Archive for November, 2009

FESTIVITIES – Hollywood Christmas Parade

YouTube Preview Image In case you missed it, tonight was the safest night of the year to walk through Hollywood (feels like every cop in town is there) and the most annoying night of the year to try driving through it… the eve of the 3.5 mile long Hollywood Christmas Parade. Now officially known as the “Hollywood Santa Parade,” the event was originally known as the Santa Claus Lane Parade back in 1928 when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce created it to promote local shopkeepers. According to legend, the inaugural parade featured only Santa Claus and the actress Jeanette Loff.* Although the parade has experienced its share of tough times, it grew dramatically over the years and for decades Santa was portrayed by honorary Mayor of Hollywood (the late Johnny Grant) up until he was too old for the duties. (more…)

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Gobble. Gobble.

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving, Los Angeles.
Don’t forget to butter your Butter Ball!
http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=1259423592

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FLASHBACK – Mark and Brian’s Mullets, circa 1991

For a playlist of the full parade, click here.
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KLOS morning show DJs Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps came West from Birmingham, Alabama in September 1987. Initially it was their endearing “fish out of water” shtick that really won over viewers… I actually remember laughing out loud while listening to their live Halloween morning broadcast from Bel Air,  as they yelled “trick or treat” into the estate intercoms while dressed as ax murderers. (Yes, police were called.) At the time, they were definitely a refreshing and welcomed change from their competition.

As L.A. became their home, the pair become progressively more “Hollywood” and upon receiving a 1991 National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award as “Air Personalities of the Year,” Mark & Brian were clearly a hot commodity. So much so that ABC Television, hoping to find a West Coast Howard Stern Show on their hands, offered to broadcast “Mark and Brian’s Day Before Thanksgiving Parade” for their fans.

The video above was taped eighteen years ago on November 27, 1991. In what is perhaps not a surprise move in retrospect, ABC chose not to make the parade an annual television event. Personally, I blame that electric blue jacket combo. Just… wow.

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*Almost* FREEEEE! – Ride the L.A. Red Car!

YouTube Preview Image redcarWe’ve already flashed back to the daily operations of the old P&E streetcars a few times. The Red Cars famously transported Angelenos through their lives for sixty years (the story behind why they disappeared is kinda similar to what they told you in Roger Rabbit)… but little did I know one could still be ridden! A big thanks to reader Pedrogirl for bringing it to my attention that every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10am until 6pm, a replica streetcar runs a 1.5 mile route from the Port of Los Angeles’ cruise ship terminal to other attractions along the San Pedro waterfront. Since it seems I’m not the only local who doesn’t know about this, it’s mostly ridden by visitors. But if you’re looking for something fun and cheap to do some weekend, the fare is only one dollar (children 6 and under free). The fare is collected on board the cars and not only is your ticket good all day for unlimited rides, it’s also valid for the bus shuttle connecting to Cabrillo Beach. (more…)

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WINTER FUN! – Outdoor Skating Rinks in LA

W Hotel rinkCHILL, your new boozy skating rink @ W Hotel Westwood, 930 Hilgard Avenue (310-208-8765), 21 and up.
Hours: Starting Sunday, ongoing through the winter. Mon-Fri, 3-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am -10pm
Cost: Bring your own skates and your figure eights will be FREE. Skate rental isn’t, it’s $10. The alcoholic drinks won’t be free either.
Details: “The W Hotel Westwood has created the winter wonderland our town sorely lacks, transforming its grounds into a simulated snow extravaganza complete with hybrid-ice skating rink and holiday-styled cabanas.” Woo hoo! I can’t skate, but I can definitely drink spiked pumpkin lattes with the best of ‘em.

(more…)

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PART 3 – Robert Kennedy

SERIES: Visions of the Ambassador

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On June 4th, 1968, Robert Kennedy was confident he had just clinched the Democratic primary. He was set to be the next President of the United States, and with his leadership would come change. Kennedy was one of the first leaders of his stature and background to forcefully inspire and include people of all ages and colors, his goal being to create a better nation that would stand together and end racial and economic injustice. Having together witnessed the losses of Kennedy’s brother and Martin Luther King, Jr., many Americans recognized and embraced his urgent passion as genuine, and saw his dreams of change as their own.

