Posted on May 6, 2020
Frank LaRocca, brother of Diana’s grandfather and defacto father Ned, was a violinist and music director in Decatur, Illinois.
Ned and Virginia are listed in the census as living in Peoria, Ill. Ned a musician and Virginia a housewife.
Phone directories list a Frank LaRocca and wife Rose in Los Angeles. The couple resided at 2303 Gatewood. Frank was a violinist and conductor.
Ned, his wife Virginia LaRocca and their 9-year-old daughter Donna, join Frank and Rose in Los Angeles. The family moved into a house located at 2234 Shoredale Ave. located about two blocks away from Frank and Rose on Gatewood.
Ned and Virginia had performed their vaudeville acts in the Los Angeles area many times in the teens and 20s, so they had familiarity with the area.
(Per LA phone directories seen in the LAPL and voter registration ancestry.com)
This neighborhood is very close to Elysian Park, the LA River and Riverside Drive, well before “the 5” freeway was built.
Brothers Frank and Ned LaRocca are listed as “music teachers” in the LA phone directory in the mid–1930s.
1937: According to his death certificate, Frank is admitted to Methodist Hospital with peritonitis/perforated duodena. After one week in the hospital, Frank dies, having contracted pneumonia two day previous.
He is buried in his home town of Peoria, Illinois.
Frank’s find-a-grave page includes an obituary. It states that brother Ned LaRocca lives in LA and is a harpist in a Hollywood radio orchestra.
This sensational streamline moderne building was the new west coast headquarters of NBC radio and opened in 1938. Architect was John C. Austin. Austin was also architect of the Griffith Park Observatory along with Frederick M. Ashley.
The National Broadcasting Company originally used the phrase Radio City to describe their studios at Rockefeller Center in New York City. When NBC opened their new Hollywood studios at Sunset and Vine in 1938, they placed the words Radio City prominently on the front of their new building. However, the area between Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard on Vine Street became known as Radio City for tourists and locals alike who visited the many radio studios and radio themed cocktail lounges and businesses in the area.radiocityhollywood.com
Veteran performing artist Ned LaRocca found a steady paycheck at both NBC and CBS as I discovered from this document found on ancestry.
The website radiocityhollywood.com describes vividly what must have been a fascinating “scene”overflowing with human activity; many types of people who had a requirement,a desire, or both, to be there: from Radio City employees, to ticket holders to tourists from near and far.
The National Broadcasting Company, after moving from New York to San Francisco, opened its’ new Moderne studios at the intersection of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, California.
A block away, the Columbia Broadcasting System opened it’s new modern studios at Columbia Square. Across the street, on December 26, Earl Carroll opened his premier nightclub and restaurant, with the glamorous neon sign proclaiming, “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.”
The Hollywood Palladium opened two years later between NBC and CBS, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, featuring band singer Frank Sinatra. Across Vine Street, on the northwest corner of Sunset and Vine, sat Music City and Capitol Records, operated by bothers Glenn and Clyde Wallich.radiocityhollywood.com
The radio industry in Los Angeles, and the world I imagine, was at its’ zenith from the late 30s through the 1940s. This era was short lived. Television would soon replace radio as the mass entertainment medium of choice. (1950s)
CBS radio aka “Columbia Square” opens just down the street from NBC. Also opened in 1938.
It’s the new home to KNX Radio, where Ned LaRocca performed.
Film-noirish look at Sunset & Vine. found on the internet. NBC on the right. 1940s. Capitol Records on the left, before the iconic new location (the “stack of records” building) was built at 1750 Vine St. by Welton Becket and Assoc. (Opened in 1956)
The American Broadcasting Corporation set up shop a few doors north on Vine Street. Up the street was the Radio Room, Club Morocco, Mike Lyman’s and the famous Tom Breneman’s Breakfast in Hollywood restaurant. Even further up Vine, just before Hollywood Boulevard, Clara Bow operated her restaurant, the It Cafe. Across the street, south of the Boulevard, was the world famous Vine Street Brown Derby, more restaurants and bars, and at Selma Avenue, the RCA building. Further south, at the end of the block, at the intersection of Vine Street and Sunset Boulevard stood the radio flagship studio, NBC Radio City.
It was a glorious year, 1938, for Hollywood and for radio. And, while NBC called their new studios Radio City, the entire area became famous across America and around the world.Radio City Hollywood website.
Tom Breneman broadcast his popular show “Breakfast In Hollywood” from his restaurant on Vine off Sunset Blvd. I’ve listened to a few radio broadcasts and Breneman asks the audience members”where are you from?” It seems like the are a combination of locals and out of town visitors.
Ned LaRocca continued to work at NBC and CBS throughout the 1940s and made an important contact with Leith Stevens, conductor and composer.
. Jane Harker was the daughter of Josephine and George Truman Harker and a first cousin to Donna LaRocca, Diana/Paige’s mother. I write more about them in Family History Part #1.
The information about Jane Harker that you see on websites like imdb is incorrect. I’m attempting to correct it.
I have a lot of material collected about Jane Harker if anyone would like to collaborate on this project contact me.
