Focus

RIP – Jaime Escalante

©LA Times/UCLA LibraryUPDATE: Jaime Escalante passed away from cancer on March 30, 2010.
This article is a repost from July 2009.

HiddenLA’s HOT Angeleno of the Day: JAIME ESCALANTE!!!

Our HOT Angeleno feature was created to prove a point and counter the perception that we’re all shallow dimwits here. Knowing this, normally this is about the time I’d make silly jokes about whether or not the accomplished person being profiled has rock-hard abs – just to be a smart ass. Today I’ll refrain from the silliness out of respect for the subject, though. Jaime Escalante was born in Chochabamba, Bolivia, where he began teaching physics and mathematics. In 1964 he decided to find a new life for himself in America, although he spoke no english and had no valid American teaching credentials. He began to go to night school at Pasadena City and CSULA, and in 1974 was hired to teach basic math at Garfield High in East LA. His students were disrespectful, unprepared and uninterested. He considered giving up teaching, but over time his incredible educational and motivational skills as a teacher ended up turning around a low-priority public high school as he single-handedly built a calculus program rivaled by only a few well-funded private academies. His teaching style and students’ accomplishments were the focus of the 1988 movie Stand And Deliver.

So THAT’S why he’s our Hot Angeleno today. But unfortunately, the story of Jaime Escalante didn’t play out as happily as the movie, which is why I won’t joke about his abs. It just doesn’t feel respectful, and he deserves to be honored. Bureaucracy and office politics aside, for our own sakes we need to embrace our passionate and caring educators and leaders instead of underpay them, knock them down and drive them away.

*To see a great video of Jaime discussing his love for teaching, scroll down after the jump.* (more…)


FLASHBACK – War on the Sunset Strip, Daddio!

Original post 10/19/09
The google video embed directly below is being inexplicably temperamental, so if the video doesn’t play for you, please click here to view it directly on google.

[googlevideo width=”590″ height=”420″]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3472800140109729771&hl=en#[/googlevideo]
This eight minute video shows the culture clash cç one of the Sunset Strip curfew riots (AKA the “LA hippie riots”), a series of crowd control confrontations which occurred in the mid 1960s to early 1970s between insubordinate hippies and angry grown-ups (via the LAPD). Basically, the kids weren’t big on authority… and authority didn’t like that the kids weren’t big on authority. Soooo, drama ensued.

You know how it is… the Man’s always trying to keep us down!!!

Anyhoo, as a little treat… after the jump, please enjoy Hollywood’s far more entertaining and groovy take on these same crazy hoodlum youngsters of our city’s past… behold a few scenes from the 1967 film, Riot on The Sunset Strip.

Can you dig it? I knew that you could! (more…)


LOCATION – Bad News Bears Field

I remember loving the movie the Bad News Bears as a kid. Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal? Little league put to the music of fiery Carmen? Pure gold! (What I definitely *didn’t* remember was that the trailer FEATURED THE N WORD!!!! Wait, really??? Wow. Wasn’t expecting that.)

BNBBut I digress. Here’s something else you might not expect. While the original Bad News Bears movie (the remake doesn’t count) was filmed at Marsh Park in Chatsworth, there’s a baseball diamond hovering next to the 405 on Sepulveda, just North of Wilshire, which is officially NAMED The Bad News Bears Field. This field wasn’t in the movie, so why would it be named after it? Anyone? Anyone? (more…)


VIDEO – Hidden Layers of the Million $ Theatre

post card of the Million Dollar TheatreScroll down to view the video.
Parts 2-3 after the jump.

The Chinese and Egyptian Theaters in Hollywood brought the showman more lasting fame, but The Million Dollar Theatre on South Broadway was failed prospector Sid Grauman‘s first movie house. Located next to the historic Grand Central Market (built in 1917 and still thriving) and across from the iconic Bradbury Building (built in 1893 and now housing internal LAPD offices), this incredible structure was first opened to the public in February 1918.

The wonderful video below goes behind the scenes to share some of the hidden beauty that still exists and few get to see. If you’d like to learn more about the downtown theatre district firsthand, the LA Conservancy offers a walking tour every Saturday at 10am. Tickets are $10. [youtube width=”590″ height=”420″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoI1Px6ysIY[/youtube] (more…)


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 width=”590″ height=”380″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IILp3uAdSLY[/youtube]

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.

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PART 1 – The Ambassador Hotel 101

SERIES: Visions of the Ambassador

[youtube width=”590″ height=”420″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5jPhsvONao[/youtube]
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


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.


