No shadow on her smile

About a year ago, I was perusing YouTube as I often do and found myself searching for cover versions of the song, “The Shadow of Your Smile.” No reason other than that tune was on my mind.

The song is also known as the “Love Theme from The Sandpiper,” a popular 1965 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Singer Tony Bennett won a Grammy for his rendition of the song, and Barbara Streissand, among others, also have popular covers.

So, I come across this Vietnamese version of “Shadow.” I gave it a listen and instantly fell in love with the vocal qualities of the singer, Dalena. Her strong, soulful voice soars crisply above a jazzy-bossa beat. Half the song is in English and the other half in Vietnamese (I wish it were all in English, but I digress).

Based on a few snapshots, I guessed that Dalena was “hapa,” which is half Caucasian and half Asian, in this case Vietnamese. But I was so wrong. She was born Dalena Morton and raised in Orlando, Fla. There is not one drop of Asian blood in this woman’s DNA.

In the past two decades, Dalena has become a major star and recording artist of popular Vietnamese songs. She has built a nice music career around this Southeast Asian language. From what I can gather, Dalena is much adored in the Vietnamese community — worldwide.

And she doesn’t even speak Vietnamese.

What a fascinating twist on the foreign singer finding success with English songs. Check out a few of Dalena’s YouTube videos, especially her version of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” I’m betting it will put a smile on your face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9gs2X0IASg.Shadow of Your SMile

Traveling NLBM comes to Gardena

NL displayI’m not a big baseball fan, but it was the first sport I latched on to as a youth. My Dad was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, so I naturally gravitated to the sport. Back in ’63, I recall buying a pack of bubblegum cards and in the set was a Sandy Koufax card.

What a lucky break, I thought. Koufax was a name I had heard about and that sparked many years of collecting baseball cards throughout the ‘60s.

This leads me today, as the traveling Negro Leagues Baseball Museum had its Grand Opening tour Saturday at the Nakaoka Community Center. What amazing stories, and memorabilia are on display.

I remember having a Larry Doby baseball cards as a youth, but I had no idea who he was. Doby I learned later, was the first Negro baseball player to break the color barrier in the American League. Jackie Robinson was the first Negro player, of course, with the Dodgers in the National League.

Little did I know as a youth that legends like Willie Mays and Henry Aaron got their starts in Negro League baseball.

This traveling museum captures the flavor of the old Negro Leagues and our fascinating history.  It’s hard to think now that all the major sports once segregated their athletes.  For example, if Josh Gibson has played in the Majors, he would have been King.  But we can only imagine what might have been.

Jackie Robinson was handpicked to break the color barrier, from what I heard at Saturday’s grand opening tour. Robinson had the right disposition to take the abuse he was to receive.  But he wasn’t the best player.

Among Saturday’s invited guests was Maury Wills. This guy still looks like he can run the base paths like a demon.

There are so many stories to tell and be told. One treat at the opening was the guest appearance of a former Negro Leagues player, Shepard Porter Jr.  We saw a video tribute to Shepard on YouTube prior to his introduction.

Another major league, Carl Nichols was in attendance. He played the Baltimore Orioles and the Houston Astros, from 1985 to 1991.

The Museum will be available for viewing in the auditorium of the Nakaoka Community Center from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free, so go see this amazing piece of Americana. The tour will close Feb. 13.

Sitting in the catbird seat at the King Day Parade

CommitteeI have to admit this is going to be awkward.  I’ve been invited to be the community grand marshal of Saturday’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King Day Parade in Gardena.  Yes, you read that correctly.  What’s awkward is that I’m always on the picture-taking side of events. Never a participant.

It’s quite an honor, no question.  I follow a long line of community grand marshals who are chauffeured north along Van Ness Avenue, starting at Marine Avenue, in front of Serra High School. I look forward to riding in a nice car — for a change.

I have to go on record in thanking the Gardena Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Committee for this very special opportunity. Paulette Francis called me last summer and gave me the good news. I was stunned.  The last time I was honored was at a local mud bowl game, when I was asked to be a sideline judge.

Not quite in the same league.

I hope I don’t screw up the parade.  I’m going to try to sneak in some photography from the inside looking out.  I hope I can get some nice shots of the good citizens of Gardena, who will be lining the streets during the parade.

On Friday night, I will attend the MLK Youth Night festivities at the Nakaoka Community Center. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. and winners of the MLK essay theme will be announced. One school has already called me to that its students “dominated” the essay contest.  We shall see.

Nov. 22, 1963 and what I saw

Kennedy plaque

I meant to write this article week’s ago during the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, but time has a way of getting by me.

What I remember most about Nov. 22, 1963 and the days to follow was the chilling wave of grown-ups crying, and that there were no cartoons on my favorites TV stations. Those were significant events that impacted my young life, and now serve as a link to history.

We elementry school kids used to chuckle whenever we saw one of our teachers drinking at the kids’ fountain.  It was just a humorous site worth snickering about. But we had not idea what was coming.

I saw somebody from the school’s main office enter the classroom and whisper to my teacher, Mr. Shea.

