Category Archives: Obituaries

Longtime KABC weatherman Dr. George Fischbeck passes away

bla-2015-03-25-dr-george-fullshotABC7 announced today that longtime KABC weatherman Dr. George Fischbeck died on this morning at the age of 92.

I remember watching Dr. George and his signature bow-tie on television until he retired from ABC and enjoyed his re-emergence KCBS in the mid-to-late 1990s.

For many Angelenos, Dr. George was more than just the weatherman. He taught us about jet streams, high and low pressures and millibars. When he was giving us his forecast for the highs and lows for the next day, he’d also remind us to be good citizens and take care of each other.

He was also an ambassador of good will both on and off the set. For years, he collected toys for children at Porterville State Hospital.

Years after he retired, he gave his support to ABC7’s Spark of Love Toy Drive.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Cataldi

You don’t know him, but please indulge me in a few moments of reflection here for my neighbor, Mr. Cataldi, and allow me a circle of love drawn for and around his wife, children, family, and friends.

Home is so often little more than temporary here in transient Los Angeles, where the earth and its people move with such ceaseless regularity. In such a region of motion and shallow roots, home is more conceptual than concrete. And that’s what makes his story so unique in this city.

Mr. Cataldi was raised in a lovely 104-year-old craftsman bungalow down the block from me (pictured), then owned by his father — perhaps he was even born there. Drawn back to his childhood home as an adult, he purchased it, raised his children in it, and lived in it his entire life, which came to an end yesterday.

For the fixture he was, it’ll be sad when I pass by now and don’t see him sitting comfortable and proud out there on the porch with his wife. But as a native angeleno who’s had no less than 16 addresses in my far shorter existence, I’ll remember him as someone who proved that one can plant deep roots in these shifting soils and have them hold strong.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cataldi.

Elisa Lam: Body of Missing Canadian Tourist Discovered in Downtown Hotel Water Tank

The body of missing Canadian tourist, Elisa Lam of Vancouver, British Columbia, was found in the water tank of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Lam had traveled to California by herself on January 27, en route to Santa Cruz, and was last seen by workers at the hotel on January 31.

Although Lam was scheduled to check out of the hotel on February 1, she had disappeared, despite being in daily contact with her family up until this point. By February 6, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had released details about the suspicious disappearance of Lam and on February 7, a press conference was held about the case.

A week later, on February 14, the LAPD released a disturbing surveillance video of the 21 year old University of British Columbia (UBC) student darting in and out of the hotel’s elevators.

Earlier this week, on February 19, guests at the Cecil Hotel complain about low water pressure and a worker checks the hotel’s water tanks and discovers Lam’s body. Guests staying at the hotel had likely been bathing, brushing their teeth and drinking water from a tank in which Lam’s body had been likely decomposing for more than two weeks.

Photo courtesy: LAPD

George Tetsuo Aratani, Nisei Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Passes Away at Age 95

George Aratani, a survivor of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and later successful businessman and philanthropist who founded Mikasa and Kenwood, passed away Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at the age of 95.

His legacy in philanthropy through The Aratani Foundation has supported many Japanese American organizations, but especially in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. One literally cannot walk a block in Little Tokyo without passing by a space endowed by George and Sakaye Aratani: Japanese American Cultural and Community Center’s Aratani Japan America Theatre; the Japanese American National Museum’s George and Sakaye Central Hall; and the Union Center for the Arts’s Aratani Courtyard.

From The Nisei Week Foundation Facebook page:

The Nisei Week Foundation mourns the passing of George Aratani who passed away peacefully today [Tuesday, February 19, 2013].

Aratani successfully launched post-World War II international trade enterprises. His first was Mikasa, a tableware company which was doing $400 million in annual sales when it was sold in 2000.

Influenced by his late father and motivated by the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, Aratani and his wife Sakaye have donated a sizable amount of their wealth to Japanese American organizations and causes.

For More Information:
Hirahara, Naomi. An American Son: The Story of George Aratani, Founder of Mikasa and Kenwood. Los Angeles, CA: Japanese American National Museum, 2001.

Photo credit: CalPoly Pomona, The George and Sakaye Aratani Japanese Garden

Bamboo Charlie, Rest In Peace

I was seriously  saddened to read in today’s LA Times that Charles Ray Walker (aka Bamboo Charlie) was found dead August 26. I first learned of him and the wonderful Boyle Heights space he transformed a couple years ago:

From the LA Times story today by Hector Becerra:

What Walker did, over two decades, was turn something grim into a wonderland garden of edibles and toys. He grew fruits and vegetables on bare slopes. He took discarded toys and whimsical signs and decorated terraces and elaborate stairwells he carved out of the dirt. He built a shack, and under the cool shade of a tree, a home entertainment room with a television set and sofa.

I’d always meant to go there and say hello. Now it’s too late for that. Now, all I can do is go and pay my respects.

Remembering El Circo Loco

Permit me, with a photo my wife Susan took of him a couple months before he passed,  to recall one of Silver Lake’s beloved cast of street characters — El Circo Loco (né Antonio Ruiz) — whose death was five years ago today.

What I wrote on the one-year anniversary still covers how I feel:

Every time I’ve since passed the corners of Golden Gate and Sunset Boulevard where I most often saw him living his life out loud and leading his one-man parades, I still look for him and I still can’t believe he and his colorful extravagance now live only in the hearts and memories of those who miss him so, like me.

Viva El Circo Loco! Viva Antonio Ruiz!


