There’s always a smorgasbord of freakiness on the table in Southern California, and Saul Rubin is hungry for more. The Santa Monica College journalism professor has spent the last two years investigating cultural high points such as the annual Laguna Niguel moonfest, in which celebrants drop their pants each time a train passes (twice on the hour, according to Rubin). The moonfest and other aberrational customs, landmarks, visionaries and kooks are handily catalogued in Rubin’s recently published “Southern California Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff” (The Globe Pequot Press).
Raised in Boston, Rubin, 47, earned a bachelor’s in English and master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley. He moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and took a job as a reporter for Copley Newspapers. Rubin had a column in which “I would do unusual jobs for a day.” Even for feature stories he “would gravitate toward unusual people and places.” A favorite is Antone Martin’s Desert Christ Park in Yucca Valley. “They replicate scenes from the New Testament with 10-foot-tall concrete statues,” he says. “There’s a Sermon on the Mount scene amid the Joshua trees and the desert landscape. It has a really unusual energy.”
The title for strangest, Rubin says, belongs to the Holyland Exhibition in Silver Lake created by Antonia Futterer, an early 20th century Biblical archeologist. “He was the real life Indiana Jones,” Rubin says. “He went to Palestine in the 1920s in search of the golden Ark of the Covenant. He brought back artifacts and opened a Bible school and museum in Silver Lake. He’s dead, but one of his student’s students lives in the house with her daughter. If you call them up, they’ll give you a tour.” With incentives like this, Rubin understandably felt compelled to take on new challenges; a Northern California version of the guide is due this spring.