Friday, October 12, 2018

Roland Kato on the Road with John Denver - the 1975 Spring Concert Tour

On this anniversary of singer and superstar John Denver's death in 1997, Los Angeles Revisited presents a guest post by fellow Angeleno Roland Kato, who was a member of JD's orchestra during a nationwide tour in 1975.

Roland is pictured in the Kent Twitchell mural, "Harbor Freeway Overture" in downtown L.A., as seen below in a couple of photos taken years apart by this blogger while inching up the northbound 110 Harbor Freeway. 

What is his association with this mural?  Roland explains his lifelong "occu-passion" with music, being a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, crossing paths with the likes of Tim Burton, David Hasselhoff, Pee Wee Herman, Yo-Yo Ma...and importantly, his connection to John Denver.  Even the late Jonathan Gold gave a nod to Roland while introducing a restaurant in a 2017 review.  Also more on the mural later down this post:

Three-panel mural of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra,
created between 1991 and 1994
Roland is positioned in the rear of the group,
to your right of the person standing furthest back
My First Big Gig

I was born in East L.A. at the Japanese American Hospital in the suburb of Boyle Heights on February 15, 1953 to parents Hideo and Masaye (Sato) Kato.

Because my sister, Terri, had already started taking violin lessons, that meant I also had to, didn’t it? I posthumously thank my parents for being so accommodating. I first started on violin in the 4th grade at Lockwood Ave. Elementary School, and after a very memorable field trip to the Shrine Auditorium in the 5th grade to hear an excerpted performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute, my fate as a musician was forever sealed. This was the first time I heard a beautiful, live and lush symphonic orchestra!

I attended Thomas Starr King Jr. High (here I switched from violin to viola), then John Marshall High, during which time I was also enrolled in the High School of the Arts program at the California Institute of the Arts (or CalArts, the brainchild of Walt Disney). It was at CalArts where I received my first intensive exposure to orchestral and chamber music and music theory. In 1970, I was accepted into the college-level program and was granted a full scholarship to study privately with renowned violist David Schwartz of the Yale Quartet earning my BFA and MFA degrees.

John Marshall High School Promotional Piece, 1971

As a side note, I brushed elbows with some now-notable schoolmates or “CalArtians,” like Ed Harris, Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Don Cheadle, and even David Hasselhoff; however, one in particular stands out: Paul Rubens, who often stood guard in front of the CalArts cafeteria and absolutely loved taunting onlookers. It was a first for me to be taunted by any negligée-clad person for just rolling my eyes. Who would have known he would later hone his theatre craft into the memorable character, Pee Wee Herman?

But I digress! To say CalArts was an eye-opening experience for the uninitiated is putting it mildly. It seems my life path was steered towards people in high places and especially Rocky-Mountain-High places, when I was allowed to leave school to tour with John Denver in 1975 on his 6-week Spring Tour through the U.S.

Because I was living the secluded college life of a poor student way out in what was once a very desolate Newhall, with its onion farms and long stretches of nothing but the Saugus Café, Tip’s Coffee Shop, and no car nor TV, I hadn’t a clue who John Denver was. All that changed when I was selected as one of a 5-member core of principal players, whose duty it was to oversee our own musicians du jour throughout this 28-city adventure. I met so many wonderful people on this tour and am sorry I haven’t stayed connected to them.

Our tour started in Mobile, Alabama and after a few of the concerts, I could understand why John Denver had such captive audiences. His natural abilities of musicianship, technique and earnestness won him many fans who would crowd the large college venues or stadiums to capacity.

Our tour transport was very special. We flew on a private jet (a Boeing 720 called The Starship) owned by singer Bobby Sherman and his manager. This jet was not configured like your normal jet. All the seating in the front were long sofas (with seat belts!) along the walls of the plane and in the rear were two small bedrooms with fake fireplaces! I loved all the catered meals we had onboard! Quality food for this college student was a rare commodity, so please excuse my food-centric tendencies.

