Gregory Wright's Recollections: BHI in the 1970's and 1980's
Intermittently in the late 1970s and in the 1980s, as a then-recent USC film student and would-be media creator, I worked with the one of the inheritors of Burton Holmes International and the Burton Holmes Travelogue Collection, Robert Hollingsworthand on occasion saw his partner Robert Mallettat the Holmes International building on L.A.'s Sunset Strip.
My connection with Burton Holmes and the Burton Holmes Collection started on the evening 1977 turned into 1978. I was a minor assistant in a Sunset Strip New Year's Laser Light Show (including projections off the side of the Playboy Building from two blocks' distance). A friend, Christopher Toussaint, during the noisy night had wandered into the BHI holograms-and-objets de light artes shop on the ground floor of the BHI Building a short way up the Strip, and returned with a tale of high-tech and artful glittering goings-onand a mention that this fellow, Bob Hollingsworth, needed some help with document production, one of my skills. Subsequently I did some quite unmemorable, and unremembered, intermittent work for Hollingsworth; I also became a part-time and short-lived salesman of hologram pendants and gimcracks.
I remember one memorable evening a few years later when, after some hours of helping him organize and type up some business records, I was invited by Bob Hollingsworth to enjoy a glass of 1926-vintage brandyor maybe it was cognac? from Burton Holmes' own liquor cabinet, which Hollingsworth kept behind a cloth curtain at the rear of his office on the old building's second floor. It was an interesting sensation, sharing the very sophisticated taste of a half-century earlier while listening to the more edgy and brightly lit denizens of the late-disco era speed by on the Strip below our window. I'm not much of a drinker, but I can aver this was the very smoothest and most delicious liqueur or apertif in existence circa 1982!: pure liquid gold.
I was not aware of Genoa Caldwell and her efforts to save the BHI collection until quite recently, when I found this information on a random websearch I made one late night (when one does these kinds of things). Like Genoa Caldwell, I had made an effort to help secure Holmes' filmic legacy by bringing it to the attention of the UCLA Film Archive. It's not every day that one has a chance to help preserve a one-of-a-kind time machine to the far pasta body of work that included even the nineteenth century in motion! The UCLA Archive was interested, but very unfortunately I was never able to secure sufficient interest by Hollingsworth in this endeavor (he was then much more interested in developing a hologram-trinkets manufacturing business than he was in the Holmes Collectionwhich had been entrusted to him by Holmes himself, as Hollingsworth told me). I was quite frustrated by this resultas apparently Ms. Caldwell herself was in her similar effort, from what I have read on your site and one or two other webpages I have found. (This carelessness, as I saw it, alas was not limited to the BHI Collection. Hollingsworth even lost a wonderful and artful 'tape collage' I had created, that I entrusted to him when he offered to photograph and help me sell it ... and that I subsequently did not see again.)
My last contact with Bob Hollingsworth and BHI was a non-event. I spent the last day of the 1980s at home, phoning my new-decade's greetings to a number of friends and contacts I had listed out on a sheet of paperamong them Hollingsworth, whom I hadn't seen in a while. Bob's telephone number had been changed to a new number that was not yet available in the automated recording I reached. I made note of an intention to call that number again within a fortnight to get the new number and call Bob ... that I never fulfilled. I think some time passed before I drove down the Sunset Strip again, and I believe it might well have been on my first drive of the 1990s through that space that I noticed the Burton Holmes building was no longer thatbut had morphed, thanks to a fin de siécle facelift, into something belonging to the strange and alien future, no longer the failing connection to the cosmic (and quirky) past it had been for me.
Ours is a privileged generation for the history-minded: People alive now have lived in and can remember (and many of them took photos too!) a pair of calendar millennia, a trio of centuries, and a dozen decades. And photography, and cinematography and sound recording, all got created just in time to preserve a very great deal of it!
And then we of the recent past and present manage to lose, forever, a lot of it! I continue to count as a personal failure my inability to engage Bob Hollingsworth or his partner Bob Mallet on this project, and secure for the future even a small part of the dissolving silver nitrate record of the end of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth that was the Burton Holmes Travelogue Collection.
Kudos to BurtonHolmes.org for putting up this website.
We asked Mr. Wright to talk about his own projects:
A particular present interest of mine is something that might be called 'After The Fact Time-Lapse' sequencesthat is, collecting and artfully combining many of the multitudinous photographs that have been captured in a selected long-extant and long-photographed locale into a sort of metamorphic quasi-time-lapse animation of the transformation of the scene over multiple decades and even across the boundaries of centuries. Ground-level views of Times Square in New York City from the nineteenth century to the present, and views of Paris from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present come to mind as such. I attempted to secure a small grant from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department in 2001-2002 to create an After The Fact Time-Lapse metamorphic sequence of the evolution of Downtown Los Angeles and the dramatically transformed adjacent Bunker Hill using some of the very numerous photos captured over the previous three-quarters century from the tower observation deck of the then just-rehabilitated 1927 L.A. City Halland couldn't even get a measly $3,000 grant for this great community-celebrating cultural enterprise (whose focus was to have been the building housing the same city government itself!). Indifference to the past seems to be an ingrained habit in America, unfortunately (even at the unique conjunction of eras that was the recently passed turn of the third millennium)and it has plagued too many of my own enterprises.
A project of similar inspiration that I initiated, the Pasadena Tournament of Time (still on the Web at www.TournamentofTime.com), also failed to see the light of day (present or past) for lack of civic and corporate support. The Tournament of Time was, at its core, a project to create a continuous 1890-to-the-2000s past-to-present-to-future (and even 'left-to-right,' like time itself!) constantly growing interactive mosaic of multiple thousands of separate photographs captured with the first light of every New Year's Day at the famed Tournament of Rosesmultitudinous photos of the winter sun-illuminated north side of Colorado Boulevard, the parade's route, capturing the marchers, bands, floats and equestrians of every one of the 115-and-counting Rose Parades, the gradually evolving-over-the-years Parade visitors, and the gradually morphing-over-the-years background streetscape.
Gregory Wright lives in Sherman Oaks, California. Click here to contact him via e-mail.
Update history: This page created 19 April 2004. Revised 27 November 2006.