Although Bobby Kennedy was staying on the fifth floor of the (now renovated) Sportsman’s Lodge, his political base in Los Angeles was the Royal Suite in the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy’s last speech was held in the Ambassador’s Embassy Room, and he was fatally shot as he exited through the kitchen.

The first video above was taken from the funeral train which carried Kennedy’s body. Along the entire path of the train’s journey, Americans from every imaginable walk of life gathered together along the tracks to say goodbye to the man who had embodied their hopes and dreams… and was taken from them.

After the jump, photos of the man convicted for the murder of Bobby Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, then and in 2008. (Click on thumbnails for larger views.) (more…)

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SERIES – Knotts: Birth of the Boysenberry

Rudolph Boysen, creator of the boysenberryIn the 1920s, hoping to take advantage of the beach traffic along what was then Grand Boulevard (now known as Beach Boulevard), Mr. Walter Knott decided to set up a berry stand. Originally he just leased the spot, but in 1927 he began to buy up the property where his business grew. Upon crossing paths with Rudolph Boysen (1895–1950, photo at right) – a Napa man who had been experimenting to create a marvelously fat and juicy new berry hybrid – the future of Walter Knott’s little fruit stand was forever changed. (more…)

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IMAGERY – Ye Olde Beverly Hills Hotel

Click on images for larger views.

As it’s a gorgeous day outside, my friend Geraldine and I will be observing interesting people and sights during a lazy Sunday wander through the indisputably historic Beverly Hills Hotel. Hell, we’ll probably even enjoy a cocktail/nosh at the Polo Lounge and hang out until we just can’t take the color combinations of pink and green any longer. Because that’s how we roll. We’re rogues.

Anyhoooo, the image below is what Hotel California looked like in 1920. If you look, you’ll see that this view is from Will Rogers’ Park (land which singer George Michaels is now banned from stepping foot on) overlooking Sunset Boulevard.

After the jump is another little treat… something we probably won’t ever see in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel ever again. Take a look at where the streetcar is located on the left side of the landscape photo below… that’s the exact location where the next image was captured some years later.©USC Digital Archive

Photograph of an exterior view of the Beverly Hills Hotel, 1920. A lavish courtyard is pictured in the foreground, with steps leading up to its paved walkway, which is lined to either side by palm trees. Several auxiliary walkways that branch from it demarcate circular areas of grass, beyond which a streetcar is visible parked in the driveway that stands in front of the large, three-story, L-shaped hotel. Three spires extend from the roof at the crook of the “L” from which flags wave. A second, equally large building can be seen in the far distance to the right, along with mountains.

(more…)

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SERIES – Knott’s: From Boysenberries to Ride Warriors

I’m really enjoying exploring things for more than one post. So today we’re going to head a bit South to introduce yet another series. This time we’ll be exploring a local landmark that *even your kids* are very familiar with (but probably don’t know the history of)… the former fruit stand of Walter Knott.

Basically, we’ll learn more about how this…

Image via image-archeology.com

Turned into this… (more…)

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REVISIT – Radiated Runkle Canyon

Every once in a while I’m going to repost certain topics that I feel are particularly fun, interesting or important for people to learn about. This topic is obviously the latter. I couldn’t find any real updates on the current status of the Runkle Canyon development, but when I do, you’ll know.
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Original post: July 25, 2009

You’ve heard of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.
Have you ever heard of Rocketdyne or Runkle Canyon? YouTube Preview Image

Frighteningly, very few people actually have… especially considering that in 1959, what is considered to be the worst nuclear accident in American history actually happened just 30 miles outside of Los Angeles, spreading up to 459 times the contamination of Three Mile Island across Simi Valley. (Note to self: *always* take a Silkwood shower after driving through Simi Valley.)

Shockingly, the scope of the partial meltdown at the Boeing-Rocketdyne sodium reactor was covered up. In September 2005, 100 local residents filed a class-action lawsuit amid fears of cancer and thyroid issues and were awarded $30 million in damages. It was only during this lawsuit four years ago – 45 years after the meltdown – that the extent of the radioactive iodine leak was confirmed. Meanwhile, land developers have been proposing to build 461 residences in the 1,500-acre contaminated canyon (including 138 units for senior citizens) to this day despite legitimate protests. YIKES.

Here is a timeline of the Rocketdyne events. A scary History Channel program about the incident featured after the jump.

