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Burb's Eye View: A fond look back at a historical year

December 18, 2012|By Bryan Mahoney

Someone once told me the best thing about being a journalist was that I got a first-row seat to history. What I didn't know then — and what I'm only beginning to understand now — is how one defines “history.”

For example, last February I watched Burbank High School graduate Sevada Armen compete in the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. He brought every culinary skill he could muster to a time-limited, pressure-filled cook-off between top students from up and down the West Coast.

He didn't win the competition, but I can't say he lost either. After competing, he told me: “I didn't know how much fun I would have until I walked into that kitchen and they said ‘Go.'”

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He plans on managing his own restaurant one day, and just making it to the competition was a turning point in his career. One defining moment in one young man's history.

I met Bill Burke a week later, right before he gave a talk to the Burbank Historical Society about his many climbs up Mt. Everest. At age 70, this year he attempted to set a world record as the only climber to perform an ascent up the north and south faces of Everest in the same run. On May 19, after moving for seven days up 11,144 feet with only one day of rest, a bad weather report — combined with fatigue — convinced Burke to turn back.

“Had I been 30-40 years younger, I would have continued moving up, knowing that I could move down quickly in case of trouble,” Burke wrote on his blog in June. “But, at my age, I move up and down at only one speed — slow.”

I met Bob and Kathy Burns in the spring, two lifelong Burbank sweethearts who are unofficial keepers of movie history with their priceless collection of sci-fi and fantasy memorabilia. Just this year, an action figure of Bob was released (as his ape character Kogar), as was a documentary on the Burnses and their contributions to the special-effects and movie-makeup industries.

A great moment in history for geekdom's beloved historians.

In the summer it was time to met the Road Kings, Burbank's unconventional car club that helped invent the sport of drag racing. They celebrated 50 years of raising hell with a car show to rival a Mecum auto auction — 700 hot rods filled Johnny Carson Park on a hot Sunday in June.

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