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Humorist Will Rogers once famously remarked, “I never met a man I didn’t like”. I’m afraid I don’t share the sentiment, but if I do have something in common with ol’ Will, it’s this: I’m a Californian by choice, not by birth, and wouldn’t live anywhere else. The legendary adopted Californian’s name is all over Los Angeles, from Will Rogers Park in Beverly Hills, to Will Rogers Highway (better known as Route 66), to Will Rogers State Historic Park and the Will Rogers Polo Club.
And a couple of Mr. Rogers’ favorite places on earth are at a gorgeous spot where the Santa Monica mountains meet the sea: Santa Monica Canyon and nearby Rustic Canyon.
The bucolic Canyons have been and still are home to an array of interesting and influential folk: past and present residents of the Canyons include producer Joe Roth, who sold his spectacular art moderne home for about $10 million in 2011; screen siren Delores Del Rio and her husband, MGM set designer Cedric Gibbons, who designed that self-same moderne home for Del Rio in 1930 (allegedly designing the dramatic stairway to showcase his wife’s famous legs); Christopher Isherwood, author of “The Berlin Stories” (which became the play “I Am A Camera” and the musical “Cabaret”) and the novel “A Single Man”, who lived on the Southern ridge of the Canyon; artist Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s lover, who still lives in the home they shared; actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen; film producer Steve Tisch; noted photographer Edward Weston, who lived on Mesa Road in the 1930’s; and recent transplant Shane Smith, co-founder and CEO of Vice Media. Smith and his wife Tamyka bought my listing, the incredible Villa Ruchello, for $23 million last year. The previous owner was actress and writer Victoria Foyt,, who had purchased the property in 1994 with her ex-husband, film director Henry Jaglom.
Smith and his newly restored Villa were recently featured in the Wall Street Journal, and he is reported to have been drawn to the area because he can bicycle to work. I’m sure that’s true, but living in a perfectly restored 1930’s Mediterranean villa, on almost 3 acres behind a high wall, was also presumably part of the attraction. The easy walk to Will Rogers beach ain’t so bad, either.
Longtime canyon resident,textile and jewelry designer Reese Relfe of Canyon Design Studio, puts it this way: “As a native San Franciscan, I find the canyon to be the most ‘un-L.A.’ neighborhood of all. Fog often settles into the crevices of the hills. You can hear the waves on the beach crash virtually every night. There are creeks with toads in them, and the soft scent of eucalyptus and jasmine. I can see how artists and writers have been drawn to the peaceful solitude of the canyon for decades now. I know that living here the last 20 years certainly inspired my own creativity as a designer.” And why not. It’s one of the most beautiful locations in a region loaded with beauty.
The Canyon has a fascinating history. Briefly, in 1834 the Mexican government issued land grants to Francisco Marquez and Ysidro Reyes, for the 6,656 acre “Rancho Boca de Santa Monica”. Marquez built his first home on what is now San Lorenzo Street and Reyes built his ranch house a short distance away on what is now Sunset Boulevard.The Marquez family cemetery can still be found on San Lorenzo Street.
American sovereignty in California began on Feb. 2, 1848, and by the late 19th century small shops and lodging places had sprung up. Uplifter’s Ranch, a social club for well-off gentlemen with a hankering for booze and the fellowship of other guys (away from the prying eyes of their wives and the press) was established in Rustic Canyon in 1913. Over time it boasted a Who’s Who of Hollywood, including Walt Disney, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Will Rogers and “Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum, who gave the club its name.
And by the 1930’s, Hollywood’s intelligentsia had discovered the Canyon’s seductive charms. Screenwriter Salka Viertel owned a charming home on Mabery Road, which became a magnet for the famous. From the Los Angeles Times: “I walked in the back door one day,” remembered film editor Robert Parrish, “and there was a guy with short hair cooking at the stove. In the living room, Arthur Rubinstein was tinkling on the piano. Greta Garbo [who reputedly made a habit of skinny-dipping in the pool and nearby Pacific] was lying on the sofa, and Christopher Isherwood was lounging in a chair. ‘Who’s the guy cooking in the kitchen?’ I asked no one in particular. ‘Bertolt Brecht,’ came the reply.” That’s some guest list!
