Catching up with the 2012 Rose Queen

2013 Rose Queen Vanessa Manjarrez, left, stands with the 2012 Rose Queen Drew Washington. (Photo By Walt Mancini)

2013 Rose Queen Vanessa Manjarrez, left, stands with the 2012 Rose Queen Drew Washington. (Photo By Walt Mancini)

Story By Claudia S. Palma

This time last year, Drew Washington was keeping up with her duties as the 94th Rose Queen for the 2012 Tournament of Roses. Now, the 18-year-old is majoring in sports management at New York University in New York City, running with the track and field team at the college and interning at HBO.

Washington, a freshman at the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, is focused on her major with an emphasis on sports law.

Her academic achievement and community service thus far has garnered her a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar award and a spot in the Emma L. Bowen Foundation’s four-year work/study internship program for minority students interested in careers in the media industry, which also helps pay a portion of her tuition.

During her reign, Washington took part in more than 150 community events in the span of a few months, including meeting with elementary and middle school students, visiting patients at Children’s Hospital and the City of Hope, meeting with seniors at the Pasadena Senior Center and the Royal Oaks Senior Living Community, participating in Kaiser Permanente’s “Family Day” as well as speaking at Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs functions and a host of other charitable and non-profit organizations.

She described the rush of activity as a long, and sometimes hard year, but it was a rewarding experience. Washington has plenty of advice for the 2013 Rose Queen Vanessa Manjarrez.

She should “remain who she is, remain true to herself. And, honestly, just to have a great time,” Washington said.

“She’s going to meet some of the most amazing people she’ll ever meet and have some of the best experiences of her life. Just soak it all in, live in the moment and know that this year goes by very fast, so live it all up.”

Washington experienced the announcement of the new Queen from a different perspective at the Tournament House on Oct. 16. She greeted the new Queen — “I’m sure (Vanessa) is just overwhelmed with joy, (and) can’t even contain her smile” — and also showed support for Princess Victoria McGregor, who attends Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Washington’s alma mater.

Washington’s everyday life in New York is markedly different from what she is used to.

“New York is a crazy city, it’s much different than L.A.,” she said. “It’s a lot more fast-paced, but it’s great. I love that it’s the city that never sleeps. I’m walking everywhere so I’m getting my exercise.”

But “I miss my car; I miss the people. And I miss the sunshine. It’s getting pretty cold back in New York.”

Washington hopes to continue on to law school and go into entertainment law.

“Hopefully I’ll be representing a professional sports team,” Washington said of her future plans. “Other than that, I’m kind of living in the moment and taking in all the experiences that I can.”

Ready for the parade pup-arazzi

Omar von Muller of Panorama City, works with Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier from the film “The Artist,” who will be riding on a float in the Rose Parade.

Omar von Muller of Panorama City, works with Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier from the film “The Artist,” who will be riding on a float in the Rose Parade. (Photo by Walt Mancini)

Story By Michelle J. Mills

He’s the perfect leading man: handsome, smart and charming. And he starred in an Oscar-winning film.

This heartbreaker, however, is a real dog. Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who stole the scenes in the movies “The Artist,” “Water for Elephants” and “Mr. Fix It,” will be riding down Colorado Boulevard during the Rose Parade on the Beverly Hills Pet Care Foundation float, “Follow the Stars — Adopt a Pet.” Joining him on the creation designed by Fiesta Floats of Irwindale will be Debbie Reynolds and Elaine Hendrix, as well as his “dad,” trainer/owner Omar von Muller.

Uggie comes with more credits than pedigree. He won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Collar Awards and served as a spokesdog for Nintendo’s Nintendogs + Cats video game. The 10-year-old became the first dog to put his pawprints in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on June 25, which the City of Los Angeles declared Uggie Day.

After a couple of treats, Uggie settled down on the couch in his family’s Panorama City home and was ready for our face-to-muzzle chat. He recalled his wild days, when his family was ready to send him to the pound.

“I was way too crazy, chasing cats and chasing dogs and cars,” Uggie barked.

One of von Muller’s friends learned of Uggie’s situation and suggested that the animal trainer check him out.

“He did the nasty things that little dogs do,” von Muller said. Still there was something about Uggie that made von Muller want to give him a chance.

“Omar saw that I was a good-looking Jack, full of energy and Omar knew that all my bad behaviors were nothing but me wanting to do something,” Uggie woofed. “He started working with me and the rest is history. He made me a big star.”

Uggie’s most challenging trick, falling down backwards and playing dead, is also his most popular. It took many hours of practice and a lot of trust for him to learn how to do a falling roll onto his back. He began slowly, practicing the backwards roll over and over on beds and mattresses until he gained confidence and precision. The move made him a hit in “The Artist” and today Uggie does it with ease.

The pup is not only an actor, but a writer. His book, “Uggie, My Story” (Gallery Books, $15), with English journalist Wendy Holden, was published in October.

“I had a story to tell,” Uggie barked. “I was going to the dog pound when I was a puppy, and today I am one of the biggest stars ever, so I wanted to tell all the good things that I did and all the bad things and trouble I got into when I was a kid. Wendy understood everything I was barking.”

Uggie’s path to success hasn’t been all Milk Bones and steak; he has worked hard and knows what it takes to be a star.

