Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Animal Hospital of 1938--Classic Building in Danger

I could really get lost in Twitter. Now that I've figured out how to use groups to filter the  tweets from people I feel duty-bound to follow (mostly because they followed me) from folks I'm really really interested in (like Chris Nichols of LA Mag and Archaeology and Nat Geo and the Onion), I'm finding tons of interesting stuff.

Such as links to Chris Nichols' story about a 1938 Streamline Moderne building that was designed by the same team that built the Pan Pacific Auditorium. This structure, on Santa Monica Blvd., started out as a veterinary hospital and is now threatened with demolition.

The LA Conservancy has highlighted this building for a few weeks now, and the next step in deciding its fate will take place on August 18, at a City Council Meeting. Why is it threatened, when it's such an obviously neat old building? The Melrose Triangle Project will sit right on top of it. And what is being decided on August 18 is the certification of the Melrose Triangle Project.

"Sit right on top of it" is an exaggeration, of course. The original plan did call for its demolition, but once all parties became aware of the historic building, an alternative was proposed that will work around and preserve the old Dog and Cat Hospital.

The City Council could, technically, approve either plan. They could also delay or ask for more studies or whatever.

If you want to learn more about this curvy glass-bricked building, Los Angeles Magazine & Mr. Nichols have put up a story with:

  • Great pictures of the shiny-new building and its rooms in the late 1930s

  • Sad pictures of how it looks today

  • A bio of Dr. Eugene C. Jones, the veterinarian

  • As complete a story of the building as anyone could wish for

A Facebook page has more pictures and updates as well, and promises more photos from the Getty Research Archives. And LAWeekly has more in a story focused on two women who are heading up the drive to save the building.

Two Events: One Serious, One Silly

The city of Torrance is planning a big memorial to celebrate Louis Zamperini's life, on July 31 at Torance High School's Zamperini Stadium. The stadium is off Arlington at 2125 Lincoln, so Mapquest the site (it is not attached to the school).

Much more information is in this Daily Breeze article, which also answers a burning question (well, it's been burning on the "You Know You're From Torrance If..." Facebook page): In the new Unbroken  move, where were the scenes of Louis Zamperini's childhood shot? Turns out, Australia.

Who would've guessed?

The second event I'd like to mention is a big 6-hour school-bus-and-walking-tour of Los Angeles by Charles Phoenix, coming up on August 24. It begins and ends at Union Station and is billed as a Disneyland Tour because Phoenix sees Downtown LA as a giant theme park.

I think he's right, especially when you factor in all the waiting you have to do to get around there . . .

That first link was to the Facebook Event Page, but here is one to that describes the entire tour. Chinatown, Olvera Street, lunch at Phillipe's--sounds like a great afternoon!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mosaics in Seattle, Part 2

If you've ever been to Seattle, you've probably taken the Seattle Underground Tour (Yelp site), more properly known as Bill Spiedel's World Famous Underground Tour. The tour is centered in Pioneer Square and guides you up and down locked staircases, into the nearly-original streets of the city, which are one floor down.

Never been? Well, it's more than fascinating--it's funny. Lots of humor revolving around toilets that turned into geysers at high tide, plus a few set pieces from an old TV show ("Kolchak, the Night Stalker") which filmed an episode in the underground, and an explanation of why the glass in the cement-and-glass slabs has turned purple.

There are no mosaics underground, but this one is from the back hallway leading to the bathrooms of Doc Maynard's, the latest incarnation of the restaurant that surrounds the Underground Tour ticket booth.

Also in the Pioneer Square area, I saw this tabletop mosaic.

'Fraid I don't know anything about it.

Finally, who can go to Seattle without taking a picture of the Space Needle?

It's not possible. But below right is the picture that really caught my eye: the Space Needle fronted by (as the caption reads):


MEASURES 60'  BY 17' 

Horiuchi lived in Seattle, and created this mural--which is really a mosaic--for the World's Fair.

Horiuchi started out with sheets of torn, brightly colored paper and enlarged them--the intent was to evoke the rich colors of the Northwest. Fabricated in Italy, the finished mosaic is made of 54 colored panels of Venetian glass, with 160 color variations.

The Seattle Mural is now the backdrop of the stage of the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheater. It was restored in 2011, just in time for the 50th anniversary of that fair and Seattle Center.

There are tons of pictures of the Seattle Mural on the Internet, some with performers in front of it, some in the fog, some with enhanced colors--but I like the one below, from Art Beat, the best.

Seattle has so many more mosaics! We passed parks, schools, and businesses ornamented with mosaic art, but they went by so fast I didn't get pictures. Public art is a big part of Seattle's vibe, just like music is. That's one reason why it's so much fun to visit.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mosaics in Seattle

She's back!

