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Redwood City Eichlers lie low eclipsed by magnificent trees
P14 | Ceramicist Jered Nelson sets a â€˜dinnerware stageâ€™ of quiet drama P18 | Brightening up our world with replicas of mid-century lampshades P24 | When San Francisco was the go-to haunt for mid-century film noir
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Eichler was 60 years ahead of his time— engaging homebuyers for more than profit
Call of the canopy: cozy friendships prevail along this tree-covered street of 28 Eichlers
Art About the House
Tabletop theater: ceramicist Jered Nelson and his simple dining stage of quiet drama
Swayed by the shade: zealous artists who create replicas of mid-century lampshades
ON THE COVER The ambitious and prolific El Gato Gomez returns this issue along with her brand of kooky retro-futurism art for her third CA-Modern cover. This time she presents a setting that ties in nicely with ‘Call of the Canopy,’ our lead story on the tree-lined Redwood City Eichlers. Gomez’s loose interpretation of that theme “was very much inspired by Eyvind Earl’s nature illustrations,” she says. “His square trees really caught my eye, and my imagination.” What were Gomez’s challenges this round? “Balancing colors is always up front in my mind,” she says. “It’s always the most challenging aspect of anything I create.” There’s “no rest for the wicked,” Gomez admits, as she continues to be “insanely busy,” producing new art on a daily basis. “I am currently selling exclusively on eBay [through her El Gato Gomez store]. I get new eyes on my work daily, and it is so convenient to just list something one day and ship it the next.” Gomez would love to return to California for a show of her work, which is a wild mix of everything from abstracts to spaceships to cats to tiki and mid-century modern. Her last California showcase was at Disneyland, a few years ago. “I enjoyed my visit immensely,” she recalls, “and I love the vibe so much.”
More Modern Renewal
Let there be light: breathing new life into classics with 12 moody lamps and shades
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The CA Modernist Joe was 60 years ahead of his time Community service was always one of Eichler’s key goals Are proﬁts really what it’s all about? When making decisions, should corporate CEOs pay attention to nothing but fattening the wallets of their shareholders? For years, perhaps forever, the answer has been yes. But no more. Several months ago the Business Roundtable, a non-profit association based in Washington, D.C. that represents 192 of the country’s largest companies, “redefined the purpose” of corporations, the group said in a statement that was signed by 182 CEOs. Joe Eichler would have been pleased. The change in definition adopted in 2019 follows the principles Joe and his firm, Eichler Homes, had been following since 1949. According to the new “statement on the purpose of a corporation,” in addition to “generating long-term value for shareholders,” corporations should deliver value to customers, invest in their employees, including “supporting them through training and education,” deal fairly with suppliers, and support “the communities in which we work.” Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) called it “a welcome step toward a more moral capitalism.” From the beginning, the late Ned Eichler recalled in an interview, his dad built and sold houses for more than the profits. Ned recalled talking to another housing developer back in the 1950s who had wondered why Eichler Homes sold homes to black people. It would drive away other customers, the man said. Ned could not disagree on that point. But he said it didn’t matter to Joe. “Larry, I said, you’re never going to understand my father,” Ned said. “Your whole interest is making the maximum amount of money. That is not his whole interest. You are you and he is he.”
“For us, it wasn’t a benefit to our business,” Ned said of the open housing policy. “We would have been better off if we didn’t do it. Somebody looking at our homes, if they asked a broker about resale
Joe was motivated to do so from idealism, and “and partly ego.” Joe built high-rise towers and low-rise units in the southern part of the city as well, aimed originally at a mixed market. They ended up as subsidized housing. “I said, this is going to be a disaster,” Ned recalled about the urban ventures, “and it’s going to divert our attention from problems we were having with the regular business.” Joe also made a pitch to develop homes in the Golden Gateway redevelopment project, near San Francisco’s Embarcadero, but it did not get selected. Joe Eichler was “absolutely secular, not even Jewish culturally.
JOE’S MOTIVATION. Eichler Homes was owned by a small number of stockholders, but its focus went beyond their interests. The Eichler Homes stock certificate above belonged to one of Joe’s architects, A. Quincy Jones. Top: Eichler spelled out his business philosophy in American Builder magazine in 1963. value, they’d all tell them not to buy for this reason.” Indeed, if money were Joe’s sole motivation, there are many other things he would never have done. Ned, who worked alongside his dad in the family business for many years, agreed with the stance on open housing. But he strongly disagreed with his dad about other strategies that were adopted in large part to provide social benefits. These included Eichler Homes’ move into large-scale, mass housing in redevelopment areas in San Francisco, including building apartments in the troubled Tenderloin. Ned said
Not really,” Ned said. But he was inspired by Jewish tradition. “My father said there were two obligations for Jews—to educate, and if you were financially successful, to help the poor. For him, this was a responsibility for Jews.” Joe Eichler was a dedicated liberal who was involved in many causes and a significant donor to the Democratic Party. He could also be defined as a ‘houser,’ a term in wide use in the 1950s and beyond for people who argued that everyone deserved clean, safe housing—and who worked to provide it. Among those in Joe’s circle who also fell into this category was his
architect, Bob Anshen. In a 1944 article he co-authored with his wife, Eleanor, Anshen called for a nationwide mass-public-housing program after the war. Another houser in the Eichler circle was Jim San Jule, a former hobo, longshoreman, and wartime member of the OSS. A friend of Anshen, he joined Eichler Homes in its formative years, handling marketing, permitting, and more. San Jule would go on to advocate for, and help build, subsidized and other low cost housing for another 50 years. For a time, he and Joe were very close, Ned recalled. He said, “They had a relationship that was almost like a love affair.” The way Joe ran Eichler Homes also suggests an interest in benefitting others. He was known for paying his employees well and, unlike most homebuilders at the time, for employing the carpenters who built the homes, rather than bringing them in as contractors on a job-by-job basis. That provided Joe with a loyal and knowledgeable workforce—and provided the staff and crews with an assured salary throughout the year. (After Eichler Homes went bankrupt and Joe continued building homes as a smaller operation, he no longer employed carpenters directly.) It’s not clear to what extent Joe provided workforce education—but he did offer training in art. Artist Matt Kahn, who designed Eichler model homes and graphics for Eichler, taught art classes for employees. Many of the people who worked for Eichler Homes did so for many years, both as worksite employees and office staff. “He got a lot of loyalty from one aspect of personality he and I share,” Ned remembered. “He was absolutely without any class prejudice. The idea of class never entered his mind. To him, people were people.” “He treated these guys with real respect,” Ned said of the carpenters—“people who worked with their hands. Maybe I learned it from him.” –Dave Weinstein Photography: Dave Weinstein; and courtesy American Builder magazine
■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D
Call of the canopy
Story: Dave Weinstein Photography: Sabrina Huang
On one tree-covered block in Redwood City stand 28 Eichler homes in two straight lines. It’s not a spectacular block, though several of the street trees, green year round with limbs that reach for the sky and arch over the road, certainly are spectacular. “People love them,” neighbor Christine Bahr says of the camphor trees.
Their magnificent trees attract attention—but it’s the friendships that make Lyons Street so special
STREET OF FRIENDS. When the Eichler Network visited Redwood City’s Lyons Street recently, its curious Eichler neighbors came out to gather under the camphor trees. 8 CAMODERN
“People come down this street just to come down this street.” Not spectacular either are the houses, small and simple, built early in Joe Eichler’s career, without the steep, dramatic gables seen in so many of his later homes. Still, it’s a street that once seen is hard to forget. Mary and Roger Bowie certainly couldn’t, when they first discovered Lyons Street on a recreational bike ride more than 20 years ago. Nor could James Kim, when he similarly came upon the place while walking for exercise 16 years later. Mary, an artist, and Roger, a banker, weren’t bowled over simply because these were Eichlers. They were already living in an Eichler townhouse in Palo Alto. What got them was the quiet harmony of the street. “We went, ‘Oh, my gosh, could you imagine if we ever got to buy a house on this street!’” Mary recalls. “It was our dream street!” When a house in the neighborhood, which was originally called ‘Fairwood’ but is known today simply as ‘Lyons Street,’ came up for sale, the Bowies bid—as did at least 15 others, she says. But the Bowies won. “We ended up getting it on our dream street!” “It was wow, Kismet, the way it worked out,” Roger says. James Kim, a project manager for a tech firm, who was living in a Redwood City rental 30 minutes away, often took long walks on random routes. “I was walking to [Red] Morton Park, listening to music,” he says. “I turned the corner and wound up on Lyons Street. I went home and said to my wife, you have to see this block.” “We’re both fans of mid-century modern. It was exciting to find Eichlers here. We didn’t know about these,” he says. His wife, Lea Ann Hutter, says, “We’re big neighborhood walkers. This became a favorite block of ours.”
QUIET HARMONY. Top left: A view down Lyons Street’s row of Eichlers: “It was our dream street!” recalls current resident Mary Bowie of her days of house hunting. Middle left: At home with Mariko Hoshi and Jeff Nobles. Three views (right - top to bottom) of their lovely Eichler are pictured here, including a shot of their backyard birdbaths, which keep the couple “totally mesmerized,” says Jeff. Above: One of the other young families in the neighborhood—Keisha and Jeff Thoene, with their infant son and Guy the golden retriever. So, like the Bowies, James and Lea Ann pounced when a home there hit the market. Still, they understood it takes more than pretty trees to make a block a home. What would it be like to live
on Lyons Street, they wondered. The day they visited the house, they met an original owner, Peggy Smullin, who’d moved to the neighborhood with her parents in 1953.
