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  • Autry Museum of Western HeritageAutry Museum of Western Heritage Los Angeles, California
    The Autry National Center of the American west has evolved into an intercultural center celebrating the history and diversity of the west by three interconnected facilities that include the Museum of the American West, the Institute for the Study of the American West and the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. The Museum of the American West used to be called the Museum of Western Heritage that was started by Gene and Jackie Autry, as well as Monte and Joanne Hale. Gene realized his dream of creating a museum that highlighted the heritage of the west, explaining how it influenced Americans and the world in 1988. Gene was a legendary singer and movie star that had been in the entertainment business for over 6 decades and was still an executive broadcaster and major league baseball owner. The Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which is the oldest museum in the city, was started by Charles Fletcher Lummis. He was the first editor for the LA Times, as well as a photographer, prolific historian and amateur anthropologist, who helped the city become a multicultural city. Gene Autry, himself, was born in Tioga, Texas in 1907, as Orvon Gene Autry, buying his first guitar at 12 for $8. In the late 1920s, he would be working as a telegrapher for the railroad in Oklahoma, and as he sat in the office one night, Will Rogers came in while he was singing and strumming on his guitar. Will told Gene he should try radio and the rest has become western history. Gene would go on and become known as "America's Favorite Singing Cowboy, and the only entertainer to have five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for radio, one for records, live theatrical performance that included rodeo, one for film and one for television. He became the epitome of entertainment in this country, beginning his radio career in 1928, and making his first recording one year later. In 1931, his first hit was "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine, actually becoming the first record that became gold, selling one million copies. Gene made his debut in television as a dude ranch cowboy singer in the Ken Maynard film, Old Santa Fe, in 1934. He would then become a star in the science fiction western serial called the Fantom Empire in 1935, and by 1937 had become the nation's favorite cowboy, and in 1940, became the fourth biggest box office draw, behind Clark Gable, Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy; truly some of the best actors of all time. Gene would always be either the first or second favorite of the cowboy stars of the period until he retired in 1953. Gene Autry would appear in 93 feature films and make 635 recordings, of which almost half were written or co-written by him. Many of his best known movies would be made based on songs, which included; South of the Border in 1939, Mexicali Rose in 1939, Back in the Saddle in 1941, the Last Round-Up in 1947 and Strawberry Roan in 1948. Amazingly he sold over 60 million records and of these over a dozen went gold. In 1941, Be Honest with Me was nominated for an Academy Award, and his Christmas songs were always a favorite, with his Here Comes Santa Claus in 1947 went platinum, as did Peter Cottontail in 1950. Gene's best and most favorite of all time is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from 1949, that is still the second best selling record of all time, selling over 30 million copies.  Gene seemed to know when the B westerns were going to slow down, and he began producing and acting in his own series called the Gene Autry Show, that ran from 1950 to 1955, and produced other popular show of the period like the Annie Oakley series, as well as the Range Rider, Buffalo Bill Jr and the Adventures of Champion. During the late 1980s, Gene and his longtime sidekick Pat Buttram hosted 93 episodes of the 90 minute Melody Ranch Theater shown on Nashville Network, taking place at his ranch. Gene loved baseball so much that he bought his own club in 1961, the California Angels, and was the Vice President of the American League until he died. He was also a 33rd degree Mason, Honorary Inspector General, and was inducted into many organizations that loved being associated with the great legend, Gene Autry. 

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  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural CenterArmand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center Los Angeles, California
    The Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture Center is better known as the Hammer Museum and is located in Los Angeles, California managed by the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. It houses a small collection of impressionist and post-impressionist artworks that include more than 7500 by French satirist Honore Daumier, the biggest collection of his works outside of Paris. It has grown in statue because of its contemporary art works on paper, as well as excellent works by Chardin, Rembrandt and Titian. The museum was started by Armand Hammer, the CEO of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation, so that he could show his beautiful art collection, although Hammer passed on just 15 days after the museum opened in 1990. Hammer had been a county museum of art board member for 20 years, always saying that he would leave his vast collection to that museum when he died, but they were quite surprised when he started his own museum that was located next to the Occidental headquarters and designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. The museum showcases single artist and thematic displays of contemporary and historical art that has been created by the curators or built in collaboration with other facilities. They host about 10 visiting exhibitions per year, as has a number of free public programs during the year, like readings, lectures, film screenings, symposia, musicals and other venues. The structure cost $60 million and had another $38 million for operating funds, with Hammer convincing the company to fund the project which was sued by the company's shareholders for a monumental waste of corporate assets. In 1994, they were in the headlines for selling Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester to Bill Gates for $30.8 million, which had been one of the museum's proudest acquisitions, buying it for $5.12 million in 1980. The museum was put under the management of UCLA, with the foundation retaining some control, but in 2007, the museum and foundation called it quits, dividing the treasure of 195 artworks, the foundation getting 92 paintings worth $55 million and the museum keeping 103, that was valued at $250 million.

January 11, 2011