By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
As for myself, I had in the past written emotional defenses of the status quo at Santa Anita, but didn't feel that way now. The continuing existence of so rich and anachronistic and always quite fragile a little world seemed remarkable to me on any terms, and emotional attachments to here-today-gone-tomorrow sport franchises and their venues (stadiums, ballparks or racetracks) seemed a little nutty.
Back in 1972, when Santa Anita's imminent demise was first predicted (it had just lost that 70-acre chunk and the rest was just a matter of time, many felt), I went to talk to all-time champ jock (then and now) Bill Shoemaker, who'd won 1,500 of his then 6,300 lifetime wins at Santa Anita. Would he care if they razed the place and turned the whole thing into a shopping center? "Not really," he said. "The dates would just go to Hollywood Park, which would be better for me really. It's closer to where I live."
The interview was not going as I had hoped. We were talking in the jocks' room just in back of the saddling paddock, and Shoemaker was having his hair shampooed. "What I am getting at," I persisted, sweating a little, "is whether or not you would be sentimental about a place where you've spent so much of your life."
"I'm not sentimental about much of anything," said the world's wealthiest 105-pound man.
It was, as it happens, just a year after the lovely old ramshackle Caliente grandstand in Tijuana burned down. I happened to be there that day, pursuing my fledgling career as a jockey's agent, and stood with the horsemen on the backside watching the track collapse into smoking rubble over a long hot summer's morning. By 11, the fire was out and almost everybody there had made their plans, where to go with their horses, how to keep on going on.
One old guy on horseback, as he watched the fire across the infield, allowed as how he'd seen the first Caliente burn in 1927, and another old-timer responded memorably: "Yeah, and I bet you've seen Christ on the cross and come in second in the Kentucky Derby."
THE MAN THOUGHT . . . BIG. HE HAD STARTED WITH AN IMMIGRANT'S BAG OF NOTHING, AND NOW HAD a lot of money and power and more terrific ideas than he had time to implement them. One of these inspirations was to build a great figure of a man, some 60 stories tall. This naked colossus, a monument to man the creator, would stand in the middle of another of his visionary schemes -- the World of Wonders amusement park outside Vienna, in his home country of Austria. But then the spoilsport pygmies, the worriers who so often shoot down truly revolutionary ideas, pointed out that this monster would require some sort of cover, a kind of codpiece for his mighty . . . manhood, which would dangle six stories all by itself.