Spotlight on the History Collective Committee
Community activist Bea Gold founded the History Collective as part of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in 2005. Its mission is to preserve the oral histories of long-term residents, business owners, artists, activists and other interesting residents of Silver Lake to create an archive of the unique history of this community.
We asked Michael Masterson, who co–chairs the Committee with Cheryl Revkin, to explain why its mission is important to Silver Lake.
Please explain the mission of the History Collective Committee in more detail.
Silver Lake has such a rich history, much of it undocumented. Our goal is to preserve it through interviewing the people who’ve lived, worked or created art or architecture here, people we feel have created our culture of inclusiveness and innovation. We want to make that available to current and future generations. To date we’ve done over 100 interviews as well as documenting events like the Music Box Steps, the Black Cat historic dedication and even have vintage footage of the “Queen of Silver Lake Pageant.”
Why is preserving Silver Lake‘s history important? How does this history help people today–and how will it support future generations?
Silver Lake has always been a very special community in Los Angeles. It’s been home to so many distinguished artists, writers, actors, architects and businesses. It’s also been an epicenter of the gay rights movement for over 60 years. Those lives and stories are best told by the people who lived them or knew the people who did. By documenting that, our community can learn about people who created history here and those who still are. And future researchers can too.
We are fortunate to have an arrangement with USC’s Doheny Library to maintain a digital archive of our work for researchers. You can also access our interviews and documentation of readings, special events, etc. on our dedicated YouTube channel called “historycollective” (all one word). You can go to it directly or through the History Collective page at the www.silverlakenc.org where there are links to other resources. All of the interviews are model-released for editorial or documentary use only.
Please explain how the process works. Who suggests people for interviews and who conducts the interviews?
The suggestions come from our committee, members of the community, neighbors or relatives of interesting people, you-name-it. We are always open to ideas. The interviews are conducted and filmed by various members of our committee depending on who’s available, who suggested the interviewee or who might know more about the subject. We are always thrilled when Marco Larsen is available to handle camera since he’s our resident technical guru.
How does the work of the History Collective impact the residents and stakeholders of Silver Lake and people throughout Los Angeles?
I’d like to think that our work through this project will resonate with people fifty or sixty years from now and give them a glimpse into a Silver Lake that will have been unalterably changed by then. It’s important to preserve and remember the past. We also host a table every year at the USC Archives Bazaar to spread the word about our project to a targeted audience.
Every community in L.A. has a history. Why do you think the history of Silver Lake is unique, and why is it worth preserving?
All communities are unique of course, but Silver Lake has always been a very special place with a very distinct identity or identities really. People who live here are passionate about our neighborhood, a sense of place and pride that you don’t find in a lot of communities.
The History Collective has interviewed over 100 individuals. Do any interviews stand out or have special meaning to you?
Where to begin? Many of the people we’ve interviewed in the last twelve years have passed away sadly. One of my favorites personally was interviewing Alexei Romanoff who is a gay rights icon. Some of the most-watched videos on our YouTube channel are of Wayne Johnson (Rockaway Records), Eric Lloyd Wright and Dion Neutra (architects),
Malcolm Boyd and Mark Thompson (gay rights activists), Manuel Rosales (builder of the Disney Hall organ), Jesse Rogg (owner of Mack Sennett Studios), Ric Montejano (artist and activist) and Lennie Bluett (dancer and musician). The “Queen of Silver Lake Pageants” have had hundreds of views. My personal favorite was an interview I did of Lucie Jones, a nonagenarian lesbian lawyer who became a close friend. She would have been 100 last month. (To view these interviews, Google, youtube historycollective plus the person’s name.)
Who would you like to interview in the next two years? Are there topics that you think would be especially interesting?
It was always my dream to interview the owner of Silvertop but she’s sold it now so maybe we can persuade the new owners to give us a tour. We’ve been trying to corral Mitch Frank from Spaceland for years as well as the Satellite’s Jeff Wolfram. And anyone over 90 who’s lived in Silver Lake all or most of his or her life!
If a person is interested in serving on this committee, are there any special requirements? How can people become involved?
Just show up! We meet every first Thursday of the month in the Community Room at the Silver Lake Library. We welcome new people, new ideas and new energy!
Co-chair Michael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies to sourcing talent for them. He served on the SNLC governing board for six years.
Co-chair Cheryl Revkin has lived and worked in Silver Lake and Echo Park for over 40 years. She founded the first ever Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce and served as its president for over two decades and also helped to produce three Queen of Silver Lake pageants. In 2016, Congressman Adam Schiff named Cheryl Silver Lake’s Woman of the Year. She was also appointed Commissioner of the Disability Access Review Board and in 2014, was appointed a Neighborhood Justice Panelist. In 2010, Cheryl retired from her chiropractic practice of 33 years and continues to be active in the community as a volunteer with the Silver Lake History Collective and the Friends of the Silver Lake Library.
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