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Eugene Plummer, the Last of the Dons

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 25th, 2012
2012
May 25

HOLLYWOOD HISTORY

Eugene Plummer, the Last of the Dons

 

 Eugene Rafael Plummer (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

He was straight of stature, succinct of speech, and as well-versed in nature as he was in the old days when Hollywood was not yet a dream and Los Angeles was a dusty pueblo.  Eugene Rafael Plummer, the man for whom Plummer Park in West Hollywood was named, was born in San Francisco on January 8, 1852. His father, John Cornelius Plummer  was a Canadian sea captain and his mother, Maria was half Spanish and half Irish, a mixture which gave the younger Plummer the fire and romance of old Spain and the devil-may-care temperament of the Irish.

 

When Eugene was 16, Captain Plummer moved his family to Los Angeles where he homesteaded 160 acres of land where the Ambassador Hotel once stood. He later acquired property which is now bounded by Wilshire and Beverly Boulevards and La Brea Avenue and Vine Street.

 

In 1828, the land that now encompasses Plummer Park was a part of the 4,439 acre Rancho La Brea, granted by Governor Echandia to Antonio Rocha. After several selling’s, the property was sold to Major Hancock in 1865 for $2.50 an acre. In 1874, Plummer acquired the official title to the Plummer Rancho which comprised 160-acres between Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards and La Brea and Gardner Avenues.  

 

That same year, on the three acres of land that eventually became Plummer Park, Captain Plummer’s sons, Juan (John) and Eugene built their home, a typical ranch house.

 

 

Plummer House, the home of Eugene Plummer that stood in Plummer Park for over 100 years. (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

 

In the early days Plummer’s home was the only habitation from Hollywood to the Plaza district and rattlesnakes, cactus and bandits were his only companions. Later his home was the headquarters for the Vaquero Club, a group of adventurous horse riders.

 

In 1881 Plummer married Maria Amparo La Moraux and the couple had a daughter they named Frances. As a court reporter for 25 years, he would befriend the pueblo’s Mexicans and act as their interpreter in court cases.

 

As early as 1922 the acreage was unofficially called Plummer Park. Six years later options were offered by a committee of prominent bankers and businessmen to make it official. Plummer hoped to make around $25,000 from the deal but nothing ever came of it. In 1925 his wife Maria died and was interred at Hollywood Cemetery next to his father John.

 

By this time Eugene Plummer was Hollywood’s oldest resident and his homestead became its oldest residence. Each year he would host the old-timers picnic which was open to as many of Hollywood’s original residents that were still living.

 

Gradually Plummer’s debts continued to mount until he was forced into foreclosure. Ironically, Plummer once owned 142 acres where the Hollywood Bowl now is and sold it to a company named Burnoff & Teal for $2,400. In the 1930s that same area was worth millions.  In 1935 Plummer Park was registered as a landmark. Finally the county stepped in and acquired the Plummer land in 1937 for $15,000. Plummer was sad at the passing of his heritage, but never bitter.

 

Development of the park began the following year with the construction of a recreation building called the Great Hall/Long Hall at a cost of $65,000. The Spanish style structure made of stucco and a red tile roof included a dining room which seated 300 persons. The building also had a library and reading room. The patio adjacent to the kitchen would seat 600 and was shaded by three ancient olive trees.

 

One condition of the purchase was that Senor Plummer be permitted to occupy the premises as long as he lived. The county designated him as the historical guide for the park. Plummer Park was filled with a fine collection of rare trees and plants. One pepper tree had a branch growing out horizontally over seventy-five feet in length. The limb was trained by Plummer by keeping a horseshoe on the end of it for many years.

 

The old frame home built by Plummer and his brother in 1874 was now used as the headquarters of the Audubon Society and office of the park superintendent. A modern home adjacent to the parks property became Plummer’s new home where he lived for the remainder of his life.

 

 

 (Los Angeles Public Library)

 

In his later years Senor Plummer would sit beneath the shady pepper trees of Plummer Park, rolling cigarettes from loose tobacco or else break store-bought cigarettes into three lengths and smoking them a few puffs at a time in an old amber holder. Between puffs he would conjure up memories of the “good old days” for anyone who asked. Pepper trees were his favorites. “They kept the flies away,” he maintained. There was the time he chased a deer all the way up to what is now the corner of Hollywood and Highland and lassoed it. Nearby in a little arroyo he killed a giant brown bear after it had been gored in three places by a wild bull.

