‘8th Wonder of the World’ Obsolete in 30 Years- Houston Astrodome Historic White Elephant

Original ‘space age’ logo from early-60s Houston Astros when I was collecting baseball cards. I still have the 100 decals that Hofheinz and company generously sent me for my Basball Inc ‘fan club.’

First indoor stadium with ‘exploding’ scoreboard and ‘astro-turf grass’ was reprentative of those spirited ‘1950s/early -60s’ happy days . But, the good time Camelot era would be short-lived and the Houston Astrodome, today, serves as an iconic reminder of a

Jimmy ‘The Toy Cannon’ Wynn

Houston Colt 45s/Astros first bonafide slugger passes at 78 March 26 2020. Only 5 ft 9 inches, he hit nearly 300 homers in his 15 year career, 11 with the Colt/Astros which began in 1963. MORE

happier time and place . With the recent loss of arguably the Astros first bonafide super-star, Jimmy Wynn, it’s a good time to reminisce and pay tribute to not only Wynn but a venerable landmark and the Disney-like maverick who made it happen along with many ‘firsts.’

ASTRODOME circa 1965 could double as a UFO to go along with its other ‘space age’ imagery of the time- a larger version of Oakland’s Biff’s restaurant , circa 1964, which WAS designed specifically to look like a UFO

As a new, young baseball fan in 1962, there was nothing more exciting than the announcement of the world’s first indoor stadium- and a ‘spage age’ one that would be built to house Houston’s new baseball team, the Colt 45s, soon to be the ‘Astros.’

The stadium would feature a ‘space age’ electric scoreboard and the ability to regulate an indoor temperature of around 68 degrees instead of the sweltering humidity of Houston summers. Nothing like it, as maverick baseball owner Judge Roy Hofheinz broke ground in 1962 with an opening date of 1965.

Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland circa 1960

The Astrodome would be another Kennedy-era ‘spage age spectacle’ not unlike Seattle’s 1962 World’s Fair Space Needle or Los Angeles’ Disneyland amusement park, opened in 1955 but an ongoing project with futuristic additions like ‘Tomorrowland.’ It’s like the Jetsons TV show was coming to life before our eyes.

It was an exciting time to grow up, with all the post-war optimism channelled into real things. Cars with fins had become all the rage (and still are for me today with my own ’63 Chrysler Imperial). The new rock and roll music blaring from those finned-car radios at the new drive-in restaurants and movie theaters added to the good time ‘Happy Days’ feeling of this halcyon era.

But, sadly, we would find out these special times would only really last another year or two, following the shocking, assasination of a young, vital President Kennedy, who perfectly personified the aggressive, upbeat nature and values of the time.

Astrodome roof had to be constructed to accommodate atmospheric conditions

Hofheinz/Astrodome ‘Firsts’

The NRG Astrodome,[4] also known as the Houston Astrodome or simply the Astrodome, is the world’s first multi-purposedomed sports stadium, located in HoustonTexas. Financed and assisted in development by Roy Hofheinz, mayor of Houston and known for pioneering modern stadiums. Construction on the stadium began in 1962, and it officially opened in 1965. It served as home to the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball (MLB) from its opening in 1965 until 1999, and the home to the Houston Oilers of the National Football League (NFL) from 1968 until 1996, and also the part-time home of the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1971 until 1975. Additionally, the Astrodome was the primary venue of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo from 1966 until 2002. When opened, it was named the Harris County Domed Stadium and was nicknamed ‘8th Wonder of thr World.’ (Wikapaedia)

After the original natural grass playing surface died, the Astrodome became the first major sports venue to install artificial turf, which became known as AstroTurf. In another technological first, the Astrodome featured the “Astrolite”, which was the first animated scoreboard. The Astrodome was renovated in 1988, expanding seating and altering many original features.