(more…)

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PART 2 – The Ambassador Hotel All-Stars

SERIES: Visions of the Ambassador

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click for larger viewDuring the roaring 20s and 30s, the Ambassador Hotel’s nightclub “house bands” quickly became the most popular orchestras in the world. An issue of (the then-popular and catchy-named) Talking Machine World magazine identified Abe Lyman’s California Ambassador Orchestra (see video clip above) as “Los Angeles’ most famous popular musical organization” in 1923.

Abe Lyman (August 4, 1897 – October 23, 1957) was a popular bandleader from the 1920s to the 1940s. He made recordings, appeared in films and provided the music for numerous radio shows, including Your Hit Parade… For an engagement at the Cocoanut Grove in The Ambassador Hotel on April 1, 1922, Abe added a violinist and saxophonist. Opening night drew a large crowd of 1500 guests in the Cocoanut Grove, plus another 500 more outside.”

For a five year run in the 30s, a dapper group of musicians known as Gus Arnheim’s Orchestra (see video below) was then stationed at the Cocoanut Grove and widely considered to be the most popular band on the West coast. In 1930, the band began to feature male singing trio The Rhythm Boys, featuring a young singer named Bing Crosby. Arnheim Orchestra alumni also included Stan Kenton, Russ Columbo (seen playing violin and singing in the middle of the trio in the clip below), Charlie Spivak, Woody Herman, and actor Fred McMurray (on saxophone).
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IMAGERY – Traffic on the Cahuenga Pass, 1897

Welcome to the original 101 Freeway.

Photograph of two cyclists on the Cahuenga Pass, Los Angeles, circa 1897. The man to the right walks his bicycle on the unpaved road, looking at his companion riding to the left, on whose back is strapped a briefcase of some kind. The terrain surrounding them is comprised entirely of grassy hills. Caption on photoprint reads: “Cahuenga Pass — connecting Hollywood and San Fernando Valley — as it was in 1897.”

Click on image for larger view.
©USC Digital Archive

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PART 1 – The Ambassador Hotel 101

SERIES: Visions of the Ambassador

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ambassadorI’m aware that many readers may not know much about the topic, so here’s a short film explaining the beginnings, the importance, and the demolition of The Ambassador Hotel to start our series on this lost landmark. It features a great narration by Cindy Olnick of the LA Conservancy which helps to explain just how important the Ambassador Hotel’s existence was (and still is) for our community.

Running time: 15 minutes, 40 seconds

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EVENT – They Might Be Giants Family Show

WHAT: They Might Be Giants Family Show
WHEN: Saturday, November 14th, 3pm
WHERE: Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Drive
PRICE: $28 adults, $18 kids
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VIDEO – The Night the Wall Fell on Wilshire

We predicted David Hasselhoff would show up on Sunday, but he must’ve been busy eating cheeseburgers. Also, in order to avoid angering motorists stuck in traffic for three hours on a weekend afternoon, the event time was changed: the temporary construction of a “Berlin Wall” near LACMA was re-scheduled to happen shortly before midnight and be symbolically toppled at midnight by artists who would paint on the symbolic wall. Apparently the event went relatively well, according to the LA Times:

About 700 people gathered on Wilshire Boulevard near Ogden Drive to take part in the Wende Museum’s “A Wall Across Wilshire” event, a symbolic re-creation of the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Berlin. It was part of the museum’s Wall Project, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the wall…

“I wasn’t too optimistic,” (City Council member Tom) LaBonge said about turnout for the event. “I felt the same way I did about the Berlin Wall: I thought it would never come down. And I never thought this many people would come out on a Sunday. It’s nice to see. Everyone is having a good night. I’ll probably get a few noise complaints tomorrow for the loud music … but it’s well worth it.”

