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California Fool's Gold -- Exporing Culver City, The Heart of Screenland

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 17, 2013 06:24pm | Post a Comment
ALL ROADS LEAD TO CULVER CITY



Imagine for a moment that you are a contestant on the game show Jeopardy and you were presented with the answer, "This community's slogans have included 'The Motion Picture Capital of the World,' 'The Heart of Screenland,' and 'Where Hollywood Movies are Made?'" If you're like me you'd probably ask, "What is Hollywood?" with some confidence. If you did, however, Alex Trebek would make that slightly pained and disappointed expression and tell you that "the question we were looking for is "What is Culver City?" And again, if you're at all like me, you'd probably go, "Huh?" By the way, Jeopardy! has been filmed in Culver City since 1994.

Artwork in Culver City highlighting Hollywood

Culver City is, in fact, both currently and historically a major hub in the production of mainstream American Cinema (you know, the ones usually referred to as "Hollywood" films) but for whatever reason -- and despite the best efforts of many Culverites -- it has been far less successful than the Hollywood neighborhood in connecting its name to the entertainment industry in the global public's mind. In fact, I'd wager that more tourists and Angelenos associate Burbank, North Hollywood, Studio City, and Universal City with "Hollywood" film production than they do Culver City.


I'm not really sure what makes a city a "Motion Picture Capital of the World." For years now, both Mumbai, India and Lagos, Nigeria (Bollywood and Nollywood) have annually surpassed the entire USA in film production (and tellingly, as with Kollywood, LollywoodTollywood, &c, signal their film-centricity by using a portmanteau that incorporates their own city or language with "Hollwood" and not "Culver City"). Meanwhile Culver City officials and other boosters continue to remind everyone of their city's place in the celluloid world at almost every conceivable opportunity. I even saw a sign for an apartment complex under construction which announced that it will be "debuting" rather than opening in 2014 (although "debuting" makes it sound like it's a teenage Filipina). 

Admittedly, even though I consider myself a fairly informed guy, it wasn't until researching this piece that I learned of Culver City's filmic importance. I've had a few friends that have lived in Culver City in the past and my impressions of the place had more to do with its small town atmosphere, its amazing diversity of restaurants, and the unpretentiousness of its populace rather than movie production. Then again, although I'm a film fanatic, the first thing I think of when I hear "Hollywood" is Thai food.

*****


CULVER CITY'S CHARACTER

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the Westside

Culver City is by most definitions (a small group who live west of the 405 would beg to differ) a community in Los Angeles's Westside (although like Santa Monica it's its own city). Compared not just to other Westside communities but Los Angeles County as a whole, the population of Culver City is highly diverse. As of 2010 the population was roughly 60% white (primarily German and English), 23% Latino (primarily Mexican) of any race, 15% Asian (primarily Filipino), 10% black, and 1% Native American.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Culver City

Although the Culver City's area is only about 13 square kilometers, the fact that it's shaped something like a Starfleet Type-2 phaser (the result of 42 strategic annexations) has resulted in its being neighbored by a large number of communities including Baldwin Hills, Cameo Plaza, The Culver City Arts District (which is mostly located outside of Culver City), Del Rey, La Cienega Heights, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Palms, Playa Vista, Venice, West Adams (not to be confused with the West Adams Historic District), Westchester, and Windsor Hills.

Culver City neighborhoods sign

Culver City is comprised of many neighborhoods of varying size. Their borders, names, and even status as neighborhoods isn't universally agreed upon. Some are descended from old tracts and others are little more than condominium developments. Anyway, in my research I found the following communities listed by at least once source as a neighborhood of Culver City: Blair Hills, Blanco (aka Blanco Park aka Beverlywood West), Carlson Park, Clarkdale (aka Tellefson Park), Culver City-90066, Culver City Terrace (a trailer court), Culver West, Culver Crest, Downtown Culver City, Emerald Estates (a gated community), Federal Park, Fox Hills, the Hayden Tract, the Helms District (aka the Helms Bakery District aka the Helms Design District), Heritage Estates, Jefferson, Lakeside Villa, Lakeside Village (a gated community), Lindberg Park, Little Culver, Lower Crest (aka Lower Culver Crest), Lucerne, McLaughlin, McManus (Culver City-East), the Nolan Tract, Park East (a gated community), Playa Pacific (a gated community), Raintree (a gated community), Rancho Higuera (aka Higuera), Regent Square, Studio Estates, Studio Village, Sunkist Park (aka El Marino), Tara Hill, Veterans Park (aka Park West), Washington Culver, and Windsor Fountains.

Downtown Culver City

Most of Culver City is comprised of low-profile residential neighborhoods comprised mainly of single family homes and most of what would likely of interest to visitors is likely located within and around Downtown Culver City, the Hayden Tract, the Helms District, or adjacent but actually within Los Angeles.


NOT IN CULVER CITY 

If Culver City officials and others are unhappy that the community is widely overlooked for its contributions to cinema they seem to be just as happy to allow Culver City to be associated with a number of attractions that aren't actually within the city as they appear on tour maps and Culver City directional signs. Ivy Substation (and The Actors' Gang), Carbon, most of the Culver City Arts District, the Hobbit HousesMedia Park, the Museum of Jurassic Technology are all in Los Angeles -- not that that should preclude Culverites' promotion or enjoyment of them.


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ANCIENT HISTORY OF THE AREA

It isn't known who the indigenous people of the Westside were nor what they called themselves. They may've been ancestors of the Chumash or speakers of a Hokan language. They probably arrived around 15,000 years ago. Some time later, around 8,000 years ago, they were displaced by or absorbed into a population whose ancestors migrated from the Sonoran Desert, a people who're today commonly referred to as Tongva. One of Tongva villages, Saa'anga, was located a little west of present day Culver City, near the mouth of Ballona Creek on Santa Monica Bay. There were other, smaller villages located around the watershed as well. 


THE SPANISH ERA 

In 1542 Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed what he believed to be the Island of California for country of Spain. In June 1769, Gaspar de Portolà embarked upon an overland expedition from San Diego, stopping near present-day Santa Monica on the 3rd of August. It was the prelude to the Tongva and other Native peoples' subjugation within the California Mission System.


THE MEXICAN ERA

Mexico began its war of independence with Spain in 1810 and finally achieved it in 1821. That year the 12.65 km2 Rancho de los Bueyes was granted to Bernardo Higuera and Cornelio Lopez. To the east was Rancho Las Cienegas and Rancho La Cienega o Paso de la Tijera. To the west was Rancho La Ballona.  Augustín Machado and Felipe Talamantes had earlier been granted permission to graze cattle on Rancho La Ballona in 1819, around which time the Machado built an adobe on the banks of the creek which soon flooded and washed away the structure (Ballona Creek was paved by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1935 to prevent further flooding). In 1821, Augustín's brother Ygnacio and Felipe's son Tom came on board the operation. In 1834, Ygnacio Machado built the Centinela Adobe in what's now Inglewood.



EARLY AMERICAN PERIOD

The first La Ballona School

Although the US conquered California from Mexico in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ensured that land holdings belonging to Mexicans would be honored by the victors. However, as early as 1857 the land began to change hands - first when Benjamin D. Wilson acquired a portion on foreclosure of an earlier loan to Talamantes. In 1849 Ygnacio had moved to El Pueblo (in Downtown Los Angeles). In preparation for the possibility of the the War Between the States coming to California, Camp Latham was established on the southern bank of Ballona Creek (near Jefferson and Overland) and commanded by Brigadier General George Wright. In 1865, La Ballona School was built in what was by then called the Ballona Valley -- and Augustín Machado died.



HARRY CULVER AND THE DAWN OF CULVER CITY

Harry Culver - center, 1929 (image source: Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)

Harry Hazel Culver (born in Milford, Nebraska in 1880) began work as a Southern California real estate developer in 1910, in the employ of Isaac Newton Van Nuys. Van Nuys founded a community named after himself in the San Fernando Valley in 1911. In 1913 Culver announced his plan for his "Culver City" to be located at the intersection of three Pacific Electric Railway lines (the Del Rey, Santa Monica Air, and Venice Short lines) and "3 splendid boulevards" (National, Pico, and Washington).

Culver City in 1914

The planned community -- situated in the middle of nowhere but between Los Angeles, The Palms, and Venice of America -- was promoted with the slogan "All Roads Lead to Culver City." Ironically, Culver City's Main Street -- filed in 1913 -- was then reportedly the shortest such road in the world.

Culver City Main Street in 2013

In 1914 Culver started the Culver Investment Company. By then the instant community already boasted a train depot, cyclecar plant, and a macaroni factory. Culver City was incorporated on 20 September, 1917 with a population of just 530 residents -- all white -- as the now diverse community was at its inception a whites-only "sundown town."



THE RISE OF MOTION PICTURES

Triangle Studio in 1916 - Culver City's first film studio

In the late 1910s, Culver City arose as one of the biggest centers of film production on the west coast (rivaling Edendale, Highland Park, and Hollywood) with the establishment of three major studios -- Triangle Film Corporation, Thomas H. Ince Studios, Hal Roach Studios and their successors -- as well as smaller ones (such as Willat Studios). Two of the three studio facilities still exist and one was torn down and replaced with light industrial buildings.


