Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
A Los Angeles blog
from Echo Park

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Serenading Room 8

John Hernandez sent me a photograph of himself and Room 8, the famous cat whose portrait on a mural amiably watches over Echo Park Avenue between Baxter and Fargo. The photo was taken in 1962 or 1963 by a photographer for a local newspaper, possibly the Herald Examiner. (It's not as though two dozen publications didn't snap pics of the huge tabby who lived at Elysian Heights Elementary School and became so much more than a mascot and friend to the students who knew him: people still talk about Room 8; they remember the attention Room 8 received and how they glowed in it -- through the cat, who became a subject of a book as well as international human/feline interest news, they were part of something special.)

I love this picture. It reminds me of the work of Don Normark, the photographer who documented Chavez Ravine a couple of decades before the neighborhood was crushed. The picture shows John Hernandez, who lived on Ewing Street. He is sitting on the Valentine Street steps of an elderly man who often played guitar for the kids on the block. The picture makes a big deal of shoes and feet. And it shows the famous cat in a candid moment. It may have been partially staged, but it's real nonetheless -- the best kind of celebrity pic.

John Hernandez now lives in Texas.

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