Ethyl’s Service Station (1/17/18)

SCENE: An old desert service station on Route 66.

A badly matched backgrouind for the scene but playing around with using photos from the Internet as backgrounds illuminated on our 32″ Omen monitor.


Desert Patriot (1/25/18)

SCENE: A patriot lives isolated in his house trailer on the top of a mountain in the desert.


Dino World (2/3/18)

SCENE:A happy family (in the 50s … the Fraim family!) is on their way to Dino World just over the hill. Little do they know that two dinosaurs have escaped from Dino World and wait for them on the other side of the hill. One is on the road holding a sign for Dino World that says “Left 300 Feet.”


Jack Fraim Dealership  Project

 We’ve been in touch with the Culver City Historical Society for information on the Fraim car dealership in Culver City, almost directly across the street from the MGM Studio. A diorama based on this location of the Fraim car dealership in the mid-1950s. The project is composed of four separate dioramas inside the overall Fraim Dealership project. All the dioramas are really built around Fraim Dealership in the NE corner of the 20″ x 30″ double foam board. The other sections are 1) MGM backlot across the street from the car dealership in the SW corner of the diorama 2) the Starlight Jazz Club in the NW section of the diorama and 3) a train track cutting through the most SE corner in the diorama. Some boys playing on the tracks. (I’m one of them).


The Starlight Jazz Club (2/19/18)

(NE Section of Jack Fraim Dealership Project)

Chico Hamilton is one of the most famous of Los Angeles’ jazz musicians. He was born in 1921 in LA and it is now the mid-50s and he has formed his famous Chico Hamilton Quintet. The Quintet are appearing at the Starlight Jazz Club. It’s early in the evening before the show and a new Lincoln Continental is in front of the club. It is new and shiny, unlike the weathered club. Perhaps it is the owner of the club? Via a small bluetooth Nano Cube speaker inside the club, we can a record playing of the music of the Chico Hamilton Quintet. All scratch built. The club started as a small box from Hobby Lobby and the walls are weathered paper from Hobby Lobby. The door is from Grandt Line HO. The original windows in the large double door with the transome above it have been boarded over per the club’s policy “What happens at the Starlight stays at the Starlight.” The car is from Oxford Die Cast Limited. Parking lot was printed from asphalt wallpaper downloaded from the Internet. The sign Appearing Now was created in Page on the Mac. The jazz club sign and the album cover were downloaded from the Internet. Shrubbery and tree from Woodland Scenics. Background photo of the night sky downloaded from an image on the Internet and projected onto our 32” HP Omen monitor. Shot in High Dynamic Range with a Leica V-Lux 3. Not happy with the lighting and thinking of shooting another scene in night time lighting using a Litra Light with a blue filter on it and a diffuser sitting about ten inches over the club like a moon.

Taken with blue lighting filter from a Litra Lite about 10″ from the NE section of the photo.

One side of club featuring an advertisement for Chesterfields by Bing Crosby

Another side of club featuring a poster for Miles Davis’ Indigo Moods

MGM Backlot



The Cabazon Dinosaurs – Current Aerial Google Map of the scene. Photos of the site area on Google Images. Perhaps the most famous California tourist stop. Perhaps the symbol for California tourist stops? History of the tourist stop in relation to the restaurant it was associated with. The symbolism of an American tourist trap. How this goes to the heart of the American experience. There is a Burger King next to the great dinosaurs (as one would suspect if one were suspecting fast food restaurants close to scenes like this). The Burger King seems a good addition to the two Cabazon dinosaurs a few hundred feet behind the restaurant.

The Stone Hut (Webb School, 1967) – Interviews with Webb School Class of 67 members. Creation of a small diorama from class member memories based around Lawrence McMillin and his classes taught at the Stone Hut.

CIF Playoffs – A bus goes across the vastness of the California desert.  On the bus is the Webb School of California football team in 1966 as they travel to the far-eastern rim of their league for a championship game in the California high school finals. The vastness of the California desert on a 2’ x 2’ ¾ plywood Birch board.