TRIANGLE FILM CORPORATION

The old Triangle Film Corporation studios today

Harry Culver met producer-director Thomas H. Ince when he was filming a western near Ballona Creek for New York Motion Picture Company (who'd opened west coast studio in Edendale) and persuaded him to set up a new operation in fledgling Culver City. In July 1915, Ince -- in partnership with Harry and Roy Aitken, and filmmakers D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett -- founded Culver City's first motion picture company, Triangle Film Corporation. The LA Times almost immediately after published an article titled "Culver City a Movie Center." By 1917 producer Adolph Zukor had taken control of the studio, which then became Paramount-Artcraft Pictures. In 1919 it was sold it to Samuel Goldwyn. In 1924, his Goldwyn Pictures Corporation studios became the property of Metro Goldywn Mayer.

The old MGM lot

Today the Greek colonnade still stands although behind it is Sony Pictures Studios (and Columbia). In 2012, a 30 meter high metal rainbow sculpture was added that's visible from outside the lot.

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Tony Tasset's Rainbow


THOMAS INCE STUDIOS

The Mansion - The old Ince Studios

In 1918 Ince purchased a new lot nearby and established Thomas H. Ince Studios. Meyer & Holler designed the building that now houses Culver Studios -- a Colonial Revival structure that was nicknamed "The Mansion." In 1922, Ince Studios merged with First National Pictures, Inc. In November, 1924, Ince was invited aboard William Randolph Hearst's yacht, the Oneida, to celebratehis birthday on a trip from San Pedro to San Diego. Other guests included actors Charlie Chaplin, Aileen Pringle, Jacqueline Logan, Julanne Johnston, Margaret Livingston, Seena Owen, Theodore Kosloff and others. Ince was initially delayed due to his finalizing a production deal with Hearst's International Film Coporation and the boat set sail without its guest of honor. After concluding business, Ince took a train to San Diego where he boarded the yacht. Three days after his 42nd birthday he was dead. The official version was that he'd grown ill on the yacht and been taken home where he died of a heart ailment but the rumor mill immediately began churning out variations on a story involving infidelity and murder (or accidental shooting). The story was the basis for Peter Bogdanovich's film, The Cat's Meow.




After his death, Ince's widow Elinor took over Ince Studios for a short time. The Mansion later housed DeMille Studio (the Cecil B. DeMille Theatre was added in 1927), RKO, RKO-Pathé, Selznick International, Desilu, and Laird International Studios.

To give a since of The Mansion's importance in film -- it was there that David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming made the highest grossing film of all time -- Gone with the Wind (1939) and Orson Welles filmed what's often considered to be the best film of all time, Citizen Kane (1940). When it was Desilu its soundstages were used to film TV series including The Andy Griffith Show and Star Trek, among others.


HAL E. ROACH STUDIOS

Hal E. Roach Studios "near Los Angeles" 

Due to Los Angeles zoning laws, Hal Roach couldn't expand his studio operations and so moved to movie-friendly Culver City in 1919. His new studio, nicknamed "The Lot of Fun," was located on Landmark Street -- just south of the modern day Culver City Station of the Expo Line. The studio employed one of Culver City's first professional musical acts -- the Hal Roach Studio Orchestra. Hal Roach, of course, famously "created" the comedic Laurel & Hardy duo. To this day, a local branch of the Sons of the Desert  (The Worldwide Laurel & Hardy Society) meet weekly at the Culver Hotel.
During World War II the facilities were used to produce training films and it came to be nicknamed "Fort Roach." It was demolished in 1963 and is now memorialized with a plaque (Culver City has more historical plaques than I've seen in any other exploration). 

Leave 'em Laughing plaque



CULVER CITY SILENT FILMS

Films made in Culver City during the great era of Silent Film include: Luke's Movie Muddle (1916); Ask Father, From Hand to Mouth, The Hayseed, The Brand, Chop Suey & Co., and The Lone Wolf's Daughter (all 1919); The Penalty, His Royal Slyness, Haunted Spooks, and An Eastern Westerner (all 1920); Never Weaken, Now or Never, A Sailor-Made Man, I Do, Among Those Present, and Dodge Your Debts (all 1921); Our Gang and Dr. Jack (both 1922);



Safety Last!
, Why Worry?, Dogs of War
, and The Soilers (all 1923); He Who Gets Slapped, Girl Shy, The Wife of the Centaur, The Snob, Smithy, One Night in Rome, Zeb vs. Paprika, Big Moments from Little Pictures, Sinners in Silk, The Beauty Prize, The Dixie Handicap, Going to Congress, Barbara Frietchie, Accidental Accidents, A Tour of the Thomas Ince Studio, and The Cowboy Sheik (all 1924);

The Big Parade, Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ, The Freshman, The Merry Widow, The Unholy Three, The Monster, Pretty Ladies, The Circle, 1925 Studio Tour, What Price Goofy?, Isn't Life Terrible?, The Sporting Venus, Zander the Great, Confessions of a Queen, Never the Twain Shall Meet, Daddy's Gone A-Hunting, Big Red Riding Hood, The Haunted Honeymoon, Cheaper to Marry
, and Unfriendly Enemies (all 1925);

Bardelys the Magnificent, La Bohème, The Temptress, Tell it to the Marines, 45 Minutes from Hollywood, Along Came Auntie, Long Fliv the King, Exit Smiling, Mighty Like a Moose, Crazy Like a Fox, On the Front Page, Raggedy Rose, Valencia, Exquisite Sinner, For Alimony Only, The Fire Brigade, Monte Carlo, Dance Madness, The Barrier, Wise Guys Prefer Brunettes
, and Scared Stiff (all 1926);

and The Show, The King of Kings, Love, West Point, Chicago, Annie Laurie, The Second 100 Years , Duck Soup, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, Mr. Wu, Putting Pants on Philip, The Red Mill, Hats Off, The Battle of the Century, Why Girls Love Sailors, Sugar Daddies, Love 'em and Weep, Sailors Beware, Slipping Wives, With Love and Hisses, Buttons, The Flag: A Story Inspired by the Tradition of Betsy Ross, Olympic Games, Baby Brother, The Callahans and the Murphys, Tillie the Toiler, The Honorable Mr. Buggs, Adam and Evil, Are Brunettes Safe?, and Lovers? (all 1927).


THE HEART OF SCREENLAND TODAY

Culver City is still very active in film production. Normally I try to mention all of the films shot within a community but, at well over 11,000 there are far too many for a blog entry. If you'd like to peruse the IMDB list (sorted by date), click here.

To further emphasize how important Culver City's contribution has been I'll list just a few films made in Culver City have helped define, erm, Hollywood, including: King Kong (1933), The Thin Man (1934), The Good Earth (1937), A Star is Born (1937), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Rebecca (1940), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Singin' In the Rain (1952), Oklahoma! (1955), The Night of the Hunter (1955), and Forbidden Planet (1956). It's also where TV shows like The Amos 'n Andy Show, The Adventures of Superman, The Life of Riley, The Abbott and Costello Show, The Great Gildersleeve, Lassie, The Thin Man, Gunsmoke, The Green Hornet, Gomer Pyle, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Little House on the Prairie and many others were filmed too.

Today Culver City is home to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the community's largest employer. It's the birthplace of film figures including Charles Herbert, Dee Dee Davis, Drew Barrymore, Gwen Verdon, Helen Hunt, and Michael Richards. Finally, it's also home to many production companies, talent agencies, studios, distribution companies, consulting firms, &c all having to do with film production.



EXPLOSIVE GROWTH

The Washington Building -- begun in 1926 and designed by Arthur D. Scholz and Orville L. Clark

The 1920s were the time of Culver City's greatest population growth -- the population increased over 1000% from just 503 to 5,669 during the decade. Prohibition, which lasted between 1919 and 1933, was somewhat ignored around Culver City and supposedly the race tracks, speakeasies, and nightclubs along Washington Boulevard were the reason Culver City annexed the area in 1924. During the Prohibition era Culver City was home to a thriving nightlife based around The Green Mill (which became Sebastian's Cotton Club -- where Lionel Hampton began his career with Les Hite), King's Tropical Inn (established in 1924), Barton's, Casa Mañana, Ford's Castle, Frank's Bar and Grill, The Hoosegow, The Hot Spot Café, and Moonlite Gardens. As a result, Culver City (along with Venice and Vernon) acquired a reputation as quite a happening and slightly lawless place. Culver City Council finally took action to prohibit gambling in 1928.


HOTEL HUNT - CULVER HOTEL

The Culver Hotel (right) and Pacific Culver Stadium 12 (left)

In 1924 the six-story flatiron skyscraper (the sky was lower in those days) Hotel Hunt was completed. Although no longer the tallest building in Culver City, it's still widely visible and is the most iconic structure in the community.At some point early on it was re-named the Culver Hotel. From 1924 until 1933 it housed Harry Culver's offices. It was later owned by John Wayne and in the past housed many movie stars including Buster KeatonClark Gable, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Red Skelton, and Ronald Reagan. Before it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, it was actually in danger of being demolished.