LAFD Firefighter Glenn Allen, Rest In Peace And Honor

I’d heard of the house fire in the Hollywood Hills Wednesday night and of the firefighter on-scene who was gravely injured as a result of the blaze.  It just so happens that the day after the tragedy, a morning bike ride took me past the LAFD training center in Elysian Park. Veering into the parking lot I found myself before the 9/11 memorial and saying a prayer for the firefighter’s recovery.

It’s a prayer that went unanswered and I was saddened to hear that Glen L. Allen, a 36-year veteran of the department, succumbed to his injuries yesterday. He is the 61st Los Angeles firefighter to die in the line of duty in the department’s 125-year history.

The department is a collective force of many but its core strength comes from individuals like Glen Allen who without fail are ready to plunge headlong into danger, to risk their lives in service of others. It’s important to remember not just those heroes who we lost yesterday, but those who will not hesitate to put the uniform on and endanger themselves similarly tomorrow. To Firefighter Allen and to all emergency personnel who answer the call, who put the lives of others ahead of their own, all I can say as a proud citizen of this city is thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My thoughts are with Allen’s family and friends and my hopes are ever for the safety of all his fellow firefighters.

RIP Stephen J. Cannell

Television icon Stephen J. Cannell died last night. He was only 69. Television might not be what it is today without all the amazing characters and shows that he created and wrote. Among many others were: The Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, Baa Baa Black Sheep, The Greatest American Hero. (And my personal sentimental favorite Tenspeed and Brownshoe.)

We attended a Writer’s Guild Panel a few years ago about his legacy and career and no one had a bad thing to say about him. He was clearly a man who was open to helping anyone out, offering support and creative criticism and encouragement to all who showed gumption and talent. His own work ethic was legendary, cranking out scripts after script and later, novel after novel.

Mr. Cannell’s work might not be considered “art” but he created entertaining, fun, full-of-life tv. He will be sorely and sadly missed by so many in the business, myself included.

Rest In Peace: Silver Lake Walking Man

I’m entirely dumbstruck to learn that one of Silver Lake’s most recognizable and mobile icons, Dr. Marc Abrams — aka The Walking Man, The Walking Dude, Doc Walker — has died.  His age is being reported as 58 and he was apparently found dead Wednesday in the backyard hottub of his Silver Lake home.

In my seven years in Silver Lake, I’ve of course seen Abrams in his element countless times (and photographed him on any of several occasions). By chance one day a few years back while I myself was walking the hills west of the reservoir I found him coming out of his house to begin one of his marathon treks and felt like I’d graduated; not only did I know of The Walking Man, but now I knew of where he lived!

It’s a funny thing. Though he was in essence a stranger, there was nevertheless something very reassuring in seeing him out there on the sidewalks in his shorts, reading something or talking on his cell phone. Whether I was having a crap day or the world was in some way greased and going to hell, a fleeting encounter with him was a reminder that everything wasn’t entirely out of whack.

But now it is. And I know that sometime in the next few months I’m going to be biking or walking or driving somewhere in Silver Lake and wonder why it is I haven’t seen him in so long. Then I’ll remember, and it won’t surprise me if I get choked up like I am right now.

It is at least some consolation that so revered by the community as he was I can find him in at least three neighborhood murals I know of, including  Nicky Gagliarducci’s 2009 mural next to Local Restaurant (pictured above; click to enlarge). He has — sigh, had — a habit of popping up our of nowhere so maybe he’ll surprise me by showing up in other street art I don’t know about.

In the meantime I’ll fondly recall the last time I saw him in person, which was prior to the start of one of my Bike Every Saturday In May group bike rides. As he strode past where we’d gathered in the Silversun parking lot at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Parkman Avenue, one of us asked him if he had any advice. He stopped, turned and thought about it for a second. With a smile he fittingly gave us Satchel Paige’s “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”

Then he walked away.

Rest in peace, Walking Man. Rest in peace, Dr. Abrams.

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

Every now and then we Trojans have to join up with those annoying Bruins on some things (and not just hating on Cal). This weekend, we join together on a sad note – mourning the loss of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

John Wooden and Bill Walton, 1970

John Wooden and Bill Walton, 1970. Photo courtesy Vedia on Flickr.

I’ve been making some plans lately for the upcoming World Cup. I don’t follow soccer (football?) but I wanted to take part in the magnificent exercise in sports fandom that will be USA vs. England. Whatever their sport, fans tend to unite over great communal experiences like the World Cup, the Olympics, the Super Bowl or the Lakers in the finals.

We, as lovers of sport, also unite in recognizing legends, regardless of rivalry or affiliation. We all recognize the greatness that was John Wooden.

And all of us, Bruins, Trojans, whatever, felt our hearts sink a bit at the news that Wooden was “gravely ill”, and then when he eventually passed away last night. He may have been 99 years old and hadn’t coached in decades, but the loss of Wooden still leaves a big gaping hole in the sports world. Coaches with his level of success and, more importantly, his level of influence are one-in-a-million.

Well before I moved to California and learned about Trojans vs. Bruins (and on which side I stood), I learned about Wooden. I remember my 7th grade basketball coach preaching his wisdom to us in the locker room. His name is all over buildings in Westwood. My favorite monument to him is the bust carved out of wood that sits in the lobby at ESPN Zone in Anaheim (the “wooden Wooden”). He’s practically required reading for teachers and coaches of all levels.

Wooden represented the best of UCLA, of basketball, of Los Angeles, hell, all of sports in general. While normally I would be reveling in seeing the Bruins cope with a loss (like, say, in a football game), this time, I, and fans everywhere, will be right there with them.