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…)


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…)


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…)


ODDITY – The Late, Great, Tower of Pallets Monument

Even the National Enquirer was taken aback after the city of Los Angeles designated Daniel Van Meter’s Tower of Wooden Pallets a historical landmark. A photo spread of the Sherman Oaks structure was accompanied by a headline that said, “No kidding! This pile of junk is a historic monument!”

Robert Winter, a former member of the Cultural Heritage Commission, joked later that the 1978 vote might have been influenced by fumes emanating from the pallets, which were discards from a brewery.

“Maybe we were drunk,” said Winter, a prominent architectural historian. (SOURCE)

Photo Credit: BigOrangeLandmarks.comDaniel Van Meter began construction of the 22-foot-tall structure in 1951 using 2,000 wooden pallets tossed out by a local brewery. The slatted wood was stacked like bricks and placed in a circle with a radius of about 22 feet wide. According to Van Meter, the tower, his own personal sanctuary, was built around the grave of a child buried in 1869.

“I have a place where it is quiet, despite the apartments, the noise of the boulevard and the hum and screeches of the rat race on the freeway 200 feet away,” he said.

At night, Van Meter said, he climbs to the top of the tower and looks at the moon and the stars. “To me, this is a spiritual place.” (SOURCE)

The tower was bulldozed in 2006 and in January 2009 the 2.5 acre property was sold by Dan’s heirs for $4.5 million. Construction began almost immediately on a new apartment building in its place, just as Van Meter predicted almost forty years ago while lobbying for his tower’s landmark status:

“… in a few years this piece of the good earth may be covered by apartments for the storing of surplus people. In the meantime, pray, let this strange structure be, let it continue to be a haven of rest for an individual – that endangered species – who once knew how sweet was our Valley.” (SOURCE)


FOCUS – Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

**SUPPORT SMALL, LOCAL BUSINESSES!!!** 

WHAT: Galco’s Old World Grocery 
WHERE: 5702 York Blvd, Highland Park (323) 255-7115 
DETAILS: Galco’s purveyance of vintage sodas and candies is clearly a labor of love for owner John Nese. He took over the business from his father, who originally ran the Highland Park market as a grocery store. With 174 rave reviews on Yelp, John’s enthusiasm is definitely contagious… so go there and drink up the fun! Literally.  :)
[youtube width=”590″ height=”420″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPbh6Ru7VVM[/youtube]


SERIES – Harry Golden: LA’s Heritage Clubs

PART TWO: Excerpted from “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” by Harry Golden, circa 1960.
harry_small

“In Los Angeles there are thousands of fraternal organizations and societies based upon places of origin. There is the Minneapolis Canasta Club, the Iowa Society, the Friends of the Mid-West, the Lower East Side Association, the Oregon Friendly Social Club.

In this, the newcomers to California are following the pattern of America’s immigrants from Europe, who organized themselves into fraternal societies of people from the same town or area.

One of the real reasons for so many societies was the fact that a fraternity could have only one president, one secretary, and one treasurer, and there was always the need for another organization. History hasn’t changed much since those days. Many of our organizations today are broken down into five or six separate groups – Mr. and Mrs. clubs, adult study groups, auxiliaries, and of course “youth.” And each organization has a staff of officers, banquets and social functions.

I can just see the old gents of the “Zegeefska Chevra” stroking their beards in wonder at the “Tuesday Ladies of Flatbush” playing canasta in a vestry room of the San Fernando Valley.

The very composition of the City of Los Angeles has banished one form of bigotry. No one ever sneers, “Why don’t you go back where you came from?” because if anyone took this to heart, the whole joint would empty overnight and the only ones left would be a few bemused Indians.”

THOUGHTS: Seems our vast array of domestic heritage societies, canasta clubs and social vestry rooms faded into the shadows over the last fifty years. (But what the frickity frack is a “Zegeefska Chevra”!!!??? Does anyone here know what he’s talking about?) I actually don’t think we’ve become such a melting pot that people don’t congregate towards finding comfort in heritage the way they used to, though. By the warm reaction to my North Dakota post, I know that people do still light up when they find something here that reminds them of home… but it seems like where you’re from isn’t always worn as a lifelong badge of bonding the way it once was. Long Beach is no longer ground zero for people from Iowa and Minneapolis (it was once called Iowa By The Sea for a reason), and it’s no longer common knowledge that Pasadena was actually a colony settlement of people solely from Indiana. Our modern-day Indians are less bemused, too.