CULVER CITY SPEEDWAY

Culver City Speedway  1949 (image source: Auto Racing Memories)

From 1924 until 1927, the Culver City Speedway hosted auto races at a facility located near Overland Avenue and Culver Boulevard.


THE MERALTA



The Meralta was opened in 1924 by Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta (who combined their family names to create the theater's name). The first film shown at the Will Rogers-hosted premier was Del Andrews's film, The Galloping Fish. It closed in 1983 and was demolished the following year -- replaced with a shopping plaza. 


CULVER CITYBUS

Gateway Station Post Office (built in 1940 ) includes a mural by George Samerjan (left) and CityBus (right)

Culver CityBus was founded along with Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus in 1928 -- they're the oldest municipal transit companies in the state. In 1997 a new Transportation Facility (with big urn sculpture in front) opened.

City of Culver City Transportation and Purchasing

At 2011's Government Fleet Conference, Culver CityBus was voted the 5th best fleet in North America. The regular fleet buses are green and the rapid buses are gray. In addition to Culver City its seven lines serve Century City, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, Palms, Venice, Westchester, West Los Angeles, and Westwood -- covering an area of almost 70 km2.


ROLLERDROME



Rollerdrome opened in 1928 at the present location of Tellefson Park. An organ was added in 1929 and the house organist was Carl Osterloh. It was demolished in 1970.


THE CITIZEN

The Citizen Building

The Citizen Building was constructed in 1929 (the same year the older Culver City Star News merged with The Venice Vanguard). It served as the new home of The Citizen Publishing and Printing Company, first established in San Francisco in 1923 by Eugene Donovan before relocating to Southern California. The building, which mixes elements of Art Deco and Beaux Arts, was designed by Orville E. Clark and is eye-catching if a bit difficult to do justice to with photographs (on account of trees and traffic). In 1987, the Citizen Building became the first structure in Culver City to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Donvan's paper, The Citizen, actually ran a contest to rename Culver City. Entries included "Cinema City" and "Filmville" but obviously, Culver City's name remained the same after Hollywood and Culver City buried the hatchet at Grauman's Chinese Theatre



THE GREAT DEPRESSION

The Art Deco Beacon Laundry -- built in 1930

Thanks in large part to the film industry and new developments, Culver City fared relatively well during the Great Depression. The city adopted a municipal seal with the words "The Heart of Screenland" in 1936. In 1937 the city changed its slogan to "Culver City, Where Hollywood Movies Are Made." On 6 June, 1937 a measure was actually passed to change Culver City's name to "Hollywood" at which point Los Angeles responded by granting official recognition to and establishing official borders  of the Hollywood neighborhood. There were also several other key industries established in and around the city. A greyhound racing track was opened by Culver City Kennel near Lincoln and Washington Boulevards. Nonetheless, after the boom of the 1920s, population growth slowed tremendously even with the annexation of McManus Park.



HELMS BAKERY

Helms Bakery

Paul Helms's Helms Bakery was established on the border of Culver City and Los Angeles (in what's now known as the Helms Bakery District) in 1931. In 1932, during the Olympics, Helms Bakery supplied bread to the Olympic Village in Baldwin Hills. For more than forty years its fleet of delivery drivers brought bread "daily at your door" until 1969, when bakery closed shop.  In October, 2013 it was announced that chefs Sherry Yard and Sang Yoon plan to revive the bakery later in the fall.


HUGHES AIRCRAFT COMPANY

Culver City Airport and Hughes Aircraft Plant

From 1932 to 1985 the Culver City Airport and Hughes Aircraft Plant was established just outside of Culver City. Though technically located within Los Angeles; the name, proximity, and jobs it provided for Culverites make it worthy of a mention here, I think.


ST. AUGUSTINE CATHOLIC CHURCH

St. Augustine's Catholic Church

In 1883, the Figueroa family donated land for the construction of St. Augustine's, the first church in what became Culver City. It was completed in 1887. The new Franco-Gothic church was dedicated 1936.


HOLY CROSS CEMETERY 

The Grotto at Holy Cross (image source: Death 2UR)

The Roman Catholic Holy Cross Cemetery opened in 1939. An area known as "The Grotto" is, as they say, the final resting place of many celebrities including: Audrey Meadows, Bela Lugosi, Bing Crosby, Charles Boyer, Dennis Day, Edmond O'Brien, Fred MacMurray, Henry Hathaway, Jack Haley, Jackie Coogan, Jimmy Durante, Joan Davis, Joe Flynn, John Candy, John Ford, Lawrence Welk, Loretta Young, Louella Parsons, MacDonald Carey, Mario Lanza, Mary Astor, Mary Frann, Pat O'Brien, Ray Bolger, Richard Arlen, Rita Hayworth, Rosalind Russell, Sharon Tate, Spike Jones, Vince Edwards, and ZaSu Pitts among others.



CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS

Chinese Elms planted in the 1940s

The 1940s saw both increasing diversity within Culver City's population and at the same time, the population growth rate began to increase again -- although it nonetheless nearly reached 20,000 by the decade's end. Prior to the 1930s, most Jewish Angelenos had lived in the Eastside in neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights, City Terrace, and East Los Angeles. Toward the end of that decade and into the 1940s, many moved west to Hollywood, Midtown and especially the Westside. Culver passed away on 17 August, 1946 -- two years before the US Supreme Court banned segregation, which even more radically changed Culver City's complexion although restrictions against multiple-family housing helped retain an economic segregation. 


B'NAI B'RITH MEMORIAL PARK (HILLSIDE MEMORIAL PARK CEMETERY)

Al Jolson Memorial Shrine (image by David Horan for Paul Williams Project)

B'nai B'rith Memorial Park opened in 1941 just beyond the borders of Culver City. It was renamed Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in 1950. The Al Jolson Memorial Shrine was designed by great Los Angeles architect, Paul Williams, in 1954. The cemetery was annexed by Culver City in 1964. It contains the earthly remains of Allan Sherman, David Janssen, Dinah Shore, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Jack Benny, Jeff Chandler, Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Milton Berle, Moe Howard, Shelley Winters, and Vic Morrow among others.


CULVER THEATRE - KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE

Kirk Douglas Theatre fka Culver Theatre

The beautiful, 1,1640-seat, Streamline Moderne Culver Theatre opened in 1946. At some later point it was regrettably divided into a three-screen theater before being gutted in 1994. In the years since it's been renovated and transformed into a performing arts center and playhouse known now as the Kirk Douglas Theatre.


STUDIO DRIVE-IN



The Studio Drive-In opened in 1948. It was featured in several films including Grease and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. It was closed in 1993 before being demolished in 1998 and redeveloped as The Classics at Heritage Park and Eras Center. (To read about still extant SoCal drive-ins, click here).


TRAINS OUT, CARS IN



The 1950s were a decade of increasing development. Passenger rail service ended in 1953 with the discontinuation of the Pacific Electric Railway line and at the same time car dealerships proliferated -- as did bowling alleys. In 1951, the annual Fiesta Ballona began -- an outgrowth of the earlier Tom Sawyer Days festivities which had begun in the 1930s. In 1953, the Temple Akiba opened to serve the community's growing Jewish population.


CULVER CENTER (AND SHIPS)

Ships Coffee Shop at Culver Center

The Culver Center shopping center opened in 1950, one of Southern California's first malls. In its honor, Hacienda Street was renamed Culver Center Street. The first Ship's coffee shop opened there in 1956. Fearing that Culver Center's growing dominance could spell the end for Culver City's smal downtown, the city council refused to allow May Company to open a shop in the mall.


VETERAN'S MEMORIAL BUILDING 

Veteran's Memorial Center and Film Strip-USA

Veteran's Memorial Building also opened in 1950, a year after Exposition Park was renamed Veteran's Park. Its most eye-catching feature was its Tourist Tower, which offered tourists a glimpse of the nearby studio's back lots and pretty stunning views -- although its been closed to visitors for several decades now. The current Lethbridge-Garden Room was then home to the Tower Restaurant. In front of the center is a fountain and sculpture titled Film Strip-USA, dedicated in 1984 to what the plaque calls "The Motion Picture Capital of the World." 


NIGHT WATCH

Even less recognized than Culver City's contribution to film is its contribution to reality programming -- although it likewise should be otherwise. In 1954, the great (if obscure) Night Watch debuted on CBS. It wasn't the first reality show -- that would be Candid Camera which debuted in 1948. But whereas the latter was nothing more than the sort of silly prank show still popular around the world, the latter was something more interesting. Night Watch was developed and hosted by Culver City police reporter Donn Reed at a time when audiences were leaving radio for TV and radio responded by offering realism (and perhaps voyeuristic exploitation) that the family boob tube couldn't. Each episode involved Reed riding with Sgt. Ron Perkins from 6:00 pm till 2:00 am and recording everything. It ended its short run in 1955 but all 48 episodes still exist and are fascinating glimpses of Culver City life in the 1950s. You can listen to them all here.



