Driving. That seems to be the main thing people in the greater Los Angeles area do. We spent the night in Anaheim – waved at Disneyland as we passed by – and drove to Long Beach. Long Beach is the largest of the “suburbs” of Los Angeles. I worked on a project there for six months or so in 1984, and my Dad went to high school and college in Long Beach.
There was one primary reason to visit Long Beach – Ski Demski’s house. Ski is one of the most patriotic Americans who has ever lived. He died in 2002, so we weren’t sure if we would be able to find his house or his flag pole, but the first person we asked knew right where it was. Mike told us: “Go down to Fourth Street and turn left.” I asked “And what do we do next?” He replied: “Oh, that’s all you need to know. You can’t miss it.”
When we turned off Long Beach Boulevard onto Fourth Street, we saw rows of one and two-story businesses and homes, and towering 132-feet above was the biggest flag pole ever built in a residential neighborhood with a gigantic 30-foot by 60-foot flag proudly flying. We could see how some of the neighbors complained and took Ski to court back in 1980, but how great that Ski won and “The Pole” stayed.
Ski’s house at 402 Lime Avenue in Long Beach is red, white, and blue and signs proclaim it to be “The North Pole.” The flagpole measures close to two-feet in diameter at the base, and it is titled “The Pole.” A variety of birds live in the home, and Ski’s Airstream motor home, fully covered in metallic bumper stickers designed by Ski, sits out front. There is a statue of Ski and Peppy the parrot out front as well as several plaques and awards.
Santa Claus look-alike Ski was a Character with a Capital C. He ran for mayor of Long Beach every election, but he usually managed less than 100 votes. It seems that everyone in town knew of him, however.
Ski was extremely patriotic. He had the world’s largest flag made, so designated by the Guinness Book of World Records. Ski called it Superflag. It measures 505-feet by 225-feet and weighs 3,000 pounds! Each star is 17-feet high. It takes 500 people to unfurl it. We hoped to get a photo of the flag, but Boz and I were 498 people short on this Sunday morning.
For over 18 years, Superflag has provided audiences around the United States with excitement and awe-inspiring patriotism with displays and events that feature our American flag. Ski’s Superflag and Superflag, Jr. have been featured at events such as NFL Super Bowls, Major League Baseball World Series and All-Star Games, college bowl games, military events, the Desert Storm “Welcome Home” Parade in Hollywood, and more. Ski was especially proud to be the only California unit in President Bush’s Inaugural Parade.
Ski had a tattoo of the American flag inked onto his chest, incorporating an old scar as the flagpole. Next to it, he tattooed “In Case of Emergency,” and the phone numbers of his doctors. When one of the numbers changed, Ski had the old number redlined out and the new one tattooed on. Like I said, a Capital C.
Ski died last year, and folks were concerned that his legacy would die with him. But Ski left explicit instructions about what was to be done at his death, and then the locals rallied to raise money to keep Ski’s work alive. Believe it or not, Ski’s body was on display in a glass-topped coffin in his garage for two days so folks could see the American flag tattoo on his chest. His funeral was attended by over 1,000 people at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. And his ashes were placed inside the golden eagle atop “The Pole.” For more information on the Superflag and Ski Demski, see www.superflag.com.
We knew the day would go downhill from here. We snapped a photo of the World’s Largest Mural – a 360-degree mural of whales that wraps a big round building in Long Beach. We had seen the Queen Mary before, but we stopped to take a photo. The Queen Mary was the biggest cruise ship for a long time, but a modern cruise ship was docked next to it, and the Queen Mary didn’t look huge in comparison. We saw a Russian submarine on display next to the Queen Mary, and we snapped a photo of the area where the Long Beach Grand Prix is held in downtown Long Beach.
I remembered an incredible hamburger from my days in Long Beach, and the car took us right to Hof’s Hut – a restaurant and bakery. I had the CheddarBurger, and it was exceptional. We had to try their pies, and the Banana Cream Pie was great. When you order a “piece of pie,” they bring you an entire mini-pie that is about the same size as three pieces of everyone else’s pie. Josie was our server. Hof’s Hut was started in the 1940’s. See www.hofshut.com.
While we have exchanged Christmas cards for the last 19 years, that has been the only contact with Bill and Vicki Dawson. I presented Bill with a business proposition back in 1984, and then I worked with Bill and Vicki to breathe life into RPI. I had an apartment in Long Beach and commuted back and forth to Dallas. Bill and Vicki are two of the nicest people in the world, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with them 19 years ago, and I am sorry that neither of us worked to maintain regular contact.
