Amoeblog

Taste of the Mideast Side -- at the Los Angeles County Store

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 8, 2014 04:00pm | Post a Comment





If there are regular readers of my column here on the Amoeblog, they've probably seen some of the hand-drawn and hand-painted maps which I include in my series of Southland explorations I call California Fool's Gold. Right now a series of new maps are on display at the Los Angeles County Store in East Hollywood. None, except the Los Feliz map, have been the subject of Eric's Blog entries yet. 

Eric Brightwell Cartography Art Show Los Angeles County Store

The Los Angeles County Store is a great retail shop which features only goods designed and manufactured in Los Angeles County. The opening has already passed but the maps can still be seen in person if you head over there soon -- the show ends on 21 September


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of the Mideast Side (3rd Edition)

I refer to the set of paintings as Taste of the Mideast Side -- a reference to Taste of the Eastside, a four-year-old food event which despite its name never features restaurants from the Eastside unless you clarify that you're talking about the Eastside of Central Los Angeles (aka the original Westside). By the way, there is an older pre-existing event called The Taste of East L.A. which as its name correctly suggests, features restaurants from East Los Angeles -- a neighborhood actually located in the Eastside
Anyway, here are the maps included in the show (which you can vote for me to write about here). 

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Edendale

Edendale was subdivided around 1903. It was the original home of Los Angeles's film studios, before Hollywood. The first studio, Selig Polyscope Company, was demolished and the arrival of the 2 Freeway made the neighborhood decidedly less edenic. The old Mack Sennett Keystone Studio still stands behind a Jack in the Box -- utilized for public storage. Although the name has faded from most memories (a post office branch still bears it) there have been efforts to play up associations with it as with the Edendale restaurant and bar (in the Ivanhoe tract of Silver Lake) and the Mabel Normand Stage in Hollywood, which was recently renamed Mack Sennett Studios).


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Elysian Heights 

Elysian Heights was subdivided around 1890. The northern corner was home to the Semi Tropic Spiritualists, a 19th Century group whose beliefs mixed the progressive and supernatural. The neighborhood later became known colloquially as "Red Hill" for the many anarcho-communists who made it home. Perhaps the most famous resident of Elysian Heights was a gray tabby named Room 8, who reportedly visited Elysian Heights Elementary every school day for many years and became a national celebrity.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Franklin Hills

Franklin Hills seceded from Los Feliz around 1988. Its most iconic figure is the Shakespeare Bridge, the original which was built in 1926 (although it was rebuilt in 1998 after the Northridge earthquake). Beneath the bridge is the John Lautner-designed Midtown School. It was home to two twin homes owned by Roy and Walt Disney in the 1920s.  To read more about it, click here.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of the Ivanhoe tract

The Ivanhoe tract was subdivided in 1877, when it was located just north of Los Angeles (the border of which then corresponded to Fountain Avenue). It was developed by Hugo Reid, a Mexican-American born in who claimed that it reminded him of Scotland, where he was born. The Ivanhoe name (a reference to Glaswegian author Sir Walter Scott's 18th Century novel, Ivanhoe) lives on in Ivanhoe Elementary, the Ivanhoe Reservoir, and the Ivanhoe and Scottish related street names like Kenilworth, Locksley, Rowena, Waverly, and others. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Pico-Union

Pico-Union began as Pico Heights, which was subdivided in 1887 in what was then Southwest Los Angeles. It was originally an exclusive, white, Protestant neighborhood an was annexed by Los Angeles in 1896. In the 1910s a number of Japanese-Americans moved in and white flight began. Mexicans and Greeks followed and there are still vestiges of the latter population such as the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox CathedralPapa Cristo's, and the Los Angeles Greek Fest. The neighborhood was renamed Pico-Union in 1970 by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), who wished to remove any negative associations that Pico Heights was perceived to have acquired. Today it's mostly home to Central Americans, especially Salvadorans


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Solano Canyon

Solano Canyon was -- along with Bishop, La Loma, and Palo Verde -- one of the Mexican colonias of Chavez Ravine. The latter three were demolished and the displaced residents were promised public housing in the planned Elysian Park Heights which was to have been designed by great Modernist architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander. Unfortunately for the residents, Elysian Park Heights and all public housing came to a halt when a concerted Right Wing effort tarred such efforts to house the poor and returning war veterans as Communistic. The land was instead given to the Brooklyn Dodgers, who covered it with a massive parking lot and a tiny baseball stadium. 



