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Summer 2015 Update
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Summer 2015 UPDATE
The Celebration of a Lifetime

WHEN GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY OPENED TO THE PUBLIC 80 YEARS AGO, there was no space shuttle. We hadn’t sent rovers to Mars. In fact, even sending a craft into space or stepping foot on the Moon were still dreams. Fast forward to August 2012. A thrilled and excited crowd gathered at Griffith Observatory to watch a live feed from NASA JPL and exploded into wild cheers as the rover Curiosity made a picture-perfect landing on the Red Planet. Then in September, thousands of spectators looked skyward as Space Shuttle Endeavour flew over the Observatory on its final journey atop a specially-outfitted 747.


It is phenomenal how far we have come in such a short time, and how much Griffith Observatory has seen and shared with the public over the years. For all our scientific and technological advancements, though, one thing has never changed: the importance and wonder of human imagination. It drives us to explore, to learn. And Griffith Observatory has helped us to experience the heavens in increasingly new and marvelous ways, and to engage in the pure joy of letting our own imaginations soar and participating in the observation of the universe.So it was, then, that on May 11, 2015, friends and guests gathered in the venerable Observatory to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and get a glimpse of the endless possibilities ahead. The Celebration of a Lifetime: An 80th Anniversary Conversation about Astronomy, Space, and Human Imagination was a magnificent evening, and one of great importance for both Griffith Observatory and Friends Of The Observatory.


The evening began in the W.M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda, the historic part of the Observatory. After enjoying an elegant reception sponsored by Gelson’s, visiting with old friends and meeting new ones, guests adjourned to the highlight of the event: a spirited, intelligent, and sometimes humorous conversation with three distinguished stellar giants in the fields of astronomy and space exploration.


Moderated by Griffith Observatory Curator Dr. Laura Danly, the discussion featured star panelists Dr. E.C. Krupp, Director, Griffith Observatory; Dr. Charles Elachi, Director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Dr. John M. Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA. They led us on a fascinating journey across time – 80 exciting years of Griffith Observatory, astronomy, and space exploration. To our delight, our esteemed guests then shared their personal perspectives on the endless possibilities in the years ahead. Where were we then, where are we now, and where are we going… the observations, anecdotes, and projections fascinated and captivated the audience. We invite you to share in this warm and engaging experience by enjoying a two-part video of the conversation at As Griffith Observatory Deputy Director Mark Pine so accurately observes, the program truly illustrates how important Griffith Observatory is as a world leader in bringing astronomy to the public.


The wonderful evening concluded with champagne and anniversary cupcakes in the Gunther Depths of Space.


The Celebration of a Lifetime – how illuminating to look back at the past 80 years; and how exciting to look forward to the next 80! From all of your friends at FOTO, we congratulate Griffith Observatory on this special anniversary. Thank you for your contributions to public astronomy, and we look forward to seeing your glorious dome up on the hill long into the future as you chronicle and share with all of us what is yet to come.


Thanks to the sponsors of this spectacular evening: Gelson’s; United; Sobul, Primes & Schenkel; Macy’s; and Southern California Edison

Executive Director's Report
by Camille Lombardo, FOTO Executive Director

Dear Friends,

I remember exactly where I was on November 22, 1963, September 11, 2001, and February 27, 2015. The first two were national tragedies, and the third was a day of mourning for much of the nation, too. It is the day Leonard Nimoy passed away. Leonard was a special human being. He was kind and generous, and so smart. The Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater at Griffith Observatory is not only a lasting legacy to his memory, but also a gift to generations of visitors who have the opportunity to experience cosmic perspective there.

The importance of the contribution Leonard and his wonderful wife, Susan, made to the Observatory’s renovation and expansion far exceeded its cash value because they also gave their personal time, abundant energy, and celebrity reputation. Every time Leonard was asked to help FOTO, he always said “yes.” So, although his public memory will live on in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater, I will never forget the days he spent joking with the crew while filming The Once and Future Griffith Observatory video that airs every hour in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater. I remember his face when we toured the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. before visiting Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Congressman Adam Schiff at the Capitol. I remember how he posed with every Congressional staffer and signed every autograph after word spread that Leonard Nimoy was in the building. I remember the freezing cold night he performed Observations live with the orchestra on the Observatory’s lawn, then returned to the Greek Theatre the next day to do it all over again for 4,000 high school students. Leonard really worked to make our shared dream for Griffith Observatory a reality.

There are many more memories I could share that illustrate his dignity, integrity, and commitment, but I think Leonard’s own words express his amazing spirit best.”I don’t think it’s any secret that a lot of the work I’ve done in my career had to do with space exploration. [I] look out there at the stars when I go to a place like the Griffith Observatory and I realize in a rush that we are part of a gigantic cosmos. The possibilities of it are so extraordinary that to feel connected to all of that is a precious gift.”