My fellow tour colleague Phil Ayling recounts a story told to him by Bianca (one of our three flight attendants), regarding a near disaster while flying on this jet with Led Zeppelin, “Their drummer John Bonham (who died in his early 30’s) had tried to open the plane door while they were in flight. He was completely loaded, and it took both stewardesses to restrain him. She said that the other band members were also loaded and were just laughing, but if one of them had decided to help John open the plane door, they would have been in real trouble!”

I’m happy to report we did not experience any craziness like that on our flights! The only terrible incident I recall was a very turbulent entry into Minneapolis, where our jet made sudden rollercoaster-like dives and jolts during an epic thunderstorm. For a first-time flying experience it certainly was initiation by fright. To my knowledge, no one lost their cookies!

This grueling tour wasn’t all hard work! When we arrived in Arizona, about six days before the tour’s end, John D. arranged to rent a go-cart track for the entire touring entourage! It appears this event was well-planned and we even got blue souvenir T-shirts that read, “John Denver 1st Annual Phoenix 100”. John loved fast moving things like cars and planes and so it was expected that his competitive spirit would surface. I think I managed to get his adrenaline going when the two of us were neck in neck for the finish line at one point during the afternoon. It was a great way to let off a little stress! (By the way, I let him win, ha-ha.) This was a wonderful social event where I got a chance to meet the infamous Annie (his wife) and their baby son Zack.

For every performance, the opening act for JD was a six-member group called Liberty. I’m not certain, but I think they were based in Canada. The only member of the group with whom I had conversations was bass and dobro player Larry Gottlieb who was the son of a very famous couple, (in L.A. classical music circles) violinist, Eudice Shapiro and cellist, Victor Gottlieb. Eudice was for many years a soloist at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado & later the first woman to perform as concertmaster in a major movie studio, RKO. She occupied that position for 23 years until she became a respected professor of the string faculty of the University of So. Ca. for 50 years. Her husband (who died too early, age 42) was an extremely gifted cellist and principal of the Aspen Festival cello section. He also performed as principal cello of the RKO studio orchestra. Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that Larry’s band Liberty, had a short shelf life for reasons I do not know.

Liberty's sole LP from Roland's Collection

Some of the notable studio musicians who joined the Los Angeles portion of the tour were very active members of what was familiarly known by some in Hollywood as The Wrecking Crew (coined by drummer Hal Blaine). This group of accomplished and unrecognized musicians was memorialized in a recent movie documenting their innumerable and dedicated backup for many rock-and-roll groups during the 50’s-70’s. The three Crew members I vividly remember from our tour were bassist Dick Kniss, and drummers-percussionists Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer.

Our “fearless leader,” well-known conductor, composer, and arranger Lee Holdridge couldn’t have been a nicer guy. His beautiful arrangements were fun to play, and during the course of the tour he often revised some of our parts by adding little solos (probably to keep us engaged)! I really appreciated that. The other four musicians in our core group of five were violinist Elliot Fisher, cellist Dana Reese, woodwind doubler Phil Ayling, and french hornist Jim Atkinson. Sadly, I believe Elliot died in an auto accident while on vacation in Europe and I have not heard hide nor hair of Dana; however, I have occasionally seen Phil and Jim over the past 43 (e-gad!) years since our tour! Time certainly flies when you’re having a good time!

Roland has generously shared the amazing, rare photographs below, in which he says he likely took using a 35mm German-made Kodak Retina camera.  Sometime after reading an earlier post about JD on this blog, Roland remembered the photos he snapped from that year:

A portion of a typical audience seen here, stage right
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)
Conductor Lee Holdridge waiting to do a sound check
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)
Over the past 40 years, Roland has played on various sessions that Lee scored.

