Meeting a Heroine

Say what you want about William Mulholland: his granddaughter, Catherine Mulholland, who wrote “William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles,” “The Owensmouth Baby: The Making of a San Fernando Valley Town,” and “Calabasas girls: An intimate history, 1885-1912” and who then went on to teach at Berkeley for many years, is a heroine of mine. Writing prolifically about the land in which she grew up, archiving the history of Los Angeles through the prism of her own family and her own experiences, her flinty personality and no-bullshit approach made it possible for her to blaze a trail as a woman writer.IMG_13671.JPG

I got to meet her the other weekend when the Canoga Park Historical Society assembled its local founding families (mine among them) for its 95th anniversary.

Her advice to me as a local writer: “You’ve picked a very hard thing to do–very, very difficult. But it can be immensely rewarding. Work hard, don’t listen to the naysayers, and don’t give up.”

More pics after the jump, as well as Dennis Zine’s anecdote about jogging at Lanark Park with a gun at 5am. Run Dennis Run!
Continue reading “Meeting a Heroine”

Thrift And Vintage Culture Weekend

USofCP%20Card_01.jpgI’m happy because tonight is The United States of Charles Phoenix! This will be my third Charles Phoenix slideshow viewing, and the second at the Ford Ampitheater, which is a truly special, beautiful venue. “Thrift store histo-tainment” is the best way to describe it. I think a few tickets are still on sale at the Ford Ampitheater. I’ll be packing a picnic after work to share with my friends before the show.

But for even MORE vintage fun, you can come out tomorrow for the b.la garage sale in Silverlake. We will not have carousels of old vacation slides, but we WILL have lots of other things. Like, I have a box of books to sell. And we have an extra VCR. And I have to keep my closet to a minimum now, so I have a lot of clothes. But my fiance and I just moved in together in January, so we got rid of most of the good stuff in several runs to Goodwill. My fellow bloggers, however, will have lots of vintage and modern finds – video game systems, bric-a-brac, more clothes, and lots of tchotchkes. I’ll even have baked goods to sell if I can get our vintage 1950s oven to work. Come on out and see what we’ve got. Details are, of course, on the Craigslist post.

The “Other” Dogtown Revolution

This isn’t fire related, but it’s so bad ass I just had to post it. Everyone knows about the skateboarding revolution that was started in Venice in the 70’s, well this one didn’t quite get the same coverage but is just as amazing…

Thanks Glen!

one hand clapping – on sale

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[clicking is the path to enlightenment]

Need an authentic Hundu deity or two for your living room? How about a fully decked opium bed? Or maybe a few jeweled Indian wedding scarves?

If this sounds good to you then you should know the best place in LA to find this stuff is the Koan Collection. These guys scour the earth to bring you the best of old and new from India, Indonesia, Nepal, and Thailand.

And guess what? Today is the first day of their big weekend clearance sale.

Expect drastic markdowns on furniture, fabrics and accessories, and the people who run the place are super nice too.

Koan Collection
6109 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90038
(323).464.3735

Letters to Stan

In the eight years between the death of his acting partner Oliver Hardy, and his own passing in 1965, comedian Stan Laurel lived modestly at the Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica.

The skinnier half of “Laurel & Hardy” kept his phone number listed, happily answering calls from fans “amazed that they could simply dial the number and find themselves talking to Stan Laurel.” (from Wikipedia)

Laurel also delighted in writing letters to his fans. LOTS of letters, estimated to be in the thousands. And now, you can read them.

The Stan Laurel Correspondence Archive Project endeavors to catalog these letters that have since become collectors items. The project, also known as Letters from Stan, has scanned and sorted the letters by year, reprinting most of the letters in their entirety. Most range from a paragraph to a page in length, answering questions about his career and Hollywood in general. Some are personal, and more than a few mention Los Angeles locations that no longer exist.

If only he’d been working with a laptop instead of a typewriter Laurel would have made for a natural blogger. Its a fun read – go take a peek (and if you know of anyone who might have a letter from Stan, they’re actively seeking scans to add to their collection).

…h/t Mark Evanier

The Planes! The Planes!

I can’t wholly credit my disposition for bike commuting as the reason I learned about this place. Discovering this find previously unknown to me is also attributable to the fact I’ve been temping at a gig about a mile south of it in an entirely unremarkable section of El Segundo that’s pretty much all about getting in (via the 105 Freeway), getting out (via the same route) and getting on with your life stuck in the ensuing traffic jam home.

