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Tournament of Roses names 2019 Grand Marshal

Tournament of Roses names 2019 Grand Marshal

In August, a Pasadena Tournament of Roses (PTOR) staffer and I were in a Pasadena café at which time she told me, “it’s about ready to really get going again next month!”  “It”, meaning the final 4 months of the year where PTOR really gets in gear and up to speed as it closes in on rolling out the next Rose Parade down Orange Grove & Colorado Boulevard and kicking-off the Rose Bowl football game. 

Here we are in mid-October and every week since we wind down closer to the start of the New Year with the Rose Parade & Bowl game.  In September hundreds tried out for the Royal Court, followed a couple weeks later with the selection of the Royal Court.   Last week we found out entertainer Chaka Khan is to be the parade Grand Marshal.

Didn’t hear about any of that, don’t know the details/name?  Well, we’ll review what happened last week only, along with some photos, for you before the PTOR announces to the world tonight which Royal Court Princess would be the 101st new Rose Queen.

(BTW, back on that August morning I responded to the aforementioned PTOR employee by saying something like, “Yes, but I plan to skip coverage of it this year.  I need a break from reporting & photographing this after several years!”   That was before my memory was jump-started with a jolt of caffeine to remind me this was a significant year in PTOR history with the first African-American named to head the PTOR.  So, I’ve since reported on the selection of the Royal Court on another Pasadena news website.  No way could  I take my break this year.)

So, here we go again…

Last week here in The Crown City, some of can still remember the name the new Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade, and yet perhaps a larger group still haven’t heard the news (“Who/What/When/Where/Why???”):  Well, The highlight of last week in Pasadena was entertainer Chaka Khan being named as the Grand Marshal (GM) for the 2019 Pasadena Tournament of Roses (PTOR) Parade & Rose Bowl game.

Wrigley House aka Tournament House HQ: where it all goes down.   The calm before the “storm”,  staged for the coming crowd and GM announcement.   Going in!



At least 1/2 hour before the show is planned to be televised live at 9am and surprised at the light turnout.   However, once the “lights, camera – Action!” was ready (at 9:30am) it appeared to be one of the larger turnouts for this event.  But at this morning moment, it’s mostly just media and PTOR staff…and the wonderful KTLA-5 reporter Christina Pascucci, and your devoted reporter.   In her USC cardinal red (or PTOR rose red), Christina gives a Fight-On sign!




Some notes, and more photos, at the end of this article but for now “just the facts” from the PTOR on their selection



On October 17, 2018, singer, songwriter, and philanthropist Chaka Khan was announced today as the 2019 Grand Marshal by Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny. Chaka will ride in the 130th Rose Parade presented by Honda, themed “The Melody of Life” and join in the pre-game celebration of the 105th Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual both are held on January 1, 2019. As an added bonus for millions of viewers around the world, Chaka is scheduled to perform in the parade’s Opening Spectacular.

Chaka is one of the most celebrated musicians with a rich musical legacy. As a singer, songwriter, actor, author, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Chaka has influenced generations of entertainers. She has the rare ability to sing in seven music genres, including R&B, pop, rock, gospel, country, world music and classical.  Affectionately known around the world as Chaka, she is respected by millions of fans as well as her peers for her timeless, classic and unmatched signature music style and ability. Throughout her legendary career, Chaka has released 22 albums and ten #1 Billboard magazine charted songs. However, the song that propelled her to stardom was the 1984 chart-topping, GRAMMY® award-winning song, “I Feel For You,” written and first performed by Prince.

Despite her busy schedule, Chaka has always made time to support and uplift her community. In 1999 she established the Chaka Khan Foundation which educates, inspires and empowers children to achieve their full potential. Through the Chaka Believes Program, the foundation gives children in Los Angeles who are at risk, either through poverty or through health issues like autism, the ability to achieve their dreams and give back to the community.



And now, some notes on the rest of the story…

Some personal observations since, well, that’s the reason you want a reporter live “on the ground” – to tell you what you saw/heard beyond simply parroting “just the facts”.

First, it sounds like the announcement was planned to be made a few minutes earlier than it actually did.  I overheard this at the event and then later read something to that.  Apparently Khan’s arrival was delayed.  In my experience, these “made for TV” PTOR events have always been fine-tuned to go on exactly on time.   For the first time I can recollect it got off to a late start.


Some PTOR “white-suiter” friends hanging in the shadows waiting for the festivities to finally start.  Through their decades of PTOR and PTOR Heritage Committee  experience I’ve learned most of my PTOR history.



A couple of my fellow media friends who I had spoken with minutes earlier, for some unknown reason suddenly stroll into my shot! I’m going to assume they did this all innocently without any awareness that I was trying to get a shot of the podium!



Just waiting around for KTLA-5 to give the clue for the Grand Marshall announcement to begin, chatting with friends and playing celebrity photographer.  Pictured is 2017 PTOR President Brad Ratliff & wife with Pasadena Chief of Fire & his wife.



Waiting & lingering reached the colorful 2019 Rose Parade theme – The Melody of Life – on the front lawn.



