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Mayor, Councilmembers Help Unveil Eddie Van Halen Memorial

Published on Monday, October 11, 2021 | 11:13 am

The legendary guitarist moved to Pasadena from Holland in 1962. Eddie and his brother Alex Van Halen attended Pasadena High School. They teamed with John Muir High School student David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony to form the legendary band known for “Jump” and “Panama.” 

Eddie became one of the most innovative and imitated rock guitarists since Jimi Hendrix.

Van Halen played the Pasadena Civic Auditorium 14 times between 1975 and 1978, and was eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Eddie died from complications caused by throat cancer on Oct. 6. He was 65.

Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo honored their musical contributions and noted that as a young boy working at Ranchera Mexican restaurant he was “honored” to serve them margaritas, as they visited the restaurant. 

“As a young teen, I could not afford a concert ticket, but I was definitely a fan,” said Gordo. 

Gordo helped unveil the plaque along with council members Tyron Hampton, Andy Wilson, Gene Masuda and Felicia Williams.

“This event brings together history and community to celebrate a world-renowned artist,” said Williams. “It’s not just the history of Eddie as a guitar legend, but also the challenges he faced growing up mixed race in Pasadena, which always spoke to me. And the community support and initiative to make this happen is inspiring. Thank you to everyone!”

Van Halen played the Pasadena Civic Auditorium 14 times between 1975 and 1978. Shown is a vintage poster from one of those appearances. [Image courtesy of the City of Pasadena]
Williams recognized Randa Schmalfeld and Julie Kimura, who initiated the plaque efforts by raising money on a crowdfunding site. With a goal of $3,000, the pair eventually raised more than $7,000 to make the plaque idea happen.    

In interviews, Alex and Eddie said they were bullied because they were mixed race 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 local bullies.

Despite those incidents, Eddie Van Halen said he was grateful for his experience as an immigrant.

“Coming here with approximately $50 and a piano, not being able to speak the language, going through everything to get to where we are, if that’s not the American dream, I don’t know what is,” he said in the interview.

Williams also noted that the Van Halen family, who lived on nearby Las Lunas Street, held a special place in her own family.

“They were half-Asian, like us,” she said. “I think Eddie and Alex were the first half-Asian people that I saw growing up, and my sister and brother and I really, really admired them for that. We thought, ‘Wow, there’s someone like us,’ which was not very common back then.”

The plaque honored the Van Halen Brothers’ Dutch-Indonesian roots, as the band rose from a Pasadena garage band called “Broken Combs” in the late 70s to become one of the most influential and highly regarded rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time. 

The local group Pasadena 4 Van Halen raised the money to fund a plaque honoring the late singer. 

“This project has been nearly a year in the making and it is because of your generosity that it is finally becoming a reality. Julie and I are so very grateful to all of you!” wrote Schmalfeld, one of the organizers for the plaque effort.

As Councilmember Tyron Hampton pointed out, while neither the surviving band members or family members attended the unveiling because of scheduling conflicts, the family supported the effort and voiced their gratitude to the city for the plaque.

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