“She was very kind,” James says. “She offered to show us her house, and she called her friend Christine [Bahr], so she could show me both the homes.” “‘Wow, what a friendly bunch,’” James and Lea Ann thought. “They invited us to the [neighborhood] Halloween party. We hadn’t even bought the home yet,” James says. The camphor trees that line Lyons Street—which, in its entirety, is a single block—may define it today, but they did not create the aspect of this row of homes that most makes it special: It’s a street of friends. “How lucky we are on our street,
that we have a social street,” Mary says. Neighbor Julie Paiva says, “We really do have a community here on the street. We have something in common. We all love our houses. We like our street.” “People look out for each other,” adds her husband, Troy, a photographer who grew up in an Eichler in Burlingame. Winning much of the credit for the block’s fiesta-like mood are two people, Dave Walter, known as ‘the Mayor of Lyons Street,’ and his wife, Christine Bahr. “She’s the one who ties the whole neighborhood together,” longtime owner Marian Vanden Bosch says of
Continued pg 11
Our ‘Preferred Service Companies’ – Serving the Eichlers of the East Bay EAST BAY REAL ESTATE MARKETING
EARLY EICHLERS. Fairwood’s homes along Lyons Street, like the ones pictured above, were built in 1953, four years before architect Bob Anshen gave Eichler the atrium. Nonetheless they remain beautiful in their simplicity. 10 C A M O D E R N
■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D CALL OF THE CANOPY (continued from pg 9)
Christine. “She’s the party person.” And Christine is not without a title of her own: ‘Queen of Decoupage,’ for the colorful and very non-mid-century modern antique furnishings that she turns
years,” Christine says. They’ve even brought the party to one of the Eichlers that serves as assisted living for the elderly. “When I was Frankenstein and I was six-foot-six, it kind of scared them a little,” Dave says.
who’s in the marble and granite business, hauled in sand one year for a horseshoe pit. He’s supplied a tiki bar with a thatched roof. Christine, a retired firefighter, made sure a fire truck arrived. “Remember the stripper?” Dave jokes. “No!” Christine says. Although it’s been several years since the last block party, there is talk of reviving the tradition. Mary and Roger get in the holiday spirit themselves, taking homemade treats to neighbors on Valentine’s Day and other occasions. “It’s always good,” Christine tells her. “We eat them by the time you’ve left.” The events, though, seem less important than spontaneous social activities. “If you hear laughter on the
dustpan and broom. He just loves it,” Christine says. If you talk to Dave, a thoughtful guy who walks with 25- and 40-pound backpacks in preparation for hiking the Appalachian Trail, you discover what it really takes to be a street’s mayor: Not just chatting people up or throwing parties, but caring about people. Dave illustrates this not by talking about himself but about the man who preceded him as mayor of Lyons Street, the late Dal Smullin, Peggy’s father. Dal and next-door neighbor Tom Sullivan first organized social activities on Lyons shortly after the tract opened 66 years ago. That was about four years before the camphor trees were planted. Bob Kirchgatter, who arrived with his wife in 1961, recalls they were saplings then. Dave says he was inspired by Dal, who installed a bench in his front yard. “He would sit out on a bench every night. He would have his glass of wine,” Dave remembers, adding, “He always wanted to know what you were doing. It wasn’t about him. He actually put the bench there for people walking by to take a seat.” Back in 1998 Dal told the San Francisco Chronicle that Tom and his wife, Kay Sullivan, were “the first to start our block party tradition.” “They were more like dances,” Dal’s wife, Joanna, told the paper. The Smullins and Sullivans were the first to move into Fairwood. “Four new plans,” Eichler Homes advertised in the San Mateo Times in 1953. “Luxurious Eichler homes only 33 minutes by train from San Francisco!” Homes in Fairwood were selling
LYONS ORIGINALS. Top left: Peggy Smullin, who moved to Lyons Street with her parents in 1953, loves to carry on with her favorite pastime, painting. Above left: Smullin with finished work. Top right: That’s Peggy’s late father, Dal, the original ‘mayor of Lyons Street.’ Above center: This sharp-looking decorative screen lines the entrance to longtime owner Bob Kirchgatter’s Eichler. Above right: One of Lyons Street’s unusual Eichler models. into art objects by covering them with decorative patterns of collaged paper. What’s the trick to being mayor? “It only takes a spark,” Dave says. “It’s a spark, and other people join in.” The Halloween party they throw for neighbors every year is legendary. “We’ve been doing that for, god, 18
Dave and Christine put on other neighborhood events as well. “When we had the pancake breakfast,” Dave says, “three quarters of the neighborhood came. For the block party it was just about everybody.” Oh, and those block parties! Dave, a self-confessed workaholic
street,” Mary says, starting a thought that Roger finishes: “[You think] am I missing a party? What’s going on out there?” When one young boy (among the few kids on the street these days) stops by to help Dave rake leaves, both enjoy it. “We bought him a little
for $16,500 to $17,750. Today, Lyons Street’s 28 homes seem mostly original from the front except for one that was replaced more or less in kind after a fire, and another that has an ungainly second story, albeit to the rear. These are small homes, mostly 1,380 square feet, Bob Kirchgatter says, with C A M O D E R N 11
■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D three bedrooms and two baths, and two-car garages or carports. Fairwood’s homes were built four years before architect Bob Anshen gave Eichler the atrium—and before aluminum doors were available, so these sliders are of steel. Some homes have exterior walls with projecting concrete blocks to create shadows, a relatively unusual feature for Eichler. Some homes have clerestory glass atop, not just exterior walls, but some interior ones as well. “We love that because it lets so much light into the room. It’s amazing,” Lea Ann Hutter says. She and James did major reconstruction of their home, which had seen some bad changes. Their work, which aimed to “retain the original feeling of the architecture,” she says, added 1,000 square feet to their living area and pushed up the home’s height a smidge. Early Eichler homes like these are beautiful in their simplicity. Joe Nobles, whose living room is filled with chairs and tables of his own design, says the outdoors is “the part I like more than
FRIENDLY BUNCH. “We really do have a community here on the street,” says Lyons Street’s Julie Paiva. “We have something in common. We all love our houses. We like our street.” And locals love to get together too—including for the gathering above (top) at the home of Marion and Tom Vanden Bosch. Pictured are (L-R) Marian Vanden Bosch, Christine Bahr, Tom Vanden Bosch, Troy Paiva, Alice Paiva, Dave Walter, Joe Nobles, Mariko Hoshi, Jeff Thoene; group of four at far right: Roger Bowie, Keisha Thoene, Mary Bowie, Peggy Smullin. Above left: Tom Vanden Bosch with a winged friend on display. Above right: Wife Marian, a wood sculptor, works on a new piece in the family garage. Above center: One of Marian’s many finished sculptures that decorate her Eichler. Right: More Lyons Street Eichlers. the house.” He has installed birdbaths in the backyard to attract wildlife. “Our dining room table is right near the window,” he says. “We just sit there staring at the birds and the squirrels. We don’t necessarily watch TV. We just sit there and are totally mesmerized. It’s so meditative.” Many homes are surprisingly original both inside and out, including the one Joe shares with his wife, Mariko Hoshi, an animator, whose work you can admire in many films, including various iterations of ‘Shrek.’ Eichler used mahogany panels throughout his homes in 1953, not 12 C A M O D E R N
just selected locations, and many owners have retained the warm wood, at least in large part, including Bob Kirchgatter. Marion and Tom Vanden Bosch’s home is almost entirely original, and they love it that way. Ken Harris, a retired cargo supervisor at SFO and a resident since 1964, has original paneling in his home and in an added room from the 1950s. Like many people, he has insulated, and installed a foam roof. He also painted the ceiling white. “It brightens up the place considerably,” he says. Keisha Thoene, “one of the techies that has invaded us,” in Marian’s
good natured words, and her husband Jeff, did much to make their home livable after moving in with an infant seven years ago. They have lightened up their home’s interior, but retained much paneling. “It makes the house a little darker, but we’ve learned to kind of like it, I think, in our living room,” she says. Of the two homes that show the most exterior changes, one was rebuilt after a 1998 fire that took two lives— those of original residents and founders of the first Lyons Street block parties, Tom and Kay Sullivan. Christine Bahr, a firefighter, remem-
bers that morning. “I was leaving for work,” she says. “If I had just turned around I might have seen something.” At the station she heard the call over the radio. “And I just went, ‘Oh,
my God, that’s across the street from me.’ I radioed in and said that there were two elderly people who lived there, and the woman was on oxygen.”
some residents mistakenly believe that city zoning codes would prevent further such depredations. In fact, the zoning is R-1, which allows
carousel horses and other animals in public view at a studio on San Francisco’s Pier 39, and whose home is filled with her painted furniture, paintings,
FAVORITE BLOCK. James Kim and Lea Ann Hutter (top right), who initially discovered Lyons Street on one of their walks, didn’t take long to fall in love with it. They also love the clerestory windows (like this one above in their office) that bring “so much light into the room,” says Lea Ann. “It’s amazing.” Left: A peek inside the couple’s kitchen and living room.
