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Historical Society presents Showdown at Fork Tongue Canyon on January 16
January 10, 2013 - By Mary T. Sipple
IMAGE COURTESY OF TOPANGA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Part of the original program for the sensational musical Showdown at Fork Tongue Canyon that played over a two-week period in 1971. The show netted nearly $3,000 to help the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) fight and defeat the proposed trailer park.
Theater has always been the lively soul of the arts in Topanga. When you mix this rich history of artistic expression with community-organized opposition to excessive development, you get such things as Showdown at Fork Tongue Canyon, a 1970s slapstick musical about a proposed trailer park development in the Canyon.
Showdown at Fork Tongue Canyon was one of Topangas performances with a purpose, masterminded by impresario Lal Baum of the Topanga Corral. The retelling of this historic performance and the players in this drama (both on and off the stage) will be presented by Richard Dick Sherman, at the Topanga Historical Societys (THS) program at the Topanga Community House on Jan. 16 , from 7-9 p.m.
According to Sherman, the play included performances by everyone that was anyone in the Canyon at the time and was a dramatization of a real-life story involving a developer named Brett Smithers who wanted to straighten Topanga Canyon Boulevard to make way for a trailer park along the northern stretch of the road.
The following description of the performance is excerpted from The Topanga Story [page 208 in original book; page 348 in expanded edition], published by the Historical Society.
The lightly scripted, mostly extemporaneous slapstick musical featured local actor Kedric Wolfe as a Big Shot Landowner (B.S. for short). Representing Los Angeles public officers were Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn and Billy Gray. Others in the cast were Lou Gossett, Toni Basil, Tisha Sterling, Kiel Martin, Susannah Darrow, Spanky McFarlane, Robert Fleetwood Smallwood and the Norton quartet.
Artists George Herms did the sets and Wallace Berman, the posters.
Kirby Cohee, vocalist for Wild Turkey, provided the grand finale Truckin Through Topanga in which the entire cast went truckin up and down the aisles and brought down the house.
As J.R. Ball wrote of the performance in the Topanga Messenger (Feb. 15, 1979), It is a story that reads like a scenario out of an Andy Hardy movie.
Performed over a two-week period in the fall of 1971, the show netted nearly $3,000 to help the Topanga Association for a Scenic Community (TASC) fight and defeat the proposed trailer park.
Enjoy the retelling of this unique piece of Topanga history by Dick Sherman for an evening filled with remembrances of the time and folks involved.
Sherman was one of the original participants of The Topanga Players, a little theatre group that was organized in the early 1960s by co-founders Robert and Veena Norton, and Chuck and Jody Hoffman.
Come on out! The more the merrier. A 7 p.m. potluck dinner will precede the program that starts promptly at 8 p.m. Those coming for dinner should bring a main dish, side dish, salad or dessert and their own cup and place setting (plate, knife, fork and spoon). Coffee and tea will be provided. Everyone is welcome and the event is free.
Although there is no charge for the program, donations are welcomed and membership is encouraged. Join the Society online, topangahistoricalsociety.com/shop, or at the event ($15 individuals; $25 families).
THE TOPANGA STORY
The Topanga Story provides the Society with its main source of income and is available online or at the event ($65). For more information call (310) 455-1969. The expanded edition is part in-depth history book, part lavish art book. Building on the sold-out first edition, it is meticulously researched and offers much more about Topanga's eccentric history and quirky citizens from its early pioneers to the beats, hippies, rockers, artists and activists who have made the community unique. There are dozens of photos, from colorful Canyon beauty shots to priceless historical prints. It's a feast for the mind and the eyes.
The Topanga Community House is located at 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga, CA 90290. n