“I was not afraid of anything,” Uggie howled. “Nothing got me distracted until I met Reese Witherspoon. Before that, I was very focused, I was very driven. And I loved all the sausages that were given to me by all the stars I worked with. Best of all, I love playing and showing off.”

Uggie is still young at heart and full of energy, but von Muller recognizes that the long hours involved in filmmaking may take their toll, so the little dog is going into semi-retirement. He will take smaller roles that involve less time on the set and make other appearances.

“I definitely want to still keep performing,” Uggie barked. “I want to go to hospitals, I want to go to orphanages where there’s kids, I want to promote animal rescue because there’s a lot of my buddies out there who need help.”

Pet adoption is very important to Uggie.

“There are millions of pets being euthanized mainly because of the negligence of people that adopt the wrong dog and not do the right things, like education and training. People should know what they’re doing before they do it because the ones who suffer are the pets,” Uggie yelped.

“In my opinion, training is probably the most important thing, I call it education, because I used to be a really bad dog when I was a young guy and then the first thing my dad did was discipline me and once I understood right from wrong, everything was fine. I understood what humans wanted from me and the humans understood what I wanted from them.”

Uggie, unlike von Muller, will have no problems getting up early for his float ride in the Rose Parade and his tail wags as he talks about it.

“I’m going to show off a few tricks, hopefully when the cameras are rolling, and wave and smile at everybody,” Uggie arfed.

When queried as to how he plans to wave, Uggie smugly purred that he’ll wave with his paw, of course.

See last year’s Rose Parade edition of Pasadena’s Rose Magazine

Use this link:










L.A. Opera’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ Oksana Dyka is no innocent young child bride, but she’s highly worthy of the role

Oksana Dyka as ‘Madame Butterfly’. Photo by Robert Millard for Los Angeles Opera

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.
2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25 and Dec. 9
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, Saturday, Dec. 1, and Thursday, Dec. 6.
Tickets currently available: $80-$319; ask about dynamic pricing that starts at $19

By Jim Farber


There are certain dramatic problems in opera that cannot be solved. Take this scene from Giacomo Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” as a prime example.
“Quant’anni avete?” (How old are you?) asks the American Consul, Sharpless.
“Guess,” replies the child-bride to be, Cho-Cho-San (Madame Butterfly).
“More,” the girl replies, coyly.
“Less. Just 15 exactly.”
It’s a conundrum opera companies have been facing ever since “Madame Butterfly” (based on the novel by John Luther Long and the play by David Belasco) had its premiere on Feb. 17, 1904. How do you convince an audience that Cho-Cho-San is in any believable way a girl of 15, while requiring the role be sung by a soprano with stratospheric vocal power? The answer, of course, is you can’t. It is a moment that almost always gets a laugh and from that moment requires a leap of faith.
In the case of L.A. Opera’s new production of “Madame Butterfly” starring Ukrainian soprano Oksana Dyka, which opened Saturday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the leap is substantial.
Dyka is a formidable vocal talent, a singer whose future engagements include a succession of Toscas, Aidas and Normas, all mature, passionate women. There is nothing diminutive or childlike about her. So, justifiably, there was a wave of twitters when she proclaimed her age to be “15.” She is at least as old (and almost as tall) as Brandon Jovanovich who plays her husband-to-be, the callous “American vagabondo,” Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton.
The question is, how much does it matter?
As a vocal tour-de-force, Dyka’s Madame Butterfly is a triumph. Her phrasing is dulcet, her power impressive and her knife-edged high notes soar. Her rendition of the plaintive aria, “Un belle di” is as heartbreaking and lyrical as any you will hear live or on recording. Her steadfast commitment to the man who has accepted her love only to abandon her, leaving her with a child he has never claimed, is truly tragic.
At the same time, Dyka is anything but the doll-like innocent described in the libretto, a feat of dramatic magic the best sopranos in the role somehow manage to convey. We do not, however, ever question the depth of her devotion to her husband or her young son.
For his part, Jovanovich embodies the arrogant swagger and cultural insensitivity of Pinkerton while displaying an impressive ringing tenor voice. He is a young American singer to keep an eye on. He is a lady-killer in the most literal sense.
In L.A.  Opera’s most recent production of “Madame Butterfly,” director/designer Robert Wilson solved the opera’s literary problems through a unique style of theatrical abstraction that implied its own reality and left much to the audience’s imagination.
The current production, from San Francisco Opera, is decidedly traditional, dramatically and visually. When the marriage-broker (aka pimp) Goro (played with sleazy intensity by Rodell Rosel) describes the house with its movable screens, we see them. When Pinkerton’s ship sails into port, we see it at anchor throughout the long night vigil kept by Cho-Cho-San, her loyal maid, Suzuki (sung sympathetically by Milena Kitic) and her young son (a real crowd-pleaser), Garret Chang.
The sets and costumes are true to the Japanese setting, while making a point of Co-Co-San’s desire to become a good “American wife.” But it is a production that takes no chances or introduces any innovative thinking. For that you need a director like Wilson or the late Ken Russell, who ended his 1983 “Madame Butterfly” with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and a curtain-closing skyline of neon signs blinking Honda, Sony and Toyota.
“Madame Butterfly” is a surprisingly political opera, a tragic culture clash between a young Japanese girl who despite her age is imbued with a surprising degree of personal (bushido) honor, and a cold-hearted naval officer who embodies all the qualities of opera’s first “ugly American.”
To its credit, the production does make this point clearly. And (whether intentionally or not) the casting of African American bass-baritone Eric Owens as the American Consul, Sharpless, makes his commentary regarding Pinkerton’s cultural insensitivity even more cogent.
The supporting cast features Stefan Szkafarowsky as the Bonze who disowns his niece for breaking with Japanese tradition, and Museop Kim as the rejected suitor, Yamadori.
Grant Gershon conducts Puccini’s score with precision and dramatic urgency.
He also prepared the chorus, which illuminates the wedding scene and melodious nightlong vigil, a scene that is enhanced by L.A. Opera’s decision to present the opera in two acts rather than three.

