In Memoriam: Sharon Shore (1943-2020), Costume Chair 2012-2015

It is with great sadness that I report the untimely passing of my friend and colleague, Sharon, on September 26, 2020, from cancer. Many of you remember her as the Costume Chair before she moved to San Simeon. She also wrote a column in this newsletter from time to time. 

Sharon at Hearst Castle copyI know she took pride in helping the Historical Society with the costume collection, and I was so grateful that she was there for you all when I had to return to England in 2013. Before COVID-19, she enjoyed her jaunts to Los Angeles, and walking and knitting with Julie Lugo Cerra.

In San Simeon, Sharon created a beautiful home by the sea and a stunning studio in downtown Cambria, where she worked on all manner of creative projects. She was a revered textile conservator and mentor, and her clients were numerous, including the Getty Museum, the Broad Museum, Hearst Castle, the Fowler Museum, and the soon to open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

I was honored to spend her last week with her in San Simeon, and Sharon’s last words to me were “No regrets.” Since most of her family is in Missouri, they will be holding their own celebration next year when they can gather. Sharon wished to be cremated. I am hoping to honor her on her birthday, March 1, 2021, if we are able to gather then.

Louise Coffey-Webb
Lifetime Member
Former President and former Costume Chair

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Recent Acquisitions – Fall 2020

We have recently grown the Historical Society’s collection thanks to our amazing community of friends and members.

Last year, The Culver Studios and Hackman Capital Partners began conversations with the Society to discuss the future of four cinematic historic windows that had been hidden away for 80 years at The Culver Studios. One was from Gone with the Wind (1939), which can be seen in the final scene after Rhett has left Scarlett and she climbs the massive staircase. The other three are from The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), directed by Orson Wells. 

It became evident during preliminary discussions with Steve Auer, VP of Operations for The Culver Studios, that the remodeling of the lot was prompting the urgency to find a home for all four windows. With the help of Society member Karim Sahli, we got to work figuring out a pressing challenge: If we got these massive set pieces, where would we store them, and how would we move them? While working through several scenarios, I received another call informing me that The Culver Studios and Hackman Capital Partners decided to restore the Gone with the Wind window and the two largest windows from the Ambersons and put them up for display on the lot. Historic preservation is alive and well in Culver City! 

Steve then informed me that Hackman Capital wanted to gift our Historical Society the smaller of the Ambersons windows. Because our storage space is at a premium, there was some relief with their decision. After board approval and an introduction from past president Louise Coffey-Webb, we engaged the services of Elizabeth Patt of Patt Conservation to begin the preservation process. With restoration complete, we plan to install it in the Archives and Resource Center over the holidays and cannot wait to reopen for everyone to see.

If you lived on Fairbanks in the Lindbergh Park neighborhood, you might remember Woody and Martha Tolkien. Woody worked in Hollywood as a character actor, seen in hundreds of films. Their son, Eric, reached out to donate some wonderful pieces of Culver City history! We are excited to now have Culver Junior High yearbooks from 1955-57, a sign from MGM Studios, and a trolley stop sign. The Tolkiens were also longtime friends of another Fairbanks resident, Fred Parrish. (No relation to yours truly). Fred was a motion picture still photographer, and Eric donated many items of Fred’s that were used in his craft, and many photos that were part of Fred’s collection. Thank you, Eric!

Some time back a fellow Property Master, Tim Wiles, saw me at a prop house and said, “I have something for you…” While working on Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula on the Sony lot in 1991, he noticed a high stack of original seats from the original MGM theater on the main lot, the Cary Grant Theater, ready to be hauled away from outside of Stage 20. After asking if he could have a set of seats, they took up residence in his living room for a couple years, and then found their way to his storage unit where they sat for the next 20 years. When Tim heard about my connection with the Culver City Historical Society, he knew where the seats needed to go next. I called Chuck Eskridge, Hollywood stand-by painter and generational resident of Culver City, to ask if the seats could be restored to their original luster so we could display them in the ARC—which he did beautifully! We look forward to inviting you back to the archives to sit for a spell. Thank you, Tim and Chuck!