CULVER CITY IN THE 1960s

In the 1960s, although Culver City continued to annex more territory (including, notably, Fox Hills), the population growth rate again dropped, as it has in most of the decades since. In 1964 Culver City established its first Sister City relationship with Uruapan, Mexico. Though Culver City remains comprised mostly of single family homes it was during this time that the first apartments and condominiums were constructed. The first condo complex, Studio Village Townhouses, was completed in 1965. In the next decade, more studio properties would be sold off and redeveloped into residential complexes and shopping centers.


COMPETITION MOTORS

Culver City Competition Motors (photographed by Julius Shulman)

In 1961 entrepreneur and race car enthusiast John von Neumann hired Paul R. Williams to design the new headquarters for his Competition Motors on in Culver City. Von Neumann was responsible more than any other individual for popularizing Volkswagen in the US. Consider this -- whereas in 1953 there had been no American dealers of the car, by 1962 von Neumann alone had opened 57 Volkswagen dealerships in the country. By 1964 Competition Motors moved out, having outgrown the facility. I'm not sure when it happened but it Williams's beautiful building was demolished.



MEDITATION AND MALLS  

I'm sure a great deal more of note happened in Culver City in the 1970s than what I'm writing about but that's all I've got for now. 

THE JULIAN DIXON LIBRARY AND MEDITATION GARDEN

Kaizuka Meditation Garden

In 1974, another of Culver City's sister cities, Kaizuka, Japan, created a meditation garden in front of the Culver City Library. On the day that I visited it I discovered that the garden it's relatively inaccessible due its being surrounded by a fence. What's more, no water was running in the stream and the mill wheel was motionless. Further encumbering any efforts at meditation was the loud and seemingly endless stream of traffic behind me on Overland Avenue. Meanwhile the interior of the Culver City Julian Dixon Library, as it's now known, proved much more peaceful.


FOX HILLS MALL

Fox Hills Mall opened in 1975. The Gruen Associates-designed mall was the first three-story shopping complex to open in California. It was purchased by Westfield in 1998 and renamed Westfield Shoppingtown Fox Hills (The "Shoppingtown" was dropped in 2005). Jonathan Gold wrote a complimentary review of its "dining terrace" (food court) for the LA Weekly shortly before leaving that publication. It's currently officially known as Westfield Culver City.


DECLINE AND
 REDEVELOPMENT

The 1980s were marked by the AIDS crisis, Deinstitutionalization, Crack Wars, Gang Wars, and the Central American Refugee Crisis. It almost proved to be too much for the city that had weathered the Depression with comparative ease. The city's hopes for renewal were pinned on the destruction of The Meralta theater and the replacement of it with the Meralta Plaza office building.


FILMLAND CORPORATE CENTER - SONY PICTURES PLAZA

Sony Pictures Plaza -- undoubtedly designed by Cylons

In 1986, the Filmland Corporate Center was completed (now Sony Pictures Plaza) -- another of several projects helmed by the Culver City Redevelopment Agency within a short period. The pink granite pyramid-ish atrium portrayed the Wolfram & Hart offices on TV's Angel. Interested visitors can tour the studio, with daily tours starting here.


CORPORATE POINTE

Coporate Point (image source: CoStar)

In 1989, the three tower complex of Corporate Pointe was completed -- the tallest building is twelve stories and its construction prompted slow growth advocates ro react by successfully lowering Culver City's height limit to just 56 feet in 1990.


SONY - FILMED IN CULVER CITY

Culver City City Hall

Culver City's comeback continued in the 1990s. Sony bought MGM's old studio in 1990 and established itself as the dominant economic force in town. Beginning with 1991's films Bugsy and Hook, Sony films shot in Culver City stated in their credits that they were "Filmed in Culver City." A new City Hall was dedicated in 1995, behind the mock facade of the original city hall -- meant to suggest a film set.

Sony Pictures Imageworks

Sony Pictures Imageworks opened in 1992. This is where the visual effects and digital animation that characterize mainstream American film happens.

CULVER CITY IN THE 21st CENTURY

Construction of an Expo Line bridge and a Del Taco

In 2003, NPR West moved to Culver City. The Art Deco-styled (at least the exterior) Pacific Culver Stadium 12 multiplex opened in 2003. The Expo Line returned rail service and developers clamored to construct mixed-use transit-oriented developments. Around the same time a tribe of people calling themselves "foodies" starting visiting it. In 2009 it won Curbed LA's Curbed Cup -- basically their annual community popularity contest.


*****



GETTING TO AND AROUND CULVER CITY

Culver City Station - Expo Line train and a recently-paved parking lot (what would Joni Mitchell think?)

As already mentioned, Culver City is home to the excellent Culver CityBus system. In 2012, after 60 years without it, passenger rail service returned to Culver City (and the Westside) with the arrival of the Expo Line (which I explored both the completed section of, and the under-construction section of, for my KCET column, Block By Block). Before too long the train will go all the way to the Pacific Ocean (although it shouldn't be confused with the "Subway to the Sea," which is scheduled to take several decades to get there).

Expo Line (left) and bike lane (right)

Parallel to the Expo Line along most of its length is a bike path. There's also the Ballona Creek Bike Path that runs about eleven kilometers from near the eastern edge of Culver City to the Ballona Creek Estuary and Wetlands along Santa Monica Bay. Finally, there's the 3.4 km Culver Boulevard Meridian Bicycle Path and of course, bikes can ride on all city streets as well.

Ballona Creek and bike path

Additionally, Culver City is served by two Los Angeles Metro Bus lines (33 and 733), and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus. And if you're the walking time, as I am, it's quite walkable. Walkscore gives Culver City a score of 79. The 90232 zip code, which includes most of the city's attractions, gets an 84 -- only one point lower than New York City and San Francisco -- the current #1 and #2 on the list.

If you want to stay overnight in Culver City there's of course the famous and highly-rated Culver Hotel as well as (in descending order of current Yelp ratings) Culver City Travelodge, Jasmine Hotel, Ramada Culver City, Sunburst Motel, Half Moon Motel, Astro Motel, Deano's Motel, and West End Hotel.



CULVER CITY EATS

What's the story with this clock? 

One of my absolute favorite things about Culver City is the diversity of the restaurant scene. There are restaurants serving Asian Fusion, Brazilian, British, Burmese, Creole, Cuban, Ethiopian, French, Greek, Hawaiian, Indian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Mexican, New American, Pakastani, Salvadoran, Taiwanese, Thai, Vegetarian, and Vietnamese cuisine, among others.

Oddly, on the day that I explored for this blog entry and despite the amazing choices available, every single person I saw at every single sidewalk café was grazing on salad. At first I thought it was some sort of special holiday or maybe I'd walked onto the set of a commercial for lettuce or something but I think it was actually an indication of the importance of "the Industry" actually; these people were quite likely "doing" lunch (in the parlance of schmooze).

There have been a couple of hiccups with the food explosion. Until 2011 there was Westside Food Truck Central and the Culver City Food Truck Fest which may or may not return after permits are sorted out. In the past I've enjoyed meals at Café Brasil, Empanada's Place, and shojin I have also heard a lot of raving (and almost just as much dissent) about Tito's Tacos -- but have yet to check it out -- suspecting (even though I should know better)  that its fans may never have crossed the LA River to the Eastside.

Culver City Farmers Market mural

If you'd like to learn how to cook, you can attend Culver City's New School of Cooking. You can get restaurant supplies from Surfas, which has been around since 1937. The Culver City Farmers Market takes place downtown every Tuesday from 3:00 to 7:00. It was actually setting up as I left the area and headed west, stopping at and enjoying a lunch at Samosa House (East). 

Other restaurants include:

A-Frame, Akasha, All India Flavor, Aramark, Bada Bing Italian Grill, Bawarchi Indian Kitchen, Bellagio, Big Fat Pita, Big Tomy's, Bistro Laurent, Bottlerock, Brunello Trattoria, Buffalo Wings & Pizza, Café Allegro, Café Creole, Café Laurent, Café Nagomi Truck, Café Surfas, California Roll & Sushi, Campos Tacos, Cappriotti's, Cilantro Fresh Mexican Grill, Cinco de Mayo, Creme de la Crepe, The Culver Studios Commissary, Dear John's, Delhi Biryani House, Dios Union Libertad, Don Felix Meat Market,

Dragon Restaurant, E K Valley Restaurant, Ekkamai Thai Restaurant, El Baron Restaurant and Night Club, El Jacalito, El Rincon Criollo, El Rio Bravo Restaurant, El Super Taco Deluxe
, Extreme Pizza, 5i Indochine Cuisine, Food Square, Ford's Filling Station, Fresh in the Box, Fuji Wok & Sushi, Gaby's Express Mediterranean Café, George Petrelli's Steak House, Good Eatz Café, Grand Casino Bakeries, Great Khan's Mongolian BarbequeGreen Peas, Green Truck, Grey Block Pizza,

