Tag Archives: landmarks

Whither the Bronson Ave Easter Island heads?

The Bronson Ave Moai in their glory days, courtesy of Just Above Sunset

I happened to be driving past the intersection of Santa Monica and Bronson today when I remembered that one of my favorite LA landmarks was in the neighborhood. OK, well maybe this isn’t so much a landmark, since it kind of lacks general reknown, but it is a Quirky, Weird, and Kind of Awesome Thing, therefore worth mentioning. On Bronson, just north of Santa Monica, is the CP Three Props Warehouse, which, for, like, ever, had a lineup of giant replica Easter Island Moai that were just strapped to the side of the building, looking awesome and incongruous. Some days they would be there, smiling nobly in the sun, some days they would be gone, like they’d vanished into the mist of some Pacific island (or, more likely, onto a set somewhere). But I could at least count on those Tiki Gods to brighten my day at least every other time I was in the neighborhood.

But then suddenly it seemed like they were never out anymore, and then this summer there was a fire at the warehouse, and today when I went by they were nowhere to be seen. Have I seen the last of the Bronson Avenue Moai? Did they survive the fire, or were they tragically engulfed in flames? On Critiki (your one stop shop for tracking down giant Easter Island heads, apparently) they’ve reported that at least three of them have supposedly survived, which is hopeful, although I haven’t seen them myself. But hopefully one day they will once more grace the streets of Hollywood with their enigmatic presence!

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: Readers’ Choice

Griffith Observatory at Night by Jodi

Remember that series on L.A. Landmarks we did a little while back? Some of you completed our survey to let us know your favorite(s) out of the ones we covered. Apologies for keeping you in suspense!

The results are in and the winner, with a whopping 77.8% of the votes is…The Griffith Observatory. It was followed, but not too closely, by The Hollywood Sign and The Hollywood Bowl, respectively.

I, too, love The Griffith Observatory. I can see it from where I work. In fact, I probably took both of the photos for this post from the top of our parking garage. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have not been since it was renovated and reopened four years ago. I really need to do something about that!

We hope you enjoyed our series on what we deemed L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks. We certainly could not, and did not, capture everything so there’s a definite possibility of revisiting this topic in the future.

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: It’s a Wrap! (For Now)

We’re coming to a close on our L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series and having covered only twenty-three, we’ve just scratched the surface. There are many more such things that are unique to Los Angeles and help define the city.

You might be wondering how we chose the landmarks for the posts. In true blogging.la style, any author who wanted to participate could pick any they wanted to write about. A small group of us came up with a list during a brainstorm session, but those were simply suggestions. I definitely see a subsequent series or two in the future since there is so much more to explore. Stayed tuned for that.

We hope you’ve had as much fun reading our collection as we did writing it. We’re curious to know what you consider to be a great L.A. landmarks. Click on your favorites here and I’ll post the results sometime next week. You can also let us know what you think we missed on this round.

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: The La Brea Tar Pits

Click to see the Original Painting.
Why would you do that?

Come for the Lush Scenery and Wildlife, Stay for the Hot, Molten Asphalt that won’t let you go!

I’m basically a little kid thinly disguised as an adult. Very thinly. So, when I go to write about The La Brea Tar Pits, my initial reaction is to jump up and exclaim, “Dey gots the Saber Toothed Tigers an’ dey goes, ‘Rraawrr!‘”

In fact, they are more properly known as Saber Toothed Cats, not Tigers, as they have far more in common with other of the Big Cats than modern tigers, and more than 2000 individual specimens of the Smilodon Californicus have been uncovered at the site. Evidence does, however, support the supposition that the beasts, indeed, did go, “Rraawrr!

The site is one of the largest sites in the world for uncovering Ice Age Mammalian fossils. The sheer volume of bones from the vast span of years has brought invaluable insight to scientists the world over about our planet and how the ecosystem has adapted and flourished (or not) over the centuries. William W. Orcutt was the first man to take a scientific interest in the tar pits, gaining permission to excavate in 1901 from Rancho La Brea’s owner at the time, Henry Hancock.

That’s the Hancock family that Hancock Park is named for, while W.W. Orcutt got the local species of coyote named after him, Canis orcutti. The word “Brea” literally means “tar” or “pitch” in Spanish, so Rancho La Brea itself simply means “Tar Ranch.” I gotta admit, it sounds way cooler in Spanish. (Most things do: Consider “Antonio Banderas” versus “Tony Flags.” Seriously, he’d have no career.)

Anyway, the place is pretty cool, and cheap. Seven bucks, lots of cool fossils, and “The Fish Bowl,” where you can watch actual Paleontologists get their Paleontology on; this is a working fossil site, kids. They’re still digging stuff up and putting more and more together.