One quick story about Bill. He’s a conservative man, and he does a number of things in a particular way. I noticed that his uniform of choice was white shirt, striped tie, khaki pants, cordovan penny loafers, and navy blazer. I never thought much about it until Bill’s secretary of many years, Marianne, joined RPI. We were talking one day about an important event and the need for us to wear suits. Marianne wasn’t sure if Bill even had a suit; she said the only thing she had seen him wear in umpteen years was a white shirt, striped tie, khaki pants, cordovan penny loafers, and navy blazer. She went on to tell a great story about one Halloween. In California, many companies dress up for Halloween. Unknown to Bill, the 20 or so people in his office at the time got together, and they all dressed for Halloween as “Bill Dawson” – all wearing a white shirt, striped tie, khaki pants, cordovan penny loafers, and navy blazer. Funny!
As we drove through Long Beach, I was thinking that we should call Bill and Vicki. We did. Though they weren’t dressed or looking to entertain guests on a Sunday morning, they invited us over. We thoroughly enjoyed getting caught up on what’s happened with them over the last 19 years. We got to meet their lovely daughter, Jill, but we just missed meeting Claire. I was flabbergasted to learn that RPI, the company that Bill, Vicki and I founded, is still going strong, and they’ve been running it for 19 years! I last spoke with Bill maybe 15 years ago, and he said he was about to sell it. I was so pleased to learn that the business has been extremely successful.
Bill and Vicki have a truly special home that they were able to buy after the owner died and Bill happened to be in the right place at the right time while pushing Jill in her baby stroller. A number of movies and commercials have used the home; Donnie Darko was the most recent movie. We loved the tour. One of the terms of the deal was that a portrait of the former owner, Leonie Prey, was to always remain on display in the home. Bill and Vicki have kept their word, though the portrait hangs in a narrow hallway just outside a bathroom that is probably best described as a closet. It was wonderful to see the Dawsons!
We hoped to see old friends, Judi and Geoff Hendricks, but knew that they were out of town for a wedding in Sonoma. We decided to call and leave a voice mail, but much to our surprise, they answered the phone. They had just walked in the door! Really poor timing for us, as we had already headed north on the I-405 toward LA. Maybe we can wrangle a visit on the next leg of the drive. Judi and Geoff lead very interesting lives that anyone would envy. Judi is a writer who spends a lot of her “spare time” at speaking engagements and book signings. Her first novel, “Bread Alone,” sits proudly on our coffee table at home; her next release is on the book shelves in June, “Isabel’s Daughter;” and she is currently penning a sequel to her first offering. We are so proud of her! Check out her website at www.judihendricks.com.
More driving – up the 405 to LA. The next stop was very important to me as Boz and I were the founders of a new donut franchise that we sold during the Round America trip. Randy’s Donuts in LA is a donut institution because of the World’s Largest Donut that sits atop the building – 22-feet in diameter. The donut shop has appeared in countless movies and videos. It’s the kind of thing that makes a place special that most towns in America will no longer allow due to perhaps misguided zoning requirements and sign ordinances. I certainly love seeing the creativity that people have used to promote their businesses in the old days, but few cities allow this today.
Even more driving. We spent the rest of the day driving around Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Bel-Air. We drove the length of the 27-mile Sunset Boulevard/Sunset Strip. California drivers are terrible, and there are a significant number of homeless people and tough-looking characters, so I wasn’t too inclined to hop out of the car for photos. It’s also virtually impossible to do so along Sunset Boulevard. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that we saw a lot of interesting sights – movie studios, a snake charmer’s office, beautiful residential areas with mansions usually hidden from view, tiny little houses, famous restaurants, a variety of night spots, and the widest variety of people. We ended the drive in Santa Monica where we were disappointed to lose the sun early behind a mountain.
We went to the Santa Monica pier for a walk. We mainly did people-watching. I did stop and try my hand at one carnival game. One try, and I won a Dora Doll for Miss Madison. I’m two-for-two on games of chance (not counting the donation I made to the Kickapoos). I hope Vegas is ready for me in June! We stopped in a karaoke bar on the pier, and we enjoyed meeting John and Rob. One singer was good, and the next was really bad. We enjoyed the bad one more. We thought about staying as we do want to spend an evening at a karaoke bar during the trip. (We love the movie “Duets.”) But we were both tired and wanted to get organized for sightseeing tomorrow.
We found the hotel nearby, and we met Karen and Jeanette. Karen was attracted by the beads. The ladies are both flight attendants, but they wouldn’t identify which airline. I’m sure it was the beads.
Seeing the Dawsons after 19 years delivered a message similar to yesterday when we saw a number of cousins who we haven’t seen in 38 years. Friends are precious, and we all get just so many good friends in life. It takes a lot of effort to stay in touch, but we know we need to work harder at it.
Tomorrow is the last day of Week 4. In some ways, it seems like we just got lose as we tried to leave Atlanta, while in other ways, it seems like we have been gone forever. We continue to enjoy every day…though each day is different, and we never know what to expect. We are going to try our hardest to update the web sit tonight or tomorrow with our nominations for Best & Worst over the first four weeks.
Some 27 and some 28 – need to split:
35355 was our starting.