Obsolete in 30 Years

By the 1990s, the Astrodome was becoming obsolete. Unable to secure a new stadium, Oilers owner Bud Adams moved the team to Tennessee after the 1996 season, where they eventually became the Tennessee Titans. The Astros played at the dome through the 1999 season, before relocating to Enron Field (later changed to Minute Maid Park) in 2000, while the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo continued to be held at the Astrodome until the opening of the adjacent NRG Stadium in 2002. Although it no longer had any primary tenants, the venue regularly hosted events during the early 2000s, and in 2005, it was used as a shelter for residents of New Orleans affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Astrodome was declared non-compliant with fire code by the Houston Fire Department in 2008 and parts of it were demolished in 2013 after several years of disuse. In 2014 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3][5]

History

Conception

Major League Baseball expanded to Houston in 1960 when the National League agreed to add two teams. The Houston Colt .45s (renamed the Astros in 1965) were to begin play in 1962, along with their expansion brethren New York MetsRoy Hofheinz, a former mayor of Houston, and his group were granted the franchise after they promised to build a covered stadium. It was thought a covered stadium was a must for a major league team to be viable in Houston due to the area’s subtropical climate and hot summers. Game-time temperatures are usually above 97 °F (36 °C) in July and August, with high humidity and a likelihood of rain. Hofheinz claimed inspiration for what became the Astrodome from a tour of Rome, where he learned that the builders of the ancient Colosseum installed giant velaria to shield spectators from the sun.

The Astrodome was conceived by Hofheinz as early as 1952, when he and his daughter Dene were rained out once too often at Buffalo Stadium, home of Houston’s minor league baseball team, the Houston Buffs. Hofheinz abandoned his interest in the world’s first air-conditioned shopping mall, The Galleria, and set his sights on bringing major league baseball to Houston.[6]

Design and construction

The Astrodome was designed by architects Hermon Lloyd & W. B. Morgan, and Wilson, Morris, Crain and Anderson (Morris Architects). Structural engineering and structural design was performed by Walter P Moore Engineers and Consultants of Houston. Credit[7] for the design work on the dome roof structural goes to Dr. G.R. Kiewitt and Mr. Louis O. Bass of Roof Structures, Inc. It was constructed by H. A. Lott, Inc. for Harris County. It stands 18 stories tall, covering 9.5 acres (3.8 ha). The dome is 710 feet (220 m) in diameter and the ceiling is 208 feet (63 m) above the playing surface, which itself sits 25 feet (7.6 m) below street level.[8]Astrodome Skylights

The scoreboard, eventually known as the “Astrolite“, was designed by Fair Play Scoreboards of Des Moines, Iowa.[9] Having designed the scoreboard for Dodger Stadium several years prior, team owner Roy Hofheinz was not impressed with the initial proposal for a much more generic type of scoreboard. Project designer Jack Foster teamed up with a creative professional based in Kansas City to create the first animated scoreboard. Its reported cost was $2.1 million.[9]

The Dome was completed in November 1964, six months ahead of schedule.[10] Many engineering changes were required during construction, including the modest flattening of the supposed “hemispherical roof” to cope with environmentally induced structural deformation and the use of a new paving process called “lime stabilization” to cope with changes in the chemistry of the soil. The air conditioning system was designed by Houston mechanical engineers Israel A. Naman and Jack Boyd Buckley of I. A. Naman + Associates.

Opening and reception

The multi-purpose stadium, designed to facilitate both football and baseball, is nearly circular and uses movable lower seating areas. It also ushered in the era of other fully domed stadiums, such as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, as well as the now-demolished Pontiac Silverdome near DetroitHubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in MinneapolisKingdome in Seattle, and RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

To test what effect the enclosed air-conditioned environment might have on the delivery of breaking ballsSatchel Paige, in full Astros uniform, threw the first pitches at the Astrodome on February 7, 1965.[11][12] He later concluded that it was a “pitcher’s paradise”, as the lack of wind allowed for sensitive pitches to maneuver more easily.

Hofheinz had an opulent apartment in the Dome, which was removed when the facility was remodeled in 1988.[13]

On Opening Day, April 9, 1965, a sold-out crowd of 47,879 watched an exhibition game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird were in attendance, as well as Texas Governor John Connally and Houston Mayor Louie Welch. Governor Connally tossed out the first ball for the first game ever played indoors. Dick “Turk” Farrell of the Astros threw the first pitch. Mickey Mantle had both the first hit (a single) and the first home run in the Astrodome. The Astros beat the Yankees that night, 2-1.[14]The Astrodome in 1965