Two weeks away in the great Northwest, and what do I have to show for it? Besides a big grin and about five extra pounds, courtesy of tastings and flights? Pictures of mosaics!

In fact, the Fremont area of Seattle, which I'm assured is trendy and bohemian, is awash in mosaics. Well, it rains even in July there, so it's awash in just about everything.

I found Pique Assiette mosaics there, if you can believe that. The proof is in this picture.

No idea what artists were involved or if it was a community effort (I suspect yes) but the ground of this patio or plaza is covered in widely spaced tiles, with the grout being filled with things like bottle caps, screwdrivers, keys--lots of keys--and broken toys. And this pair of scissors.

The little square or plaza where these mosaics reside is most notable for an 8-ton bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin, which was cast in Soviet Czechoslovakia just a year before the communist government fell. Must have been aggravating for the artist, Emil Venkov, because he had worked on it for ten years. He portrayed Lenin against a background of flames and violence, most unusual, but the statue was thrown down.

How did it end up in Seattle? An American teacher in Poland, Lewis Carpenter, came across it in a scrap metal yard. With the help of a few others, he managed to buy the statue and have it shipped to Washington, but he had to mortgage his home to do so. He felt it should be preserved as a work of art.

Mr. Anderson died in a car crash before the statue was installed, and his family is willing to sell--but for upwards of a quarter million dollars.

The pique assiette mosaics are in the low walls and ground behind Lenin.

Have not found any mention of Lenin's red hands, and in fact they don't look red in other pictures of the statue, so I assume their color is due to local vandals or vandalizing activists, rather than the artist Venkov.

Just a couple of blocks away from Lenin and the pique assiette mosaics is this work of art by Jo Braun and Kate Jessup, installed last year. It was pouring rain when I took this photo, but it came out well.

The piece is called "Invasion of the FoundFacians." You can scroll through pictures of the artwork's elements and the planning stages on Jo Braun's website. Close up, you can see that some of the landscape is iridescent.

There was more public art and sculpture in the area, and I missed most of it because, being an Angeleno, I wimp out in rain. But I do have more pictures from both Seattle and Half Moon Bay in California, which I'll share over the next few Mosaic Mondays.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mosaic House in Venice

This one's no secret--it's got its own website and Facebook page, both of which proclaim the address and keep folks updated on public tour dates. The photo at right came from the website, and there are many more there--but I'm particularly fond of wisteria so we'll start with that.

The mosaic house sits on Palms Blvd, between Lincoln and Penmar. It's owned by Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran, both busy and successful artist. Lately, their work has been focused in Los Angeles, and a big part of that work is on exhibit in their home.

As you can see from the picture below left, from the AvoidingRegret blog, there's a great deal of pique-assiette in this home--as there was in the last two Mosaic Monday posts, which focused on works by Jolina Beserra.

But it's not all one style, and the artists, while whimsical, also consider the home a work of art first, and a novelty second. Since 1994, Cheri has created the tiles, and Gonsalo shatters and scatters, according to one post--but I'm sure it's more collaborative and less simplified than that.

Cheri Pann told blogger Sandi of AvoidingRegret that she considers her home different from, say, Simon Rodia's Watts Towers. "For them [Rodia et al] it's an obsession," she said. "In art, there's planning. We strategize everything."

There are many photo essays on the Venice Mosaic House, but my favorite is at AvoidingRegret, and I suggest you scroll through for the big photos and the small details. I think I like it best because the post starts out by admitting that photos cannot do the house justice.

The rest of the photos here come from AtlasObscura, from a blog written by Robert, whose signature seems to be RJHEMEDES. Hope I got that right. There are many more pictures in his article, so please go see it.

First is the kitchen, and I must honestly state that I can't tell what is real above the sink and what is mortared onto the shelf and wall. The bananas are real right? And most of the coffee cups and bowls. . . maybe.

Second is the bath. Third is the front porch. Such mundane words for such wondrous sites.

More pictures of the kitchen from other angles are on the other websites  mentioned, including this page from Cheri Pann's website.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Boardner's--on Cherokee, near Hollywood Blvd--has been in business since 1942. The picture at right is recent though. Boardner's was used in the movie Gangster Squad (starring Ryan Gosling) and that's why Cherokee was lined with vintage cars and men in fedoras.

The tilted neon sign is exactly the same, but the painted brick and posters, as well as the red awning, were added for the movie. 

Below is a picture of the sign at night--taken in 2012, same as Gangster Squad: the year that Boardner's turned 70. Not sure who to credit these pictures to--they are posted on several sites.

Before it was Boardner's though, it was a speakeasy upstairs, and a beauty shop called Morressy's Hair Salon downstairs. And before that, when it was founded in 1927, it was called My Blue Heaven, after the song. The owner was none other than the songwriter, Gene Austin.