Neighbors mourned the Sullivans —and later worried about what would replace their Eichler. “They kept a back wall and the fireplace,” Christine says. “We were all concerned. Is it going to be a two-story monster, is it going to be this or that? The guy was really good. He tried to design it like an Eichler.” Many years ago one of their neighbors added a second story to the rear of his home. “From that guy’s house you can see into everybody’s yard. It overlooks everybody,” Roger says. “The people who live here decided they don’t want it,” Marian says, of more second-story additions. There have been no recent threats of two-story homes on the block, and
homes to be up to 28 feet tall and two-and-a-half stories. It’s not surprising that people on Lyons Street like getting to know each other—since so many are worth getting to know. Many are artists— some professional, some not, some quasi—and many are opinionated and talkative, and do interesting, even oddball things. Take Troy Paiva, for instance, a pioneer in nighttime photography whose photo books and exhibits focus on derelict objects, like F-86 Sabre jets, in derelict places, like a hidden airplane boneyard in the Mojave desert. Or Marian Vanden Bosch, a longtime sculpture teacher, who for years carved
sculpture, and more. Her husband, Tom, is a photographer, model railroad enthusiast, and model builder. And besides being an industrial and ‘experience’ designer, Joe Nobles is a sculptor. Peggy Smullin, who is a painter, remembers what the neighborhood was like when it was new and she was young. Lyons Street dead-ended at a lovely Japanese nursery, which remained in place into the 1980s. Back in the early days, the nearby creeks had yet to be channelized, and Peggy and friends would climb into them seeking tadpoles. “There were five girls my age on this block. I always had someone to play with,” she says. “It was freer back then. We could go and play. It was, be home in time for dinner.” Bob Kirchgatter remembers, “When we first moved here in 1961, there must have been, I’m making a guess, 25 kids on the block.” Ken Harris, who moved here in 1964 with a wife and three young boys, says, “We liked the fact that they were Eichlers and we were close to the
recreation center and schools.” Marian recalls how wonderful the nearby Red Morton Park was for the kids, with swimming, tennis, ceramics classes, and more. “It was just a wonderful thing. And the school was only two blocks down, so they could go everywhere on their own.” Eichler became known for selling to minorities. But that wasn’t apparent here. “It was a middle-class, white street,” Peggy Smullin says. “Even the school I went to was all white, till junior high and high school.” Today there is a mix, including several couples of mixed ethnicity. Red Morton Park has greatly expanded and has become a draw citywide and beyond. Plans call for a YMCA to be built there. While neighbors love the park, the change raises concerns. “We’ll get overflow parking for sure,” Christine says. Neighbors are also unhappy with the closure of Hawes Elementary School, which schooled so many of their children. Will the site become housing? Or artists studios? Some artists on the street hope for the latter. Traffic is a problem, as it is everywhere on the Peninsula. Neighbors brag that they know secret routes to favored destinations, including Redwood City’s lively downtown and hiking trails in the hills. Flooding is an occasional problem. Keisha and Jeff Thoene had rainwater in their home on the days they moved in. Some people have sump pumps to drain water from backyards. And then there is one problem that could be game changing for the neighborhood. “These trees are dying of old age,” Tom Vanden Bosch says of the camphors. And the city won’t allow replacement camphors, because they buckle sidewalks. One camphor was recently replaced by another tree that looks okay, but seems out of place among older neighbors. “It broke our hearts,” Mary says. Tom, however, believes Lyons Street will survive the eventual loss of its camphor trees. “If you replace them with something else, and they grow [tall] like this, everybody would love those too.” ■ • Fairwood is located on Lyons Street, a one-block row between Roosevelt and Oak avenues. Additional photography: Dave Weinstein; and courtesy Peggy Smullin C A M O D E R N 13
■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE
Setting a ‘dining stage’ of quiet drama—East Bay ceramicist Jered Nelson and his distinguished handmade modern plating Story: Dave Weinstein
‘500 salad,’ the note reads, in inchhigh lettering tacked to the wall, not far from Jered Nelson’s jiggering machine. ‘500 dinner,’ the next line reads, followed by ‘30 Jack, 70 Sonja, 20 Calibowls.’ Jered, a one-man factory, gets to work, using his hands, a potter’s wheel, and a jigger to produce all these ceramic pieces in just these quantities. And he does it quickly too, 60 to 70 pieces a day, often while antique VHS movies play on a vintage VCR. He’s churning out dinnerware with a personal touch, made by his hand, many named for friends and family. ‘Jack,’ a bowl that is ‘big, open and generous,’ is named for his nine-
behind the Spanish restaurant Coqueta on the City’s waterfront, Jered incised a bull and toreador on dinner plates. Diners grew so fond of them they began taking them home. The restaurant responded by adding their cost to the offending diners’ bills.
PERSONAL TOUCH. To Jered Nelson and to the chefs who use his wares, drama is an important part of the dining experience. Top right: Jered demonstrates how to make a plate at the ‘Clay with Your Food’ event aimed at chefs. Above: Jered works on a plate for the restaurant Spoonbar in Healdsburg. Right: A table setting uses Jered’s Jack and Sarah bowls, named for his son and his wife, and dinner plates—all part of his California line. year-old son, who shares those traits, Jered’s website says. ‘Sonja,’ a small bowl, is named after an early mentor as tribute to the ‘balance and strength of her forms.’ Jered Nelson, 48, owner of Jered’s Pottery in Emeryville, is making a name for himself in a tough trade, where artisans need to distinguish their wares from those of thousands of other ceramicists. Jered, who calls himself an “International Clayboy and Vesselist,” does so with a theatrical touch. While Jered sells dinnerware for family use, takes design industry and corporate commissions, does one-off art pieces and even ceramic walls, about 80 percent 14 C A M O D E R N
of his business is for restaurants, generally high-end places where the chef—and oftentimes, even the pastry chef—gets to choose his or her style of plating. “Every restaurant wants people to remember them, so they want something a little bit different,” Jered says. Dining out, he says, is a form of theater, and the dinnerware is as much a player as the food. “We have to make it a little more interesting than, ‘Here’s some food. Eat it,’” says chef Evan Rich, who co-owns the San Francisco restaurant Rich Table with his wife. He uses Jered’s dinnerware at Rich Table, and Jered’s ceramic tiles at his casual RT
Rotisserie restaurants. While staying true to his own aesthetic—“simplicity, elegance,” in the words of poet Sarah Kobrinsky, his wife—Jered creates plates, bowls, and cups designed for multiple uses and with a unique look for each restaurant. For Michael Chiarello, star chef
For Evan Rich, Jered has not only created unique plates but unique colors—including ‘Rich Table Blue,’ and more. “I came in one day in a purple shirt,” Rich remembers. “‘Hey, can you make me a color that looks like this?’” he asked Jered. “He came up
with the Paisley Park color for the [small] bite plates. “Jered designs plates specifically for certain things. He is designing a bowl with a little hole to hold a fork,” Rich says, explaining how he and Jered collaborate. “I see him often and
Among his goals were to “make [the plates] stack really close, so I could make them look really cool as they were stacked, so I could put sharp delineations in the plates, so that I could do things like cast shadow up onto the food, or a highlight onto
of the chefs had ever thrown a pot on a wheel. “A few of them took to it right away,” Jered recalls. Jered and Sarah put on the onenight ‘Clay with Your Food’ gathering for three years, bringing in poets and musicians, and charging the public to watch and eat. “I just wanted to poke their creative nerve a little bit,” Jered says. “I would
and getting all the lines right, that’s a considerable task.” While Jered goes for drama at times, his California line is unassuming, quiet in look, and modern in its emphasis on function. If the line suggests the work of Heath Ceramics, the much larger Sausalito firm founded in 1948 by Edith Heath, that’s not surprising. Jered, who grew up in South Dakota, worked at Heath for seven years and learned much there about production and the business of ceramics, and California style. “I started to get a sense of what the history of design here [in California] was in ceramics. The matte glazes, the simple forms, stuff like that,” he says. Sarah, who’s from North Dakota, attributes many of her husband’s quali-
CALIFORNIA STYLE. Jered Nelson’s dinnerware often has a matte finish, as does much of the product from Heath Ceramics, where he once worked. Above: Jered’s subtle shapes and quiet designs play supporting roles, letting the various main courses, soups, salads, and desserts stand out as stars of the show. Top left: That’s Jered’s California bowl in terra cotta. Top right: A series of Sonja bowls and dinner plates in multiple colors. we talk about ideas together, dishes I’m trying to do. ‘Oh, cool! Let’s try this!’ He’ll throw things together and show them to me. ‘Check this out! What do you think?’ ” Under development, Rich says, is a soup bowl that will include a bit of kinetic art. “It’s like a bowl with a channel,” Rich says, “where you can plate the garnish in the channel. As the soup rushes down [the channel] it would incorporate the garnish into the soup.” Jered is proud that he makes his ceramics by hand, but he does not eschew the use of tools, like jiggering machines to control shape.
the food. Stuff like that.” All told, Jered has stocked about 30 restaurants, Bay Area, Southern California, and beyond. The variety is broad. “Squares, squares with images, all kinds of shapes and treatments, different glazes,” he says. Jered sees chefs as fellow artists, and tries to push them even farther. He’s done that by putting on a theatrical event of his own, ‘Clay with Your Food.’ Jered and Sarah, who does the business side of things, invited chefs to cook dishes in one of Jered’s 1,000-degree kilns, to plate their dishes on unique sculptural ceramics, and to throw a pot themselves. None
make up a sculptural piece and ask chefs to plate on it. The idea was to push the chefs into something they wouldn’t normally do, that would be more theatrical.” Jered, who works with one assistant and an apprentice, is known for throwing pots quickly, one ‘Jack’ after another ‘Jack’ after another. Does it get tedious? Nope. “I’m not doing the same thing over and over. Even if I’m doing a series of 450 bowls, the whole time I’ll be refining them,” he says. “Weight is a really integral part of pottery,” he says, “the balance of the forms and the weight. Doing that,
ties to his rural Dakota background, where he learned “that you have to work with what you’ve got. He’s very good using what he has around him to solve problems. If he needs a tool to perform a certain function, nine times out of ten he will make that tool himself.” Jered grew up with horses and was a rodeo rider from high school till age 30, often riding bareback. Dangerous, no? “Of course! That’s the point, isn’t it?” Jered says. “It’s like becoming a potter. Who does that, for crying out loud? What kind of risky, friggin’ business is that?” His art and ceramics education happened at Minnesota State and Colorado C A M O D E R N 15
■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE State, where his teachers included some legends. In Minnesota, Warren MacKenzie focused on the Mingei style. “There was a philosophy behind it of making stuff economically, making stuff quickly, and allowing the story of the process to show up in the pieces,” Jered says. In Colorado the fine art ceramicist Paul Soldner became a mentor, and Jered got to know the abstract potter Peter Voulkos. Over the years Jered has pursued
“I made some really nice pots, what I thought were my best, and I gave them all away to my family at Christmas, and I thought, I have to do something else. This just has to be my hobby.” Still…still…one more try?
conducting tooling and production training, for that bastion of California Cuisine, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley. Jered was also helping Heath modernize its production techniques. All the while he was doing ceramics on his own.
