David Lee Roth is back with another illustrated story and this one tells of a darker side to sunny Pasadena.
Roth, born in Bloomington, Indiana, arrived in Pasadena during his teens. While attending Pasadena City College in the early 70s, he met the brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, who had moved from the Netherlands to Pasadena in 1962.
“True Story: There are two Pasadenas,” Roth wrote. “Every black, Mexican, Asian and Jewish kid growing up in the 60’s got that speech. The guest list back then was more ‘selective’. If you were Jewish, you only went to certain swimming pools. If you were black, you weren’t going…The Van Halen brothers had it worse, they didn’t even speak English..”
Roth, who is of Jewish heritage, has been open about the anti-Semitism he has faced. As he explained in his autobiography, “Crazy From the Heat,” much of his style and energy came from fury over anti-Semitism and an urge to crush Jewish stereotypes.
While Roth had his own struggles, he said the Van Halen brothers and their parents had it even worse. The brothers’ mother, Eugenia, met their father, Jan, a traveling musician, in Indonesia when it was under Dutch rule. Shortly after World War II, the couple decided to move to the Netherlands, where Eddie and Alex were born.
In 2019 Roth revealed on the podcast “WTF with Marc Maron” how difficult it was for Eddie and Alex when they arrived to America. He also described how Eugenia and Jan were treated because of their mixed-race relationship in the 1950s.
“It was a big deal. Those homeboys grew up in a horrifying racist environment to where they actually had to leave the country,” Roth said in the podcast.
He added that the brothers, who were often referred to as “half-breed” in the Netherlands, still met difficult circumstances after immigrating to the U.S.
“Then they came to America and did not speak English as a first language in the early ’60s. Wow,” Roth told Maron. “So that kind of sparking, that kind of stuff, that runs deep.”
Later in Roth’s illustration he writes of Mack Robinson, the older brother of Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. Roth wrote, “Mack Robinson beat the pants off Hitler’s pals in the 1936 Olympics. A particularly glorious victory for an African American. He also came in just behind Jesse Owens at the 200. Nobody mentioned a word of this in school. Pop told me.”
Mack Robinson is best known for winning a silver medal in the 1936 Summer Olympics, where he broke the Olympic record in the 200 meter. Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler saw the 1936 Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy and anti-Semitism, and the official Nazi Party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, wrote in the strongest terms that Jews should not be allowed to participate in the Games.
Later in life, Mack was known for leading the fight against street crime in his home town of Pasadena. According to his illustration, Roth got to meet up with Mack for some sage advice not once but twice a day.
Here’s Roth’s illustrated story of “The Two Pasadenas” coming straight from his Twitter page: