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 in the 1920s. His wife was named Rose. The rest of the family lived in nearby Peoria, Ill., where the children had grown up.
was a first cousin of Donna LaRocca, Diana/Paige’s mother. She was introduced in Family History #1.
Mildred and Donna lived next door to each other both in Peoria, Ill. in the 1920s and 1930 (see below) and later in Sherman Oaks, Ca. in the 1950s. She is listed as a witness at the Hollywood wedding of Donna to Robert M. Cotterell in 1940. See 1940s chapter.
1931 and 32 Los Angeles phone directories list a Frank LaRocca and wife Rose in Los Angeles. The couple reside at 2303 Gatewood.
Ned, his wife Virginia LaRocca and their 9-year-old daughter Donna, join Frank and Rose in Los Angeles by 1934. The family moved into a house located at 2234 Shoredale Ave. It’s 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, 1920s and early 1930s; so they had familiarity with the area, as well as both having siblings already living in there.
The Shoredale and Gatewood houses were in a neighborhood 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.
Frank is buried in his home town of Peoria, Illinois.
His find-a-grave page includes an obituary from the Peoria newspaper. It states that brother Ned LaRocca lives in LA and is a harpist in a “Hollywood radio orchestra.”
The LAT obituary is below.
A 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.
*Below, I’m attributing radiocityhollywood.com below for several clear historic descriptions and explanations.
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.
CBS radio aka “Columbia Square” opens just down the street from NBC, also opened in 1938.
The website radiocityhollywood.com describes vividly what must have been a fascinating “scene”overflowing with human activity; all the types of people who had a requirement, a desire, or both, to be there, from the employees, their friends and families, tickets holders, which includes tourists from near and far, big wigs in the industry, interns, janitorial staff, professional radio performers including musicians like Ned LaRocca.
This building is the new home to KNX Radio, where Ned LaRocca performed.
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 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.
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)
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 of his radio broadcasts on youtube, and Breneman often asks the audience members “where are you from?” It seems like they are a combination of locals and out of state visitors.
Ned LaRocca continued to work at NBC and CBS throughout the 1940s and made an important contact with Leith Stevens, conductor and composer.
1938, 1939 & 1941 LA phone directory, Joseph LaRocca is listed as a musician and living at 3834 Evans.
Late 1930s Los Angeles directory. Joseph’s sister-in-law Rose, widow to his brother Frank, is a factory worker this year. One year she was a cook and another year a seamstress. Biagio LaRocca may be a family member, he was also listed in the Oakland directories in the late 1920s, along with Ned LaRocca.
Donna LaRocca had another female cousin named Mary Jane Harker. She was born two years after Donna and had short lived fame in the 1940s. She was contracted to Warner Brothers studio for about 2 years before getting married and leaving LA.
.Jane Harker was the daughter of Josephine and George Truman Harker. 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 officially get the record straight.
Salt Lake City Tribune July 19, 1945. Paige Young’s 2nd cousin. Name would eventually get shortened to Jane.
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, Mildred Marinello, 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,” Joseph Ned LaRocca was a harpist in a family of several brothers and one sister named Kathryn.
His Father was Salvatore LaRocca, a harpist from Italy, 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: Marino’s, according to Find a Grave.
Salvatore LaRocca, died at age 52 in 1906, according to records from Peoria listed on ancestry.com. I think Ned was out on the vaudeville circuit by his teenage years, as well as the other LaRocca brothers.
The one with the most success fame wise was oldest brother Roxy.
Roxy was a “famous-at-the-time” vaudeville harpist, known affectionately as the “Wizard of the Harp.”
The LaRocca brothers were all musicians and many of them toured with the major vaudeville circuits like Orpheum and Pantages. None became as well known as Roxy.
Below is a newspaper clipping of Joseph Ned LaRocca 1925. He was to have a future in Los Angeles, playing harp for the radio.
Ned is Diana Cotterell/Paige Young’s grandfather and younger brother of Roxy. Also a harpist like his big brother, he often used the professional name Ned Argo or just plain Argo.
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 was to have a future in performing for radio broadcasts in Los Angeles.
Ned’s wife, Virginia Young, was born in 1898 in Salt Lake City. Her father was Albert Carrington Young, a doctor. Her mother was named Josephine Young and she died when Virginia and her sister Josephine were still children. Part of the Salt Lake drama and music community, Virginia and Josephine became vaudeville performers. The girls’ 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 founder Joseph Smith’s first “plural wives.”
Virginia Young met Ned LaRocca on a Pantages tour where Virginia and sister Josephine were performing in “The Wrong Bird,” a very successful Utah production that toured North America. The musical play was written by Margaret Whitney, part of the theater and music circles in SLC.
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.
Joseph N and Virginia LaRocca are listed in the 1917 and 1918 Peoria, Ill. directory.
June 30, 1917 Goodwin’s Weekly SLC. Virginia was married by now and singing in an vaudeville act with her husband Ned. Not named here.
Sometimes Virginia’s sister and fellow vaudeville player Josephine, is part of the act. The girls went by the name “The Virginia Sisters” as seen in the ad below from Salt Lake City Tribune Oct. 1, 1919.
Saskatoon Daily Star June 6, 1919
1920 approx. Josephine quit touring with her sister and brother-in-law and moved to San Francisco with her husband George Truman Harker.
They started a family there: Jack Truman Harker born in 1921, and a daughter, Mary Jane, in 1923 .
The whole family together in 1923 in Peoria. Anna, the matriarch, is listed as a “widow of Salvatore”
In the 1920 Federal Census, Virginia is listed as living in Peoria, Illinois with her husband and his family, and her occupation is listed as “Actress.” Mama LaRocca was still living at this point. Virginia would give birth to Donna Virginia in 1921.
Ned and Virginia continued to tour vaudeville throughout the 1920s. The couple had a stop over in 1926-1928 in Oakland, California for about 2 years.
Charlotte Observer June 27, 1929. With an act about “Peoria.” They are listed in the 1930 census as living in Peoria. They were only a few years away from permanently relocating to Los Angeles. Vaudeville would soon be dead.
Mount Vernon Argus April 20, 1929
In the mid 1920s, George Truman and Josephine Harker 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. See much more of this in the next chapter………
MARY JANE HARKER BECOMES JANE HARKER AT WARNER BROS. STUDIO
Please see my next chapter Family History #2 for an in-depth history: move to Los Angeles in the 1930s, Radio City from 1938 through the 1940s and much more on Jane Harker, model/starlet, who worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars during her approximate 2 years with Warner Brothers studio. She appears in an obscure Noir film: The Unfaithful with Ann Sheridan. Also starring Angels Flight, one of the last remaining relics of Bunker Hill in Los Angeles. This film has been shown on TCM a few times. Jane plays “red-headed snob in Humoresque starring Crawford and Garfield.
Harker had small parts in movies with stars such as Joan Crawford, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, Bette Davis, Jack Carson, Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker and more.
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