Saturday, June 27, 2009

There's A Story Here Somewhere...

This intriguing piece of public art sits over a preschool. Why? I don't know!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kodachrome...Those Nice Bright Colors

An homage to Kodachrome film, which is being retired after 74 years of production:

This picture, taken in Long Beach in October 1942, is from Shorpy. If you want to see the full-screen version in all its glorious detail, go there.

The caption reads:

"Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods. Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California."

4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Alfred Palmer, Office of War Information.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gold's Gym ... in Kabul?

AFG: Bodybuilding Competition In Kabul

Yup. If you got your Time Magazine this week, look on page 4. Or here, for the one-page Postcard: Kabul article about how bodybuilding is BIG in Afghanistan. So big that Bawar Khan Hotak, the father of Afghani bodybuilding and long-time admirer of Arnold Schwarzenegger, named his first gymnasium in Kabul Gold's Gym, after the place in Venice where Schwarzenegger used to train.

In July 1974, Ted Green of the Los Angeles Times wrote an article about the guy they called the Austrian Oak, the Babe Ruth of Bodybuilding, the 'ultimate in human musculature': Arnold Schwarzenegger. Green was a little ga-ga:

Everyday for 12 years he has lifted weights for hours, shaping a body with a symmetry that's now almost surreal.

Muscles on muscles from neck to calves, so clearly defined yet so bulging as to resemble something by a caricaturist gone slightly mad.

The future governor was all of 28. In the interview, he complained about stereotypes, listing questions he got all the time, like, "Is it true you're all muscles and no brain?" "Is it true you'll turn to fat at 40?" Guess we know the answers to those queries now.

One little aside in the article catches the eye. Summarizing Arnold's history, we learn that from the age of 15, when he took up the sport in Austria, he put in 20 hours a week at the gym--even, for one year, when he was in the army: "he drove a tank --"I liked the feeling of power."

If you go looking for the article on Proquest (it's a fun read), be aware that the page numbering is a bit screwed up. The piece begins on page 50, but the second part is on page 37. The 1969 picture is from the IFBB website--the International Federation of Body Building and Fitness. (yes, I know--that should be IFBBF. But I'm not going to nit pick with folks with biceps like that--are you?)

Bob's Big Boy, aka Johnie's Broiler, Opening August 09

It's official! The Johnie's Broiler in Downey is set to re-open as a Bob's Big Boy this August!

This rendering is copied from Curbed LA, which copied it from something else. The picture is also hanging at the entrance of Bob's in Torrance--the new owner of the restaurant.

Johnie's, with its classic Googie sign, was illegally demolished by a tenant (a used car dealership, of all things incongruous) back in January 2007. Parts were salvageable, and if you go to Roadside Peek's page, you can see how reconstruction is proceeding apace.

Read more about Johnie's history (and see pictures) at the National Trust for History Preservation, the Los Angeles Times, or my own post--all from spring of 2008. The two restaurants themselves, true to their 1950s themes, do not have webpages. I tried the phone, but could not get the exact date of the re-opening--just August, 2009.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Campanile's Tramp History

First off, Campanile is celebrating 20 years in business from June 15 through the 20th.

Charlie Chaplin built the place as an office complex in 1929, according to Campanile's own website. He never used it, though--Lita Grey won it in her divorce settlement. She was all of 19 and had been married to Chaplin for three years, producing two children.

I was a bit confused because the divorce was granted in 1927--two years before Campanile's building supposedly went up, and the split was front page news. In fact, all of Chaplin's California property was placed in receivership on January 11, 1927. Lita's salacious complaints accused her husband of no less than seven dalliances with named women. Subsequent headlines hinted that Charlie considered suicide, that his career was over, that Lita indulged in her own share of affairs, not all with men...all that 80 years ago. Makes Brittany and K-Fed look kinda tame, huh?

Chaplin had built his first studio and offices in 1917, in the 1400 block of North LaBrea (which became A & M Records and then Jim Henson Productions), but Campanile is at 624 South. I'm more confused.