Lee Holdridge before the downbeat
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Bassist Dick Kniss
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Drummer Earl Palmer; guitarist, possibly John Sommers; percussionist Hal Blaine
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

The five core orchestra people on this Spring tour also played on subsequent recording sessions at the RCA studio on Sunset & Wilcox (that building is now the L.A. School of Film) of the new material played on the tour. Those recordings which were probably made in ’75-76 may have ended up on later albums. 
Drummer Earl Palmer between tunes
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Cellist Dana Reese
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

The view from Roland's stand of JD talking to the audience
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

JD boarding a bus
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Lee Holdridge and concertmaster Elliot Fisher
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

JD leaving a hotel
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

A Ping Pong Break Between Concerts
Earl Palmer in a game of ping pong
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Dick Kniss during a match
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)
Percussionist, Hal Blaine and woodwind doubler, Phil Ayling
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

JD playing ping pong
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

JD victorious?  Or defeated?
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Go-Carting in Phoenix
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)
JD raring to go
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)
JD (white T-shirt), Hornist Jim Atkinson (sunglasses dark T-shirt), woodwind player,
Phil Ayling (far right). Unidentified are three men talking to JD
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

JD and his infant son Zack, resting after go-carting
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Annie at the go-cart track
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Baby Zack & JD (Annie is out of the photo frame)
(Photo courtesy of Roland Kato)

Roland's Career with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

(Photo courtesy of Dana Ross)
The following run-down of his career was compiled by Roland himself.  But this blogger will first mention something else - in 2017 the late Times food critic Jonathan Gold reviewed a Sawtelle district restaurant "Kato" this way:  "The restaurant is named for the Green Hornet sidekick played by Bruce Lee in the '60s TV series, although I was kind of hoping that it was named for the Los Angeles viola virtuoso Roland Kato."

Described by the Los Angeles Times as “a brilliant virtuoso, playing with the perfect combination of energy and eloquence,” internationally acclaimed viola recitalist and soloist Roland Kato has been a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra since 1976 with Sir Neville Marriner. He was appointed principal viola by lona Brown in 1987. He has also held the principal position in many orchestras including the L.A. Opera Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony, the California Chamber Symphony and the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra.

A sought-after chamber musician, Roland participates in many chamber series in Los Angeles. He plays with the Santa Clarita Chamber Players and performed with Pacific Serenades in that ensemble’s Carnegie Hall debut. He was invited to appear as guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and has also performed with the New York New Music Ensemble. He was honored to join Yo-Yo Ma in a chamber music concert benefiting cancer research.

Roland has appeared as soloist/recitalist on both viola and viola d’amore throughout the United States and abroad for LACO. In November 2002, Roland and LACO concertmaster Margaret Batjer performed the West Coast premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Double Concerto in B minor for Violin and Viola. Internationally, he has appeared at the Festival Casals in Puerto Rico; Festival Internacional de Musica in Costa Rica and the Adriatic Chamber Music Festival in Bonefro, Italy. His festival appearances in the US include the Grand Canyon Chamber Music, Oregon Bach, Carmel Bach and San Luis Obispo Mozart festivals; the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego; Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, Oregon, the Strings in the Mountains Festival in Colorado, Sitka, AK; and the Garth Newel Festival in Hot Springs, VA.

Roland produced the first-ever recording of Telemann’s Quatrieme Livre de Quatours, a collection of six chamber pieces performed by the period instrument ensemble American Baroque, on the Koch Classics International label. This Grammy-nominated recording has just been re-released on the Music and Arts label. His discography also includes recordings alongside Ransom Wilson and Marni Nixon, and recordings of music by Tania French and Mark Carlson. The Carlson recording, Hall of Mirrors, was awarded the Chamber Music America/WQXR Record Award for 2001. In 2003, Carlson dedicated his viola sonata, On the Coming of War to Roland and Pianist Joanne Pearce Martin. It was subsequently recorded in 2011.

Roland’s arrangements and transcriptions have been performed worldwide. His transcription of Prokofiev’s Music For Children was recently given its New York premiere, and his arrangement of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite was premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC by the New Hampshire-based Apple Hill Chamber Players. The Washington Post wrote, “[Kato] surprisingly caught the subtleties of the composer’s sparely tinted orchestral brush strokes and poetic watercolor depictions of the five fairy tales.” This arrangement received its European premiere in Ireland and has subsequently been performed worldwide.

