Artist worked for Howard Hughes, influenced other creatives
Mario Zamparelli passed away Saturday at 91.
Mario Zamparelli in his La Canada home looking at a portrait he painted of his daughter, Gina Zamparelli. (Courtesy of Gina Zamparelli / September 12, 2012)
Zamparelli died Saturday at age 91. During his time as chief executive designer to billionaire Howard Hughes' industrial empire from 1958 until Hughes' death in 1976, Zamparelli designed logos, movie posters, casinos and airplane interiors for Hughes operations including Trans World Airlines, Hughes Airwest, Hughes Helicopters and RKO Studios.
Zamparelli's daughter, Gina Zamparelli, said her father was drawn to La Cañada when he found a “museum-like” mid-century modern home with Asian flourishes, designed by architect Charles Wong, off of Ocean View Boulevard.
“Being an artist and a designer, he was looking for a very long time for a house,” said Zamparelli. “He loved the community, loved the view and was really inspired by this community, the beauty of it.”
Born in New York in 1921 to Italian immigrants, Mario Armond Zamparelli came to the West Coast following a stint in U.S. Army. He and his then-wife, actress Maureen Hingert-Zamparelli, bought the house on Rock Castle Road in 1957.
After Zamparelli and Hingert divorced in 1970, he bought a home in San Marino so he could stay close to Pasadena, where he worked, but he later returned to La Cañada.
“He came back to live here,” Gina Zamparelli said, noting that her mother and father remained friends after their divorce. “He said, ‘I loved this house; this was always where my heart was.'”
In addition to his vivid posters and other work, Zamparelli painted the only portrait of Howard Hughes actually commissioned by the eccentric billionaire.
“I remember as a child going to a cold-storage vault and thinking, ‘Where are we going?' said Gina Zamparelli. “And they open up this vault, and there is this portrait, because it was the only one Hughes ever had done.”
Although her father didn't paint many landscapes, Zamparelli said when he did, they were of the area surrounding his La Cañada home.
Zamparelli is survived by Maureen Hingert-Zamparelli, his daughters Gina, Marisa and Andrea Zamparelli, and his brothers Robert and Victor Zamparelli.
The public is invited to a memorial service at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Holy Redeemer Church in Montrose — a church that once hired Zamparelli to redesign its interior.