Celebrations: Where to have the wedding

The Langham, courtesy of FotoNuova.

Pasadena is rich in possible venues for a memorable occasion

By Linda Fields Gold

Back when I was getting married, our moms called the church or synagogue, a hotel or the woman’s

club or country club, and they booked a date and everything else followed. The coordinator at the

venue had a list of photographers and caterers and where to order wedding invitations (which

came in a choice of either ecru or white and choice of two fonts ). And then you went to pick out

a dress at Robinson’s or Bullock’s or Hinshaw’s.
And that was that.

But things have changed.
Recently, I accompanied a group of young women about to get married on a “Pasadena Bride Tour,”

a trip designed to highlight just a few of the many prime locations for weddings and receptions.
There were four engaged ladies and three of them had a least one friend along as moral support.
We were 14 in all on the shuttle, including Aaron Gil of FotoNuova Photography and Laurel

Pellegrini and Chabeli Sanchez of P.S. and Associates Event Planning. Those three were the sponsors

and coordinators of our tour.

We met at FotoNuova in San Marino and set off for Pasadena’s Grande Dame, The Langham.

This hotel was purchased by Henry E. Huntington in 1908 and opened in 1911.
A few of the original hotel areas, with stained glass windows and carved, gilded ceilings and

magnificent chandeliers and crystal sconces, are still in use as are some original gardens.

And what is new is just as glorious (and posh).
Imagine a wedding in the peaceful Japanese Garden and a reception in the nearby elegant

and historic Georgian Ballroom, or choose the Horseshoe Garden, which allows an entrance 

 by the bride in a horse-drawn carriage — or even a small elephant.

The hotel offers wedding food and beverage packages for three elegant ballrooms that range

from $20,000 to $60,000, and can accommodate from 150 to 650 guests. In general,

luncheon receptions begin at $150 per guest, and dinner receptions at $200 per person,

although prices depend on the day of the week.

Off to Happy Trails Garden Catering (not to be confused with the song by Dale Evans).

This was an unexpected treat. We hopped off the bus and walked through a wrought

iron gate into a magical secret garden. A huge, Jack-in-the-Beanstalk tree was having a

new deck built around it. Owner Katherine Black was there to meet us and explain

possible options to use this strictly outdoor venue. She said that only one event per day

is booked, so that no one feels rushed.
At least two of the “brides” perked up at this more casual location. Rental starts around

$3,000, not including food or drinks. The catering would range from $100 to $120 per

guest, for up to 200 people.
Florist Amanda Claverie was there; she brought out a half dozen sample table decoration

choices, including a particularly stunning one with red roses, kale and peacock feathers.

On the way to our second-to-last stop, Aaron suggested that the bus take us past

Pasadena’s very photogenic and often photographed Spanish-inspired City Hall, completed

in 1927. He pointed out the fountain and balcony, both excellent photo spots.
We checked with the city and learned that a Pasadena resident can rent the courtyard

and rotunda is $310 an hour for a four-hour minimum. (Non-residents pay more.)

There is an hourly rate for set-up and clean up, $131. Do you need electrical outlets for anything —

perhaps a keyboard or CD player? That’s $121. Did you want the fountain on after 6 p.m. or

on a weekend? $186. Open restrooms are $215 (a security guard for the restrooms is determined

by current contract. Trash and recycling fees: $292. Security guard for when the restrooms

are in use – and they must be in use and open to the public if it is after normal business hour

s – is a four hour minimum, amount determined by contract.
An event/sound monitor, required from set-up to clean-up, $42 per hour. If you are thinking about

doing that charming ceremony where the bride and the groom use their separate candles to light 

 the one in the middle? You’ll need a separate Open Flame Permit from the Fire Department.

The cleaning/security deposit, $783.

If you are serving alcohol, there is a separate form to fill out, plus you must stop serving one hour

before the end of your event. Do not think about throwing rice at the bridal couple; but birdseed is OK.

Soon we were at Rococo Room on West Union Street, connected to the Cafe Santorini. This seemingly

traditional Italian restaurant actually has lots of choices for catering, not just from Italy, but also

nearby Mediterranean areas including Greece and North Africa. Weekend wedding receptions for

150 people can range from $3,000 to $7,000 food and beverage minimum. Add use of the mezzanine

for $750; a cash bar option starts at $1,000.
Our final stop was Pandora on Green, a 1908 building that has been newly renovated. This elegant

location, also associated with Cafe Santorini, has 15 custom hand-blown glass chandeliers from

Murano, Italy, and is a space that could have many different personalities. Weekend weddings require

a minimum of $6,000 to $15,000 food and beverage, plus $2,000 for a cash bar.

