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Melnick (Mimi) Collection
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  • Biographical Information:
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement of Materials:
  • Conditions Governing Access:
  • Conditions Governing Use:
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Preferred Citation:
  • Processing Information:

  • Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives
    Title: Mimi Melnick Collection
    Creator: Melnick, Mimi, 1935-2013
    Identifier/Call Number: URB.MCM
    Extent: 16.82 linear feet
    Extent: 5.28 Gigabytes
    Date (inclusive): 1938-2013
    Abstract: The Mimi Melnick Collection documents the personal and professional life of native Angeleno Miriam (Mimi) Clar Melnick, Jazz critic, Jazz pianist, and patron of Jazz musicians, whose activities played an influential role in the development of Jazz in the Los Angeles region between 1958 and 2010. The Collection also includes materials related to Melnick's family relationships and friendships, educational pursuits, her work as an author and editor, and her involvement in the preservation of urban industrial art.
    Language of Material: English

    Biographical Information:

    Mimi (Miriam) Clar was born in Hollywood, California on December 25, 1935 to parents Charles and Reva (née Howitt). Her father was a fireplace merchant and her mother was a former dancer featured in the all-female tap dancing company, the San Francisco Beauties, produced by Fanchon and Marco from 1923-1933. The Clar family lived in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. As a young child, Mimi expressed an interest in music and began classical piano lessons. By her early teens, she had become fascinated with Jazz, and came under the tutelage of prominent music educator, Sam Saxe. Mimi Clar attended public schools, graduating from John Marshall High School in 1953.
    Following high school, Mimi attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she majored in music, and as early as her freshman year, demonstrated superior skill in musical analysis and criticism. With encouragement from her instructors and notable Jazz journalist and editor, Charles Emge, Mimi began submitting articles and essays to various publications, including Musical Quarterly, Musical America, Vogue, Life, and Harper's. Mimi's acquaintance with conductor, music journalist, and UCLA lecturer, Albert Goldberg, represented a major turning point in her career. As the story is told, Mimi wrote a review of a Dixieland Jazz concert for one of Goldberg's classes, which was returned with a suggestion that she should focus her critical writing skills on "something serious." Mimi's response, "Jazz is serious," earned Goldberg's attention and respect, and later his recommendation for a position as music critic for the Los Angeles Times . She wrote regularly for the Times as a critic specializing in the coverage of jazz from 1958 to 1965, and published numerous articles in Western Folklore, Folklore International, and the Jazz Review.
    Mimi Clar graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor's degree in Music in 1960. She married Robert "Bob" Allan Melnick in Los Angeles on July 26, 1962. Bob Melnick, also a graduate of UCLA (1952), was an electronics engineer with a passion for photography. The couple settled in West Los Angeles. The Melnicks had a love of urban industrial art and began to collect a variety of pieces, with a particular interest in manhole covers. In 1974, the couple published Manhole Covers of Los Angeles, a limited edition pictorial published by Dawson's Book Shop. Soon after publication, the Melnicks began their research to document the history and artistry of manhole covers across the United States, photographing nearly three-hundred covers over a ten year period.
    Following her husband's death in 1982, Mimi relocated to Encino. Over the next ten years Mimi moved forward with the project, compiling her husband's photographs and her text, which culminated in Manhole Covers, published by MIT Press in 1994. A year later, Mimi successfully petitioned the Los Angeles City Council to preserve sixteen manhole covers as historical artifacts, ensuring that city agencies would preserve and protect the covers during street maintenance or urban renewal. Following the death of her mother in 1997, Mimi discovered Reva's memoirs and began a lengthy editing process that would result in the publication of Lollipop: Vaudeville Turns with a Fanchon and Marco Dancer in 2002.
    Along with writing projects and other interests, Mimi continued to play piano and her love for Jazz never wavered. In February 1996, she established a series of concerts dubbed the Double M Jazz Salon, staged at her home in the Encino hills, featuring both well-known and local Jazz artists. Audiences for Jazz Salons were by invitation only with limited seating, and all proceeds directly benefited the performers. For nearly two decades, the concerts drew the attention of Jazz musicians, critics, students, and Jazz historians, all of whom vied for a seat and the chance to experience the energy and intimacy of the Double M Jazz Salon. Mimi Melnick passed away on June 14, 2013 following heart surgery.

    Scope and Contents

    The Mimi Melnick Collection documents her personal and professional life, most significantly her influence over the emergence of Jazz as a legitimate area of academic study as well as her role in the development and promotion of Jazz in the Los Angeles region between 1958 and 2010. Notable individuals represented in the collection include Jazz musicians Horace Tapscott, Charles Owens, Roberto Miguel Miranda, Jesse Sharps, Billy Childs, Billy Higgins, and Walter Norris. Highlights in the collection include Melnick's published and unpublished reviews and essays on Jazz, her patronage of Jazz musicians in Los Angeles, and her work to preserve manhole covers as an urban art form. The collection is divided into two series, Series I, Personal Files (1938-2012), and Series II, Professional Files (1948-2013).
    Series I, Personal Files, documents Mimi Melnick's life experiences from childhood through adulthood, including her family relationships and friendships, musical interests, and educational pursuits. Diaries span nearly fifty years, beginning at age ten. Correspondence from Melnick consists of letters of reference, congratulations, sympathy, thank you notes, and fan letters to musicians, dancers, and writers. Correspondence to Melnick includes greeting cards, announcements and invitations, congratulatory wishes, responses from fan mail, and personal letters. Also included are event programs, other materials related to Melnick's personal activities and interests, and a small number of personal photographs. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject or title.
    Series II, Professional Files, documents Mimi Melnick's work as an author, musician, and patron of the Jazz community. Correspondence includes query letters to publishers, letters of interest to potential employers, research inquiries, administrative letters, and proposals for writing, music, and civic projects. Also included are research files and writings, publications and musical scores authored by Mimi Melnick and colleagues, articles by and about Mimi Melnick, Double M Jazz Salon flyers, signed and unsigned photographs of Jazz artists, and photographs, video, and audio of Double M Jazz Salons. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject or title.

    Arrangement of Materials:

    Series I: Personal Files, 1938-2012
    Series II: Professional Files, 1948-2013

    Conditions Governing Access:

    This collection is open for research use.

    Conditions Governing Use:

    Copyright for some unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection has been transferred to California State University, Northridge. Copyright status for other materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Richard Clar, Andrew R. Clar, Ilene Clar Perry, 03/18/2016.

    Preferred Citation:

    For information about citing items in this collection consult the appropriate style manual, or see the Citing Archival Materials   guide.

    Processing Information:

    Holli Teltoe, 2017

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Audiovisual materials
    Audiovisual materials