Raymond Chandler did an operetta…make its production a reality

ChandlerBy now most of you should know that I’m a complete and utter fool when it comes to Raymond Chandlers works. I’ve read so many of the books and loved how they incorporated Los Angeles history and places into their fictional story.

I caught wind of the operetta a few months ago at a LAVA meeting.  Its titled “The Princess and the Pedlar” and is co-authored with pianist Julian Pascal.  Sounds pretty cool and should be easy to bring to the stage, right?  Not so fast, the estate of Raymond Chandler say its insignificant and won’t grant release of the work.  It will have to wait until 2029 at the earliest when its released to the public domain.  Sad.

But all is not lost, Kim Cooper of Esotouric and author of the “The Kept Girl” isn’t taking that hard no as a final answer.  She has a petition on change.org asking the Estate to reconsider its position.  Please sign.  I have, its an important bit of the Los Angeles story by one of our own authors that deserves to be seen.

We’re a fun bunch of guys….

Do you wanna jump in the sand box and play with us?


Seriously, the “we” is a bit limited at the moment.  Add in the return of a few old voices and that we have a new owner  that wants to breath some life back into this blog so its gonna be a fun sandbox again..

Requirements are simple. Love Los Angeles. Love to write about what you see/hear/do here in Los Angeles. You don’t have to be spectacular, just be you and have a story to tell here.  Be prepared to commit to semi-frequently posting to blogging.la.

I started here May 2007 for kicks and giggles. I’m among the few that turned it into one adventure after another here in L.A. How? I use my writing here to get press credentials and then apply for press passes on things that interest me. I’m not bashful so I’ve asked to go on ride alongs with local PD, visit concerts and even the L.A Auto Show. You get out of it what you put into it.

The group is always in flux. The common thread is we love L.A and have each others backs. We do fun things too. Series posts on themes like “Songs of L.A” and the Donut Summit. Of course we blog it and share it with everyone else that has a love of Los Angeles.  Remember live blogging at Canter’s Deli?  Thats the sort of events that build a community and readership.

With the return of our former “city captain” Lucinda Michele back at the helm we’ll have direction and start all sorts of new ideas.  If you want to join blogging.la and grow your writing skills and share your love of Los Angeles send me a link to your writing or a sample to me at [email protected] and I’ll make sure it gets seen.  I wish I could tell you how fast decistions will be made, but I can’t but I can promise your efforts won’t fall on deaf ears.

Things only Angelenos will understand

The palm tree...iconic L.A., click to embiggen

OK…I’m at a bit of of loss on this one. This link was sent to me by a PR firm for a realty company in the Bay Area, a part of the state that for reasons I’ve never understood, hold us with great disdain.  The LIST isn’t entirely accurate and certainly missed out on a few biggies about us that are more truthful and enlightening on our own idiosyncrasies.  Race you to the 405?

What’s missing from their list?  What needs to be added?  Deleted?

Pic by me taken with the trusty old che-ez snap, a .2 megapixel toy camera.  Arty ain’t it?

The Kept Girl and other bits of Los Angeles

Kim Cooper, author of The Kept Girl, click to embiggen

If you know me, by now you know  I’m a total fan of Raymond Chandler. Angeleno and author Kim Cooper has a wonderful book that stars him and and is set in 1929 Los Angeles. Its told in the tone of his books which makes it a very easy and entertaining read.  Its centered around the Great Eleven cult that was active in Los Angeles that year.  Its been historically researched and based on several characters that may or may not have met in real life.  For the sake of this piece of fiction they all crossed paths and their tale unfolds in “The Kept Girl“.

Kim Cooper and Richard Schave also run the Esotouric Tours.  These social historians research a topic or person then put together lively bus tours on that theme around historic Los Angeles.

