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Glitter in Glendale : The Brand Library and Art Center houses a huge and varied collection of musical and print works.

July 30, 1993|JEFF PRUGH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The turn-of-the-century mansion is one of Glendale's big splendors. It stands majestically beneath the Verdugo Mountains like a nouveau Taj Mahal, its gated entry road lined by towering palm trees.

You almost expect to see the fellow who in 1904 had it built for his wife and himself--the late Leslie C. Brand, one of the city's founding fathers--still greeting visitors on the porch in his rocking chair, as he did 70 years ago when his "fly-in parties" attracted Hollywood's glitterati, notably Cecil B. DeMille, who arrived in his Junkers JL-6 biplane.

Perhaps you've seen "Brand's Castle," as it would be known for decades, on TV episodes of "Mission: Impossible," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Fall Guy," as well as the film version of Sidney Sheldon's "The Other Side of Midnight." In fact, filmmakers have long re-created exotic foreign locales here--going back to the 1915 silent film, "Under the Crescent," when it appeared as the palace where the heroine was held captive by an evil prince.

It's fitting that what is now the city-owned Brand Library and Art Center--opened in 1956, on a 488-acre hillside estate that Glendale inherited from the Brands in the mid-1940s--offers Hollywood soundtracks (and recordings from Bach to rock) in a repository of art and music that some say is Southern California's most extensive.

More than 100,000 visitors who come each year to this 10-room mansion--with its Tiffany windows, silk damask wall coverings and carved woodwork imported from Italy--now avail themselves of the library's impressive stock: 45,000 books on art and music theory, history, criticism and technique; 8,000 compact discs (one of the world's largest such collections); 30,000 records and 3,000 cassettes, as well as sheet music and even piano rolls.

The library lends as much as 80% of its holdings--books, recordings, videos and slides (for three weeks) and framed prints (for eight weeks).

What's more, the building contains a recital hall (seating capacity 150), the Glendale Municipal Art Gallery and ground-level studios for children's art, music and dance classes sponsored by the city's Parks, Recreation and Community Services Division.

"Most people come here for a single reason," says Cindy Cleary, the Brand Library's chief librarian. "They're amazed when they find out about everything else."

1-2 p.m.: Our tour takes us first through a panoply of art, after a climb of five flights of stairs to the main entry (a nearby side entrance is available for the handicapped without having to navigate the stairs).

Of the Brand Library's 45,000 volumes, 30,000 deal with art: oils, graphic arts, watercolors, architecture, history of art, art theory, exhibition catalogues. They line shelves and tables throughout most of the mansion's original rooms (save for an off-limits addition built by Brand for an upstairs study).

Even the massive wood fireplace behind the front desk has been converted to include bookshelves. To the left of the main entry hall is an art reference room; its computer terminals, used by librarians, appear incongruous amid the room's Victorian trappings.

As we browse through what originally was the dining room, the shelves brim with works on prehistoric art; on Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet; on "Folk Art of the Soviet Union"; on more contemporary topics: "The Art of Rock," "Andy Warhol Diaries" and even a small collection of cartoon art by the late Walt Disney.

Some volumes are so valuable they must be kept under lock and key. They're available only for on-site reference and cannot be checked out.

Finally, we enter a transitional room, a sort of electronic link with the library's newer wing, added in 1969 and devoted to music and the performing arts.

In this room are videos on art and architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright, among many others), audio cassettes, CDs and 35-millimeter color slides.

2-3 p.m.: Entering the music area, added to the rear of the mansion, we are greeted by a reference librarian who can help us find CDs on the classics--Beethoven, Borodin, Bizet, Schubert, Haydn, among myriad other composers--or on New Age, sacred, folk, country, rock.

For those who can't wait to listen, there are CD players and headsets, as well as two turntables for LPs (also available to check out) and headsets.

If you're a show-tune buff, you'll find books containing scores for musicals such as "Cats," "Carousel" and "A Chorus Line." We're talking instrumental, orchestral scores, not just piano-and-vocal sheet music.

And that's not counting the countless books on music, their range reflected by two volumes that sit on one shelf, side by side: "Music by Gershwin" and "Grateful Dead Anthology."

There's also a rack of music magazines: Downbeat, Pulse, Country Music and Billboard, among others.

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