On Donner and Blitzen! Those were indeed living, breathing deer you saw.Throughout the ’50s and ’60s they had a rooftop perch at “The House of Tomorrow” at Wilshire and Highland. Southern California developer Fritz Burns erected the showcase domicile to entice returning World War II GIs to buy his tract homes (they did, by the thousands). That herd had a pedigree: After William Randolph Hearst died in 1951, Burns purchased the tycoon’s white fallow deer at a San Simeon liquidation sale. He moved them onto the Sylmar ranch he bought from D.W. Griffith, who had filmed Birth of a Nation there. For two decades the deer made their Christmas appearance on Wilshire, and another contingent held court in an elaborate winter wonderland Burns staged at his shopping center in Panorama City, a community he built from scratch.
Illustration by Larry Underhill