This past Sunday was the monthly Sunday Salon presented by the Los Angeles Visionaries Association.  Kim Cooper was there to talk about her book.  Also present was the graphic illustrator Paul Rogers who did the cover art for The Kept Girl. Continue reading “The Kept Girl and other bits of Los Angeles”

A “Blade Runner” Video to Un-Jade the Jaded

“Blade Runner” is, for Angelenos, part of our cinematic DNA. It envisions a dystopic future Los Angeles that borrows from the past but, to some, it disturbingly resembles the present. However, I suspect that more than a few Angelenos are jaded by the repeated “Blade Runner” viewings and the comical number of versions that have been released, especially the “Blade Runner For Dummies” narration of the original U.S. theatrical release. As one such Angeleno, I was mesmerized upon discovering the above video showing the real-life “Blade Runner” filming locations matched shot-for-shot with their depictions in the movie.
Continue reading “A “Blade Runner” Video to Un-Jade the Jaded”

Not super new, but super something

I swear about 2 million people have e-mailed me this image in the past month. I’m posting it because it’s amusing and hopefully that will announce to the world that I’ve seen it and don’t need it e-mailed to me again.

It Caught My Eye: LA Plays Someplace Else

So in the midst of last night’s episode of Survivor, an ad comes on that jumps out of the TV at me. It’s a riveting futuristic marvel featuring a transformer-like plane swooping into a disaster area to effect a dramatic last-minute rescue atop a crumbling debris-strewn bridge littered with debris, presumably deposited by a Katrina-esque hurricane.

Removing the injured and taking off literally nanoseconds before the span collapses, I’m rapt wondering if this is a spot for Skyline, Harry Potter and the I Don’t Give a Crap, or perhaps one final political ad from Meg Whitman, until the familiarity of the location breaks the spell and I grab the remote and take myself back to the bridge. Sure enough, I pause the scene and grab the cam:

(click image to maximize)

Though I’d guess the US Air Force recruitment commercial is trying to conjure up a New Orleans bridge over the Mississippi, what you’re really looking at above is a downtownward-looking angle from our very own historic 6th Street Viaduct, albeit augmented with severe storm crap (is that part of a house?) atop a heavily CGI’d river flowing below it, literally bank-to-bank.

Ironically, there’s some truth in the apocalyptic ad showing the bridge falling apart, because indeed it slowly is. The concrete made on-site when the Merrill Butler-designed landmark was completed in 1932 is slowly failing.

From the Bridge’s Wiki page:

The quality of the concrete turned out to have a high alkali content and lead to an alkali-silica reaction which creates cracks in the concrete and saps the strength of the structure. Current estimates are that the viaduct has a 70% probability of collapse due to a major earthquake within 50 years.

Blogging.la celebrates Halloween!!

Halloween is serious business in this town. It seems to be a sort of sub-industry: when I first moved to LA, I was completely taken aback by the sheer number of one stop Halloween shops that seem pop up around the city at this time of year. Who knew that there was such a huge market for plastic pumpkins, animatronic talking skeletons, and Sexy Donut costumes? Who knew indeed. And LA has its fair share of scary stories – from the Black Dahlia to Lizard People and everything in between – making it a particularly evocative place to be for the spookiest holiday of the year.

As the end of October approaches, we’re hotly anticipating that time when the heady aroma of smashed jackolanterns will once more waft through the air. So check in with us over the next week and a half as we bring you a variety of perspectives on navigating Halloween in Los Angeles – from LA’s spookiest places, to ghostly events, to more Lizard People coverage than you ever thought you’d need (and believe me, you do actually need it). Bookmark this post, because I’ll be keeping an archive of all our Halloween posts. And please comment below and let us know about your favorite scary sights, haunted houses and local Halloween festivities!

The Creepy Beneath Our Feet:  Kevin’s ongoing expose on the Secret Lives of Lizard People (and possibly the greatest run of posts this site has ever known)

LA’s Lizard People

The Patron Saint of the Lizard People

The City with Scaly Shoulders

Lizard People and the Bigger Picture

Passages to the Underworld

Lizards in Disguise

The Real (and Not Actually Creepy Thing

And because all good things must, sadly, end, the Wrap-Up.

Other, less lizard-oriented Halloween posts:

Navigating street closures at the West Hollywood Costume Carnival

Seriously Corny

Hide Your Silly String Tonight

Halloween Wardrobe Mal-Function

Sunshine Gothic

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Griffith Observatory

That one of L.A.’s most prominent landmarks is perhaps most prominent because of a movie says a lot about L.A.  Way before I had ever been to Los Angeles, heard the term “Art Deco,” or knew the significance of the Griffith Observatory, it was embedded in my consciousness due to the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause.”  The Griffith is one of the movie’s “stars,” from the famous knife fight involving James Dean outside and planetarium-watching inside early on, to Sal Mineo‘s death scene at the end.