Other stops on the tour included Town and Country Event Rentals ($2,500 to $4,000 to rent tables,

chairs, linens, china, utensils and glassware for 150 guests) and the Blo-Out Lounge  for makeup and

hair ($145 for a bridal do and $145 for bridal airbrushed makeup, less for bridesmaids). But in five and

a half hours, the group couldn’t possibly cover all the wedding locations, nor the restaurants offerin

g catering.

One of the best-known Pasadena wedding locations, for example, is the Brookside Golf Course, which

is next to the Rose Bowl.
At Brookside, wedding packages start at $45 per person. A casual wedding can be held on the patio or grass.

There also are indoor rooms, ranging from a Mediterranean to Madrid, accommodating from 50 to 300 guests.


The Langham
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.
Jill Hilts, director of catering sales

Happy Trails Garden Catering
207 S. Fair Oaks
Katherine Black

Pasadena City Hall
100 N. Garfield Ave.
Public Works Department: 626-744-4195

The Rococo Room
70 W. Union St.
Pandora on Green
33 W. Green St.
Marc Hamilton

Brookside Golf Course
1133 N. Rosemont Ave.
Private Events Team, 626-577-4497, ext. 2


FotoNuova Photography
936 Huntington Drive, Suite E
San Marino

P.S. and Associates Event Planning
Chabeli Sanchez or Laurel Pellegrini


Town and Country
Distinctive Event Rentals and Services
523 S. Arroyo Parkway

Rosebud Floral Designer
Amanda Claverie

Blo-Out Lounge
62 N. Raymond Ave.

Beyond the basics: Teaching a new generation of dancers

Patricia Godfrey teaches a ballet tech class at the Dance Conservatory of Pasadena. Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz

Dance Conservatory of Pasadena
496 S. Arroyo Parkway
877-345-7543, 626-396-1744

By Claudia S. Palma

Bollywood, hip-hop — not classes you would normally find next to classical ballet instruction.
But in a time when new dance forms are continually being created, the Dance Conservatory of Pasadena wants to be “more than just a ballet studio.”
“With shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, there’s interest for (classes teaching other dance forms),” said DCP owner and executive director Jennifer Cheng.  “It’s an evolution, or revolution, in dance. With these shows, it’s opened up a whole new world of dancing.”
In the Arroyo Parkway location’s three dance studios, ballet is offered for ages 3 and older since it opened in 2010. But interest in classes like children’s and adult Bollywood, an Indian dance, led by instructor Achinta S. McDaniel, continues to grow.
McDaniel is founder and artistic director for one of the studio’s resident dance companies, blue13 dance company.
“We’re constantly redefining ourselves — we’re bringing in new instructors, new classes,” said Daniel Coffman, DCP’s associate executive director and former professional ballroom dancer. “It’s so important to stay current with contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop dances.”
Cheng is on the board of Los Angeles-based Diavolo, a modern acrobatic dance company.
“Diavolo’s a cutting edge company,” she said. “They combine dance and other forms of movement to create a new way of expression.
“I see dance as an expression, you need to move with the new influences. Dance is a very intense and expressive portrayal of a story. You have to be expressive in your dance.
“People like (Diavolo artistic director) Jacques (Heim) are really expanding the way we think of art and movement.”
While modern dance and acrobatic seem to be the new direction for performance, many dancers can’t deny the advantage a technical ballet background has.
“Ballet is an antiquated form. But it’s the ballet that’s strengthening the other dances,” said Caroline Broes, DCP artistic director and youth ballet instructor. “Ballet is the basis for all forms of movement.”
Broes, or Miss Caroline as she is known to her students, has been dancing for 45 years and teaching for 20. She understands ballet is not as popular nowadays with youth as other dance forms can be.
“Because it’s so structured, it’s seen as hard,” she said. “It truly takes a certain type of person to stay motivated and want to continue.”
Many dancers who studied ballet for years, such as Broes and Cheng, are fearful that ballet will be non-existent in a few years.
“We’re trying to provide the foundation, teaching the classical technique,” said Cheng. “Even if you just want to be a good dancer, you have to learn ballet.”
Broes has her ways to catch and keep a child’s interest in ballet.
“What I do is try to make it fun so they will want to come back. You have to be so creative,” she said. “I’m very funny – and strict. I can push them and then make them laugh.”
Cheng said the studio offers classes in other forms of dance for those young students who lose interest in ballet as they get older.
“Ballet is always the core, but like (the performance company) Cirque du Soleil, (the next thing) is acrobatics, dance, martial arts and combining various dance forms and movement,” she said.
Believing that dancing is for everyone with the desire, DCP offers the first class free to new students and keeps class fees low and on a per-class basis. Class packages offer discounts and freedom to switch classes when needed or if one gets the itch to try a new dance.
Classes for children are as low as $15 per class.
“The fees are very reasonable,” said Felicia Eahadosingh of Pasadena, whose 7-year-old daughter began taking children’s Bollywood classes in August. “The instructors are very personable. She (dances) all the time anyway.”
Though the majority of the young students at DCP are girls, boys occasionally give the classes a try, especially the hip-hop classes.
The class schedule changes almost seasonally, except the adult open ballet and Miss Caroline’s ballet classes.
DCP began offering scholarships for ballet technique classes last year for ages 8 to 12 and ages 13 to 17. Scholarship students attend class four times a week with instructor Patricia Godfrey.
For scholarship student Claire Ganguin of Pasadena, the scholarship was a great fit as she had already been taking classes from Miss Caroline.
“I’ve been doing ballet since I was 3. I first started it for fun, then I kind of progressed from there,” said the 13-year-old.
Claire said she has performed the Pasadena Nutcracker as well as other smaller productions before and for now is planning to continue with ballet and hopefully dance professionally in the future.
“I’m also trying out different techniques (dances),” said Claire.
Dancers can take summers off or enjoy the week-long camps offered at the studio such as Hip-Hop Camp, Tiny Dancer and Cinderella Camps.