After watching the video below, I’m now eagerly awaiting the upcoming Berlin Wall ride and stage show at Universal Studios. Okay, I just made that up. Or did I?
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Video via LAist

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SERIES – Visions of the Ambassador: Introduction

ambassador2Today I was remembering a fancy corporate event I witnessed in the mid-90s. It was the kind of an all-out, over-the-top shindig people simply don’t *have* in economic times like these. The theme of this party was the famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub… so for one night, Disney paid to have the Ambassador Hotel returned to its former glory. A friend had been invited by a client, and I won the lottery as his plus one.

ambassadorUntil I physically got out of the car that night, it really didn’t register what I was about to experience. I knew about the Cocoanut Grove and I knew Robert Kennedy had been shot in the kitchen… but walking up to the front, surrounded by klieg lights, the night ended up being more profound and emotional for me than I’d expected. There was plentiful food and drink, and fortune tellers and games scattered around… but it was the building that entertained me. At one point I remember walking through the nightclub just mesmerised by the palm tree columns that still existed. After a few drinks, while everyone else was busy shmoozing, I then became obsessed with seeing where Kennedy died. A small group of us convinced a waiter to let us sneak back into the kitchen and I remember tipsily wandering around muttering “Where is it?” until a busboy pointed down at the ground. I sobered up instantly as a very haunting image flashed into my brain and wouldn’t leave. The past became so vivid for a moment that I felt a bit of an Overlook Hotel vibe. I was a bit quieter for the rest of the night.

When the party was over, I knew in my heart that I’d been touched by a place that wasn’t going to exist much longer. The importance wasn’t lost on me… as I walked outside I felt like someone hesitating to leave their sickly grandparent’s house, knowing they probably weren’t going to see them alive again. And sure enough, I didn’t… as the Ambassador faced the wrecking ball, I avoided driving by it. I found its destruction too depressing to think about.

On the 24 acres where the Ambassador once stood, a $571-million kindergarten-to-12th-grade school campus is gradually opening its doors now. I’m not complaining about this… what’s happened has happened and as I see it the hard facts here are simple ones. Both of these statements are true and indisputable: 1) Schools are good. 2) We have lost something very special. So this month I’m going to do a little series focusing on the incredible glory of Los Angeles’ former jewel The Ambassador Hotel. It was too fantabulous and important of a place for one single post to do it justice.

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FLASHBACK – It’s a Big Job

In this training film, our new friend Bill explains the daily struggles of Los Angeles Transit Lines‘ transit operators circa 1947. Him? He likes his job. If he didn’t, he never would’ve taken it. YouTube Preview Image
Part two and part three (which includes “motor coach” operator training and electric trolley buses) are after the jump for your matinee-viewing pleasure if you are so inclined.

(more…)

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HAPPY SUNDAY – Go outside and be L.A., L.A.!

http://www.dailymotion.com/videox2dcxh But stay away from the cocaine tray, even if it matches your sunglasses. M’kay?

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FOCUS – The Dunbar Hotel

©USC Digital ArchiveSince a lot of people don’t know much about the history of the Central Avenue jazz scene that happened in Los Angeles, to accompany my last post noting Mama’s passing I decided to expand on it. The neighborhood played such a crucial and historic part not just in jazz history, but in African American history as well, it’s a worthy point to add.

The top jazz club on Central Avenue during its heyday was Club Alabam and *the* place to stay was the Dunbar Hotel, with a guest list that regularly included the likes of Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Lena Horne. Originally known as the Somerville Hotel, the structure was erected in 1928 entirely by black contractors, laborers and craftsmen and black community members helped John Somerville and his wife Vada to finance the entire project.

In 1907 Jamaican-born John Alexander Somerville became the first African American to graduate from the USC School of Dentistry. He earned the highest grade-point average in the class of 1907, and had passed the State Dental Board examination six months before graduation. His wife, Vada Watson Somerville, became the school’s first African-American woman graduate in 1918, going on to achieve distinction as the first black woman licensed to practice dentistry in California. Besides managing a successful practice, the Somervilles were instrumental in opening the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP. John Somerville also contributed to the local landscape by developing upscale properties. He was the second African-American member of the Chamber of Commerce and served on the Los Angeles Police Commission from 1949 to 1953.” SOURCE

After the jump is a video discussing the important role the Dunbar played in American history and a vintage postcard of the hotel circa 1938 (according to the card, the room rates at the time were $1 per day and $5 a week).

The Dunbar Hotel still stands, however its current future is sadly uncertain. (more…)

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RIP – Mama of Babe & Ricky’s

mama Somehow I missed the sad news that on October 3rd we lost beloved Laura Mae Gross, matriarch of Liemert Park’s iconic blues bar Babe & Ricky’s and one of the few participants left from Central Los Angeles’ swinging days of hot jazz.