Category: 1940s, LA Locations, Popular Culture, Radio City, CBS, NBC Tagged: 1940s LA, Brown Derby, Columbia Square, Don Lee Mutual Broadcast System, Eleanor Parker, Errol Flynn, Hollywood Blvd., imdb, Jane Harker, John C. Austin, Joseph Ned LaRocca, KNX, LA architecture, LA History, LA Noir, Los Angeles History, Mary Jane Harker, NBC\CBS, pin-up models, pinup photography, Radio City, Radio City Hollywood, Radio Room Bar, Radio Row, Radio Row LA, Radio Shows, radiocityhollywood.com, Raul Morena, RCA, Starlet, Sunset & Vine, Tom Breneman, Warner Bros.
Posted on May 2, 2020
Census records, military records and local directories show that Joseph Ned LaRocca (Diana/Paige’s grandfather) was born in 1894 in Peoria, Illinois and grew up there.
Known as “Ned,” he was a harpist in a family of several brothers, oldest brother Roxy show above and below. The brothers were all musicians and many of them toured with the major vaudeville circuits like Orpheum and Pantages.
The LaRocca brothers supported their widowed mother in Peoria, after their professional musician-harpist father, Salvatore LaRocca, died at around age 40 in 1905?
Salvatore LaRocca, was from Italy and settled in Chicago before raising a family in Peoria with Rose Ann, born Dunufrio. The couple moved to Peoria when Salvatore was offered the leadership of a local Italian band.
The oldest brother Roxy, became a “famous-at-the-time” vaudeville harpist, known affectionately as the “Wizard of the Harp.”
I read literally of dozens of articles from the era about Roxy’s talent on the harp and his many performances. Two examples follow:
Joseph Ned LaRocca, Diana Cotterell’s grandfather and younger brother of Roxy, often used the professional name Ned Argo or just plain Argo, for his harp act. The ad below from 1925, performing for broadcast radio.
Ned was to have a future in performing for radio broadcasts in Los Angeles.
RCA corp. did a study in 1925 and found that 19% of homes had a radio. In 1930, it was 40%. Vaudeville was beginning to slide as a mass-media entertainment form. “Moving pictures” continued to be a reason for the lessening popularity of vaudeville.
Ned’s wife, Virginia Young was born in 1898 in Salt Lake City, was also a vaudeville performer. Her grandfather was Brigham Young and grandmother one of his many wives: Emily Partridge Young. If you google Emily Partridge Young, you will see she and her sister Eliza hold an interesting place in Mormon history as two of Joseph Smith’s first “plural wives.” Virginia, seen at right, met Ned LaRocca on a Pantages tour where Virginia and her sister Josephine were performing in “The Wrong Bird,” a very successful Utah production that toured North America. I have saved dozens of articles on Virginia Young and her sister Josephine. The sisters toured together in The Wrong Bird and eventually had their own act with Virginia’s husband Ned Argo LaRocca. I hope to post some of these articles soon. These folks had a minor kind of fame in vaudeville.
The married couple form a vaudeville act and tour the US in the late teens and most, if not all, of the 1920s. Ned continues to use the name Ned Argo or Argo.
Sometimes Virginia’s sister and fellow vaudeville performer Josephine, is part of the act. The girls went by the name “The Virginia Sisters” as seen in the ad from The Daily Oklahoman Oct. 25 1919.
(When this was published, Josephine had already been married one month to San Francisco businessman George Truman Harker)
1920 approx. Josephine quit touring with her sister and brother-in-law and moved to San Francisco with her husband George Truman Harker.
The couple had a son, Jack Truman Harker in 1921, and a daughter, Mary Jane, in 1923 .
Josephine married George Truman Harker a year after her sister married Joseph Ned LaRocca. The marriage ceremony of Josephine and George took place backstage at LA’s Pantages theatre.
Ned and Virginia continued to tour vaudeville throughout the 1920s.
In the 1940s, Mary Jane Harker was known as Jane Harker, Warner Brothers starlet. Harker had small parts in movies with stars such as Joan Crawford, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, Jack Carson, Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker and more.
I will be working on a video about Mary Jane Harker soon. She is misidentified on the internet.
In the mid 1920s, The Harker family moved to South Pasadena, an affluent area then as now.
After Vaudeville died out in the early 1930s, the Great Depression was already in full swing.
Roxy LaRocca retired about this time to the LaRocca family hometown of Peoria, Illinois, where he started a magazine stand.
Frank and Rose, Ned and Virginia, moved to LA during the Depression early/mid 1930s.
Please see my next chapter Family History #2 for their history in the 1920s, move to Los Angeles in the 1930s, Radio City from 1938 through the 1940s and more on Jane Harker, model/starlet, who worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. She appears in an obscure Noir film: The Unfaithful with Ann Sheridan and footage of Angels Flight. This film has been shown on TCM a few times.
imdb has Harker’s filmography correct, but the biographical information described is someone else. A “Jane Ellen Harker” for starters. It’s wrong.
Category: 1940s, LA Locations, Peoria, Illinois, Radio City, CBS, NBC Tagged: #Dick Whittington, 1940s LA, Angels Flight, Ann Sheridan, Avon Theater, Dick Whittington Phographer, Elysian Park, Frank LaRocca, George Truman Harker, Harp, Harpist, Illinois, Jane Harker, Josephine Harker, Josephine Young, KNX, LA History, LA Noir, Los Angeles architecture, Los Angeles History, Mary Jane Harker, NBC, NBC\CBS, Ned Argo, Ned LaRocca Grandfather, Pantages, Peoria, Radio City, Radio Shows, Roxy LaRocca, South Pasadena, Starlet Warner Brothers, Studio 1 CBS, Vaudeville, Virginia LaRocca, Virginia Young, Warner Brothers