In part two of our mini-bio on Glendale City Councilman John Drayman, we pick up at the point where John graduated from Crescenta Valley High School.
Although he had been in student government all through school, John’s true passion was theater arts. He had been a major player in the drama program at CVHS, and after graduation completed a BA and a Master’s in theater with the well known New Theatre, Inc. He spent the ’80s and early ’90s directing theatrical productions in hundreds of renowned regional theatres including the Paper Mill Playhouse and the St. Louis Municipal Opera Company, and with Broadway touring companies. During those years, he worked with such Hollywood favorites such as Martin Sheen, Yvonne De Carlo, Dorothy Lamour, the Gabor sisters, Eddie Albert, Buddy Ebsen, Cyd Charrise, Tab Hunter and Donald O’Connor.
John moved successfully into television, appearing in more than 250 national commercials and over 150 television shows, many of them popular sitcoms of their day, such as “Full House,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Frasier,” “Married… With Children” and “Sisters.” In the mid-1990s, however, it all came to screeching halt when he suffered a fall and plunged the equivalent of two stories from the door of an airliner. The injuries he sustained ended a run in which he had been on television every day for 20 years.
Forced to put his career on hold, he joined his father and brother in their family photography studio in Montrose, taking over the digital restoration and conservation duties of the studio and soon transitioned the business to more profitable work, developing accounts with dozens of state historical societies, state archives and museum collections.
Although his injuries had ended his career on the soundstage, John still had that great voice, and he launched a career in voice-overs. Some of his more recognizable work included a stint as the voice of the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Roger Rabbit and supplying the voices of Orson Welles, John Huston, Willem Dafoe and Gregory Peck for sound remastering of some of their classic films, and—my favorite—dubbing in clean words to censor expletives in racier movies being cleaned up for television and for airline viewing. (If someone said “S***!” in a movie, it became John Drayman saying “Shoot!” in the TV version.) During this same time, John also edited two New York Times bestselling biographies, one on Frank Sinatra and the other on the Kennedys which also became an NBC mini-series.
All during this period John kept his fingers in community issues. In the ’80s he got involved in a successful lawsuit against an unscrupulous Glendale builder, helping to craft a creative settlement, then expanding that settlement option to successfully help homeowners who had become the economic prisoners of their housing. He compelled the county and state to clean up abandoned properties in Montrose and La Crescenta. But overall, John was focused on career and the family business.
The catalyst to make John into the man we know today came one afternoon in 2001 when John tried to pick up his father from their shop on Ocean View Boulevard. He was not able to get to their store because of street closures associated with the Thursday Night Family Festival. When it became clear that the event had nearly bankrupted the Montrose Shopping Park Association, John complained to the board of directors, conflict ensued, and, in classic Drayman style, a year later he was president of the MSPA board. During John’s tenure as head of the MSPA, he began the popular Sunday Harvest Market, which had a stronger family-friendly theme than the Thursday event, and in fact injected that family atmosphere into the shopping park as a whole, pumping up awareness of the region’s history, and playing on the old-town, or “Mayberry” theme. He created the Montrose Old-Town Christmas celebration, the July 4th Hot-Rod Block Party, Founders Day and Kids ’n Kritters Day.
John also brought physical improvements to the area, such as the return of the popular vintage streetlights, and removal of the overhead airport-style lights. He lobbied the city to repair cracked sidewalks, at the same time remove old, broken gas-lamps, move electrical boxes to side streets, and remove many of the overhead wires that criss-crossed the boulevard. Under his leadership, the ranks of the shopping park association swelled from 138 businesses to 213, signaling a renaissance for Montrose, with 100% occupancy for the first time in decades.
As John took on more and more community projects, he realized he could be more effective as a city hall insider, so he took his first run at Glendale City Council in ’05. Glendale politics were definitely changing, but not quick enough, and John missed a seat on the council by just 451 votes. He learned from the experience, and ran again in ’07, this time with a bigger budget and a stronger campaign team.
The results are Glendale (and Crescenta Valley) history. The Glendale portion of La Crescenta voted in uncharacteristically large numbers with John winning every precinct north of Glendale Community College, as well as a historic 30 out of 50 precincts city-wide. For the first time ever, a CV native was elected to a seat on the Glendale City Council and in the process defeated a two-term incumbent and former mayor. It was, in a sense, an awakening for the Glendale portion of CV. We had finally realized our political potential after 50 years of quiet slumber.
John hit the ground running, with several years of pent up projects in mind. First up was to negotiate the purchase of the abandoned Rockhaven Sanitarium, which not only created a unique site for the planned new library and community center, but saved us from the fight against the many multi-family units that would have been shoehorned onto the 3½ acre site.
When the Glendale Planning Department began its reworking of its community standards, John persuaded them to focus on Foothill Boulevard first. But John was not concentrating only on CV. He worked on the whole of Glendale. He was instrumental in the opening of the Adams Square Park, with its retro gas-station centerpiece, getting it back on track after the design veered from residents’ wishes. He created a Small Business Task Force, bringing together the leadership of all of Glendale’s small business districts, served as chair of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency, and served a term as mayor. He reformed the city residential Design Review Board process, changed the way city commissioners are appointed, changed the format of our city council meetings, led the effort to preserve Mountain Oaks and brought Glendale its very first downtown museum, MONA (Museum Of Neon Art). With John’s successful support of Laura Friedman to the city council (turning out yet another two-term incumbent council member), for the first time in years the council appears to get along. (No more “Tuesday Night at the Fights” for Channel 6 viewers.)
In an intentional tribute to his father, Jay Drayman, John’s nameplate on the council dais reads “J Drayman,” leaving it to the public’s imagination as to whether the “J” stands for John or Jay.
So there it is, the classic story of the hometown boy who makes good in the big city. It’s almost a “Mr. Smith Goes to Glendale” story. Not everyone sees John as all good. Opinions of him range from a reputation of being a bright, young “idea guy” to that of a savvy and cunning “political animal.” But no one can deny that we’ve got him in our corner, that he still is, and always will be, a Montrose boy.