Opening up a dance studio was more than just a business decision for Cheng.
After being classically trained in ballet through most of her youth, she went a separate direction in college and instead of pursuing a professional dance career decided to become a lawyer.
After many years away from a studio, at age 47, Cheng decided to take a class where she “fell in love with ballet all over again.”
With her twin boys now grown, it freed up the Pasadena native’s time a little and she decided she wanted to get back into dance somehow.
“It was an epiphany,” she said.
It was also great timing when she noticed the studio building, then a former auto shop, was for sale.
“From the time I signed the lease to the time we opened, it was 5 ½ months. That’s how driven I was,” said Cheng. “I have a great passion for dance. I wanted (the studio) to be accessible for all dancers.”

The studio is Cheng’s first business and she admits to a few bumps along the road. She but she credits her staff and the teachers for making the studio what she envisioned.
“Dance studios are popping up everywhere it seems,” said Coffman. “ The quality of danceis our main priority, offering a safe place, nice facility, competent and dedicated instructors.”
The studio’s adult open ballet class is also unique and great for retired professional ballet dancers, or adults who would like to learn ballet.
“It’s hard to find a place where you fit. There are not too many places where adults can dance,” said Coffman.
For the young students, the studio puts together a few recitals such as The Nutcracker during the holidays and Swan Lake, all in the studio’s facilities complete with curtains, stage lighting and can accommodate about 100 people.
The studio will hold an autumn festival on Oct. 27 featuring various performances.
Feeling successful creatively, Cheng said she didn’t open the studio to make a lot of money.
“It’s an act of love, to keep doing this,” she said.

What a long strange trip it’s been: 35 years of Doo Dah

The Pasadena Museum of History is presenting the Doo Dah parade exhibit. Photo by Marlyn Woo


By Michelle J. Mills

It seems strange to see the most bohemian event in the area, feted in one of its more studious institutions.
The Pasadena Museum of History is presenting the exhibit, “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been – 35 Years of the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade,” through Jan. 6. While the museum gives a nod to the fun and controversy of the parade, it is quick to acknowledge the event’s place in the community.
“It’s Pasadena history and that’s what we’re all about,” said Ardis Willwerth, the director of exhibitions and public programming.
The Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade is an eclectic mix of entries including marching bands with oddly dressed drill teams, rock groups on flatbed trucks, costumed dogs, cupcake cars, oversized floats shaped to look like cats and castles, and just about anything else you can think of. It bubbles with creativity and a healthy portion of humor, often with a hint of current events. Spectators toss marshmallows and tortillas at the marchers, who toss them back, much to the crowd’s delight.
Willwerth loves seeing the joy of the people watching the parade, especially the children. She gets a kick out of the variety of the marchers.
“I like the spontaneity and the goofiness of it,” she said. “I think it’s creative.”
It is fairly common knowledge that the Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade was founded in a Pasadena bar called Chromo’s, in 1978. But from there, rumors and legends run rampant.
“The intention of the parade was never to be a slap in the face of the Rose Parade,” said Tom Coston, president of the Light Bringer Project, an arts nonprofit group, which produces the Doo Dah Parade. “They were really saying, ‘Hey there’s a whole bunch of artists in Pasadena, a whole bunch of creative people, let’s go out and share our creativity and show who we are and what we can do. And let’s go have fun.’”
Coston frequented Chromo’s and participated in the first foray down Colorado Boulevard the day before the Tournament of Roses Parade. Doo Dah was meant to be funny and a surprise for people camped out on the streets to get a good view of the Rose Parade. Over the years, Doo Dah’s attitude evolved to become a spoof of its classy cousin.
“In the beginning, it was definitely the ‘other parade’ and it still is the ‘other parade’ and we’re always making sure that it’s the counterpoint, that it’s not just become a parody of itself,” Coston said.
Light Bringer Project co-produced the Doo Dah Parade in 1994 and took it over in 1995 (Peter Apanel, one of the original founders of the parade from Chromo’s bar, sold the parade rights to Light Bringer for a modest $2.)
The parade is one of the group’s largest annual fundraisers (the Pasadena Chalk Festival is the other), that support LBP’s art and art education programs for children and the mentally ill.
“As long as people want to Doo Dah, we’ll be the guides in the air control tower,” Coston said. “Every year it comes back because people want to do it. We realize it has a life of its own, we feel fortunate that we are able to be the organizers, motivators and cheerleaders for Doo Dah.
“What’s beautiful about this is there’s no division. If you’re a spectator, you’re in the parade. It’s a moving party.”
Coston says Doo Dah supporters like the parade because it is multi-dimensional, celebrating the fun, creativity, diversity and eclecticism that make the community special.
“In a sense, it’s like a sociological study of the core here in old Pasadena and how it changed over time and how people changed with it,” Coston said. “I think Doo Dah reflects the climate.”
“What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been” includes memorabilia, props, costumes, photographs, videos, vignettes of popular entries, a re-creation of Chromo’s and even a Dia de los Doo Doo altar remembering participants who have died.
“It’s the same as when you put an old record on the phonograph and you remember where you were,” Coston said. “It’s deja Doo Dah.”
The museum will hold an event each month in conjunction with “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been.” The first will be a free outdoor music festival featuring Doo Dah Parade bands, like Snotty Scotty & the Hankies and Horses on Astroturf, from 4-7 p.m. on Sept. 23.
Noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through Jan. 6, Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut St. $7. 626-577-1660,;

