Dr. Ed Krupp, director of Griffith Observatory, on mission for outer space education

California

He’s the closest person to a real life Indiana Jones I have ever met.” — Elliott Porter, retired personnel director for the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department, which oversees the city-owned and city-operated Griffith Observatory.

After 2,200 expeditions to ancient and prehistoric medieval sites all over the world — hacking his way through thick jungle vines and taking buses to remote sites where no bus has gone before — you’d think Dr. Ed Krupp, Indiana Jones to his friends, would be slowing down as he approaches 80.

Not a chance. The director of Griffith Observatory for the last 45 years is still dreaming big, still looking for new adventures in space and on Earth to offer the people who sign his paycheck — the people of Los Angeles.

That’s the way Griffith J. Griffith — one Griffith was obviously not enough — wanted it back in 1935 when he stood on top of Mount Wilson looking at Saturn through the world’s largest telescope at the time, and wishing more people could see what he was seeing. Only scientists and special guests, many of them with deep pockets, were invited to take a peek.

  • Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in...

    Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb 2, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in...

    Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb 2, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in...

    Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb 2, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in...

    Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb 2, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in...

    Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb 2, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in...

    Griffith Observatory Director Edwin C. Krupp at the observatory in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb 2, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“He thought if mankind could look through this telescope it would change the world,” Krupp said. “He wanted to give everybody the chance to put an eyeball to the universe.”

Griffith had donated 3,000 acres to the city for a park named after him, and said here’s the land, build the people’s telescope. The only caveat was admission to the observatory had to be free.

Krupp laughed when I told him his friends and co-workers looked at him as an Indiana Jones, adventurous kind of guy. He had just hung up with his car mechanic and was feeling good. His 1968 Camaro he bought new was getting out of the shop any day now.

“I never thought that Camaro and I would stick together this long — 525,000 miles,” Krupp said. “We’ve been to the moon and back, and then some.”

I was beginning to see what his friends were talking about.

When he became curator of the observatory in 1974, he learned two weeks paid vacation time came with the job. That was like dangling the Holy Grail in his face.

“I decided to use it tracking down some prehistoric stone monuments alleged to have astronomical alignments around Great Britain,” he said. “From that point on, I just kept going, honestly, everywhere, all over the planet.”

He was one of the early Americans allowed into China to lead an expedition to Gao Cheng, a 13th century observatory considered the best in the world at the time.

“What I learned was that everything written about the place was wrong,” Krupp said. “You’ve got to go and see for yourself what’s really on the ground. Go to places no one goes to.” Be an Indiana Jones.

We start talking about the observatory — the longest-running, best show in town located on prime, panoramic real estate atop Mount Hollywood, a perfect spot to shoot a movie.

“We’ve had so many movies shot here we should have a star on Hollywood Boulevard,” he laughed. “This last concert by Adele for a TV special beautifully lit up the observatory and brought us a lot of visitors from around the world. On average, we have 1.6 million visitors a year.

“You know, when I was a kid one of the things I always wanted to do was make the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” he said. “I was completely taken in by the complexity of what was involved in a production like that.

“For me, working at Griffith Observatory for almost 50 years has been like making the ‘Wizard of Oz.’”

But the wizard’s job didn’t come easy. The first thing Krupp did when he became permanent director in 1978 was to send a memo to his bosses downtown alerting them all was not well in the land of Oz.

“I was anxious about some of the equipment utterly failing,” he said. “We needed to develop projections and a plan for the future.”

That was his idea in 1978. It took until 2002 for those projections and plans to kick off with a $93 million public bond renovation that shut the observatory down until 2006.

When it reopened it was state-of-the-art, thanks to a great working partnership between the city and the Griffith Observatory Foundation, Krupp said, adding a nod to Hollywood and Disneyland, too.

“There’s a direct track between Disneyland’s Rocket to the Moon ride and the observatory’s moon programs before Disneyland ever opened,” he said. “Likewise, Hollywood has its impact on us in developing a story, not a lecture, behind what we’re doing.

“Our last and best planetarium show, ‘Signs of Life’ could not have been produced without the highly specialized skills of digital animators right here in our backyard.”

With that said, it was time for Dr. Ed Krupp to put on his Indiana Jones hat and map out his next adventure. There’s going to be a total solar eclipse next year, and he’s spending his vacation time leading an expedition to a remote spot in central Mexico he’s keeping to himself.

“There is nothing in human experience like a total solar eclipse,” said the man who should know. “It’s almost a religious transformation that occurs with so many people — the universe operating before your very eyes.”

Griffith J. Griffith’s idea that if mankind could put an eyeball to the universe, it would change the world, may have come up a little short. But the dreams his generosity created for so many kids and their parents sitting in that incredible planetarium looking up to the heavens make him the most successful director/producer Hollywood’s ever seen.

But really, what were his parents thinking naming him Griffith?

Dennis McCarthy’s column runs on Sunday. He can be reached at dmccarthynews@gmail.com.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

MGK Covers “There’s Your Trouble” By The Chicks During His Spotify House Performance At CMA Fest
Kevin Smith Details Ratings Battle With MPA Over The 4:30 Movie
Kate Middleton to Make First Public Appearance Since Cancer Diagnosis
Judge grants tentative ruling to stop evictions at Barrington Plaza – NBC Los Angeles
Dragons Ride Again, Vicar on the Move in ‘Grantchester,’ Tony Awards, ‘Hotel Cocaine’