President Johnson stopped at the Astrodome that evening en route to his home in Johnson City and paid his respects to baseball and Astros president Roy Hofheinz, a campaign manager for Johnson in the 1940s, just as the second inning got underway. He and Lady Bird watched the opening night game from behind the glass in Judge Hofheinz’s private box high in the right field just to the right of the giant scoreboard. LBJ ate hors d’œuvres and chicken and ice cream while watching the game.[14] “Roy, I want to congratulate you; it shows so much imagination”, he was heard to say. Later, he called the stadium “massive” and “beautiful.” Although the president’s visit overshadowed all others, dignitaries swarmed through the “Eighth Wonder of the World” during the three days of the exhibition series and for opening night against the Phillies on April 12. Chris Short of the Phillies shut out the Astros on four hits, with 12 strikeouts.[15][16]

Judy Garland First Artist to Play Astrodome

The first artist to play the Astrodome was Judy Garland on December 17, 1965, where she was paid $43,000 for the one show. The Supremes was her opening act and tickets were priced $1.00 to $7.50. The dome seated 48,000, with another 12,000 seats added for this show. Garland appeared on stage at 10 p.m. and sang for 40 minutes, with her set of songs including: “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”; “Just In Time”; “My Kind Of Town, Houston Is”/”Houston”; “As Long As He Needs Me”; “Joey, Joey, Joey”; “Do It Again”; “What Now My Love?”; “By Myself”; “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby”; “San Francisco”; “Chicago”; and “Over The Rainbow.” Mort Lindsey conducted.[17]

June 15, 1976 “The Rainout”Edit

The Astrodome suffered a rainout on June 15, 1976. The Astros‘ scheduled game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was called when massive flooding in the Houston area prevented all but a few fans from reaching the stadium. Both teams had arrived early for practice, but the umpires were several hours late. At 5 pm that day, with only a handful of fans on hand and already several hours behind, the umpires and teams agreed to call the game off. Tables were brought onto the field and the teams ate dinner together.[18] Although the Astros still had a home series with Pittsburgh in August, this game was made up in Pittsburgh in July.

Recent historyEdit

Astrodome interior in 2004

In 1989, four cylindrical pedestrian ramp columns were constructed outside the Dome for accessibility. This enabled the Astrodome to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

GOP Convention

The 1992 Republican National Convention was held at the Astrodome in August of that year. The Astros accommodated the convention by taking a month-long road trip. A manually operated scoreboard debuted that season.

On August 19, 1995, a scheduled preseason game between the Oilers and the San Diego Chargers had to be canceled due to the dilapidated condition of the playing field. Oilers owner Bud Adams demanded a new stadium, but the city of Houston refused to fund it. After years of threats, Adams moved the team to Tennessee after the 1996 season.[19] Around that time the Astros also threatened to leave the city unless a new ballpark was built.[19] The retractable-roofed Enron Field (now known as Minute Maid Park) opened for the 2000 season in downtown Houston.

Selena Draws 66,000 Fans Prior To Her Death

One of the largest crowds in the Astrodome’s history, more than 66,746 fans, came on Sunday, February 26, 1995, to see Tejano superstar Selena and her band Los Dinos perform for a sell-out crowd during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.[20] Selena y Los Dinos performed two consecutive times before at the Astrodome, breaking previous attendance records each time. This was Selena’s last televised concert before she was fatally shot on March 31, 1995 by her fan club president.NRG Park area, Houston, Texas. Astrodome, with NRG Stadium at center of this 2010 astronaut photo

The Astrodome was joined by a new neighbor in 2002, the retractable-roofed Reliant Stadium (now known as NRG Stadium), which was built to house Houston’s new NFL franchise, the Houston Texans. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo moved to the new venue in 2003, leaving the Astrodome without any major tenants. The last concert at the Astrodome was George Strait & the Ace in the Hole Band during the 2002 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, before a record crowd of 68,266; the performance was recorded in For the Last Time: Live from the Astrodome.[21]

Astrodome Becomes Home for 25,000 Hurricane Katrina Victims

Survivors of Katrina in the Astrodome, 2005

On August 31, 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Harris County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the State of Louisiana came to an agreement to allow at least 25,000 evacuees from New Orleans, especially those that were sheltered in the Louisiana Superdome, to move to the Astrodome until they could return home. The evacuation began on September 1, 2005. All scheduled events for the final four months of 2005 at the Astrodome were cancelled.[22] Overflow refugees were held in the surrounding Reliant Park complex. There was a full field hospital inside the Reliant Arena, which cared for the entire Katrina evacuee community.