After thinking about it a bit, I realized that perhaps the key reason we don’t have all of these clubs has nothing to do with anti-socialism or lack of civic pride, though. A lot has changed since the Camelot of 1960 when this article was written and John F. Kennedy had just been elected President. Truth is, contrary to the image this article describes… people aren’t fighting each other to be the President of much of anything any more. In 1960 that title was the highest and proudest aspiration you could aim for, but the shine has long since worn off the turd of power. Clubs always need leaders, and not only is leading is a lot of work, but it always involves politics. Our perceptions have changed a lot since 1960: perhaps we’ve seen for ourselves that being President can be kind of a crappy, thankless job we might not want to take on. But I could be wrong.

COMING SOON… PART THREE: Harry Golden on LA’s Real Estate of the 1960s


SERIES – Harry Golden on LA Smog & Sprawl

PART ONE: Excerpted from “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” by Harry Golden, circa 1960. harry_small

“The City of Los Angeles lies in the flat part of a huge saucer. The Indians, who prowled and hunted in this saucer long before the arrival of the white men, called it, “the place of everlasting smoke.” Long after they had broken up their hunting camps, the smoke from their fires would hang over the saucer. Today Los Angeles is enveloped by a smog from the factories which makes the eyes sting and produces a rasping cough. Eventually, however, they will dissipate this smog – as soon as Los Angelenos muster the courage to stand up to the oil and rubber industries which produce it. Right now these industries pay over a hundred million dollars in taxes, but the day is fast coming when the citizens of the city will no longer tolerate this blemish, a hundred million or not.

Because Los Angeles will one day have 25 million people. It is inevitable. Even now it is the phenomenon of mid-twentieth-century America. It has been described as two hundred suburbs in search of a city, but this is only because Los Angeles is the new frontier. The reason writers have not made literature out of this fantastic city is that they associate the frontier with the wide-open spaces, Tonto, and the six-shooter. They have not yet realized that there is an urban frontier, too. Los Angeles in 1960 is the perfect symbol of the urbanization of our civilization.”

THOUGHTS: Unfortunately, even though we did fight to get those World War II era factories to stop pumping smoke into the air… we still live in a smoke crater with some big ozone issues. But as far as the quality of air particulates we’re breathing, the people of Pittsburgh, Cincinnatti, Birmingham and Detroit have it worse than we do. So do the people of Fresno and Bakersfield, for that matter. Truth is, the air quality in Los Angeles today is actually significantly better than it was in the 1960s. And thank God, our population is nowhere near 25 million people yet! I cringe at the thought.

People around America *still* love to use that “suburbs in search of a city” quote about L.A. Fact is, the phrase was originally coined by Dorothy Parker – but she said Los Angeles was only 72 suburbs in search of a city. (We’ve grown since then.) As any local knows… it doesn’t even seem a reasonable goal to reduce the vastness of what Los Angeles offers down to something that fits the stereotype of a single-minded metropolis, though. Rather, Los Angeles often feels more like a small world with many different countries nested inside of it. There are a variety of independent heartbeats here… not just one. Many of us love that about it, but in some ways, perhaps that’s our problem. That vastness is what makes Los Angeles still seem like a barbaric, untamable frontier to people from more easily digested and categorized places, which in turn makes it a far cry from a “perfect symbol of urbanization of civilization.” By sheer size, it seems too overwhelming to be palatable. Such opinions probably won’t be changing any time soon, but a few more Dorothy Parker quotes come to mind: I don’t care what anybody says about me as long as it isn’t trueand “I shall stay the way I am because I do not give a damn.” :)

Coming Soon… PART TWO: Harry Golden on LA’s Heritage Clubs


Oktoberfest WINNERS!!!

WE HAVE OUR FOUR WINNERS! Mitch Viner, Pamela Duell, Andy Ziskin and Shuly Hirsch will be heading downtown to Oktoberfest next month!!! Ausgezeichnet!

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Thought I forgot aboutcha, didn’t ya? NEVER! Although my posts have dwindled due to my selfish need for actual paying income, HiddenLA is still going strong — especially on Facebook. (800+ fans in three months? Woo hoo!) There are a lot of irons are in the fire for the future of this site… but as there’s lots of stuff to see already, I hope you will take this opportunity to explore the goodness that’s already here.

Doing rushed posts just to fill up web space wouldn’t benefit anyone… but I’ll tell you what WILL benefit people… to reward you for the continued support, today we’re having a special ticket giveaway at the end of this post! YAY!!!