Pendersleigh & Cartography's map of Victor Heights


Victor Heights has named after water baron Victor Beaudry, who subdivided the neighborhood around 1886. It is home to the Eastside Market Italian Deli, one of the few remnants of Little Italy (and which is named after the Eastside because it began in Lincoln Heights), wandering peafowl, the Teardrop Locos gang, the art deco Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center, Los Angeles Building, and the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District, designed by William Pereira. Because of its proximity to Chinatown and large Chinese-American population, many of the street signs are written in English and Chinese. To read more about it, click here.



Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Westlake

Westlake Park was originally the old Westside's counterpart to the Eastside's Eastlake Park. Eastlake was located in what was then called East Los Angeles but was re-named Lincoln Heights in 1917. Westlake Park was renamed MacArthur Park and although many will argue that the Westlake and MacArthur Park neighborhoods are one-in-the-same although in my experience, the name MacArthur Park is primarily applied to the immediate surroundings whereas, depending on whether or not one lives east or west of Alvarado, they're almost more likely to claim Downtown or Koreatown, respectively. It's the second most densely-populated neighborhood in Los Angeles (after Koreatown) and despite it's declined fashionability, there are many attractions to be experienced (some marked in red on my map).



The Artist and critic Alan "The Dingus" Gudguy having his paw treated like a stress ball


*****

California Fool's Gold -- A Hollywood Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 26, 2012 09:42pm | Post a Comment
HOLLYWOOD SWINGING


Hollywood Boulevard in 1927 at the opening of Hells Angels at Grauman's Chinese

Hollywood is famous around the world as the one-time center of the American film industry. Although Hollywood isn't the original home of the west coast film industry (nearby Edendale in Echo Park and Sycamore Grove in Highland Park both have stronger claims to that distinction), Hollywood has for almost a century continued to serve as a metonym for that industry (and inspire portmanteaus like Bollywood, Dollywood, Ghallywood, Kollywood, Mollywood, Nollywood, Tollywood, etc); even though that most of the film industry mostly long ago abandoned the neighborhood, primarily for the San Fernando Valley. Hollywood has done an excellent job of branding though. After all, you don't have other countries referring to their film industries as "Bedendale," "Nycamore Grove", or "the Ghalley."


The Hollywood neighborhood has expertly continued to pimp its association with the American film industry that formerly called it home where the other neighborhoods did not. In Edendale, the oldest studio was torn down and is now a vacant lot where the 2 Freeway meets Glendale. The old Mack Sennet Studio where Charlie Chaplin and Keystone Cops movies were made is now a public storage facility unceremoniously tucked behind a Jack in the Box. Hollywood, on the other hand, continues to bill itself as "The Entertainment Capital of the World" and adds industry-related tourist attractions like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was installed long after the last pieces of tinsel in tinseltown had blown over the hills.

Today there are relatively few vestiges of Hollywood's cinematic past not installed merely to attract tourists -- of the film studios, only Paramount remains. Of the major label music industry, only Capitol Records remains. The aforementioned Walk of Fame -- to me, at least -- serves primarily as a testament to the ephemeral nature of stardom. Not to be hopelessly cynical but the first time I saw the names like Bryan Adams, Sean "Diddy" Combs, and Paula Abdul, I felt nothing but disinterest. However, for roughly ten million annual visitors it's presumably something terribly exciting and I honestly don't want to disparage that.



I would be very surprised, however, if much of Hollywood doesn't disappoint the celebrity or glamor-chaser because it really has little of either. Along a particularly acrid stretch Hollywood Boulevard, low-end shops hawk photos of celebrities alongside stripper-wear, I Love Lucy lunch boxes, tacky cell phone cases, novelty license plates, T-shirts and other chintz. People dressed rather unconvincingly as superheroes attempt to bully clueless tourists into tipping them for posing in pictures. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's saddened by the spectacle. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Hollywood (available on T-shirts from Cal31.com)

But that's only Downtown Hollywood. Though a relatively small district of Los Angeles County, Hollywood has about as much wealth disparity as your average banana republic and there are many diverse neighborhoods within the district.