ONE-OFF & UNIQUE. Top right: Jered prefers to create his pots the old-fashioned way, and here he is smoothing the rim of a California bowl. Top left: Unlike a large pottery business, Jered often creates an object for a brief time, then stops. This Black Hills black base is now sold out. Long row above: Jered also creates one-off designs, including these custom hand-painted plates. Each gets a quirky but meaningful name. The plate at far left, for example, is called ‘Crossing the River.’ Near right: That blue cup with the curvaceous handle? That’s Jered’s Richmond cup, named for the city where the Nelson family resides. Far right: Handmade, these unusually looking brushes are from items Jered found while on walks. He uses them to paint his plates. several trades. He’s worked construction, as a ranch hand, as the gateman at a horse track, and as an office manager for H&R Block. He served stateside in the Navy. But all the while he stuck to clay. It was when a ‘tax lady’ he’d consulted looked at how little money Jered had earned in the tax year and told him, “Oh, honey, you don’t have to file taxes,” that he decided to drop pots. 16 C A M O D E R N
Even while living in Dakota Jered had been finding buyers in California, where he would visit his brother and drive around hawking ceramics to crafts shops. It was on such a trip that he spotted the sign: ‘Jiggerman wanted at Heath Ceramics.’ “I had never heard of Heath but had been a jiggerman,” Jered says. Soon he was part of a team developing dinnerware prototypes, and
Ironically, the more Heath modernized the less Jered felt at home there. He prefers work that shows the hand of the potter more than was possible the new Heath way. “I respect their path,” he says. “They wanted to do American manufacturing, they wanted people to know that it could still be done in this country, and they did what they had to do. But I’m a potter.”
“My clients are into the details,” he says. “It’s part of the process, and it takes training and time and the right tools, and a lot of working things out in order to get it right. And you can see that in the final pieces, even if it is
not something that is overtly there. It’s something you feel about the piece, something different about it. You can see the person in it somehow.” In 2010, shortly after his son was born, Jered quit Heath to go it alone as a potter, a risky financial proposition. Did his wife approve? “Heck, yeah,” Jered says. “She’s a dreamer. She’s brave.” Jered got into restaurant work not because of his Chez Panisse experience but by chance. His Berkeley shop was across San Pablo Avenue from an auto repair firm where a woman
who handles design for restaurateur Michael Mina was having her Mercedes repaired. She paid a call. “She asked me if I could make samples out of porcelain and send them to her,” Jered recalls. “Heck, yeah.” Once Jered got his plates into Michael Mina’s namesake San Francisco eatery, other chefs noticed. “Everybody was going to the restaurant, and then picking up the plates and looking at the bottom,” where his name is stamped, Jered says. One client who appreciates Jered’s
detail is interior design manager Kirsten Fordyce-Wheeler, who both dines off his plates and has suggested that her clients include his ceramic tiles in their offices. Fordyce-Wheeler lives in an Eichler in Marin County that is filled with design classics by Girard, Eames, Saarinen, Bertoia, and other mid-century designers. She loves how Jered’s serving pieces can do double or triple duty, demonstrating how a casserole lid can flip over to serve as a plate. She has cups and other pieces as well, a small ceramic sculpture, and some one-of-akind plates with incised designs. “There’s a story behind the pottery,” she says, meaning Jered’s story. “It’s beautiful to touch, it’s beautiful to put food on. It’s simple. The lines are beautiful, the hues and colors are beautiful.” She also loves that the pieces are locally produced of local clays.
When Jered and Sarah, who live in Richmond, take time off, they do it with Jack. A recent trip delivering product to a buyer in Los Angeles included a stop in Disneyland. They love the beach, which reminds them of the wide-open spaces of the Dakotas. Among Jered’s goals are to improve his equipment so he can produce better pieces, and to do more art. “I’d like to be doing more artistic stuff, for sure,” he says. Jered’s one-off works include decorated plates, freestanding pieces, and a large jug incised with text he did for an exhibit last fall in Emeryville. The jug is part of an ongoing project. “It’s a time capsule kind of series where I’m writing on the pots some of the stuff that is going on currently in our political atmosphere,” he says. For a brief time Jered’s Pottery, after moving from Berkeley to Richmond, expanded, with Jered and seven assistants, potters, artists, and laborers. Today, working in Emeryville with two, he says he prefers to stay small. Creating the prototypes for Chez Panisse took a year, with multiple team meetings and much frustration, Jered remembers. Today, he says, “When I design a line of dinnerware
HANDMADE. Far left: The tools Jered uses every day sit conveniently by his wheel. Near left: Chef Derek Edwards watches as Jered demonstrates his craft during ‘Clay with Your Food.’ Top right: Jered’s ‘70s mug. Top left: This extraordinary serving bowl was created by Jered for ‘Clay with Your Food’ and shown to a chef who was asked to plate it shortly before the event. for a restaurant, it takes between a day and two weeks.” ■ • Jered’s Pottery sells its wares online and at its showroom, 5743-A Horton Street, Emeryville. Online at jeredspottery.com Photography: Bart Nagel, Alexandra Loscher, Zachariah Kobrinsky, Sarah Menanix, Alanna Taylor-Tobin; and courtesy Jered’s Pottery, Found Rentals C A M O D E R N 17
Three enterprising artisans who keep the modern spirit alive with authentic replicas of mid-century lampshades Story: Adriene Biondo
Ever score the vintage lamp of your dreams only to discover its original shade covering was beyond repair, or missing altogether? Oftentimes, in the spirit of the moment, we’ll buy the lamp base anyway, feeling optimistic that a complementary shade will soon come along. Once we get our treasure home, the search begins—scouring the internet for a photo of what the shade may have looked like, scrolling through endless eBay and Etsy listings in hopes of finding the perfect substitute. A one-of-a-kind lamp can bring magic to a space. There’s nothing like an elegant mid-century lamp to provide the finishing touch in a living area, or a pair of fabulous 1950s-era lamps with swirling fiberglass shades to set a mood in a bedroom. Over the past half century, as the popularity of post-World War II design has hit its stride, the market for classic vintage lighting has grown, along with the need for authentic replacement lampshades. Rob Fine, a Bay Area dealer who fabricates MCM-style lampshades through his company, Meteor Lights, attributes the timeless quality “partly to the durable materials, rich colors, vibrant patterns, unique geometric shapes, and unpretentious whipstitched construction.” Changes in materials and availability have fostered a comeback for the business too, with collectors, homeowners, and decorators looking to source suitable authentic-looking replacements. Fellow dealer Henry Fancher, of Retromod Design in the Pacific Northwest, was pleasantly surprised by the positive response he received when he first put up a pair of his reproduction shades on eBay a decade ago, “and not ten minutes after I posted them they sold,” he recalls, immediately motivating him to build on the retro market. Today, vintage lamps are often sold without their original shades, leaving a critical part of the purchase up to us. Fear not, since there are numerous 18 C A M O D E R N
Swayed by the shade MAGICAL LIGHTS. Pictured here are two lovely three-tiered lampshades from talented artists who are actively designing authentic reproductions. Above by Meteor Lights, right by Modilumi. innovative and talented artists around the country, like Fine and Fancher, who are actively designing reproduction lampshades, lamps, sconces, and pendants. Perhaps the three artisans featured here are just what we’ve all been looking for.
MODILUMI As an owner of a printing business for 32 years, Lex Winger discovered firsthand that he could print lampshade designs directly onto fiberglass sheeting and fabrics using his digital press, sort of like a giant inkjet printer. The concept became integral to the everyday operation of Modilumi, the design studio, and eventual lamp and lampshade retail location, Winger began in 2014 in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. “We’ve had customers send us pictures of their grandparents’ lamp, and we’ve reproduced the lampshade for them,” says Winger. “There’s a lot of sentiment with that, and it’s very rewarding.” When Winger has a new idea, by
using a computer graphics program he can readily build his idea from scratch and print it out. “Sometimes it’s a hit,” he admits, “and sometimes it’s a dud. You just never know. But if it’s good, it sells; and I’m happy with that.”
In Twin Cities, where mid-century modern remains popular, Winger opened a retail outlet in early 2019 to complement his design studio. Today, Modilumi not only serves the niche market with lamps and reproduction
to look like new, and designs new lamps that are custom formed from a wood mix. The company fabricates lampshades out of rice paper, grass cloth, upholstery fabrics, and other materials. The company can even create shades for Majestic lamps, the unique and dramatic multi-tier lighting fixtures produced by the Majestic Lamp and Radio Company in the 1950s. “Majestics are a real challenge,” Winger admits. “However, they’re the ‘Holy Grail’ of all lamps—they’re the most spectacular, truly works of art. It’s very time consuming and expensive—but I’m happy to say, yes, we can do Majestics.”
