This week’s column will have a Hollywood Flavor, leading off with a tie-in between USC and actor Ray Liotta, who died Thursday at age 67.
- Former USC star Adoree Jackson bought the championship rings for the players at his alma mater, Serra High School in Gardena.
- USC will host Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 7 at the Galen Center. Thanks, Enfield!
- Actor Ray Liotta was rightly known for his role in “Goodfellas.”
But was there a USC connection? Yes, of course.
Liotta played Shoeless Joe Jackson in the 1989 film, “Field of Dreams.”
Former USC coach Rod Dedeaux and former USC player Don Buford worked on the film with Liotta and the other actors for the baseball scenes.
“Actually, he was very athletic and worked very well with all the participants,” Buford told the Chicago Tribune of Liotta. “We threw batting practice to him and he hit the ball as though he played in school.”
- USC renamed the VKC building (ordered by Rick Caruso) because it was named after disgraced president Rufus von KleinSmid but guess what?
His cement footprints and hat are still on display at the Tutor Center. I suspect this more because no one even remembers they are there. It’s an out-of-the-way room that few visit.
RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
Formosa Cafe, 7156 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood (1939)
This is a place of Hollywood lore. One rumor is Elvis ate here and left a waitress the keys to his Cadillac as a tip. Another story is that Frank Sinatra would come just to look at Ava Gardner. Other famous customers included Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Mickey Cohen and Judy Garland.
- And now for some history:
- Why doesn’t QB Mike Rae get more love? He was the starting quarterback for the undefeated 1972 national champions, which always gets mentioned among college football’s greatest teams.
Perhaps one reason is Pat Haden also played in every game that season, a move that perplexed some teammates and even coaches on the staff. But Haden was always a favorite of John McKay and lived at his house for a year while in high school.
- I had lunch this week with a group that included Bill Redell, the former Crespi/St. Francis/Oaks Christian coach along with former Dodgers Bill Russell and Ron Cey.
Few realize that Redell, who played football at Occidental and in the CFL, started his college career at USC. Below is a picture of the 1960 freshman team, where Redell also had Pete Beathard and Craig Fertig to compete with at quarterback. Not to mention Bill Nelsen, who was a year ahead and passed for more than 14,000 yards in the NFL.
With so much competition, Redell wisely transferred to Occidental.
- Here is Jesse Owens running in a dual meet vs. USC at the Coliseum in 1935. Owens won four events but USC won the meet.
- Time to recognize another underappreciated Trojan. Long-jumper Randy Williams won the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich at age 19. He won two NCAA titles at USC.
In 1976, he won the silver medal in the long jump at the Montreal Olympics. In 2009, he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
- Diana Ross performed with the USC band at the 1973 Rose Bowl.
- Actor John Ritter (right) was a USC drama student circa 1972-73.
- Speaking of von KleinSmid, the guy loved Hollywood stars.
Here he is at the Beverly Hills Hotel with Western star Tom Mix (standing) and actor/humorist Will Rogers (second from right).
- And here he is with actor/singer Rudy Vallee at the USC-Notre Dame game in 1938. No. 1-ranked Notre Dame was upset by No. 8-ranked USC, 13-0.
TROJANS OF THE WEEK
This is USC student Vada Watson in 1911. She got married in 1912 and was better known as Vada Somerville.
She was the first African-American woman and the second African-American person to graduate from the USC School of Dentistry (1918) and was the first African-American woman certified to practice dentistry in California. Sommerville was a high-profile civil rights activist in Los Angeles and involved in several civic and community organizations.
A residential floor at USC is named Somerville Place after Vada and her husband, John. Their portraits are also on display at the USC dental school.
Herman Hill (left) was the first African-American basketball player in USC history (1929-30). He is pictured with Congressman Adam Clayton Powell (second from left) and actor/director Orson Welles (far right).
Hill became a journalist and in 1949 led a movement that resulted in the Rams signing their first African-American players, UCLA stars Kenny Washington and Woody Strode.
He later became a publicist for Martin Luther King, Joe Louis and Nat King Cole. In 1981, Hill received the Outstanding Alumni Award from USC. He was also a high jumper on USC’s national championship track team in 1931.