As a musical representative of the United States, Roland has twice joined with principals and members of the Berlin Philharmonic to play symphonic music in European capitals under the sponsorship of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Most recently, the musicians donated their services for the performances of the Verdi Requiem in Paris and Berlin to benefit orphans of the war in Bosnia.

In 2016, after being a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for 40 years Roland decided to call it quits. Two years prior he had stopped doing any and all commercial work which spanned 1,000’s of motion picture scores, TV shows, commercial spots and rock and roll sessions. Sadly, it became too painful to play because of his osteoarthritis. He doesn’t miss most of the music making, but he does miss playing chamber music. He’s not down and out completely though. He does still enjoy his music arranging and has gotten back into that a bit and can’t wait to pursue another fine restaurant that’s either around the corner or in some exotic city far away. Any interest in hearing about his travel and scrumptious foodie experiences from around the world?

The Public Mural "Harbor Freeway Overture"

Roland kindly obliged this blogger's request to identify the individuals on the mural.

He explained that the mural was funded by ANA Airlines. Their CEO, Tachi Kiuchi was also a member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra board in 1991 when it was painted by muralist Kent Twitchell. After 27 years, Roland says Julie Gigante is the only remaining person in the mural who is still in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

As an interesting side note, Roland's cousin Waynna Kato is in another early mural painted by Mr. Twitchell depicting notable Otis art students. Roland has never seen it in the flesh, but believes the mural is in Torrance.

Torrance mural

Visit the earlier posts on JD:  John Denver in L.A. and YouTube and The Sixties and John Denver at the Grammy Museum Los Angeles.

Friday, August 31, 2018

L.A. turns 237...from Quintero Street in Echo Park

The trails taken by Spanish poblador Luis Quintero in 1781 from Mexico to Mission San Gabriel, where he stayed for over a month before continuing on to the banks of the Rio de Porciuncula, may have been an easier effort than that of the citizens of Los Angeles in their resolve to carve Sunset Boulevard westward past Quintero Street at the turn of the 20th century.

Quintero and his family were among the eleven founding families to settle in Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles de la Porciuncula on September 4, 1781.  This blog posting commemorates the anniversary from Quintero Street, a street named for him located in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles.  

Growing pains in the area will be discussed along with a look at an early use for the hilly terrain when the advent of gas-powered cars in L.A. accelerated.

Luis Quintero's Brief Settlement in the New Pueblo

The original 1781 census of the town of Los Angeles listed Quintero, negro, age 55; his wife Maria Petra Rubio, age 40, mulata, and five children, Josef Clemente, age 3, Maria Gertrudis, age 16, Maria Concepcion, age 9, Tomasa, age 7 and Rafaela, age 6.  Quintero and his wife were from Los Alamos, Mexico.

Depiction of Maria Petra and Luis Quintero by Artist Mary Butler
(Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research,
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

Quintero was the last poblador to sign up for the Spanish colonization party (on February 3rd), among the recruits who were from Sonora and Sinoloa.  An early group arrived at Mission San Gabriel on July 14, 1781.  Quintero was among the second group to reach the mission on July 22nd.  (A third group came the latest in mid-August.)

It is debatable whether the entire party simultaneously converged at the Porciuncula River.  Nevertheless, the plan was for each family to receive land and planting fields, along with wages and rations until they gradually became self-sustaining.  In five years they were to receive permanent confirmation of their land, but by September of 1786, only eight of the original pobladores remained. 

One historical account states that Quintero was confirmed as padrino or god-father to the mission Indians by Father Junipero Serra at San Gabriel in late March of 1782, but on March 26th, Quintero, his family, along with two other pobladores, departed and re-settled at the presidio in Santa Barbara.  Quintero was a tailor and lived out his life there.  His children eventually married, and one granddaughter Maria Rita Valdez married into the Valdez family that held Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, today's Beverly Hills.

Quintero Street, Echo Park

View of Sunset Boulevard looking west

Quintero Street was named in 1897, replacing the segment of Waters Street from Sunset Boulevard uphill to MacBeth Street.