 

Once, in Laurel Canyon he shot an antelope on the hillside and then couldn’t find the bullet hole. “You scare him to death, senor,” said the old Indian who was with him. But it was later found that the bullet went right up the spine and lodged in the antelope’s brain. “Once in a million times,” said the Don concisely.

 

When Helen Hunt Jackson was writing “Ramona” she used to visit Senor Plummer at his home for advice on early day California life. “If anybody is Alessandro, I am,” he said once during an interview, “for I showed Mrs. Jackson how young Spaniards and Indians made love.”

 

 

Senor Plummer welcomes actress Ruth Roland and banker G. G. Greenwood to Plummer Park 

 

 

Plummer delighted in wearing a tan leather jacket given to him by his friend Buffalo Bill. Another of his friends in the early days was the bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, who was shot by authorities in 1875. Plummer’s presence at the park gave it an air that no other presence could.

 

The plan was to keep the park in its original state for a unique gathering place for groups and societies. Barbecues and songfests under the old peppers and the eucalyptus trees were planned as the whirl of Hollywood traffic sped by. Visitors were sheltered by the towering blue gums, the gnarled old olives and the gigantic cypress that Plummer planted with his own hand in the late 1800s. Besides the old ranch house, the servant’s houses, the old barns, the barbecue pit, the old windmill and the rodeo grounds, it became a chapter of the past brought into the present for the public.

 

Year after year Senor Plummer continued to enthrall and entertain the visitors to his park. To the last his mind and memory remained keen and filled with humorous memories. It was 69 years ago this past week that the Don suffered a heart attack in his home at Plummer Park. He wanted to remain at his hacienda with his collections of saddles, boots and guns, but friends convinced him to go to the hospital where he sank into a coma from which he never recovered. Senor Eugene Plummer died on May 19, 1943. He was 91 years old.

 

Rosary for Eugene Plummer was recited in the chapel of Pierce Bros. Hollywood Mortuary. Mass was celebrated the following day at St. Ambrose’s Church at Fountain and Fairfax Avenues. More than 300 persons, most of them descendants of some of California’s oldest families, attended the rites. Plummer was interred next to his father and wife at Hollywood Cemetery.

 

 

 The Plummer Family marker at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The names of  Plummers father and Eugene’s wife Maria are engraved. For whatever reason, Senor Plummer was never marked.

 

 

 

 

As for the Plummer House, it was known as the “Oldest House in Hollywood” and was designated as State Historical Landmark No. 160 in 1935. The Audubon Society continued to use Plummer’s old homestead to house their library and exhibits until 1980. Sadly, vandals set fire to it twice and ruined the Audubon’s library and exhibits. The house was almost destroyed and stood abandoned and filled with trash for over two years. It was almost razed. Happily the Leonis Adobe Association heard about the house’s fate and arranged with county to move the front part to the Leonis Adobe grounds. The house has since been repaired and restored and is now a Visitor’s Center and Gift Shop.

 

 

 The old house that Plummer and his brother built was moved to Leonis Adobe grounds in Calabassas

 

Plummer Park is once again in the news for the drastic changes that are planned by the city of West Hollywood. If you asked people who visit Plummer Park, or members of West Hollywood’s city council, who Eugene Plummer was, they probably wouldn’t know. Virtually nothing remains of the park that Don Plummer knew and loved and sadly there is only one plaque that mentions his name. Hopefully the new plan for the park will do something to correct that.

 

 

 

When in Los Angeles, visit Plummer Park at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood.

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Save Plummer Park!

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 23rd, 2012
2012
May 23

HOLLYWOOD PRESERVATION

The effort to Save Plummer Park!

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Plummer Park, which is located at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. has been a part of Hollywood/West Hollywood history officially and unofficially for as long as 90 years. The land that the park now sits on plus an additional 97 acres surrounding it was at one time the home of Senor Eugene Plummer (more about him in a future article).

