YOU’VE SEEN HER AROUND TOWN
You can’t miss her, with those outfits exploding with color on her very diminutive frame. And always a hat to match or add to the effect. A rainbow palette in motion.
She loves her hats, since junior high school. “I never leave the house without a hat.” How many? “I think I had more than 200, but I recently donated about 100 of them to a thrift store.”
Or you may have noticed her front yard, a raucous yet genteel fairyland tableau of tiny structures and statues of critters and the occasional mythical humans. “During holidays I have the best yard displays in town,” she claims.
You will always see squirrels because Elaine Golden-Gealer is a squirrely person. Like her favorite local writer, the late Daily Press columnist Bill Bauer, whom she misses a lot. She now dabbles in journalism, disseminating her News You Can Use, her curated emailed assemblage of what she feels are important news stories from many sources. “I put a lot of time into that. I feel it’s important for people to be well informed.”
In a town known for being ultra-liberal and nearly completely Democratic (whether true or not), her politics are very conservative. She describes herself as “a former hippie turned Realtor.” She owned a small apartment building for 40 years until selling it three years ago, and as a landlord ran for the Rent Control Board. “I got more votes than one of the incumbents,” she declares proudly. “Even though SMRR had signs near all the polling places telling people not to vote for me.”
She was a social worker for many years, she says, in child services. “I went into some pretty tough neighborhoods, all alone, little ol’ me,” she related. “Maybe that wasn’t so smart, but I survived.”
So there’s all that about Elaine G-G, a local character indeed, but what you probably wouldn’t guess is that she had another previous life as a recognized folk singer in her youth. She was briefly part of The Womenfolk ensemble in the mid-’60s, who released five albums on RCA and had a minor hit with their version of the Pete Seeger staple, “Little Boxes.”
She also performed solo here in LA. “I called myself the Happy Blues Singer,” she told me. “You know, when you sing the blues you’re getting it out, your troubles and woes, and that makes you feel good.” She said she sang some of her songs once for Lightnin’ Hopkins, in her Silverlake apartment, and he said, “Girl, you sure do know the blues.” “That compliment, from him, was one of the highlights of my life,” she said.
How did she know and hang out with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Big Mama Thornton, the Chambers Brothers, Mance Lipscomb, Jesse Fuller, Barbara Dane and the New Lost City Ramblers, and some of the Jefferson Airplane?
THE ASH GROVE
“I practically lived at the Ash Grove,” she said. “But I never performed there. When I left LA and moved to Berkeley, for the Free speech Movement, I was living with Carroll Perry, the former manager of the Ash Grove. We opened a coffee house called the Cabal Creamery, later renamed the Good Buddy, and started booking acts there. We would get a lot of the people who played the Ash Grove, making a small circuit. They would usually add some place in San Francisco and then have three gigs instead of just one.”
And so Elaine Golden-Gealer is a prime example of what I find over and over in Santa Monica: people who have a really interesting history, that you might never learn about. Did you know our longtime City Council Member Kevin McKeown once helmed Pasadena’s world-famous KROQ FM — just before it became world famous — and teamed with members of the Firesign Theater to give an alternate take on announcing the Rose Bowl Parade, and had a beard halfway down his chest and hair down to his belly? I know, hard to picture, but if you search you can probably find that picture online.
And that our own Bill Bauer also had a history in LA radio? When I found that out some years ago I got the two of them together to do an hour-long reminiscence on early LA rock and roll radio days. No politics allowed. (But McKeown fudged a couple of times.) It was for a specific project that never got off the ground, but someday, somewhere, that tape will surface.
MORE UP FROM THE ASH (GROVE)
Responding to last week’s NOTEWORTHY noting the passing of Ed Pearl, the man behind the Ash Grove, I heard from our (sometimes) Ocean Park resident, Renaissance man of all voices and several instruments Harry Shearer, who let me know that his early radio comedy troupe also played there.
“The Credibility Gap did a lot of gigs there, and Ed was a pleasure to work with,” wrote Shearer. “And I had long since seen a lot of great blues and folk shows there—Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band with the Muldaurs, chief among them. Unlike some comedy club owners in town, Ed paid all the talent who appeared on that stage.”
ISHKUR’S GUIDE TO ELECTRONIC MUSIC — Originally created in 1999 by Kenneth John Taylor, aka Ishkur, this cult-classic website maps out some 150 subgenres of electronic music over the past 80 years, diagrammed in an interactive flowchart style. The user can zoom in on any subgenre, ranging from the more well known like techno, funk and Krautrock, to the far more obscure, such as “Aggrotech” or “Twinkle Prog.” From there, one can click the entry, listen to audio clips in that style, and tap the “i” button at the bottom of the screen to read a description of the genre.
There are so many ways to explore this site, but I have found it particularly fascinating to follow the trajectory of one genre through time and listen to how it has changed, or morphed into something totally new. I always learn something new through Ishkur’s Guide, and I always, always come away with some good new music.
The website received its first update in 18 years in 2019, and while I am nostalgic for the old clunky flash version, this new version is just as fun to explore and easy to navigate: http://music.ishkur.com/
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org