Steve Boardner came along in 1942, when he lost his lease at the Cross Roads of the World (at Sunset and Las Palmas) and was looking for a new place for his bar and restaurant. Steve established the Boardner's we know today--upstairs and down. Out with the beauty salon, in with the bar.

Here's a short list of the movies Boardner's has been in:

  • Ed Wood
  • LA Confidential
  • Hollywood Homicide,
  • Wag the Dog
  • Leaving Las Vegas

TV shows include NCIS-LA, Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23, Numbers, Angel, and Cold Case. That is not a complete list at all.

Boardner's biggest claim to fame may be that it's believed to be the last place where Black Dahlia victim Elizabeth Short was seen alive. Other stories are mentioned at Boardner's website.

That picture of W.C.Fields was over the booth I sat at. It's real. He signed it back in the 1940s. 

Through the main bar is a patio with stage, and the floor out there is authentically old but not conducive to spiky heels. Here's a shot of it from above through a window, and another of some of the detail. Only a true history geek would take pictures like these (thanks, Flo!)

Back in the early days, this patio was for customers who parked behind--the building was the first in LA to have a drive-in business. 

The entire building that encloses Boardner's is called the Cherokee building, and was designed by Norman Alpaugh--including the patio.

The upstairs room, which used to be the speakeasy, has been goth-ed up with an antique bar that once was at the Biltmore Hotel, and murals that replicate stained glass from the Pere la Chaise Cemetery of France. So what's not original, in other words, evokes a sense of "divine decadence." Although you do need to give your eyes time to get used to the darkness.

I'd just like to add that they serve great macaroni and cheese. And other stuff, too--fabulous nachos--but good mac & cheese is a big weakness of mine.

If you ask really nicely they'll probably give you a copy of their 5-page history, which includes a list of the celebrity regulars that have stopped by over the years. Some of the names have their regular drinks listed--W. C. Fields, it turns out, drank Coke there. Ed Wood liked scotch and water; Mickey Mantle came in for bourbon & ginger ale. Phil Harris ordered coffee and anisette.

Monday, June 9, 2014

South Pasadena Library Mosaic

Another week, another library, another children's room, another pique-assiette mosaic by Jolino Beserra. Could that possibly get old? Take a look at the picture on the left, and you tell me.

This mosaic pillar was installed in 2011 in the Children's Room of the South Pasadena Library, and I believe the Friends of the Library covered the expenses.

And that's all I know--I will leave you with this lovely photo of the pillar, up on a Flickr photostream by one Walterrr.

Tiki Bars in Los Angeles and Beyond

Monday again? Yikes, where does the time go?

Don't answer. I know. I have 3 facebook pages to update daily, a twitter feed, and my lovely site--check it out--just for a start. BUT . . .

While I gather pictures for a new Mosaic Monday post, here is some recommended Los Angeles History reading material on Tiki Bars! Who doesn't love Tiki Bars?

  • This Bucket List Bar post features the five oldest such treasures in the country--and included on the list are TWO from Los Angeles County.

  • While we're on the topic, here is a much more comprehensive article from LA Weekly, one year ago (OK, 13 months) listing the five top Tiki Bars in Los Angeles. I could get into that kind of research.

  • The hits just keep on comin'. Thrillist published "The 17 Best Tiki Bars in America" last January. Only one (Tiki Ti) is from LA.

  • The Chow blog narrowed the LA tiki-themed bars down to three in this post: Tiki Ti, Tonga Hut, and Damon's Steak House (and I'm using their picture).

Maybe this will inspire you to do your own research, because the solstice is right around the corner and where better to celebrate?

You're welcome.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Alhambra Library Mosaics: Pique-Assiette

Pique-Assiette means taking bits from others' plates, as near as I can figure. In mosaic, it means incorporating broken bits of ceramic and found objects into the artwork. I wrote about pique-assiette and this week's artist, Jolino Beserra, in 2011 when the Los Angeles Times featured the mosaics he created for his own house in a story.

Today--and next week too--the spotlight is on mosaics that Beserra created for a couple of local libraries.

The archway leading into the children's area of the Alhambra Civic Center Library comes first. That's it to the left, with the artist. The picture comes from Lisa Yee's blog. The little yellow fellow in his hands is named Peppy, belongs to Lisa, and sneaks into most of her photos.

This library is new; it just opened in late 2008. Ms. Yee has photos of the opening too, here (and on the right, below).

Jolino Beserra's website has a beautiful photo presentation of the library mosaic, which I urge you to look at. Close ups of many of the panels.

Here is part of the statement that opens the slide show:

"The concept is to mix technology and the arts & sciences in a way that will inspire children to explore all the possibilities available to them in books. My goal was to create a magical gateway to the joys of reading and imagination."