The entire Reliant Park complex was scheduled to be emptied of hurricane evacuees by September 17, 2005. Originally, the Astrodome was planned to be used to house evacuees until December. However, the surrounding parking lots were needed for the first Houston Texans home game. Arrangements were made to help Katrina evacuees find apartments both in Houston and elsewhere in the United States. By September 16, 2005, the last of the hurricane evacuees living in the Astrodome had been moved out either to the neighboring Reliant Arena or to permanent housing north of Houston.[23] As of September 20, 2005, the remaining Katrina evacuees were relocated to Arkansas due to Hurricane Rita.[24]

Closure

In 2008, the facility was cited for numerous code violations. Since then, only maintenance workers and security guards have been allowed to enter the stadium while it is brought up to code.[25] The city council rejected demolition plans on environmental grounds, over concerns that demolition of the Dome might damage the dense development that today closely surrounds it.[26

Refurbishment plans

Numerous renovation/refurbishment plans for the dome have been presented over the years. Houston’s plan to host the 2012 Summer Olympics included renovating the Astrodome for use as a main stadium.[27] Houston became one of the USOC‘s bid finalists, but the organization chose New York City as its candidate city and the Games were ultimately awarded to London by the IOC.An aerial view of the Astrodome in 1999

Plans to convert the Astrodome into a luxury hotel were rejected.[28] A proposal to convert the Astrodome into a movie production studio was also considered but rejected.[29] Regardless of the type of renovation, all renovation plans must deal with the problem of occupancy code violations that have basically shuttered the Astrodome for the near future.[30]

In June 2013, a comprehensive plan was unveiled that would have seen the aging structure undergo an almost $200 million renovation into a multi-purpose event/convention facility. The measure would have to have been approved first through a bond election in Harris County for the publicly funded project to go forward or else, officials warned, the iconic structure would be demolished.[31] Voters ended up rejecting the measure on November 5, 2013.[32]

2013 referendum and aftermath

On November 5, 2013, voters in Houston turned down a $213 million referendum to renovate and convert the Astrodome into a state-of-the-art convention center and exhibition space known as “New Dome Experience”.[33] Until a final disposition is made, Harris County commissioners will not approve demolition of the stadium. “The building’s still there. There’s no formal plan or authorization to demolish the building, and until somebody brings such a plan to fruition, there’s a chance,” according to Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation. “The proposal was rejected by the voters. We’re back to where we were. Square one,” according to Steve Radack, Harris County commissioner.[34]

Three exterior pedestrian ramp towers were demolished on December 8, 2013. Around that time, the ramp bridges were disconnected from the main structure and the surrounding grass berms were lowered. The ticket booths were also removed along with the interior seats. The demolition was planned prior to the referendum.[35]

Historical Landmark Designation

After the failed plans of past years, the Astrodome Revitalization Project was proposed in September 2016. This plan would turn the dome into a massive underground parking garage. Specifically, the first step would raise the dome floor and use the space underneath that as parking, leaving the floor above for other uses. On September 27, 2016, the Harris County Commissioners approved the first part of the plan. This marked a major turning point for the dome, as some feared if the plan wasn’t approved the building would be demolished.[38][39][40] On January 27, 2017, the Texas Historical Commission voted unanimously to designate the dome a State Antiquities Landmark.[41] Under the designation, the Astrodome may no longer be removed, altered, damaged, salvaged, or excavated without a permit from the commission.[42] The Harris County Commissioners voted to approve a $105 million renovation plan on February 13, 2018. This plan keeps the parking garage from the Revitalization Project. Construction was set to start in October 2018 and would be completed sometime in 2020.[43] The construction start date was later moved to early 2019 and was expected to finish in 2020.[44] However, as of September 2019, the plan was put on hold with no word when construction might take place.[45] It was announced in November of 2019 that the Revitalization Project has been scrapped by Commissioners Court Judge Lina Hidalgo. Hidalgo explained that “The plan that had been designed wouldn’t have yielded truly a usable building”. As of November there has been no New plan for the Astrodome.[46]

Personal Meaning

TWENTY years ago I visited Houston on six separate occasions to see my mother, fighting for her life at MD Anderson following a bone marrow transplant for leukemia. I could see the Astrodome from the hospital window, only a half mile away. It was sad for me to see this once venerable structure sitting idly, soon to be in a fight for ITS life just like my mother. The Astros had just finished playing their last season there, having moved to the new Minute Maid Park. I wonder how long that one will last. Though My mother had been one of the longest leukemia survivors, she wouldn’t finish the year of 2001. At least the Astrodome did.

