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A Docent With Great InsightAs far as...

A Docent With Great Insight

As far as they know out at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Griffith Park, Betty Pember is the only docent in California who is legally blind. Not that anyone cares, or even notices after a while. What Pember lacks in visual acuity, they figure, she makes up in insight, verve and humor.

Fascinated by California history since childhood--her grandparents settled in Newhall in 1893--Pember had long been “docenting in the area, out here near where Gene Autry had his Melody Ranch,” when she and a friend “drove down (to the new Autry Museum) to see if we could help out.” Indeed they could. Pember took--and passed--the docent course, and now reports for duty most Friday mornings.

She specializes in youth tours, demonstrating toys of yesteryear, “making the period come alive for the youngsters. It’s quite delightful.” The toys are simple, virtually without cost: a little wooden wheel one whirls on a string to make a hum and a whistle; a notched stick surmounted by a propeller that turns when the stick is rubbed; clothespin dolls. “I tell them stories. They can play with the toys--make them too, if they’d like.”

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Asked if The Times could take a picture of her docenting, Pember hesitates--"I don’t photograph well"--then reconsiders. “Oh well,” she says, “how much of it can I see anyway?”

CSUN Grads Will See Sunrise

You have to get up pretty early in the morning to graduate from Cal State Northridge. At least you do this year.

With campus construction temporarily bumping graduation ceremonies from traditional sites, May commencement will be in the Hollywood Bowl--starting at 7 a.m.! Unique time, unique place, but in the end, an eminently sensible and truly Californian solution.

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Edmund Peckham, dean of students, defends the ungodly hour as “relatively traffic-free” and notes that it affords time enough after the ceremony for “an all-day series of events on campus: open houses, receptions, exhibitions. . . .”

Ann Salisbury, one of a three-person CSUN search committee that had to buck the Beach Boys for Bowl time, allows as “we wanted to do something original. Californians, conditioned by the Eastern media, think that for a ceremony to be legitimate we have to emulate the Ivy League. Hence the absurdity of grads in black robes over suits and dresses, perspiring under a hot Southern California sun.”

Another departure, Dean Peckham says, will be “a program stressing the multicultural nature of our school,” including music by the Pan-African Studies Rebirth Gospel Choir and the Conjunto Heuyapan, a family of six performing centuries-old Mexican music on nearly extinct instruments.

With 4,600 due to graduate, and families and friends filling the Bowl, it promises to be memorable, if early. “After all,” Salisbury says, “CSUN is pronounced ‘See Sun.’ ”

High-Schooler On the Air

His name is Hadrian Lesser and he has been in the radio biz for the last eight years.

Not too many Hadrians around. Plenty of radio types with eight years in the medium, to be sure. But at the age of 16?

Lesser has his own spot--"Youth and the Health Issues"--sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. on KGIL. The two-hour program proper, “The Health Connection,” is run by Hadrian’s father, Gershon, a doctor. The spot is researched, written and delivered by Hadrian, though: “Dad only edits it.” The spot even has its own sponsor; has had for years, dating back to when Hadrian was barely into double digits, agewise.

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Hadrian, now a junior at Beverly Hills High, started going to the station when he was 8. “I just hung around,” Hadrian says from the ripe perspective of 16. “I watched the engineers, saw what everyone was up to, started learning how to operate the equipment. Pretty soon I wanted to talk on the air. I started out doing a commercial for one of Dad’s sponsors.”

Thirty-second spots grew to three minutes: “Health-related information, from pediatrics up to high-school issues. I just did a series on accident-prevention--traffic accidents, sunburn, drowning--and got a lot of response. Right now I’m working on a comparison between Japanese and American teens.”

By now, Hadrian is a lot more comfortable with radio than TV; his goal is to be a talk-show host, a job for which he has a terrific jump on his contemporaries.

Just one more thing: How did the young broadcaster inherit the handle Hadrian ? “We wanted a name starting with ‘H,’ ” mother Michelle says. “The rest were so old-fashioned: Henry, Harold. Herman; ugh. So we named him after the Roman emperor. Anyway, he’s the only Hadrian I ever met.” Us too.


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