So long, and thanks for all the pandas.
General Curtis LeMay:
Now, as for the Berlin situation, I don’t share your view that if we knock off Cuba, they’re going to knock off Berlin. We’ve got the Berlin problem staring us in the face anyway. If we don’t do anything to Cuba, then they’re going to push on Berlin and push real hard because they’ve got us on the run. If we take military action against Cuba, then I think that the …
What do you think their reprisal would be?
General Curtis LeMay:
I don’t think they’re going to make any reprisal if we tell them that the Berlin situation is just like it’s always been. If they make a move we’re going to fight. Now I don’t think this changes the Berlin situation at all, except you’ve got to make one more statement on it.
So I see no other solution. This blockade and political action, I see leading into war. I don’t see any other solution for it. It will lead right into war. This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.
Because if this [unclear] blockade comes along, their MiGs are going to fly. The IL-28s are going to fly against us. And we’re just going to
gradually drift into a war under conditions that are at great disadvantage to us, with missiles staring us in the face, that can knock out our airfields in the southeastern portion [of the United States]. And if they use nuclear weapons, it’s the population down there. We just drift into a war under conditions that we don’t like. I just don’t see any other solution except direct military intervention … right now
Apple has launched a battery replacement program for a bunch of iPhones, and Logan is going hiking with an iPhone. These stories and more this week on Query.
Welcome back to “Inconceivable!”, the show that tests two teams’ knowledge of the nerdy, the useless, and the obscure.
In our latest episode, our panelists are challenged to remember the dying words of memorable characters, try to figure out which heroes we are unjustly maligning, and then play a round of TV and movie mashups…with a fresh twist. Liz Myles, Tony Sindelar, and Kathy Campbell take on Glenn Fleishman, Aleen Simms, and Jason Snell while Dan Moren and Lex Friedman attempt to (mostly successfully?) keep the peace.
There are two sides to every online dating story.
How are the things we’re talking about being talked about somewhere else in the world? From a Ukrainian battlefield to a Somali prison cell, an Indian yoga studio and a Syrian refugee’s first date, host Gregory Warner tells stories that follow familiar conversations into unfamiliar territory. At a time when the world seems small but it’s as hard as ever to escape our echo chambers, Rough Translation takes you places.
Show notes: The key source for this episode was the book Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide by James Zeruk Jr., an excellently written and well-researched fleshing out of Entwistle’s life story in contrast to and in conversation with her legend.As part of the book I’m writing about Howard Hughes and the women in his life, I came across RKO’s memos about Katharine Hepburn’s casting in Bill of Divorcement — and Selznick’s order that Cukor screen test Peg Entwistle — at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. For the same project, I’ve done a great deal of research on the texture of early Hollywood (the city, and then the film colony), much of which hasn’t ended up in my book draft, but some of which I’ve used in this episode. Some recommended sources include The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History by Gregory P. Williams; The Parade’s Gone by Kevin Brownlow; Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp; Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920s by Kevin Starr; and Go West Young Women: The Rise of Early Hollywood by Hilary Hallet.Here is a music video for Dory Previn’s song inspired by Peg, “Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign,” which features an actress (who looks nothing like Peg) acting out Peg’s approach to the sign:
Los Angeles is rich with architectural diversity. On the same block, you could find a retro-futuristic Googie diner next to a Spanish-style mansion, sitting comfortably alongside a Dutch Colonial dwelling, all in close proximity to a Deconstructivist concert hall.
In the golden era of Hollywood of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the new movie industry titans who flocked to L.A. had an opportunity to construct whatever style houses they wanted. After all, Los Angeles had a lot of open space to develop, and no unifying architectural style. And there was one particular architect who could make any kind of building and make it well: Paul Revere Williams.
Various California homes by Paul Williams, images by David Horan for the Paul Williams ProjectWilliams worked on all kinds of projects, including commercial and institutional ones, but he was particularly well known for his residential architecture. He designed a number of homes for Hollywood stars, including Frank Sinatra’s bachelor pad and a mansion for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He also made additions for the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Palm Springs Tennis Club. He was on the team behind the Theme Building at LAX, one of the most iconic structures in Los Angeles. He worked on thousands of architectural projects in his lifetime.
The Beverly Hills Hotel, images by David HoranHe designed everything: mansions, luxury hotels, car dealerships, hospitals, schools, housing projects and more. He was also able to deftly aesthetic switch gears from one project to the next, listening and responding to the needs of different clients. “So he really didn’t have a particular signature move or form or material” explains architect Phil Freelon, “but if you look at the body of work, there is a level of excellence and a consistency in the quality of the work.”
Marina del Rey Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School, images by David HoranWilliams helped make Los Angeles the eclectic-looking place it is today — and Los Angeles, in turn, helped make him. The city gave Paul Williams a lot of opportunities he wouldn’t have had anywhere else in America at the time, as an African American architect. Although Williams still had to work harder than his white peers.
“Paul Williams is an African American architect who was much more than an African American architect,” says Karen Hudson, Paul Williams’ biographer and granddaughter. “He was simply one of the best architects of the 20th century.”
When Paul Williams was born in 1894, Los Angeles was a small downtown, surrounded by bean fields and orange groves , but it was changing and growing fast. From 1890 to 1900 the city doubled its population (from 50,000 to 100,000 residents), and construction flourished.
Orange grove and ranch of n Hollywood circa 1880Williams’ parents had tuberculosis and moved out from Memphis for their health, but they passed away when Paul was four. He grew up in a school system without many African Americans, but with exposure to immigrant students from all over the world.