The Skygazer: a light so close, yet so far away

Mike Roy, aka The Skygazer for Pasadena’s Rose Magazine, in his backyard observatory. Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz.

By Mike Roy

How far can you see?
This is a question that I am often asked when sharing my telescope on a clear night with a group of fellow skygazers. Young and old alike are curious to know just how far away those dazzling points of light really are. I’m never quite sure how to give a simple answer. It’s not as easy as one might think for the universe is a really big place!
For example, our nearest celestial neighbor, the moon, lies 250,000 miles from the Earth. The nearest star, our sun, is 93 million miles away. The dwarf planet Pluto, because of its very elongated orbit, lies, on average, 3.6 billion miles away. I doubt that I have ever seen a billion of anything except for maybe grains of sand on a beach.
Our solar system is just a tiny speck in a corner of the universe and already all those zeros to the right of the decimal point begin to boggle the mind. So instead of continuing to use the measure of the mile, scientists invented the “light year,” the distance that is covered by the fastest moving object in the universe — light — in one Earth year. In one Earth year, light travels roughly 6 trillion miles.
Every point of light that we can see in the night sky belongs to our own pinwheel-shaped Milky Way Galaxy. Our sun is but one member of a family of perhaps 300 billion stars rotating once every 200 million years.
The nearest star that northern hemisphere skygazers can see is Sirius, a brilliant blue/white star in the winter constellation Canis Major, or large dog. It lies 8 ½ light years from Earth.
On a late summer night around 9 look directly west and well above the horizon; you will see yellow/orange Arcturus in the constellation Bootes, the herdsman. Dozens of times larger than our sun, it lies 37 light years away.
Turning south and looking low above the horizon in Scorpio, the scorpion, sits the red supergiant star Antares. Larger than the entire orbit of the planet Mars, it is 550 light years away.
Directly overhead lies brilliant blue/white Vega in the constellation Lyra, the harp, the same constellation containing the beautiful Ring Nebula, visible in the smallest of home telescopes. Vega is only 25 light years away while the Ring Nebula, a smoke ring created long ago by a dying star lies a distant 20,000 light years beyond it.
Deneb, which marks the tail of Cygnus, the swan, lies near Vega. It is one of the most distant summer constellation stars at around 1,700 light years away.
The most distant object visible to the unaided eye and clearly visible on a moonless night from a clear dark sky in the mountains or deserts of Southern California is the Andromeda Galaxy. The light from Andromeda that we now see today began its journey about 2.4 million years ago about the time prehistoric man was beginning to stand upright here on Earth. That’s a distance of roughly 14 billion, trillion miles. The Andromeda Galaxy is the largest and nearest neighbor in our local group of galaxies.
To see it for yourself, find the constellation of (Queen) Cassiopeia in the northeastern night sky opposite the Big Dipper low in the northwest. Facing north it will appear as a sideways “W” but with the front half squashed as if Zeus sat on it. The three stars on the right half form an equal-sided triangle or “arrowhead,” pointing to your right. Follow the arrow a distance of three of those triangles to the right and up slightly, and you will come to a hazy patch, almost a finger-smudge on the glass of the night sky.
Now take your binoculars and have a look. There will now be no doubt as the Andromeda Galaxy will appear fairly bright and quite large. It is elongated, extending more or less north/south. The brightest portion that we see is its core, but on a photographic time exposure, it would appear several times the size of our full moon.
The most distant object within reach of backyard astronomers with large telescopes is 3C273 in the constellation Virgo. 3C273 is an ancient object known as a “quasar;” it appears as a point of light like a star, but emits more energy than an entire galaxy of more than a trillion stars. It was the first and one of the brightest of its kind to be discovered nearly three billion light years away.
The beauty and wonders of our universe never cease to amaze and humble me. So if you were to ask me today the question “How far can you see?” I might reply, “As far as the eyes of my imagination can take me.”