There are huge Mammoths assembled, of differing varieties, American Lions, Dire Bears, thousands of Dire Wolves, (Which, apparently, are not just D&D monsters.) and, of course, our friend, Smilodon Californicus, the Official State Fossil. “Smilodon” sounds so friendly, doesn’t it?

Rraawrr!

Main image above courtesy of Ian Coleman, used with permission; tho’ it being turned into a “Saber Tooth LOL Cat” is entirely my fault. Don’t blame him for that! He was very kind to let me use his picture. Please visit his site to view amazing wildlife paintings at http://www.colemangallery.com/Welcome.html.

This post is part of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series – click here for the rest of the series!

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: The Capitol Records Building

The list of artists who have recorded in the studios in the Capitol Records building reads like a who’s who of popular music of the past half-century or so: Nat King Cole. Brian Wilson. Phil Spector. The first musician to record in studio A was Frank Sinatra. The building’s subterranean echo chambers, designed by guitar wizard Les Paul, are legendary, and arguably made the sound of West Coast popular music starting in the 1960s. (Back in 2008, those very chambers were under threat from a nearby condo development, raising a huge outcry from the local music community – I haven’t found any information on how or if that situation was resolved, so if anyone can fill us in, please do!) The building’s outside wall is covered in a mural that artist Richard Wyatt painted in 1990 commemorating important jazz artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington. The mural has faded significantly in the intervening years, belying the way the music of the artsts pictured continues to resonate in our musical landscape today. The Capitol Records building is, for all intents and purposes, a temple to recorded sound.

Even with all of this historical and musical pedigree, though, it’s tough to say if the Capitol Records Building would be as universally recognized as an LA landmark without its distinctive architechture. The first circular office building in Los Angeles, it’s often been described as resembling a stack of records, although that was noted LA architect Welton Becket (also responsible for the Cinerama Dome, the LAX Theme Building, the Beverly Hilton, and countless other examples of awesome So-Cal midcentury architechture – really, we could do an entire series on landmarks that he’s designed!) had in mind. Personally, though, I am more than content to consider it a (slightly more subtle) example of the kind of mid-century programmatic building design that I am so enamored with.

As we’ve been doing this series, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for a place to be considered a landmark, and what drives us to visit those places. The Capitol Records Building is an interesting one because, unlike, say, Graumann’s Chinese or Bob’s Big Boy or the Strip or most of the other landmarks we’ve profiled, there’s nothing you can actually DO at the Capitol Record Building: it’s not open to the public, aside from the front lobby. Basically, you can go and stare at it and take a picture. Despite this, it was one of the first places that I visited when I moved to LA: as someone who makes their living as a music historian, I felt like I had to go simply for the sake of going, more as an act of pilgrimage than anything else. And I’ve definitely told many of my out of town colleagues that it’s a must-visit site for any music nerd visiting Los Angeles.

And while we’ve had our own internal debates here at blogging.LA about what makes a place a place landmark or not, for me, what makes a landmark is that weird, ineffable quality that some places develop: a quality that makes us want to go out of our way to go somewhere or see a place or be at a place, either because something interesting or important once happened there or, sometimes, just for the sake of being there. Landmarks that have a storied past are physical markers that can act like time machines, bringing us closer to that past. The Capitol Records building was like that for me: a way to feel closer to musicians who passed through those doors in the past. Standing in front of those doors, it’s easy to imagine what it might have been like inside: as a studio musician or a backup singer working hard under a scary, svengali-like Phil Spector; as a pop star in control of the microphone and in command of the room; as a technician, able to play with the sounds that those rooms can produce. And because it’s still a working studio, it also made me feel like a closer part of the music being made in those walls now.

KPCC recently went inside studio A in the Capitol Records building – you should totally check out their awesome slide show here.

Capitol Records photo courtesy of Nananere.

This post is part of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series – click here for the rest of the series!

LA’s Greatest Landmarks: The Hollywood Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is, according to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, “undoubtedly one of the most successful marketing ideas ever produced.”  I don’t know whether to congratulate them or to sucker punch us for falling victim to the commercial.

And yet the Walk of Fame, for its attempts at crass tourism, is one of the most iconic, and oddest, landmarks of LA.  Intended to publicly acknowledge the contributions of those in the industry, we end up walking all over them even as we applaud.  It’s like a roast, without the snarky jokes. Muhammad Ali understood this completely, and requested that his star be placed on a wall, like a plaque or other commonplace gesture of tribute.  He is the exception: one point three miles of five-point stars line Hollywood streets the way the stars line the sky.

According to Wikipedia and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the cost to build the original section of the Walk of Fame was $1.25 million, which worked out to roughly $85/square foot for each property owner on the stars’ path.  Between 1960 and 1961, 1,558 stars were aligned on the sidewalk – excluding, notably, Charlie Chaplin.  Foreshadowing the finicky and political nature of the star selection process, Chaplin was denied a star despite his uh, mildly groundbreaking work in film.  The committee cited some vague thing or two about his morals (read: the 1960s were a bad, bad time to be a lefty).  The Tramp finally was given his due in 1972.

