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Monday, August 29, 2011

RFK Learning Center's Early Battle for Hearts and Minds

Angelenos' Journey from Resistance to Celebration of Campus not Universal

Los Angeles' New Ambassadors   
Six Schools on a Campus Like  no  Other

   a RoLA                          S                   e               r          i       e   s   

Viewed in-person, this sculpture appears to be a watery ripple over Robert F. Kennedy's  sculptured-bust mural (in bronze), affixed to a marble wall.  The wall displays well known and some lesser known quotes from legendary authors, leaders and artists.

For some, the RFK Learning Center is not a great enough triumph to have justified the demolition of the old Ambassador Hotel, former home of the famed and legendary Cocoanut Grove restaurant and night club, and the place where Robert Kennedy was Assasinated.  

When the word got out that the long-dormant Ambassador Hotel would be mostly razed and replaced by a public school, many local residents and others around the nation and the world were aghast.  

"A Los Angeles Unified School District school campus?  --On the practically hallowed ground of the Ambassador?  No museum?  Not a restoration of the mythical sprawl where not only sat the grand old hotel where the second Kennedy brother was murdered in the middle of an historic presidential campaign, but which was also home to the mother of all nightclubs--the Cocoanut Grove, inside which lay the stage and dance floor where the likes of Harlow and Flynne; Gable and Mae West once waltzed?  Nor even a new Ambassador hotel and night-spot, with some multi-use aspect, themed around the original?   A plain ol' LAUSD school, huh?  Of course we need new schools, but here?  How uninspired.  How disrespectful."

Those may not have been the verbatim words and thoughts of yours truly at the time; but they're close.    

Here's some of what a few other prominent and ordinary people said at the time:  
I am very sad to report that we have fought the good fight, but have lost. Demolition of the Ambassador Hotel will likely begin within the coming months.   
-Roland Wiley, Los Angeles Conservancy
This is a crime.  Schools are great, but this treasure will never be replaced.  The LAUSD is robbing the people of Los Angeles.  
--Mary Hastel, 69, Wilshire District resident
However, there were similar cries from the other side of the issue, including this from Paul Schrade, who the New York Times described as having been both a "close aide" to and standing close to the late attorney general and Democratic presidential candidate when he was assassinated:

“We are under attack,” he said. “There are 400 hits on Google from people who have carried on this nonsense that it’s the Taj Mahal, the most expensive school in history.”  

In the end, however, most have come to change their minds.  Here's what Hastel, now 71, told RoLA recently:  

“The high school and the entire campus are new treasures.  The LAUSD did a good job memoralizing Kennedy and the hotel, including the [Cocoanut] Grove."  

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