Professor Galaxy

The First Dealership / Pasadena

Alice Coltrane / Translinear Light


The Diorama Muse

Putting her to Bed for Awhile

Or not?

John Fraim

I’ve just completed organizing and documenting chronologically the nine months of great creativity I went through from January to September 2018. I call it the return of the model making muse in my life. Sparked by my father being into model railroad trains and a layout in the basement of our home. And me, having a desk next to him. He was living in a mid-western state and away from his adopted state of California. No one ever discussed why the family made the move back east from California but my dad was not happy with it. He did it because my mother wanted to return to her home state after her first ten years in California.

There has always been a special place for Los Angeles in my mine. In those years it was gorgeous before smog and traffic and people took over. I started thinking about my dad’s Lincoln-Mercury car dealership in the Culver City section of Los Angeles. The memory was brought back to me in a big way when I visited where his car dealership used to be. Now, a branch of some bank . But in the 1950s, directly across Washington Boulevard from the walls that run for blocks. Directly across from a main MGM gate was where my dad’s car dealership was directly situated.

The memory was jump-started back to me when my wife and I stayed at the Culver Hotel in October of 2017. Right after my high school reunion in Claremont. Fifty miles east of Culver City. My LA daughter-in-law convinced us we had to stay there. It was a great recommendation. The hotel has one of the grand hotel histories in California. When my dad owned his dealership, it was little more than ten years since The Wizard of Oz had been filmed a half mile way on the big sound stages at MGM Studios (now SONY). At the hotel’s lobby bar we heard stories about the wild rampage of the munchkins in the film. There was much drinking and a good amount of lewd behavior and broken furniture. At least these are the stories your hear.

It was an unusual life growing up in LA as a young boy. With my father owning a few successful car dealerships and selling an exciting product. The Lincoln. It was meant to be the luxury competitor to Cadillac. Preferred (I later learned) by many in the motion picture business. Many became customers of my dad’s place.

On many weekends from school, I would hang out on the car lot and in the showroom with the salesmen at the dealership. Most had worked for my dad – a Colonel in the Army Air Corps in WWII. They had lots of stories to tell. I was getting pretty good at listening since I had first been hanging out at the Pasadena dealership a few years before Culver City. Like the salesmen in Pasadena, the ones in Culver City also had dreams of getting into the motion picture. They had come to work at his dealerships from all over the country.

* * *

I heard a lot of stories in those years about the war and stories of films and the movie business. Many of the salesmen had parts in various B films of the time. Stories of the war mixed with stories of the movie business. Thinking back on things now, I would say I was exposed to hearing a lot of non-fiction stories about the war as well as fiction stories about B films the salesmen were in. Some were acquiring agents in fact I later learned. The war of the 40s and the LA movie business of the 1950s. A hard reality of life. Many pursued the dream of a new life in the those years. The dream of the future. It was much more appealing than the reality of the present for many in this post war years. Of course, this is something I learned about these early years of mine only later. Like many of us learn about ourselves and our pasts.

The presence of war was something that so many of these new resident to Los Angeles had in common in that many former military people were deciding to make California their new home. Most of the sales guys on my dad’s two car dealerships. When I was down there on the car lot, there was often a moment of focus on the gate of MGM Studios just across Washington, as some big star went into or emerged from the studio. Many of them had new Lincolns bought at my dad’s place.

It makes sense now when placing the dealership and the studios in close proximity to each other. One couldn’t get in much greater proximity to another business (both in physical as well as business sense). It turned out that many of his customers were well-known people in the movie business those years. Some stars all would recognize. One we called uncle “Charlie” and visited his orange farm in the San Fernando Valley of the 1950. My dad’s customers for the Lincoln Continentals during this time were also other people in the movie business who had become customers by buying from the dealership staring them in the face when they left the studios across the street. There were famous directors and producers of films. One of his favorite friends was one of the earliest MGM directors and his wife.

The Magnificent Culver Hotel

* * *

Thinking back on it now (and examining the space of the dealership when we were at the Culver Hotel in 2017). What a brilliant marketing move for my dad or whoever got him this prime piece of property back in the 1950s. What a no brainer for a luxury auto dealership. Right across the street from MGM in the 1950s. The goings on of the studio lot and just a few hundred yards away, the goings on of my dad’s car dealership. I think this has always been lodge in memory, a juxtaposition of two images from one’s real life past.

This contrast in the life of growing up in LA was not a fiction for me. But a reality. The months after our spending time in Culver City were active months for ideas. Writing continued as well as some of the music I made in my digital studio. The result was the attempt (as well as the need) to create this period of time in a diorama or model. Or self-contained, dramatic scene in life.

Perhaps another business on Washington Boulevard across from MGM. I was starting to envision in a snapshot of a piece of the world. Maybe a little jazz club in the block from my dad’s dealership. It was a changing area of LA at the time. Not a place to live in but work in a get out of. Soon, I had laid out the whole plan for a diorama of my father’s dealership across the street from the MGM Studios of the 50s.

I laid it out on a 20″ x 30″ thick poster board in HO scale with Washington Blvd. serving as a huge middle black line of the diorama separating MGM Studios from my dad’s car dealership. I filled in sketched of parts of the diorama. I made a cut-out shape for a little structure of my father’s car dealership in Culver City. Which was designed by the same architect as the successful one in Pasadena. One formula, was to promote the business through all sorts of little marketing items. Such as the key ring medallion at the top of this post. I used this sketch for the Culver City Lincoln Mercury dealership.

* * *

The year 2018 began in my life with a desire to create this diorama. Was it a type of symbol in my life? The conjuring up of this particular scene from the past? It did not seem like a bad question since I spent much time thinking about it.

Strangely, my interest went from creating this diorama of my father’s dealership across from MGM to other things. The original idea for this diorama-making period in my life. This contrast of my father’s business to the main entrance to the film business. Via customers. It was funny how some of these ideas came quickly once one opened themselves up to them. The months following my desire to create a diorama of my father’s business in the 1950s. Across the wide Washington Blvd. of the 50s.

The creation of new dioramas during this time. Fairly intense. But it was not these aerial views of life like I envisioned that diorama/image/symbol of my father’s car dealership in the 1950.

Rather, it was much more immersive in the scene of the diorama itself. In fact, it seemed like to me that creating the dioramas was a type of Jungian Sand Play in some type of extreme form. Within the creation of the diorama there might be the possibility for other / alternative narrators and narratives.

* * *

Which leads us into the Professor Galaxy diorama I did the second month into the diorama period of thy life. It offered a major breakthrough in what I was looking to create. In the diorama we witness an empty classroom with clues or notes left on a blackboard, or the note from the administration posted on the wall. Or, at the objects in the room such as the over-turned empty wine bottles.

This diorama was a turning one for me. It suggested strongly to me that we are the privileged witnesses to an important scene or event in life. Might these be coming through my creation of all the dioramas during this time?

You can examine the scenes below and read into what has happened in this scene. Apparently, not too long ago. We are witness to a recent event. It is lighted below with lighting using devices like Snoots that focus lighting below in the Professor Galaxy Classroom scene below. The professor is a woman. Imma Galaxy. She was apparently fired from this classroom at UC Berkeley for attempting to show the true nature of scale in the universe. The dramatic lighting was added to the shoot of the diorama almost five years after the diorama was made.

Not Just A Scene But A Key Event From One’s Life

For those interested in the number of images of dioramas produced during these nine months in 2018.

My creations for the diorama world of 2018. In chronological order.

Many are short, spur of the moment ideas. Not more than Cliches .

The Diorama Page of Midnight Oil. A reflection on this period of time. January to September 2018.

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