Thursday, August 30, 2007

St. Vibiana Reconstructed

In this story, time will move backward.

The L.A. Times published wonderful pictures on the re-attachment of the cupola to the cathedral formerly known as St. Vibiana's. The Times article is well worth visiting; it includes a four-minute KTLA video showing the cupola’s ascent and positioning, and additional photographs.

Want more pictures? Vibianala has dozens showing the the cathedral inside and out as it exists now.

USC hosts a page dedicated to St. Vib's too, with old pictures like the one at left. (Lookee! It's the cupola. . . or bell tower) Opened in 1880, the building was closed due to earthquake damage in 1995. The Catholic Church’s attempt to demolish the old Cathedral (seems awfully un-Catholic to me) was foiled by the Los Angeles Conservancy, and a decent summary of the last ten years is at the website of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where St. Vibiana’s is listed as one of the 11 most endangered places.

Who was St. Vibiana? No one really knows. A legendary account from a 9th century source, widely believed to be bogus, says that she was a Christian martyr, flogged to death, and that a 5th century pope dedicated a basilica to her.

The Archdiocese spins a fanciful tale of how the saint’s grave was found while workmen were digging and planting a new vineyard from the Pope. That was in 1853; the saint’s road to Los Angeles then wound through France, Panama , San Francisco, and down the coast.

Like many Catholic school kids, I was told that Vibiana's body was miraculously preserved. When I first visited the old Cathedral I expected to view something along the lines of Sleeping Beauty, but her figure was elevated so high above us I couldn’t see much of anything. See it in the picture, on a bed over the altar, under a half dome of stars?

I later learned that the figure was wax, and the disillusionment crushed me. The only remains of Vibiana were skeletal (how those 19th century priests deduced she was a virgin and martyr--the story related on the Archdiocese website--was never really explained.)

Her bones now restin a crypt below the new Cathedral, btw, which is much more respectable--but not nearly so fascinating to the many Catholic school kids who visit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Union Station's Harvey House

The Harvey House Restaurant opened with Los Angeles' Union Station 1939. This was the last Harvey House built as part of a railroad station, and it was designed by Mary Colter. The restaurant closed in 1967, unable to turn a profit as rail transportation slowly declined.

This picture gives the "waitress perspective." It's taken from behind the counter, looking out towards the station lobby. Everything's original, including the cork on the far wall, which was made from recycled corncobs. And those tres deco objects on the wall are speakers, so that patrons could hear announcements for train departures.

Now the Harvey House is only used in movies (think of the police station in Bladerunner) and for private parties.

A Harvey House fan site has some pictures of how it looked during the operational years. (Scroll down to find Los Angeles alphabetically in the California list.) "Legends of America" maintains an extensive history of the Harvey House restaurants, with a section on the Los Angeles Union Station (again, you must scroll down to it).

The picture above right shows the tooled leather partitions, a bit of the bright floor, and a wood and tile wait-station. The original wall tiles are in the background--if you look close, you can see the parrots.

The last picture is of the bar, hidden away in a room off to the side, its copper still gleaming.

St. Sophia's Cathedral

On September 7-9, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sophia will host their annual LA Greek Fest. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson again be kicking off the celebrations; there will be dancing, merriment, and an abundance of cheer: read all about it at the website.

In fact, there's a promotional YouTube Video.

The cathedral, at Normandie and Pico, is pretty spectacular, festival or not. A phototour is available (from which these pictures are borrowed).

Seeing-stars gives the history of how two immigrant brothers (Charles and Spyros Skouras) built the church in 1952, after achieving success heading up their own film companies (National Pictures and 20th Century Fox).

A Church webpage explains the symbolism behind much of the structure, the doors, candelabra, and especially the icons. You might want to start at the site index, and you could be kept busy all day.

The photo at right faces south and shows the Resurrection in three panels. The Epitaphios ("an elaborately carved baldacino symbolizing the Holy Sepulchre, used during Good Friday services") can be seen in the corner.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Millard Sheets' Centennial

Millard Sheets would have turned 100 this year, and the Los Angeles County Fair will celebrate his work at their Fine Arts Buidling. The Gallery website has a 2-minute video showing many of his paintings.