Drawing of the first map of Hollywood, issued by real estate agent H.H. Wilcox in 1887It’s hard to say exactly what motivated Williams to pursue architecture. He didn’t know of any other architects as he was growing up, and didn’t really know that architecture was a profession. He did have a natural talent for drawing, and then somehow decided that this was the job for him.
Hudson says that her grandfather’s high school guidance counselor advised him not to pursue architecture, telling him “he should not try to be an architect. He should be a doctor or a lawyer because black people would always need doctors and lawyers. And white people would not hire him as an architect and black people couldn’t afford him.” Still Williams refused to let go of this ambition.
Williams didn’t go to architecture school. Instead, he attended different art and engineering schools, cobbling together the skills he would need to become an architect. He was certified as a contractor in 1915 and set about seeking employment from architecture firms he admired.
Dressed in his best suit, Williams paid visits to different firms, presented them with his portfolio, and asked them if they had openings. Every single firm he approached rejected him. However, if they smiled when they said no, Paul Williams returned to later, and continued to try to impress them. Finally he got a few offers paying little to nothing. He ended up taking an unpaid position for the experience, but within a week the firm began to pay him for his work.
He worked for a landscape architect, a residential architect and a commercial architect before he was licensed to practice in California in 1921. The following year, he started his own firm: Paul R. Williams and Associates. His first solo commission was a house for a well-connected high school friend, and from that house, word of his work spread.
Baird/Stewart/Garza House in Glendale, CA by Paul Williams, images by David HoranWilliams had an impeccable sense of scale, and he knew just how to situate a structure on a property to make the best use possible of beautiful views and sunlight. He helped create what some have called the “Hollywood Style” — that opulent mixture of Mediterranean, European, and Colonial influences with swimming pools and sweeping staircases. It was rich but classy, opulent but tasteful.
Still, some clients were taken aback when they first met Williams — people who “came because they may have read about him,” Karen Hudson explains, “but didn’t realize he was black.” They weren’t sure whether to sit next to him or even whether to shake his hand. To put them at ease, Williams would keep his distance, sitting across the table from them, and as he asked them what they wanted in their home, he would draw preliminary sketches upside down, so they could see their vision evolve as he drew. This helped put them at ease but was also just impressive in itself.
You may have heard the expression “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels” — well, Paul Williams did everything his white peers did except upside down and better.
Williams wasn’t the first or only architect to draw upside down, but his consistent use of this skill illustrates the lengths he went to accommodate his white clients. He dressed impeccably, worked tirelessly, and tried to excel in all respects, simply to be accepted.
Still, Williams was sometimes unwelcome in the very places he was designing, especially places like the Beverly Hills Hotel. Even after he had earned the respect of his clients, he had to tolerate mistreatment from subcontractors and plumbers and painters who balked at taking orders from him.
New Homes for Today and The Small Home of Tomorrow by Paul WilliamsThroughout his career, Williams also designed affordable homes for middle-class clients and published books of inexpensive construction patterns that anyone could use to build a home of their own.
28th Street YMCA in Los Angeles, images by David HoranWilliams worked on a number of projects specifically for black institutions, too, including buildings on Howard University’s Campus in Washington, DC and a YMCA in an African American community in Los Angeles. He did a lot of charitable work as well within and beyond the African American community, like his pro bono design for the St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
Poster from Office of War Information (Domestic Operations Branch) in 1943On top of all of this, he was one of the most prolific architects of his time (of any race). He produced thousands of projects in his fifty-year career. When he died in 1980, his funeral was held in a church of his own design, and was filled with friends, family and past clients.
Documents and records from his practice wound up in storage at a branch of the Broadway Federal Savings Banks (a building Williams had designed) due to a familial connection with the bank founder. Then, in 1992, the city of Los Angeles erupted into unrest after a group of officers were acquitted of the brutal beating of Rodney King. The bank branch containing most of Williams’ work and records was burned to the ground.
Years later, the Paul Williams Project was founded to track down and catalog buildings by Williams. The project, based out of the University of Memphis, has not had an entirely easy task, since Williams’ eclectic work spanned such a huge variety of styles. Project organizers believe they have tracked down less than half of his works but continue to uncover new ones, verifying them with city documents and permits.
Despite his vast volume of work (and being the first black member of the American Institute of Architects) Williams has remained relatively unknown, at least until recently. “Every black architect I know is familiar with Williams,” say Phil Freelon. “And I haven’t met a white architect yet who knew who I was talking about if I were to mention that name. And we need to change that.” This is why Freelon nominated Williams for the AIA’s highest individual award: the Gold Medal.
This is basically the award that welcomes an architect into the cannon of all-time greats. Past winners include Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Thomas Jefferson. Now, 37 years after his death, Paul Williams will officially join their ranks.
This award means a lot to Freelon and other African American architects in terms of general visibility. “There are very few African American architects working in this country, relatively speaking,” says Freelon. Just “2% of licensed architects in this country are black. And one of the ways you would want to combat that is to raise the visibility. [You] make sure people know this is a great profession and that young people see it as a possibility and as an option for them.”
Ultimately, though, this award is about giving recognition to a master in the field that is long overdue. Paul Williams developed the eclectic style of the California home, and he helped shaped the look and feel of Los Angeles, just as much as Los Angeles shaped him. He was a man who could design and draw magnificent architecture in any style, upside down and better than most of his peers.
Welcome, one and all, to the Low Definition Holiday Special! Presented for your holiday-themed entertainment: a collection of weird words, translated movie titles, search-engine autocompletes, and peculiar holiday traditions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you might even learn something about the true meaning of Christmas. But probably not.
With Georgia unable to work her new house and Bri’s car in the shop, we look at other things that broke this week, like net neutrality and Patreon.
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