By Linda de Vries
“Destination . . . Chorale Bel Canto” posts several times in advance of each of our concerts, offering ideas for a different day trip to the city in which we’re singing, with a Chorale Bel Canto concert at the center of your experience. These trips appeal to a wide variety of interests and share fascinating, sometimes intricate, connections between the city and the music.
On June 8, 2014, Chorale Bel Canto is in Downey presenting America Sings! This concert is a collaboration with the Claremont Chorale under the direction of Gregory Norton, and features the music of Aaron Copland, Randall Thompson, and a concert version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with 130 singers, guest soloists, and full orchestra.
Enjoy good old American fun as a prelude to an afternoon of American Music!
Morning. Begin your day at Golf n Stuff, a family fun park located at 10555 E. Firestone Blvd., in nearby Norwalk, 562-868-9956. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. daily and closes at 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, but is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
It features four miniature golf courses, Indy Race Cars, Bumper Boats, Bumper Cars, a Disk ‘O Thrill Ride, a Kiddie Train, a game Arcade, and a snack bar. Fun for the whole family!
You be the guide, but since you’ll be heading to the concert at 4:00 p.m., this might not be the day to bring your littlest ones. Children eight years and up should enjoy the concert as well as Golf n Stuff. Adults will love the miniature golf!
Golf n Stuff has been the location for key scenes in films and music videos. Even though film makers select their shots carefully, it can still be rewarding to visit the actual locations of films you’ve loved. If this film is a favorite of yours, you might want to screen it again before visiting, and enjoy seeing the sites “in person.”
In Karate Kid (1984), following the embarrassment of having to push the car to start it, Daniel and Ali go on a date to Golf n Stuff. The park was built in 1970 and the water slide was added in 1990. Alas, fans, the waterslide was removed in 1996, but the arcade and other features look virtually the same as in the film.
Korn the nu metal band from Bakersfield formed in 1993 shot the music video for “shoots N’ Ladders” at Golf N Stuff in 1995. Avril Lavigne, the French-Canadian singer-songwriter shot filmed the music video for “Girlfriend” here in 2006, and Rebecca Black filmed the video for “Person of Interest” here in 2011.
Lunch. You might want to grab a bite at the snack bar here at Golf n Stuff and remain in Norwalk for the early afternoon before the concert, or make your way to nearby Downey, where you have several choices!
- Enjoy the 1953 “Speedee” McDonald’s restaurant at 10207 Lakewood Boulevard (at Florence Avenue), which was the third McDonald’s built and is the oldest surviving building of the chain.
- Check out another 20th century holdover, Bob’s Big Boy Broiler, located at 7447 Firestone Boulevard, 562-928-2627, originally Johnie's Broiler, a drive-in restaurant and coffee shop built in 1958 in the Googie style of architecture.
Afternoon. In the early afternoon, you might stay at Golf n Stuff. Or, if you move on to Downey, you might enjoy the games at the Greek Festival. If films are your thing, you might want to plot your personal route and mosey your way from Norwalk to Downey via some other famous film locations.
Excelsior High School at 15711 S. Pioneer Boulevard at the corner of Alondra and Pioneer, although founded in 1903 with the current campus built in 1924, graduated its last class in 1981 and now houses the Norwalk Adult School. Soon after its closure, the campus was the location for several films and TV shows.
Grease 2 (1982), with Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pheiffer, was filmed at Excelsior, as were High School USA (1983) with Michael J. Fox and Reform School Girls (1986). The TV series Square Pegs (1982-83) was also filmed on this campus. In an unusual connection, one of the co-stars of the show, Merritt Butrick, trained as an actor at California Institute of the Arts with the writer of this blog post. Sadly, he died of AIDS at the age of 29.
Additional sites in Norwalk may be seen in other films. The Norwalk train station (Front and Funston) was used in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). The Greyhound Bus Station (Front and San Antonio) was the location for Life (1999), Frailty (2001), Heroes, the TV series (2007), and The Master (2012).
Front Street was also used in Another Day in Paradise (1989) and Best Men (1997), while the Golden West Ballroom (Studebaker between Imperial and Firestone) appears in Corvette Summer (1978). Other Norwalk locations may be seen in CHIPs (1983), Suburbia (1984), Cutting Class—Brad Pitt’s first major role--(1989), Speed (1994), Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead—Keystone Lanes on Imperial Highway—(1995), Monk (2004), and Brüno (2009).
4:00. Head to the Downey Civic Theatre at 8435 Firestone Blvd. and listen to Chorale Bel Canto in America Sings! This concert of 20th century American music is a fitting climax to your day steeped in Americana.
Dinner. If you didn’t lunch there, you might want to return to the Greek Festival, which is open until 11:00 p.m. Or, for traditional 20th century American dining, try nearby Pico Rivera, either Dal Rae Restaurant at 9023 Washington Boulevard (562-949-2444) or Clearman’s Steak ‘n’ Stein at 9545 Whittier Boulevard (562-699-4716).