Will Rogers had his ranch in Upper Rustic Canyon and would ride his horse to his buddy Leo Carillo’s home “The Sycamores” on Channel Road. In later decades, some of L.A.’s most famous architects, including Ray Kappe and Thornton Abell (whose home was there) designed midcentury American Dream houses.)
These days, well kept family homes, which can range in price from about $2 million for a small cottage to $10 million and more for large properties, line the shady streets. Canyon Charter Elementary, the highly rated local public school, is at 421 Entrada, and easily walkable for much of the neighborhood. The world-famous Santa Monica Stairs are just up the street, crowded with the Young and the Beautiful. The venerable old-school eatery, the Golden Bull is just down the road, with great martinis, steaks and seafood. And the wide Pacific lies at the mouth of the Canyon.
As Relfe says, “If you’re determined to lead a high-profile, paparazzi lifestyle, you won’t be very happy here”. And I think she’s right. But when you have the canyons, the mountains rising above, the white sand beaches and the sea, and you can afford to pay the fare for living in all that leafy, luxurious loveliness, George Gershwin’s rhythmic lyric feels quite apt: Who could ask for anything more?
The Thanksgiving story you know probably goes a bit like this: English Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they found a rich land full of animals and were greeted by a friendly Indian named Squanto, who taught them how to plant corn.
The true story is more complicated. Once you learn about the real Squanto — also known as Tisquantum — you’ll have a great yarn to tell your family over the Thanksgiving table.
I asked historian Charles Mann, the author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, and Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and an expert on Wampanoag history, to tell me the real story.
“This is not revisionist history,” Peters promised. “This is history that’s just been overlooked because people have become very, very comfortable with the story of happy Pilgrims and friendly Indians. They’re very content with that — even to the point where no one really questioned how is it that Squanto knew how to speak perfect English when they came.”
Here’s what really happened.
In 1614, six years before the Pilgrims landed in modern-day Massachusetts, an Englishman named Thomas Hunt kidnapped Tisquantum from his village, Patuxet, which was part of a group of villages known as the Wampanoag confederation. (Europeans had started visiting the northeast of what is now the United States by the 1520s, and probably as early as the 1480s.)
Hunt took Tisquantum and around two dozen other kidnapped Wampanoag to Spain, where he tried to sell them into slavery.
“It caused quite a commotion when this guy showed up trying to sell these people,” Mann said. “A bunch of people in the church said no way.”
Tisquantum escaped slavery — with the help of Catholic friars, according to some accounts — then somehow found his way to England.
He finally made it back to what is now Massachusetts in 1619. As far as historians can tell, Tisquantum was the only one of the kidnapped Wampanoags to ever return to North America, Peters notes.
As far as historians can tell, Tisquantum was the only one of the kidnapped Wampanoags to ever return to North America.
But while Tisquantum was in Europe, an epidemic had swept across New England.
“The account that’s recorded by Gov. Bradford of Plymouth Plantation is that there’s a shipwreck of French sailors that year on Cape Cod,” Mann said. “One of them carried some disease and it wiped out a huge percentage of the population in coastal new England. … The guess is it was some kind of viral hepatitis, which is easily communicated in water. It exploded like chains of firecrackers.”
When Tisquantum returned to Patuxet, he found that he was the village’s only survivor.
“Into this bumbled the Pilgrims,” Mann said. “They had shown up in New England a few weeks before winter. … Up until the Pilgrims, the pattern had been pretty clear. Europeans would show up, and Indians would be interested in their trade goods, but they were really uninterested in letting [Europeans] permanently occupy land.”
Often, armed native people would even force Europeans to leave if they attempted to stay too long.
This time, the Europeans wanted to stay, and the disease that had decimated Patuxet ensured that they had a place to settle.
“Patuxet ultimately becomes Plymouth,” Peters explained. “They find this cleared land and just the bones of the Indians. They called it divine providence: God killed these Indians so we could live here.”
A website Peters helped create for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival puts it even more bluntly: “The graveyard of [Tisquantum’s] people became Plymouth Colony.”
Massasoit, a local Wampanoag leader, didn’t trust Tisquantum. “He looks at this guy and smells trouble,” Mann said. Massasoit kept Tisquantum under what was essentially house arrest until the Pilgrims showed up and promptly started starving to death.