1950s fiberglass-style shades, he balances those vintage designs with new, contemporary themes that are clean and simple—“so there’s something to please everyone.” Modilumi restores vintage lamps
METEOR LIGHTS Coming from a background in industrial design, carpentry, and manufacturing, Rob Fine had been designing and fabricating his own acrylic-base lamps as early as 1990, but didn’t delve into creating mid-century modern lampshades until six years later, when a friend who collected postwar design challenged him to give it a try. “I sourced the materials and figured out the fabrication techniques,
FINISHING TOUCHES. Middle: Modilumi’s Lex Winger in his Twin Cities studio. Top left: From Modilumi, a 1950s lamp topped with a striking pink fiberglass shade. Top right: Another from Modilumi. Above: Rob Fine of Meteor Lights puts the finishing lacing on a shade. Near, far left: Two unique designs from Meteor Lights. Middle left: The Majestic—‘Holy Grail’ of all lamps.
while my friend lent her color, MCM, and design expertise—and together we made a shade that I still have in my possession today,” Fine recalls. “Suddenly people were asking us to make shades for them—and it took off from there.” That discovery led Fine to launch
Meteor Lights in San Francisco in 1996. Through 1950s fiberglass shades, Fine believes, we can truly appreciate the art and design of the period. “The free-form web design inspired by the American Abstract Expressionist painters, especially Jackson Pollock, was characteristic of 1950s modern lighting design.” Meteor creates exact and authentic 1950s lighting replicas, as well as variations incorporating contemporary color palettes and designs. “Combining design elements from different eras is a great way to create fresh, unique, and inspiring design,” says Fine. However, he adds, “Looking at my shades from an art and design standpoint, I generally stay authentic to the C A M O D E R N 19
■MODERN RENEWAL period, but I can do any color, and I have no problem incorporating colors from different periods. “These are period reproductions, but each one is unique in itself. I’m not a purist or a snob who refuses to bend the rules a little, but I do have my limits.” Today’s fiberglass, Fine points out, is somewhat different than the midcentury variety. “The original material was available in different colors, textures, laminates, and substrates, but now it’s just made in white and one basic texturelaminate-substrate configuration.” However, Fine considers fiberglass still to be the best lighting diffusion material, much better than the repurposed paper or upholstery found on most shades today. And he can readily work around fiberglass’ white color limitation. “People are often surprised when they learn I can match almost any color, with the understanding that color coming from a back- or ambientlit translucent, textured material reads differently than it does on opaque upholstery and walls. I can work from a Pantone guide, paint chip, even a fabric swatch.” Fine admits that most of what he does is custom craft that’s labor intensive, and the mixing of his proprietary non-toxic stains and applying colors is tricky to do well. “That’s why people have been trying to pry my application methods out of me for years,” he says. “But I’m sworn to secrecy.” While considering today’s market and the future of reproduction lampshades, Fine finds that “there’s actually plenty of demand for it [today and for years to come], because new people are always discovering mid-century modern, perhaps because it was the high point of domestic and international design. “My customers come from all over, but especially from areas that experienced a postwar boom, such as Southern California, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas—but also places like New York, where people are very particular about design.”
RETROMOD DESIGN Henry Fancher was inspired to try his hand at creating mid-centurystyle fiberglass lampshades soon after he and his wife purchased their home outside of Portland. That was ten years ago. “At the time I kept buying up great 20 C A M O D E R N
vintage lamp bases for almost nothing, thinking finding shades would be simple,” he recalls. “Oh, boy, was I wrong about that!” To Fancher’s surprise, he discovered it was nearly impossible to find authentic vintage shades in good condition, and especially in the colors he was after. He also noticed that there were a few shops making reproduction fiberglass shades, “but the high prices were such a turnoff to me,” he says, “that I decided I would try to make my own.” That’s when Fancher started up Retromod Design (aka JetSet Design for his Etsy store), which he operates today out of his studio in Eagle Creek, near Portland. He says Retromod’s goal is “making
RETROMODELS. Above: Henry Fancher of Retromod Design in his studio near Portland. His goal: “making great quality mid-century-style shades and selling them at much lower prices than any of the competition.” Pictured here are four very unique, eye-popping multi-tiered lampshade repros, all from Retromod. great quality mid-century-style shades and selling them at much lower prices than any of the competition.” In order to stay on target, Fancher works hard to keep his own costs down. “I made a deal with the fiberglass manufacturer,” he says, “bought in very large quantities, and even became the sole distributor of the coated fiberglass parchment that I use.” Retromod carries a wide array of fiberglass colors, available in burnt orange, yellow, tangerine orange, white, turquoise, olive green, teal, ivory, pink, and red. Fancher welds all the shade frames,
(Instructional videos are found on YouTube under ‘Retromod Design Fiberglass Lamp Shades.’) ■ Photography: courtesy participating artists
and hand-paints all the colors and patterns, from simple arcs, multi-arcs, atomic starbursts, and crosshatch to matchstick patterns. Retromod mostly sells shades that are fully assembled. But also, in an effort to offer a lower-priced alternative, they market lampshade kits, which do require some assembly.
Modilumi Studio & retail location in Twin Cities, MN modilumi.com Meteor Lights Studio in San Francisco, CA meteorlights.com Retromod Design Studio in Eagle Creek, OR retromoddesign.com
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■MORE MODERN RENEWAL
Let there be light… and shade
12 lamps, fixtures and shades that bring a moody aura and classic look to MCM interiors
By Adriene Biondo
Thanks to an ever-changing mix of customizable and off-theshelf lighting, everything old is new again! Mid-century-inspired vendors are producing lamps, fixtures, and shades in a rainbow of fresh colors and updated patterns. Boomerangs and starbursts are being reintroduced and applied to functional, modern materials, breathing new life into old classics. From icons to eco-friendly products, there’s something to complement your vintage décor or contemporary interior. Here is just a sampling of what we found: 1 BIRTHDAY CAKE Meteor Lights’ dramatic fiberglass ‘Atomic Three-Tier Lampshade,’ nicknamed the ‘birthday cake,’ reflects the mid-century modern, Jetsons, Googie, biomorphic, and tiki style lamps of the postwar period. Color, pattern, size, and tier heights can all be customized. $90/up. meteorlights.com 2 QUINTESSENTIALLY QUISP Modilumi’s fiberglass-and-metal ‘Quisp Table Lamp 803’ has a distinctive style all its own. The hand-spun metal base has a powdercoated finish, paired with hardwood 22 C A M O D E R N
cap and solid brass neck. $265. (Shown here with shade #1871, 12 x 9 inches, sold separately.) Etsy store at modilumi.etsy.com
Lamp Plus’ Color + Plus Collection. Choose custom color table lamps, floor lamps, and wall lights with color-coordinated lampshades. Find off-the-shelf replacement shades, lamps, and bulbs to suit most any décor. $139. lampsplus.com
3 PRETTY IN PINK
5 SPACE AGE SPUTNIK
Retromod’s ‘2 Tier Fiberglass Lamp Shade’ from the fiberglass parchment used in the mid-century. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, including this pink crosshatch. Bottom tier: 15-inch diameter, 7-inch height. Top tier: 12-inch diameter, 2.5-inch height. Looks great on most table and floor lamps. $75. Etsy store at jetsetdesign.etsy.com
4 VA-VA-VERNACULIS ‘Vernaculis II Giclee Pendant Lamp,’ one example here of the approximately 100 color options from
‘Midround Sputnik’ 36-inch fixture from Practical Props, a longtime supplier of prop rentals for movies and TV, now specializing in restoration, rewiring, design, and manufacture of mid-century lighting. Stock up on hard-to-find ‘sparkler’ bulbs for sputniks too. Available in chrome, brass, black, bronze, and nickel. $399/up. practicalprops.com
6 BEEHIVE BEAUTY
eter linen shade, offered in sizes up to extra large. $198 (small). anthropologie.com
The idea behind the ‘Hive H20’ eco-friendly lighting is to create a honeycomb structure by fusing nature and biomaterials, offering a unique transition when the light
10 DIAMONDS THAT DAZZLE
Handmade, hand-dyed, handpainted, and hand-laced, Lounge Lizard sports this swanky line of 1950s fiberglass shades. Choose from ‘North Star,’ ‘Boomerang,’ ‘Star Burst,’ ‘Star Rose,’ ‘Marbilized,’ ‘Zig Zag,’ ‘Arcs,’ ‘Brushstroke,’ ‘Galaxy Bubbles,’ ‘Tiki Flowers,’ ‘Arabesque’ or ‘Diamonds’ (as shown here). pdxloungelizard.com 11 SCONCE OF SOPHISTICATION The ‘Rose Gold Cone Sconce’ features an elegant rose-gold backing plate that sets off this highstyle piece of lighting. Measures ten inches high, five inches wide, with a depth of five inches. Also offered in brushed nickel, antique brass, and polished nickel finishes.
11 9 1
is switched on and off. Made of 100 percent biodegradables. Polar white pendant, app. 8-inch height. $83. Etsy store at ayusdesign.etsy.com 7 FLYING SAUCER CLASSIC 2
George Nelson’s ‘Saucer Pendant Lamp’ is an iconic design that completes a room with its glowing, diffused light. Produced by Herman Miller using original specs and tooling. Ceiling-mounted fixture of minimal plastic polymer and steel construction. Available in 17.5-inch diameter up to 50 inches. $395/up. dwr.com
8 TOUCH-OF-TIKI TRIPOD The ‘Caracas Tripod Floor Lamp’ is dynamic yet light and airy, with a touch of both the 1950s and tiki. Blackened metal stems of differing heights are gathered with a bow-tie cuff in antique brass. Each stem supports a milk glass shade. $1,295. jonathanadler.com 9 DISTINCTIVELY DEMELZA The ‘Demelza Table Lamp’ is an import constructed with a decorative ceramic base offered in natural-with-tangerine or blue-gray colors. Featured with a nine-inch diameter base and 13-inch diam-
UL listed. $95. Etsy store at modcreationstudio.etsy.com 12 SO SLIM & STREAMLINE The ‘Libro XL Adjustable Wall Sconce Light’ features articulated arms that allow for a variety of positions, with a shade that swivels 180 degrees and rotates 360. Powder-coated steel shade in black, blue, or white, with choice of brass or aged-brass finish (pictured here in black/brass combo). Hand-crafted and assembled from solid brass and steel components. $210. Etsy store at raraforma.etsy.com C A M O D E R N 23
Behind the fog-shrouded mystique—why so many classic mid-century film noirs aimed their cameras toward Baghdad by the Bay
Story: Dan Smith
Even before some provocative American movies of the 1940s gave rise out of Europe to the term ‘film noir,’ observers had identified San Francisco, the colorful town they’d soon nickname ‘Baghdad by the Bay,’ as a place where such a thing could find ample modus operandi. Back in 1890, a character in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray comments, “It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.” Then, of course, there is whoever spent the coldest winter of their life one summer in San Francisco, a quip often attributed to Mark Twain. Turns out fog and missing persons are useful elements when creating atmospheric crime flicks. “San Francisco has always had an air of mystery about it,” says Eddie Muller, the undisputed ‘Czar of Noir’ who created the Noir City film festival, which he’s hosted each year since 2003 at the City’s Castro Theatre. “In terms of crime films, it was perfect.” The son of a San Francisco sportswriter, Muller was initially drawn to film noir because the casts reminded him of the hard-luck characters of the boxing world where his father hung out. “It wasn’t just in the movies—I knew people like that,” he recalled in a recent phone interview. “I was sort of fascinated with, ‘How does all this fit together?’” Of course, there are plenty of spellbinding film noirs staged in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, but the number and the quality of those set in the City by the Bay is pretty impressive. (See our sidebar on page 29 for recommendations.) “San Francisco is a good host for noir because it has a sense of a little bit of criminality in its reputation,” says Anita Monga, former longtime programmer for the Castro Theatre and current artistic director of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, who helped launch 24 C A M O D E R N
EERIE MIST. “San Francisco has always had an air of mystery about it,” says Eddie Muller, the San Francisco native and film noir aficionado behind the Noir City film festival held in San Francisco each year. The fog certainly plays a big role in conjuring up that mystique, as photographers Fred Lyon (top shot) and Ernie Braun (right) knew so well through their mid-century images of the City. the Noir City fest. “The fog rolling in is also extremely noir to me.” “It has this glamor side and it has this really gritty side,” says another local with a yen for noir, financial journalist Therese Poletti. When a noir is shot in San Francisco, she says, “It just adds this whole mystique.” “It’s a metropolitan city with a lot of different cultures piled on top of each other,” says Muller, who also hosts the Noir Alley program weekends on the Turner Classic Movies channel. Indeed, perhaps it has something to do with the City being the most European of all big American cities in the mid-century, when the French film press noticed and named the genre in 1946 before anyone knew it existed. BIRTH OF NOIR “No one in Hollywood who was making those movies called them film noir,” Muller notes, explaining that if the movie’s criminals were pros, it was a ‘crime thriller,’ whereas amateur killers
ROOST FOR A ‘FALCON’ The lengthy and authoritative Film Noir: The Encyclopedia lists ‘Stranger on the Third Floor’ (1940) as the first in the classic period for the style, running up through 1958. The genre’s roots in expressionism, however, suggest candidates as early as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lodger’ (1927) or Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ (1931). Some will argue that the classic period actually kicked off with a pair of
NOIR CLASSICS. ‘The Maltese Falcon’ (top right), which starred Humphrey Bogart in John Huston’s directorial debut, was an early film noir classic (1941) and arguably the most famous San Francisco movie ever. Above: Six years later, Bogart (with co-star Lauren Bacall) returned to the streets of San Francisco for ‘Dark Passage.’ Far left: Joan Crawford (in the driver’s seat) and Jack Palance on Lombard Street in the 1952 thriller ‘Sudden Fear.’ Top left: California and Powell streets, where cable cars may collide.