LEONARD NIMOY... a true friend, and a true Friend Of The Observatory

”We love the Griffith Observatory. It’s a crown jewel in the city of Los Angeles.”Leonard Nimoy

Council Member Tom Labonge's Big Bang
Honoring a Los Angeles Legacy of Astronomical Proportion

On October 27, 2014, more than 400 distinguished guests gathered to celebrate COUNCILMEMBER TOM LABONGE and his many years of advocacy for Griffith Observatory. It was truly a “Big Bang” success, and Friends Of The Observatory would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Tom for his support through the years and to everyone who joined us on this very special occasion.


Griffith Observatory Director Dr. E.C. Krupp welcomed Tom LaBonge, stellar guest of honor at the Big Bang event, and presented him with a beautiful collage of Observatory photos as his wife - Brigid, son - Charles, and daughter - Mary-Cate LaBonge share in the celebratory moment.


Congressman Adam Schiff presented Councilmember LaBonge with a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol building. Mindi Abair, prominent jazz musician and great fan of Griffith Observatory, was spectacular, drawing guests to the presentation as she played her saxophone while walking among the guests.


The Los Angeles Police Emerald Society & Pipes and Drums Band played in greeting as guests arrived. Lynette Romero, KTLA 5 Morning News anchor and reporter, and actor Neal McDonough were the engaging co-hosts for this spectacular evening.

Thank You Joy Picus
Builder of the Future, Knower of All People, Defender of the Hill, and Champion of the Stars

That’s how the Friends Of The Observatory Board of Directors described one of our very favorite friends JOY PICUS as they saluted Joy for her service as Board President during the September 2002 Board meeting.

Now, after 12 more years of service, we once again have the honor of recognizing Joy for her accomplishments and thanking her for her dedication. After serving on the Board of Directors since 1994, with four years as President and most recently as its Chair, Joy retired from our Board at the end of 2014. She will remain an Emeritus member.

If you have lived in Los Angeles for a while, you’ll surely recognize Joy’s name – and not as just a part of the FOTO Board. She served for 16 years as a member of the Los Angeles City Council representing the West San Fernando Valley, an illustrious tenure during which her achievements and impact on the community were legendary. The results of her commitment endure today.

Joy’s love for the heavens began early in life. In fact, as a child growing up in Chicago, she insisted on monthly visits to the Adler Planetarium! Her husband, Gerry, is a physicist. “I taught him to recognize Orion,” Joy says, “but he’s the one who actually understands astronomical concepts and details and is my indispensable technical advisor.”

Joy’s passion for public astronomy and science literacy and her love of Griffith Observatory have made her a tremendous asset to Friends Of The Observatory throughout the years. She has guided us through myriad initiatives with determination, insight, and perspective. Her knowledge of the inner working of government helped, too. Joy was instrumental in the fundraising effort for the renovation of the Observatory. When she joined the Board in 1994, the projected cost of the renovation was $28M; it turned into $93M. During her recent retirement party, Joy quipped, “I assisted with the governmental fundraising. When it was over I said ‘I no longer have to lurk in hallways and sprint across lawns.’” She recalled that she did a lot of advocacy/lobbying in her 16 years with the City Council. But the most thrilling lobbying she did was for FOTO, “when we walked the halls of Congress with Leonard Nimoy.” She described Mr. Nimoy as being “unbelievable: always gracious, wonderful, and smiling.”


In paying tribute to Joy at her party, Griffith Observatory Deputy Director Mark Pine summed it up beautifully: “The reason why it worked for her being a great politician is because she is a great person, a great supporter, and a great friend.”


“Joy was, and still is, an incredible ambassador for FOTO,” says FOTO Executive Director Camille Lombardo. “Working so closely with her for so many years, I was constantly amazed at what she was able to accomplish in furtherance of Griffith Observatory and FOTO. We will miss her as a Board member, and thank her for her many years of support and dedication to our organization and our beloved Observatory.”

A Glimpse from the Dome
by Mark Pine, Deputy Director, Griffith Observatory

Though we love to have you visit Griffith Observatory in person, we’re very pleased to offer a variety of ways to connect with us online. We’ve been working on expanding our virtual presence to make it easier to get exhibit information, watch a live astronomical event, enjoy a recorded lecture, or keep up with the Observatory on social media. A number of those improvements have been made possible with FOTO support, and we are grateful for the opportunity to reach out to people with the wonders of the cosmos. Below is a glimpse of some of these initiatives.