Hollywood can generally be divided into three (or four) sections: Hollywood proper, East Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills (which are sometimes further divided into Hollywood Hills East and Hollywood Hills West).The Hollywood Hills neighborhoods nestled in the hills and canyons above Hollywood proper have long attracted the slightly bohemian wealthy of LA. Gritty East Hollywood is home to two of LA's many officially-recognized ethnic enclaves, Little Armenia and Thai Town. The whole community boasts a diverse ethnic mixture, with large populations of Armenian, English, German, Guatemalan, Mexican, Russian, Salvadoran, and Ukranian-Americans. (Note: North Hollywood is a distinct district in the Valley which neither borders Hollywood nor is considered part of it. West Hollywood is an independent city and thus not part of Los Angeles.)

There are other bright spots too. Amoeba Music, for one! The Egyptian Theater is another treasure. The city's stand-up and theater scenes continue to be centered there still. It's also conveniently located geographically in Central LA alongside its neighbors Midtown to the south and the Mideast Side to the east. In addition, the San Fernando Valley lies to the north and the Westside lies to the west.


*****


EARLY HOLLYWOOD


Hollywood in 1903

In 1853, a lone adobe hut stood in what's now Hollywood but was then known as Nopalera. 17 years later the then-known-as Cahuenga Valley supported a growing agricultural community. It was named Hollywood by the so-called "Father of Hollywood," H. J. Whitley. The town grew into a largely Mormon community in the 1880s although its population remained small and separated from Los Angeles by a two-hour train ride. Hollywood incorporated as its own city in 1903. The following year, a majority of 113 voters voted to prohibit alcohol, except for valid medical purposes.


Hollywood in 1910
 
Director D. W. Griffith was the filmmaker to shoot in Hollywood with his film, In Old California, released on March 10, 1910. No matter that it couldn't initially be seen in Hollywood, since the town squares had also seen fit to ban movie theaters. Later in 1910, the sleepy town was annexed by LA, primarily lured by their their reliable water supply. Once part of Los Angeles, movie theaters could open there too.


Nestor Sudios in 1913

Nestor Motion Picture Company
was the first Hollywood studio to shoot a film locally -- an unnamed one, apparently -- on October 26, 1911, directed by Al Christie and David and William Horsley. Nestor was started by New Jersey–based Centaur Company to crank out low budget westerns. They established their west coast studio at the corner of Sunset and Gower, in what was nicknamed the Gower Gulch, after a nearby roadhouse. The studio was demolished in 1936.


HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE


By 1915, most American films were made in Los Angeles (displacing New York City). From the 1920s to the 1940s it was the center of American film production. It continued to be the center of the American pop music industry through the 1950s.


AFTER "THE INDUSTRY" LEFT


Hollywood and Vine in 1965

By the 1960s, both of those industries had for the most part completely abandoned the neighborhood. Nonetheless, even today, it still draws tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of its long-faded glamor, thanks largely to savvy marketing. The first stars on the Walk of Fame had been installed a few years earlier, in 1958. Also in the 1960s, in the name of modernization, most of the beautiful art deco buildings in the area were destroyed to make way for boxier, less-stylized, modern structures. This move did little to attract tourists. However, head shops moved into the neighborhood and attracted hippies, who had at least as much a part in keeping Hollywood vibrant as the destructive redevelopers. 


YEARS OF DECLINE


Darby Back Stage Cut Up (1978) by Ruby Ray

By the 1970s, most of the old hotels had become flophouses. Newly arrived, largely Latino, residents began to move in, attracted by the cheap rents as most remaining whites moved out. Around the same time, many of the sex stores, stripper-wear merchants and porn theatres moved in, followed by an influx of prostitution and drugs. The punk scene arrived not long after, centered around venues like The Masque.


CULTS, CRACK AND CRIME

The once luxurious Garden Court Apartments, later nicknamed Hotel Hell (demolished 1984)
In the 1980s, the cults arrived. First, The Night People took over an abandoned bank, which came to be known colloquially as Hotel Hell. Soon after, Scientologists and Screamers joined them on the increasingly dystopian scene. During the Crack Era, community groups like the Ivar Hawks, Cherokee Condors, Las Palmas Lions, Wilcox Werewolves, Whitley Rangers and Hudson Howlers fought to reclaim a neighborhood that included areas known as Crack Alley and a bar outside of which some two dozen people were murdered over a very short period of time. Hollywood suffered even further from looting during the 1992 LA Riots


A COMEBACK OF SORTS


After decades of decline, the area has recently cleaned up considerably -- some would argue at the cost of its character. It is undeniably safer and more bustling than it has been in some time. Once vacant lots are now covered with parking structures, malls, apartments, high rises and restaurants. By the the mid-2000s, a number of nightclubs began attracting the trustafarian/hipster crowd and came to be known as the Cahuenga Crawl. Old fixtures like The Spotlight, Hollywood's last old school gay bar, have fallen by the wayside as gentrification and homogenization continues. In another sign of the times, some at the LA Film School have waged an all-out war on the older, beloved, and arguably more useful Hollywood Farmers' Market.