Making the easy decision to avoid the gridlock and pedal on in one day a few weeks ago, it was while heading south down the commute’s home stretch of Aviation Boulevard across 111th Street on my way to Imperial Highway that I first laid eyes on the prizes. The Revell model airplane-making kid in me was blown away by the proud birds of The Proud Bird Restaurant — everything from biplanes up to jet aircraft, and a lot of them just parked on the grass like their pilots taxied to a stop outside and were inside having a drink.

I would’ve snapped pix earlier had my subsequent bike rides home and the vintage winged warcraft on display all around the restaurant’s grounds not been cloaked in pre-Daylight Savings Time darkness. But now, on this first post-DST weekday, I stopped to capture some in the afternoon sunlight such as this “Cadillac of the Sky” below, a P-51 Mustang whose distinctive red tail identifies it as having been used by the famed Tuskegee Airmen. After the jump is a Vought F4U Corsair that you might recognize from the old “Black Sheep Squadron” TV show starring Robert Conrad (both images are embiggenable).

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Even if these full-scale ships are just empty unflyable shells of their former selves, it’s still sublimely awesome to get so close and to see them so proudly displayed in this relatively unsung open aerospace museum quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

More pix are here on on Flickr.

Continue reading “The Planes! The Planes!”

It’s more than just a car you’re buying

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[click for maximum enjoyment]

This car was lovingly created by my friend Nick, and now it can be yours. It’s a perfectly proportioned and dent-free 1962 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and Nick has, for his own reasons, covered it entirely in burnished aluminum foil. The end result is nothing short of awesome.

Read the whole story – it’s fascinating and compelling, and lacks only you to write the final chapters.

Believe me, photos don’t do this car justice, especially in the sun.

Go, read, learn, marvel. And then buy!

Mystery of the Cahuenga Steamboat solved!

Blogging.la reader Nicole Seymour solved the mystery of the Cahuenga Pass Steamboat, revealing that the answer lies in the book, California Crazy & Beyond: Roadside Vernacular Architecture:

There’s a color picture of this place dated 1968. The two main signs say “Showboat — Ali’s Broasted Chicken” and “Showboat Broasted Chicken,” but it also has signs higher up on the building that say “BBQ Ribs,” “Hot Dogs,” etc.

Its a great pic that, due to copyright law, I can’t reproduce here… but, with a few simple clicks you can find it online. Instructions after the jump.

I also was able to find that the same address was recently home to a restaurant/catering business called “Food Fetish” that has worked out of assorted locations around Los Angeles over the years, confirming additional comments left in the original post.

Now the next mystery: since the Showboat is no more, where can anyone find some broasted chicken?
Continue reading “Mystery of the Cahuenga Steamboat solved!”

The Inside Story: Park Plaza Hotel

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[click to biggify]

With this weekend’s Tamale Festival at MacArthur Park but a couple miles from our house, my wife Susan and I decided to leave the driving to our feet and walk on over this afternoon. Along the way we passed the renowned Park Plaza Hotel. Built in 1925 as an Elks Lodge the place has been vacant and inaccessible these last few years, used mostly as a location for films, TV shows, commercials and music videos.

So looking through the locked front entrance at the spectacular and expansive lobby and grand staircase, the last thing we expected was to get a chance to check out the interior. But just as I was sticking my camera up against the smoked glass to get as best a shot as I could through it, one of the doors opened suddenly and I jumped as a big serious security dude stuck his head out and wanted to know what I was doing. Expecting to be told to put my camera away and get on out of there I said I was just trying to get a picture of the interior. But instead of being told to shove off, the next thing I know is this dude’s opening the door wider and inviting us to come inside. Once in the middle of this jaw-droppingly ornate and preserved space, our jaws drop even more when he casually tells us he can give us a tour if we want.

Oh yes, we want!
Continue reading “The Inside Story: Park Plaza Hotel”

To Everything, Turn Turn Turn…

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Of the various sense memories I can readily recall from my tot years there’s a couple prominent ones, both from establishments on Beverly Boulevard within a couple blocks of each other. One is the steamy smell of corn tortillas that wafts when you lift the top plate off them at El Coyote where I was ogling the puffy-dressed waitresses’ ambundant displays of decolletage and throwing back maraschino-cherry laden Roy Rogerses before I could walk. The other is the sight of the tires that spin endlessly around beneath the Town Tire Co. sign at Beverly at Gardner across from Pan Pacific Park.

