Sunday, March 01, 2015

All Disney, All the Time

Dapper Day at the Disney Resort

We spent another exhausting but fun weekend living la vida Disney. Yesterday we attended an auction of Disney memorabilia in hopes of out-bidding collectors from around the world. After six hours, we gave up and headed for the Disneyland hotel, where we stayed the night in preparation for Dapper Day, one of our favorite fan events. We had tickets for the first-ever Dapper Day lawn party hosted by the one-and-only Charles Phoenix; but with rain on the horizon the event was brought inside. Good food, entertainment and fabulous mid-century outfits. I wish every day was Dapper Day!

Van Eaton galleries Disneyland auction: lots of
wonderful posters and park artwork

"it's a small world" dolls!

Character heads and other

Disneyland costumes and banners

More stuff I'd love to own, but the bidding was absolutely
cut-throat—before I could even raise my hand, someone
had already bid way above my limit, so we just watched
and either laughed or cursed under our breath

Tim wielding our unlucky paddle number (113)—he
was the only who bid on a 1967 Grad Night (the year he
graduated from high school) booklet and tickets, so we didn't go 
home completely empty-handed!

Dressed in faux vintage for Dapper Day

Lawn party host Charles Phoenix with
special guest Mickey Mouse—matchy-matchy!

With Mickey

P.S. Excellent photos of a lot of the folks we saw dressed up for Dapper Day at L.A. Racked.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Little Dumbo

Little Dumbo with big brother

Like I've written here before, the Dumbo ride at Disneyland holds a special place in my sister Vicki's and my hearts. No wonder then that my ears perked up when a woman we met, while waiting for the Christmas candlelight procession to start at Disneyland, said she had spent the day trying to track down a Dumbo popcorn container at the various popcorn stands in the park. She showed me a photo and I was immediately hooked. There was the most adorable Dumbo I had ever seen! I had to get one for my sister for Christmas. So as soon as the candlelight ceremony ended, I dragged Tim from popcorn stand to popcorn stand in search of Dumbo. This being December, the cast members all said they had to sell the Mickey Christmas containers before they could offer Dumbo. Disappointed, I eventually gave up and forgot all about Dumbo.

That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when we decided to stop by the park for a few hours and I suddenly had a crave for popcorn. And there was Dumbo in all his little glory! I bought one, ate all the popcorn inside, and then walked around the park with him hanging from my arm. Several people stopped to ask if he was a purse or lunchbox. Everyone thought he was adorable. When we got home, I washed out the popcorn smell and mailed him to my sister. But first, Tim and I did a quick photo shoot at the Dumbo ride, sort of in the spirit of one of my favorite books, Barbie Loves L.A. How cute is Dumbo?

Me and little Dumbo

Little Dumbo flying with his brothers

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Walt Disney's Trains

Exhibit poster

Many people believe Disneyland would not exist if not for Walt Disney’s passion for trains. Some cite the influence of animator Ward Kimball, who owned and ran a full-sized locomotive in his backyard, and Ollie Johnston, one of Disney’s “nine old men,” who introduced Walt to narrow gauge model trains. Walt himself said he always loved trains and insisted, from its earliest conception, that whatever shape Disneyland ultimately took, it had to have a train running around its perimeter.

The Walt Disney FamilyMuseum is currently featuring a temporary exhibit--“All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains”--that chronicles Disney’s lifelong interest in all things locomotive. Special programs are also occasionally presented at the museum in conjunction with the exhibit. Yesterday, for instance, was “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad:Building and Running Walt’s Trains,” a highly anticipated program about the trains at Disneyland. This was such a big deal that the Carolwood Foundation, the organization dedicated to preserving Walt’s railroad legacy, offered members the opportunity to take a 12-hour vintage railcar ride, Friday, from L.A. to the Bay, to see the exhibit and attend the presentation. We joined 20 other people, including folks from St. Louis and Orlando, on the trip.

Our train car, the Silver Splendor

Tim and I boarded the train at Union Station well before departure. Our car, the Silver Splendor, was built in 1956 and has a lounge, dining area, and galley downstairs. Upstairs is the glass-enclosed Vista Dome and table seating for about 24 people. We were early enough to claim one of the prime tables at the front of the dome, where, except for meals, we rode the entire trip. Fellow passengers cycled in and out of the dome area, depending on the view. As one member of the group pointed out, everyone was either a Disney employee, a former Disney employee, and/or a Disney fan, so our ears were constantly perked for insider Disney stories being shared around the tables.

Luggage and dining area downstairs

Downstairs hallway

Looking up the stairs to the Vista Dome

Looking down the stairs. Silent auction on the left.
I won a cup full of brass Disneyland conductor buttons!

