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Art contest re-imagines the venerable Route 66 shield November 29, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Signs.
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The small town of Atlanta, Ill., is hosting what it hopes becomes an annual event — “Route 66 Reinterpreted,” an art project that re-imagines the look of the famous Route 66 shield sign.

The contest is modeled after Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” exhibit, except this one takes on the Mother Road’s most famous symbol.

According to the news release from Logan County Tourism:

Participating artists will be provided a blank, 2-by-2-foot wooden cutout of the Route 66 highway shield, painted white, which will then become their personal canvas. The only requirement in creating a reinterpreted shield is to incorporate the text “Illinois U.S. 66” somewhere on the face of the shield, in whatever size, shape, or color the artist desires. Everything else about the design, style, background, and color of the reinterpreted shield is left to each artist’s imagination and creativity.

The project is open to anyone 16 years old and above. Up to 50 entries will be accepted in this year’s project, as determined by the date applications are received. All 50 entries will be displayed outside along Route 66 in downtown Atlanta, Ill., from May 1 to Aug. 31, 2013. The Atlanta Betterment Fund Board of Directors will select 10 shields out of the 50 entries as Finalists. Voting will then take place from May 1 to Aug. 31 to select the top five shield designs as winners of the 2012 project. Anyone, anywhere may vote: either in person at selected Route 66 attractions in Atlanta or online via Atlanta’s website at www.atlantaillinois.org. The top five vote-getters will be the winners of this year’s Route 66 Reinterpreted Art Project. At the conclusion of the project, the five winning shields, along with the names of the artists who created them, will be displayed on a permanent basis in the Atlanta Route 66 Park.

Guidelines for the project are here. The application form, which is due before Feb. 1, is here. Prospective applicants with questions should contact Bill Thomas at wthomas(at)teleologic(dot)net

I’ll be keenly interested to see the results of this project.

Cadillac Ranch patriarch charged with child molestation November 28, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, People.
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Stanley Marsh 3, the millionaire proprietor of the Cadillac Ranch and other whimsical art installations off Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas, was charged on 11 felony counts of molesting children and briefly jailed Wednesday, reported the Amarillo Globe-News and other media outlets.

The newspaper reported:

According to the criminal complaints, Marsh 3, 74, is charged with six counts of child sexual abuse and five counts of sexual performance by a child, second-degree felonies punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Marsh 3 was released from the Potter County Detention Center about 7 p.m. Wednesday on three $100,000 bonds, said Kelly Utsinger, who is representing Marsh 3 in six civil lawsuits filed against him.

The criminal counts filed against Marsh 3 by Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney Matthew D. Powell list two unnamed child victims.

Marsh’s criminal defense team said Wednesday that Marsh 3 is not guilty of the charges against him.

The criminal complaint can be read here.

A photo with the story showed a frail-looking Marsh leaning on a walker and being assisted by others at the county detention center. Marsh had reportedly suffered a series of strokes in recent years.

Marsh’s troubles began last month when a woman filed a civil suit, alleging he gave her teenage son cash, vehicles, and drugs to engage in sexual acts in Marsh’s office. Within days, more lawsuits on the behalf of other alleged victims were filed.

A recent New York Times report said the number of alleged victims in the lawsuits was up to eight. Amarillo police conducted a search warrant of Marsh’s office, detective interviewed alleged victims, and a special prosecutor from nearby Lubbock was appointed.

In previous years, Marsh had been sued and even criminally charged with indecent acts with children. However, the lawsuit was settled with no admission of wrongdoing by Marsh, or the charges were dropped.

Marsh in 1974 collaborated with the Ant Farm art collective to create Cadillac Ranch — 10 old Cadillacs planted nose-down at an angle in the soil west of Amarillo. It became a popular stop with Route 66 travelers and other tourists.

KVII-TV in Amarillo posted this video of Marsh from 2002:

Marsh also created the Dynamite Museum, a series of wacky road signs sprinkled along the Route 66 corridor in the Texas Panhandle.