Then I saw him weep. I was stunned. My classmates were stunned. We traded glances and knew this was something bad. To see a teacher cry, a grown-up sobbing, could only mean one thing: death.

Mr. Shea announced that our president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed in Dallas. I don’t recall any other details.  And I have no recollection if we were dismissed from school. All I know is that Mr. Shea was crying and we students had no way to comprehend the magnitude of what had happened historically.

We saw more adults crying in the days to come. A lot of silent tears.

There were no cartoons running on TV. Almost every station was covering JFK’s death. I didn’t know it at the time, but live TV was bringing us history as it was happening.  My mom drove the family across town to visit friends a day later. I thought maybe I could watch cartoons on their TV set. As if things would be different in another neighborhood. It wasn’t.

Everything was somber, cold and in black and white. That’s the way I remember that period in my history. The name John F. Kennedy had no imprint on my mind until Nov. 22, 1963.

Years later, my mom purchased a plaque of President Kennedy. That plaque still hangs on her living room wall.

Gardena colors picture perfect year-round

flag day ceremony

Speaking as one photographer to the mass of local photographers, I say that the City of Gardena is without equal.

I can make this bold claim because for 52 weeks a year, I put together a photo spread (single page and/or double-truck) in the Gardena Valley News featuring an array of weekly events.

During a recent five-week period, Gardena featured its annual Keep Gardena Beautiful Day, the annual Food, Wine and Cigar Festival, the Heritage Festival and Street Fair, the Okinawa Association of America Bazaar, and the Y Service Club’s annual fall Pancake Breakfast and Make a Difference Day.

Five events on five consecutive weekends. The other 47 or so weekends are as equally tantalizing.

I am almost never without some photo event to splash across the Gardena Valley News pages.

My biggest challenge is to run the photos in a timely manner. I still have a photo story of the “I Have A Dream” event at Rowley Park and the Huatabampo Sister City banquet on the back burners. Those events occurred before September.

My one saving grace, of curse depending on how it’s looked at, is the end of the month Gardena Valley News and More.  I’m given up to 4 inside color pages, which means double work, and double the opportunity.

There isn’t much time to savor photos, it’s more like bang, bang and move on.  Shoot fast, process faster, design pages at neck-breaking speed and repeat.

I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The passing of a family member

Longtime Gardena Valley News employee Ed Hernandez never had a chance to say good-bye. His passing on the first weekend of this month was untimely. Shocking to most of us, because he was fit and active, and was a familiar sight of the company’s daily operation.

Cause of death is to be determined. He was months shy of his 55th birthday.

Ed was a Gardena High grad, class of 1976, I think. He was a trained accountant, if I have my facts correct. But his forte and primary duties with our company was as a handyman — plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic. If it could be repaired or modified, Ed was the man. He gave so many thing renewed life.

On many weekends, I would find him working on a project while listening to National Public Radio, KPCC 89.3. He had a nostalgic side, occasionally delving into some article or photo from the past. Recently he would peruse the Friday sports pages and talked about getting back to one of his great loves, fishing on the open sea.

As I look around my office, I see remnants of things connected to Ed—a window screen where there was none before, a plastic floor mat under my office chair, a new surge protector, replaced wall outlets. Others at the GVN office can relate similar stories.

Ed was divorced and had twin sons, Raymond and Robert, and a daughter, Rachele. His life in recent years revolved around his work.  There were very few days in which we didn’t catch a glimpse of his presence. He is missed mightily by his GVN family. In memory, I’m certain his spirit is out there battling waves and albacore, against the setting sun.Ed for onlin

Gardena getting its share of popular eateries

yogurtland photoGardena Marketplace (at the northeast corner of Western Avenue and Artesia Boulevard) seems to be the new hotbed for hot and trendy eateries. Chipotle and Yogurtland now occupy the space of the former Blockbuster Video store.

I occasionally rented movies from the old Blockbuster, but with the movement toward streaming movies, my DVD player is going the way of my VCR.

Eating frozen yogurt, however, remains a star on my weekly, if not daily, to-do-list.

I have to admit that I can’t get enough of Yogurtland’s build-your-own yogurt cups. For those unfamiliar, it’s the equivalent of a buffet-style restaurant. You pick your cup, move down the line, choose your flavor of yogurt, continue down the line, and select your toppings. By this time you’ve hit the weigh station.

You pay according to weight.

Don’t take my word for it, just Yelp Gardena Yogurtland and see what’s trending.

But the big news at the Market Place is that fast-food burger joints will be cranked up by year’s end.

Burger King at the southeast end of the center has gone, if anybody cares. In its place will (hopefully) come an In-N-Out Burger, for those who can’t get enough of its double-doubles and fresh-cut fries.  I’ve got to admit, it has a cult-like lore.

When I was a bit younger, there was only the Carson Street In-N-Out. Then came the Crenshaw Crossroads restaurant, and the Redondo Beach site. Within the last two years, the In-N-Out revived the Old Towne Mall (yeah, I still call it that) in Torrance.