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oktoberfestIf you know nothing about Oktoberfest… well, trust me when I say few cultures surpass Deutschland when it comes to organized traditions of bonding with strangers over consumption of beer. Your college roommates included.

Here’s the deal… on October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig (later known as King Ludwig I) of Germany married the Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The people of Munich were all invited to gather on the fields around the gates of the city to join in the royal festivities (the fields were later renamed in Therese’s honor). The next year, the festival was repeated. At first it wasn’t a major festival… there was an agricultural show, some horse races, some fair rides… oh, and a few beer stands. As the festival grew every year, the beer stands multiplied like rabbits and by 1896 the beer stands were replaced with beer tents and halls that were funded by the local breweries. Parades, marksmanship competitions and chariot races were also added. As of 2009, the Munich Oktoberfest is said to be the largest festival on Earth, and is definitely the world’s largest celebration of all things beer. What was originally a day-long festival now span entire weeks… generally beginning in the third weekend in September and ends the first sunday of October.

Since there’s no denying the Oktoberfest folks look like they’re having a good time, around the world people now host their own local versions and Los Angeles is no exception. There are three main Oktoberfest celebrations happening this year (there’s also one in Anaheim), each with its own unique personality. After the jump, where they are AND a contest for FREEEEE tickets!!!

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NATURE – The Beauty of Franklin Canyon

[vimeo width=”590″ height=”350″]http://vimeo.com/4787778[/vimeo]

*Click on the box below to launch photos from our walk around the lake*

FRANKLIN CANYON LAKE

So many people in the world believe that without ever having lived in Los Angeles they have a clear understanding of everything it is: traffic, violence, famous people, stress, opulence, plastic surgery, starlets who don’t wear underwear. But you and I both know that’s not reality. This city has a lot more to offer than most people realize… as a matter of fact, in the literal heart of Los Angeles beautiful sights exist that even L.A. residents are often oblivious to.

Franklin Canyon is 605 acres of wooded parkland located just North of Beverly Hills. It’s a great area to go for a leisurely stroll with the dog and kids, for a picnic, for a workout or a low-key nature stroll. If the area looks familiar even though you’ve never been there, there’s a very, very good reason for that. Franklin Lake, in the middle of the canyon, was originally named Myers Lake after the Production Manager on the Andy Griffith Show (Remember the opening of the show where Opie skipped rocks on a lake? Guess where that was filmed). The park also features free special events and guided walks on a regular basis and a nice 3 acre duck pond reservoir.

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BIG SIGH – Saving Clifton’s. And L.A.

cliftons2It feels like so many great things in Los Angeles are being killed by the economy. Paddle boats and lotus plants, film screenings, 80% of our parks, and now it looks like there’s a hint of trouble for historic, campground ambiance-filled purveyor of ambrosia salad for nearly 70 years, Clifton’s Cafeteria. Mind you, I still haven’t finished mourning Kelbo’s Coco Bowl… I just don’t think I can take much more.

This is such a scary time… in case you haven’t noticed, many wonderful things that surround us are being taken away like grains of sand – one by one – most never to return. Something needs to change about this trend, for anyone who actually believes closing parks and landmarks is for the good of a community isn’t thinking very hard about the reality. Many of the things that are disappearing have foundations that took multiple lifetimes to build… these things are our traditions and speaking for myself, the heart of our heritage. Without them, we become less. We lose identity… one grain of sand at a time.

By the time this run of closures is finished, there won’t be much to go outside for. Do we really want our children to never experience parks or art programs or a cafeteria filled with movie set decor modeled after the Santa Cruz Mountains circa 1935? Do we really want to be people who do nothing besides stare at iphones all day?

Not six months ago, The L.A. Times called Clifton’s “The place where L.A. finds itself.” If and when the kitschy goodness of Clifton’s disappears from our tangible landscape, we’re going to be even more lost than we are now. Moral of the story:  take notice of the things around you Los Angeles. Appreciate them NOW. Don’t take them for granted, they’re too important. And while it’s still there, please go check out Clifton’s if you haven’t… or even if you have. The food may not be on anyone’s diet, but that’s part of the charm. And before you leave Clifton’s, take a minute to go up to Clifton’s diorama chapel (created for owner Clifford Clifton by artist Einar Petersen) and say a little prayer for its future. Actually, throw another one in for ours while you’re at it.

©USC Digital Archive


HANDSHAKE – We love you, North Dakota!