But after moving here, I discovered that the Griffith Observatory is the Swiss Army Knife of Los Angeles landmarks.  It has numerous uses, and appeals to people for different reasons beyond its starring role in “Rebel” (and its lesser role in “The Terminator“):

1.  The Architecture

In a city full of art deco designs, the Griffith is perhaps the standout.  That may be because the gleaming three-domed concrete building literally stands out, maybe more than any structure in Los Angeles save for the Hollywood signIt has been called “the hood ornament of Los Angeles,” an apt term for our car-obsessed city.  The Griffith, constructed during the Great Depression and formally opened to the public in 1935, can be approached and explored from many angles.  As often happens with art deco structures, I discover some new detail — a nook, carving, door, or viewing perspective — every time I go.  Last time I was there, after our fabulous Donut Summit, I hiked on the trails around the Griffith and enjoyed seeing it from a distance as well.

2.  The Planetarium and Telescope

The Griffith is, after all, an observatory, and many schoolchildren are taken there primarily for this purpose.  The Observatory was closed for renovations, including an underground expansion, in 2002 and reopened in early November 2006, coincidentally, just a few days before I arrived here.  Now it is as popular as ever, with its renamed Samuel Oschin Planetarium redone with state-of-the-art projectors and equipment.  A nifty, industrial-design cafe was added during the redo, subtly sunken below grade on the side, with a long terrace outside.  I happen to think the cafe is a tasteful and tasty addition to the Observatory.

3.  The View

It is perfectly rational to come to the Griffith and not set foot inside.  In addition to the architecture, the views from the Griffith are captivating.  I didn’t realize that L.A. had several separated clusters of tall buildings (downtown, Century City, Wilshire Corridor) until I viewed them from the Griffith.  But then turn in another direction, and you’ll see modern and classic Spanish style homes, Jacaranda trees (depending on the time of year), and usually arid hills that dominate this part of the city.  And of course, the Hollywood sign.  Turn a few degrees more, and, on a clear day, you’ll see the ocean.

I would also be remiss in not mentioning that the Griffith Observatory is nestled near the edge of the fabulous, 3,000 acre Griffith Park.  From picnicking (and Donut Summiteering) to the Greek Theater to the hiking trails, one can easily branch out from the Observatory to enjoy its surroundings.

4.  The Democracy

As befits an important city landmark, admission to the Griffith and surrounding park is free.  Parking is free.  Telescope viewing at night is free.  The planetarium will set you back, but not very much.  On any given day, you’re likely to find a mixture of locals, tourists, schoolchildren on field trips, and a tv actor walking his Great Dane (although you’ll have to be there with someone else, as I was, who has the radar to spot these stars under their baseball caps).  Folks I know enjoy the place at twilight, for hiking or picnics and drinks under the emerging stars.

Ultimately, then, what is so appealing to me about the Griffith Observatory is its versatility.  Angelenos and tourists alike can go to this magical-looking place, named after the fantastically named Griffith Griffith and located on top of the appropriately named Mount Hollywood, to pursue their own wishes, from architectural exploration to hiking to viewing the city from above to star-gazing, both celestial and celluloid.  What could be more L.A. than that?

(See the rest of the “L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks” series here)

Learn how to survive a Friday night in Koreatown with ‘Ktown Cowboys’


This year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) has played host to a number of sold-out/standing room only screenings. One of the most highly anticipated premieres was ‘Ktown Cowboys,’ which comes to us via director Daniel DPD Park, writer/funnyman Danny Cho and a team of amazing folks who debuted the first five webisodes of ‘Ktown Cowboys’ to the lucky folks at the screening. The unlucky folks who couldn’t get a ticket in will simply have to catch this online as they release new episodes every couple of weeks or so. (Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube to get notified of new episodes– I already did!)

My buddy Edward describes ‘Ktown Cowboys’ like this: “Imagine ‘The Hangover‘ but tak[ing] place in Koreatown. Hilarity ensues.” The producers of the upcoming (so-called) “Asian American Jersey Shore” might be kicking themselves after they realize they’ve been beaten to the punch for something that shows hot Asian/Korean Americans (boys and girls) drinking, partying, booking, karaoke-ing– and yes– fighting.