(Do you know how many ways there are to misspell Jolino Beserra? Hopefully I'll have them all corrected before I hit "publish." And yes, I know my own name is worse.)

Skipping around Google, I can tell you he has five rescues, which endears him to me.

Beserra was born in East Los Angeles, grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, spent two years at Pasadena City College and got his BA from the Art Center College of Design. That was in 1982, and he went to work for an advertising agency. In 1985 he started his own studio with his partner--now husband--David Edward Byrd.

Almost every article about Beserra mentions that Simon Rodia's Watts Towers had a deep influence on him. He worked there as a summer intern restoring the Towers in 1989, and his yellow-and blue room-sized homage to Rodia may be the topic of another Mosaic Monday.

Other early influences that molded his career was seeing, during a trip to Arkansas, some folk art: bottles that had been lovingly covered with buttons, service medals, and more, made by a grandmother for her grandchildren, and the discovery of folk art animals.

As he says on his website, "My goal as an artist has always been the desire to create visual stores."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Music and Eco Fest at the La Brea Tar Pits

Today's guest post is from Lee Gale Gruen, a docent at the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits, (the picture at right is of the Tar Pits in 1920). She's also the author of the Featured Book in the right column,Adventures With Dad: A Father & Daughter's Journey Through a Senior Acting Class :

A few years ago, I was one of several docents staffing the Page Museum booth at the Music and Eco Fest held on the grounds of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California, where its attendant museum, the Page, is located.  We had a lot of people of all ages stopping by our booth to check out the reproductions of a mammoth tooth and skulls of a saber tooth cat and dire wolf.

One boy, who was about 10 years old and obviously autistic, excitedly recited more about those animals than even I knew while continuously fingering the skulls. I commented that his favorite seemed to be the saber tooth cat as he talked on and on about Smilodon.

“Yeah, that’s his favorite this week,” responded his mother.

She said that her son had learned all about the animals by watching television programs devoted to Ice Age mammals.

 Another child appeared at our booth clutching a DVD of a computer-animated, adventure movie called “Ice Age” which he had bought at another booth.

After a short while, a women appeared at the booth clutching a white plastic bag.

“Is there anyone at the Page Museum who would like to have this dead snake?” she inquired of me.

I was speechless, to say the least. That was definitely the first time in my life I had ever been asked such a question, and I guess my expression conveyed it. The snake owner explained that she was helping staff a nearby booth of the Southwestern Herpetologists Society. Various members had brought their snakes, giant lizards, and other assorted reptiles to display to the festival visitors.

The owner first got the snake 25 years ago and had displayed it many times at fairs and festivals. Today, when she opened the snake’s cage, she found it was dead. She seemed heartbroken.

I didn’t know how to answer her inquiry. Shortly, the docent coordinator arrived, and I suggested the woman pose the question to her. The coordinator was also stumped. The woman finally left, taking her snake with her.

Awhile later I took a break. I walked into the Page Museum to get some snacks set out for the booth volunteers. When I was about to leave, I walked up to the front desk where a few young men were selling tickets to the public. There was a lull in the visitor traffic, so I started chatting with them. Of course, I told them my amazing snake story.

“I’d like it,” said one.

“Why. What are you going to do with a dead snake?”

He explained that he wanted to pursue a career after college mounting ancient animal bones on scaffolds for display to the public. So, whenever he found a dead animal such as a squirrel or bird, he would bury it in his backyard. Eventually, he would dig it up to practice rearticulating the bones. He planned to use the snake for that purpose.

Off I went to the herpetology booth. I found the snake owner and explained about the museum employee, his pursuit of such an unusual career, and his interest in the dead snake. She agreed to give him the snake, but insisted upon accompanying me to meet him.

Just before I left, she was telling us that the snake had glaucoma. I caught a quick glimpse of its cloudy eyes. That was another first in this day of firsts. I had never before thought about snakes getting glaucoma.

I returned to the herpetology booth to see the reptiles. One of the people staffing the booth offered to let me inside the tape barrier since I was also a volunteer at the festival. He showed me all the reptiles and let me touch them. One, a crocodile monitor lizard, was about a yard long in the body with a tail at least one and a half times that length. It had long, black claws and a forked tongue that darted in and out.

“This kind of lizard can grow to a maximum of 19 feet in length,” he explained. “They are found in the wild in New Guinea, Timor and Indonesia, and are extremely dangerous.”

The crocodile monitor lizard, named Snowball, was two years old and not dangerous as it had been bred in captivity and was docile. I petted Snowball on the back. Its skin was bumpy, dry, and leathery to the touch. The owner took a picture of me with my new friend.

One never knows what being a docent at the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum will bring. Each of my experiences at the Music and Eco Fest would have been wonderful on its own. Putting them altogether, it was an amazing day.