While so many iconic, pioneering structures have seen their demise at the hands of greedy developers with deeper pockets than local preservations, it’s a great pleasure to see an occasional ediface and living history like The Astrodome saved. If it weren’t for fear of demolition harming newer buildings it would have been razed years ago. Ironically,Perhaps we can thank the ‘fearful’ new buildings’ owners for preserving the Astrodome.

original 1960s Houston Astros Hyalac decal sticker old logo 4″x4″ vintage NL value at $40 FREE to first 5 who send SASE to ‘Decal’, C/o Coupon country, 3527 Mt. Diablo Bl. #288, Lafayette CA 94549

Last time I heard about the Astrome in the news, a few years ago, it was all but a done deal to have it demolished. The Astrodome would probably have been razed as early as 2008 if it weren’t for fear of the demolition affecting newer buildings in the area. SO it was quite a SURPRISE just researching this story to learn that the Astrodome LIVES to this day. Also surprising is that the building name, Astrodome, and team name, Astros, synonomous with another era, remain active.

the Astrodome has been through a lot in its 35 very active years and even during its last 20 mostly dormant ones. Its played host to the greatest ball players, from Jimmy Wynn to Mickey Mantle, to top artists like Judy Garland,Selena and George Straight, to the GOP convention, to Katrina victims. May the first of its kind (in many ways) palace continue to be preserved as the historical landmark for which it has deservedly been finally designated . Public tours should be given and who knows when , perhaps , a local Rennaisance could happen surrounding the Astrodome as we’ve seen in other cities.

FROM ‘STRANGE INHERITANCE’:

Judge Hofheinz plush Railroad Car , part of Astrodome 30 years for sale

https://www.foxbusiness.com/features/astrodome-train-car-a-rolling-luxury-box

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Covid -19 Positive Messages & Media, Tributes & Tips https://onlygoodnews.club/2020/03/covid-19-positive-messages-media-tributes-tips-from-some-of-our-favorites-and-not-so-famous/

Can You Name These 6 Teen Idols

rock and roll lheaven
Same place same time circa 1960 6 teen idols

6 teen idols in 1960. Can u name all? They are , from front Annette -no last name needed, Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Bob Denver and….

At least two of the men were often associated with Annette. Certainly you remember Paul Anka and Frankie from the beach blanket days with Annette

Changing times – Annette or Bhad Bhaby?

Colorized ‘I Love Lucy’ Theater Tribute Posts Huge Grosses on Lucille Ball’s Birthday – New CD Release

Producers discuss the making of special I LOVE LUCY Colorized Celebration with clips

The special, one-day screenings beat ‘Aladdin’ to come in No. 6.

Moviegoers showed their love for Lucille Ball in a big way on Tuesday.

I Love Lucy: A Colorized Celebration grossed $777,645 from 660 theaters across the country, enough to beat out Aladdin and come in No. 6 at the domestic box office.

The tribute, timed to what would have been Ball’s 108th birthday, is a collection of five classic episodes of the inimitable TV show, along with a new featurette about the colorization process.

The one-day screening was a presentation of Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment. The theater special was timed with a NEW CD RELEASE :

I Love Lucy: Colorized Collection

i love lucy colorized cd
New I LOVE LUCY Colorized Collection
NOW On Sale HERE

“The incredible performance of I Love Lucy: A Colorized Celebration demonstrates the enormous appeal of experiencing classic television on the big screen, and Fathom Events’ commitment to innovation and creativity in both the broadcast and cinema industries,” said Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt, whose company is enjoying a record-breaking year. cont

Famous featured ‘Vegemite’ commercial

Lucille Ball’s Daughter Reflects on ‘I Love Lucy’ Memories, Finding Own Place in Creative Arts

Ahead of the event, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with entertainer Lucie Arnaz — the daughter of Ball and Arnaz, who made her debut on Here’s Lucy in 1968 and subsequently carved out a varied performance career in musical theater and acting — about childhood memories, her experience of I Love Lucy and finding her own place in the creative arts. 