Before South Central became famous for violence, its main thoroughfare was known worldwide for glamorous packed nightclubs and swinging ballrooms. As late Saxophonist Art Pepper described the scene:

“It was a beautiful time. It was a festive time. The women dressed up in frills and feathers and long earrings and hats with things hanging off them, fancy dresses with slits in the skirts, and they wore black silk stockings that were rolled and wedgie shoes. Most of the men wore big, wide-brimmed hats and zoot suits with wide collars, small cuffs, and large knees, and their coats were real long with padded shoulders. They wore flashy ties with diamond stickpins; they wore lots of jewelry; and you could smell powder and perfume everywhere. And as you walked down the street you heard music coming out of everyplace. And everybody was happy….

T]here were all kinds of places to go, and if you walked in with a horn everyone would shout, “Yeah! Great! Get it out of the case and blow some!” They didn’t care if you played better than somebody else. Nobody was trying to cut anybody or take their job, so we’d get together and blow.” (SOURCE)

Open for 45 years, Babe’s and Ricky’s moved from Central Avenue to Leimert Park in 1997 after financial difficulties, but the club’s heart and soul always stayed the same. While she never made much money, Mama nurtured (and fed) generations of Angelenos and provided a safe haven for jazz and blues lovers to network with link minded musicians. Babe & Ricky’s remains open without Mama and still hosts their famous Monday night jam session complete with their traditional $10 soul food dinner. (more…)

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IMAGERY – LA’s Whistling Birds of the 1920s

Prior to television, people found such fascinating ways to entertain themselves. I have never even *heard* of a Bird Whistling Chorus before, but I imagine it probably sounded something like like this. I so wish I could’ve watched these women perform… although probably not for more than ten minutes or so. (More photos after the jump. Click for larger views.)

bird whistling 1923Apparently someone didn’t get the telegram about wearing all white…

1923 – Photographic group portrait of America’s Bird Whistling Chorus in Los Angeles. Four rows of women in light-colored dresses sit facing the camera, with one woman in a dark-colored dress to the right of center. A woman in the front row holds a conductor’s baton. The group is posed in front of an indistinguishable background, possibly a stage. (more…)

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WEB – Angelyne 101, via Metafilter

angelyneThe first time you have a flesh and blood Angelyne sighting in the real world, it’s hard not to freeze and feel like you’re getting a glimpse of Bigfoot. Wow. She exists. And wow. She’s aging just like the rest of the world. And yet… inevitably she’s still standing near a pink Corvette. She’s still wearing tight pink clothing and heels. She may be the age of your grandmother, but she still has pink eyeshadow and big hair and seems to wear her sunglasses day and night. Say what you want about Angelyne, she’s one of the most consistent things in the entire landscape of Los Angeles and God bless her for that. Creepy though she may be to look at up close.

Don’t know who I’m talking about? Well, there was a huge post about her on Metafilter yesterday so check it out, it’ll tell you more than you ever needed to know. And if you think you *do* know who I’m talking about then take Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!‘s “How Well Do You Know Angelyne?” quiz and see how you do.

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SERIES – Harry Golden: Epilogue

PART SIX (of 6): Excerpted from “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” by Harry Golden, circa 1960.harry_small

In closing this series, I’ll leave you with the final two paragraphs of Harry’s essay on Los Angeles and his fifty year-old predictions for this city’s future…

“In the next generation, as it has come to all frontiers, a rigid stratification will appear in Los Angeles. Mobility will come to an end and the city will take its place as the greatest single empire in the western world.

And here, too, it is well to record that in the tempest and turmoil among faith healers and movie stars, Rosecrucians and baseball fans, I have met some of the kindest people in the world.”

THOUGHTS: Wow, the GREATEST SINGLE EMPIRE of the Western World? Looks like Harry really overestimated us, eh? I’m actually glad he was a little off there though, because he also predicted we’d have 25 million people living here. And man, that would suck. (more…)

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IMAGERY – Fishing in Azusa, October 1930

I really love these photos. Click on the images for a larger view.

Photograph of Jewell Teegardin fishing on a rock above the falls and Beatrice Williams fishing in the foreground, Rainbow Angling Club, Azusa, October 1930. Both women can be seen wearing knee-high laced-up boots, breeches, and sleeveless collared shirts. They hold fishing poles and have baskets slung over their shoulders.

azusa_fishing
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