Pasadena goes looking for Eddie Van Halen memorial ideas – Pasadena Star News

While legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen will soon be memorialized in Pasadena — whether that involves renaming a street or an alley, or building a statute or rechristening a city building — exactly what the memorial will be remains to be seen.

During a City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 26, elected officials directed City Manager Steve Mermell to bring together a public group to bat around a few ideas, then return to the council with suggestions as to how the city could remember its homegrown guitar god.

Van Halen died three weeks ago, losing a battle to throat cancer at the age of 65.

One suggestion, initially made in the staff report, would see alleyway Electric Drive renamed for Eddie Van Halen — or, as his name is written in the staff report, Edward L. Van Halen.

“Tonight, we can’t have a workshop on where we can put the memorial or where it should face at sundown and the like,” Councilman Steve Madison said. “The only thing substantively we should decide is to never call him Edward L. Van Halen again.”

Residents who live near Electric Drive spoke out against renaming the alleyway — which runs behind the Raymond Theater, one of Van Halen’s rehearsal spaces — concerned that it would attract significant crowds. That’s according to Steve Mulheim, the president of the Old Pasadena Management District.

Others suggested potentially erecting a monument somewhere in the city, whether that’s a statue of Van Halen, or a plaque on one of the band’s former stomping grounds, or renaming a walkway in the city-owned convention center, where Van Halen played some of its first shows.

The prospect of a Van Halen memorial in Pasadena brought out dozens of public commenters, including several from out of state, urging the city to take action, each with their own suggestions.

Some suggested renaming a park, several asked for a life-size statue, others want to turn his childhood home into a historic landmark. One person pressed the city to preserve the concrete where Van Halen wrote his name in the sidewalk outside a local liquor store.

Councilman Victor Gordo suggested that Mermell convene a group of interested parties to figure out the best way to remember Van Halen, the local boy who changed rock and roll forever. Gordo grew up just a few blocks from the Van Halen home on Las Lunas Street.

The move was universally supported, though Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton noted it came just days after the city removed memorials to Anthony McClain, a local Black man killed by a Pasadena police officer who shot McClain twice in the back as he fled from a traffic stop in August.

“I am happy to say I support this 100%,” Hampton said, “but I also need to recognize that people have died at the hands of public employees in the city of Pasadena.”

He hoped the city would create a memorial for McClain and others who have been killed the Pasadena Police Department, something many other public commenters suggested.

“Respectfully, I question the priorities of city staff and this council,” resident and activist Sonja Berndt wrote in a public comment submitted to the council. “Many of our residents continue to grieve over Anthony McClain. … It is very troubling that the commemoration of Mr. Van Halen is deemed worthy of the council’s immediate attention in the same week city officials dismantled two community memorials for Mr. McClain.

“Memorials reflect the city’s beliefs and values,” she continued. “While it may be appropriate to honor Mr. Van Halen at some point in the future, now is not the time.” She urged the council to find ways to bring the community together.

After listening to the public comments, many echoing Berndt’s message, Mayor Terry Tornek said, “As you can see, nothing is easy in Pasadena.”

He stressed that the council was concerned with the recent uproar around the McClain memorials and said the Van Halen memorial and a potential McClain memorial were “not mutually exclusive.”

“This is something that will take some care and some consideration,” Tornek said.

Van Halen was the co-founder of the famed eponymous rock band, Van Halen, along with his brother Alex, and friends David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony. They all grew up in the Pasadena area; the Van Halens and Roth both attended school in the city.

By 1977, Van Halen the band secured its first recording contract and churned out several multi-platinum albums over the next decade.

By the mid-1980s, Van Halen was regarded as one of the best-selling rock artists of all time. Van Halen himself was “credited with reinventing heavy metal and fusing it with pop for a new rock and roll sound,” it says.

Van Halen was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

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