Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Farewell to KROQ's Bean as He Departs After 30 Years

For months, Gene "Bean" Baxter's co-hosts on KROQ's "Kevin and Bean Show" have jokingly quipped "R.I.P. Bean!" to their departing colleague — and listeners have gotten in on the act as well. Bean isn't dying — he's leaving the show after nearly 30 years — and exiting the United States all together, moving with his wife, Donna, to England, where he was born as a military brat.

Being a fellow brat, that's one of several things I have in common with Bean — perhaps most notably, a love of radio. From the time I was a kid, I dreamed of being a radio DJ, and I was obsessed with the Billboard charts (something Bean also geeked out over the years).

Bean not only grew up wanting to be in radio, but he made it happen. And not only did he make it happen, but he wound up co-hosting one of the longest-running and most iconic morning radio shows in Los Angeles history. He and co-host Kevin Ryder have already been inducted in the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame (I happened to be there, and took the video below), and on Friday they'll next be inducted in the Radio Hall of Fame.

Thursday is Bean's final day on KROQ and "The Kevin and Bean Show." And when his fans and colleagues joke "R.I.P. Bean," it's not really a joke. Bean's not dying, but for fans of "The Kevin and Bean Show," to lose a trusted voice and a part of your daily routine say goodbye after 30 years — it's tremendous blow. Like many in Los Angeles, I'm stuck in a car for hours each day, and "The Kevin and Bean Show" is my lifeline to sanity. Thanks to the show's podcast, I can listen to the full 4-hour broadcast, condensed into an hour and a half without music and commercials, every day as a result.

The term "end of an era" has become a bit of a cliché, but the end of Kevin and Bean's partnership is absolutely one. Their morning drive contemporaries — including KLOS' Mark and Brian and KIIS' Rick Dees — are long gone, and radio (not to mention, all of the media landscape) has dramatically changed since "Kevin and Bean" premiered at the start of 1990.

KROQ was already a legendary station when Kevin and Bean began there; as a kid, I read Billboard magazine and poured over the radio coverage so much that I was familiar with major-market stations, particularly on the west coast, like KROQ and KIIS. Funny enough, a 1989 Billboard I still own even includes a "Vox Jox" column announcing the hiring of Kevin and Bean on KROQ.

The first time I actually heard KROQ was in college at Northwestern in Chicago. One of my dormmates was from Southern California, and I asked her to record a cassette of KROQ when she was home for Christmas break. When I moved to Los Angeles in 1996, I knew of the station and Kevin & Bean and began sampling them — while, coincidentally, also listening to a lot of 103.1 "Groove Radio," programmed by former KROQ DJ the Swedish Egil. Mornings on Groove Radio were also handled by a KROQ alum, Jim "Poorman" Trenton, and I would flip back and forth between the two. But soon I was listening to Kevin and Bean full time. I headed to Warehouse Music that fall to buy Kevin & Bean's annual Christmas cassette, which was produced by "Jimmy the Sports Guy," some Brooklyn-sounding dude named Jimmy Kimmel. (I have almost every KROQ Christmas cassette and CD , until they stopped releasing them in the mid-2000s.)

Jimmy left and became a superstar, and Ralph Garman brought an arsenal of voices and improv that turned "Kevin & Bean" into a comedy treasure trove in the 2000s. The supporting team has changed over the years, but the Kevin and Bean formula remains: It's not a "morning zoo" with hyper DJs trying too hard over a dance music bed; it's an irreverent, often satirical and always self-deprecating look at entertainment, the culture, and what it's like to navigate the world around us.

Well-versed in pop culture, history, trivia and minutia, Bean often took lead on interviews, and his ability to hyperfocus on what needs to be asked and answered will be missed on the show. It's a skill that remains surprisingly rare on radio or TV. Listening to his interviews over the years, I think, influenced how I interview various performers and celebrities on my own podcasts.

I had written occasionally about KROQ and Kevin & Bean over the years for Variety and Franklin Avenue. But I really got to know the team thanks to social media. Twitter may be a cesspool, but it does have a useful function when it comes to bringing people together. It was through early Twitter that I conversed with Bean, and started getting invitations to talk TV on the show. Bean would always keep me on my toes, and I knew to brush up on information, as well as bring notes, to make sure I could answer his questions. It was a treat to see them at Comic Con annually, and stop by the studio a few times each year.

It's impossible to convey how impressive a 30-year run is, especially in radio — where formats, and lineups, change at the drop of a hat. There's no constant in radio, with a few exceptions. "Kevin and Bean" has been one of them. So much has changed since 1990 (I was still a junior in high school, for one thing!). And "Kevin and Bean" has evolved quite a bit since those early days, yet they still are  able to keep up with the times and reflect, to this day, what's happening in pop culture and with their listeners.

As Bean heads to London, I look forward to seeing how the next chapter of his career unfolds; he promises that he's not retiring, and still hopes to find a new radio home overseas. As for "The Kevin and Bean Show," it will maintain that title for a while longer, perhaps until the end of the year. But beyond cosmetic changes, like a new title, not too much will change: The rest of the cast, including Allie MacKay, Jensen Karp, producer Dave "the King of Mexico" Sanchez, production whiz Omar Khan, jack-of-all-trades Johnny "Beer Mug" Kantrowe and assistant producer Christine Fung remain.

