Payne connects filmmaker friend with story on his ancestor's 'magical' buildings

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Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013 12:00 am

A historical photograph that ran in The World-Herald recently has spawned some interesting revelations.

The accompanying article prompted an email from John Latenser V, a location manager based in the Washington D.C. area, who said his friend — another Omaha native, film director and screenwriter Alexander Payne — alerted him to the story that told of his great-great-granddad's mark on Omaha's landscape as architect of such historical buildings as Central High School and the Douglas County Courthouse.

“Those buildings are magical to me,” the younger Latenser wrote. “I try to drive by as many as I can whenever I'm in Omaha. I was proud to actually film one of my great-great-grandfather's buildings, when I worked on a television mini-series for CBS entitled, 'Gone in the Night,' which starred Shannen Doherty, Kevin Dillon, Ed Asner and Dixie Carter. The building was the Douglas County Courthouse.”

He also noted that the Latenser legacy lives on. His son — John Latenser VI — lives with his mom in Omaha.

Separately, while the historical photo's main focus was architect John Latenser, in the background, sitting on a mantle, was an architectural piece portraying a dancer surrounded by cherubs.

Workers at Lanoha Nurseries recognized it as a small version of a huge architectural frieze that covered a wall of their garden center store.

Turns out that the piece at Lanoha was one of two matching friezes that adorned the now demolished Rialto Theater built at 15th and Douglas Streets in 1918. A Lanoha written history says the pair of friezes was shipped from Italy for the theater designed by Latenser.

Collector Frank Horejsi told the World-Herald that he sold Lanoha one frieze, and believes its twin was lost in demolition.

Since the photo ran, Horejsi said he met John Latenser III, a retired surgeon in Omaha, who didn't know about the garden center frieze but plans to go see it.

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