Laura (Ackerman) Shaw, Culver City High School 1977 graduate and childhood resident of the Lindbergh Park neighborhood, came across fan mail for Red Skelton while going through her mother’s possessions. Laura shared with us that her mother worked for Mr. Skelton and has donated 50-plus pieces of fan mail addressed to Mr. Skelton to the Society! Some of the letters were addressed to MGM Studios, but the majority were to his office in the Culver Hotel. Laura also donated a beautiful haberdashery display case that was her mother’s. Our VP of Museum and Archives, Tami Eskridge, cannot wait to add these items for display. Thank you to Laura and the Ackerman Family!

As a cinematographer, Mark Morris, Historical Society Media Archives Chair, has documented many people and filmed lots events of our local history. Mark has done a yeoman’s job digitizing these videos, building up our YouTube channel with videos featuring Red Skelton, Fred Machado, the Helms 1995 reunion, and our Sister Cities Kaizuka Project. Mark has also begun a new project for the Society, generously pairing his cinematic talents with interviewing local residents who have stories to share. If you have or know someone with a great story of our city’s history that could be lost, please email us. Collections are not built just with actual items, but also by documenting and continuing to build our oral histories.

Lastly (for now!), did you attend our program on Hollywood backdrops last year, which included four backings that the Society was gifted? (If you missed it, it can be viewed on our YouTube channel.) Following the program, we were contacted by Thomas Walsh of the Art Directors Guild, offering us a few more backdrops. Ever resourceful and always with a great idea, Mark reached out to our landlords at Veterans Memorial Building and Heather Moses, CCUSD Arts Coordinator, to inquire whether these backdrops might be of interest to the city’s public spaces. While these are ongoing discussions, it highlights that we at the Society continue to get creative in making room for all these wonderful pieces of Culver City history. If we can help find good homes for some pieces that will be cared for and used for education, we are happy to share the wealth!

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Fall 2020 Message

Dear Members and Friends,

Hope ParrishIt’s hard to believe that nine months have gone by since your Historical Society’s Archives and Resource Center (ARC) was last open to the public. We miss you! While Culver City (and Los Angeles County) slowly moves into next phases of reopening, Veterans Memorial Building remains closed to the public.

While we do not believe that we will permitted to reopen before the New Year, we felt it was time to share updates of the goings-on with your Society because we have found safe ways to stay busy in quarantine! The board continues to meet each month via Zoom. Since our January installation of the board, Mara (Sherman) Bommarito, long-time Culver City resident and CC High School 1976 graduate, has joined as secretary. Welcome, Mara!

Dennis Parrish, VP of Programs (and my dad), had been working on the programs for the 2020 General Meetings when the pandemic put a halt in plans to host these presentations to the public in-person. Unfortunately, Dennis will be stepping down at the end of 2020. He has created so many programs over the years, which we know many of you have attended and enjoyed. This position is essential to the Society, highlighting local history and its residents. If you love research and are interested in Culver City’s history, this might be for you. Drop us an email and let’s chat!

The pandemic has forced us to reassess how we reach our members and friends, including how we deliver our programs, the print newsletter, and these email blasts. We continue to discuss steps to adjust and evolve, including moving to a digital newsletter. Printed newsletters will not go away entirely, but maybe mailed on an annual basis. If you have strong feelings on this, please email us. We want to hear from you!

In our Spring newsletter we announced plans to moderately increase membership dues in 2021. Because we have all felt the effects of the pandemic in our own personal ways, the Board felt that this was not the time raise dues, and so will continue at the same rates through 2021. If you are able, we encourage and appreciate you joining or renewing your membership online, and you can also help by shopping our online store. (We have great holiday gifts!) We can’t do this without you.

As we continue to grow our collection through generous donations, our volunteers have continued to carefully enter them into our database. With so many wonderful new items I wrote an article for our website with fun photos. We continue to plan for an ARC reopening as soon as it is safe to do so, and we cannot wait to welcome you back! If you have considered volunteering, there many opportunities to help.

