Posted on May 6, 2020
Frank LaRocca, brother of Diana Cotterell’s grandfather and defacto father Ned, was a violinist and music director in Decatur, Illinois in the 1920s. His wife was Rose. The rest of the family lived in nearby Peoria, Ill., where the LaRocca 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. Mildred appears as a witness at the Hollywood wedding of Donna to Robert M. Cotterell in 1940. See other 1940s chapter.
Above is the 1930 census showing Ned, “Jeanette” and Donna LaRocca listed as “Lodgers” and Lena Buckley as “Head of House” That’s strange as the LaRocca Home on Martin St. had census records going back to the teens when Salvatore LaRocca bought the home. Look right above the LaRoccas and we see that Donna’s cousin Mildred lives next door with her parents Anthony and Kathryn Marinello. There is no Roxy, Paul or Frank LaRocca listed as they were previously. Frank and Rose may already have departed for the West Coast.
1931 and 32 Los Angeles phone directories list Frank LaRocca and wife Rose in Los Angeles. The couple reside at 2303 Gatewood.
Ned, his wife Virginia LaRocca and 9-year-old 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 especially, and Virginia had performed in 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. Ned, Virginia and Donna with other family, had wintered in Santa Monica one year during the Depression. This was found on a Mormon familysearch website.
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.
According to his death certificate, Frank is admitted to Methodist Hospital with peritonitis/perforated duodena. After one week in the hospital, Frank dies there, 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 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
CBS radio aka “Columbia Square” opens just down the street from NBC, also opened in 1938.
Veteran performing artist Ned LaRocca found employment for his harp skills at both NBC and CBS.
This building is the new home to KNX Radio, where Ned LaRocca performed.
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, 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 like Tom Breneman and musicians like Ned LaRocca.
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.
Roughly the 1930s and 1940s. 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 listed as 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 in San Francisco and had a short lived type of fame in the 1940s: 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.