Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ghostly Birds

When I go for my walks there are times I don't have any real destination in mind and I grab photos of whatever I see. Like this fellow. I think this is the first time I have ever gotten such a good shot of a squirrel.

If you have seen the movie 'Birds' and it scared you then you may want to avoid these next photos.

I was walking along Granville Street and happened upon this gathering of pigeons.

The pigeons were all gathered around since there was someone feeding them and continued to do so until a few seagulls joined the group and were bullying the pigeons for the food. However, if you  look at these creatures they don't look like they've missed many meals!

Did you know that pigeons are monogamous and will only lay one or two eggs which will hatch in about 18 days? They will usually reproduce year around and the young leave the nest after about four to six weeks. Then more eggs are laid.  Descended from rock doves these city birds have no natural enemies. Between that and the amount they reproduce I guess that is why we have so many in cities!
Pigeons are not migratory and will eat just about anything. A pigeon can deposit over 11 kilograms of droppings a year and their droppings can cause vegetation to decay. Their nests can also cause fires on electrical signs.

The reason I was walking along Granville Street is because of what happened at the corner of Granville and Robson Streets. The three-storey Farmer Building at that corner had been torn down. It had stood in that spot since 1922 and unknown to many Vancouver residents, the building hid a ghost sign.

This is called a 'ghost sign because of their ghostly faded appearance and the fact that they advertise businesses that are sometimes long gone. (You will remember that I wrote on the sign found on a building on Victoria Drive for Shelley Bakery.)

The sign shown above was for a comedy by Harold Lloyd entitled Grandma's Boy. It was playing across the street at the Capitol Theatre ergo the disembodied hand pointing to where the theatre would have been.

Lloyd  was one of the giants of the silent screen. He was a comic genius who once rivalled Charlie Chaplin in popularity and made over 200 films between 1913 and 1947. Sadly he is largely forgotten today.

(I would like to thank an article in the Vancouver Sun by John Mackie for information on the newly revealed sign.)

Some time ago I wrote on the Victoria Block on Pender Street. It was in rough shape and you can check out the original blog entry to see how bad it was. But when I walked by on Sunday I was pleased to see that someone has taken the initiative to restore it.
It really makes me feel good to see an old building brought back to life. Instead of destroying our history and tearing it down then replacing it with a glass and metal atrocity, someone has shown some love for Vancouver and rebuilt a little piece of our heritage.

I hope you find the beauty around you.
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Monday, February 27, 2012

Death of a Blond Playmate

When most people think of a blonde haired woman that came from Vancouver and appeared in Playboy then went on to acting most probably think of Baywatch beauty, Pamela Anderson. And for good cause. Anderson has propelled her photo spreads in the men's magazine into a lucrative career. But that is not who I am talking about today. As far as I know Anderson is alive and well.

On February 28, 1960 Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten was born in a Salvation Army hospital in Vancouver to Dutch immigrants Simon and Nelly Hoogstraten.

Now we'll jump ahead seventeen years to 1977 and a teenaged Dorothy is working part time at a local Dairy Queen and attending Centennial High School in Coquitlam. One day while working Dorothy caught the eye of twenty six year old Vancouver club promoter and pimp Paul Snider.
Snider romanced the underage Hoogstraten and had nude photos taken by a professional photographer. He then sent those photos to Playboy. Because Dorothy was underage a parental signature was required but Nelly refused to sign. So her signature was forged.

In 1979 Dorothy and Paul moved to Los Angeles Dorothy shortened her last name to Stratten. She became Playboy's Miss August and worked as a bunny at the Century City Playboy Club. Hugh Hefner had great hopes that the beautiful blonde , who was 1980's Playmate of the Year, could have a meaningful crossover success as an actress.

But there was a wrinkle in Stratten's life. Her husband Paul Snider. Hefner urged Stratten to sever ties with Snider, labelling the promoter as a hustler and a pimp. Other friends warned the young Playmate about her husband's behaviour.

While filming the movie, They All Laughed, Stratten began an affair with the director Peter Bogdanovich. Snider found out after he had hired a private detective to follow his wife. Stratten and Snider separated, Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich and planned to file for divorce from her husband.

On August 14,  1980 Dorothy Stratten went over the house that she had once shared with Snider to discuss the possibility of an amicable divorce. Hours later, around eleven pm, the private investigator that Snider had hired called the house's owner and Snider's current roommate, Dr. Stephen Cushner.  The investigator had been trying for hours to call Snider but Snider wasn't answering.

Cushner broke into Snider's room and found the couple nude, covered with ants and both dead from shotgun blasts.

Such a short life and career but Stratten's influence is still felt. Two movies have been made telling about her life: Death of A Centerford, The Dorothy Stratten Story which starred Jamie Lee Curtis and Bruce Weitz and Star 80 with Muriel Hemingway and Eric Roberts.

Peter Bogdanovich wrote a book entitled The Killing of a Unicorn which was about Stratten.

Bryan Adams co-wrote two song about Stratten. One was Cover Girl which became a hit for PRISM and the other is The Best was Yet To Come. Dorothy Stratten was mentioned in a song by Bongwater entitled Nick Cave Dolls and she is also referenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in their song Californication.Gavin Rossdale mentions Stratten in his song Dead Meat which was performed by his band Bush.
Tomorrow would have been Dorothy's fifty-second birthday and I wonder what her life would have been like had she lived. If her and Snider had just parted ways would she have gone on to a successful movie career? Film critic Vincent Canby once wrote "Miss Stratten possessed a charming screen presence and might possibly have become a first-rate comedienne with time and work."

Dorothy Stratten was killed too young and will always remain in our memories as that young, fresh faced model/actress with so much untapped talent. Google her name and see for yourself how beautiful she was.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Let's Breathe

This building on Oak Street is known as Construction House. It was started in 1928 and its purpose was to be the first Jewish Community centre. It was designed to be built in two phases.

The first phase was built in 1928 and the second phase was to include 600-seat theatre and a gymnasium. That part was never built though because the depression halted most construction and by the time the depression was over, the Jewish community had moved. A new centre was built at 41st and Oak.

In 1904 it was an acceptable, yet sad, fact of life that diseases like tuberculosis could take a person's life. It was a tarnish on the bright and glowing future of this new province, British Columbia.

In 1907 the BC Anti-Tuberculosis was formed and in July of that year they purchased the Fortune Farm at Tranquille. The society transformed the facility into an institution to care for those with tuberculosis. The facility operated on that from November 1907 until April 1921.

On February 23, 1923 the Tranquille Hospital was signed over to the Province of British Columbia. The province would now be responsible for the care of the patients and everything associated with the institution.

For eighteen months the BC Anti-Tuberculosis was inactive but on October 30, 1922 the Tranquille Tuberculosis Publicity Society was formed. The name was changed to the Tranquille Tuberculosis Society  then on November9, 1936 it became the British Columbia Tuberculosis Society. On June 27, 1964 the name was once again changed to the British Columbia Tuberculosis Christmas Seal Society and finally on July 27, 1978 the organization became the  British Columbia Lung Association.

I owe these people and others like them a debt of gratitude. In 2005 I was diagnosed with a rare allergy to certain birds - extrinsic allergic alveolitis - and hospitalized for a week. The dust from my pet birds got into my lungs and causing me to have problems breathing. But thanks to the research of organizations like this and the expertise of the doctor I saw at St. Paul's Hospital I was able to breath freely again. I did have to get rid of my birds and now cannot get close to any of that type but that's a small price to pay for my life.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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