On behalf of the board I would like to express our sincerest gratitude to the first responders, front-line and essential workers, our CCUSD teachers, and our city employees for all the hard work and dedication that they continue to give through these extremely hard times. To any of you who have lost loved ones during this trying time, you have our deepest sympathies.

As we move into the holidays, please continue to follow health guidelines and safe practices. We will get through this one day at a time, together.

With continued best wishes,

Hope Parrish, President

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Marking Our Diverse History

Charles Reyes Lugo, my father, was the youngest of eight children born to Mercurial and Rita Reyes Lugo on the local Lugo Ranch. My little brother and I could count on visits annually to the LA County Museum to visit the early Californio exhibits that included a portrait of ancestors like Don Antonio Maria Lugo, from whom there is a direct line. The Lugo family is recognized by the Pobladores as Early Californio settlers. As descendants, we developed a sense of pride in our Spanish history, which was enhanced by Culver City’s La Ballona Days that began in the 1950s. We were not limited to just one line in our ancestry, however.

Even in the early days, this land became what I call “an oasis within the urban metropolis.” And how do we know this? Local directories in early years listed names that were Asian, English, German, Spanish, etc. Although we celebrate our Hispanic history, Culver City developed from a rich, broader heritage. And what kind of food do we enjoy? We all know the names of a favorite taco stand, but then there are Italian restaurants, and Japanese and Chinese along with many others. We clearly know that we don’t have to limit our experiences by heritage!

Although I enjoyed visiting relatives on the Lugo Ranch as a child, it was not until my parents’ later years that I learned more about my father and his experiences on the ranch where he was born. He not only worked in the fields, and at the Lugo Ranch Stand, he also went to school and delivered fresh vegetables to locals. Included in their customer base were many Asian families who invited people like my father, a young delivery boy at the time, to sit at their tables and enjoy their food, where he became a chopsticks pro!   

In his later years, Daddy began to share more stories about his youth. It came in very handy, especially when he was joining us for dinner. I kept chopsticks on hand and I will never forget the great memories made by a grandpa teaching his little granddaughter how to use them, as he told stories of growing up on a portion of Rancho La Ballona, which became Culver City.

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That’s Entertainment

It was 1974 and I was 14 years old. I was visiting a security guard named Ken Hollywood, at MGM’s East Gate. He handed me a pencil and paper, saying “Two fellas will be coming out soon that you will want to meet!” And that was it.

Growing up in Culver City, I spent almost all my time on the back lots, either being chased, or just hanging out, watching as TV shows and movies got filmed. We were sharing stories together at this gate when, lo and behold, a Rolls Royce driven by Fred Astaire slowly rolled to a stop. Ken waved to Fred as we approached him with paper in hand. He graciously signed his name, shook my hand, and drove off.

When I thought things couldn’t get better, an old Chevy Impala appeared. I was not even thinking this was a star since his car was no better than my dad’s, but I did a double take and couldn’t believe my eyes — it was Gene Kelly! He yelled out to me, “Let me pull over so we can talk.”

“What was your favorite movie of all time to be part of?” I excitedly asked.

“I’m gonna surprise you,” Mr. Kelly responded. “It’s not a musical.”

After a long pause he said, “The Three Musketeers.”

“That’s my favorite, too!” I exclaimed.

“All the athletic preparation needed to make it look real was more difficult than almost any of my dance numbers,” he added.

“I love that show. You look like you were born with a sword in your hand,” I said. “You’re very athletic, and I can’t help but admire your skill.”

He then shared his love of baseball. The Pirates were his team.

I told him, “When it rains we sneak into the backlot and dance on the same cobblestone street where you performed Singing in the Rain. Well, mostly we just splash and sing.”

I was probably blushing as I giggled, and then he smiled that wonderful, iconic smile.

Donald blogs at phantomofthebacklots.com.

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