New River Mining Company – Model on 2’ x 2’ base. The drama of a coal mine? What could possibly be dramatic about this? Anyway, a beautiful model in n-scale I’ve got in the studio. Modeled after an original mine. (See photos of original prototype of the mind as well as the hillside it was attached to in The Mine files). The symbolism of a mine, though? Taking valuable things out of the earth? Mother earth? An invasion by the male symbol of culture against the female symbol of earth. The scene needs to capture this conflict, expressed at the top of popular culture in January of 2018. Male invasion of the feminine.

Atomic Café – From the brilliant models of Downtown Deco.  It is the least risqué of all the amazing model structures from Downtown Deco. For once, a master modeler has taken his art into a series of incredible structures in that world outside the usual happy towns of traditional model railroads. The founder of Downtown Deco has created a series of structures from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Bars and strip clubs. Crumbling cafes and greasy restaurants. Charity places. Pool halls. The things the big scale model makers never model. I’m ordering some homeless people to put on the sides of the café. The café needs to be anchored by these people. It is the brilliance of this model maker and seller that needs to be honored in some diorama in HO scale. A brilliant little model from the leading master in realistic world buildings Downtown Deco.

Glitter Gulch Casino – The nickname for the famous Fremont district of downtown Las Vegas in the 40s and 50sA diorama built around the animated miniature neon sign from Miller Signs. A desert casino. A huge casino off of I-10 into Palm Springs. Highway 10 modeled next to the casino perhaps. Much in same environment as Cabazon Dinosaurs diorama above.

The Flamingo Bar – Built around an animated miniature neon sign from Miller Signs. The bar has a Polynesian Tiki bar look to it. Modeled after the famous Kahiki supper club in Columbus, Ohio. Homage to my uncle Lee Henry who founded the Kahiki. But this is a bar in decline. The exterior of the restaurant has a faded (weathered) pinkish color. It has seen better days. It seems on immediate analysis in the shape of a great ship of some distant, ancient South Pacific deep within our dreams. A romantic, nostalgic place in our memories. Immediately it has a historic, symbolic shape to us. It is a shape we have in memory somehow. The image of an ancient ship. Remembered at some deep level of personal archeology. Mixed in my own memory of the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa, California. Using a sign from the leading maker of animated light miniature signs, Miller Signs. Here, a light goes around a sign pointing towards the promise of the Flamingo Bar. Supposed the Kahiki of Columbus had been transported to the California Desert somewhere off I-10 in the Coachella Valley. The great pioneer of American Polynesian restaurants is located in the California desert. Right around Cabazon between the two great mountains.

The Last Dinosaur – An idea that came to me while walking around Michaels. Within the large entrance sign proclaiming in huge letters “Last Dinosaur Park” a father and son looks at the last dinosaur on a heavy chain behind an iron fence. There is some deep moat between the dinosaur and the father and son. Meanwhile, at another place in the diorama – inside or outside the Last Dinosaur Park – a mother and daughter observe two baby dinosaurs hatching behind some rocks. The birth of the baby dinosaurs contradicts the message of Last Dinosaur Park. Modeled in the large O scale as the people are O scale. There is a sign on the gate in front of the dinosaur the father and son look at that tells of an alternate history. We realize we are somewhere in the future when we read this sign. It tells of a great war between dinosaurs and mankind and how it is good that this war will finally be over with the last dinosaur.

The Dioramist – Thanks to my son Chris for this idea. A diorama of a person building a model diorama in his shop. One can see, on closer inspection, that the person in the diorama is also in the process of the creation of a diorama. This person is me. A type of “out of body” experience diorama. Like the scene of Nick’s from Gatsby when he is in NYC and both an outside and inside observer to the events of the present world. As Nick says “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” Maybe something with the paradox of the Escher lithograph “Drawing Hands.” The creator in process of creating himself/herself.

The Swamp – A murky swamp dominates the front of the diorama out of which we can see all types of swamp critters poking their gross heads out of the swamp water. Alligators, prehistoric creatures. The swamp, though, is not in the middle of some jungle but is in a city. A large plain building is near the swamp and the creatures in the swamp come and go from the building. Or, perhaps the swamp has been drained and the only thing left we can see in the diorama is the Lincoln Monument (like historic photo below).