Friday, March 24, 2017

Reading LA History: LAX, Cat & Fiddle, Van Upp

I've written about the mosaic walls at LAX before, but tonight I'll point you to an article in DesignObserver about Janet Bennett, who claims to have designed those mosaics. I hope enough people will pay attention to make it official.

As far as I know, Janet's boss in 1960 (when she worked for Periera and Luckman, the architects of the Los Angeles International Airport) never claimed credit for the mosaic walls. After he died, however, they became part of his legacy as the designer of the airport's interior - rightly or wrongly. Janet Bennett, who left Los Angeles for other projects before the mosaics were installed, says she designed them, and the fact that a fresh-out-of-school young female artist didn't get proper credit in 1960 probably surprises no one.

The Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood is gone, and the new tenants want to return it to its former days. Before it was a British-style pub, the restaurant with the huge patio was the Mary Helen Tea Room with an enchanted garden. In fact, that's how it started life in 1927, during Prohibition. A bit of its history is here, in posts from the Hollywood Gastronomical Haunts blog.

Eater (the source of this photo) has posts about the new folks moving in, chef April Bloomfield and restaurateurs Ken Friedman, and about the history of the place.

Ever hear of Virginia Van Upp? She was a screenwriter and became Hollywood's first female executive producer in 1944. Great success, and then a big, slow, fall from the heights. This piece in by Christina Newland goes as in depth as possible into Van Upp's career, but leaves a lot of questions.

Finally, here's a link to Zocalo Public Square's short article on a newly donated group of photographs of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The collection of over 4,000 pictures came from Ernest Marquez, and was donated to the Huntington Library. This one shows the Arcadia Hotel in the background, while Victorian daredevils ride a roller coaster not far from the shore in Santa Monica in the 1880s.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Los Angeles' past and future ... and theatres

Two wonderful essays about Los Angeles that must be shared:

The first appeared in the March 3 Los Angeles Times. Under the guise of talking about the upcoming local election, Thomas Curwen gives us a summation of how Los Angeles has grown over decades and what that growth means to those who live here, and those who want to live here.

I love this line:

Chicago was lucky. San Francisco was lucky. One had a fire, the other an earthquake, each triggering a makeover, allowing each city to rethink its layout and identity.

Dang. We haven't been blessed enough to be destroyed and given the opportunity to rebuild.

Ed Ruscha remembers moving to LA in 1956 and having a neighbor tell him that around 1942, the place was paradise. Paradise!

Find an old man today, and you'll probably hear that in 1980 this place was paradise, says Ruscha. He's so right.

Curwen goes into the tunnel of the Hall of Administration to find records going back a century, showing how neighborhoods were laid out and prized properties designed back then. Los Angeles, where everyone had cars, could afford space for homes with yards, hundreds of them. Thousands of them.

But ... hundreds of thousands of them? Eventually, we hit a limit.

The second story is called "Inside LA STAGE History: Edwin Booth and Child's Grand Opera House," and takes us all the way back to Gold Rush Days and a teenaged Edwin Booth. Who becomes an adult Edwin Booth and saves Robert Lincoln, the son of the president that Booth's brother will assassinate a year later, from falling off a train platform.

Yes, this story is full of exactly the sort of digressions that I love.

But it's mostly about Los Angeles' opera house. This picture was taken shortly before the structure on Main Street was demolished in 1936.