Alexandra is a Canadian writer, teacher, and scholar, currently living and working in Los Angeles. She enjoys 50’s diners, vintage dresses, coffee, 60’s bikini movies, playing the ukulele, and reading Dorothy Parker. She is a doctor of musicology from UCLA.
It is no small secret that we here at Metblogs love a good donut (or doughnut, for those of you who love your silent letters). Luckily for us, we live in a city in which there is a donut shop on every street corner, in every strip mall, and in almost every single block of every neighbourhood. Some are nondescript, others announce their presence with giant, fiberglass donut replicas perched on their roofs. But this multitude of donut options can seem daunting. How do you decide which donut shop to hit up? Which donut shop can claim the title of Best Donut in Los Angeles?
Well, dear readers, luckily for you, we have figured out a way to bring all of the donuts of Los Angeles together, in one central location, where we can determine, once and for all, which donut holds the crown. Please mark your calendars for 1pm, on Sunday, June 13th: the date of the 2010 LA Metblogs Donut Summit!
Here’s how this will work: We will gather at a central location, to be announced – most likely a public park with nice picnic areas, and everyone will bring a dozen donuts from a local donut shop of your choice. To participate in the Donut Summit, you must either bring one dozen donuts, OR one of those big to-go cartons of coffee you can get at, like, Coffee Bean or wherever. Nobody likes a freeloader, right? And then we’ll eat donuts all afternoon! And we’ll vote on them – by the end of the afternoon, we will have definitively decided on the city’s best donut. Wear your elbow pads – it could get bloody.
There are few things that I love more than a giant cement sea monster (those few things include giant cement dinosaurs, giant plaster donuts, and that’s about it). And that is why I made the pilgrimage to San Gabriel this weekend, to Vincent Lugo Park, home of La Laguna de San Gabriel, better known as the Monster Park. Metblogs covered the Monster Park a few years ago, when it was at risk of demolition, but it’s still standing, in no small part due to the fantastic work of the Friends of La Laguna, who were recently recognized by the LA Conservancy for their preservation efforts. And god bless the Friends of La Laguna, because this place is basically amazing, and every child deserves the chance to play on a giant cement octopus. The Monster Park is such a wonderful place – it’s such a departure from the sterile, unimaginative playground designs that you see everywhere. I think that everyone should do themselves a favor and find a small child to take to La Laguna (please ask the small child’s parents for permission first).
I also love this park because of its wacky, mid-century aesthetic. The colors, the curving lines of the statues, and the unselfconscious whimiscalness remind me of the kind of mid-to-late-sixties animation you’d see in psychedelic movies like Yellow Submarine. The park is the work of Mexican-American artist Benjamin Dominguez, who built several parks in and around California in the 1950s and 1960s. The Monster Park is his last work, completed as he was turning 70, and I think that it stands as a testament that public art can be beautiful, and fun, and interactive. And really, really awesome.
Did you know that March is Women’s History Month? I did not know this until today! And did you know that March 8th is International Women’s Day? I knew that much, at least. I think that observing Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day remains extremely important – even though we’ve made great strides towards gender equality, we aren’t there yet by any means, and these kinds of observances acknowledge the really great, important
work that has been done, but also reminds us of how much is left to do. Luckily, Los Angeles is home to a number of really great organizations that are doing amazing work for women and girls, and since it’s Women’s History Month, it strikes me that now might be a good time to think about donating some money or time to help out. Here’s a very short little list of some of my favorite, local, lady-related organizations. This list is obviously by no means comprehensive, so please comment and let me know about any other worthy groups!
WriteGirl – WriteGirl pairs high-school-aged girls with mentors who are professional women writers, helping them to develop both their writing skills and their self-confidence. I think this is all kinds of awesome! Their students also contribute to a group blog, and they regularly publish anthologies of their work. So cool. I wish I’d had this when I was in high school.