Physics forest takes root at Kidspace

Michael Shanklin, center, Chief executive officer of Kidspace Children’s Museum showing Lucus Errico and Juan Carlos Gathman looking through a Kaleidoscope at the Robert & Mary Galvin Physics Forest at the Kidspace Museum. The exhibit opens July 12. Photo by Walt Mancini

Opens Thursday July 12. 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Kidspace Children’s Museum
480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena

By Jennifer Errico
One, two, three — pull.”
“One, two, three — pull.”
On the edge of Kidspace Children’s Museum, CEO Michael Shanklin has challenged
two local 7-year-olds to a pulley race. After safely buckling into three seats
surrounding a metal tower, the race is on, with each trying to be the first to
lift himself to the top using ropes and pulleys.
“Pulleys make hard work easier,” Shanklin explains.
The boys counter that they “need more pulleys.”
Shanklin had agreed to take my 7-year-old son, Lucas, and his friend Juan
Carlos Gathman on an early tour of the Robert and Mary Galvin Physics Forest,
which will open July 12. Passing by a “big kids working”
sign, we enter the new 30,000-square-foot area that will feature 13 hands-on
 exhibits laid out around a dry stream bed shaded by Coast Live Oak and
Sycamore trees. Though some zones are still under construction the boys
are instantly engaged, crossing logs, touching every exhibit and reading
 the signs.
After the pulleys race, the boys try the kaleidoscope, each gazing into
 different ends.
“There must be a million of you,” Juan Carlos tells Lucas.
We move past some unfinished exhibits that the boys can’t wait to try when
the Forest opens. There’s the Tennis Ball Launcher, which uses a pulley system
to lift a bowling ball; when released, it causes the pressured air in a
 cylinder to launch a tennis ball high into the air. And the Sun Spotter,
which uses optics to project the image of the sun onto an angled screen for
 the safe and easy viewing of the solar image.
Then it’s past the kid-powered fan to the ball range. Each boy takes turns
 aiming a tube. Once a target is selected, the boys push a plunger forcing
air into the tube, shooting out a ball onto a marked area that reveals the
distance traveled.

“What do you think happened?” Shanklin prods.
“The air goes into the tube and then we push this and the air is pushed out
the tube and the air makes the ball shoot out,” Lucas says.
Shanklin smiles.
“If you hear about a concept, it’s still basic. But if you hear it and
see it and do it, that is the trifecta,” he says.
Shanklin, who became the museum’s CEO last year, came from a museum
 in Tyler, Texas, where he was known for his science expertise. But his
 background is in education and art.
“This is the best job in the world,” he said of his position with Kidspace.
 “I see kids learn on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter what their income
level is, how old they are... This is a safe place for them to learn.”
The Physics Forest has been in development for two years and has taken
six months to construct. It’s the largest expansion of Kidspace since
the facility opened at Brookside Park in 2004.
The museum staff is optimistic that the Physics Forest marks a new phase
 of expansion. A $13 million Campaign for the Future of Kidpsace was
recently announced.
“This is a huge step and the Physics Forest is just the beginning,”
said Shanklin. “We want to always be having something new and exciting at
the museum — maybe not on this scale, but something new every year.”
At the end of our tour, a man with a wide grin and even wider brimmed hat
 comes over. Charlie Shaw, master fabricator of Hand On! Inc, who is
installing the exhibits, whispers in Shanklin’s ear. They announce that
the boys can try the bottle launcher.
Push a button and water and air mix. Push the next button and the bottle
blasts up to the sky and lands with a spray of water. Shaw explains that
different mixes of air and water create pressure that affect how high
 the rocket goes. The boys nod.
“That was fun,” Juan Carlos says. “Can we do it again?”

Music Makers: PCM strikes the right note

Violin class at Pasadena Conservatory of Music.