(The picture on the left is one of the mosaic murals of Shakespearian scenes decorating the Garrison Theatre of the Claremont Colleges. It has nothing to do with the Fair, but Millard Sheets created it.)

The Millard Sheets Gallery in Pomona grew out of the Fine Arts Program of the L.A. County Fair, which Sheets knew well. He won his first prize at the fair, and in 1930 he became director of the Fine Arts Program—holding the post for 25 years.

So it’s fitting that Millard Sheets’ life and art is featured at the L.A. County Fair this year—his centennial year. The show is titled "A Tapestry of Life: the World of Millard Sheets ."

The L.A. County Fair runs from September 7 to September 30; get more information at their website--including a map showing where the Millard Sheets Fine Arts Gallery is.

For more info on Mr. Sheets, here is his NY Times obituary.

As for his art, here are links where you can see it (if you don't live near one of his many building mosaics like those on Washington Mutual branches):
  • The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles has links to 19 or 20 of Sheets’ murals, some with photos. Many are Washington Mutual Buildings (he crafted the murals and mosaics for Home Savings, which was bought out by Wa Mu several years back)
  • Bruce MacEvoy’s Watercolor site has a bio and samples of Sheets’ work
  • Paintings for sale at
  • Arroyo Seco at
  • Angel's Flight, also at

Monday, August 27, 2007

Obituary: Joseph Young

A small collection of sites where Joseph Young's public art can be seen:

At left is the Triforium, his most notorious piece—2 pictures including an aerial view are on the Public Art in LA site, as well as background information on the "poly-phonoptic kinetic tower" (which is what he called it).

The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles lists the following works and their addresses, but little other info:

That last item (Water Sources in L.A. County) is outside the Hall of Records on Temple Street. Pictures of it, under the name Topographical Map, are on Public Art in LA along with background information. The Los Angeles County Arts Commission also has a page on this mosaic and granite mural, done in 1962.

His last work, finished in 1992, was the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum Monument, pictured at right. Information about this is on the Public Art in LA site, but the Monument has its own website as well.

Below is a picture showing part of the mosaic mural that decorates the exterior of the Mathematical Science Building at UCLA.

Young's obituary in the Los Angeles Times is here. Read another memorial at the Mosaic Art and Glass Art blog.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Boyle Heights' Japanese Community

Hector Becerra of the L.A. Times wrote a wonderful piece (ornamented with this picture) titled (in the print edition) "Eastside Sushi? Si" The photo is of a Japanese restaurant on 1st Street, in business since 1956 as the Otomi Cafe. It changed its name to Otomisan when the original owners sold it in the 1970s.

Decades later, Otomisan closed for six months after the second owner died. A local woman bought Otomisan (and its recipes) from the widow in 2005, luring back customers with Bento box lunches--like the original place had sold in the 1950s.

Friday, August 24, 2007

South Coast Botanic Gardens in PV

A carrion flower is blooming at the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdes, according to the Daily Breeze: "See the stapelia today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the gardens, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd." There's a $7 admission charge.

The Gardens cover 87 acres and include the standard rose, cactus, children's, herb, and California native plants areas, as well as groves of trees, broad lawns, and even a fuschia garden. Dahlias and hibiscus are also busting out, if carrion flowers and their odors are not your thing.

Boomers in PV know that the South Coast Botanic Gardens were once landfill. For the first half of the 20th century it was an open-pit mine, but in 1961 the County Board of Supervisors OK'd the landfill plan. A brief history is at the Gardens' website. These 'before & after' pics are also from that site.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Little Tokyo News

The L.A. Times worries that the recent sales of the New Otani Hotel (built in 1977) and the Japanese Village Plaza (built 1984) will change the nature of the community. But as the paper reports:
"The buyer of the New Otani is 3D Investments, a private, Beverly Hills-based real estate partnership that owns several commercial properties, including the two most prominent hotels in San Francisco's Japantown."

"The new owners of Japanese Village Plaza are planning improvements as well. . . . Malibu-based American Equities will spend "several million dollars" to refresh the two-story outdoor pedestrian mall of Japanese-themed shops and restaurants between 1st and 2nd streets, President Marvin Lotz said."

Sounds like they know what they're doing. Meanwhile (since 1977 and 1984 are way too recent to interest me much) here's a nifty history site about how Little Tokyo was turned into Bronzeville during World War 2.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

History Lesson

Hopefully everyone reads Column One (in the L.A. Times) today: "Diversity gave Birth to L.A." by John L. Mitchell. The story focuses on one descendent of the first settlers from New Spain who came to Los Angeles.

Repairs Proceed at LAX's Theme Building

The Airport Commission just approved a $1.1 million expenditure to finish repairs on LAX’s Theme Building, according to The Daily Breeze. That’s one of several $1 million-plus contracts awarded, and the total cost may exceed $10 million-- which includes changes to bring the structure into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The original Theme Building cost $2.2 million to complete in 1961. This picture is actually the 1959 rendering of the place by Pereira and Luckmann, from USC Regional History Archives.

Those arches stand 135 feet high, and 900 tons of structural steel were used in the construction. However, nothing we build can last forever. Chunks of plaster, including one weighing over a thousand pounds and measuring ten feet in length, began dropping from the arches in mid-February 2007, and the high-altitude Encounter Restaurant closed in March.

In June, the announcement came that the building would be shut down for the rest of the year. The employee commissary and City Deli, at street level, remain open.

Other bits of trivia:
  • the observation deck of the restaurant has been closed since September 2001, for security reasons
  • Walt Disney Imagineering took over in 1996, remodeling and opening the Encounter Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant's website has tons of information--except for updates on the repairs
  • Like the Little Country Church of Hollywood, the Theme Building was declared an historic-cultural monument by the city in 1992

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Can Churches Fall From Grace?

There are many jokes that could be made about opening a bar on church property, and the L.A. Times includes a few in its article, "A Spirits-Filled Church?" The church in question is the Little Country Church of Hollywood on Argyle.
A 1943 postcard from

As the Times notes, this is not the first time the idea's come up. Here's a paragraph from a 1999 Variety story:

"Susan Moore of the hip Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop is planning a 200 seat restaurant on the the grounds of the Little Country Church of Hollywood. The Hollywood Bungalow, on Argyle, close to the Pantages, will have outside dining and a deck facing the old church. The property has 150 mature trees, more nature than is usually found in the middle of Hollywood. . . . "

Now, as in 1999, residents oppose the plan and seem to have stopped it cold. But leaving the property vacant doesn't serve the community either. The building, declared an historic-cultural monument, has not been used as a church since 1997; vandals, fire, and neglect threaten it.

The Times article (by Bob Pool) ran through the history of the building, built by Rev. W. B. Hogg, a radio preacher, in 1933-34. The Billy Graham Center Archives in IL has recordings of 24 of Rev. Hogg's radio show from the 1930s, on four audiotapes.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Historic Oaks

There are oak trees in Europe with incredible histories: the Guernica oak, or the 800-year-old Gillotin Oak in France come to mind.

Who knew we had an arbol icon in our own (literally) back yard?

Per Jerry Crowe's Crowe's Nest column in the L.A. Times, Germany awarded every gold medallist in the 1936 Olympics a year-old oak seedling, and Americans took home 24 of those.

Jesse Owens, the star of the Olympics, planted his in Cleveland.

And Cornelius Johnson of Los Angeles, who won the high jump gold medal, planted the oak in the backyard of the small corner house where he grew up, which is now in Koreatown. From the look of the picture in the Times, the sprawling tree has been well-cared for.

This link is to a copy of Johnson's biography in American National Biography (Oxford Press).

(there is another Olympic tree at USC, brought home by a discus gold medalist, Ken Carpenter. )

Pershing Square

Cecilia Rasmussen of the L.A. Time wrote a wonderful article about Pershing Square, full of history and anecdotes, with a digression on the original Rin Tin Tin. She made short work of the post WWII era, when the parks was "brutally excavated . . . Auto ramps replaced cypress trees . . . The site was covered with concrete and topped with a thin layer of lawn."

I'm glad I don't remember that. But in addition to Rasmussen's piece, here are links to Pershing Square stories and even more pictures:
  • Blogdowntown
  • Los Angeles City Parks & Recreation Dept's Pershing Square page
  • PublicArtinLA's history taken from an LA Conservancy brochure of the 1990s, along with vintage pictures and a link to the current public art there

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Spinout at Dodger Stadium

Since I love hearing about the history of Chavez Ravine and Dodger Stadium, the story on Walter O'Malley's Official Website struck a chord. It's all about a 3-day shoot in 1966 of scenes of Elvis Presley's movie Spinout. In the picture, the hillside behind parking lot 38 is visible.

