November 22, 2014

Historical Society Welcomes “Sweet Mama Janisse” at April 24 Potluck Quarterly

 

By Mary T. Sipple

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIE JANISSE

Historical Society Welcomes “Sweet Mama Janisse” at April 24 Potluck Quarterly

Marie Janisse, George Harrison and Jim (last name unknown) at the New Corral in the seventies.

Some of us will never tire of reminiscing about Topanga during the 1960s and 70s. The comedian Robin Williams has said that if you remember those days, you probably weren't there. But maybe he's wrong: Marie Janisse was there, and she has many great stories to tell about her time as the ID checker at the door of the new Corral nightclub plus other tidbits of life in Topanga during those legendary times. Join the Topanga Historical Society (THS) to relive those days with Marie at its quarterly meeting and potluck dinner on Wednesday, April 24 at the Topanga Community House, 7-9 p.m.

The “new” Corral was built on the site of the original Corral, which had burned, at the bend on Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Santa Maria Road. Architect Ral Curran purchased the property and built the new enlarged nightclub on the opposite side of the parking lot from the original Corral. The new building had a larger bar and barn-sized dance floor lit by rotating flashing lights surrounded by small, candle-lit tables. It became the setting for an eclectic array of musicians, from country to blues to rock and roll, to play to the delight of audiences. The club became so well known that several times cars would be double parked along the roadside.

Many famous names played the Corral: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers, John Lee Hooker, and the list goes on. Taj Mahal was a regular at the club. The Rolling Stones had even stopped by.

The Corral was the center of the music scene at a time when many important rock acts made Topanga their home base. And at the door, each night for all those years was Marie Janisse, checking ID’s and stamping hands with the zig-zag man image.

The following is excerpted from THS’ original “The Topanga Story” [page 203], written by J.R. Ball as he describes one night in 1971 as Taj Mahal played the famous nightspot.

“By 8 p.m. a lot of old faces were lining up at the entrance at the Corral. Marie was at the door checking ID’s when I got there. She was in high spirits. And why not? Wasn’t Taj back in town? Dressed in white macramé shawl, rings all over her fingers, hair boiling all over the top of her head, she looked like a million as she took my two dollars and stamped a zig-zag man on the back of my hand. The dance floor is in bedlam. Fingers are snappin’. Knees are agrumpin’. Hearts start to pumping and hands that seldom know freedom flutter madly in the air. When the song ends, the crowd is screaming. Taj grabs the mike again. He’s short of breath. ‘I want you to know this next one is for Marie. This one’s for you and I hope everybody will clear a path for you so you can get on down here and shake it all out.’ Bam! They are into another frantic song: “Sweet Mama Janisse.” Now Marie is a heavy hippie Momma, and when she hit that dance floor, kicking and singing, the moment was electric. Up came the tubas, off came the roof. The molecular structure of the canyon suddenly did change and Taj and his group pushed us right through to the other side. It’s not everyday a famous musician composes a song for you. Marie is just that memorable. If you don’t know her, you should. If you do know her, you won’t want to miss this.’” Everyone is invited to hear the retelling of this time when Topanga was home to the famous, the lesser known, and behind-the-scenes musicians—if they were here, they probably played or appeared at the Corral. The Corral burned for the last time in September 1988, ending the era of hot, live music at the famed Horseshoe Bend. Whether you were there or not, the memories of many who were will be shared during an evening that promises to be entertaining. The more the merrier.

A 7 p.m. potluck dinner will precede the program that starts promptly at 8 p.m. Those attending the potluck 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. The Topanga Community House is located at 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

Everyone is welcome and the event is free. Although there is no charge for the program, any 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” 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 TOPANGA STORY

The expanded edition is part in-depth history book, part lavish art book (See “Readable Feast” review, page 16). 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.