montgomery Stadium on the campus of Phoenix Union H.S. (where the University Public School at 7th Street and Fillmore is now situated).

[caption id="attachment_736" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Art Deco inspired Aztec costume from Masque of the Yellow Moon"][/caption]

Why was it called Masque of the Yellow Moon?  The event was based on a Pima legend about the Sun God who, during the spring, would give his rays to warm the Earth making it a golden yellow.  The version that the pageant was named for was written by Charlotte Hall, who is said to have started the event back in 1926.  I came across a huge treasure trove of resource material thanks to the Phoenix Union H.S. Alumni Association.

[caption id="attachment_733" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Masque of the Yellow Moon program (1949)"][/caption]

I was shocked to discover the alumni association has a few original costumes from the 30’s.  The costumes were typically sewn by parents or Home Economics students.  This Art Deco/Mayan dance costume was used in the 1937 Masque.  Imagine a field full of them!

The PUAA organized a meeting that allowed me to meet and hear from direct sources about the Masque.  The sets... OMG they were huge!

[caption id="attachment_738" align="alignright" width="150" caption="One Masque set"][/caption]

I spoke with a gentleman who, with friends, would take parts of a set to someone’s backyard and create plays!  That must have been some yard!  Look at the scale of these sets.

[caption id="attachment_737" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Score for Ferde Grofe's “Valley of the Sun Suite”"][/caption]

Now about the music: Besides marching bands, the event was so well-known that famed composer of "Grand Canyon Suite," Ferde Grofe, was commissioned to write a piece called "Valley of the Sun Suite."  Its third movement is called "Masque of the Yellow Moon."  My friend Jenny, knowing my obsession, dug through a pile of papers at someone's estate and found a photocopy of the original handwritten score.

[caption id="attachment_739" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Creating one Masque set"][/caption]

"Green" and adaptive reuse are current buzz words in architecture, historic preservation, and community-building circles, but how about our own history?  Masque of the Yellow Moon rolls off the tip of my tongue at the drop of a hat to anyone who will listen.  There have been several discussions with members of the Arizona Centennial Commission about interest in reviving the Masque in the spring of 2011 and growing it into a statewide event thereafter.  So instead of paving over our history, we create new celebrations that highlight our communities and history by repurposing a forgotten event steeped in a whole bunch of Arizona history.

I don’t make resolutions, but how about a toast to having the rays of the Masque of the Yellow Moon gracing our communities... again?!