North DakotaAccording to Google Analytics, the only state in all of America that has yet to visit HiddenLA even *once* is North Dakota. Seriously! Even though we did a nice big feature on one of their native sons! Sigh.

Feeling a bit sad and rejected with this news, naturally the only solution was to turn to the internet for possible answers. It was tough admitting that all I really knew about North Dakota was to stay away from wood chippers. It seemed a good time to learn a bit about the commonalities we share so that perhaps we might have a better chance of forging a bond of web friendship. (I mean, how tough could it be… the word Dakota MEANS “allies” in the Sioux language, for Christ’s sake, so they’ve gotta be super friendly people. Right?)

After a bit of research it’s easy to see why North Dakota might be a bit intimidated by Los Angeles, though… the entire state contains nearly ONE THIRD the population of the San Fernando Valley alone. Wow.

Well, we may be big city folk, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about stuff that’s important to our fellow Americans, though. We do! So after a bit of research, here are a few things I’ve come up with… an olive leaf of sorts. An itemized list with links after the jump.

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FLASHBACK – A Day with The Doors

The following video “tells the story of Gary and Henry, two wild and crazy guys from the 60’s who designed albums covers for some of the biggest names in Rock and Roll… Gary and Henry discuss (with Ray Manzarek) how they came up with the infamous MORRISON HOTEL cover. They revisit the old hotel in downtown Los Angeles where they took the now classic shots of the doors in the hotel window. What’s amazing about this story is how different the world was back then. You can imagine today, taking a major rock and roll band to hotel with no advance notice and asking, “Hey mind if we take a few pictures?” Today, it would take months to set up the shoot and it would include bus loads of advertising people, reps from the record company, legal observers, and many many assistants. Ad to this, a full catering truck and security and you get the picture!”

See what The Morrison Hotel looks like today after the jump. Let’s just say I doubt you’ll be rushing there to book a room.

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OPINION – Get off our lawn, Perez Hilton!

Astronaut-Michael-Collins-249x300 One of the reasons I created this site was due to my aversion to the whole Perez Hilton/Speidi celebrity culture that’s slowly taken over our region and culture. I wanted to create something that would actively put focus on the more substantial and positive human realities that our community of 10 million people offers its residents and visitors. Because that stuff exists.

Fact is, I don’t want to live in a world where people are encouraged to believe it’s no longer cool to aim towards pursuing meaningful or rewarding stuff that makes the world a better place to live in. What kind of future do we have to look forward to and build upon if we set up a standard where being a narcissistic jerk is a paying accomplishment to aspire to? (Mind you, I’m not nearly as old as I’m sounding right now… but whatever. Get off my lawn!) Anyhow, in light of this… I would like to announce that Astronaut Michael Collins is officially my favorite person of the day. No, he has nothing to do with Southern California really… I simply love what he had to say in his recently posted Q&A statement featured on NASA’s web site.

Think about it… Michael Collins was the third Apollo 11 crew member. He was an integral team member on the first successful moon landing… a contributor to world history. Yet nobody remembers his name because he was the person who stayed inside while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon. Basically, he made it all the way to the moon and then had to wait behind in the car. And had Michael not stayed behind, despite being terrified that his deepest fears would be realized and he would have to navigate back to Earth alone, the mission couldn’t have succeeded. But is he upset that whenever people are asked about the event, nobody remembers his name? Nope. As a matter of fact, during the big Apollo 11 40th Anniversary celebration, Collins decided not to give any media interviews and instead issued the previously mentioned Q & A of the questions he is most frequently asked. He just doesn’t feel he deserves the attention.

*Highlights of his Q&A and a video of Michael Collins discussing his thoughts (and wishing out loud that we’d flown to Mars instead) after the jump* (more…)


FOCUS – Me-Tagging the LA River

Chicano artist Leo Limón has been painting the drains of the Los Angeles River for twenty years. In this interview from 2005, he explains what he calls “me-tagging.”
[youtube width=”590″ height=”420″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0gSI6r16dA[/youtube]
Leo Limón
‘s activities date back to the very formative years of the Chicano Art Movement and his work reflects the vision, aspirations and images of his surroundings and roots. For 30 plus years he has being painting the Los Angeles River Cat faces on the storm-drain covers and is involved with groups whose efforts are to revive the river as a historic region, cultural arts enclave and tourist destination.”