populated ‘murder dramas.’ Like many a social or artistic movement, some will say the genre existed for a decade or two before being permanently named. Given that these directors were making an unnamed but clearly different kind of movie, it’s no surprise that there is
debate about when this sinister style of cinema was hatched. Of course, that also depends on how you define this somewhat mysterious term, Muller admits, adding, “That debate over what it is is part of what has made it so popular.” “What designates a film as noir is
when the writer and the director tell the story from the criminal’s point of view,” Muller suggests in the reverent documentary film, ‘Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light’ (2006). While believing “people sometimes take the nomenclature too seriously,” Muller nonetheless has a firm opinion about the genre’s classic period: “The wave really hit in 1946, and it crested in 1949. Then it broke and was over by 1953.”
Humphrey Bogart movies from 1941, ‘High Sierra’ and ‘The Maltese Falcon,’ the latter being probably the most famous San Francisco film ever. “The 1941 version of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ is iconic and one of the best film noirs ever, since it so closely follows [author Dashiell] Hammett’s book,” Poletti says with admiration, conceding that the film was not shot on location but rather with sets styled to look like actual San Francisco locations. In particular though, she adds, scenes in detective Sam Spade’s office and the alley where his partner is killed, “even though they are sets, were great and evocative of the beauty and the darkness of SF.” C A M O D E R N 25
The ‘Falcon’s’ long rap sheet of admirers includes veteran film editor Carol Littleton. Interviewed in ‘Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light,’ Littleton marvels at how director John Huston and others on the production created “a world of extremes, of shadows, of extremes in emotion, working in sort of the seamy underbelly of San Francisco life.” Although Huston opted to use sets, Muller says mid-century production budgets increasingly planned for location shoots. When it came to the streets of San Francisco, “For Hollywood, it was an easy way to get an exotic look.” “When studios started shooting on location,” Poletti says, “San Francisco’s hilly streets, funky Victorians, palatial mansions, majestic bridges, the bay, and the waterfront provided great backdrops for any kind of scenario.” “San Francisco has always been a colorful town, built on the rambunctious riches of the Gold Rush,” observes another frequent visitor to Noir City, legal secretary Marco Place, interviewed by email. “By mid-century it was considered a metropolis of sophistication mixed with a bohemian underground,” writes Place. “Add to that the ambiance of fog-shrouded nights that cast long shadows, crooked lanes in Chinatown and the old Barbary Coast neighborhoods, and stunning architecture featuring sweeping Moderne lines and Art Deco lobbies.” Muller agrees that architecture and topography both have helped make his hometown the scene of the crime film. For cinematographers, he says, “LA is horizontal, San Francisco is not—it’s very vertical...If you’re making a film in 26 C A M O D E R N
PHENOMENAL SUCCESS. Forgotten and long lost, ‘Woman on the Run’ from 1950 (top left and right), shot primarily in San Francisco, became the first of some 30 film noirs restored by Eddie Muller (above) and the Noir City Foundation. Right: Behind the scenes of ‘Out of the Past’ (1947), with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, considered “a nearly perfect noir”—and of course filmed in various San Francisco locales. New York, the camera tilts up. If you’re making it in LA, the camera pans. But in San Francisco, it does both.” Bay Area geography and bridges are also assets, notes Muller, commenting, “There’s a real ‘head ‘em off at the pass’ thing in San Francisco.” THE CZAR’S ‘BABY’ A film Muller calls “my baby” was shot primarily in San Francisco for a very different reason. He says the magazine story that is the basis for ‘Woman on the Run’ (1950) was actually set in New York, and then the first screenplay draft put the story in New Orleans. The studio wanted noir starlet Ann Sheridan for the title role, so they moved the story to San Francisco to cut production costs in order to afford her. Muller recalls watching the film for
the first time on “a really bad VHS tape” and concluding, “I think this is a good movie, but I can’t really tell.” This set Muller and Monga off on a quest to find a better copy of what she calls “essentially a lost film.” With help from Universal Studios archivists, they eventually found it in storage and worked to restore and copy it. ‘Woman on the Run’ became the first of some 30 film noirs restored by an organization they started for that exact purpose, the Noir City Foundation. The project involved finding a duplicated negative print with no soundtrack in the British Film Institute archives and pairing it with sound from the Universal print. The restored film made its triumphant local debut in 2003 at the inaugural Noir City festival at the Castro.
“It was sensational. It really was a revelation,” he recalls, basking in the glory of having restored a little-known film that he describes as “a love story told in reverse, which is very odd.” For Poletti, the highlight of the film is a climactic roller coaster scene set at the old Playland at the Beach amusement park that is Continued pg 28
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■CAMODERNFLASHBACK CITY OF NOIR (continued from pg 26)
fraught with tension: “You’re just on the edge of your seat the whole time. It’s really well filmed.” “Another reason I love these movies, especially the ones in SF, is that they are photographic archives of the past, where you can see the city at the height of its sophistication and charm,” she added. Perhaps, but as with the ‘Maltese Falcon’ sets, the scenery can be deceiving: Muller concedes that much of the amusement park scene, including the roller coaster finale, was actually filmed at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica. Before ‘Woman on the Run’ was restored, he recalls, “It was a film that nobody knew anything about.” Muller wrote a few essays about it,
we saw smoke from the fire,” Monga recalls of the artistically destructive inferno that consumed some 40,000 film copies at the Universal back lot on June 1, 2008. “If we had never found it and left it alone, it would never have burned,” Muller confessed like a true noir protagonist, explaining that it would have been in a fireproof vault rather than in an archivist’s office. Undaunted, the Czar continues to hawk and preserve film noir on cable television and at what foundation staff call the “Noir City road show,” which brings the annual festival to seven cities in succession. “My job is to make these films fun and interesting to a younger audience,” he says of his oeuvre. Noir City is a social and entertain-
CITYSCAPE. Top: Director Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ (1958), shot extensively on location in San Francisco and starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, is considered a noir masterpiece. Above: Another noir of note, ‘The Lineup’ (1958) takes us on a thrill ride through the City before heading to its Ocean Beach climax at Sutro’s (formerly Baths - above right), immediately adjacent to the 1950s edition of the Cliff House (above left). word spread, and what he termed the “phenomenal success” of the foundation has given him international credibility, screening his baby for an appreciative audience at the Lyon Film Festival. Like all noir, however, there is no simple, happy ending to the story. A few years later, Muller and Monga were visiting Los Angeles again on behalf of the foundation. “We were driving out of town when 28 C A M O D E R N
ment highlight of the year for fans like Poletti and Place, devotees who save each program and sometimes attend the festival in multiple cities. “I met my husband at Eddie’s festival, so I’m very indebted to that,” Poletti says with noirish irony, noting that he and his father came to the Castro for the festival from their homes in Massachusetts. Of course, now the couple lives three blocks from the theater, which
TEN ON THE DARK SIDE WHILE MANY A MOVIE BUFF has expe-
rienced “the stuff that dreams are made of” as constituted by the elusive ‘Maltese Falcon,’ that Bogart classic was only the first of many fine film noirs set in San Francisco. Here are ten others worth screening for anyone who loves the Bay and a gritty crime film. 1 Born to Kill (1947) Before becoming master of the ‘60s movie musical, Robert Wise directed a few excellent noirs, including this unsavory melodrama pitting killer Lawrence Tierney against conniving witness Claire Trevor with easily identifiable locations from Nob Hill to the Ferry Building to Ocean Beach. 2 Dark Passage (1947) The steps and viewshed of Telegraph Hill along with the Malloch Building—its classic, Streamline Moderne apartment house—are truly co-stars of this BogartBacall vehicle. Subjective camerawork through bandages on Bogie’s face is both an asset and a liability for the film, but daringly executed.