It's a beautiful place and I like the idea of Chaplin building a lovely office with a tower, just to escape a (by all reports) hellacious union...but I'd really like to know for sure.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Great White Fleet--101 years ago

The picture in the previous post showed the 1908 Great White Fleet--the Atlantic Fleet battleships of the US Navy, which toured the West Coast at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. (It toured the world, in fact, but we're only interested in the Los Angeles visit here.)

The ships didn't just go to San Pedro. The logbooks reveal that four ships anchored in San Pedro's harbor, while the rest of the fleet remained outside on April 18, 1908. The next day, the First Division stayed in San Pedro, while the Second Division sailed to Long Beach, the Third Division to Santa Monica, and the Fourth Division to Redondo Beach. On the 25th, after wowwing all the locals, the fleet reassembled in Santa Monica Bay and sailed north to Santa Barbara. According to naval history, over 100,000 people gathered on Pt. Dume for a last glimpse of the fleet.

And per this site dedicated to the GWF, four of the officers in the fleet had actually seen service in the Civil War!

The Navy History Site reports that while in LA, some of the fleet's men were treated to a Spanish barbecue, a pugilistic prize fight, and a viewing of aerial balloons rising into the sky.

This hand colored postcard shows some of the 5,000 troops that came to that barbecue in Los Angeles. (source is the H.H. Stratton collection). And as I learned from a lecture by culinary historian Richard Foss, barbecue in 1908 did not mean throwing some steaks on the grill. Oh no.

A Spanish barbecue--a tradition from the days of the Californios--meant that a pit was dug and filled with burning wood on the night before the feast. The meat to be cooked--whole beasts--was wrapped in burlap and leaves, lowered into the pit (a grill separated it from the flames), and then the pit was covered and left to smoke. The next day the meat was ready. Foss announced that he's actually cooked meat this way, and it comes out absolutely black but with an incredible smoky flavor.

So those 5000 sailors were really enjoying their lunch.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One big, happy city

June 9, 1909, and the headline (on pg. 3) in the Los Angeles Times is:

STRONG, UNITED PULL FOR JOINING CITIES. [yes, there was a period in the headline]

Plan as Submitted for Consolidation of Los Angeles, San Pedro and Wilmington Receives Hearty Indorsement from Many Sources.

The story announced the kick-off of a signature gathering campaign conducted by "Trained canvassers" (wonder how they got their training?). The goal was 13,000 signatures inside of a week that would go before the City Council, and force a summer election to unite the three cities.

It was all tied into the development of the harbor, of course, and long range plans of $3 million in bonds were raised as well. Folks were told that the harbor could just not be built unless all the cities were united. Right.

It gets complicated, but 'the harbor' was a work-in-progress. Construction on the rock breakwater had only begun ten years earlier. You can see the partially-completed breakwater in the 1908 photo above. Settling which city--Long Beach or Los Angeles--owned what part of the harbor had been settled only a year before, in 1908. So the journey from mudflats to international shipping port had barely begun.

The photo, btw, shows the "Great White Fleet" arriving in the harbor, to be greeted by thousands of folks--many of whom parked their crankshaft cars near the bluffs. I found it at the LA Library, but it's also reprinted in a fun book: Port of Los Angeles: An Illustrated History from 1850 to 1945 . Most local libraries have it, but an owned copy--complete with an elephant on the cover--would look mightily impressive on your coffee table.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Los Angeles History Tidbits

If there were 36 hours in a day, or if Other Fun Projects didn't take so much time, there's plenty of things I would have researched and blogged about here. Such as:

  • An LA Times story about the Fred Harvey Restaurant at Union Station--in the "L.A. Then and Now" column. The picture at right is my own, and I did a post on this once, but Steve Harvey's piece tells a lot more of the restaurant's history, from its operation as a real travelers' diner (1939-1967) to its more recent appearances in movies and political events.

  • News that the rotunda ceiling of Griffith Observatory, with murals by Hugo Ballin, was selected as one of the top ten ceilings in the world by the VirtualTourist website. Keeping company with the Tiffany Ceiling of Macy's in Chicago, Chagall's paintings over the Paris Opera Garnier, or the Chihuly glass in the Bellagio Las Vegas' ceiling is ot-nay oo-tay abby-shay. This picture is from the Big Orange Landmarks website.