Check Out Our Enhanced Website

The most exciting change is the addition of all our exhibit content! With a few easy clicks, you can relive your exhibit visit and get additional information about the concepts and images. Plus, there’s a great new map that will help you find out where each exhibit is located. Whether you’re planning a visit or would like to spend some more time on things that especially intrigued you when you came to see us, it’s all right there for you. We’ve also made the entire website easier to navigate and more user-friendly, so you can enjoy your time with us online as much as you do in person.

Join the Live Broadcasts on Griffith TV

In just the last six months, we’ve offered 12 high-quality live broadcasts! These have included the total lunar eclipse in April 2015, a series of programs celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, and two recent presentations regarding the exciting developments at Pluto. Once the events are over, the broadcasts are archived so they can be watched after the fact as well. Our live astronomical event broadcasts are often picked up by NASA TV and major media outlets, meaning that our content is shared with millions of people around the world. Curator Dr. Laura Danly and her team have made us world leaders!

Catch Up with Us on YouTube

Whether you’re looking for an intriguing segment from our popular All Space Considered program or a special lecture you weren’t able to attend, our YouTube page is the place for you! You-ll also find a link from our website.

Follow Us on Social Media



Stay Connected When You Visit With FREE Public WiFi We’re pleased to announce that free WiFi is now available in the public and reserved parking lots, on the east side of the lawn, on the West Terrace, and on Sunset Terrace (outside the café).


We are grateful to Friends Of The Observatory for their support and help in enabling us to continue to grow our relationship with the public.

Top 25 US Landmarks – #11, Griffith Observatory
by 2015 Trip Advisor's Traveler’s Choice

Griffith Observatory Architecture Spotlighted in Fabulous New Book

We are pleased to announce that a stunning new book, Griffith Observatory: A Celebration of its Architectural Splendor by Arnold Schwartzman, is now available for sale in the Stellar Emporium at Griffith Observatory. It can also be purchased conveniently from its online store; you’ll find the link on Griffith Observatory’s website home page.


The 144-page book is filled with spectacular images of the interior and exterior of the Observatory building. If you love Griffith Observatory and are awestruck by its architectural beauty, this book is a must-have for your personal library!

FOTO Staff Welcomes Bonnie Winings

Please join us in warmly welcoming FOTO’S NEW DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS, BONNIE WININGS. Bonnie might be new to the FOTO staff, but she is certainly not new to the FOTO family! Our long-time friend has made the transition from Board member to staff member, and we couldn’t be more delighted to have her join the team.

In addition to her tenure as a member of the FOTO Board of Directors, Bonnie also served as its President in 2007 and 2008. She has been a part of everything we accomplished through the past years, and now, the best is yet to come!

Get to know Bonnie a bit better as she shares with you her background, some thoughts and memories of her association with FOTO, and her vision for the future…


Dear friends,

It’s a great pleasure to be joining the FOTO staff, an organization that I truly love and whose mission I deeply support.


I’ve been a space and astronomy enthusiast since looking through a telescope when I was 10 at a summer camp deep in the Michigan woods. My new role with FOTO is the perfect blend of passion, interests, and opportunity for me; but I can’t say my career path brought me here in a straight line!

Teaching was my original choice – high school and college communication classes. I especially loved the filmmaking and science fiction curriculums I helped develop. From there to PBS, where I screened programs and solidified my skills dealing with media coverage. I also did fundraising at KCET, and at some point, a rep from the very small Friends Of The Observatory Board called to ask about offering memberships on-air. We worked that out, but the greater benefit from that call was that I got to know Griffith Observatory, and I was smitten with the stars (the real stars) once again.

My Board experience started in 1987, and I provided direct marketing experience. It has grown and evolved to include initiating and managing media coverage – whether of eclipses, solstices, equinoxes, transits of Venus, the 2006 renovation (and exhibit) reopening, new planetarium shows, Endeavour flyover, or discussions about landers on comets and Christmas stars.

Through increased outreach, we’re building a global brand out of Griffith Observatory, whose live streaming coverage is now carried by entities like NASA, The Weather Channel, Time Magazine Online, NBC Nightly News, and Reuters. Foreign crews are now coming to tape story segments on the institution. Yet six days a week, this Los Angeles icon is open (and free) to the public and carries on with its mission: to inspire everyone to observe, ponder, and understand the sky.

Griffith Observatory is a jewel in the crown of Los Angeles. With a breathtaking nighttime view of the city, welcoming and engaging staff, stimulating exhibits that make us think and wonder, it is a place that has earned, and deserves, our support. And that’s what I’m here to do.

I look forward to meeting all of you up on the hill!

All the best,


Bonnie Winings


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