GRIFFITH PARK>> As a “blood moon” was gobbled by the earth’s shadow last month, a wizard appeared at Griffith Observatory to lead thousands in a plea toward the heavens.
An ancient monster was devouring the lunar spotlight above Los Angeles. And observatory director Dr. Edwin C. Krupp, in a wizard gown and hat that towered over his bristly mustache, led the chant to keep the city stage light on.
“Dragon be gone,” the wizard chanted from the observatory’s north steps, his voice rising with the throng. “Dragon be gone. Dragon be gone!”
The whimsical nod to ancient beliefs about the blood moon lunar eclipse was led by L.A.’s biggest showman of the stars, Krupp, who has been director of the planet’s most popular observatory for 40 of its almost 80 years.
On Monday, the renowned astronomer, globetrotter, author and bon vivant of one of the city’s greatest icons will be feted at a champagne sunset picnic at Griffith Observatory.
“The “Stellar Evolution” bash, hosted by Friends of the Observatory to honor Krupp and the Griffith Park landmark’s approaching 80th year, will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets, from $75 to $150, are available only at www.friendsoftheobservatory.com.
“There are many, many, many very special public employees, but there’s only one Dr. Edwin C. Krupp,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the observatory and whose own service to the city dates back 38 years. “Not only does he have the greatest building in the city. He’s got the universe.
“He’s done a meteoric job.”
As clouds brushed pastMount Hollywood one morning this week, visitors from around the world waited outside Griffith Observatory — a Beaux Arts beauty gleaming in ivory and topped by three bronze planetarium and telescope domes.
Fresh from its $93-million makeover six years ago, it offers some of the most majestic views of Los Angeles, a watchful guardian over downtown and nearby Hollywood and its famous sign. Two hours before it opens, its parking lot is nearly full.
“It’s an L.A. treasure,” said John Ashton, a guide from Sunseeker Tours of Long Beach, after alluding to how the great public observatory opened on May 14, 1935, because of a bequest by the late Col. Griffith J. Griffith, benefactor of Griffith Park. “We get more requests to see this than anything.”
“It’s amazing. I’m inspired by it. It’s crazy,” said Brandon Anderson, 28, a shirtless musician doing leg lifts on the observatory lawn after hiking up from nearby Ferndale. “It clears my head and uplifts my work.”
Outside, at the head of the hilltop parking lot, sat a faded turquoise 1968 Camaro, with 481,000 miles. It was Krupp’s, driven up and down the hill ever since he hired on in 1970 to lecture in the planetarium earning his astro doctorate at UCLA. Four years later he was its director.
Inside, standing behind the great bronze doors, is Krupp — waiting for the great observatory to open. He’s not above quietly watching his visitors, sensing their reactions, seeing how they engage the infinite.
Ask him about the observatory, and he brightens above his moon-landing neck tie (one of the more than 100 stellar ties for which he’s famous). Ask him about the universe, and he beams like a jillion stars.
To the Chicago native, son of a space program engineer, virtually everything is about our engagement with the cosmos. And about explaining a complicated universe in meteorite-size terms for the general public.
From exhibits such as the Big Picture, the world’s largest astronomical photograph shimmering with 2 million stars and galaxies, to the Cosmic Connection, a 60-foot-long stream of jewels illustrating the dawn of the universe 13.7 billion years ago, his legacy is a sense of universal wonder.
“Jewelry brings them to the exhibit. And the exhibit gets them to talking with each other. You have the average person talking about the history of the cosmos. And that’s what it’s all about,” Krupp said. “Griffith Observatory was built as a public observatory, and the whole idea is to put eyeballs to the universe.”
After he moved to Reseda as a starry-eyed kid, Krupp’s visited Griffith Observatory and noticed the rust streaking off its domes. Now in his four decades of heading the place, he is credited with leading its multimillion-dollar preservation, clearing trees for its breathtaking views, upgrading its planetarium projector, and preserving the live shows from beneath its darkened star-covered dome. He also helped found Friends of the Observatory, to help support the landmark he loved.
As an expert in ancient archeology, the cosmic showman has also boosted a broader understanding of man and space. And at 69, the Eagle Rock resident still works 10-hour days and says he has no immediate plans to retire.
“The observatory is good for centuries, because it does not fail to grab the heart of each person that sees it,” Krupp said, as doors swung open and the city’s great stargazer whirled to life. “And that’s what sustains it.
“When people see it, they know they own it.”