Culver City Observer -

Recorded in Hollywood - It's Un-Conventional


August 4, 2016

Want an escape from the conventions? Run, don't walk, to

the Kirk Douglas Theatre to see

"Recorded in Hollywood".

You'll feel like dancing from ten seconds in; it's a

sexy, catchy break.

The music draws you in right away. And it's a good story: Before

Motown and Chuck Berry,

John Dolphin dreamed of opening a record store in Hollywood. He m

ade appointments with

leasing agents, but it was 1948, when Trump thinks it was great,

and blacks couldn't rent in

Hollywood. Dolphin opened his store anyway, on Central Avenue

in East L.A., deliberately

naming it "Dolphin's of Hollywood." Dolphin's grandson, Jamelle, writ

es in the book,


in Hollywood: The John Dolphin Story"

that Dolphin wasn't being sarcastic: "He was telling the

public that Hollywood was a state of mind." Dolphin's became th

e most famous record store in

the U.S.

Dolphin dazzled at marketing; he was the first with the

idea of staying open 24 hours, so people

could come over whenever they felt in the mood to buy a

record. He hired a DJ to broadcast live

from a glass booth inside the store. He promoted the stor

e as a place to hang out with music

lovers. And he dreamed up "Buy One Get One Free" to get more cus

tomers. Big laughs about

integration, the vertical kind.

In the 1950's, Dolphin imagined the future as rhythm and blues; he

dreamed of creating his own

record labels. With an ear for talent, he nurtured youn

g people from local high schools; he

promoted stars like Sam Cooke, luring them to appear in his st

ore by getting 3,000 fans to show

up. All this while his DJ's beamed his sound out beyond the segregat

ed boundaries of East L.A.

Stylish acting by Stu James as John Dolphin, Eric B. Antho

ny as Percy, and the incorrigible Matt

Magnusson as DJ Dick "Huggy Boy" Hugg.

On opening night I saw two policeman in uniform entering the s

tage from the left and I braced

myself. Was this then, or was this today? I felt surprised t

o realize I had leapt to contemporary

headlines and felt alarmed. Is there a



for future events? Was my brain recognizing a

pattern from today, while I watched this play set in the earl

y 50's?

Déjà vu

is the illusion of having experienced something before, when it's

actually being

experienced for the first time. Precognition is a form o

f ESP where you believe you can see

the future. Was I having a moment of backward precognition, if yo

u can keep up with my

awkward explanation of what I felt, sitting in the audience?

It was frighteningly prophetic to see police hassling Dolphin throu

ghout his career; sadly, still

going on in contemporary America. He did everything to com

ply; Officer Krupke-style

baiting this wasn't.

Stu James told me: "What I love is that they're tellin

g a story, which happened in the 40's and

50's, and the parallel is still going on right now. That's

the amazing thing to me.

We get to see the sassy Ruth Dolphin, acted by Jenna Gillespie.

In the play, we glimpse the

hot courtship between Ruth and John, at a time when

male-female relations were old-fashioned

and sweet - so sweet that when Ruth says yes to Dolphin's mar

riage proposal, the whole audience

claps! I

n real life, Ruth kept the record store alive for decades af

ter John's murder by a

frustrated singer.

The music was just plain fun! The audience clapped spontaneo

usly with the music when Sam

Cooke (Thomas Hobson) sang "


us Gave Me Water".


"Earth Angel",

suddenly I

wanted to dance! You could hear whoops from the audience duri


"Don't Stop Now"

with its

contemporary issues; by the finale "Let The Good Times Roll",

you're happy.

A live band six-piece band plays smartly right onstage, but in

shadows. Y

ou keep looking for

singing parallels - Was that Frank Sinatra? Nat King Cole? Th

e Beatles? The Beach Boys?

There was so much dancing. The choreography was complex, nat

ural yet thrilling at times.

Choreographer Cassie Crump did a class job; she's done t

he dancing for all productions of the


I was struck by the clever use of palm trees in the set by B

ruce Goodrich; the background color

kept changing from pale to pink skies, then darker palm trees.

Watch those palms! The c


evoked 50's dresses in the prints, with layers of crinolines

(does anyone still know what that

is?) I particularly liked the gold-clad cigarette girl's cos


Erroll Dolphin, eldest son of John Dolphin, was there openin

g night. I asked him how many

times he's seen the play.

"It feels fantastic to sit in the audience; I come every

week. I'm going to be back tomorrow," he

told me.

Dolphin helped his mother Ruth run the record business and the

store until 1989; it grew as a

music publishing company and became the top ticket-selling agency

in L.A. He says Ruth had

two million-selling records: Make Me Yours, by Bettye Swann, and T

he Jerk by the Larks (you

can see both on YouTube).

When guns, violence, murders, police killings, and the atr

ocious choices presented by current

politics bring you down, you might detox by going to see this s

weet, old-fashioned story of what,

below the surface, seemed more innocent. may enjoy the tension-relief of Wendell Berry's

enduring cool poetry:

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


©Carole Bell 2016 Carole Bell is a writer interested in ever


You can write to her at:


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