The intersection of Sepulveda and Washington Place in Culver City is a treasure trove of really great neon and I drive past it all the time and marvel at it. In addition to the amazing sign (and sandwiches!) at Johnnie’s, there are a few motels on the eastern side of the street that have signage that I’m totally in love with. Two in particular – Deano’s and the Half Moon Motel – look like they probably offer some of the city’s sketchiest accomodation, but I’d rather not think about it. Instead, their totally amazing signs make me think of the 1950s and 1960s when Southern California was undergoing all kinds of development, and was ground zero for people wanting to get away from
the cold and snow to get a little piece of a place where it’s sunny all the time. These motels kind of fade into the landscape now, but I bet that when they were first built and the area was less developed, that neon stood out like a beacon. I can imagine that if I had just arrived in town searching for my 1950s-style Californian dream, fresh out of LAX, not knowing a soul, I’d totally decide to crash at the Half Moon Motel because of that smiling, friendly, neon moon.
I’ve been kinda sad about Alexander McQueen’s death last week, so I swung by the McQueen store on Melrose this afternoon to see if there was any sort of memorial set up. I don’t pretend to be any sort of haute couture expert, and it’s not like I could ever afford any McQueen (in my next life, I’ll come back as something other than an impoverished graduate student), but I’m really interested in fashion and follow it pretty closely, and McQueen was far and away my most favorite designer. I hold his work in high regard not just as clothing, but really, truly, as art. It just always seemed like he was up there, staking out a spot on the runway for the freaks and weirdos of the world, you know?
Anyhow – there’s not much to see at the store, really – there’s a very understated sign in each window with a short message from the McQueen family, and that’s about it. When I walked past, they were in the process of taking down the window graphics from the latest collection – huge pictures of grinning, technicolor skulls, probably not the kind of thing you want on your window under the circumstances.
A few blocks east, the shop window at Madison had “Long Live McQueen” emblazoned on it, and a display of mannequin mourners gathered around a casket draped in a Union Jack. I’m torn between thinking that it’s hopelessly tacky and inappropriate or that it’s perfect and exactly the kind of ridiculous gesture that is completely appropriate. Except for it to really work, it needs more rhinestones, and the mannequins should be dressed as Lady Gaga, obviously.
Tonight, the Egyptian is doing a double feature of Muscle Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo, and you really should go, really, really, you should. Some people (ie: my roommate) claim that the Frankie and Annette beach party movies are terrible and unwatchable but I vehemently maintain that this is not the case. No, beach party movies are glimmering, delicious nuggets of 1960s camp and I LOVE THEM. In beach party movies, Southern California is a magical place where everyone wears high-waisted bathing suits all the time, and hangs out on the beach doing the watusi with Don Rickles. Clearly, they are amazing and wonderful.
Watusi aside, however, what I really love about these films are the soundtracks and the musical numbers. They were scored by Les Baxter, king of exotica , and usually have all kinds of great musical guests: Muscle Beach Party happens to include the film debut of a (very, very young!) Little Stevie Wonder, as well as Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, and Frankie and Annette’s songs were co-written by Brian Wilson; while Beach Blanket Bingo has an appearance from surf rockers The Hondells. Donna Loren, who appears as a vocal soloist in both movies (and later did a few episodes of Batman!) will be at the Egyptian to do a live set between films.
Anyhow, I am so excited about this and I will probably be hanging out in the first row of the balcony tonight, wearing my best go-go dress. The show starts at 7:30.
Last week, via LA Observed, I learned of the tragic demise of Goody’s, a super charming (ie: cheap and bad for you) greasy spoon in San Gabriel. I’ve eaten at Goody’s all of once, but it was by far one of the most memorable meals in my life: we were driving from Galco’s Soda Pop Stop to Bahooka (both important parts of a perfect Sunday afternoon) when we noticed the totally sweet neon sign at Goody’s (even though the neon wasn’t actually lit) and decided that we needed to stop there for dinner on the merits of their signage alone (I will admit that most of my dining choices are made via this particular method). And I ordered the chicken pot pie and (I tend to exaggerate this part of the story, but whatever,) it was giant, and came with a loaf of bread, and a salad, and mashed potatoes, and I think also soup and, really, the details aren’t important here, because the bottom line is that it was the largest pile of old people food I have ever seen and it only cost, like, seven dollars. And it was even tasty!
So, in memory of Goody’s, and their totally sweet neon sign, I want to inaugurate a new series, which I am calling Really Great Neon, and which will chronicle all of the really great neon signs that I (and hopefully my fellow metrobloggers) notice in my travels around this fair city of ours.
