The Downtown Report: Early May Edition

Joe Tatar

Here is the promised follow-up from his family. As you read in our last issue, sadly Joe Tatar passed away on April 18. Here are their thoughts.

Joe Tatar has been performing continuously in Orange County since 1960. He was a Chicago native who came out to California as a teenager and went to Whittier High School, Fullerton Junior College, and ultimately received his degree at Cal State Fullerton in journalism. He was the president of his class and of his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau. While attending school, he got a job as a photographer at the Daily News Tribune in Fullerton. At that time, The Tribune was next to the old firehouse on Wilshire Blvd. in Downtown Fullerton where he would jump on the back of fire trucks to capture his photographs.

He also took many photographs of two presidents, JFK and Richard Nixon. In 1960, he began performing at Orange County lounges and became one of the County’s most popular musicians. He played at the Brook in Anaheim, which was one of the most popular spots during the 60s.

My dad’s performances were a throwback to another era mixing vaudeville comedy with popular standards and current hits of the day. He was a high energy musician who put on an audience-interactive show. Each song he sang came with a story and he had a special talent and ability to connect with the crowd.

He could slam the ivories like Jerry Lee Lewis and also comically captivate people in true Victor Borge style. In the 80s Joe produced the American Cancan Review that toured Japan as well as playing the 1985 World’s Fair in Tsukuba, Japan along with Miss America Sharlene Wells. The show also included members of his family as performers along with other very talented dancers and musicians.

Toward the end of his career and up until his passing this April, Joe had a full schedule playing retirement homes and private events. Prior to the pandemic he was playing up to 500 shows a year. He certainly lived up to his nickname as Mr. Orange County, the Piano Man.

Joe Tatar: March 19, 1941-April 6, 2022

Bike Or Dine

Walk on Wilshire/Bicycle Boulevard prior to installation of new barriers.

Many COVID restrictions have finally been eased, and with that, changes are afoot. This section of West Wilshire was part of a designated bike boulevard that extended from Woods Ave east of Euclid all the way to Annin Ave, just west of Acacia, a total of about two miles. In May of 2020, the section that extends west from Harbor Blvd became Walk on Wilshire, and outdoor dining has been allowed ever since. How to keep both? Barricades were installed on April 22 in order to return the bike right-of-way, and we’ll see how this all plays out.

New barriers on Walk on Wilshire/Bicycle Boulevard.

New In Town

Heading north on Harbor, what’s this? New signage is going up at the former Fullerton Cameras store. With the unfortunate and sudden passing of owner Mike Rice, and before that, Fullerton Photographics moving to a new location on St. College, we photo nuts thought that was it for photo shops downtown but no, the location will re-open as a new camera store soon and that’s good news. Fullerton Photo continues to do well, and best of luck to all at Image One, at 809 North Harbor.

Strings Attached

Stopped by the venerable Mo’s Music for their D’Addario exchange where guitar players were treated to a new set of D’Addario XAS strings, plus free cleaning and installation/tuning. Owner Roger was happy to see the all-ages mix of customers coming in—easy to tell by the smile on his face. Mo’s is at 121 North Harbor, of course, where it has been for decades. Stop by, say hi, and get some music in your soul.

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream

Nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be. Often someone brings up the name of a place or an item that they wish was still around, even though it IS still around. Case in point—people yearning for Thrifty Ice Cream, still available inside Rite-Aid. Oh yes, remember when music lovers went to a record store? Oh if only. Black Hole Records has been in business for 35 years and is still going strong at the southwest corner of Harbor and Santa Fe. The latest wishful thought I heard was about “those old balsa wood airplanes that we used to play with for hours and hours.” Still here, on the checkout counter at Ace Hardware on Commonwealth. Orange Crush soda? Get one at Roscoes in SoCo.

Photo Quiz

Where can you find this guy in our downtown? Send answer to Mike at

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