Although Hollywood today may have very little to do with its film history past, and although hallowed institutions are regularly demolished and shut down, it remains an vibrant region with diverse neighborhoods and thriving energy. And for every slick, hangar-sized sushi joint or chain restaurant, there's usually something more street level happening around the corner.

And now for the neighborhoods:


****
 
 
BEACHWOOD CANYON


Beachwood Canyon refers to a neighborhood nestled In the Hollywood Hills at the lower end of the actual Beachwood Canyon. Though mostly residential, it does have a small area known as Beachwood Village which includes a market, a coffee shop and stables. It has long been a popular neighborhood for celebrities, beginning with movie stars of the silent era. It's also home to the Lake Hollywood Reservoir, created by the 1924 construction of the Mulholland Dam.


BRONSON CANYON


The Bronson Canyon neighborhood lies beneath a Griffith Park-adjacent park of the same name. The nearby Bronson Caves have for many years been a popular shooting location -- primarily for low budget serials and films. The neighborhood itself is almost entirely residential.

 
CAHUENGA PASS


The Cahuenga Pass neighborhood is located in the lowest pass through the Hollywood Hills. Cahuenga was a Tongva village and the name means "place of the hill." It was the site of two Mexican skirmishes, the Battle of Cahuenga Pass in 1831 and the Battle of Providencia or Second Battle of Cahuenga Pass in 1845. 


CENTRAL HOLLYWOOD


Less touristy than Downtown Hollywood to the north, Central Hollywood is nonetheless home to Amoeba Music and the Cinerama Dome, built in 1963 and located across the street. It's also home to Hollywood's tallest building, Sunset Vine Tower, which was featured prominently in the 1974 disaster film, Earthquake. Later it was plagued with problems including the presence of asbestos, electrical fires and the popular perception of it being the world's biggest crackhouse. Nowadays it's been nicely, if expensively, refurbished. Central Hollywood is also home to the Gower Gulch shopping center and a Ross that continually looks like it was looted during a massive earthquake. 


CRESCENT HEIGHTS


Crescent Heights is the name of a tiny, mostly residential neighborhood located just above West Hollywood's Sunset Strip and below the mouth of Laurel Canyon.


 DAYTON HEIGHTS


Dayton Heights is a small neighborhood with a highly diverse scene, it would seem, as evinced by Chilean food (Rincon Chileno), Caribbean food (Cha Cha Cha), Japanese institutions (Bento Xpress and Fujiya Food Market), a leather bar (Faultline), a playhouse (Moth Theatre Company), Koreaninstitutions (Garam restaurant and the headquarters of the Korean Christian Press), the Slavic Baptist Church of HollywoodRomero's Rotisserie Chicken-N-Donuts, and Pizza Pauls.
 
 
DOWNTOWN HOLLYWOOD


Downtown Hollywood is centered around the intersection of Hollywood and Vine (aka Bob Hope Square). At the other end is Hollywood and Highland Center. Downtown is where most of the tourist traps are, including the Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theatre, whose forecourt famously features about 200 handprints, foot prints and autographs left by celebrities over the years. Across the street is the Egyptian Theatre, which opened five years earlier, in 1922.

 
FRANKLIN VILLAGE


One of Hollywood's several, nominal "villages," this one located at the base of Bronson Canyon. Unlike Virgil Village, Franklin Village actually feels a tiny bit more like village... or at least a cohesive collection of businesses and residents distinct from its neighbors. It's the home of Upright Citizens Brigade, Scientology’s Celebrity Centre [notice the "r" before "e" spelling which is posh, OK?] InternationalCounterpoint Records and Books, the 101 Coffee Shop and Hollywood Tower -- the inspiration for Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which itself inspired the first of Disney's based-on-a-ride films, 1997's Tower of Terror (followed by 2002's The Country Bears, 2003's The Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise).
 