Hamakaze Sushi Izakaya,
Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken, Huddle West Café, India Sweets and Spices, Industry Café & Jazz, Jackson Market, Jasmine Market, Jerry's Market, Johnnie's Pastrami Restaurant, Joyce's Pizza & Submarine Sandwiches, JR's BarbequeK-ZO, Kabab Bistro, King's Kabob, L'Epicerie Market, La Dijonaise Café et Boulangerie, LA Spice, LaRocco's Pizzeria, Libra Brazilian SteakhouseLucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que,Lunch, Lukshon, LYFE Kitchen,

M Café de Chaya, Mandarin Dish, Marin Company Steak & Spirits, Martini's Italian Deli & Pizza, Maxwell's Café, Meet in Paris, Metro Café, Mi Ranchito, Mongrill Gourmet Mongolian BBQ, Muddy Leek, Mykonos Greek Grill, Native Foods CaféNovocento Pasta & Grill, 101 Noodle ExpressOutdoor Grill, Panda Thai Kitchen, Patio Café, Pho ShowPinches Tacos, Pitfire Artisan Pizza, The Point, Polentoni, Public School 310, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Ramen Yamadaya,

The Restaurant at the Culver Hotel, Rising Hearts, Rita Hayworth Dining Room, Rocco's Tavern, Rockenwagner Bakery, Roll 'n Rye, Royal Chinese Food & Donut, Rush Street, Rutt's Hawaiian Café, S & W Country DinerSage Oragnic Vegan Bistro, Sake House by Hikari, Sarku Japan Sushi Bar, Sharlimar Cuisine of India, Shikibu Sushi & Pastry, Signature Burger, Signature Café, Smashburger, Sony Pictures Plaza Cafeteria, Sorrento Italian Market, Sushi Karen Japanese Restaurant,

Sushi Mashiko, Swanya Thai Cuisine, Taqueria Estilo, Tender Greens, TrimanaTub's Fine Chile, Ugo Café, Vera Pizza Napoletana, Victor Jr's, Viet Gourmet Express, Villa Italian Restaurant, Waterloo & City, Wildcraft Sourdough Pizza, The Wood Café,
 Yen Sushi Lounge and KaraokeZam Zam Market, ZZ Truck, and 041 Bacaro



CULVER CITY DRINKS

For the thirsty, there are a few places to wet one's whistle in Culver City including Alibi Room, Apothecary Café, Backstage Bar & Grill, The Bar at the Culver Hotel, Bird Pick Tea & Herb, Bottlerock, Caffe Carpe Diem, The Cinema BarCity TavernCoffee Buna, Cognoscenti Coffee, Conservatory For Coffee Tea & Cocoa, The Corner Door, Cozy Inn, Al Alteno Bar, Espresso Primo, George's Coffee Shop, Island Monarch Coffee, Joxer Daly's, King's Café, The Redd Collection, The Rumor Mill, Scarlet Lady Saloon, Seventy7, The Spot Café & Lounge, Studio BarTanner's Coffee Co, Tattle Tale Room, and Ugo Wine Bar.



CULVER CITY MUSIC SCENE

There have been at least a couple of "city songs" composed for Culver City. In 1967, Doris Hechinger composed "Culver City." In 1985, Marilyn Freiden Clark composed, "Our Culver City." The Culver City Symphony Orchestra has performed since 2000. It was also formerly home to Bratton Music Publishing Company (see below)

Bratton Music Publishing Co. sheet music (image source: Songs in the Key of L.A.)

Culver City is the birthplace or home base of several performers including (I think) include Aerial Stereo, Amy's Crusade, Andy ShigekawaAnonymoose and Young Cookie, APEX, Aphex Wolf, The Bad Bad Things, Becky Stark, bikos, The Black Heartthrobs, The Bomb Camarillos, Bronwen Jones, Chorus Babblebones, Chris Clarke, Co Wave, color cycle, Confucius is Confused, Cori Jacobs, Debbie HennesseyDJ Max FactorEarly the MC, Endor, Evyn Charles, Gorgonized Dorks, Ibn Gold, IkonInfernal Assault, Michael Nhat, Puppets, Rocky George (of Pap Smear, Suicidal Tendencies, 40 Cycle Hum, Cro-Mags, and Fishbone), Strings By Reiko, Tibay, TonyMoss, TVghettoblasterman, Vedad M, Ven Olac, VerBS, Yeren, and XPlatter. I'm not sure if he was born there but KXLU's DJ Ned Learner is widely associated with Culver City. 

Local music stores include Boulevard Music (who host the Boulevard Summer Music Festival), Culver City Music Center (which offers music lessons), and Latin Music Warehouse. Furthermore, Beats By Dre's headquarters are there, the Harvest Festival of Dulcimers takes place there, and Industry Cafe & Jazz features live music and poetry open mic nights. There are also almost certainly several music studios although the only one that I noticed were Musicians Choice Studio and Sound Space Lab.



ART IN CULVER CITY (AND THE CULVER CITY ARTS DISTRICT)

In a 2007 New York Times piece titled "In Culver City, Calif., Art and Food Turn a Nowhere Into a Somewhere" the writer refers to Culver City as a "nascent Chelsea" -- comparing Los Angeles to New York is the paper's highest honor. Anyway, the article mentions The Actor's Gang, Blum & Poe, HD Buttercup, The Mandrake Bar, and LAXart Gallery -- not one of those happens to be actually in Culver City, mind you. That's right, the arts area often referred to as the Culver City Arts District is almost entirely located within Los Angeles and not Culver City.

Helms District and beyond, the strip of Arts District along Washington actually within Culver City

The narrow strip of the Arts District along Washington that actually is within Culver City is home to quite a few galleries such as Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, Century Guild, Corey Helford Gallery, Fresh Paint, George Lawson Gallery, Indie Collective, Kinkead ContemporaryKoplin Del Rio Gallery, LeBasse Projects, Mark Moore Gallery, Prohibition Gallery, Roberts & Tilton, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Taylor De Cordoba, Thinkspace Gallery, and Washington Reid Gallery.

Harold L. Pastorius's Emerald Rings

Other art galleries that I'm pretty sure are in Culver City include Bradford Stewart, Marlene Louchheim, The Pop Studio, Royal/T, Subspace Art, Teale Street Sculpture Studio & Gallery, Whole 9 Gallery, and WWA Gallery. To see a map of galleries in the Culver City Arts Distict (both within and without Culver City) click here.

De L'Espries The Path of Life (2001)

There's plenty of public art too -- maybe too much. In 2009, construction workers mistook Jebediah Caeser's Gleaners Stone for construction materials and removed it. In my travels I noticed Harold L. Pastorius's Emerald Rings, The Lion's Fountain, and De L'Esprie's Path of Life (plus a lot of murals).


Rivers of the World mural


Postcards from Ballona


Click here
to see a map of public art in Culver City or here to see LAist's piece on a Culver City public art scavenger hunt. 



HELMS BAKERY DISTRICT

Helms Bakery closed in 1969 and in 1974 it was purchased by Walter N. Marks. It's now home to several restaurants and home décor places. It also hosts the Culver City Patchwork in which local artisans peddle their wares. The old bakery actually straddles the Culver City and Los Angeles border. At the southern end, La Dijonaise Café et Boulangerie and Lukshon are in Culver City. At the northern end, Father's Office is not. The distinction isn't totally obvious from street level although Helms Avenue becomes the pedestrian-only Helms Walk as it enters Culver City. The Helms District has also hosted LuckyRice -- one of the region's increasingly popular night markets -- and the Sunset Cinema sumer outdoor film screenings.



HAYDEN TRACT

The Hayden Tract

One of the other interesting neighborhoods of Culver City is the Hayden Tract, the city's former industrial district. Now most of them are home to offices by and studios for architects, graphic designers, new media types, software engineers, &c. Some of the newer and altered buildings in the area serve as calling cards for their creators (especially Eric Owen Moss, who should be proclaimed the Hayden Tract's honorary mayor) such as the Beehive, the Box Building, the Broadway Building, the Gateway Art Tower, the Samitaur Tower, the Stealth Building, and the "What Wall" Building. It's one of the most eye-catching collections of post-modern buildings in Los Angeles County.

Eric Owen Moss's The Beehive (1998)


Eric Owen Moss's  Gateway Art Tower (2010)

CULVER CITY PARKS

Culver City Park

Culver City is home to several parks. On one 4th of July I went with some friends to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook or Culver City Park. From up on the hill we could see the entire Westside and noticed that nowhere were there any fireworks. Thoroughly nonplussed a couple of us headed what turned out to be south, discovering in South LA that yes, there are people west of Western who like fireworks displays. Culver City is also home to Blair Hills Park, Blanco Park, The Boneyard, Carlson Park, Culver City Skate Park, Culver West Alexander Park, El Marino Park, Fox Hills Park, Lindberg Park, and Syd Kronenthal Park.



OTHER SITES TO SEE

If you like museums there's the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum (focused on African-American memorabilia) and the Wende Museum (focused on Soviet and East German art). There are several book stores including Agape Quiet Mind Bookstore, Arcana Books on the Arts, Archangel Michael Orthodox Bookstore, Pauline Books and Media, and Vagabond Books. Culver City is also home to Blind Barber (a barbershop and lounge), the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center, Culver Ice Arena, Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center, A Magic Forest (a children's space), and STAR Eco Station.(an environmental education and wildlife rescue center).



