The Beckoning Fairground: Notes of a British Exile in Lotus Land

Ian Whitcomb, Author
Ian Whitcomb, Author California Classics Books $12.95 (231p) ISBN 978-1-879395-04-6
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British-born musician Whitcomb, author of After the Ball , a history of American pop music, here offers a miscellany of essays, mainly about life and popular culture in and around Los Angeles. Whitcomb is a witty, engaging, colloquial writer, but only fans of this local radio personality will truly enjoy his musings on his early days, such as his term at Trinity College in Dublin. He has solid knowledge of his cultural patrimony and writes entertainingly about such subjects as the reclusive Irving Berlin (hiding behind a ``Berlin wall''), the irrepressible Al Jolson and his own search, while working on a documentary film, for local rhythm-and-blues legends. Big Mama Thornton, he writes, ``sometimes wore a voluminous African robe, sometimes boots and a Stetson, and always a look of malice aforethought.'' Whitcomb provides a tour-de-dial of the L.A. radio spectrum and reflects amusingly on his hard-won experience touring TV chat shows. One of the better pieces describes Whitcomb's meeting with cop-turned-author Joseph Wambaugh, his subsequent turn as a movie extra and his trip trailing some real detectives around the seedy city. (Mar.)
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