I love ‘Ktown Cowboys’ because it’s funny, made by Asian Americans who don’t mind being a little tongue-in-cheek, and it is shot in actual Ktown locations where you might see some of this stuff go down on any given Friday night. I shouldn’t have to tell you this is an exaggerated POV of Ktown, yet somehow, it is eerily accurate at the same time.

When John Kim (Lanny Joon) relocates from the comforts of his picket-fence, WASP neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia to the alluring city of Ktown Los Angeles, the land of sultry women, Booking Clubs, and late night taco trucks, his arrival immediately sparks the most epic night of his life. His cousin, Jason (Shane Yoon) introduces John to his audacious crew (Peter Jae, Danny Cho, Sunn Wee, and Bobby Big Phony Choy) who teach John the basic yet inventive ways on how to survive the perfect Friday night in Ktown. Special appearances by Justin Chon (Twilight) and Bobby Lee (Mad TV).

The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) continues throughout this week in Downtown Los Angeles.

L.A. Plays Itself In The Movies: Valley Girl (1983)

She’s cool.
He’s hot.
She’s from the Valley.
He’s not.

Julie (Deborah Foreman) and Randy (a very young Nicolas Cage) are geography-crossed teenagers in love in 1983 Los Angeles. Not long after dumping her popular boyfriend, Tommy, Julie falls for Randy, who is from Hollywood. Her friends do not approve because, like oh my gawd, he’s “different.” He wears red and black instead of pastels, he slums it in a loud, dirty bar, and has friends who look like Sid Vicious. Grody to the max. I’m so sure.

In spite of how much Julie likes Randy, her bitchy “friends” convince her to “do the right thing,” which is break up with Randy and get back together with Tommy. They threaten her with the prospect of losing all of them and her social status. While truly conflicted, the desire to be popular prevails. What a total bummer. Randy is crushed and tries really hard to win Julie back, but she won’t give in.

In one last ditch effort to get the girl, Randy and his best friend crash the Valley High prom and make quite a scene disrupting the coronation of Prom King and Queen, Tommy and Julie. Fists fly and Randy and Julie steal away in the limo that brought her to the dance. Off they go, up the 405, to spend what can only have been an amazing night at the Valley Sheraton.

The premise of this movie, a modern day Romeo and Juliet, depends on Los Angeles playing a strong supporting role. You could even look at the L.A. portrayed in Valley Girl as multiple characters: The Valley, Hollywood, and The Beach. Now that I live in L.A., I definitely suffer from the problem of noticing, and often pointing out, the liberties that are taken in presenting the city. It’s something I didn’t think about before moving here in 1994. I find it fascinating to see how parts of Los Angeles are stitched together to create a version of the city that suits the needs of the storyteller.

L.A. is actually the first character you see and hear about as Valley Girl starts. A radio announcer says, “…they’ll be playing at the Hollywood Bowl…” as we hover above the Lake Hollywood reservoir looking toward Hollywood. We then head over the hills that house the famous sign for a reveal of The Valley. Well, it’s Burbank, but close enough. What I do find amusing is that instead of panning west into The Valley proper, we pan east into Glendale. Anyway, what-EVER! The first place where we encounter the Valley girls is The Mall. Duh. The location used for the opening sequence is the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, not the Sherman Oaks Galleria which is often misstated on various websites. In addition to official location lists, there is a clear shot of a door handle at the mall that says Del Amo on it.

Click through to read more and see the trailer

LA Plays Itself in the Movies: Earth Girls Are Easy

Picture it, 1988. The Valley. An alien space ship crash lands in a suburban swimming pool and their savior mentor for life on earth is a “val” named appropriately Val.   Its high camp, cult classic life turned into lampooning caricature of LA circa late 1980’s.

From cruising “the boulevard” to other slice of life bits the film pretty well covers the LA Scene of the era, albeit as cartoony as Roger Rabbit.   Even the Griffith Park Observatory plays a cameo as the “Deca Disco”. Best line in the movie: “You’re so lucky you crashed in The Valley, its the baddest place on earth”. Indeed.

All the cast info you could want is over on the IMDB. In the mean time enjoy a clip from the movie. (Including one extra after the jump).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rNfZxgkH7k[/youtube] Continue reading “LA Plays Itself in the Movies: Earth Girls Are Easy”

LA Plays Itself In The Movies: Double Indemnity (1944)

(This post is part of LA Plays Itself In The Movies, organized so awesomely by Julia)

“How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle.”