It's a long piece, so here's a taste:
“The majority of the movie was shot elsewhere, but what they used Dodger Stadium for was the start and the finish line for the racing scenes,” said Smith [Bob Smith, who became VP of Stadium Operations]. “It was filmed near where the Union Oil station is by Lot 26 (now known as Lot H). They set up some dressing trailers and I remember that I saw Elvis, but he had bodyguards around him. They really didn’twant it known that he was even out there. They were on site for three days — a set-up day and shooting the second and third days. There were a lot of camera people. Elvis would drive by the start and the finish line and then they would go back and forth and do it all again. They dressed up the parking lots to tie it in with the rest of the racing scenes where the movie was shot, so it would be hard to tell it was at Dodger Stadium.”

Golden State Mutual's Art Auction

These murals, part of those painted by Charles Alston, and Hale Woodruff, are not for sale. They grace the walls of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company at 1999 West Adams and are staying put. The first mural is titled "The Negro in California History: Exploration and Colonization." Biddy Mason is in it, along with James Beckworth.

The second mural is "The Negro in California History: Settlement and Development." More information and pictures are available at

Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company is shipping much of the rest of its collection of African American art to New York for auction.

The LA Times reprinted a Bloomberg article about this by Lindsey Pollack, but left out several paragraphs at the end, which might make a difference in how the sale is perceived:

"Golden State was not an ideal home for the fragile and rare artworks.
``Golden State is not a museum. There is no temperature control,'' said von Blum[Paul von Blum, a senior lecturer in African-American studies at the University of California], who recalled finding a Betye Saar artwork lying face down in a closet.
``I got the sense they didn't care about it,'' said Bruce Picano, who cataloged and organized the collection in 2004, when he was an art history student at UCLA. He found art hanging in awkward locations and behind filing cabinets. Some of the most important work was locked in a vault, away from public view.
The building itself was in disrepair, with peeling paint, a broken drinking fountain in the lobby and stained carpets, Picano said. ``The collection had been ignored for a long time.''

Here are more links, if you're interested in the artwork:

  • Alston also painted murals at Harlem Hospital for the Federal Art Project

  • Biographical article about artist William Pajaud, who assembled—and contributed to—the collection
  • Swann Galleries has their auction schedule online, but the catalogue of Golden State’s art costs $35

  • If you’re a member of AskArt, you can see images of the works going to auction (including this drawing “General Moses, Harriet Tubman” by Charles White)

Finally, company histories of Golden State Life Insurance are at the corporate website and in an online article from The Dallas Weekly.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hail and Farewell, Columbia

Hudson Capital now owns the old headquarters of Columbia Pictures on Gower Street, having paid $200 million. They will build a six-story office building for tenant Technicolor, upgrade amenities, and (per the Times) "make Sunset-Gower one of the region's few studios that offers preproduction, production and postproduction services for movie and television show makers."

The L.A. Times carries the story with snippets of the studio's history, but a better online resource for the Columbia saga is ReelClassics. their article starts:

"COLUMBIA PICTURES was originally founded in 1920 under the name of C.B.C. Sales Film Corporation by Joe Brandt and the brothers Jack and Harry Cohn (who later changed the company's name to Columbia in 1924 in a effort to "up" the studio's image)."
ReelClassics even has the story of the logo, and all the claimants to the torch.

(Sony Pictures had a flash-y history site but it doesn't seem to be working well now--possibly because of the sale?)

Pools and PickFair

Are pools a part of Los Angeles History? The LA Times has a Swimming Pools Timeline in their Home section, starting out with the year 1920, when:

"Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford add one of the country's largest pools -- 55 feet wide, 100 feet long, with a sandy beach -- to their Beverly Hills property, Pickfair."

Celebrities Jerry Buss then Pia Zadora owned PickFair after Mary Pickford died in 1979.