Today, you have to survive the politics as well as the economics to get a star on the Walk.  Anyone can be nominated so long as they have at least five years experience in one of five categories (television, film, radio, recording, and live theater) and so long as the nominee actually agrees to be nominated (deceased celebrities may be nominated, but they must be deceased for – you guessed it – at least five years).  Of the 200-ish nominations received each year, twenty are selected every June.  This year, Melissa Etheridge, Ridley Scott, The Muppets (!!), and Oprah are amongst the stars chosen for a star.  If you glance through the roster of stars, you’ll notice that for every deserving recipient (Johnny Carson, the Beatles), there a few dubious ones.  The Rugrats, really?  Drew Carey?  Kim Basinger?

In addition, there is a little issue of money: recipients must pay a mandatory fee of $25,000 to create and install their star, as well as to maintain the Walk of Fame generally.  It’s sort of like adopting a highway, except you get a star instead of an ugly roadside sign.

In the rare, rare occasions I’m in Hollywood, I get a kick out of watching which stars people stop to photograph.  One weekend afternoon a month or so ago, I watched as Michael Jackson’s star (in front of Grauman’s) was photographed by every person who walked by it.  Some apparently made it a point to seek out his five points; others were excited to find him by happenstance.  This reminded me of the other, more touching use of the Walk of Fame: as a place where we all can assemble, mourn, and pay our final respects.

Other stars that people like to photograph: Lucille Ball (I saw three separate parties snap a pic of her star (honoring her film contributions) at Hollywood and Wilcox.  The star honoring her for I Love Lucy and other television work is further down on Gower); Johnny Depp (outside of Grauman’s); and Kermit the Frog (whose birthplace is “NA.” C’mon, we all know he was born in the swamps…).

So iconic is the Walk of Fame, and so successful has it been at mashing tribute with tourism, that it has spawned other similar walks.  The Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto honors the contributions of Canadians.  The Dog Walk of Fame in London honors the contributions of Toto, Gromit, and other pooches of note.  The Palm Springs Walk of Fame honors those who “must have, by their presence in the area, contributed to the charm, worldwide prominence and name recognition of Greater Palm Springs.”  (Contrary to what you may believe, there are non-gay people on that Walk of Fame too.).

For many aspiring to make it in Hollywood, getting a star on the Walk of Fame (Hollywood) is a sign that they indeed have touched the star they tried so hard to reach.  And when you are lauded one day, stepped on the next, well, you really did a swell job of earning that gold star.

Awesome aerial view of the Walk of Fame courtesy Christian Haugen under a Creative Commons license.  Photos of the Dennis Hopper and Michael Jackson stars courtesy lucyrk via the Blogging LA Flickr pool.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is but one icon we’re covering in our LA’s Greatest Landmarks series.  See the others here.

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)

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: A Series

Photo by Jodi

Every city has its landmarks. Some are well-known, others hidden. They can be awe-inspiring or, in some cases, a downright embarrassment to the residents. Los Angeles is no exception and is home to countless buildings, monuments, signs, parks, streets, etc. that define the landscape.

Starting next Monday, August 9th, the authors of blogging.la will begin exploring L.A.’s great, unique landmarks. As with our previous series Songs About Los Angeles and L.A. Plays Itself In The Movies, we will give a personal perspective on the meaning and greatness of the landmarks we’ve chosen.

You very well may disagree with something we include being deemed “great” or even a landmark. And yes, there are many, many, many fantastic and iconic L.A. landmarks that won’t be included in this round of posts. We encourage you to let us know what you think we missed and are looking forward to your input!

Links to posts in this series:

Sunset Boulevard (Tammara)

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (RobNoxious)

Griffith Observatory (Matt Mason)

The Rose Bowl (Frazgo)

Randy’s Donuts (Alexandra Apolloni)

Olvera Street (Kevin Ott)

Hollywood and Highland (Travis Koplow)

Bob’s Big Boy (Jodi Kurland)

Union Station (Julia Frey)

Walt Disney Concert Hall (Joz)

Venice Beach (Matt Mason)

The Hollywood Walk of Fame (Queequeg)

Angels Flight (Janna Smith)

Farmer’s Market (Kevin Ott)

The Capitol Records Building (Alexandra Apolloni)

The La Brea Tar Pits (RobNoxious)

Watts Towers (Travis Koplow)

Colorado Street Bridge (Frazgo)

Rodeo Drive (Janna Smith)

The Hollywood Bowl (Burns!)

Flashback Edition: Angelyne (Julia Frey)

Chateau Marmont (Tammara)

The Hollywood Sign (RobNoxious)