HEL-MEL


Hel-Mel is an East Hollywood neighborhood named after the intersection of Heliotrope Drive and Melrose Avenue. It's home to LACC. And even though Pure Luck Vegan sadly closed (and is much missed), it still has the Bicycle Kitchen, Scoops, and tattoo and tobacco places. Plus there are several art galleries and hip here-today-gone-tomorrow music venues and thus it attracts a certain element... you know, militant bikologists.


 
HOLLYWOOD DELL



Hollywood Dell is a Hollywood Hills neighborhood that was home, at various times, to Mary Astor, Charlie Chaplin, Roy Rogers, members of The Rolling Stones, Minnie Driver, Marilyn Manson, Davy Jones, Goldie Hawn, Lindsay Lohan and Doris Roberts. One of the residences was prominently featured in the film, Double Indemnity, as the location of Philip Marlowe's home.

HOLLYWOOD HEIGHTS


Hollywood Heights
is roughly bounded by Highland Avenue, Outpost Drive, Franklin Avenue, and south of the beloved Hollywood Bowl. Within it is Frank Lloyd Wright's Samuel Freeman House, The Magic Castle, Yamashiro Restaurant, and the Highland-Camrose Bungalow Village. It's also home to the Highland Gardens Hotel, where Janis Joplin died. The High Tower Apartments were featured in films including The Long Goodbye and Villa Bonita.


HOLLYWOOD STUDIO DISTRICT


Only one major film studio remains in the Hollywood Studio District - Paramount, which moved into the facility in 1926. Sunset Bronson Studios, formerly Warner Brothers Studios, are occupied by KTLA, which was originally owned by Paramount. Other studios include Nickelodeon, EastWest, and Sunset Gower.


HOLLYWOODLAND


Hollywoodland
is home to the 45 foot tall Hollywood Sign mounted on Mount Lee. It was originally erected in 1923 to advertise Woodruff and Shoults's then-newly-developed Hollywoodland subdivision. The "land" part of the sign was removed in 1949 so that the remaining Hollywood sign could serve as an icon of the entire Hollywood district and entertainment industry. The Hollywood sign that stands today was erected in 1978 and quickly became popular in establishing shots for films set in LA. Because of its exposure, it attracts tourists eager to stand near a big sign. And the people living in the neighborhood, knowing this fact full well, often tear their hair and flesh, beat their breasts, and wake other pitiable demonstrations because of it.


KINGSLEY VISTA


Kingsley Vista
is a small, residential neighborhood hemmed in between Normandie, the 101 and Santa Monica Boulevard. It's home to a couple of restaurants including El Nuevo San Salvador Restaurante #1, Maria's Ramada, and Sasoun Bakery.

 
LAUREL CANYON


Laurel Canyon came to life as home of some of the burgeoning film industry's key photo-players and filmmakers. Subsequent generations of hippies in the '60s, cocaine cowboys in the '70s and yuppies in the '80s later moved to the continually desirable location. To read more about Laurel Canyon, click here.
 

LITTLE ARMENIA - Լիթլ Արմենիայում


Physically-speaking, Little Armenia is one of the grayest, grimmest and grimiest corners of largely gray and grimy East Hollywood. Boxy and outwardly undistinguished strip malls dominate the commercial corridors but close your eyes and open your nose and ears. Home to a large Armenian-American population (and other ethnicities), it boasts numerous Armenian restaurants and bakeries as well as other businesses.  To read more about Little Armenia, click here


LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN


Above Laurel Canyon is the neighborhood of Lookout Mountain. It was formerly home of the Air Force-managed 1352d Motion Picture Squadron who used it to make films for the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission from 1947 to 1963.

 
MELROSE


The Melrose District (or simply, "Melrose") attracts tourists and shoppers in search of subcultural uniforms and vintage clothing. Behind the busy shopping district are streets of modest, attractive bungalows mostly built in the early 1920s. There are currently efforts to re-name the neighborhood "Melrose Village" ...everything needs to be designated a village.

 
MELROSE HILL


In January 2003, Los Angeles Magazine named Melrose Hill one of LA's "10 Great Neighborhoods." With cultural establishments limited to the porn-showing Tiki Theatre porn theater and the Met Theatre, it wouldn't exactly rocket to the top of my list but it does have a healthy assortment of cuisines represented by Bangkok Market, La Casita Colombiana, Catalina's Market, Choeng Wun, Cinderella's, Khun Dom, Lucky Grocery Market, Mi Lindo Oaxaca, and now, Tid Lom Thai. There's also the Lemon Grove Recreation Center and park overlooking the noisy, smoggy 101 freeway.