It is curious that Waters was renamed for a Spanish poblador.  Other street names along this 1888 Golden West Heights tract remain unchanged, including MacBeth, McDuff and Portia Streets (named after Shakespearean literary characters).  Waters Street and Canal Street reflected the nearby water reservoir, later to become Echo Park Lake.

The below Dakin Tract Map of Los Angeles, 1888, showed the reservoir and the undeveloped area (outlined in red) of the soon-to-appear Golden West Heights.

(Image courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research,
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)
Baist's Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Los Angeles, 1905
(Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)
Above map shows Quintero Street (which actually runs north/south) and nearby Vancouver Street (which should have been already renamed today's Sutherland Street in 1894 according to a source...hmmm, discrepancy!)  An electric railway was indicated by the dotted lines on the far left edge, which was Sunset Boulevard, and its service route also turned at Echo Park Road.

Baist's Real Estate Atlas, 1910
(Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)
By 1910, as shown above, Sutherland Street finally appeared.  The electric railway was running along Sunset and Echo Park Road.  Not shown in this photo, but the railway also ran to Glendale Avenue, along Temple Street, but not on the other major street, Bellevue.  The Sunset line went all the way to the city limit at today's Hoover Street and Fountain Avenue.

Baist's Real Estate Atlas, 1921
(Image courtesy of the Seaver Center)
The above map shows the progression of more tracts.  Elysian Park, along with the Barlow Sanitorium, is seen within the open areas along the right portion of the photo.

Growing Pains and the Development of Sunset Boulevard

Scores of schemes came and went in the late 19th century attempting to connect the now American city of Los Angeles to the sea.  The "Sunset" name may have been inspired by a failed real estate venture, platted 11/26/1887 by the Los Angeles and Santa Monica Land and Water Company, in what was once Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres, present-day Holmby Hills.

Locally, in 1893 the newspaper reported that the L.A. City Engineer presented a map proposing to develop Sunset from Douglas Street to the north city limit (today's Hoover Street and Fountain Avenue).

Nearly two years later the paper reported again about the opening, widening and extending of Sunset from Elysian Street to the city limit, but the city was awaiting the receipt of homeowner assessment fees.

In 1898 more discussions were traded, involving three groups:  the Northwestern, the Tejunga, and the Cahuenga Improvement Associations.  Everybody wanted connectivity, and the Cahuenga group was willing to help with the costs contingent upon securing Cahuenga property owners' rights-of-way.

By 1899 Sunset Boulevard had been graded and graveled only as far as Douglas Street.  There was another approach, Alvarado Street, but it was not graded north of Temple Street.

In 1901, 24 members of the newly-formed Sunset Boulevard Improvement Association met with the objective to get Sunset graded beyond Douglas Street.

Meanwhile, in September of 1901, the town of Hollywood was celebrating its new Hollywood Boulevard.

By 1902, most property owners were on board, and the city secured deeds to straighten out some curvatures along Sunset.  Hollywood was also anxiously awaiting the connection of Sunset with its own Prospect Avenue.  The push involved a public campaign along with funding by H.J. Whitley (later known as the father of Hollywood) to secure rights-of-way.

Finally, on May 14, 1904, the Times newspaper published a procession route of the Hollywood Boulevard Parade, celebrating the connection of Prospect Avenue with the long-awaited Sunset Boulevard:

"With steam carriages and horse carriages, with electric runabouts and vehicles propelled by the vapor of hydrocarbons, all joining in parade, the approaching completion of the boulevard system connecting this city with Hollywood will be celebrated this afternoon."

Auto Thrills on Quintero Street Hill

A recent view on the street's descent towards Sunset Boulevard

Quintero Street was graded in 1910, and sewering took place in 1914.

In between those two accomplishments the short street became the stunt-worthy, hyperbolic testing ground for the new trucks and automobiles being introduced on the West coast.  A January 19th, 1913 news article described a Hudson 6-cylinder auto ascend a 38% grade, appearing to climb not a hill, but "the side of a barn".  Later that November, a locally manufactured Moreland truck took its 5,000 pound load onto "Quintero Street hill" on its 22% grade.  The street's actual grade was closer to 24.25%.