From the moment I first saw it (probably in my mom’s old Corvair coming back from El Coyote) I was mesmerized by the wobbling tire that would never lie down and be it day or night I would always look to it whenever we’d chance to pass it by. In fact, I’m pretty sure the end of my childhood can be pegged to the moment I looked for it and suddenly quit seeing its visual trick anymore. Somehow it went from something magical whose effect was similar to what happens in the last moments of a coin spinning on a tabletop, to just two tires attached to each other at an angle being rotated by an unseen motor. And that’s how it’s stayed ever since — or at least it did until July 29 when Town Tire closed after 43 years and the power that supplied the spin to the display was shut off for good.

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2006/10/tt2-thumb.jpgHaving only recently learned of the neighborhood landmark’s closure and because I’m the sentimental sort, I showed up there this past weekend hoping for posterity’s sake to grab some video of the tires rotating, but I was way too late for that. Instead all I got was this picture (at right; click to slightly biggify) of the tires motionless for the first time in my life and I wasn’t too surprised to find myself a bit melanncholy. Sure, I know that one thing you can always count on in L.A. is its changing cityscape… but still, it’s tough not to count on some stuff and expect it’ll always be there, and I couldn’t help but be a little surprised and saddened when it suddenly isn’t anymore.

Goodbye, Town Tire.

Hollywoodland vs. The Black Dahlia revisited…

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2006/08/dahliasupes_latimes-thumb.jpgA few updates on the undeclared marketing battle between Hollywoodland and The Black Dahlia

The LA Times online, as you can see from my page grab, is happy to provide ad space for both “based on a true crime” murder movies. But if you missed it, the print version of the Sunday, August 27th LA Times came complete with a four page pullout ad masked as vintage news coverage of the Black Dahlia case. This is the tip of the iceberg for a Dahlia/Times cross promotion that includes a Times “microsite” complete with free access to the Times archive of stories related to the case, a “map” to key locations that appear in the film, and, of course, links to film clips and trailers (LA Observed ran a great summary of LA Times involvement)

It should be noted that while The Black Dahlia is being released by Univeral Studios, Hollywoodland is being distributed by Focus Features, which is a division of Universal Studios, so I wonder if the close proximity of the releases is less than a coincidence, and perhaps more an effort to make films about Hollywood’s seedy history more of a trend.

As mentioned previously, both films are being marketed as LA’s most infamous unsolved mysteries. However, two things bother me about recent TV ads for both. First, for Hollywoodland, the only people who consider George Reeves suicide unsolved are those who refuse to believe the official police report. The second is that the film for The Black Dahlia is promising to “uncover the untold story” of what happened to Elizabeth Short, when in fact the only thing its uncovering is James Ellroy’s fictional take on the story, which has taken grand liberties with what happened. Regardless of my frustration, I’ll be first in line for both films.

While The Black Dahlia has a solid, creative marketing effort behind its debut, largely positive reviews for Hollywoodland have already begun to appear, giving it a decent 64% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and a positive, albeit depressing, nod by film geek Harry Knowles. Reviews for The Black Dahlia will probably begin appearing closer to its release.

And the Hollywood Stock Exchange is currently predicting an $14.23 million opening 30 day take for Hollywoodland… half of the predicted $34.36 million for The Black Dahlia.

Both films will be showing at the Arclight Cinemas, beginning with a midnite screening of Hollywoodland this Thursday in the Cinerama Dome – tickets available now!

More notes on The Black Dahlia later today…

Greetings From Vintage Los Angeles

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I just stumbled across this amazing collection of vintage Los Angeles postcards collected by the folks at LA Nocturne. The one pictured above was postmarked 6/25/1949 and includes a note on the back from one friend to another saying “Just a line to say hello from sunny California. Will be home next week – Everything lovely here – lots of flowers and everything.” This is one of the “Large Letter” series, but they also have specific sections and buildings around town. I love this image of Broadway from Fifth, and this 1947 view of City Hall is about as good as it gets. But there are also some gems like this card showing trolly cars on Spring Street, or Grauman’s with nothing around it. Even better, some of the pages have details on the images from the cards, like this snip of a scene from downtown:

CivicCenter.jpgUntil 1965, City Hall was the tallest building in the City of Los Angeles. Building codes outlawed any occupied structure over 150 feet. This explains the many tall faux facades, spires, and clock towers you will see in the downtown area. The buildings left of City Hall are, from left to right, the State Building, the Old Courthouse right before demolition, the Hall of Records, and the Hall of Justice – the only one still standing, but red-tagged due to the January 94 earthquake.