During Zadora's residency in the early 1990s, PickFair was pretty much demolished. The pool was one of the structurally-sound items that did not have to be changed. Before selling PickFair, Zadora converted the pool from chlorine to saline.

Unicom Group, the new owner of PickFair, maintains a website featuring the property, with history and pictures like the one above.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Queen's Not Sinking Yet

It seems far from L.A., but the Queen Mary--in Long Beach since 1967--is certainly part of L.A. County.

Not for the first time, the royal ship finds itself on the block in bankruptcy court, with unpaid rent of nearly $5 million owed to the Port of Long Beach. However, all is well--for now. An investment consortium named Save the Queen has done just that, paying $43 million for the right to take over the operation of the ship and surrounding property.

According to an article in the Long Beach Press Telegram, Save the Queen ” described its plans for the site as a theme resort, not unlike Universal City Walk in Los Angeles.”

Until then, the Saturday midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show will continue, so we can all timewarp to our hearts' content.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Google Maps

Collectively, if we add up all the hours and wasted brain power that have been spent playing with the new Los Angeles street photos on Google, a new mass transit system could have been designed. But it's hot, and what else is there to do?

If you haven't yet, go to and click on Maps at the top of the screen.
Then click on Street View on the top of the map.
Then click on the camera icon over Los Angeles and zoom in.

Or just go here. Woo hoo, it's the Bradbury Building!

The Not-So-Old Greyhound Station

Blogdowntown has a great post about the Merchandise Mart, which was built as a Greyhound Bus Depot in 1967. I won't steal its thunder or pictures; go there for the story.

But I do remember riding into that bus station at 7th and Los Angeles Streets around 1973 or so. We were picked up at dawn by a friend, and the eerie silence and empty streets, with only a few trench-coated bums lurching around, is something I've never forgotten.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Boom and Bust and Boom Again

LA's booming now. Steve Lopez' column in the Sunday LA Times contains a great quote: "I think it's generally a good sign that there are now more dogs than humans urinating on downtown sidewalks."

However . . . he worries that in the optimistic building frenzy downtown, "there's just as much potential for disaster." He's right; planning is lacking. The traffic issue has never been addressed, and Lopez brings up the shortage of 'pocket parks' and public space. It's doesn't exist.

"How many people are going to hear the downtown buzz, make the move and then clear out a year later when they discover there's so little outdoor space in the heart of a city with the kind of weather that makes a person want to be outside?"

In other words, boom to bust.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

WPA Murals: History of Transportation

During the Depression, artist Helen Lundeberg created a 240-foot long mural: "The History of Transportation." The Works Project Administration's Federal Art Project paid her to do the work. (About 200 murals were created in California with WPA funding.)

The mural is actually a petrachrome mosaic, drawn on 60 separate panels and colored with crushed stone in tinted mortar.

For 60 years the artwork stood mounted on a 14-inch thick concrete wall on Centinela and Florence, at the entrance of Centinela Park. Now, after painstaking restoration that took six years, it will grace another park: the Grevillea Art Park near Inglewood's City Hall.

Inglewood has a wonderful website devoted to the mural and its restoration, including a biography of Ms. Lundeberg, who died in 1999, and a detailed description of what petrachrome is and how it's done.

To see other pictures of the mural after restoration, check out the stories in the LA Times and LA Weekly. Pictures of "The History of Transportation" and other WPA artworks in Inglewood can be viewed at a website called WPAMurals.

Other examples of Helen Lundeberg's work are at her website (maintained by her estate). Finally, a list of WPA artworks in California, focused mostly on post offices, is here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Rialto Theater

Is being on the National Register of Historic Places no longer enough to save a building?

Landmark Theaters seems appropriately proud of Pasadena's Rialto Theater, which it acquired in 1976. Two years later, the Rialto was added to the National Register. (Click here for the theater's history, starting with 1924 construction.) It's not making money, so Landmark intends to close it on August 19, according to the LA Times.

These pictures of the Rialto were taken by Annie Wells of the Times for a July 18 story. At lower right, theater manager Jeremy Willis talks to a group touring historic theaters.

The Jebbia family has owned the Rialto since the 1930s, but Landmark has a long-term lease, so they can close it if they like. The Rialto is in need of renovation, which costs money.