— Walter Neff

For one of the last films in this LA Metblogs series, let’s look at one of the first to document the decadence and decay of the Los Angeles dream: Double Indemnity. Directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, it stars Fred MacMurray as insurance agent Walter Neff and Barbara Stanwyck as femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, along with Edward G. Robinson as Neff’s best friend and claims investigating coworker Barton Keyes.

As a kid raised on TV reruns in the 1970s I got to know MacMurray mostly as Steve Douglas the even-keeled and level-headed, father to those three sons of TV’s long-running My Three Sons, Same with Stanwyck, who was familiar to me as Victoria Barkley the widowed, wealthy and strong-willed matriarch in the series The Big Valley. So when I finally got around to growing up and seeing them as the unholy alliance that drives this classic, I was quite delightfully taken aback to see them so different in such deliciously devious roles in so devilishly dark a film.

Threaded together via MacMurray’s flashback voice-over, Double Indemnity matches Stanwyck’s predatory housewife with MacMurray’s congenial everyman. Together they connive and scheme a murder of her husband for purposes of desire and dough, but ultimately are doomed in large part to the dogged detective work of Keyes, remarkably portrayed by Robinson.

“Murder’s never perfect. Always comes apart sooner or later, and when two people are involved it’s usually sooner. Now we know the Dietrichson dame is in it and a somebody else. Pretty soon, we’ll know who that somebody is. He’ll show. He’s got to show. Sometime, somewhere, they’ve got to meet. Their emotions are all kicked up. Whether it’s love or hate doesn’t matter; they can’t keep away from each other.”

— Barton Keyes

What’s never doomed is the wicked smart dialogue, as evidenced after the jump in one of my favorite exchanges between the dynamically deviant duo when they first meet (and dig on the awesome — and first — use of a noir staple: light through the venetian blinds):

Continue reading “LA Plays Itself In The Movies: Double Indemnity (1944)”

L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies Valley of the Dolls & Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

At one point in the course of Valley of the Dolls, Neely O’hara, the Eve Harrington of the movie, runs away to San Francisco and roams the mean streets of our northern neighbor. Drunkenly making her way past the x-rated theaters and strip clubs, she cries out “Boobies, boobies, boobies. Nothin’ but boobies. Who needs ’em?” Well, apparently we Angelenos need them, that’s who.

If you were a space alien and you needed to learn about Los Angeles based on Valley of the Dolls and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, you would conclude that drugs, stardom, parties, and boobs were the four corner stones of our culture. In fact, Jennifer, one of Neely’s best girlfriends, commits suicide when confronted with the prospect of a mastectomy, boobs being her most outstanding attribute, one might even argue, her skill set. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, being a Russ Meyer film, of course, exercises even greater reverence for a good rack. Meyer used to describe the perfect pair as “cantilevered.”

Honestly, Valley of the Dolls is not a terribly good movie; it is in fact, more terrible than good. The book, if also trashy, is more entertaining. It’s worth viewing in that sort of way you watch movies in the background while you fold laundry. But if you haven’t had the doubtful pleasure of seeing BOV, you should Netflix it for sure. Continue reading “L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies Valley of the Dolls & Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”

L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: Swingers (1996)

Vegas, baby. Vegas.”

The film that spawned one of the most overused Vegas quotes of our time isn’t about Las Vegas at all. Swingers is so L.A.

Location. Location. Location. For me, the thrill of watching Swingers is noticing all of the familiar locations around town. The characters in this film never stay in one spot for long, always on the move from one bar to another bar, to a Hollywood Hills party, then to a coffee shop for a late night breakfast. All in their own separate cars of course. It’s laughable, but even today I notice that most of my friends in L.A. drive separately, despite that we all live in close proximity of each other and are meeting at the same place.

When I relocated to L.A. in 2003, the very first bar a friend took me to was The Dresden Restaurant to see Marty and Elayne perform. Immortalized by the film, The Dresden remains one of my favorite lounges in L.A. Located at 1760 North Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz, The Dresden makes its appearance in the scene where Mike (Jon Continue reading “L.A. Plays Itself in the Movies: Swingers (1996)”