5 The Lady from Shanghai (1948) Femme fatale Rita Hayworth ensnares co-star/director/real-life husband Orson Welles on a wild ride from New York’s Central Park to Mexico to SF’s Chinatown to a dramatic showdown in the house of mirrors at Playland at the Beach.
6 Woman on the Run (1950) Virtually forgotten before its restoration, a wide array of San Francisco locations are upstaged by the snappy repartee between housewife Ann Sheridan and reporter Dennis O’Keefe, much of it improvised. 7 The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) Another Robert Wise film, featuring Telegraph Hill views along with tortured flashback narration by heiress impersonator Valentina Cortese and atmospheric photography by Lucien Ballard. 8 Sudden Fear (1952) An Oscar-nominated performance by Joan Crawford climaxes in an ultra-suspenseful chase in high heels over San Francisco hills and through dark alleys, with femme fatale Gloria Grahame in hot pursuit.
3 Out of the Past (1947) A nearly perfect noir, with world-weary narrator Robert Mitchum torn between girlfriend Virginia Huston and vixen Jane Greer, unable to escape his past because of gangster Kirk Douglas (in only his second film) across a variety of California locales.
9 The Sniper (1952) Film noirs occasionally took progressive perspectives ahead of their time, and that is the case with this movie’s depiction of a mentally ill assassin (played by Arthur Franz), though director Edward Dmytryk made a bigger splash in the genre with ‘Murder My Sweet’ (1944).
4 Nora Prentiss (1948) Noir queen Ann Sheridan warns doctor Kent Smith that she’s no good, but that doesn’t inoculate him from a rash of bad decisions and a grim surprise ending to the film, which opens and closes with a sunny eastward shot of SF and the bay as backdrop.
10 The Lineup (1958) Opening with shots of the Embarcadero, some of the best images of 1950s San Francisco ever put on film are a highlight of this release from director Don
Siegel, who returned to town a few years later with some local named Clint for ‘Dirty Harry’ (1971).
TAKING AIM. Considered by some as a noir classic that arrived years ahead of its time (1952), ‘The Sniper’ (top right, above) starred Arthur Franz as a deranged gunman on the loose in San Francisco. Top left: Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt huddle under the Golden Gate Bridge in the ‘The Man Who Cheated Himself’ (1950). Left: Poster for the critically acclaimed noir ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ (1947), starring Rita Hayworth and directed by Orson Welles. exclaimed. “This changes everything, all our plans!” Yeah, that kind of thing happens often with these flicks, ma’am. ■
can be problematic for household routines. One night they strolled past en route to the supermarket when they spied the marquee. “Oh, my god, ‘High Sierra’!” she
• The 2020 edition of the Noir City film festival is slated for January 24 through February 2 at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. For film lineups and more, visit noircity.com. Photography: Fred Lyon, Ernie Braun, Eddie Muller; and courtesy Reel SF (reelsf.com), Rico Tee Archives C A M O D E R N 29
On the Homefront Walls to wrangle Emotions surround the do’s and don’ts of how to treat interior paneling
products on interior surfaces. Their stains made for interiors don’t come in the color I need.” “Since Cabot no longer makes the original ‘stain/wax’ solution for
While seeking out the ultimate ‘third rail’ topic of discussion among Eichler owners and fans, one would be hard pressed to ﬁnd a subject more controversial than interior paneling.
member called evergreen. “I found a product called ‘Easy Liquid Sander’ [W.M. Barr & Co.] that does a pretty good job of dissolving the current ﬁnish and evening out the color on the walls. “I used a stiff scrub brush to apply it to the walls, and cloth rags to spread it around and even out the surface. It makes a bit of a mess, so you will need to protect any furniture or ﬂoor that might be splashed, and wear good Playtex gloves to protect your hands.”
Opinions vary considerably, and a survey of the archive of our Eichler Network Chatterbox Lounge forum from over the years reveals no shortage of passion surrounding the do’s and don’ts of treating Eichler interior walls.
“After that,” evergreen continued, “I used a rub-on stain called Jel’d Stain that comes in a gray that matched the original pretty well. I used either a cloth rag or a sponge to apply it to the walls, and
“Regarding Eichlers, few things are more upsetting than hearing that another one was ruined by destroying the paneling. It’s like cutting the mahogany tree down all over again,” fumed a member named Dave. “When searching for an Eichler of our own, it made me furious each time we saw a house that was original, but [the paneling] was painted on the recommendation of the stupid real estate agent. It’s too bad this isn’t a felony.” While not everyone would criminalize the issue, Dave is far from the only observer who considers painting the wall panels inside an Eichler to be a major mistake. Joe Eichler used Philippine mahogany, now called lauan paneling, in the interior of his houses, especially the early ones. The panels were coated with an oil-based stain made by Cabot that, unfortunately, is no longer available. This presents a dilemma that has sent many homeowners to the Chatterbox for answers. “I was wondering if there is anyone else who has gray paneling in their Eichler home and what they have done to restore it,” queried a member with the name Omnispace. “I’ve tried talking to Cabot Stains, but they don’t recommend using their exterior
30 C A M O D E R N
so some are more on the red side, some on the yellow side. Make sure you pick ones that match.” “It can be tricky replacing a single panel on a wall,” warned a member named Jake. “In my experience, the new lauan panels are a slightly different thickness than the old, which makes connecting into corner quarter-rounds tricky. Also, there were several different stain tints originally, so even getting an original panel from someone else might require some extra work on that front.” Of course, some people ﬁnd the stained mahogany either too difﬁcult to restore or too dark to abide. “I’ll probably get shot for saying this, but for us, painting over the paneling was one of the best design decisions we made,” admitted a reader named Cathye, who painted her walls Navaho White. “We searched for three years to ﬁnd furniture that would actually look good against the woody walls, and ﬁnally gave up...In the end, the hubby let me paint the walls. What a difference.” “If we had not painted the walls, we would probably be sitting on orange crates,” she concluded.
LAUAN LOVERS. Above: It’s a happy moment, here in the 1950s, as new interior wall paneling is installed. Top: Today, lots of folks believe: “It’s time to brighten up—and paint those dark walls white.” the [cleaning of] lauan paneling, over the past few years I’ve heard a lot of conﬂicting solutions for reinvigorating and restoring the lauan paneling,” commented a member called wbisset. “Would love to hear what others have tried successfully and unsuccessfully.”
rubbed it in pretty thin so that the grain shows through nicely. As the ﬁnal step, I rubbed on a coating of Howard’s Feed and Wax to give it nice matte, but rich ﬁnish. We also replaced some of the paneling at the same time with new lauan panels, and these ended up matching too!”
Fortunately for Omnispace and wbisset, a few readers have shared solutions.
When it comes to replacing panels, member tborselino wrote, “Southern Lumber in San Jose carries lauan panels that are a good match for the originals. They’re unstained. They seem to get them from a couple different sources,
“I experimented with a number of different techniques and ended up with a couple that worked pretty well together,” wrote a
“The paneling was already painted in my Eichler, so I was saved the decision regarding restoring it,” contributed Randy Feriante of Dura-Foam Rooﬁng and Solar Center. “My feeling is, we are individuals, living in our own homes...If we make changes and enjoy our homes more, we have made a good choice.” And the controversy continues to this day. –Dan Smith • For more reading about your home’s original lauan paneling, and for additional tips to restore it, see the archived story ‘Lauan’s Lost Love’ at EichlerNetwork.com Photography: David Toerge; and courtesy Rico Tee Archives.
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nBLAST FROM TH E PAST
UNSUNG MASTERS OF THE MID-CENTURY CALIFORNIA GOOGIE DESIGNERS By Dan Smith
If there was ever an aspect of American design for which practitioners were bound not to receive due credit, it’s that goofynamed, gloriously whimsical offshoot of Streamline Moderne architecture that came to be known as Googie. “Keep in mind that architecture critic Douglas Haskell coined the term and promptly wrote a damning review of the new architecture,” notes restoration consultant Adriene Biondo of the style’s auspicious naming in 1952. Architect John Lautner’s design of Googies coffee shop (1949)
HELEN LIU FONG
While Armét, Davis, and junior partner Victor Newlove generally designed the exteriors, Fong joined the firm in 1951 and created interiors of the company’s highest profile projects. Born in the Los Angeles Chinatown and educated at both UCLA and UC Berkeley, Fong became what Newlove called “the guiding influence who kept the firm going.” She was known for attention to detail, including interior walls painted colorfully enough to attract attention from passersby. Her signature project was the Holiday Bowl (1958) on Crenshaw Boulevard, with Japanese décor that made it an asset to that population’s postwar assimilation.
Along with Lautner, McAllister was one of the first architects to introduce the rocketry and space forms and fins popular on mid-century cars into his architecture. He brought it to a fledgling Las Vegas Strip in designing its first resort hotel, the El Dorado (1941). He spread that signature ‘Sin City’ style in designing the Desert Inn, Sands, and Fremont hotels in the 1950s. He also originated the much-imitated circular design for drivein restaurants. Still, probably his best-known work is the Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Burbank (1949), now a rare Googie state landmark.
ARMÉT & DAVIS
PEREIRA & LUCKMAN
In the beginning there was John Lautner’s coffee shop, but the prolific Armét & Davis went on to become undisputed masters of that form. Founded in 1947 by University of Southern California graduates Louis Armét and Eldon Davis, the partnership designed scores of spiffy restaurants with room-length counters and space-themed signage. One was the much-admired Ships in Westwood that sparked belated appreciation for Googie design upon being demolished in 1984. While the firm’s 4,000 buildings also included churches and flashy bowling alleys, its biggest impacts were with chains, like Denny’s, Norm’s, and Bob’s Big Boy.