UPDATE 12/2/2012: An exclusive report by the Amarillo Globe-News brings even more potential bad news for Marsh:

Sex crimes investigators, armed with a sworn statement from the teen, spent four hours picking through Suite 1200 that night and retrieved more than 30 possible evidentiary items. They include a white floral cushion, a tan pillow, a black and white comforter, a pillow case and green couch cushion cases.

Evidence logs also show investigators took 70 envelopes of blue pills, one of Marsh 3’s prescription bottles containing blue pills, cigarette butts and two Apple computers.

“It is apparent at this point that sexual contact which left physical and/or DNA evidence has occurred in the suspected place,” an Amarillo police detective said in a report seeking an Amarillo district judge’s approval for the search warrant.


Where a celebrity’s fame persists after death November 28, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, People.

A statue of rocker Johnny Ramone at his grave site in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. (Flickr photo by AtomicPope)

The Los Angeles Times posted a terrific article about Karie Bible, a black-clad tour guide at century-old and celebrity-filled Hollywood Forever Cemetery, located off Santa Monica Boulevard (aka Route 66) in Los Angeles.

It seems Bible (her real name) is perfect for the site, combining a bit of kitsch with a lot of history in her tours.

She walks the cemetery like a historian exploring a Civil War battlefield. Unlike the usual rumor-laden Hollywood death tour, there’s not an ounce of fiction as she tells visitors about the famous and nearly forgotten, from Vampira to Valentino, among the cemetery’s roughly 89,000 residents.

“There’s this sense that you can write anything you want about a Hollywood star and people take it at face value,” she said. “You couldn’t write a trashy, sleazy tell-all about someone like Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln…. But if you write that about Joan Crawford or Valentino, people just believe it.” […]

Every Aug. 23, on the anniversary of Rudolph Valentino’s 1926 death, Bible dons a period costume to evoke Hollywood’s iconic Lady in Black, who mourned at the silent film star’s crypt, but she considers herself more of a “Historian in Black.”

“I really endeavor to humanize these people,” she said. “They’re not just tabloid fodder. They are real flesh-and-blood people who lived and walked the earth and mattered.” And although she was born in the 1970s, “way too late to meet a lot of these amazing people,” the next best thing is meeting their families and asking questions. The research for her tours never ends, she said.

Among the other celebrities interred at Hollywood Forever are Cecil B. DeMille, Bugsy Siegel, John Huston, Iron Eyes Cody, Mel Blanc, Peter Lorre, Victor Fleming, and Johnny Ramone.

This video, regrettably, doesn’t show Bible performing her tour duties. But it provides a very good overview of the cemetery.

Hollywood Forever also hosts shows by rock bands that come through town. Most of them play at the site’s Masonic Lodge. But that didn’t stop a few — namely, Oklahoma’s own The Flaming Lips — from performing in the cemetery itself:

Hollywood Forever’s website also contains an awesome interactive map, where you can check the locations and biographies of many who are buried there.

This post reminds me I should post something about the most memorable cemeteries on Route 66. The historic Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, the sobering Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery near Chicago, semi-abandoned cemeteries in California’s Mojave Desert, and the small but exotic Montoya Cemetery in Montoya, N.M., come to mind.

(Hat tip: Kevin Hansel) 

Crews begin dismantling Route 66 Bridge November 27, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.
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Work crews started Monday in dismantling the closed Route 66 Bridge over the Meramec River at Route 66 State Park near Eureka, Mo., reported the Eureka-Wildwood Patch.

A crew member from XL Contracting, the staff handling the deconstruction of the bridge, told Patch Monday the concrete on the bridge will be cut into slabs and taken off, along with the railing.

He said the bridge’s beams will be left, in hopes that some entity will want to rebuild the bridge in the next five years.

He also said the bridge work was slated to be done by Dec. 14.