Now we’re in Long Beach we think 35367 10:51.
We were just as Ski Dempsy’s house.
35420 4:30pm We’re leaving Randy’s Doughnuts.
I saw a sign for some businesses, Snake Charmer and then Bel Air Cavier Store.
Beverly Hills. We see a pretty red Ferrari with a long-haired, blond guy with a studded bracelet. He’s probably a punk rocker.
We’re driving down Melrose with lots and lots of funky shops.
Gower Street, which we turned on by accident, looks straight up to the Hollywood sign.
We’re going in for a picture.
There are a lot of street people, and if they ain’t street people there’s folks that look like they’d cut your guts out for your car.
UCLA 35452 6:21pm
7:00 the sun set behind the mountain in Santa Monica. You don’t really get a good sunset in Santa Monica over the water.
35471 7:17 we’re at Santa Monica Pier preparing to park for $7 and going to ride on the tilt-a-whirl, the ferris wheel, the scrambler, and yo-yo.
We met John and Rob at the karaoke; Terry and Janette, flight attendants, at the hotel.
We photographed the Shang-ri-la Hotel and that’s when Beth told us it was the original sign.
Two new possible titles: Zig Zag and U-turn
Our trip on Route 66 begins and at the first block we see a couple of bars and restaurants and a parking lot.
We passed a really interesting place called Conspiracy. Unlike the other retail establishments it had blinds that were closed.
We took a couple of photos of Busy Bee Hardware which has been a business since 1922 so they’ve seen the Route 66. We took a picture of DK’s Doughnuts and had two more surprisingly excellent doughnuts.
It’s 64 degrees and 11:40 am and cloudy.
We stopped at Quality Shoes for a picture of the Boot-mobile.
We saw a man who looked like he may be a Vietnam veteran or whatever with a walker who had a walker with a flag from it, but we couldn’t get the photo.
Century City 25482 12:02 looking for the snake charmer
We just passed by the Beverly Hilton, and yesterday we did see the Beverly Hills Hotel but unable to photograph it.
Beverly Hills 35484 12:09
There isn’t much traffic surprisingly.
We’re in the middle of a cemetery and we see hundreds of lawn jockeys. It looks like it’s a commercial or something.
It was very interesting—the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. There are a lot of people working so it looks like somebody did come up with some money. It’s interesting, Barbara noted, that the Hollywood sign is straight down the street overlooking the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It’s at the 6000 block of Santa Monica Boulevard.
We went all the way down on Route 66 to where it meets the 101. We took a picture there of the historic Route 66 and Hollywood signs.
We’ve been searching for 2 days, and at 1:26pm on the 2nd day 35497 we found Hollywood Boulevard after I looked at the map.
We met Vivian at the parking garage but she didn’t want to be famous.
We were surprised to see Bob Hope’s star at the entrance to an automotive repair shop.
Benny Goodman on one side and Stanley Kramer on the other side are the first stars. Gregory Peck’s one of the first ones. The tile needs repair on Lucille Ball, she’s down near the Henry Fonda Theater.
Catherine Hepburn had a nice shaded spot. Rin Tin Tin has a star. A lot of people have more than one star. Lassie also has a star. Bill Clinton does not have a star.
Mya at 6530—the highest heel in town, sizes 4-17. They have exotic shoes.
We met Pat at Hollywood Toys and Costumes who asked me if I’d been to Mardi Gras.
Frederick’s of Hollywood is in the S.H Cresta Apartment Store, art deco style, built in 1935. As you walk along Hollywood Blvd., they have Hollywood historic district signs usually mounted to the really cool movie light light poles, but they’re kind of up in the air about 6 or 8 feet. We walked about half the way before we saw them but it tells about the buildings and what the history is of the spot which you’re at.
Musso and Frank Grill is the oldest in Hollywood since 1919.
We met John and Ben at Scooby’s Hotdogs, the best hotdogs in the world, the best lemonade in the world, and the best French fries. We met Letty at Scooby’s; she says they’re by far the best fries.
Scooby’s was a real treat. The lemonade was unbelievable, the twice fried French fries with the dipping sauce were incredible, and the hotdogs were wonderful. A really nice guy must own it. It just opened and, wow, it’s great.
We met Judith and Mark at Guinness Book of World Records.
We met Carlos at Gromman’s Chinese Theatre where they have the area we wanted to see blocked off.
Starburst spotted Michael McDonald off Mad TV on the street. He was very nice and Barbara had her picture taken with him. He is Ryan’s favorite person on the show.
This X-Men 2 stars Hugh Jackman and Halley Berry and Jennifer Garner; it doesn’t get much better than that.
The Hollywood Gazebo has Dorothy Dandridge, May West, Delores Del Rio, and Anna May Wong.
Lloyd Bridges, Bo Bridges, and Jeff Bridges all have their stars right together.
We met a really nice security guard, Shannon.