You’ve been a performer in your own right for many years now. How do you feel about connections to your mother and father now versus when you were growing up?

In a weird way, I guess I’ve always expected it, but truthfully, I don’t get a lot of them. I don’t know why that is. The only people who tend to connect me with them in that way are people on Facebook. I’ll say something or I’ll do something, and they’ll say, “Oh, just like your mom on such and such show….” But generally, in my professional career, very few times have I had to go head-to-head, and I think it’s because I went in a different direction. I wasn’t on a television show doing comedy sitcoms for most of my life; I went into theater and music. Maybe that’s why I decided to switch it up a little bit.

Was there an expectation that you would enter the arts field?

When I was very young, like five or six, I was shy and afraid to get up in front of people. I think it was because I saw the power of what the two of them were, and it was intimidating when you don’t know if you have any talent. I don’t want to be that opening act, you know? But when I became about eight or nine years old, I had a little backyard group with my girlfriends and we would put on plays that we either made up or we would lip-sync to Broadway show albums and things. It was something I was passionate about, I would jump up on make-believe stages. Mom was very supportive of any of my brothers’ and my passions; whatever it was, if he wanted to play the drums or piano then she would arrange lessons. She saw that I was having a good time doing that so she built a little stage in the backyard garage, with one light, so that we could do it better, and we would charge tickets to our neighbors.

Then, I picked a high school because it had one of the best drama departments, and I started doing shows and learning craft that way. When [Lucille] got ready to switch her television show up, she just popped the question. She said, “You know, we’ve done our show for six years, and syndication wise we could start another show and syndicate it, and I’m just thinking that perhaps you would like to play the child on the new series.” I thought that was interesting, because she was giving me the opportunity if I wanted it, to continue the education in the direction I was going. At first I didn’t want to do it, but then I thought, as long as I don’t make a fool of myself, it’s probably great education. And it truly, truly was. But I don’t think either my mother or my father assumed I would go into this business at all and they never pushed us in that direction or told us it was a great thing to do. What we saw were two people who worked hard but were hardly ever home. We knew from the inside how hard this business could be. I had no fantasies about what working in show business would be, so it was my choice to go ahead and give it a shot.

How did your experience of your mother differ from how the public consumed her on television?

My mother was a very private person and so was my father, though he was more gregarious with people. He was Latin, everybody was “amigo'”and a best friend. He would sing at the drop of a hat even when he wasn’t being paid for it. My mother, when she was off-camera and home, she was home. She didn’t leap at the chance to get up and perform in front of people, like a lot of comedians and performers do. She liked her at-home time with family, she played games sort of as meditation and relaxation, Backgammon and Scrabble.

You were well into your performance career when Lucille died. Is there a memory you can recall where the two of you connected as peers and shared your experience?

It’s interesting because I started my professional career on the Here’s Lucy show. It was interesting to sort of be peers from the beginning, even though she was the star of the show, we were all actors trying to learn our lines and get the blocking right in four days and to perform in front of an audience. There’s a camaraderie there and we did feel like peers, especially after the first couple of years with Gail [Gordon] and some of the guest stars that would come on. Then, later on, she was very supportive of my work when she would come and see me in a Broadway show or touring around the country. I don’t think I ever got a note from her ever. I always felt like she was another actor friend, but one who really wasn’t a musical performer and she was sort of in awe that I decided to go and do that. She would say, “I don’t know how you do it,” and that was a huge compliment coming from her.

There are many family values in I Love Lucy that have resulted in its timeless appeal. What do you most identify with from the show, that you’ve integrated into your own life?

Since I grew up with it and never knew anything else, I don’t know if I resonate with it the way other people do although I laugh at it for the same reasons: ordinary people getting into ordinary situations and trying to get out of them, while getting into trouble and somehow getting away with it and everybody still loves them in the end. If there’s anything I take away from the show in general, I think it’s the unconditional love. That’s the feeling [you get] when the show is over: Awww. It worked out OK, and that I can get in trouble too and maybe there’s somebody who will put their arms around me at the end of the day and say, “I still love you.” I incorporate that into my life and I hope that’s the way I live my life. Also, to not take things very seriously. When you grow up as the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, you learn to see the humor in things. That’s important today.