CULVER CLUBS


Culver City Teen Center

If you want to get involved in Culver City, there have been a great deal of civic organizations and clubs. The Culver City Westside Barbell Club seems to be inactive but the Culver City Woman's Club (established in 1920), Culver City Chamber of Commerce (established in 1921), Culver City Lions Club (established in 1923), Rotary Club of Culver City (established in 1930), Culver Palms YMCA (established in 1944), Culver City Historical Society (established in 1980), Kiwanis Club of Culver City, Optimist Club of Culver City, and Culver City Garden Club seem to all still be around (as are many others). Teens can utilize the Culver City Teen Center (with a parent's signature).

God Bless America and Aloha -  Guan Yu and the Virgin Mary in Culver City

*****

FOR FURTHER READING ON CULVER CITY, check out Julie Lugo Cerra's (Culver City's honorary historian) Culver City, Culver City Chronicles, Culver City: The Heart of Screenland, and Movie Studios of Culver City (the latter co-written by Marc Wanamaker). For current events there's the Culver City Times, Culver City Patch, Culver City News Blog, and Culver City Crossroads. For further viewing, look for Visiting... With Huell Howser "Episode #1804 - Culver City" (classic Huell begins around 12:40).

*****
To vote for other Los Angeles County communities  to be the subject of future blog entries, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities and neighborhoods, vote here

*****

Happy Birthday to Night Watch - radio's first reality show

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 4, 2012 10:00pm | Post a Comment
With a few, shining exceptions (Blind Date, COPS, ElimiDate, Jersey Shore, Joe Millionaire, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelor, The Real World seasons 1and 2 (true stor-ay!), and maybe a couple dozen others, tops) I hate reality TV. To me most reality shows are endurance-defying and totally depressing in a consumerist dystopian way. My aversion to most reality TV is not  really out of some moral disapproval of schadenfreude nor a principled dislike of unscripted entertainment. No, I usually just find them painfully boring and unpleasant. I remember first hearing about Survivor and was rather excited by the concept, hoping for naked castaways with no common language forced to fight tooth and claw just to stay alive. Imagine my disappointment upon finding out it involved little more than people unpleasant from the get go undertaking a series of challenges for prizes in a tropical setting and talking about alliances. Yawn. The good reality shows (as determined by me) offer anthropological thrills, exposing the strange mating rituals of exotic subcultures and paint portraits of people in a way rarely seen in the stylized fictions of the day. 
One of the earliest reality programs was on the radio, Night Watch. It was preceded by the hidden camera prank TV show Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 but, though both reality shows, could scarcely be more different. Night Watch debuted on CBS on April 5th, 1954, a few years after the popularity of TV exploded, threatening film and radio's dominance. To compete with TV's popularity, film offered things not available on TV like widescreen, technicolor, married couples sharing a bed, and
  black people. Old Time Radio ultimately died out in 1962 but in its last days offered other things in short supply on TV, namely adult content, intelligence and exploitation that would never pass muster on the beloved family idiot box. Radio programmers seemed to be OK with a bit of gore and tawdriness since it all took place in the mind and because it was at least packaged as a cautionary public service rather than the exploitation which it really was. The first time I heard it was an episode involving a suicide attempt (there were several) and I was hooked.

Nigh Watch was developed and hosted by Culver City police reporter Donn Reed who in each episode rode around with Sgt. Ron Perkins from 6:00 pm till 2:00 am. Reed was assuredly inspired by the greatest of all police procedurals, Dragnet, which debuted on April 5, 1954 (after two auditions in January and February) and followed the dramatized adventures of LAPD officers but was widely praised for its realism. Night Watch took realism to a new level, with Reed capturing the action with a dry-cell powered reel-to-reel recorder and a microphone concealed inside of a flashlight. It was directed, produced and supervised by Sterling Tracy, produced by Jim Hadlock and Sgt Perkins additionally worked as technical dvisor.

Donald Reed, the youngest of three sons, was born to a doctor in Los Angeles, California. After completing high school, at the beginning of World War II, he joined the Army Air Forces. After the conclusion of the war, he worked for KNX where he created Night Watch. In the program, Reed never
 conveys a sense of self-importance even though his progrma presaged the development of both Cinéma Direct and Cinéma Vérité by a few years and shared many of the same hallmarks -- the lack of non-diegetic sound and a for the most observational approach of the former as well as Reed's end-of-program interviews with the subjects characteristic of the latter. Chief W. N. Hildebrande's wonderfully robotic, stilted epilogues make Mitt Romney sound like Oscar Wilde.

My feeling has long been that the so-called "good ole days" weren't that different from the present -- crime rates today are fairly similar to those in the '50s (although crime coverage has increased dramatically). The mere fact that Night Watch titles include "The Nude Prowler," "Child Desertion, Gabby and Kicker," "Old Fashioned Suicide," "Kid Explosives," "Strippers and Pix Stash," and "Goddam Lady and Mr Peepers" should give potential listeners a sense that it's a fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. To me, it's also absolutely fascinating to hear the relaxed, natural accents, rhythms and speech patterns of regular 1950s folks and to recognize how completely is from the snappy, highly artificial and frequently corny dialogue of con
temporaneous TV and films.

Night Watch only ran for about a year, till April 22, 1955. I'm not sure why it was so short-lived -- althoughproducer Jim Hadlock's son was hit by a car whilst running an errand for his mother and suffered from a skull fracture. Reed auditioned another similar program, provisionally named, Police Recorder. Police Recorder was to have combined Donn Reed and Detective Sgt. Ron Perkins' recorded field interviews with a police psychologist. The project never progressed beyond the audition stage. Reed subsequently joined KABC-AM Radio in 1957, where he joined Captain 'Max' Schumacher on Air Watch, an early drive time traffic report show. He remained there until 1960 after which, in 1961, he moved to KMPC where he remained until 1981, receiving several Golden Mikes in the process.

Perkins went on to serve as Culver City's mayor and died in 2008. As for Reed's later partner, Captain Schumacher, he died in an air accident with his helicopter and an LAPD one over Elysian Park, in which he and to cops were killed.

You can listen to all 52 episodes for free here. Old Time Radio shows on CD are also available in the store.


Special thanks to the folks at The Digital Deli Too for their invaluable research and preservation efforts
 

*****

California Fool's Gold -- A Westside Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 18, 2011 09:46pm | Post a Comment
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN WEST SIDE LA -- THE WESTSIDE


A view of the Westside from my dirigible
 


Around the world, the mere mention of the word "Westside" prompts people to throw up a "W" hand sign, in imitation of many west coast and west coast-affiliated (Tupac was, after all, a native of East Harlem) pop-rappers of the 1990s (to his credit, Snoop Dogg has always repped his Eastside, as does Compton Eastsider The Game). Within LA, the Westside refers to a wealthy, largely white region of the county (or alternately to South LA's Westside to much of LA's black population). It is bordered by the Santa Monica Mountains region to the northwest, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the South Bay to the south, the aforementioned South LA westside to the southeast, and Midtown and Hollywood to the east.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Official Map of the Westside


Though the Westside is one of LA's whitest regions, it's still only 63% white with a high degree of ethnic (for those who can accept the radical notion that white people have ethnicities too) variety and origins including large numbers of Canadian, English, German, Iranian, Irish, Israelis, Polish, Russian, South African and Spanish-descended Americans. The remainder of the populate is 16% Latino, 12% Asian and 5% black. It's also known for its wealth - Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills (in Hollywood's Hollywood Hills) make up the ostentatiously-named Platinum Triangle.

It's often said around the city that "Westsiders are different." They're often recognizable in their "Ugh" boots, conspicuous consumption, creepy fake tans and propensity for erroneously referring to Mideast side neighborhoods like Echo Park and Silver Lake as "The Eastside" whilst "slumming it" at a dive bar full of other Westsiders in the Mideast Side (but rarely if ever venturing east of the LA River to the actual Eastside). For these reasons, Westsiders are commonly stereotyped as shallow, clueless, celebrity-obsessed, label-whoring, FOBy, tasteless, uneducated, culture-less, blue-blooded toffs.. As with most stereotypes, especially Angeleno ones, the reality is much more interesting.


The Westside is home to two unique ethnic enclaves, Little Osaka and Tehrangeles. It's the primary destination for those in search of delicious Brazilian, British, Indonesian, Jewish and Persian cuisine. It's home to several great revival theaters including The Aero, The Nuart and The Silent Movie Theater as well as many of LA's best museums. So I say to both ironic Westside-claiming wankstas and Eastside snobs alike, free your ass and your mind will follow.

And now for the neighborhoods:

*****
BEL AIR


The modest Bel Air home of the Beverly Hillbillies


The Fresh Prince's exhortation, "Yo holmes, to Bel Air!" on TV's The Fresh Prince of Bel Air introduced many NBC viewers to another posh westside community synonymous with affluence on par with Beverly Hills and Brentwood although its median household income is much higher than both of them. In fact, the Beverly Hillbillies' mansion is located in Bel Air. Part of its obscene opulence is preserved by a ban on multifamily housing. It includes the smaller neighborhoods of East Gate Old Bel Air, West Gate Bel Air and Upper Bel Air. It's also home to The UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden. The population is 83% white (mostly Persian, Russian and South African), 9% Asian and 5% Latino.