Plenty more auto antics continued to be published in the Times into the year 1923, with varying reports on the actual slope.  A Maxwell, Jackson, Jeffery, King "8", Packard, Oldsmobile, Ohio Electric, Owen Magnetic, Rickenbacher, more Morelands, Republic trucks, and others, took to Quintero, sometimes piling prospective buyers, a mother and her baby, or steering only with the knees, among crowds of onlookers.

This blogger arrived on the hill one recent Saturday afternoon with a high expectation but was quickly disappointed.  The ascent beginning at Sunset is short-lived.  It lacks the dramatic length of Fargo Street and even the blind apex of Duane Street before a nose-diving plunge onto Silverlake Boulevard. 

Fargo Street, its name already officially designated in 1908, also seemed to have had some grading by 1913. Why was Fargo rarely used as the go-to street for auto demonstrations?  The 1999 edition of Ghosts of Echo Park, by Ron Emler, described its 32% grade the steepest in the state of California.

Fargo's elevation may have overpowered most vehicles.  Quintero Street provided a unique challenge - the t-intersection at the bottom of the hill offered no running starts! 

A 1915 test of the King "8" and its "motometer" demonstrated to buyers a feature to monitor overheating.  Also in 1915, a mother and child coasted down Quintero Street safely on an Ohio Electric with the press of a button to activate a magnetic brake and avoided skidding.

Nearby Baxter Street was also accessible by 1916 and also used to test cars.  A newspaper exaggerated on its 35% grade, while another article described the street's final 300 feet as its steepest was 29.04% grade.

“The early automobiles were notoriously unreliable and often underpowered,” said Darryl Holter, historian and dealer principal at Felix Chevrolet.  “Automobile dealers in Los Angeles organized car races and endurance contests to show the public that their cars were reliable.  Allowing a customer to test drive by successfully climbing a steep street like Quintero or Baxter was an easy way to demonstrate what the vehicle could do.”

In 1917 Edward "Suicide" Dooley took an Oldsmobile onto Quintero, steering with his knees while his hands were handcuffed behind his head.  This performance was a precursor for Dooley, "the cowboy auto pilot" of his auto run to the Phoenix state fair.  Also driven while handcuffed, he averaged 45 miles per hour, changed gears with his feet and steered with his left knee.

In 1918, a Fageol truck with a full load pulled a trailer with a similar load:

August, 1918
(Image courtesy ProQuest Historical L.A. Times)

In 1919 a double demonstration befitted a White Auto Company's heavy duty, double reduction gear-drive truck.  The truck climbed San Francisco's Fillmore Street loaded with 4 3/4 tons, followed by a 34-hour drive to Los Angeles loaded with five tons of Spurry flour, concluding on the climatic Quintero Street hauling a new five ton load at 16 miles an hour.

A National car on the Quintero Street hill in 1921
(Courtesy California Digital Newspaper Collection)

December, 1922
(Image courtesy ProQuest Historical L.A. Times)

Overland Tour cars climbing Quintero hill, November 1923
(Image courtesy ProQuest Historical L.A. Times)

Within a Baseball's Throw

Interesting is Quintero Street's proximity to Dodger Stadium.  From the hilltop at MacBeth & Quintero, this blogger climbed a few wooden steps to discover the view:

Some backyards of Quintero Street homes overlook a piece of Shangri-La
along with a view of the Dodger Stadium parking lots

Saturday, July 14, 2018

It's Bastille Day...And a Birthday Salute to L.A.'s First Frenchman

Louis Aguste Bauchet was the first Frenchman in Los Angeles, according to historian Helene Demeestere.  She posited while Bauchet was first, "recorded in the city's archives, another vintner, Jean-Louis Vignes, qualifies as the father of French immigration to Los Angeles."1

Bauchet was included on a previous post Beneath Terminal Annex

C.C. de Vere's blog Frenchtown Confidential wonderfully describes the circumstances that brought Bauchet, originally from the Champagne region, to settle in the pueblo of Los Angeles.  Bauchet and many more of his countrymen went to Mexico following the Napoleonic Wars to find work.  There they were hired to fight for independence from Spain, and by 1821 Mexico succeeded.  Bauchet served as an officer and leader.2

de Vere sets straight some dates this blogger overlooked:  Bauchet was born July 17, 1785; he arrived in the pueblo of Los Angeles in 1827; he died in 1847.  These dates reveal that Bauchet was nearly four years old and growing up in a region not far from Paris when the onslaught to the Bastille prison compound occurred on July 14, 1789 to trigger the French Revolution. 