Pasadena Conservatory of Music is instrumental in making young musicians

By Brenda Gazzar and Catherine Gaugh

Photo by Walt Mancini


Veronica Mansour was 18 months old and her brother Alex was 3 ½ when they first expressed interest in playing a musical instrument.
That was when their mother, Laurie Mansour, a classically trained pianist and guitarist, started looking for “a place with a developmental approach, a whole child approach” for their music education. She said she found it at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music.
Now 13, Veronica is already an accomplished student musician, and has earned a Young Musicians Foundation Scholarship for both cello and piano. Alex, 15, won first place at the American String Teachers Association guitar competition this spring at USC and has played piano at Carnegie Hall.
“PCM is very special, and very family oriented,” said Laurie Mansour, a family therapist who jokes that her current full-time job is as chauffeur. She drives her teenagers twice a week from Valencia to the conservatory for private and group classes.
“It has integrity, creativity and versatility. The children learn leadership and collaboration skills.”
For nearly three decades, the conservatory has offered the gift of making music to children and adults in a collaborative environment. Founded by piano teachers Silke Sauppe and Wynne Stone, the nonprofit community music school began as a modest operation from a small church in 1984 with eight instructors and 40 students.
Today, the conservatory’s growing campus at a former mortuary site on North Hill Avenue has 60 faculty members and 1,300 students drawn from more than 200 public and private schools.
PCM’s mission includes education through a comprehensive music curriculum, whether a pupil wants to round out his or her musical education or is aiming to get into a top-drawer music school, such as Bard, Juilliard or the USC Thornton School of Music, said Stephen McCurry, PCM’s executive director for two decades.
Seventy-four percent of the students are 15 and younger while 80 percent are from Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley areas.
“We are a community music school,” McCurry said. “Community for us means that we are serving a broad spectrum of people out there, including an age range from infants to senior citizens.
Some students study music as a hobby, while others plan to be professional musicians.”
In 2008, the school received accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools, one of 14 such schools in the country to receive this status. But it is the conservatory’s strong sense of community among its faculty, administrators and families that officials suggest best distinguishes the school.
The conservatory stages about 100 performances a year; parents are encouraged to attend their children’s music classes; and there is a great deal of collective music making at both the student and faculty level.
“Throughout the organization, everyone is focused on the same thing: the study, performance and enjoyment of music,” McCurry said.
With a nearly $1.9 million annual budget that has grown tenfold in the last decade, the conservatory offers classes in voice, chamber music, guitar, keyboard, strings, woodwinds and brass and now jazz.
The fast-growing Strings Department uses the Suzuki method for violin, viola and cello developed by Japanese violinist and pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki for the teaching of young children.
It takes the same step-by-step approach used by children learning their native language and adapting it to learning the violin and other instruments. Parents are considered a key component to the method’s success and their presence in lessons and group classes is strongly encouraged.
“We feel all children can learn to play a musical instrument given the proper approach,” said Rick Mooney, a Suzuki-certified cello teacher at the conservatory since its inception. “The idea that only talented ones can be successful at making music … we don’t believe it.”
Conservatory students are exposed to many genres of music as well as different instruments. No matter their skill level, they can attend and listen to a guitar Masters Teacher class or a lecture on theory or jazz at any time, said Mary Kelly, chairwoman of the Strings Department.
“They see the big picture of what music is about,” Kelly said. “They are not isolated and only studying their one instrument. They are in this community of musicians.”
Learning music gives students a sense of accomplishment and confidence and also teaches them the importance of cooperation, Kelly added. It also gives students an outlet to be creative and express themselves through their instruments.
“When learning an instrument, you learn to speak a language that upon hearing, everyone understands, but few actually know how to speak,” she said.
The conservatory started offering classes a couple of years ago from Master Teachers in guitar, violin, piano and cello for a small number of students angling to get into the best college and university music programs.
Among the teachers is Scott Tennant, a world-renowned performer and a founding member of the Grammy-winning ensemble Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. His classes are the only ones that require an audition by the instructor.
“It’s a very, very competitive environment to become a professional musician,” McCurry said. “This is an approach to really provide the highest possible level of training.”
The new jazz program is a way for the conservatory to expand beyond its traditional offerings, which are rooted in Western Classical music, he said.
“It’s a reflection of our aspiration to serve a wider constituency, to start providing programs for a broader spectrum of the community,” McCurry said.
Highly regarded jazz educator and saxophone player Ray Briggs of Pasadena — who is assistant director of jazz studies at California State University, Long Beach — is the chairman of the new jazz program.
Down the road, McCurry said he would also like to explore other kinds of world music, including traditions from Africa and Asia, he said.
The addition of jazz was made possible after the conservatory’s 10-year-old North Hill campus expanded by acquiring last year the property to its north. It added a second performance venue and additional classroom space. The conservatory is currently in the final stretch of a $7.5 million capital fundraising campaign to make improvements to the campus.
“The goal of the campaign is to serve the needs of the growing programs on this campus for the next 10 years, by adding additional classrooms, studios and performance venues and also by upgrading the infrastructure, such as the air conditioning systems,” said Cynthia Nickell, the conservatory’s development director.
The funds will also make the campus accessible for users of wheelchairs, strollers and cellos on wheels, Nickell said.
The conservatory’s Young Musicians program offers 30 age-appropriate classes a week to children ranging in age from infants to 11 years old.
From the earliest ages, young children move, sing and play instruments along with music recordings, said Rachael Doudrick, the chairwoman of the Young Musicians Department.
“We begin with play-oriented movement and songs, teaching ear training and early music literacy along the way,” she said. “We hope to provide children with the experiences they need, socially, intellectually and physically, to help them succeed in instrumental studies and become lifelong musicians.”
The conservatory also dedicates 10 percent of its budget to music education outreach programs, including scholarships, to provide access to those who wouldn’t normally have it.
For the last eight years, for example, it has provided weekly music lessons for all pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students at neighboring Jefferson Elementary School. With the sponsorship of the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, the Music Mobile introduces 3,000 local third graders from about 25 schools to the orchestra each year.
There is also a subsidized instrument rental program.
“Part of our mission is to educate, advocate, inspire and share; and part of that is to share without regard to socioeconomic background. ” said Amelia Firnstahl, the school’s operations manager and outreach department chairwoman. “Our outreach programs are one way to do that.”
Fees can range from $240 per quarter for the Young Musicians program to $660 per quarter for 30-minute private lessons to $840 per quarter for 60-minute lessons in various departments, although each program is distinct. The Master Teachers courses can range from $960 to $1,200 per quarter.

Pasadena Conservatory of Music, 100 N. Hill Ave. 626-683-3355