Friday, October 31, 2008

Pershing Square Torn Up Again

Gee, has it been 15 years since we ripped apart Pershing Square? How time flies. The photo at right, from the Los Angeles Public Library, was taken by Cary Moore and shows the last re-do, in 1993.

According to the Los Angeles' Times front-page story, which includes some lovely photos and a short history of the park since 1866: yes, the place is about to be redesigned--this time, as an area more friendly to the many residents of the area. Changes will be funded in part by the Park Fifth project, providing, per David Houk, Director, "As much grass and trees as possible."

Sounds great. This photo, also from LAPL, is undated, but I would guess from the cars that it was taken in the 1940s.

The park was renamed in 1918 for General Pershing of WWI fame. The Times photo essay has a picture of the pre-Pershing, 1885 "Central Park". A steepled church stands in the Biltmore location.

When the park's name was changed by order of the City Council, LA's Mayor Woodman objected. Seems the council had previously passed civic rules to keep crowds from congregating in the square, and he fussed that the new name, along with a planned memorial honoring the soldiers and leaders of the Great War, would violate all those rules. Well, they were probably silly rules to begin with.

In April 1919, the Square was the scene of a huge welcome-home victory celebration for the soldiers. A band played "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here," and "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," then the "Star Spangled Banner." The regiments broke, and all the soldiers began mixing with their loved ones. Meal tickets were handed out so that all the men of the 160th Regiment could eat at the downtown restaurants (thanks to the Red Cross). Several companies were served lunch in the banquet hall of the Trinity Hotel.

That was long before this picture was taken, since the Biltmore opened in 1923.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hacienda Hotel and Sam Cooke

"Tales of the macabre at L.A. Hotels"--an Oct. 22 story in the Los Angeles Times Travel section--tells of three hotels where big names checked out the hard way:

  1. Janis Joplin died at the Landmark Motor Hotel (now the Highland Gardens) in Hollywood
  2. NightStalker Richard Ramirez hung out at the Cecil Hotel near Staples Center
  3. Sam Cooke was shot and died at the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo.

You know Sam Cooke's music: Chain Gang, You Send Me, Cupid, Shake, Bring it on Home, Wonderful World, etc. In the 50s, he was a gospel singer who switched to fact, he pretty much designed soul. On December 11, 1964, he checked into the Hacienda Hotel. Late that night, one woman called police claiming she'd been kidnapped and escaped. Minutes later, a friend of the manager of the Hacienda called police l, stating that she'd heard gunfire. The manager claimed she'd shot a near-naked Cooke in self-defense.

Wikipedia has a summary of all this. Was the first caller, who ran from Cooke's room, really a near-rape victim who grabbed both their clothes in confusion as she ran away? That's what she claimed, but she was arrested for prostitution a few weeks later. The initial report in the LA Times of 12-12-1964 called this woman a "Eurasian vocalist" that Cooke met at a party. Hmmm. His family has a different version of events in a book that you can get online. Another bio is Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick.

Cooke's life and death were controversial. Five thousand people tried to attend the services for him a few days later at Mt Sinai Baptist Church on Adams (now Apostolic Faith Home Assembly). Lou Rawls and Ray Charles sang hymns. Cooke's widow married Bobby Womack about two months later.

As for the Hacienda, if it's the hotel on Sepulveda in El Segundo (as the 2008 Times reported), obviously it's come up in the world. Some websites refer to the Hacienda as a 'two-bit joint' in south central LA. The Times of 2008 says it's in El Segundo, but the Times of the times (always wanted to write that!) claims the Hacienda was on S. Figueroa. 9137 S. Figueroa, to be exact--no where near El Segundo.

9137 S. Fig is now the Star Motel, according to Looking at Google, it looks like an apartment building.

Hmmm again. I've not caught the Times in this sort of error before. I really intended to blog on the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo, but that's not where Sam Cooke died. The papers from the 1960s are very clear on the address, and the place was called the Motel Hacienda.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Los Angeles Noir Tour

If you're burned out on cemetery tours and haunted houses--but still fascinated by the dark side--there's a hard-boiled tour of Los Angeles' Film Noir sites on November 9th. This is a self-guided event; you buy your ticket and show up between 10 am and 4 pm at the different sites, and a docent tells you all about it.

What sites? Places dark and sleazy, reeking of cheap booze, cheaper women, and Humphrey Bogart's aftershave. Places like:

  • The Formosa Cafe, where (in LA Confidential) Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato hung out
  • Philip Marlowe's office--or at least the Security Trust and Savings Building, where Raymond Chandler put Marlowe. A noir photo exhibit will be set up here, too.
  • The Warner Brothers lot where The Maltese Falcon was filmed in 1941
  • Scenes from Double Indemnity, like the Mulholland Dam at the Hollywood Reservoir and the Glendale RR Depot

LA-NOIR-chitecture is a one-time event and runs from 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday, November 9th. Tickets must be purchased by the previous Friday, the 7th.