 
MOUNT OLYMPUS


Mount Olympus
is a Hollywood Hills neighborhood developed by Russ Vincent in 1969. It was featured in the mercifully little-seen film, Hollywood Homicide. It's entrance is announced by a sign held aloft by faux-ancient-Greek columns that some want to destroy because they think it's tacky. And?

 
NICHOLS CANYON


Nichols Canyon is named after John G. Nichols, who served as mayor of LA twice and built the first brick home in the city, which he was also the first to expand the borders of. The Hollywood Hills neighborhood is entirely residential and is centered along winding Nichols Canyon Rd. One of the more famed residents was Father Yod, an ex-marine who founded the Source Family cult, which counted amongst its members, Sky Saxon of The Seeds.


 
OUTPOST ESTATES


Outpost Estates is a neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills centered along Outpost Drive. It was developed in the 1920s by by Charles E. Toberman. As with its neighbor, Hollywoodland, Outpost Estates also advertised itself with a large sign. Unlike Hollywoodland, whose sign (after the removal of the "land") remains a tourist destination, the once neon-lit Outpost sign lies in ruin, obscured by weeds.
 
 
SPAULDING SQUARE


Eight block Spaulding Square's borders are Fairfax Ave on the west, Stanley Avenue on the east, Sunset Blvd on the north, and Fountain Avenue on the south. Almost entirely residential, it is nonetheless home to Sam's on Sunset. It's named after architect Albert Spaulding, who developed the area between 1916 and 1926. Many of the early residents were silent film stars and filmmakers. In 1993, it was designated a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.


 
SUNSET FLATS (aka HOLLYWOOD-SUNSET FLATS)

I'm not entirely sure about the location and boundaries of Sunset Flats - I think it refers to the neighborhood between Hollywood and Sunset, north of Spaulding Square. I'll add more when I'm positive. 


SUNSET HILLS

Sunset Hills is a tiny celebrity enclave looking down from the western Hollywood Hills region onto West Hollywood. According to its Wikipedia entry, "Now [when?] Sunset Hills boasts the largest concentration of celebrities residing in Los Angeles [citation needed]."
 
SUNSET JUNCTION



Sunset Junction, originally known as Sanborn Junction, is named after a Pacific Electric Railway stop on the border of Silver Lake and Hollywood. Several neighborhood staples such as the Akbar, El Cid, Solutions(with the "Elliot Smith Mural") and the Sunset Junction Street Fair are almost always considered to be within Silver Lake but according to both the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and the placement of the City of Los Angeles's Hollywood neighborhood signs suggest otherwise. Further west in the neightborhood are the Little Temple, Point-Point Joint and Sheila Klein's outdoor lamppost installation called Vermonica, which appeared fifteen years before Chris Burden's similar and better-known Urban Light sculpture at LACMA.


SUNSET PLAZA


Sunset Plaza
is a Hollywood Hills West neighborhood presumably centered along Sunset Plaza Drive which winds up just about the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood all the way to Wonderland Ave.

 
THAI TOWN - ไทยทาวน์


Los Angeles has the largest Thai population outside of Thailand. It is also home to the world's first Thai Town which is the cultural, commercial and culinary heart of Thai-America. Every year the streets are closed to cars for a large-scale Songkran festival/สงกรานต์. To read more about Thai Town, click here.


THEATER ROW


The film industry may have long ago abandoned Hollywood but live theater continues to flourish there. Theater Row is home to Artworks Theater, Celebration Theatre, Elephant Theatre Company, Hudson Theatres, McCadden Place Theatre, National Comedy Theatre, Open First Theatre, The Blank's 2nd Stage Theatre, The Complex Hollywood, The Lounge Theatre, The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, Theatre East at The Lex Theatre, and Unknown Theatre
 
 
VIRGIL VILLAGE


Virgil Village is a neighborhood in East Hollywood with significant numbers of Pinoy and Central American-Americans. It's located between Hoover, Santa Monica, Vermont and the 101 (bisected by Melrose). It's home of Amalia's Guatemalan Restaurant, Cafe 50's Hollywood, California Bowl, Wah's Golden Hen, Golfo De Fonseca Restaurant, La Luna Banquet Hall, and Taqueria El Charrito. It's served by several tiny markets including Lee & Oh Foodmart, Reny Market and Virgil Market. It's also home to the attractive Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St Vladimir and the well-known karaoke dive bar, the Smog Cutter. The designation was coined around 1994 and soon after, Huell Howser filmed an episode of Visiting... with Huell Howser devoted to it. 