The Goody’s sign is a perfect inaugural example of Really Great Neon: the typeface is fantastic with that boomerang-shaped G, and the distorted rectangular shape of the sign looks really great against the piece with the circular cut outs. Really, only awesome things could happen in a place with a sign like this. I hope that somehow the sign gets saved after the restaurant closes – the streetscape just couldn’t possibly be the same without it.
A couple of weekends ago, a friend and I got slightly lost on a morning breakfast adventure, and, as luck would have it, wound up over by Cerritos College in Norwalk, where they’ve got some of the neatest mid-century architecture that you ever did see. It was cloudy that day, so, sadly, my pictures don’t really show how amazingly turquoise and awesome the place was. I’ve scoured the interwebs for any info on which architectural genius was responsible for this glorious gymnasium, but no luck, so if anyone knows anything, comment below!
Last weekend, two of my most fashionable ladyfriends and I got all dolled up in our Sunday best, and headed downtown to the Biltmore for Practically Perfect Tea. Yes, that would be Mary Poppins-themed tea, which the Biltmore is hosting Wednesdays through Sundays until February 7th, in conjunction with the current production of Mary Poppins that’s on stage at the Ahmanson. While there wasn’t anything particularly Mary Poppins-y about the tea itself, beyond cutsey Poppins-themed menu items (Supercalifragilistic Scones, anyone?) it was still pretty great. (Although I will confess that I was sad that tea wasn’t served by dancing chimney sweeps.)
I love going to tea. I love the ceremony of it. I love the tiny, stupid-looking sandwiches, I love the three-tiered trays of goodies, I love the fancy china, I love pretending that I’m fancy enough to sip tea with my pinky up (I’m totally not). I also love the Biltmore – I’d never been before – because it is so gorgeous and over the top and ridiculous, although the entire time I was there I couldn’t shake this weird paranoid feeling that someone would notice how not-fancy-enough-for-the-Biltmore I am and kick me out. But I managed to fool them for long enough to drink so much tea that I couldn’t sleep all night. (And now I am secretly on the lookout for a wealthy patron to put me up in a suite at there so I can spend my days drinking tea in the Rendezvous Court whilst writing my memoirs.)
Some teatime tips: We tried a few different teas, and the Blue Peacock Darjeeling was my favorite (in no small part because it has the silliest name). And if you go, you should for sure dress up – we all wore our Totally Cutest dresses, but I was Totally Jealous of the ladies at the next table who all had matching hats and gloves. High tea is like a wonderful, anachronistic game of let’s pretend, so you might as well push the costuming as far as you can. And don’t be fooled: even though all of the food is excessively dainty and bite-sized, there is a lot of it (sandwiches, scones, tarts, tiny cakes, chocolate-covered strawberries!) and I was so full of scone that I seriously had to go home and lie down when it was all over. But it’s lovely and fun and Mary Poppins-approved, and when are British nannies ever wrong?
Sorry for the short notice, but this is still worth mentioning: Tonight, the Egyptian Theatre will be hosting the West Coast premiere of Girls on the Wall, a new documentary that promises to be, well, pretty awesome – it follows three teenage girls in a juvenile detention center who are offered the opportunity to make a musical about their lives. I’ve got a soft spot for stories about tough girl musicians, so this sounds like a pretty good way to spend a rainy evening.
Director Heather Ross and Producer Julie Janata (who also produced Mayor of the Sunset Strip) will be there for a Q&A, and there will be a live performance before the screening by local hip hop artists and b-girl crew Antics, who appear to have the kind of dance moves I could only aspire to in my wildest dreams.
Music starts at 7:00, the film starts at 7:30, and tickets are available at the Egyptian’s box office, or online at Fandango.
We need to talk about Spudnuts for a second, folks. As part of my ongoing quest to locate the best donut in the city of Los Angeles, I dragged my indulgent and unsuspecting Gentleman Caller (bless his heart – and after a Spudnut or two, his heart probably needs all the blessings it can get) to the Spudnuts location at Venice and Sawtelle. So, Spudnuts, as the name suggests, are donuts that are somehow made out of potatoes. The process by which this is accomplished is unclear, although there is a sign up in the store claiming that it is Scientific, so I imagine it involves a madman in a lab coat cackling maniacally at a stormy sky as a lightning bolt hits a potato, transforming it into an old-fashioned glazed. Actually, though, I think really they just use potato flour.