Bauchet harvested grapes for wine in L.A. for 20 years, and lived to see another war (the U.S. War with Mexico) before he passed away.  And the 233rd year of his birth is coming up on July 17th, 2018.

Former French Nationals Chose Sides in the U.S. War with Mexico

By the early 1840s Mexico's grasp onto Alta California was weakening.  Some French sided with the Californios while some eventually fought under General John C. Fremont for the Americans when war broke out in 1846.  Prominent French pioneer Joseph Mascarel, though married to a native Californio, fought with the Americans.3

 Today the County Men's Central Jail faces the intersection of Vignes and Bauchet Streets

The street name originated in this vicinity (north of Cesar Chavez Avenue)
because of Louis Bauchet's vineyards and a later Bauchet tract.
The street was officially named in 1889.

A colorful bail bonds strip mall that evokes the flavor choices of a well-stocked Yogurtland faces Vignes Street.  It is kittycorner to the Men's Central Jail and is by appearances a very pleasant-looking, one-stop shopping place to spring a loved one out of jail.

A view of more bail choices along the side of the mini-mall

Bastille Day in L.A.

Below is the written speech delivered by Antonio Coronel on February 19, 1881.  Coronel was a representative of the city's Hispano-American Benevolent Society as well as former city mayor and California State Treasurer.  He himself arrived with his family in 1834 as part of a colonization group, the Hijar-Padres expedition that set sail from San Blas, Mexico.  (Frenchmen were along with that group, too.)

In the draft in Spanish, the visionary Coronel discussed the anniversary of Bastille and France in general.  Apologies for the lack of a translation:

4-page manuscript courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research,
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The anniversary of the taking of the Bastille was civically recognized a few months later the year of 1881, and eight years later the city celebrated the centennial.

Los Angeles Herald, July 14, 1881
Courtesy of the California Digital Newspaper Collection

For more extensive history on early French individuals in L.A. please visit C.C. de Vere's Frenchtown Confidential, True Stories from the Lost French Community in Los Angeles and the Rest of Southern California.  Noteworthy is her post pointing out artifacts at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County that document numerous French pioneers.

For this blogger's previous stories that contain mentions of French residents:

Beneath Terminal Annex, An L.A. Neighborhood North of Macy Street, which covers Bauchet and also Isaac S.K. Ogier, a descendant of French Huguenots.

Before the Convention Center, the Staples Center, L.A. Live and Football, which covers the Sentous brothers.

The Pellissiers: Wiltern Theater, Dairy Farming, and Hazel the Cow, which covers the Pellissier family.

Marcel and Jeanne's French Cafe in Montebello, Cal.

Beneath Parker Center: the Paris Inn Café, Little Tokyo, Vigilantes & Mexican Immigrants


1  Helene Demeestere, Pioneers and Entrepreneurs, French Immigrants in the Making of L.A., 1827-1927, a FLAX (France Los Angeles eXchange) Exhibition, (Los Angeles, FLAX, 2007), [page 2].

2  Fernand Loyer, Charles Beaudreau and Catherine Beaudreau, Le Guide Francais, ([Place of publication not identified] : [F. Loyer and C. Beaudreau] ; Los Angeles : Distributed by Franco American Pub. Co., 1932), 17.

3  Eloise Thienes Lacy, Contributions of People of French Origin to the Historical Development of the City and County of Los Angeles, a Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Department of History University of Southern California, [Los Angeles:  University of Southern California, ca. 1948], 49.