What is your take on the newly colorized episodes?

I didn’t get as excited about it as everybody else, and I think there could be something in my brain that remembers what it looked like for real and so black-and-white or color doesn’t affect me really. I still appreciate black-and-white, and I kind of didn’t like the intrusion in the color, it took me out of it, but I’ve changed my mind a little bit because it seems to be attracting so much of the younger crowd who don’t like black-and-white. If that’s true, then that’s great. I do think it’s hilarious that Lucille has become ultra-famous on that show for being a redhead in a black-and-white show. It just proves that you didn’t need it to be color. But hey, it’s like a party — they spent an awful lot of money to do this well, and they did it really well. It’s more the idea, too, that they’re running it on the big screen. The fact that they’re having this event to celebrate mom’s birthday on Aug. 6 and they would put it all around the country — is fantastic.

How has your performance career been influenced by Lucille’s acting style?

I hope what I have taken from watching her for 68 years is the believability. If you don’t believe what you’re doing, nobody will believe it and it won’t be funny. People can write lots of funny stuff for you, but if you play it like you know how funny it is, it’s never funny. She believed what she did and she was the queen of doing that. There isn’t a fake moment in I Love Lucy. Not one. If you look at an example, maybe the Vitameatavegamin routine, there isn’t a false moment — she is in it from the beginning all the way through to the end. And it can be as exaggerated as she wanted it to be because she was totally connected to what she was doing and why. Not trying to get a laugh, trying to be in the situation. It’s a perfect example because she kept taking another tablespoon of the stuff, so it shows how the increments of this could get bigger and bigger and you actually watch it happen. She never got ahead of it — it’s kind of a wonderful metaphor for life: Be living in that first spoonful and then be living in the second spoonful and don’t be ahead of yourself. That’s what you learn from watching her.

No Karaoke Here – OAKLAND’S ALLEY 55 YEARS Strong with Original Piano Player

alley

UPDATE 2-28-17
Seven years since our last update, while most of Oakland’s and Bay Area’s old palaces are gone including the recent razing of the UFO-style Biff’s Coffee Shop (1962), The Alley still stands on Grand Ave, one of the few main streets that maintains a sense of history. And, yes, Rod Dibble’s name still adorns the front of the classic piano bar restaurant as it has for now 55 years but, sadly, Rod has been slowed by a broken hip and his days at the piano may be numbered, according to the bar tender we spoke to 2-28; however the same bar tender was still optimistic that Dibble would be back from time to time to tickle the ivories at the bar he made famous and which has remained virtually unchanged during those same 55 years.
Still remaining are the dingy, yellowed business cards and memorabilia covering the walls. Still remaining are what look to be the original narrow restaurant booths and old wood floors .  The only thing that looks new is a sign in the front window that says ‘PASS’ referring to the recent inspection, which seems like a small miracle in itself; we learned through Wikipedia that the inspectors have allowed what appears a real fire hazard is because the restaurant sprays the walls with fire retardant, which probably adds to the yellowed color.  In the same article we learned that perhaps Dibble had been able to ‘last’ 55 years is that he was walking to and from the job some 10 miles a day (I remember seeing him once en route around Lake Merritt(!). Dibble is said to know over 4,000 songs by memory and , generally, plays only vintage songs written prior to 1963, about the time Dibble first appeared at the Alley.

Last King of the Piano Bars?

Rod Dibble Still Tickling Them 50 Years Later

When one passes by the Alley on Grand Ave in Oakland, CA you hardly notice the place. It’s always looked kind of dingy from the outside. Come to think of of it, it’s pretty dingy-looking on the inside, too,but the good kind of dingy.

As a kid growing up in Oakland , the Alley was all but ignored as a place for older folks, with a bohemian bent- weirdos back then . Over the years the neighbor hood changed -especially the parallel-running Lakeshore Ave, where perhaps only 1 or two original businesses remain out of the 50 or so… Grand isn’t much differrent. But, somehow, The Alley has survived. Lots of down years and population changes as Oakland has gone from all white to a largely minority city. Original owners have passed on and most of the original followers. However, the daughter of the original owners still runs the place, we are told, which probably explains, in part, how the Alley has stood the test of time. Kudos to her.

