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THE WORD : The Marquee de Said

It’s the day before Halloween and you’re driving down Palms in Mar Vista on the way to Mrs. Gooch’s, thinking perhaps about organic carrots, free-range chicken and sugarless pumpkin pies. Suddenly, as you approach Centinela, you’re confronted with a provocative epigram block-lettered across a somewhat cheesy white marquee:

“A Faint But Terrible Screaming Pervades the World. Happy Halloween.”

“We wanted to put up something about fright,” says Ron Radziner, 33, the long-haired coproprietor of the marquee and the architectural firm beneath it, Marmol and Radziner. “But we wrote ‘Happy Halloween’ to soften it,” adds partner Leo Marmol, 32.

Every Friday for the past year, their marquee has sported new words of wisdom, from the mouths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (“Riots are the language of the unheard”) to the band INXS (“Don’t burn the library until you’ve read all the books”) to J. Paul Getty (“The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights”) to No. 6 from the old TV series “The Prisoner” (“I am not a number, I am a free man”).

The architects, who met as students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, inherited the lighted sign box when they moved into their office two years ago, then added a plastic front and decided to mimic (sort of) Mrs. Gooch’s price-listing marquee. “It’s a great opportunity to get your thoughts out to the world,” says Radziner.

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Avoiding self-help aphorisms, they focus their signage on social, urban, architectural or aesthetic concerns. Humor and irony are prized; religious quotes are taboo.

“But until people come in and talk to us,” says Radziner, “they think we’re a religious organization.”

And people do come in, to argue about the quotes and offer suggestions. A neighborhood guy known only as Jerry recently supplied them with more than 500 ideas (including the harrowing Halloween thought from psychoanalyst Allen Wheelis).

“That made our day,” says Marmol. “Friday afternoons are so traumatic because we have to deal with the tyranny of the sign. People would be way too disappointed if we didn’t change it.”


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