Patuxet wasn’t the only native village decimated by the plague. The entire Wampanoag confederation had been badly hit — as much as 75 percent of the Wampanoag population was wiped out, Mann said. But the Narragansett, a rival neighboring group, basically weren’t affected by the disease at all. That put the Wampanoag in a precarious strategic position.
“The graveyard of his people became Plymouth Colony.”
Massasoit had an idea.
“He decides we’ll ally with these guys, set up a good trading relationship, control supply of English goods, and the Narragansett won’t be able to attack us,” Mann said.
On March 22, 1621, Massasoit went to meet with the Pilgrims. He brought Tisquantum along to translate.
Mann described the meeting in a 2005 article in Smithsonian Magazine:
Tisquantum most likely was not the name he was given at birth. In that part of the Northeast, tisquantum referred to rage, especially the rage of manitou, the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of coastal Indians’ religious beliefs. When Tisquantum approached the Pilgrims and identified himself by that sobriquet, it was as if he had stuck out his hand and said, “Hello, I’m the Wrath of God.”
Massasoit was right not to trust Tisquantum, who soon tried to pit the Pilgrims against him. But the plan didn’t work: Massasoit “is just pissed off and demands the Pilgrims hand him over because he’s gonna execute him,” Mann said.
The Pilgrims didn’t. Instead, Tisquantum stayed in the colony with them, helping them prepare for the next winter.
“Never did the newcomers ask themselves why he might be making himself essential,” Mann wrote in Smithsonian. “But from the Pilgrims’ accounts of their dealings with him, the answer seems clear: the alternative to staying in Plymouth was returning to Massasoit and renewed captivity.”
It’s all a lot more complicated — Machiavellian, even — than the story you might have learned. Mann in Smithsonian again:
By fall the settlers’ situation was secure enough that they held a feast of thanksgiving. Massasoit showed up with “some ninety men,” Winslow later recalled, most of them with weapons. The Pilgrim militia responded by marching around and firing their guns in the air in a manner intended to convey menace. Gratified, both sides sat down, ate a lot of food and complained about the Narragansett. Ecce Thanksgiving.
So what does this all mean? “While it was by far not the first occasion of human trafficking conducted by European explorers to the new world, the capture of Squanto and his fellow tribesmen would forever alter the course of history for people on two continents,” Peters wrote on the anniversary website.
“We learn about Columbus landing in 1492 and it’s as if nothing happened for over 100 years until the Pilgrims landed,” Mann added. “But the Tisquantum story gives you this tiny peek into that all the people involved had been interacting for more than a century.”
And today, of course, the Wampanoag are still around.
Faraday Future, the troubled upstart electric-car company that set out to challenge Tesla, appears to have encountered another setback.
According to a reportfrom the Financial Times on Thursday, Faraday Future is likely to miss a shipping deadline for its first production vehicles. The company initially said it could bring its cars to market in 2017.
Construction was recently halted at the company’s $1 billion North Las Vegas factory. A Faraday Future spokesperson told Business Insider last week that the company is “refocusing efforts” on its upcoming production vehicle in the meantime.
Faraday Future says it will unveil that car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. However, the company’s goal to get those cars rolling off of an assembly line by 2017 is in doubt.
A former Faraday Future employee cited by the Financial Times said the 2017 timeline was “not possible.”
The startup so far has no factory in which to build the cars.
Nevada state officials and Faraday Future executives attended a ceremonial groundbreaking for its inaugural plant in North Las Vegas in April. Business Insider was also there, as was Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval who lauded the project as a “new beginning” and “the next chapter in the Nevada story.”
Although the state of Nevada has offered Faraday Future millions of dollars in tax incentives, state treasurer Dan Schwartz was one of the project’s most vocal skeptics. In several conversations with Business Insider, Schwartz said he doubted Faraday Future had the financial means to complete the project.
The company is primarily backed by LeEco chairman Jia Yueting, who recently expressed surprise that the car business is a costly endeavor. LeEco is also developing its own electric car.
Jia wrote a letter to employees earlier this month saying “We sped blindly ahead … our cash demand ballooned. We got overextended in our global strategy. At the same time, our capital and resources were in fact limited.”
A group of Chinese investors reportedly raised $600 million this monthto help boost LeEco.
A Faraday Future representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.