 

Now the City of West Hollywood has approved more than $41.3 million for the Plummer Park Master Plan Phase I Project. Preservation groups are fighting the plan and are claiming the following:

 

  • The construction of an underground parking structure (which will only net an additional 69 spaces) will necessitate demolishing historic WPA buildings, Great Hall/Long Hall as well as the destruction of 54 heritage trees, some of which are over 100 years old.
  • The planned ultra-modern façade of Fiesta Hall is out-of-line with the charm and architecture of a block that includes seven landmarked buildings. Given the character of the street a modern design is inappropriate.
  • This project will require the complete closure of a majority of the park for almost two years with heavy construction, noise, pollution and increased traffic in an already congested area.

 

The City of West Hollywood denies most of these claims and states the following is true about the trees:

  • 76 trees of the existing 210 trees will remain in place.
  • 80 trees will be carefully boxed, save and replanted.
  • 90 new trees will be added, each will be a minimum of 72” boxed trees, all large trees one day.

 

There are seven trees in Plummer Park that are considered to be of significance: three will be saved (two will be protected in place and one will be boxed, saved and replanted): three will be removed but will not be replanted due to poor health as determined by the project arborist and one tree will not be able to be saved due to size and location of the tree.

 

 

 How many trees will be saved?

 

If this is true, perhaps the reports are not as bad as first thought. However I have problems trusting government bureaucrats. Hopefully the West Hollywood city council are true to their word and can be trusted.  We will see.

 

But the part of the plan  I am against, and what, as my mother would say, “really burns me up,” is the loss of another historically important building in this city. The proposed plan involves the demolition of the Great Hall/Long Hall. They admit that the demolition is not insignificant, but claims it is integral in meeting critical community and project objectives including the creation of more parkland/green/open space, and a gain of more than 14,000 square feet.

 

 

 SAVE Great Hall/Long Hall

 

What they don’t mention is that the Great Hall/Long Hall was built by the Workers Progress Administration (WPA) and is the only WPA building remaining in West Hollywood. Historically significant buildings in Los Angeles are constantly being destroyed for the sake of progress. The major changes suggested by the city for Plummer Park could be an asset, but not at the cost of losing our history. Yes, I’m a tree hugger, yes I’m a preservationist. Hey West Hollywood, find a way to save the Great Hall/Long Hall.

 

 

 

 

There is much more to this fight than I can list here so please, for more information click on the following links:

 

City of West Hollywood’s Plummer Park Master Plan

 

Protect Plummer Park Now!

 

The Grass Roots Effort to Save Plummer Park

 

AND–Tell the City Council to STOP the project and to develop an alternative plan that we can all support. GO TO:

 

Protect Plummer Park (if you are concerned, please sign the petition to let them know how you feel!)

 

In a few days I will post the story of Senior Eugene Rafael Plummer, after who Plummer Park is named, which incidentally there is only one plaque at the park which mentions his name. They should do something to memorialize his memory, but that is another story.

 

 

The only connection to Senor Eugene Plummer is this one plaque (I guess we should be luck there is that!)

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Robin Gibb Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 20th, 2012
2012
May 20

OBITUARY

Robin Gibb dies at 62; rose to pop fame as one-third of the Bee Gees

 

 

Robin Gibb and his brothers, Maurice and Barry, produced a string of memorable hits and were at the forefront of the disco era with their iconic ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack. Robin Gibb was diagnosed with cancer that spread from his colon to his liver last year.

 

By Claire Noland
Los Angeles Times
May 20, 2012

 

Robin Gibb, a singer and songwriter who joined two of his brothers in forming the Bee Gees pop group that helped define the sound of the disco era with the best-selling 1977 soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever,” has died. He was 62.

 

Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Robin Gibb

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Donna Summer Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 17th, 2012
2012
May 17

OBITUARY

Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, dies at 63

 

 

 

Associated Press
May 17, 2012

 

Disco queen Donna Summer, whose pulsing anthems such as “Last Dance,” “Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls” became the soundtrack for a glittery age of sex, drugs, dance and flashy clothes, has died. She was 63.

 

Click here to read the Los Angeles Times obitary for Donna Summer

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Keystone Centennial

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 17th, 2012
2012
May 17

FILM HISTORY

Fort Lee celebrates centennial of Keystone studio, where film comedy was born

 

 

 

By Jim Beckerman
Staff Writer
THE RECORD

 

It was 100 years ago that movie comedy made its grand entrance – slipping on a banana peel and dodging a pie as it came through the door.

 

This was due mainly to one studio: Keystone, Mack Sennett’s pioneering slapstick factory, where such talents as Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin himself took their first pratfalls.