I have to qualify this by saying as of late August 2013, it’s not official that In-N-Out Gardena is a done deal. Some neighboring businesses in that area, eateries namely, have voice their opposition . And the In-N-Out people will only confirm that they are giving Gardena “consideration.”

So, love it or leave it, the menu is ever changing. Bon appétit.

When Mother meets Mother, the memories fall into place

Mother Dolores Hart signs a copy of her autobiography for fans, including my mother.

Mother Dolores Hart signs a copy of her autobiography for fans, including my mother.

When we arrived at the bookstore in Culver City, it was at 2:30 on a warm Saturday in June. I drove my mother from her South Bay home to meet Dolores Hart, the well-documented actress who turned her back on Hollywood to become a nun.

Mother Dolores, all of 74, was in town to promote her book, “Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows.” My mom was a fan back in the day, although I think it was really about Elvis more than all the starlets who draped his arms.

Just the night before, I called my mom and asked, “how would you like to meet Dolores Hart?” My mom, in her reserved but excited way, answered, “Why, yes, I would.”

The bookstore parking lot was a bear.  I barely found a parking stall. Then, 10 seconds after entering the bookstore, Pauline Book & Media Center Daughters of St. Paul, I saw a table of displayed hardcover books that were dwindling before my eyes. Instinctively I dived (at least that’s how I want to tell it) for a copy, not knowing whether it smudged, bruised or bent — thankfully, it was blessed condition.

Within seconds, all of Mother Dolores’ books were in the hands of adoring fans. How was I to know that half-way through the book signing, all of her books would be sold out? Anyway, I handed the book to my mother and she took her place in line. Meanwhile, I circled around to take photos.

There was a crowd in the bookstore.  I heard a lot of quiet chatter among people, whispers of “Is that her?” and “Gee, she looks good.” The book signing was a hit, if I’m allowed to say that. Mother Dolores was radiant and gracious from the first person to the last.  She greeted my mother with a charming smile, a warm handshake and words that were delivered as if greeting an old friend.

Dolores sat and signed her autobiography. Her lifelong friend and book co-writer, Richard DeNeut, sat at her side. A TV news cameraman and I exchanged nods. I saw so many fans step up to touch Dolores. One guy pulled out every Dolores Hart, actress publicity photo in his collection, and she signed each without a sigh.

Another gentlemen in his 70s carried a board with photos. When he reached the front of the line, he pointed to a teenage girl and boy, and reminded Dolores, “you were my prom date.”

She chuckled and studied the photos with delight.

I was reminded of years past, when as a kid I heard about Dolores Hart, the ingénue, the new Grace Kelly. Her name stuck with me, as did a hundred other actor names, because Mom was a fan of the Hollywood cinema.

And on this day, it was like turning back the clock.

My mother walked out of the bookstore beaming, clutching her new book and regaling stories of old Hollywood. She was strolling down memory lane with a twinkle in her eye. And for the briefest moment, I was that little kid hearing those wonderful stories of a time that was.

Following her dream of news and glory

Marie Jane Cathcart gets air time on her last day as a KTLA News morning intern.

Marie Jane Cathcart gets air time on her last day as a KTLA News morning intern.

Here I sit at the computer, one month after my niece’s college graduation. Marie Jane Cathcart received her diploma in journalism from my alma mater, Cal State University, Long Beach.

Her paternal grandparents flew in from Florida for the graduation ceremony. The rest of the family made a short drive to Long Beach. And yes, I did pull rank and use my GVN press pass to waltz onto the graduating field to get my photos.

After Marie completed a successful four years at Bishop Montgomery High, the family, both sides, hoped she would pursue a business major. She almost did but found it to be a false step. Marie promptly switched to communications/journalism and never looked back.

She completed a morning internship at KTLA News weeks before graduating. On her final day of running copy here and there, and whatever interns do, she got an opportunity to step in front of the camera. The accompanying photo shows Marie sharing a laugh “on air” with morning sports personality, Henry DiCarlo.

This niece of mine has come a long way. In 1991 when she was about a year old, Marie won a KABC “AM L.A.” baby contest. Steve Edwards and Tawny Little were the hosts, and Marie and other babies were paraded around the studio set. Viewers cast their votes and Marie was a star. Among her winnings was a ton of baby food and contract with some modeling/acting agency. The latter went nowhere, but it was fun to dream.

And so, Marie has bid farewell to the world of academia. I’m not sure if she has thoughts of chasing a post-graduate degree. She might have a chance in front of the camera, but prefers working behind the scenes. Time will tell where all of this leads, but she proceeds with no regrets.

Time change means moving ahead

It’s Daylight Saving Time and that means setting the clock one ahead Sunday, March 10. Why can’t we set the clock ahead the Friday before, just after our lunch break? Is that asking for too much?

To hasten the time adjustment, I actually set my clocks ahead one hour Saturday. I went the whole day on Daylight Saving Time. It’s doubtful that I gained anything, except some trivial psychological edge that I was one day ahead of everybody else.

Next on the horizon, Spring. Ten days away and counting…time