Column: The life artistic? Bill Murray-themed art show coming

A small art show Dec. 13 in Claremont is causing a stir because it will consist of artists’ views of actor Bill Murray — and because some misconstrue the wording of the flier to think Murray will attend. I set the record straight on this crucial matter, as well as offering items from Pomona, Montclair and the cultural scene, and plugging two “Pomona A to Z” events, in Friday’s column.

(Look for references to four examples of Murray’s work, one of them in the headline, although I kept the nods subtle, as Murray would. Can you identify them all?)

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Restaurant of the Week: Original Red Devil Pizza

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Red Devil Pizzeria, 907 W. Foothill Blvd. (at San Antonio), Upland

Sometimes these Restaurant of the Week posts come about by happenstance. I drove one lunch hour to the Upland Town Square shopping center, the one with a Sprouts market, to try out Tao Thai. But this was the day after Thanksgiving and neither Tao Thai nor Loving Hut a few doors down were open.

I almost left the center to look elsewhere but decided to try Red Devil, just paces from where I parked.

Red Devil is almost cavernous in size, with Coors streamers, pennants of NFL teams and picnic-style tables. It’s designed for Little League teams and football watching. But it turns out they have some great lunch specials, all priced at $5. Five dollars!

I got a slice of pizza, salad and soda, $5.40 with tax. The salad was decent: iceberg, cheese, tomatoes and black olives. The slice was wide, soft and thick. I got mushrooms as my topping. It’s not my new favorite pizza in town, but it was acceptable. And the price was outstanding.

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A few days later I returned for another $5 lunch special. This time I got baked ziti, garlic bread and soda. Tasty and filling.

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My only complaint is that all three TVs, spread around the room, were tuned to “Days of Our Lives”; seated in the middle of the restaurant, with the same dialogue coming from three corners of the room, seemingly a split-second apart, I had to move closer to one TV or risk my brain exploding.

(Note: This is not a real complaint, although it’s true that the effect was annoying.)

I don’t know how long they’ll keep the $5 price, but right now it’s one of the best deals around.

How does Red Devil relate to Sal’s Red Devil in La Verne, there since 1973? Not at all, apparently. Covina’s Red Devil opened in 1966. Two brothers split off to open Barros and Lamppost. This Upland location was a Lamppost until 2010, when the family took it back and opened the second Red Devil. They call themselves The Original Red Devil Pizza.

Now I still have to try Tao Thai, if I can keep myself from veering back into Red Devil for a cheaper lunch…

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An artistic ‘no thank you’

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This whimsical but pointed placard decorates the front door of John and Karen Neiuber’s home in Claremont. (Nobody says “get lost” like a Claremonter.)

The placard was made by artist Fred Babb, who had a store in Cambria and who died in 2006. The Neiubers own a second Babb piece, which reads, “Art is working on something until YOU like it and then leaving it that way.”

John says of the piece above: “The no-soliciting sign works really well. We get stuff dropped off on our porch, but even the Jehovah’s Witnesses pass us by.”

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Reading Log: November 2014

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Books acquired: none.

Books read: “Weird Heroes 2,” Byron Preiss, ed.; “The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes,” Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr; “Jungle Tales of Tarzan,” Edgar Rice Burroughs; “The Drums of Fu Manchu,” Sax Rohmer; “Mockingjay,” Suzanne Collins; “The Prisoner of Zenda,” Anthony Hope.

Repeating a theme from October 2012, I read a volume of “Weird Heroes,” then built a month around other heroic literature. As you can see above, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Fu Manchu, Katniss Everdeen and Rudolf Rassendyll are represented.

“Weird Heroes” was a series of 1970s paperbacks with stories by SF and comics writers, and illustrations by comics artists, about heroes in a pulp magazine vein. As with the first, this second book is better in concept than in reality, but it was a noble effort.

“Exploits of Sherlock Holmes” is an oddity, the first (and for many years, the only) authorized Holmes pastiche, dating to the 1950s and penned in part by one of A. Conan Doyle’s sons. Holmes purists seem to turn up their nose at this, and the book has rarely been in print, but to this non-expert, they seem to capture the flavor of the originals.