Although his Fontana-based firm focused primarily on civic buildings, probably no Googie designer is more unsung for his impact on the American landscape than this Oxnard native. That’s because in mid-career, the brothers McDonald hired Meston to create a signature look for their small restaurant chain. Meston’s development of two glowing yellow arches extends worldwide today, and yet he is seldom credited. Meston previously worked on the CBS Television City complex (1937), but made a questionable decision when offered a choice of flat fee or commission (for each set of McDonald’s arches built). He chose the fee.
Was there ever a more Googie moment than flying into LAX in the ‘60s and ‘70s and being greeted by its magnificent Theme Building (1961), the ultimate edifice of the style? It was like being a character in the movies ‘Sleeper’ or ‘Star Wars.’ That imagery came courtesy of this firm’s astounding assemblage of design talent, including William Pereira, Charles Luckman, Paul Williams, Welton Becket, as well as James Langenheim, who reportedly first conceived the spiderlike structure. Its restaurant has since closed, but the landmark building’s observation deck is still open weekends for visitors.
32 C A M O D E R N
on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles prompted Haskell to apply its name to an emerging style that had begun to be called Populuxe, but might also have been labeled Space Age or Jetsons style if not for his story making fun of it in House and Home magazine. So was launched a checkered reputation of these classic coffee shops, bowling alleys, and other sites that regrettably continues to this day, as many have met the wrecking ball—including Googies itself. “I still feel Googie is undervalued and largely misunderstood,” Biondo points out, describing it as her favorite architectural style. While helping
us pick ten unsung designers who best illustrate its underrated importance, she commented, “Some people still do not regard Googie as true architecture, often dismissing it as kitschy or whimsical.” “Googie design is exciting, I never tire of it,” she says enthusiastically. “There’s an honesty and frankness to the postwar architects’ ingenuity and unique vision of Googie that just takes my breath away.” So with that, let’s all take a deep breath, turn on the lava lamps, adjust our space helmets, and take a trip back to the dawning of the Space Age, Googie style.
GIN D. WONG
Although this native of Guangzhou, China, was involved in creating some of the most iconic silhouettes on the California skyline, a great irony of Googie is that Wong is best known for a Beverly Hills gas station. As an associate in two firms led by William Pereira, Wong worked on the Television City studio complex, the Theme Building, and the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco (1972). None is more startling, though, than the parabolic Union 76 station (1965) that appears to be taking off from the corner of Little Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Drive.
A master collaborator of the ‘Googieverse,’ Honnold was sort of Hollywood’s go-to architect of the style. The Montreal native designed noteworthy homes for actress Dolores Del Rio and studio head Samuel Goldwyn along with the stars’ dressing room and a sound stage at Twentieth Century Fox. His iconic Tiny Naylor’s drive-in (1949) at Sunset and La Brea was regrettably razed in 1984. Among Honnold’s most frequent partners was John Lautner, whom he pooled talent with for the Beverly Hills Club, the award-winning Embassy Shop, and two Coffee Dan’s. Their final collaboration? Honnold’s widow married Lautner.
HARRY HARRISON Though Frank Lloyd Wright did not practice Googie design, some of the architects who studied at his Taliesin Institutes did, including Harrison, who went on to become an occasional collaborator with fellow Wright associates Harwell Hamilton Harris and Richard Neutra. The Chips coffee shop (1957) Harrison designed in southern L.A. County is renowned for its signage: the neon letters appear to follow you when cruising past on Hawthorne Boulevard. His Ritt’s Furniture building (1947) on Santa Monica Boulevard was also very innovative. That structure still stands—but like Googie itself, was underappreciated and has been altered substantially.
MARTIN STERN, JR.
POWERS, DALY & DEROSA
No place on earth has been influenced more by Googie design than the Las Vegas Strip, where many a modern architect left a dramatic impression. Stern was certainly one, designing the Mint Hotel (1957, now part of Binion’s), the Sahara Hotel skyscraper (1959) and subsequent additions, and the MGM Grand hotel (1973, now Bally’s). After three terrific Ships coffee shops he did with Armét & Davis were destroyed in the ‘80s and ‘90s, increased recognition of Googie as preservationworthy saved his wonderful Mission Hills Bowl building (1957) in 2016.
Bowling as a recreation dates back to ancient Egypt, but for centuries was enjoyed, like darts and billiards, almost exclusively by men in smoky taverns. The advent of Prohibition spread the pastime to American families, a change soon stylishly accommodated by hundreds of spiffy, Googie-style alleys. No one did them better than this Long Beach-based company led by principal architect Gordon Powers. The Oregon native’s firm facilitated the game’s meteoric rise with inviting, neon-clad family entertainment emporiums, some of which still stand, including the Covina Bowl and the Friendly Hills Bowl (now a Beverages and More).
Thanks to Adriene Biondo and Alan Hess for assistance in selecting our roster of masters Photography: courtesy Rico Tee Archives
C A M O D E R N 33
CHERRY . . . America’s Queen of Modernism, Manners and Mirth!
Dear Cherry, What are your favorite tools in your main kitchen drawer? –Inspector Gadget Dear Inspector, My kitchen drawer used to be filled to the brim with many tools of the trade, but I eventually found out that drawer became so stuffed that I couldn’t close it. I then began to just stick to the basic tools and eliminate most of the superfluous ones. On my counter, I have a ceramic container that has a favorite large wooden spoon from France, a slotted spoon, a spatula, and a whisk. In the main drawer, I keep my utensils and important knives: an expert culinary
them during the subsequent month, then it may be time to donate them to charity. Just how many corkscrews does one really need? Pick the one that works best and release the rest. Eliminating clutter and excess will make your job preparing food easier—and besides, you’ll feel lighter. In a box, far out of sight, I keep all of my ‘entertainment-focused’ accouterments: pastry servers, punch ladles, tongs, and a few sentimental tools (like my perfectly engineered turquoise 1960s egg beater!). Summing it all up in the words of Heloise Cruse of ‘Hints from Heloise,’ “Simplicity is the answer to our problems.”
If you are throwing a party, or even if you run a restaurant, bar, or shop, remember the importance of putting visitors at ease with sideshow visuals. But, please, let’s get more creative than TV sports! When I throw a party, my TV provides accompaniment with a classic video fireplace on the screen during winter holidays, and really old-school cartoons for summer soirees. And you? Depending on your situation or company, you could try a classic TV commercial mix, campy classroom instructional videos, musicals from the midcentury, even in-concert performances of classic singers (Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. all come to mind). Why such crooners? Because you do not have
Dear Cherry, Are you concerned about survival? What kinds of rations do you keep in your emergency cupboard? –Crazy Homesteader In Cupertino Dear Crazy, Yes, I am a survivalist. Why, my hair alone has enough preservatives in it to keep me a redhead for years! But the truth is I do believe in a wellstocked pantry, and there are a few staple items I would not be without. These items are handy in case of a last-minute guest drop-in—or for a real honest-to-goodness emergency. And anyone who lives in earthquake country would be crazy not to have some vital supplies ready to go. Here are some key essentials I have on hand: • Canned items: various soups, organic diced fried tomatoes, vegetable stock, coconut milk, cream • Reconstitutable items: assorted beans and grains, quinoa, wild rice • Dried items: tons of teas, nuts and seeds • Super supplements: spirulina (chlorella powders pack enough protein and amino acids to keep you going ad infinitum) • Sweets: raw cane sugar; raw honey has lasted for centuries in the pyramids, so I like to have few large jars of local honey on hand as well • Lots of bottled water Well-stocked shelves are not the end of the game. Access to a victory garden is also practical. I also have pickling and fermenting supplies ready at hand.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE. Above left: Cherry ponders her kitchen drawer essentials, like these. Above right: TV with a little ‘go-go.’ Bottom right: Spirulina superfood, one of Cherry’s emergency essentials “to keep you going.” chef’s knife, a good paring knife, and a serrated blade. That is it! Gone is my wood block with six or seven assorted specialty knives. I discovered that I used those knives very little, because I always seemed to go back to my favorite three pieces of cutlery. In addition, I highly recommend getting magnetic sheaths for your good knives to keep them from getting nicked by accident in the drawer. In my secondary drawer, you’ll find several less-used items: a can opener, a bottle opener, measuring cups and spoons, and a few other specialty items. I recommend taking everything that you do not deem absolutely essential and put those items in a bag, away from the kitchen, for a month. If you do not need
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Dear Cherry, Why is it that every place we go now has sports on the TV? It’s not just happening in sports bars—it’s even in ﬁne restaurants! –Sick of Sports Dear Sick, It’s because restaurants and bars have learned what all good hosts know—people like to be entertained in ways that don’t tax their mental capacity. This trend of public TV watching sets a calm, relaxed mood, and may even help with liquor sales! In the old days, a ‘go-go girl’ at the local bar would suffice, but that titillating sideshow may not be as appropriate for modern times. So sports programming has become the de facto non-confrontational visual form of sideshow entertainment.
to actually hear them to be entertained by their unique stage presence. You could also play reruns of 1960s and ‘70s kids shows, like ‘Penelope Pitstop,’ ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’—and even ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’! I especially like the easy, relaxed visuals of ‘Endless Summer’ surf videos (hey, and that’s a sport!), or almost any American International Pictures (AIP) movie. They made all sorts of terrific movies, from ‘B’ to beach party faves.
I also have a vast library of recipe books to inspire me to get creative when I hit the cooking doldrums. If you prefer not to have the clutter of a lot of books on your shelves, remember, your local library has tons of recipe books that you can check out for a couple of weeks. Lastly, I have a few fun retro gadgets on hand in case the power goes out, such as a steam distiller, hand-crank blender, and food grinder/processor. Many fun, old-fashioned food tools can be found at estate sales and antique stores. Remember, there was a century or two before electricity. • For more Cherry, visit CherryCapri.com Photography: Taso Papadakis, Cherry Capri
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Welcome to the Winter 2020 issue of the Eichler Network's CA-Modern Magazine, dedicated to the home maintenance, remodeling, and furnishing...
Published on Dec 13, 2019
Welcome to the Winter 2020 issue of the Eichler Network's CA-Modern Magazine, dedicated to the home maintenance, remodeling, and furnishing...