BEVERLY CREST


The Beverly Crest neighborhood sign


Beverly Crest is located in the southern face of the Santa Monica Mountains between Beverly Hills and Sherman Oaks. It's home of the large Franklin Canyon Park and the Stone Canyon Reservoir. The mostly residential neighborhood's population is 88% white (mostly Russian, Persian and British) and 4% Asian.


BEVERLY GROVE


Canters Restaurant

Beverly Grove is a newly designated Los Angeles neighborhood that's often lumped in with the Fairfax District that it borders (and is still commonly felt to be part of by longtime residents who in most cases don't seem to be fans of Rick Caruso). Indeed, as the home of the Silent Movie Theater and Canter's Deli, it's an intrinsic part of the so-called Kosher Canyon, Fairfax Boulevard. It's also home to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and realtors often refer to it as "Beverly Hills Adjacent." 


BEVERLY HILLS


Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills


Beverly Hills has long been, in the popular conscience, synonymous with wealth, a view perpetuated by its many appearances in film and TV including Beverly Hillbillies, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Slums of Beverly Hills, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Ninja, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills 90201 (to name a few). So symbolic is its name that other neighborhoods often employ it nicknames to reflect their own wealth, including the "Black Beverly Hills" (Baldwin Hills), the "Chicano Beverly Hills" (Hacienda Heights), the "Chinese Beverly Hills" (Monterey Park) as well as the Beverly Hills of Arizona, Las Vegas, England, Dubai, Mexico, The South, Chiwawa, Sydney, Singapore, Cewu and on and on. The population is 82% white (mostly Persian and Russian), 8% Asian (mostly Korean) and 5% Latino.


BEVERLYWOOD


A scene in Beverlywood


Largely residential Beverlywood is one of the main centers of Jewish residential life in Los Angeles. The population 80% white (Russian, Polish, Persian, Israeli), 7% Asian, 6% Latino and 4% black. It's population is the wealthier than the better known symbol of wealth, Beverly Hills, (and Beverly Grove), but not as wealthy as Beverly Crest - the wealthiest of the Beverlies.


BRENTWOOD


Brentwood


Now famous for its mostly wealthy residents, Brentwood was originally known for its avocado and soybean fields. It gained a higher profile and unwanted notoriety in 1994 when Nicole Brown Simpson, ex-wife of American Footballer/occasional actor OJ Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death outside her condo in a crime that was never solved. The population is 84% white (Russian, German, Persian and British), 7% Asian and 5% Latino.


CENTURY CITY


Century City at night


Century City was formerly a western backlot for 20th Century Fox. After a series of box office bombs, most notably Cleopatra, the studio sold 0.73 km2 of their property to developer William Zeckendorf and the Aluminum Co. of America, (Alcoa). The new Century City, its name a nod to it's former owners, was reimagined as a "city within a city." The first building, Century City Gateway West, was erected in 1963 followed by Minoru Yamasaki's Century Plaza Hotel -- two of the first skyscrapers erected in the area after the lifting of earthquake-related height restrictions. Today it's mainly a business center with numerous law firms and entertainment industry offices. The small population of around 6,000 residents is 83% white (mostly Russian, Persian and Canadian), 9% Asian and 4% Latino.


CHEVIOT HILLS


The Ropers in front of their Cheviot Hills residence (maybe)


Tiny Cheviot Hills is dominated by residences and Cheviot Hills Park -- the latter which includes the Cheviot Hills Recreation Center and the Cheviot Hills Tennis Courts. The population is 79% white (Russian and German), 9% Asian (mostly Japanese) and 8% Latino (mostly Mexican). It served as the location for the short-lived Three's Company spin-off The Ropers.


CRESTVIEW

Crestview is a neighborhood bounded by is bounded by La Cienega, Robertson, Sawyer and Pickford. Though mostly residential, it's also home to the Foods of Nature, La Cienega Grill CafeSt. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, Seedling Organic CateringSikh Dharma, and the shopping center, La Cienega Plaza.


CULVER CITY


Downtown Culver City


Since the 1920s, Culver City has been a significant center for motion picture and later television production -- it was formerly home of MGM Studios.  National Public RadioWest and Sony Pictures now have headquarters in the city. The population is 48% white (German), 24% Latino (Mexican), 12% Asian (mostly Filipino) and 11% black. To read more about Culver City, click here.


DEL REY


Pretty self explanatory


Del Rey, situated on the banks of Ballona Creek, takes its name from the nearby Del Rey salt marshes. Del Rey is a largely residential area of 1950s single-story California bungalows. Del Rey has a notable but small Japanese-American population that moved to the area after the end of WWII internment as well as from Hawaii during the 1950s. Today it's 44% Latino (mostly Mexican), 34% white (mostly German), 14% Asian (mostly Filipino) and 4% black.


LA CIENEGA HEIGHTS
The neighborhood centered around Cadillac Avenue and Corning Street (roughly bounded by Culver City to the south, S La Cienega Boulevard to the east, Sawyer Street to the north, and S Robertson to the west), is known as La Cienega Heights. It's home to The Acrylic Museum, Bagel Factory, and Reynier Park.


LADERA HEIGHTS



A view of Ladera Heights - NB: gas prices may not be current


When Frank Robinson and other notable black sports heroes began moving to Ladera Heights in the 1970s, many other affluent blacks integrated into the neighborhood, which is adjacent to one of the wealthier parts of South LA, Baldwin Hills. In the early 1980s, the neighborhood became a mecca for wealthy black families, a rarity for the Westside. Today, even with LA's black population declining dramatically, the neighborhood is still 71% black (mostly West African and Trinidadian) and 19% white (mostly English, German and Canadian).


LITTLE OSAKA


An uncommonly calm street scene in Little Osaka


Little Osaka (小大阪) is a small district centered along Sawtelle Boulevard between Nebraska and Tennesee in the Sawtelle neighborhood of Los Angeles. In the 1920s and 30s, what's now Little Osaka was dominated by Japanese-owned nurseries. By 1941, there were 26 nurseries in the area. When Japanese-Americans were unjustly interred during World War II, the neighborhood went into decline. Today it retains a diminished but strong Japanese character (including several nurseries) and is a J-Town favored by trendy Japanese, foodies, otaku, hentai and nipponophiles. To read more, click here.


MAR VISTA


The view from atop Mar Vista Hill


Mar Vista is a westside neighborhood that includes the smaller neighborhoods of Westdale, Mar Vista Hill, the Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract, McLaughlin and Culver West. The residents of Mar Vista are approximately 51% White (mostly Germanic), 29% Latino (mostly Mexican with a large number of Oaxaqueños in particular) and 13% Asian (mostly Korean). To read more about Mar Vista, click here.


MARINA DEL REY


Fisherman's Village in Marina del Rey


Marina del Rey is dominated by the Fisherman's Village boat harbor, which has nineteen marinas and room for 5,300 boats. The area was originally a salt marsh formed by Ballona Creek's flow into Santa Monica Bay. The population is 78% white (mostly English, German and Persian), 8% Asian (mostly Japanese), 5% Latino and 5% black.


PACIFIC PALISADES


The Eames House 


Pacific Palisades stands out even in the mostly-white Westside with a population that's 89% white (mostly English, German, Persian and Canadian) and 6% Asian, making it the least racially, if not ethnically, communities in the Westside. It's population is generally quite wealthy and residential. Some of the most noteworthy homes include the Eames House and the Getty Villa. It was repped by Tom Hanks's rapping son, Chet Haze, in his song "West Side LA" (from whence the title of this blog entry is derived).


PALMS


A view of my favorite Palms parking lot 


Palms was founded as its own community in 1886 and annexed by LA in 1915. Palms is fairly atypical for the Westside with a population that's both working class and very ethnically diverse -- 38% white (mostly Irish), 23% Latino (mostly Mexican), 20% Asian (mostly Korean) and 12% black. It's even home to multiple Brazilian and Indonesian restaurants. It's also home of the great Museum of Jurassic Technology


PLAYA VISTA


A view of Playa Vista from the Ballona Wetlands


Between Playa Vista and the Santa Monica Bay lie the Ballona Wetlands. The neighborhood lies at the foot of the Westchester Bluffs that was once a sacred Tongva burial ground. Long after the Tongva themselves were removed, their ancestors' remains were uncovered during development and relocated as well. Today the population is 35% Latino (mostly Mexican and Guatemalan), 32% white, 21% Asian (mostly Japanese) and 5% black.


PICO-ROBERTSON


The intersection of Pico and Robertson... in Pico-Robertson


Pico-Robertson is today the heart of LA's Jewish community. The population is 74% white (mostly Persian, Russian and Israeli), 7% Latino, 6% Asian 6% black. It is home to more than 30 kosher restaurants including not just Jewish food, but kosher Chinese, Italian, Mexican and more. It's also home to the largest women's mikvah in LA as well as four men's mikvahs and several Jewish schools. It's sometimes referred to as "South Robertson" which has given rise to the Scooby-Doo-sounding "SoRo Rillage," I mean, "SoRo Village."


