Reared on a chicken farm in Van Nuys, the self-proclaimed Valley Boy grew up at a time when the San Fernando Valley was primarily orange groves and chicken farms. It was a time when Van Nuys had only recently became part of the City of Los Angeles. Like many children of German-Jewish parents of that era, Vincent was instilled with a heavy dose of social responsibility and achievement. It surprised no one in his family when he left Van Nuys to attend UC Berkeley, becoming an activist a role that he would embrace throughout his life.
After receiving a B.A. in history from Cal, Vince lived in Europe, admittedly “playing artist”. He returned to California, receiving a second bachelor’s degree in art from Cal State Hayward, followed by his Master’s Degree in painting from Cal State Chico. He worked as a Film Editor for eight years, during which time he moved to Silver Lake and married Karen, a kindergarten teacher in the Burbank School District. (In the summer of 2005, they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France.) In 1980, they bought their home on Robinson Street where they still live today.
In 1994, as a member of the Silver Lake Improvement Association (SLIA), Vince organized the planting of 30 tipu trees on Robinson Street, which dramatically transformed the block. Vince estimates that he has been involved in the planting of more than 300 trees in Silver Lake through the SLIA and the Gateway to Silver Lake Project.
Back problems prematurely ended his film-editing career. Film editing in the pre-computer days was much more of a physical, low-tech task. Vincent started a new career in academia, teaching film history at several local colleges. In the spring of 2001, Vincent earned a Ph.D. from UCLA in Film and Television Studies. Currently he is an adjunct professor at USC, UCLA, Cal State Los Angeles and Pierce College, teaching various courses related to film and television.
During the past several years he also managed to win a national writing prize, and to have published numerous articles in some of the top journals in his field.
A member of SLIA since 1991, Vincent served as president from 1997 until 2003. One of his first accomplishments as president, together with Harry Otto of the Silver Lake Resident’s Association, was the launching of the Gateway to Silver Lake Beautification Project. At the time, the first impression of the Gateway was a garbage-strewn area just off the 101-freeway ramp at Silver Lake Boulevard. Now Silver Lake visitors are met with a well-groomed strip of shrubbery with trees and boulders when they exit the freeway. The Gateway also has eight murals created by outstanding local artists. This particular area continues to progress with the help of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council’s Park’s and Green Space Committee.
Vince considers his work on Music Box Steps Day, the Annual Children’s Film Festival, to be the “harmonic convergence” of his two biggest interests – community activism and film. What began as a neighborhood clean-up effort in the area of Vendome Street between Sunset and Marathon evolved into the designation of the area with a plaque commemorating the place where Laurel and Hardy filmed their 1932 Oscar-winning short, The Music Box. The plaque commemoration then spawned the idea of the children’s film festival, which SLIA, under Vince’s direction, puts on each year. Vince’s capacity for evolution, change, and improvement was demonstrated once again.
Vincent was a prime mover in the formation of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. This process took more than three years, and the SLNC was “certified” by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment in February 2004
Vince has written on a broad range of film and television subjects, focusing most recently on Jewish representation in sitcoms. His doctoral dissertation at UCLA was expanded and revised and published under the title, Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom, published by Rutgers University Press, 2003. Rutgers University Press will also publish his forthcoming anthology, You Should See Yourself: Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture. He recently (November 2015) co-wrote the book, Silver Lake Chronicles: Exploring an Urban Oasis in Los Angeles with Michael Locke.
Editor’s Note: The article on Vince Brook was submitted by Genelle Levin, Silver Lake Governing Board and Silver Lake Improvement Association Board Member Genelle LeVin. Material was taken from an article published in the Silver Lake Improvement Association Newsletter, Kathleen Varanese, Editor and former SLIA Board Member.