The bridge was built in 1932 to carry Route 66 into Times Beach, Mo. A previous report said the bridge’s decking would be removed to take weight off the structure and keep it from collapsing into the river.

The bridge was closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic in October 2009. About 20 preservation groups are working to restore the bridge to at least foot traffic. The executive director of Scenic Missouri said the state will maintain ownership of the bridge until 2017.

Until preservationists intervened, the state had planned to tear down the dilapidated bridge. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The dismantling of the bridge started less than a week after soil tests in the state park revealed that dioxin levels had been lowered to safe levels for visitors and park rangers. Times Beach was evacuated about 30 years ago because of dioxin contamination. After the contaminated soil was incinerated, Route 66 State Park was established on the site.

City will help fund Litchfield museum after all November 26, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Museums.
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Reversing an earlier decision, the City Council of Litchfield, Ill., has agreed to use money from motel taxes for the Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center, said the Springfield State Journal-Register.

The newspaper reported:

The council agreed in principle earlier this month to increase the tax from 3 percent to 4 percent beginning in May, with a half percent going to the museum for four years. The city also will contribute $20,000 from its tourism fund to reimburse museum organizers for the purchase of display cases.

City clerk Denise Lueker said the council is scheduled to vote Dec. 4 on an ordinance that would make the changes official.

Exterior construction is done, with only landscaping and interior work left to do. Organizers hope to open the museum to the public by spring. At that time, the museum also will begin a fundraising drive to pay off $250,000 in construction debt.

In October, the council failed to approve $20,000 in motel-tax funds for the building. The motion failed when the council voted 4-4 and the mayor abstained. At least one councilor was concerned that the city would be liable for the museum’s debts if it failed.

A fun chat on KMOX radio November 26, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, Radio.
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For fun, here’s 34-minute broadcast on the KMOX-AM Auto Show in St. Louis. Host Greg Damon brought in Route 66 aficionado Joe Sonderman to talk about old cars and the Mother Road.

The show really gets cooking around the 5-minute mark, where a caller tells about the Corvette he ordered.

Sonderman owns the 66postcards.com site. He’s also written several books, including “Route 66 in New Mexico” and “Route 66 in Oklahoma.”

Buffalo Inn’s future looks cloudy November 25, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, History, Restaurants.
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A nostalgic article by David Allen of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reveals that the historic Buffalo Inn in Upland, Calif., faces an uncertain future due to bankruptcy and legal problems.

The Buffalo Inn, at 1814 W. Foothill Blvd. (Route 66), opened in 1929, saw its name change several times due to ownership changes, then came back as the Buffalo Inn in 1977.

The business’ problems began to mount after longtime owner Forrest Rinard sold the Buffalo Inn to his brother, Richard, who operates it with partner Janna Hickler. Allen writes:

These days the Buffalo Inn is in bankruptcy, its future in question. It closed briefly in July before reopening.

Hickler blames Forrest Rinard and the expensive fallout from a workplace accident in 2000; Forrest blames his brother for running the place into the ground and stiffing creditors.

Fingerpointing and family feuds aren’t my bag, so let’s not go into all that. The recent years of the business named for buffalo are, fittingly, kind of hairy.

I’d rather remember its glory days.

The restaurant distinctive look came from restaurateur Forrest Rinard, hired to rebuild the place in the late 1970s to resemble a ski lodge.

The framework, beams and ceiling are original from 1929. The rest was done using scrap lumber and didn’t cost a penny, Rinard said. Because the property was outside the city limits, he didn’t have to meet city building codes.

The centerpiece, though, wasn’t envisioned as the building. It would be the outdoor, tree-shaded patio, enclosed by a fence. Rinard had no restaurant experience, but the idea of the patio excited his imagination.

“I thought, it could be something. There was nothing around here like I was envisioning: a beer garden,” Rinard said.

Famous visitors included have included actors Kirk Douglas and John Travolta, and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher and current Anaheim Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

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