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Eddie Van Halen Memorial in the Offing? City Council to Discuss the Possibility on Monday

Guitar virtuoso grew up in Pasadena

Published on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | 3:37 pm
Eddie Van Halen Photo courtesy Randa Schmalfeld and Julie Kimura

Plans for a memorial honoring guitar great and former Pasadena resident Eddie Van Halen will go before the City Council on Monday.

City Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian confirmed the item would appear on Monday’s agenda, but said additional information was not yet available.

Van Halen died Oct. 6 after a battle with cancer.

Pasadena residents Randa Schmalfeld and Julie Kimura have raised $5,200 through the online fundraising platform in hopes of having a street or alley named in honor of the rock star, who they call “Pasadena’s own guitar hero.”

The donations have exceeded their $3,000 goal.

“We are delighted that the City Council is moving so quickly to consider a dedicated public space here in Van Halen’s hometown,” said Schmalfeld. “We envision a place where fans can forever honor and celebrate the brilliance of Eddie Van Halen and the phenomenal success of Pasadena’s Hometown Band. The overwhelmingly positive response to our campaign demonstrates the desire of our community to honor Eddie and his bandmates. We are hopeful that the council will decide in our favor and we are looking forward to next steps in forever honoring Pasadena’s favorite Rock Stars!”

Last week, Shmalfled said the surplus money raised in the campaign will be donated to music programs at Pasadena High School.

City Councilmember-elect Felicia Williams, who will join the council in December, has also talked to staff about naming an alley after Van Halen.

“This is not just a tribute to an amazing musician. It is also a chance to hear the cultural story about the Van Halen brothers and their experience in the U.S. and PUSD. It is an inspiration for us to embrace our differences and encourage success in all of us,” Williams told Pasadena Now.

Van Halen was born in 1955 to Jan Van Halen, a jazz pianist, clarinetist, and saxophonist, and Eugenia Van Halen, who was from Indonesia, formerly known as the Dutch East Indies. The Van Halen family moved to Pasadena in 1962. But when they arrived in Pasadena, Eddie and his brother Alex faced racism because they were mixed-race children and spoke little English.

In a 2017 interview with Smithsonian Magazine, Eddie Van Halen remembered his first friends in America were Black and protected him from white kids who would tear up his homework and make him eat playground sand.

Despite those experiences, he said he was grateful for his experience as an immigrant.

After graduating from PHS, Eddie and Alex attended Pasadena City College, where Eddie met David Lee Roth, who graduated from John Muir High School. The two started a group called Broken Comb before adopting the name Mammoth. Mammoth performed in the early 1970s on the Sexson Auditorium stage at PCC.

According to a 2018 Pasadena Now article written by Michelle Nati, the Van Halen brothers honed their sound at backyard parties and high school dances in the Crown City before making their way to the Sunset Strip, and later being signed by Warner Bros.

After the band hit the big time, Eddie Van Halen would play with his back to the audience to deal with his stage fright, and because he was worried other guitarists would steal his techniques.

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