 

What most people don’t know is Keystone’s keystone. The first building block in Sennett’s media empire was an office or small studio – no one’s really sure which – in Fort Lee, which Sennett opened in the spring of 1912.

 

“It was around Kaufer Lane, at the intersection of Lower Main Street, but we really don’t know much about it,” says Tom Meyers, executive director of the Fort Lee Film Commission, which honors cinema’s little-known pre-Hollywood roots in Bergen County.

 

This is a banner year for them: In addition to Keystone, Universal Studios and the long-defunct Solax USA (important because it was the home base of film’s first major female director, Alice Guy-Blache) got their start in Fort Lee in 1912.

 

But Keystone is the key – because it’s the fount from which flowed all modern movie comedy, from Jim Carrey to Zach Galifianakis. To celebrate the big year, the film commission is spearheading several events. A production of “Mack & Mabel,” Jerry Herman’s 1974 musical about the romance of Sennett and his leading lady, Normand, is being staged Friday and Saturday by students of Fort Lee High School, with $10,000 in funds raised by the commission. And the “Reel Jersey Girls” exhibit at Fort Lee Museum on Palisade Avenue, continuing through July 1, contains a whole section devoted to Normand and the Keystone comedy universe she helped to create.

 

“This was all new,” Meyers says. “Before this, there was no pie-throwing in movies. They were all very staid affairs, almost like a stage play. Mack Sennett’s only message was laughs. He reached out to the audience, grabbed them by the lapels and shook them. Not subtle. He was about as subtle as an atomic bomb.”

 

Although most people these days haven’t seen a Keystone film, many probably have a rough impression of what these frantic early comedies were like. There were chases, falls into mud puddles, kicks in the rear end. There were fat men, thin men, cross-eyed men, pop-eyed men, men with walrus mustaches and baggy pants. There were pies in the face, of course, usually blackberry pies, not custard ones (blackberry photographed better). There were pretty girls in bathing suits. All this, plus the famous, bumbling Keystone Kops.

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Tom Mix Residence

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 9th, 2012
2012
May 9

CELEBRITY REAL ESTATE

1920s Mediterranean Owned by Silent Movie Star Tom Mix and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Carpenter

 

 

 

According to its listing, this 1927 Mediterranean in the Hollywood Hills was once the home of cowboy/silent film star Tom Mix. And according to public records, it’s currently the home of carpenter/actor Paul DiMeo, who spent nine seasons building houses in a hurry on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Located in the Cahuenga Pass at 3456 Floyd Terrace, the 3,994 square foot abode consists of a four-bedroom, three-bath main residence on the upper level plus a two bedroom apartment with kitchen, bath, and separate entrance below. The property’s features include arched doorways, beamed ceilings, hardwood and Saltillo tiled floors, a formal dining room, two-story living room with fireplace, and a sound/recording studio. Last sold for $1.29 million, it’s now listed at $1.135 million. [LA Curbed] By Pauline O’Connor

 

 

 

 3456 Floyd Terrace, Hollywood (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence, do not disturb the residents)

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George “Goober” Lindsey Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 6th, 2012
2012
May 6

OBITUARY

George Lindsey dies; ‘The Andy Griffith Show’s’ Goober Pyle

 

 

The character actor played Mayberry’s genial auto mechanic, the cousin of naive gas station attendant Gomer Pyle. He also was a regular on ‘Hee Haw.’

 

By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times
May 7, 2012

 

George Lindsey, the Southern-born character actor who played dim hayseed Goober Pyle, the genial gas station auto mechanic on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Mayberry R.F.D.,” died early Sunday morning. He was 83.

 

Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for George Lindsey

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Patricia Medina Obituary

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on May 2nd, 2012
2012
May 2

OBITUARY

Patricia Medina dies at 92; Briton was ’50s Hollywood leading lady

 

  

Patricia Medina began her film career in her native England in the 1930s and after World War II arrived in L.A., where she was initially signed to MGM. In 1960, she married Joseph Cotten.

 

By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times
May 2, 2012

 

Patricia Medina, a British-born actress whose Hollywood career as a leading lady in the 1950s spanned the talking mule comedy “Francis” and Orson Welles’ crime-thriller “Mr. Arkadin,” has died. She was 92.

 

Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Patricia Medina

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