So hooray for Hollywood! Now, armed with a few tantalizing facts about Hollywood, vote for Hollywood (or any other Los Angeles neighborhoods), by clicking here. To vote for any Los Angeles County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. And finally, to vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here. And remember -- you're never too hood for Hollywood!

*****

Follow me at ericbrightwell.com

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Little Armenia

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 7, 2008 01:13pm | Post a Comment

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Little Armenia

In the Los Angeles Neighborhood poll, right behind Morningside Circle is Little Armenia. To vote in the Los Angeles County Community poll, go here.



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Hollywood

When I first moved to Silver Lakefrom Chino I got a job in nearby Burbank. I drove through Glendale and noticed that the population of both cities was largely Armenian. The signs were written in that unique Armenian alphabet that kind of looks like broken bits of elbow macaroni glued to croquet hoops. I think that, at the time, I had only the vaguest notion of where Armenia was. (For the record, at Amoeba we file it in the Middle East, to the consternation of many since it's a Christian nation in South Eastern Europe).


A typical block of Little Armenia

Anyway, Armenia is where Noah crash landed his Ark full of all the world's species at the end of the Earth's brief oceanic period. Armenia is one of the world's oldest civilizations. It was founded by Noah's great-great grandson Hayk. Armenia, situated between Turkey, Iran and Russia finds itself ideally situated for invasion from some of history's biggest imperialists so it's pretty amazing that they still exist as a people. Perhaps that's partly due to the fact that Armenians seem to be willing to live anywhere. Like Australians, Lebanese and Israelis, Armenians are one of the the nationalities you're most likely to encounter in any country as tourists or part of the diaspora.

 
          A Statue of Hayk (In Yerevan)                                 Me in my Little Armenia-purchased Sean John

Back to Burbank then. Many of my customers were Armenian and I noticed that a lot of them really liked Tupac and film Scarface (I think that may still be true). A lot of the guys wore Sean Jean tracksuits, which I thought looked pretty damned comfortable (especially the velour ones). Both the guys and (less often) the girls had a high incidence of synophrys, which I also thought was cool because I have one myself (like many Anglos e.g. Hugh Grant, Damon Albarn, Kraftwerk and the Brothers Gallagher).  Whereas in England they have been linked to criminality, some Eurasian peoples consider them beautiful. I let mine grow in, for the first time in years. But then a friend from college visited me who'd only experienced the groomed version of my eyebrows. Right away when he saw me he said, "Jesus Whoah God" and I returned it to its cage.

Unibrowed beauties

When I noticed the signs in the East Hollywood neighborhood for Little Armenia I was surprised, given the more undeniable  and overwhelmingly Armenian character of Glendale and Burbank. But what I wasn't realizing was that Glendale and Burbank are their own cities and Little Armenia is the main Armenian neighborhood of Los Angeles. When you're new to the city and you drive around on the freeway you see many little clusters of downtown skyscrapers and it's hard to tell which is Los Angeles, which is Century City, which Downtown, &c since they're all roughly the same size and just pop up like termite mounds around the sprawlscape. 


St. Garabed

Little Armenia doesn't really have a downtown. It's roughly quadrisected by Normandie and Sunset; bordered by Hollwood Blvd to the north, Santa Monica Blvd to the south, Vermont to the East and the 101 Freeway to the west. It is neighbored by Los Feliz, Sunset Junction, Virgil Village, Melrose Gateway, Melrose Hill, Hollywood proper, Franklin Village and Thai Town.

It's very diverse. On my bike rides through the neighborhood to and from work I always see Mexicans, Scientologists, Salvadorans, the disabled, Guatemaltecas, Russians, Schizoprenics, Thai and Pilipinos on any day of the week. And all of my co-workers that I know of that live in the neighborhood are Caucasian (in that they're white, not that their people are from the Caucausus Mountains, as Armenians are).  But Little Armenia got its titular character in the early 1970s when significant populations of Armenians started moving to the area and opening businesses.



Aside from the storefronts, which often have signs written in Armenian, Little Armenia has few physical aspects that reflect its Armenian character. Physically, like most of the Hollywood lowlands, it's actually a fairly ugly neighborhood, dominated by bland apartment buildings, small homes with concrete lawns and strip malls. There is, however, a mural depicting Armenian history on the south face of the building at 1203 E Vermont Ave (update: it's been painted over) and several art deco buildings and a couple of attractive churches, including St. Garabed Church (an Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church).



