Museum Madness Continues with Autry Museum of Western Heritage

6-29-02: Before Saturday, my thoughts about Gene Autry were as follows: a lesser-known B-movie actor who appeared in westerns, who owned the California Angels, recorded 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and opened a museum in Griffith Park.

I missed about 98.9% of his career. Gene Autry was all those things, yes. But he was also a smart, savvy entrepreneur long before the name was fashionable. Not only 'America's Favorite Singing Cowboy,' he was a big-time movie star in the 1930's and 40's - right up there in popularity with the likes of Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. 'The Gene Autry Show' was hugely popular on television in the early 1950's. Autry produced other TV shows, and wrote, co-wrote and performed hundreds of songs including 'Back in the Saddle Again,' 'South of the Border' and 'Here Comes Santa Claus'

In 1956 he retired from show business, but not business in general. In the 1960's he bought television stations, radio stations, and The California Angels baseball team. He has 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - one for each discipline. Gene Autry was active in Southern California and business until his death in 1998 at age 91.

The Autry Museum of Western Heritage opened in 1988, and sits in Griffith Park, at the intersection of I-5, and the 134 freeways, directly across from The Los Angeles Zoo. We've driven by hundreds of times over the years, and occasionally, I've said "We should go there sometime" - which was met with low volume groans from both Megan and Dianne.

Still, it intrigued me. I was aware that Walt Disney Imagineering had helped in the design -- it just seemed like it could be fun.

Boy, was I wrong.

The idea of Western Heritage is better in my imagination than the actual museum.

© Copyright 2002-2007 2 All rights reserved.