RANCHO PARK


Rancho Park


Tiny Rancho Park was named by Bill Heyler, a real estate broker who established his office in the area in 1927. The population is 58% white (mostly German and Persian), 18% Asian, 16% Latino (mostly Mexican), 4% black. Its northwest corner, the intersection of Pico and Sepulveda, was the subject of a song, "Pico and Sepulveda," made popular in 1947 by Freddy Martin and his orchestra using the pseudonym, "Felix Figueroa."


SANTA MONICA


The Santa Monica Pier with downtown Santa Monica in the background


Sunny, coastal Santa Monica is the world's number one destination for British expats, who flock to the un-England like city by the thousands and turn into rosy red lobsters. The population is 71% white (mostly English and Persian), 14% Latino (mostly Mexican), 7% Asian and 4% black. Known as a haven for rich lefties, it's nicknamed the People's Republic of Santa Monica. It was also the first city in California with a Green mayor… and it was the setting for TV's Three's Company.


SAWTELLE 


A typical Sawtelle home with Japanese-inspired landscaping


Sawtelle was formerly recognized for its large Japanese-American population. After the forced internment of all Japanese, it lost most of that character although landscaping and sites here and there still reflect its Japanese past -- nowhere more so than in the tiny Japanese shopping district of Little Osaka which is also home to several nurseries and eateries. However, today Sawtelle's population is 50% white (mostly Persian), 23% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 20% Asian.


TEHRANGELES


A row of Tehrangeles stores with signs in Farsi


Tehrangeles is a small neighborhood along Westwood Boulevard that straddles Westwood and West LA. It's portmanteau name is a reflection of the many Persian-owned and targeted businesses along the commercial corridor as well as the large Persian residential population in the surrounding area.


VENICE


Downtown Venice

Venice is a coastal neighborhood (and former municipality) famous for its canals, Muscle Beach, Venice Beach and Ocean Front Walk  -- "the Boardwalk." Originally designed to attract tourists, it later became famous for its Bohemian music and arts scene. To read more, click here.


WEST HOLLYWOOD


West Hollywood's Sunset Strip at night


I know some people will take issue with my inclusion of WeHo with the Westside. Well the Beverly Hills adjacent city has to fit in somewhere and it feels a lot more Westside to me than the Hollywood region (which, unlike West Hollywood, is all part of Los Angeles). With a population that's 81% white (mostly Russian, German and Ukrainian), 9% Latino, 4% Asian and 3% Black it also looks like the rest of the Westside. It's also where the Sunset Strip begins, home to many famous venues including The House of Blues, The Key Club, The Viper Room, The Roxy, The Whiskey A Go Go… and The Troubadour just a few blocks south on Santa Monica Blvd.


WEST LOS ANGELES


A typical day in West LA


West LA, despite sounding like a large district of Los Angeles, is actually an officially recognized designation for a Westside neighborhood. The population is 77% white (mostly Persian, Russian and English), 11% Asian, 5% Latino. The large Jewish population is reflected in the restaurants. It's also home to Lazer Blazer, which rivals even mighty Amoeba with its selection of Blu-Rays, DVDs and yes, Laser Discs.


WESTSIDE VILLAGE


One of Westside Village's tree-lined streets


Westside Village is a small neighborhood that's sometimes claimed by Mar Vista and sometimes by Palms. It's home to one of the first housing tracts, developed in the 1930s and '40s by Fritz B. Burns.


WESTWOOD


Westwood with the so-called Millionaire's Mile in the background


Westwood is a neighborhood best known for being the home of UCLA. As such, it's also one of LA County's primary cultural centers with sites like Royce Hall, the Armand Hammer Museum, The Fowler Museum and numerous significant theaters. It also includes most of the small Tehrangeles neighborhood within it's borders. The population is 63% white (mostly Persian and Russian), 23% Asian (mostly Taiwanese), 7% Latino and 2% black.

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And so Westside riders, to vote for any Westside communities... or any other Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Westside (or and other Los Angeles neighborhoods), click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. Westsiiiiiiiide!
 

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(In which Job enjoys a field trip.)

Posted by Job O Brother, August 3, 2009 03:37pm | Post a Comment

Yesterday, the boyfriend decided to surprise me with a spontaneous field trip to The Museum of Jurassic Technology, located in Culver City. It was my first time there, even though I’d been pining to attend for over four years, and it was not a disappointment.

It’s hard to explain how lovable the Museum is to people who’ve never been, because one doesn’t want to spoil its mystique and novelty, and explaining its merit to those who have experienced it is hardly necessary, assuming, as I do, that everyone is charmed by it. (I suppose there could be some whimsy-less, emotional cripples who wouldn’t appreciate it, but I’d like to think they have no interest in either my blog or my company. Humph!)

If your idea of a dream house is The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland...


...if your idea of a fashion magazine is The Delineator...


...or if your shopping choice for bric-a-brac is Necromance on Melrose, then The Museum of Jurassic Technology is your idea of fun day out.

Highlights for me were an appropriately tiny collection of works by Hagop Sandaldjian, the Egyptian-born violinist-turned-microminiaturist, whose sculptures are displayed at the Museum, each situated on the head of a pin (see picture below), with a magnifying glass poised to illuminate for you each impossibly small figure.


Also deeply gratifying was their exhibit of artifacts culled from Los Angeles area mobile homes and trailer parks, replete with gloomy dioramas of various homes-on-wheels set against urban nightscapes. Oddly shaped cases, reminiscent of coffins, showcased vintage perfume bottles, tatting, and other knick-knacks.


I was seduced, too, by the Delani/Sonnabend Halls, which told the stories of operatic singer Madelena Delani, who was (likely) afflicted with Korsakoff's syndrome, a condition which handicapped her short-term memory; how her life touched that of neurophysicist, Geoffrey Sonnabend, is revealed subtly, and we continue to learn more about this man’s work, devoted as it became, to understanding why humans “forget,” culminating in his three volume work: Obliscence - Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.


Pictured here? Madelena Delani & Geoffrey Sonnabend

That personal research yields little to prove the existence of such people remains moot when considering the delight their tales bring. While it is folly to whole-heartedly trust that everything you witness at the Museum is factual, it does not stop its complex and diverse exhibits from effusing a general radness.

It’s not surprising, sadly, that the Museum is in dire straits, financially speaking, and I encourage all of you who have never been or who love it already to investigate its treasures. And invite me along! I’m ready to go back already.


Yes, please!

Upon leaving, I had a taste for two things: Indian sweets, which I acquired at a shop a mere block away from the museum, and art songs, often called lieder (which is simply German for “songs”).

While there can be no definitive definition of what constitutes an art song, many works within the Romantic-era of classical music qualify. As a general rule of thumb (or in some countries, the forefinger and one-half the pinky) an art song is a composition for voice, usually solo, accompanied most often by piano (but could be another instrument), though in some cases a chamber ensemble is used.


While composers as early as Mozart and Beethoven wrote material in this vein, most consider the golden age of the art song to begin with (and be embodied by) Franz Schubert, who wrote over 600 of the suckers, with its tradition famously continued in the likes of Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Hugo Wolf.

Amazing variations on this craft occurred later when more modern composers such as Richard Strauss (a personal favorite) and Gustav Mahler, among others, wrote songs that were accompanied by a symphony orchestra.


(You David Lynch fans may recognize the above music as being featured in the film Wild At Heart. The piece, entitled Im Abendrot, is by Richard Strauss and totally gives me a boner in my heart.)

Again, compositions similar to this were written throughout time, making defining an art song somewhat elusive. It’s best, I think, more sensible to determine what is an art song rather than what isn’t. I also think it’s more sensible to wear shoes on the outside of the body, rather than inside. I’m a very uptight individual.


As we departed the wondrous Museum of Jurassic Technology, I cranked up a recording of some songs by American composer Amy Beach.


"What up niggaz and niggettes -That crazy-Ass-Beach is back in the motherfuckin' hizzouse!"

Born (perhaps unwisely) in 1867, Beach was a child prodigy, composing music as early as four years old. (I mean, dude – what was I doing at that age? Like, stealing chocolate chips and pretending my sandbox was a “fancy bar” of which I was the owner, overlooking its occupants with the aid of my magic powers, ability to fly, and pet Pegasus. [The bar was doing well until one day, a centipede was spotted in the middle of it, causing myself and the bar’s imaginary occupants to flee, never to return. It languished as wild grasses claimed it and I discovered reruns of Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.])



Contrary to the societal norm, Amy Beach was not only a composer, but a woman, and no amount of protest seemed to convince her to change this. In fact, her husband encouraged her to switch her focus from performing piano to composing her own work. She eventually stopped writing in 1944, when her death made it too cumbersome and janky.

I couldn't, unfortunately, find recordings of Beach's art songs online that I felt did them justice. Instead, here's some of her other efforts:






Now then, why not take a trip down to Culver City to see the aforementioned Museum? Why, here’s a link to the Museum’s hours of operation – how convenient! And seriously folks, invite me along!