“Jungle Tales of Tarzan” is the sixth book in the 24-book series; this one is short stories set in the milieu of the first novel, in the period when Tarzan had yet to meet Jane or any other white people and thought of himself as a hairless ape. The stories of his life with the apes have their charms, although much of the potential for “teen Tarzan” stories is unexplored, and the casual racism is a drag.

“Drums of Fu Manchu” is the ninth in the 14-book series — I’m doing better with the one that with Tarzan — and an enjoyable entry, in which the evil mastermind employs a drug that makes his victims, shortly before their death, think they hear drumming. (For the record, the next book is not “The Guitars of Fu Manchu.” Although that would be awesome.)

“Mockingjay” is, of course, the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I wanted to read it prior to the movie’s release. It’s largely satisfying, but with some problems. Katniss spends a lot of time hurt, drugged and/or depressed. It’s more realistic, I suppose, that the 16-year-old isn’t leading the revolution single-handedly, but this may be mopier than strictly necessary.

Finally, “The Prisoner of Zenda” is the 1894 classic about a lookalike for the new king of Ruritania who is enlisted to impersonate him when he’s kidnapped by the king’s brother. Tremendously exciting, thoroughly delightful and my favorite of the month by far.

Overall this was a fun month of old-fashioned (mostly) pulp fiction. I have one other “Weird Heroes” book and thus this month may be repeated at some point.

These books were acquired anywhere between 30-plus years ago and last month. “Weird” and “Exploits” date to my teen years and (sigh) were never read until now; “Fu,” “Tarzan” and “Zenda” were bought five or so years ago; and “Mockingjay” was purchased in October.

What have you been reading, and have you read any of the ones above? Are you hoping to get to, or wrap up, any books by year’s end?

Next month: Getting to, and wrapping up, a few books by year’s end. 

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Column: ‘Houston, we have a surprise dinner companion’

Friday’s column is made up mostly of items written in recent weeks that didn’t get into print for space reasons. The bulk are from the past week — a couple are from my vacation — but some of the Pomona Progress items go back to September. I don’t if anyone is reading the paper (or our website) on the day after Thanksgiving but this seemed like a good day to use them, especially since I was compiling the column the morning before Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

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Looking backward at Citizens Business Bank Arena

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Earlier this year I got a tour of some fun features at Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank Arena as I was researching a column on the rock festival California Jam’s 40th anniversary. I meant to share these photos before now but as they encompass several elements of history, I wasn’t sure how to arrange them and mentally put them aside to deal with later — and, naturally, forgot. Until now.

As patrons walk around the arena’s concourse, they might see a display of citrus crate labels that pay homage to the valley’s agricultural past. The Nucleus label is one of the most atmospheric I can remember having seen, and Angora is so darned cute. I hope the oranges didn’t have claw marks and cat hair on them.

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Meanwhile, another wall honors the old Ontario Motor Speedway, which was on land that became the arena and a portion of Ontario Mills. There’s an aerial view with a helpful guide, plus vintage posters and other memorabilia.

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Finally, there’s a blowup of my own feature story on California Jam on one wall. The 1974 rock festival, and its 1978 sequel, took place at the speedway. The display encompasses two pages of April 4, 2002 U section, which also includes a portion of one of my columns (not an especially memorable one, but what can you do), meaning that the wall has my byline on the Jam story, my face on my column and a whole bunch of words by me in both. A high honor!

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I like the touch of a coffee cup and coffee ring on the paper too.

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The above displays were the brainchildren of Sue Oxarart, the arena’s marketing manager and a local history buff, bless her heart. She’s leaving the arena’s employ but isn’t going far: She’s the new communications director for the Ontario Convention Center and Visitors Bureau. We’ve run into each other now and then over the years going back to the late 1990s and it looks like we’ll continue doing so.

News of her new role reminded me of these photos — and I decided I ought to finally produce this blog post before she left the arena!

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