Spudnuts were apparently a bit of a thing, once upon a time in the not-terribly-distant past. The Spudnut was invented by two brothers in Salt Lake City back in 1939, and at one point the franchise had about 350 locations, but now the parent company seems to be no more, although there are still a few surviving stores around – there are four in LA and a few more in Southern California (the truly obsessed can find a comprehensive list of where to get a Spudnut here).
So, I’m planning to trek downtown to the Fashion District tomorrow. I like to think of myself as pretty handy with a sewing machine, but not handy enough that I feel like dropping a lot of cash on fancy fabric would be a good idea. (My number of sewing successes are outnumbered by my sewing failures by about ten to one, but my dreams of being a fashion icon will never die!) The Fashion District is my most favorite place to go for fabric and sewing supplies on the cheap, plus it’s also a really vibrant, fun part of town. But the rows and rows of fabric stores selling polyester at 1.99 a yard can be kind of overwhelming if you’ve never been before, so here’s my survival guide for making it out of the Fashion District in one piece.
Wear comfy shoes. You’ll probably end up doing lots of walking. Also, parking in the Fashion District is (predictably) not good, so I’d suggest taking Metro – I usually take the Red Line to Pershing Square and then walk over, which isn’t too bad of a stroll. While the district is pretty big, most of the textile merchants are in and around Maple Street, between 8th and Olympic.
I am writing to you today, not from Los Angeles, but from my ancestral home in the frozen north. While it’s pretty easy to feel festively inclined with all of these piles of snow around, the cold is getting me down (apparently 2.5 years in Southern California has made me weak! ) and I’ve kinda been missing L.A. Last year, I spent my first ever Christmas in Los Angeles, and, as I’m sure many a non-native has felt, found the combination of palm trees and Christmas lights to be a little surreal, but wonderful in its own weird way, and rather enjoyed my snowless holiday.
So, partly because I miss home and partly because I want to show my family what the holidays are like in L.A., today I went searching for Christmassy or generally holiday-themed movies set in L.A., figuring that there had to be at least something…and the only thing I could come up with was Die Hard. And, yes, it takes place in Los Angeles, at this time of year, but is not exactly the heartwarming holiday film I had in mind (although I think it does have, like, explosions and fire in it which are, well, warming, at least). So does anyone out there have a lead on any good L.A. holiday movies?
Are you looking for an excuse to break out your holiday best this weekend? Then you might want to head over to the El Rey on Saturday night for the third annual Christmas Sweater Festival. Local bands The Deadly Syndrome, Eskimohunter, Castledoor, The Pity Party, Signals, and 400 Blows will be delivering festive cheer for a good cause: Teen Impact, a local support network for teenagers with cancer. Good music, good cause, amazingly awful sweaters, how could you go wrong?
And we have TWO pairs of tickets to give away to you, dear faithful Metblogs readers! If you wanna go, all I ask is that you leave a comment below telling me about the most horribly hideous, awful Christmas gift you’ve ever received. For bonus points, I want to know what you did with that gift: did you relegate Great Aunt Mabel’s horrific handmade sweater to the back of the closet to languish and collect dust forevermore? Did you toss those Rudolph slippers that Grandpa so lovingly picked out just for you into the fire with the yule log? Or (horror of horrors) did you regift you mom’s fruitcake and pass it on to some unsuspecting soul? (If you did, there might be a special level of hell reserved just for you. )
Anyhow, want tix? Comment below! And make sure to use a real email address that you actually check and stuff so that I can get ahold of you.
Hello! I’m new around these parts and I’m super excited to be here. I hope I can bring you an interesting and (ideally) fabulous perspective on what’s happening in this fair city of ours, and I’m excited to learn more about Los Angeles in the process.
So, about me: I’m Canadian, from North of Toronto, but I will try my damndest to always use American spellings. I shipped my life across the continent about two and a half years ago to go to grad school at UCLA, where I research and teach about popular music. It’s a pretty sweet gig – yesterday I spent an hour watching Lady Gaga videos under the auspices of “working.” I’ve been blogging for a few years now, mostly about music, terrible B movies from the 50s and 60s, and vintage dresses, my three primary obsessions. And for the past year or so, I’ve been on an unofficial quest to find the best donut and/or example of donut-themed architechture in the greater LA area – any hot tips would be much appreciated.
Thanks for having me on board! I’m really happy to be a part of LA Metblogs and I promise to deliver awesomness.