And thank goodness for that. R.I.P. Bean, but for the rest of you, I'll be tuning in on Monday!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

We Got Tacos! Lakers Make It Easier for Fans to Win Free Eats This Year

You know the cry. Usually by the fourth quarter of Los Angeles Lakers games, if things are going right: "WE WANT TACOS!"

For years now, Jack in the Box has been a sponsor at Lakers games, offering up coupons for a free pair of their hard-shell Americanized tacos (normally 99 cents) if the score was right: not only did the Lakers have to win a game, but they'd have to keep their opponents to under 100 points.

But as the NBA becomes much more of a high-scoring enterprise, the threshold for getting those free tacos has been harder to meet. In an age of so many 3-pointers, that has become tough.

Now, on Sunday night — and I don't know if this is the new normal, but it should be — the rules had been changed. We attended the Lakers vs. Charlotte Hornets game, and the baseline for free tacos had become: Lakers win, and keep their opponents to under 111 points, and free tacos would be ours.

The final score: Lakers 120, Hornets 101. In the past, that would have just missed the score for free tacos.

Instead, on Sunday night, WE GOT TACOS! (BTW, I'm not a fan of the Jack in the Box tacos -- but Maria will be the beneficiary of my coupon.)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Metro's Blue Line Vintage Sign Auction Nets $30,000; Yes, I Bought One

As the Metro prepares to reopen its Blue Line on November 2 after major renovations, the big news is that it will now be known as the "A Line" -- as the L.A. rail system moves away from a color-coded system to a letter-based one. That also means many of the Blue Line's old signs are obsolete.

On Thursday, the Metro Shop held a Metro Blue Line Celebration and Vintage Sign Auction, pulling in at least $30,000 as people — including, yes, me —— purchased some of the old, retired signs from the line. Some of that money will go toward paying for the event; the rest will go back into Metro's general fund.

I was looking for one that said "Los Angeles," and managed to win one (although it wasn't cheap). Most of the major signs fetched $150 to $200, but there were deals for smaller signs. Around 300 vintage Blue Line signs that have been replaced were auctioned to the public; I wonder what happened to the others. (Go here to see how much each sign ultimately fetched.)

The event itself took place at the Union Station historic ticketing hall, and featured food, beverages and live music by Maria de la Vega & the Wayward Five. Some pics:

And yes, this is the one I ultimately purchased.

Monday, October 21, 2019

FREE LA: 'The Elevated Eye' Photography Exhibit at Forest Lawn

Glendale's Forest Lawn Museum is back with a new exhibit that is definitely worth checking out: "The Elevated Eye" features photography of cityscapes, landmarks, the earth and more as taken by planes, drones, spaceships and other aerial means. The photos span centuries, and include some classic overhead shots of Los Angeles.

As always, the Forest Lawn Museum is free, and a unique stop, located high up on a hill, allowing for great views of downtown Glendale.

More info:
The exhibition examines the history of aerial photography, from its origins in the nineteenth century to the boundary-pushing technologies of the twenty-first century. It assembles nearly 150 images and 14 minutes of video, as well as satellite models and drones. The exhibition includes photographs from Forest Lawn Museum’s permanent collection that have never been displayed as well as works from the Getty Research Institute; Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens; and the Special Collections of Los Angeles Public Library. The Elevated Eye: Aerial Photography Past and Present also features the work of David Maisel, a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow in the Creative Arts; Jenny Odell, a multi-disciplinary artist and writer; and photographer Lane Barden, whose work traces major corridors of Los Angeles from above. The exhibition includes more than twenty images and mesmerizing video footage by the drone pilot and photographer Chen Ming. Moving beyond the stratosphere, The Elevated Eye features historical images from NASA as well as the work of Erwan Rivault (@earthfromsatellites), a French geographer who uses data from European Space Agency satellites to create stunning images of natural wonders on the Earth’s surface.

"The Elevated Eye: Aerial Photography Past and Present" will be open to the public from October 10, 2019 through March 8, 2020 at Forest Lawn Museum, Forest Lawn-Glendale, 1712 S. Glendale Avenue.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Preserving the Los Angeles Downtown Women's Center: Cast Your Vote

Help a local historic institution out! The Los Angeles Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) is a haven for thousands of women living without a home across Los Angeles and is the only organization in Los Angeles focused exclusively on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women.

The DWC is in the running for this year's “Partners in Preservation,” an effort by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to preserve historic places. In the running 20 local historical sites from across the country, all with significant ties to Women’s History. Now those sites are rallying their communities to compete for a slice of $2 million in preservation grant money.

Cast your vote here.

Here's more on what the DWC is up to:
In 1978, DWC founder Jill Halverson used her savings to open Los Angeles’ first drop-in day center for homeless women. In the 1980s, DWC’s services grew to offer the first permanent supportive housing program for women. In 2010, and with a female architect at the lead, DWC completed a $35 million capital campaign to revitalize a historic building constructed by female developer Florence Casler in 1927. 

Funding will cover the re-design of current external signage, as well as support the revitalization of DWC’s external facade. As an advocate for historic preservation and a firm believer in managing rather than preventing change, DWC demonstrates how historic buildings can continue to serve as beacons of hope for the community.

This Saturday, the Downtown Women’s Center will hold a "Partners in Preservation Open House Event" to showcase more of their work, and why preservation is so important. Check it out:

Saturday, October 19, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
442 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
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