Cornwall Lover Daphne du Maurier

Writer Daphne du Maurier was born in London.  She used her father’s French-sounding surname instead of her husband’s, Browning, when she achieved literary success.  Her father was an actor and her husband a senior officer in the British Army.  She apparently used the name Lady Browning when at home.  She apparently wasn’t much of a traveler.  She did go to school in France when she was 18.  In 1936 she joined her husband in Egypt at a military post but hated it and returned to England the next year.  She loved Cornwall and set many stories there.  She loved it enough to collaborate on a travel book about it with her son.

There’s quite a tribute to her in the Fowey town museum.  I learned here that she had 2 sisters and 3 children.  By 1926, when she was 19, her family was looking for a 2nd home in the Fowey area, and Daphne finally settled in Bodinnick across the deep harbor from Fowey.  For the 1st ten years of her marriage she didn’t spend much time in Cornwall due to her husband’s career. The museum display said that she found her dream house, Menabilly, in the area in 1943 and rented it.  When she became famous as a writer, some say she became something of a recluse.  She lived in Menabilly until 1969.

She had great success as a writer from the beginning and over time produced 15 novels and 11 non-fiction books according to the museum tribute.  Alfred Hitchcock claimed that she was his favorite writer, and he turned 3 of her works–Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, and The Birds–into films.  Rebecca is the one to see, especially for Judith Anderson’s performance as Mrs. Danvers.  It was Hitchcock’s first American film and it won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.   Oddly, Hitchcock never won for Best Director!  My Cousin Rachel has been filmed twice.  The 2017 movie starring Rachel Weisz is in theaters now and, in my opinion, is far superior to the 1952 version that starred scenery-chewing Richard Burton and too sweet Olivia de Havilland.   Daphne du Maurier said that among her works her favorite book-to-movie was Don’t Look Now.  She was quite a success during her lifetime and still sells.  Jamaica Inn, which was much criticized as a film, became a 2014 mini-series.  People seem to love her gloomy stories that often have tragic endings–fires, falls from cliffs, etc.  I suspect she would have failed as a comedy writer although I love this quote attributed to her, “Women want love to be a novel, men a short story.”


Fowey: The “Real” Cornwall


Cornwall has interesting small towns.   One of the best is Fowey (pronounced Foy), which marches up steep hills like a miniature San Francisco.  There has been a settlement where Fowey is since the Iron Age.  Its streets are so twisting and narrow that it seems more Italian than English.    This and its scenic splendor make it a cruise ship stop.  The ginormous one in its especially deep harbor when Ruth & I were in Fowey seemed as large as the town.

Travelers in impressive numbers have discovered Fowey and sit on benches eating ice cream and watching boats of every description and size scuttle about.  Eventually, most of these visitors board a boat. We, for example, rode the Bodinnick Ferry in search of the home of Fowey’s most famous resident.  On the other side of Caffa Mill Pill we had lunch at the Old Ferry Inn, a hillside English pub, before hitting the trail around Pont Pill.

It’s easy to appreciate Fowey’s diversity of architecture that dates mainly from medieval times to the present.  Its history is told with a decidedly local thrust in the old-fashioned museum in its Tudor-looking town hall.  For example, I read here that Fowey’s most famous architect, Silvanus Trevail,  shot himself in the loo on a train as it entered the Brownsqueen Tunnel near Bodmin Road after much success designing churches.  There was a display about medieval toilets called garderobes in this museum and lots about sailing.  There was also a lot about its most famous citizen.   This museum and very traditional St. Fimbarrus church were about the only regular attractions other than the town itself.

Seeing Fowey required a lot of walking, some of which became serious hiking. By late afternoon Ruth had enough, so I had to go to the head of wonderfully named Readymoney Cove by myself to see St Catherine’s Castle.   Actually I saw castle/fortification ruins on a rocky headland very close to but high above a crowded beach.  This beach didn’t surprise me since Fowey is part of what’s called the Cornish Riviera, which has the mildest weather in Great Britain.

Fowey has an impressive history.  Since before the start of the Roman Empire until the 13th century, foreign ships regularly entered Fowey’s harbor to trade for Cornish tin.  St Catherine’s Castle was built in 1540 by Henry VIII.  Fowey was a departure point for American forces on D-Day.   Its most famous citizen, author Daphne du Maurier, died here in 1989 after living in the area for more than 60 years.





Magnificent MONA

The Museum of Neon Art opened in downtown Los Angeles in 1981.  I liked it a lot.  A couple of years ago it announced that it was moving to Glendale.  There was no MONA while the new museum was being built.  I know because I tracked its progress.  It reopened at the end of 2015.   I am thrilled to report that it exceeds expectations and is a 5 Compass endeavor.  I hope they never drop the word Art from its official name because this museum truly explores light as an art form.  Its mission statement mentions neon, electric, and kinetic art.  MONA, now at 216 South Brand in Glendale, is simply compact and great.

The Museum of Neon Art (MONA) will offer both rotating exhibits and examples from its permanent collection.  Currently, it has 2 shows on display.  Both are exceptional.  “Designing the Improbable” and “The Art of Plasma” have been extended to September 3rd, which is a very good thing.  The works are for sale.  Below is an example of their brilliance.  Called “Runners”, it’s by David Svenson.  Plasma offers new and stunning  works by Boston-based Wayne Strattman.  If you plan to be in the Los Angeles area before autumn begins, go and see these consistently exceptional glowing creations.