If you've ever looked at the crosses on Orthodox churches, you may wonder why they look like old fashioned TV antennas more than the cross most non-Orthodox Christians are used to. The explanation I've heard for the diagonal bar is that Jesus' legs were unequal lengths. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as the state religion so they probably know what they're talking about.

   

The Hollywood and Western Building  is a nice Art Deco building that was built for Louis B. Mayer in 1928. It was featured in the film, Hollywood Shuffle and used as a rehearsal space by bands including Guns N Roses and White Zombie. The Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Church on Fernwood is rather striking. I once e-mailed them asking if they were holding services whilst the church was being restored. Disappointed by my experiences with Vatican 2, I hoped to get some old-fashioned ritual. They didn't write back.



There used to be the famous Hollywood Star Lanes. I loved that place, despite my indifference to bowling. Built in 1962, it was famously featured in the Big Lebowski. Sadly, it was demolished to make way for a school.



In the neighborhood's only significant green space, Barnsdall Art Park, there is the Hollyhock House and other buildings atop Olive Hill, which were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1910s during his Mayan Revival phase. This probably makes me sound like a philistine, but I've always thought of the architect as "Frank Lloyd $h*+3" because his designs, from his various phases, always seem like such pale reflections of his influences. The Mayans and the Japanese were architectural gods. Frank Lloyd Wright is like the Disney version in my mind. I do enjoy his appreciation for mulled wine and the fact that he built his furniture to the scale of his buildings' inhabitants ...but I just can't share appreciation for his architecture.

Back in 2005, on Labor Day weekend, the park was the sight of Arthurfest where I saw Sleater-Kinney, The Black Keys, Lavender Diamond, Wolfmother and a whole slew of others that I've can't remember. 



There's also the Scientology Church, located in a former hospital. There are actually a lot of Scientology buildings in the neighborhood. On any given night you might see a bus unloading the unfortunately-attired enemies of Xenu who then parade morosely into a non-descript building for a night of niacin tripping and psychiatry-bashing.

I ended up buying a tracksuit at Little Paris, which isn't a neighborhood, but a store that serves most of the neighborhoods tracksuit needs. I heard the words "baby blue" amidst the Armenian several times. I often observe older Armenian men's uniform consisting more often of waistcoats, jackets, dress shirts and driving caps. They often walk with their hands clasped behind their backs and hang out in their yards with friends drinking libations and playing board games.



Every April 24, Little Armenia is flooded with luxury cars adorned with Armenian Flags, both real and sometimes painted. The streets are choked with Armenians marking Genocide Remembrance Day. This is probably the main thing non-Armenian Americans know about Armenia. The other big celebration in the neighborhood seems to be June 1, which marks Armenian Independence Day.



I've never read any Bukowski because he seems like a writer for bros, but I guess a lot of his stuff took place in Little Armenia. Also, I hear that a lot of The Shield is filmed there. I tried watching The Shield, mistakenly confusing it with the massively-hyped The Wire (which both sound like they're for bros) and got nauseous from the camera work to the point that I couldn't follow what was going on but it seemed to mainly concern the misadventures of a a bald, henpecked Bruce Willis-type bickering with his wife and was very unpleasant physically and spiritually.


As a glutton, I've got to mention Armenian cuisine. Most non-Armenians probably don't even know when they're eating Armenian because so many places take the incognito strategy of calling themselves "Middle Eastern" or "Mediterranean" joints--as do a lot of Lebanese and Persian restaurants. I guess naming yourself "Beirut Palace," "Star of Iran" or "Baghdad No. 1" might not make good business sense in the Near & Middle East-hating USA. Anyway, to be fair, Armenian cuisine is kind of a mix of Assyrian, Balkan, Mediterranean, Caucasian (the region), Eastern European and Middle Eastern influences. If you live in Los Angeles County, you've probably eaten at a Zankou Chicken. After being started by a Lipananahay in Beirut, Zankou opened its second store in the Little Armenia location on Sunset before spreading out. Other oft-spoken of restaurants of Little Armenia include Marouch, Arax, Carousel and Panos and there are a lot of highly-praised bakeries in the area too.


*****


Follow Eric's Blog and check out more episodes of California Fool's Gold