The tour is $30 (discounted if you're a member of LA Conservancy) and Reservations are Required! (There's actually a good reason for that--Warner Bros won't let anyone onto the lot if they're not on The List.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cemetery Celebrations

Los Angeles has a Halloween blog! It's called Creepy, and it's a veritable gusher of information. From it I learn that:
  1. Hollywood Forever Cemetery conducts tours on Saturdays and Sundays, for $12. Go see the graves of stars like Jayne Mansfield and Peter Lorre and Valentino with lots of history tidbits. The tours are at 3:30 on Oct 18 and 19, noon on Oct. 25, Nov. 2, and most Saturdays through mid-December. Creepy reviews the tour here.
  2. Hollywood Forever also hosts Dia de los Muertes on November 1, from 4 pm to midnight. $5 gets you in.
  3. Regional rehearsals (in the South Bay, West Hollywood, UCLA, SM--see the schedule) to recreate Michael Jackson's Thriller dance are ongoing. The dance itself will be performed at Hollywood and Highland on Oct. 25.
  4. October 18 all night horror movies at the New Beverly Cinema.

Here's an item not from Creepy: the 13th Annual Long Beach Cemetery Tour takes place Oct. 25th. Show up between 9 and noon at Sunnyside Cemetery on Willow with $18 of disposable income (unless you're a student or a member of the LB Historical Society--you get special rates.)

Rosie the Riveter in Inglewood

I love Shorpy. This shot was taken in October 1942, at the North American Aviation Co. in Inglewood. "Parts are marked with this pneumatic numbering machine in North American Aviation's sheet metal department." per Alfred Palmer, Office of War Information.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reasons to Preserve Buildings

Diane Keaton wrote an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, looking back on the unsuccessful fight to save the Ambassador Hotel. She listed reasons--green, economical reasons--why preservation makes more sense than new construction. Here's one I was surprise to learn: "construction of new structures alone consumes 40% of the raw materials that enter our economy every year. "

So pierce my ears and call me drafty...I didn't know that! But here's a breakdown. Per the U.S. Green Building Council and LEED Certification--

In the United States alone, buildings account for:

  • 70% of electricity consumption,
  • 39% of energy use,
  • 39% of all carbon dioxide emissions,
  • 40% of raw materials use,
  • 30% of waste output
  • 12% of potable water consumption.

Admittedly, this list--from an Alcoa newsletter--doesn't differentiate between new building or additions, repairs, etc. when giving that raw materials figure. Here's another quote, from Lafarge's Sustainable Development page:

  • The environmental challenge: when a building's total lifecycle is considered, the construction industry:
  • is responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions and waste in developed countries,
  • accounts for 40 % of the energy demand in these countries.

Can you tell my google included 40%?

Be that as it may, I would love to see a side-by-side comparison of (column a) the cost of erecting a new building, including clearing the real estate of previous buildings, and the entire construction costs, and (column b) the cost of remediating/renovating/remodelling an older structure into something equally usable. And maybe a note about maintenance costs for each.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Phillipe's: A good time was had by all

I missed Philippe's Anniversary, but I can still buy this cool pin at their website,

Looks like Huell Howser was there as emcee, along with the USC marching band and about a million other people. The Los Angeles Times covered the party--actually, they covered the lines waiting to get into the party. People came from everywhere to celebrate and buy French dips for ten cents--their price 100 years ago. Remember when keyboards used to have cents-signs on them? That was about fifty years ago.

You want photos? We got photos. Here's a link to LAWeekly's 15-pic display (it's slooooow). The Times also has two online photo spread (and here) of the festivities, as well as a story about how the French dip was invented straight from Philippe Mathieu's grandson. And here's a piece from last April about Philippe's, but you can also find historic photos and tidbits on

So now the standard has been set. Do we have any other 100-year-old restaurants in this area? Any coming close? Musso and Franks--how old are they? 89. Well, the next party has been given a template. This is how you celebrate.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hollywood Palladium Then

Halloween 1940 saw the grand opening of the Hollywood Palladium. Here's what the Los Angeles Times says today:

"Dorothy Lamour was there to snip the ribbon, spangled with orchids, and as Jack Benny, Judy Garland and Lana Turner looked on, hundreds of couples danced the jitterbug on a 11,200-square-foot dance floor made of maple wood.With its coral and chromium interior, Streamlined Moderne swoops and shimmering chandeliers, the Palladium that night must have seemed like a dreamy refuge in a world that was growing darker by the day."

For the last half of October, workers were toiling 24 hours a day on the club. Here's what the Times said on October 30, 1940:

"Polish and was were being put on the dance floor...

"Tommy Dorsey and his band were rehearsing...[no mention of their unknown vocalist, Frank Sinatra!]

"Waiters were assembling glassware, linen, silverware...

"Throughout the $1,000,000 building...Workmen were hanging Halloween decorations, electricians were finishing installation of indirect lighting equipment, air-conditioning machinery was checked for operating efficiency. "Arrangements to handle an opening crowd of 7500 persons, with dining space for 1000 more around the dance floor were nearly ready...Equipment alone for the building has cost nearly $500,000...Sunset Blvd. from Gower to Vine Sts. will be a blaze of light, spotlighted by 50 giant arc lights."

Another article reported that "by means of an illumination device, there appears to be a misty group of damsels dancing in a cloud of stars. Another effect is 'Color Symphonies' , a sparkling spectrum of 16 hues played on a color keyboard in harmony with the music."

There was also that 200-ft bar in back of the balcony, the dance floor of spiraled maple that cost $10,000, and the dome-topped main cocktail lounge.

The photo above is from the Los Angeles Public Library's Herald Examiner photo collection, and was taken by Gil Harris on December 4, 1940. Tommy Dorsey and his band once again had the crowd on the dance floor.

The Sunday Times of 10/5/2008 ran a photo montage of the Palladium, covering the 1940 opening to the 2008 re-opening.