  • An article on Chinatown by Lisa See (she has a new book out too: Shanghai Girls). Actually, as she describes 1938 Los Angeles, there were four Chinatowns, including a touristy one surrounded by a miniature "Great Wall" and built using leftover sets from The Good Earth and other movies.

  • Castillo del Lago is up for sale, at just under $15 mil. This is a 1926 mansion built for a oil-rich guy named Patrick Longdon and then owned by Bugsy Segal (did he have a speakeasy there?) and later, Madonna. Apparently her brother put the stripes on the place. Read about it and see droolworthy pictures at Luxist or LA Curbed. Follow LA Curbed's link to a 1999 Los Angeles Magazine piece that quotes realtor Crosby Doe--who sold Castillo del Lago three times and lived nearby--trashing Madonna for committing "one desecration after another" during her renovation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pt. Fermin, Then and Now

I took this picture while at Pt. Fermin last Monday, and went looking for similar shots from the Good Olde Days. Much to my surprise, I found some!

The old picture is from the LA Library photo collection, of course, and is not dated. This shot of a bluff at Point Fermin seems to be pretty close to the vista below. The "then" shot is of the Los Angeles Camera Club scrambling around. I found references to these folks in several 1888 Los Angeles Times "In Society" columns.

The Los Angeles Camera Club organized in March of that year, with Mr. H. T. Bellsmith of the Eastman Dry Plate Company as president. That changed by April, when the Times listed all officers and members--including a few women!

Looking at their few announcements through the early 1900s, of outings to Hollenbeck Park, Mission San Fernando Re, Santa Monica-by-the-sea, and other spots, it's probably due to them that the library has such wonderful old photos.

Too bad that I can't see anything in this old photo to really date it.

In 1929, part of the Pt. Fermin area broke off and slowly slid into the sea. All but two houses on the endangered land--which moved up to eleven inches a day for months--were successfully moved. Assuming this is a pre-1929 picture, this bluff may not exist anymore. It may be part of the landscape that crumbled.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Century Plaza Endangered?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put the Century Plaza Hotel on its list of "America's 11 most endangered historic places." Ouch. Endangered?

At first I stumbled over the word historic, because the hotel was built in 1966. When I read more, though, I realized it is a classic. The architect (Minoru Yamasaki) designed not only the Century City towers, but also the World Trade Center Twin Towers a few years later. The National Trust site has a one-minute video using archival footage to show how little the hotel has changed over the last 40 years, and what sort of events it has hosted (surprise guest appearance: Tricky Dick!)

The picture above came from the Los Angeles Conservancy page. Technically, the hotel has 19 floors but that's not what you can count--some of the floors are subterranean. The photo on the left is from the Los Angeles Public Library collection and was taken in 1985, looking east. And down below is a current shot of the hotel from something called "Luxury Los Angeles Hotel."

So why is it endangered? The owners (Next Century Associates--boo--hiss) announced last December that they wanted to tear it down and build two new towers in its place. More condos and a boutique hotel, yeah!

Although the hotel continues to be operated as a Hyatt Regency, Next Century acquired the Century Plaza one year ago (June 2008) for $366 million--about half a mil per room, according to this story from Hotels Online. Next Century CEO Michael Rosenfeld is quoted as saying, “Properties like the Century Plaza Hotel are one-of-a-kind; they have lasting value in any economic environment.”

That was then...In December, Rosenfeld changed his tune to: "The opportunity to redefine an urban center in one of the great international cities comes along once in a lifetime. " Aw, gee. According to this very upbeat article, Rosenfeld unveiled a $2 billion dollar mixed-use project for the site that will increase tax revenue to the city and employ 5,000 people.

OTOH, the National Trust calls the demolition a total waste. I'm inclined to side with them.

The LA Conservancy has a page explaining what individuals can do to voice their support of the sorta-old classic hotel, and there's also an LA Conservancy Facebook page. Become a fan. AND--Pictures! See the hotel from groundbreaking to now, at this special Facebook page.

One last link, to an LA Times story I haven't even read yet, about the hotel, by Christopher Hawthorne.