Lankmark says it might consider "other uses" for the space, but it's all very vague--except for the August 19th date. That seems quite exact. The theater will be closed after that day's film.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

250 Sq Ft Apartments? Why not?

Both the LA Times and LA Weekly confirm that our City Council voted to loosen up those pesky density rules in the downtown area. Builders can now design larger buildings, exceeding current restrictions. Proponents claim that 15% of the new units will be low-income housing. Wonder how that 15% correlates to 250 square feet apartments, the new minimum?
The new zoning regs also lower the required square footage of green spaces, common areas, lobbies, and space between buildings.

The Times points out that New York and other major cities feature small living spaces and do quite well with them. Of course, New York and other major cities also feature subways and mass transit. Los Angeles has . . . a great little system if you want to get from Union Station to Claremont in under an hour. All other destinations? Forget it.

The Liquid Muse

TheLiquidMuse blog, which follows the news of cocktails and bars in Los Angeles, is launching a newsletter featuring a unique L.A. watering hole each week. As Muse Natalie puts it:

The Liquid Muse Cocktail Club's Cocktail of the Week (a weekly "museletter" ) tells you what we're drinking and where. (Imagine something similar to Daily Candy - only weekly - and bar / lounge oriented)Additionally, many of the places featured will have drink specials / appetizer discounts, etc. if you mention The Liquid Muse.

(It's not technically related to history--but I'm sure some of the featured places will have long-standing roots in the community. And everyone who's interested should know about this wonderful site.)
Sign up for the Wednesday newsletter (giving you time to make plans for the weekend) here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

LA Times 3rd Annual Treasure Hunt for Food

The hunt for the best food deals county-wide includes (at the number 3 spot, no less!) the most overlooked and undervalued Googie restaurant around: Chips, in Hawthorne. I love this place. It was in the movie Hollywoodland, and the TV show Heartland (is that still being shown?).

The LA Times celebrates Chips' breakfast, as well they should. They don't mention the silly meal names (the Elvis, Casablanca Gringo, or James Dean omelettes, f'rinstance, or the Three Stooges Combo) but the Times had to squeeze in 24 other treats in the 3-page article.

I'm glad the Times does this--how else would I know about "Figs in a blanket" at the Wilshire Restaurant? Offered at happy hour, 5-6:30, M-F.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The second Shakespeare-in-the-Cemetery play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, will debut August 10 and play through Sept. 2.

Shakespeare-in-the-Cemetery? As in Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Blvd, resting place of Jayne Mansfield and Rudolf Valentino? Yes.

Tickets are cheap; ambience is free. The company website says:

In 1998, the Cassity family acquired Hollywood FOREVER Cemetery and Funeral Home, Los Angeles’s oldest cemetery and the resting-place of Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, and hundreds of other Hollywood luminaries. Hollywood was established in 1900 with 60 acres developed including 5 mausoleums . . . . invites audiences "to arrive early, bring a picnic dinner to enjoy, a blanket to sit on and friends with which to share an inspiring evening. " Cost is $20.

One Wilshire

One Wilshire goes from being owned by an equity firm to being owned by a Texas-based REIT. An interesting blog entry on the building and its business is here, but stuff I didn't know about One Wilshire can be quoted from the LA Times article:

The 31-story building at the eastern end of Wilshire Boulevard at Grand Avenue is one of the two largest switching hubs in the country. . . . One Wilshire was built as a standard office building in 1966. After the telecommunications industry was deregulated in 1984, competitors started laying underground cable in downtown Los Angeles with a heavy concentration near Wilshire and Grand, Ray said.A handful of former office and retail buildings near there became data-transfer centers, but One Wilshire is the largest, with more than 300 communication service providers renting space for their computer servers and switching equipment.

(The LA Times picture is not as pretty as this one, from the CRG West website)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Summer of Love in LA

Here are quotes from the LA Times' article on the Summer of Love (1967) in our fair city:

Elliot Mintz on the Canyons:

"Laurel Canyon was a place unto itself, a village and community, the West Coast counterpoint to Greenwich Village. When someone felt that Laurel was getting too crowded and the scene was moving away from them, they went to Topanga"
Ray Manzarek on Venice:

"Venice was getting interesting; it had a leftover beatnik spirit to it that made it ready to catch this new scene coming in, so it was turning hippie in '67," says Manzarek. "Things were everywhere, though. Elysian Park had love-ins -- that was fun -- and Laurel Canyon had these kids like bands of gypsies. The center of it all, music-wise, though, of course, was the Whisky."