FOCUS – Adult Aquaphobia Classes

[googlevideo]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8978625612758049371[/googlevideo] What: Safely conquer your water fears with Paul Lennon
Where: Glendale
When: Call or e-mail for information. Here’s Paul’s site: BeAFish.com

A million years ago I was a waitress and Paul Lennon was one of my regular customers. Every Sunday, he and a large group of equally friendly people would grab a table in my section. I slowly got to know them over iced tea refills, discovering that Paul was a swim instructor and they were all his students. They seemed strangely close for a swim class, and I soon found out why. Paul Lennon specializes in helping adults who are terrified of the water (adult aquaphobia), and watching his students interact with him I realized he was clearly very good at his job. These people had been set free from something, and when they talked about their classes, they were beaming.

“Aquaphobia can usually be traced to a single incident in a person’s life in which he or she panicked in the water. Tales of personal horror range from being tossed into the deep end of a pool as a child to surviving the sinking of a seagoing vessel as an adult. Moreover, adults who can’t swim typically have at least one parent with aquaphobia, and they may have even taken traditional swimming lessons as a child but for whatever reason were never comfortable in water. Now, many of them are embarrassed. (more…)


FOCUS – The People of Silver Lake

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPiuwgCDQek&feature=PlayList&p=1CD11BBE54DDF535&index=0&playnext=1[/youtube] I hate to break so many fantasies… but quite a few Americans who’ve never stepped within the city limits of Los Angeles have an awfully tough time believing that the typical “LA person” isn’t a shallow, illiterate, wanna-be fame whore who flashes their crotch at strangers and opens fire on other cars in traffic whenever possible. Admittedly, perhaps it seems less fun to acknowledge that the vast majority of our neighbors are actually just average, decent, hard working folks who are more focused on feeding their families than world fame, who regularly wear underwear and who don’t take sawed-off shotguns along to commute the 101. (Well, unless we’re having a really bad day.)

Sometimes the reality is interesting too, though. The People of Silver Lake is a sweet little documentary made by the Silver Lake History Collective in an effort to document and explore the human mixing pot of their neighborhood. The film is divided into four YouTube parts and follows five long-time locals as they tell their stories, exposing the diversity of personalities and cultures that make up a Los Angeles neighborhood. Note: No crotch flashing or violence shown. (Sorry!) Storytellers include: artist Alberto Hernandez, resturauteur Larry Nicola, Marion Spencer, Don Jarvis, and Dr. Sekaye Shigekawa (who tells of her stay in a Japanese internment camp at Santa Anita during WW2).

In case it doesn’t autoplay the clips in order, here is the full playlist for all four parts. Also, a map of Silver Lake is after the jump for those who don’t know the area.

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FOCUS – Inspired by Sunset Boulevard

Note: A link to the entire film is after the jump.

May I present the most kickass stoplight you’ve ever seen. Well okay, your mileage may vary but I’ve been digging on this stoplight since the first moment I saw it. (And yes, I *am* easily entertained.) This was a typical sight on Sunset Boulevard in 1949, as captured in the iconic film Sunset Boulevard just moments before a pivotal flat tire changes Joe Gillis’ life forever, forcing him to hide out in Norma Desmond’s driveway.

I’m normally not one for traffic signals, but I love love love this stoplight. The technology was still relatively new… clearly people couldn’t be counted on to pay attention to simple colored lights yet so they made sure to add an automated sign that announced “Stop” and “Go” as well, just to make sure you were doubly aware of what green and red meant. No excuses, buddy.

Sunset Boulevard is, hands down, my number one top favorite film for sentimental reasons and has been ever since I first saw it with roommates just days after moving to Los Angeles from San Diego by myself. I loved everything about the movie… the noir cinematography; the incredible dialogue (My favorite line? “Funny how gentle people get with you once you’re dead.” Just wow.); the total sexy hotness of William Holden in his vicuna; the batshitinsaneness of Gloria Swanson’s iconic portrayal of Norma; Erich VonStroheim’s accent; Betty’s smart sassiness; seeing Detective Joe Friday as a skinny party boy; and of course, the monkey funeral… but most of all, I LOVED being able to witness vintage Los Angeles in its glory. The magic of the film hooked me completely.

A few days after seeing the movie, I remember driving around town with my friends in search of the filming locations… it was so exciting to just imagine we were breathing the same air as William Holden and Gloria Swanson had, albeit decades later. Sunset Boulevard was the first film that inspired me to take to the streets and explore old Los Angeles, because the film captured it and showed it to me in real time. It’s a time capsule of the Los Angeles that has since been paved over and considered forgotten… but there are still very tangible traces of that city if you look for them.

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