Playing photographer and Observer.  When Vin Scully was named Grand Marshal there a couple of clues as to who it would be laid out which, being my first GM even, I thought were out of place and odd: the color blue, cracker jack, baseballs, etc.   This year, besides following in the musical theme, I didn’t notice any clues at the event.


2019 Queen & Royal Court Chairman Craig Washington with 2017 PTOR President Brad Ratliff.  Washington’s daughter was the Rose Queen just a few years back. Last I heard she was in law school in northern California.




David Eads PTOR Chief Operating Officer/Executive Director with Pasadena’s Chief of Fire Bertral Washington.  Eads became the new COO/ED last year and is the man most responsible for the daily operations of the PTOR. Why are they smiling/laughing?  (Certainly not because of anything I would say!)



Finally, 2019 Chairman/President of the PTOR Gerald Freeny steps out from behind the royal curtain.   He looks toward my direction and stops for a few seconds.  I’ve taken photos of Chairman Freeny 2-3 times earlier this year.  Later, upon closer inspection, I notice it appears he is looking right at me. If so, perhaps he remembered me from earlier photo ops and decided to “pose” here to be sure I got my shots!  Probably not, but one day I’ll ask him.

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The PTOR Marketing & Communication Superwoman – Heidi Hoff – suddenly makes her appearance off to my side.  She probably was the PTOR official who first welcomed Khan that morning.  From my observations, these type of events aren’t ready to roll, and roll smoothly, without her firmly, efficiently, and quietly, at the helm!




Ok now, is everybody in? The show is about to begin.  We’re ready to roll and so are the cameras…


The President makes his introductory remarks and promptly gets down into giving the biographical background of his choice for Grand Marshall. In his remarks he mentions musician Stevie Wonder at least twice!   He’s my guess for GM.   Wow, did I just guess correctly?   Strangely, he’s not to be.  Minutes before the announcement of the GM, I was querying people about their guess for GM. The name most mentioned was Stevie Wonder.  He was my guess too. Has the PTOR ever selected a blind GM?  Turns out it was a wild guess at best despite Freeny mentioning Wonder’s name.




The Grand Marshall of the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade & Rose Bowl is singer, songwriter, philanthropist, and 10-time Grammy Award winner, CHAKA KHAN the Queen of Funk   Why Khan?   Among his reasons, Freeny says, “She’s every woman – nobody like her!”

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The new Grand Marshal entered outside from inside a curtain to be met first by a delighted Freeny and then applause from the gathered Royal Court, White-Suiters, PTOR staff,  and Media on the front lawn of Tournament House.



Khan’s “thank you speech”, “I’m so honored”, is sincere & heartfelt.   But she also sounds unprepared.   Each time the new Grand Marshal refers to the parade (or is it the game) she calles it the “Rose Bowl Parade”.    Didn’t see her reading from any prepared notes but in her case it would’ve helped.    Perhaps her preparedness was not entirely her fault.  The President of the PTOR is obviously delighted with his choice.




Hoff steps into the picture to insure this live media event stays on track and rolling smoothly.


The Audience.  Appeared larger than the norm.   Many attendees I’m acquainted with, others I’m familiar with, others I don’t know yet some give me a strange look of knowing!  Used to it by now.  Many taking photos with their telephones, ahem, camera-phones, of course.



Surperreporter Pascucci goes live to report back to KTLA-5 in Hollywood.




Pasadena Media cameraman waits turn behind PTOR photographers to interview and video Grand Marshal Khan.




Reaction.  Later that day the only feedback I received when people heard Chaka Khan was selected Grand Marshal was a mix of surprise and lukewarmness.  This included a response from one of the most prominent & well-known women in Pasadena.   And the name most mentioned as their guess for GM?  Stevie Wonder.  Same as my guess.  Nobody said, “Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan!” NoteRolling on the floor laughingNote

But in her “acceptance speech” Khan did say, “I hope you like me”.   I think most people do and more will as I expect she’ll be better prepared and polished as January 1st nears.

Well, this was a relatively unusual PTOR event.  And to think I was planning to sit-out writing & photographing the 2019 PTOR!   Still, I’ve, “Been there, Done that”, for several years – more years than I originally planned.  I took the smallest number of photographs and wasn’t even interested in interviewing the new Grand Marshal. I do need a re-charging. Maybe in two years!


2019 Grand Marshall Chaka Khan with fan/friend.  After the announcement  Khan was taken inside Tournament House for a private audience.   The TV audience outside dispersed very quickly compared to other GM events I’ve covered.  My friend and I seemed to be the only ones left.  She had taken photos of/with Khan at other events and now planned to wait until 10:30am in the hope she would catch another photo with Khan as she departed.   “I doubt she’ll be out by 10:30, but Good Luck”, I told her.   And as for me, it was now 10:15am:  I’m vacating the premises.  But, for my lucky “paparazzi” friend, Khan soon came out to leave and she got a shot with her “friend”, now Grand Marshal Chaka Khan.   So, it all ended on a very happy note!  I guess that’s part of the melody of life.  Not a bad shot for a phone…

2019 GM Chaka Khan per Salpi Bezjian 10-17-18



Well, that’s all folks!  And now you know some of the rest of the story…

Red rose

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