Ray Manzarek on the Sunset Strip:

"After 2 a.m., everyone would pile into Canter's, one of the best Jewish delicatessens in town, because it was open all night and it had great pastrami and corned beef on rye," Manzarek says. "I remember rolling in there late one night and seeing Frank Zappa at a table with Captain Beefheart. Now these were high-desert guys, from Lancaster and out there, and they were like the insane, mad-monk squadrons that Tom Wolfe wrote about. We talked and they couldn't have been nicer. The waitresses who had been there for decades were unfazed by this band of gypsies that came from the Sunset Strip every night. That was Los Angeles at that moment."

Friday, August 3, 2007

What Downtown Ordinances?

LA Weekly mentions a downtown ordinance. Specifically, the Greater Downtown Housing Ordinance (my bolds):

The so-called Downtown Ordinance is one in a trio of zoning changes drafted by the Planning Department that could eventually transform what the entire city looks like architecturally, who will be able to live here and in what conditions.

This particular ordinance will be voted on August 7. What will it do?

. . . lift zoning restrictions on developers in a five-mile area framed by the 110 and 101 freeways and Alameda Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, allowing them to carve up residential structures into potentially tiny, closetlike condos and apartments — whatever configurations permitted in the building code that developers think the market can bear.

. . . The Downtown Ordinance’s relaxed restrictions provide a fat “density bonus” — meaning that in exchange for setting aside 15 percent of units for low-income “affordable housing,” developers receive an entitlement to build 35 percent more apartments or condos on the same lot.

. . .The downtown ordinance’s relaxed restrictions would also allow developers to extend residential buildings all the way out to the sidewalk (like the baroque structures that were built between the late ’20s and ’30s along Spring Street and Broadway), tossing out the green space “setbacks” that have been a citywide requirement in the zoning code for decades. In addition, the new ordinance would allow tiny apartments L.A. has never before seen — as small as the building codes allow, with floor space as scant as 250 square feet, slightly larger than a walk-in closet.

Oh, joy.

The Encyclopedic City

In the above-titled article, LA Weekly asked LACMA's Director Michael Govan [pictured here before one of Dan Flavin's works, untitled,untitled (to Robert, Joe and Michael) (1975–81). Photos by Kevin Scanlon in LA Weekly]:

The energy generated by a community of working artists — why is that important to the director of a big, encyclopedic museum?
Here is his answer:

For a thousand reasons. One, if you want to go back to ancient times, concentrations of artists and artisans are always harbingers of incredible cultural growth. All the great cultural capitals have had concentrations of artists — Paris and Moscow at the beginning of the century, New York for a thousand reasons, including people fleeing Europe. And we’re talking serious concentration here. L.A. is crawling with artists. And if you extend the boundary of what an artist is, to what’s happening in film and photography and advertising, and you think of it as creative visual arts, man, this place is rocking. There are probably more images coming out of Los Angeles, visual
images, than any place in the world.
But an encyclopedic museum, what is it? It’s a library of all these objects from all time and all places. . . . in a global world where an endless city speaks 90 languages, all of a sudden the encyclopedic museum is an interesting asset.

Oh, I love to hear that my city is poised on the edge of greatness!

The article also solicited new names for LACMA. As Govan says: ". . . Los Angeles has to be the most beautifully named city in the world. It just speaks of light."

Suggestions for new names (author Tom Christie is for El Museo de Arte de Los Angeles) should be sent to

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Concerts at Arboretum

The LA Philharmonic stages Festival on the Green concerts at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia, all at 8 p.m.:

  • August 11 (Let's Dance)

  • August 25 (I Got Rhythm)

  • September 8 (Movie Adventures)

Great excuse to see the park where so many movies were filmed--from the old Tarzans and Road pictures with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, on up to Anaconda, Jurassic Park, Bedazzled, Terminator 2 . . . not to mention Roots and Fantasy Island.

Tickets start at $25. The Arboretum's website is displaying blank pages, for some reason--hopefully that'll be fixed soon.