But through it all , there’s one constant – Rod Dibble at the Piano, now going on 50 years.

PIANO BARS – DIBBBLE STILL TICKLIN’ THEM 50 YEARS LATER

Dibble began his stint in 1963 . And, it’s as if time has stood still since then. While the crowd may have changed, the place hasn’t and , of course, Dibble’s still there, and he says he doesn’t play any music after 1963. If that’s not time warp , what is? But, we love it. In today’s fast-paced world of quickening technology , media hype and disfunctional or non-existent families its kind of nice to see a that a place like the Alley – and it’s current family of regulars – can still exist in 2910.

If there’s another place like this in America that hasn’t changed a lick, with a veteran piano player of 50 years, I’d like to see it. And there well may be one or two somewhere .However, piano bars, themselves , are pretty rare these days, having been replaced by automated Kareoke .

We say there’s nothing like the real thing, and , apparently, so do a lot of others, as seen by a resurgence at the Alley in recent years, with the current crowd of mostly 20-somethings. However, this recent night we were there we witnessed a number of spirited seniors , like Frank, as animated in his singing as any of other younger folk , who gather at the 9 or 10 seats around the grand piano and take turns singing into the nicraphones. Frank ended ever classic song with a high-pitched last note; so what if it was off-key. That’s what makes this place so special. It’s all off key by today’s standards. And that’s good.

There’s a book of hundreds of songs, with lyrics to choose from. It was refreshing to hear song after song from the great American song book, when melody and lyrics seemed to have more to do with music. Each song told a story – take Route 66 for example – and the unique singer behind the mike. No generics as you get at a Karaoke bar. Only real personality here. And Dibble, now   in his  late 70s  but still with a youthful spark, is able to tackle most every song but, again, it’s gotta behind pre-1963. He still sings, too, and in a whiskey-inspired voice one might expect for a guy who has spent thousands of nights singing, playing and, yes -drinking the night away at the Alley.

FIND ALMOST ANY GREAT , OLD, VINTAGE MUSIC – LPS, CDS, DVDS:

I try to get to the Alley now as often as possible as I’m afraid this fun can’t last forever. Dibble’s doing great but he won’t be there forever. And , one must wonder, how the alley has escaped the fire inspectors , with all the old business cards, flyers and paper lining the walls and ceiling, much of which has probably been there the whole time .

So, if you live anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s worth a trip to see this place. Even if you live in another state, its work a trip to spend a weekend with Rod and the gang… Pick a weekend night or two when you’re sure to see Dibble at the ivories — there’s a new young upstart singing weeknights – and a full host of singers at the piano bar; this place makes Cheers pale. I will go in and sit in the back corner and just take in the whole atmosphere. Talk about time standing still. I love this place – and to think we would have nothing to do with the place as kids in the 60s and 70s…

If you know of any special vintage piano bars that might possibly rival the Alley please comment…

VIDEOS : Top Video from 2009 features Dibble going solo, Bottom Video gives a more real ‘vibe’ of the Alley experience…

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Lounge Music: Exotica, Easy listening, Space age pop, Mood music, Beautiful music, Electronica, Chill- out music, Nu jazz, Downtempo, Space Age, Light … Piano bar, Camp (style), Tiki culture

 

FROM 1999… More Alley, courtesy SF Gate (SF Chronicle) :
NEWS
By Kimberly Chun / CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER | February 5, 1999
1999-02-05 04:00:00 PST EAST BAY — Most of Oakland has had its first drink there say the regulars at the Alley piano bar and restaurant. And just as many have been thrown out by its longtime owner Jody Kerr. The rest just pass by the pink and green neon-trimmed cottagelike facade on Grand Avenue day after day and never go in. They ought to. They would enter a dim wilderness of sensory overload. Imagine an alley re-created by a drunken Walt Disney lined with dark wood Formica street signage weird paper ephemera and thousands of business cards. click headline for more
piano bars

Piano Bars – Nothing Like the Alley, Oakland, CA