MONA appears to have particular appeal to the young.  Kim Koga, Director since 1999, encouraged me to check out the neon on the ceiling in the ladies room that she said has already been captured on many cell phones.  Ruth agreed with Kim so I headed there.   But I actually found the one in the men’s room, a blue comb on which the word unbreakable is imposed, more interesting.


ps  Teacher Ruth saw this before I posted it and insisted that I add the MONA info that “Blew her away”. Gasses commonly used include in plasma and neon sculptures are Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon, Neon, Helium, Krypton, Xenon, Mercury, Iodine, and Sulfur Hexafluoride.

Nethercutt Amazes


According to Lori Thornhill, Stella Mudge’s blue and silver Talbot-Lago is now valued at $9,000,000.  Lori would know.  She’s an Archivist at the Nethercutt Collection and an encyclopedia of information about it. Nethercutt is the best and least known car museum of my travel experience.  Lori told me that it isn’t advertised and relies on word-of-mouth to attract visitors.  The Nethercutt collection is different in other ways.  One of the more significant is that, unlike other car collections, these beauties have engines and are regularly driven. Moreover, about 90% of what’s on display was collected by one couple, Dorothy and J.B. Nethercutt.

In 1913 J.B. moved from Indiana to California to live with his aunt.  Together, they founded a cosmetic company in 1931.  His aunt’s name was Merle Nethercutt Norman.   J.B. married Dorothy and they began collecting cars and winning prizes after restoring them.   He bought his aunt out, and Merle Norman Cosmetics continued to grow under his management.  When Dorothy and J.B.s’ obsession became extensive enough, they opened a museum in Sylmar in the 1970s to display them.  They ultimately owned more than 250 cars.  It costs nothing to see their collection, but access is controlled.

Many of the Nethercutts’ best cars, including the 1923 Voisin Rudolph Valentino shipped to Hollywood when he was a major movie star, can be seen any time between 9 am and 4:30 pm from Tuesday through Saturday.  But if you want to see Fatty Arbuckle’s 1923 McFarlan, you have to take a tour.  More of the Nethercutt’s acquisitions, over 50 classic cars, and their rare mechanical musical instruments and their 1912 Pullman private car can be seen by reservation only.   Guided tours are available at 10 am and 1:30 pm Thursday through Saturday.  Call 818 364 6464.

Ruth and I learned some interesting car facts, like Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper, and watched some excellent videos before browsing the collection.  We have to return to see the only Gladiator, not a car but a musical marvel, still in existence because it’s only seen on the guided tour.

At one point I asked Lori to name the star of the collection and she said without hesitation that a 1931 Bugatti Type 51 was among the 3 bests.  As we were discussing it, this Bugatti was on its way to the Rodeo Drive Car Show to delight all who might see it on Fathers’ Day.  She referred to a couple of the cars as “off-body”, and I wasn’t familiar with this term.   She explained that it refers to a chassis made for only one car.

I liked the story about the 1932 Maybach, one of only 2 made, that was smuggled out of East Germany under a pile of cabbages during the Cold War and I loved the Nethercutt Collection.   I’ve never seen so many Rolls Royces under one roof.   Check this dazzling 5 Compass place out!



Too Many Grammys


High on my list of things to do in Los Angeles was to visit the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live.   This entertainment complex adjacent to the Staples Center downtown also contains the Microsoft Theater, a bowling alley, the Congo Room, etc.   Ruth & I found out that it’s not a good idea to be in this area when a large convention is in progress.  We went back the next day to see the Grammy Museum, and I was disappointed.  It’s simply overwhelming!

There are 3 levels to explore and almost every exhibit is temporary, so you surely won’t see the same museum we saw. If you appreciate all forms of American music and have patience, definitely visit it. Everyone begins on Level 4 with a history of the Grammys shown via videos that move forward from Frank Sinatra to Beyonce. Examples of the evolving awards are in a row. The two temporary and very well presented exhibits on this floor dealt with the careers of John Denver and the legendary Ella Fitzgerald.  Ella won 13 Grammys and her exhibit opened on what would have been her 100th birthday. The tribute to her closes on September 10, 2017.   Ruth enjoyed seeing Ella’s gowns, and I liked observing Denver’s handwritten lyrics.  His memorial will be up until the end of this summer.

Level 3 began with a display about the Latin Grammys.   I knew very little about them and was immediately fascinated.  Streaming performances made the show look far more entertaining than the regular Grammy Awards.   I learned later that the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards will air on Univision on November 16.   They will be given out at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.   Watching the performances, I had 2 reactions.   The problem with the Grammy Museum in general is that it attempts to tell something about all forms of music with too many performers.  This is both impossible and exhausting.  And secondly, why don’t the folks in charge have several awards presentations:  The Jazz Grammies,  The Pop Grammies,  the Hip Hop and Gospel Grammies, and so on?

I did learn.  There was an exhibit about the birth of the popular song. Some consider Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home” to be the first pop hit.  I could have accessed but didn’t have time for songs I favored.  I saw historic examples of all the systems of recorded music and was shocked by this youthful photo of Thomas Edison.   I watched Frank Sinatra’s appearance at the 1st Grammy Awards in 1959.  He was nominated for 6 but won only 1.

Level 2 contained a huge Museum Store and the newest temporary exhibit called “Marty Stuart’s Way Out West:  A Country Music Odyssey”.   I was told it will be up for at least 4 months.  Also on this level was The Clive Davis Theater. That evening Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, which has sold more than 70 million albums, was scheduled to both talk about his career and perform.  It was sold out.  Sheryl Crow was there on June 7.

I personally believe that The Grammy Museum should focus on what it does best, interpret the music industry for us.   I really enjoyed, for example, the Songwriters Hall of Fame. At present it’s a scattershot monument to egos and musical success.