View north of Santa Barbara. Note the Channel Islands
in the background.

Our car was attached to Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, the rail that apparently travels the longest stretch of coastline in the U.S. The weather was absolutely perfect: I don’t remember the last time the Channel Islands were so clear off the Santa Barbara coast. But for me, the best part was getting a rare glimpse of the Vandenberg airbase, the site of countless westcoast rocket launches. Tim and I still remember seeing mysterious contrails streaking across the skies when we were kids. “They must be launching rockets again out of Vandenberg,” my dad would always say, as if this was the most natural thing on earth. What a thrill to actually see one of the base’s still-in-use launch pads.

Launch pad, Vanderberg airbase

California coast

Rounding a bend: looking toward the front of the train

Standing on the back "porch," watching the world
speed by. Yee haw!

We spent the night in Oakland’s Jack London Square and so took BART the next morning to get to San Francisco and the museum. En route, we stopped at the old Ferry Building, which was renovated into a public marketplace over 10 years ago. Lots of tasty temptations—a real destination spot the next time we’re in town. 

Looking up at the Ferry Building roof

At the museum, we went through the special train exhibit, which was wonderful, then waited on line for the program. I kept looking for Disney “legends," who might also be there for the event, but didn’t see anyone other than Carolwood and D23 members. We then entered the theater.

Walt and his narrow-gauge train

Walt's actual train

Three speakers were introduced: Bill Colley and Craig Ludwick, both of whom worked on the Disneyland railroad, and Sean Bautista, president of Hillcrest Shops that rebuild and maintain many Disney-related trains. I, of course, know nothing about the mechanical workings of locomotives, but even I was fascinated by all the talk of preserving steam engines and stripping cars down to the frames. Ludwick’s story about saving the Lilly Belle, the presidential train car Walt named after his wife Lillian, was an especially heart-tugging high point of the program. That is, until a surprise speaker was announced: none other than John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and huge train buff! He told a moving story about buying and refurbishing his mentor Ollie Johnston’s former Porter steam locomotive, the Marie E., as a way to help celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary in 2005. He then showed a short, but highly emotional film of 92-year-old Ollie driving the train around Disneyland—to this day, the only privately-owned train to ever ride around the park. (You can see the film at By the time Lasseter finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. What a wonderful day for Disney and railroad fans alike.


P.S. It’s now Sunday and Tim is aboard the Silver Splendor, heading back to L.A., while I spend the night in Sacramento. I have an early meeting here tomorrow morning, so took Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor line directly to Sac, instead of going home. The ride was scenic enough, but Amtrak is certainly nothing like traveling in a restored 1956 domed Pullman. I miss the Silver Splendor. . .

Silver Splendor, heading home

Tim, bidding me adieu

Sun setting over the California coast

Monday, January 19, 2015

Culver City's Murals

Besides being a premier culinary center, Culver City has also become one of L.A.'s newest art corridors. In particular, we've been noticing lots of murals suddenly popping up, especially along Washington Blvd. on the trendy east end of the city. Some are part of the facade of local businesses; others are public art. They are all interesting and worth a visit.

Here are some of our favorites, though this is by no means a complete list. We'll be adding more as we find more murals to admire, so be sure to come back later. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Irving Place, downtown Culver City: Lucy and Desi 
driving away from Desilu Studios (now Culver Studios,
located a block east). Painted by Francois Bardol in 2000,
this mural remains a favorite even though it is in desperate need
of retouching.

Southeast corner of Lindblade and Sepulveda:
Within walking distance of our house, this new (2014)
mural reminds me of a modern version of "The Lady of Shalott"

Palms Cycle Shop (3770 Motor Ave.): just outside Culver City,
but fabulous nonetheless 

Helms Bakery complex (Washington Blvd.):
"Helms Coach Gone a Rye" (2004), is a 3-D mural 
of an old Helms truck (foreground) 
zooming toward downtown Culver City.

Southeast corner of Higuera and Washington (parking lot)


Southeast corner of Fay and Washington (parking lot)

Northwest corner of Fay and Washington (2014): 
panels 1 & 2 of 4

Panel 3

Panel 4

(same as above)

Alley directly east of Fay (above)

(same as above)

El AlteƱo Bar (8554 Washington Blvd): Front and
parking lot murals (below)

8520 Washington Blvd.

Industry Cafe & Jazz (6039 Washington Blvd): Tim with camera


(more detail)

EK Valley Restaurant (6121 Washington Blvd.)

Northwest corner of La Cienega & Washington: Davis Bros Tires


(more detail)

(and more detail)

(and yet more!)