California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Laurel Canyon

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 16, 2009 03:30pm | Post a Comment

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Hollywood, showing the approximate location of Laurel Canyon

This blog entry is about Laurel Canyon. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

The woodsy area in the Hollywood Hills now known as Laurel Canyon was originally inhabited by the Tongva. A spring-fed stream attracted Mexican shepherds in the 18th century. After the region became part of the US, Anglos arrived. About 100 years ago, the area was divided up, cabins were erected and the area was marketed to vacationing tourists. The first movie made in Hollywood was shot in Yucca Corridor in 1910. Though the film industry remained centered in Edendale for a few years, it gradually shifted to Hollywood and Laurel Canyon became the home of some of the burgeoning industry's photo-players.

Famed cowboy star Tom Mix bought the Laurel Tavern and converted it into his residence. Mary Astor had a love nest on Appian Way. Gay Mexican "Latin Lover" Ramón Novarro lived there until his murder in 1968.


Posted by Charles Reece, November 15, 2009 11:56pm | Post a Comment
Novelist, scenarist, actress, "objectivist" and basic propagandist for rapacious capitalism Ayn Rand is someone I've always tended to steer clear of. My aversion is due more to her muddy and hypocritical thinking, as well as a writing style that's about as accomplished as a cheap 1930s sci-fi magazine, than any sort of challenge one encounters reading Leo Strauss and other conservative thinkers. But the ironically named Reason Magazine tends to talk about her, and their chief cartoonist, Peter Bagge (of Hate fame) has a new strip about what the mention of her name elicits in the circles he frequents (over-caffeinated Seattleites, I guess). To any of my pals who might have an opinion on her, she's considered something like what American Idol winners are to music, namely for people who don't like philosophy. You know, Alan Greenspan. Since I can't speak for Bagge's choice of friends, I'm only going to take issue with his final (and I note hysterically rendered) panel:


...And, this being a movie blog, in particular how it's contradicted by Rand's role in the Hollywood Red-baiting of the late 40s and 50s. In 1944, to combat communist infiltration in Hollywood, Walt Disney and some other conservatives formed The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Some of its most prominent members were John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Ward Bond and Leo McCarey. The organization's statement of principles can be read here. Another associate was Rand, who wrote a manifesto for the group in 1950 titled "Screen Guide for Americans," which was a program for weeding out Red influence from the pictures with enumerated commandments: "Don't smear the free enterprise system," "don't smear industrialists," "don't smear wealth," "don't smear the profit motive," "don't smear success," etc. Her supposed probity against the use of "physical force to impose her ideas" can be read in the document's conclusion:

The principle of free speech requires that we do not use police force to forbid the Communists the expression of their ideas -- which means that we do not pass laws forbidding them to speak. But the principle of free speech does not require that we furnish the Communists with the means to preach their ideas, and does not imply that we owe them jobs and support to advocate our own destruction at our own expense. 

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Wilshire Park, Los Angeles's "Not Koreatown"

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 8, 2009 08:32pm | Post a Comment

This installment of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Blog concerns Wilshire Park. Vote here to vote in the Neighborhoods of Los Angeles Blog Poll (NLABP) and/or here for the Los Angeles County Community Blog Poll (LACCBP). To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Maps of Midtown and Wilshire Park

Wilshire Park is a small, Midtown  neighborhood whose borders are Olympic Blvd on the south, Crenshaw Blvd on the west, Wilshire Blvd on the north and Wilton Place on the east. Its desirable, central location and quaint charm has lead to various parties attempting to claim it for their benefit. Some residential realtors have extended the traditional use of the term “Westside” to the neighborhood, hoping to attach that area’s mostly white and affluent connotations to the neighborhood. Commercial interests have occasionally led to it being described as part of neighboring Koreatown, presumably with an eye on extending the bustling commercial center into the quiet neighborhood.
Wilshire Blvd suddenly gets quiet in Wilshire Park
Wilshire Park is almost completely residential. When entering the neighborhood from Koreatown to the east, one notices an almost complete halt in the Hangul signs, BBQ aroma and crowded shopping centers which immediately give way to several nondescript apartments and only a couple of equally nondescript businesses.

An attractive row of typical Wilshire Park homes
The bulk of the neighborhood is made up of a variety of architectural styles including American Craftsman, California Bungalow, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial, Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial and Victorian-Craftsman Transitional styles. The first home built in the neighborhood was in 1908 and most of the rest were built between the ‘10s and ‘30s. A number are listed as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmarks.

"...And the hangover goes to...!"

Posted by Job O Brother, September 28, 2009 12:59pm | Post a Comment

Hello, Earthlings! I have returned after being ill for the past week. I’m still not at 100%, but can at least sit at my computer without succumbing to vertigo and mistaking my iTunes for an episode of Battlestar Gallactica.

It’s all the fault of the 2009 Emmy Awards. Yes it is! I’ll explain…

The boyfriend and I were (again) invited to attend the HBO Emmy Award after-party. As he considered which of his designer suits to don, I sifted through the post-punk, vintage mess that is my wardrobe, desperately trying to Frankenstein something passable to wear, grateful that most people at industry parties are too self-absorbed to notice me at all.

Once we got there we took our place in line in the underground garage that served as a holding tank for men and women dressed to the nines. (Front entrance was limited to red-carpet types.) Cramped into lines of two and everyone decked-out fancy, it looked as though we were about to be slaughtered in the most glamorous concentration camp ever.

We made it in.

Now, there’s a reason why I love going to the HBO after-party. Normally, I would eschew going to industry parties in favor of getting my fingernails torn out or having bedtimes stories read to me by Carol Channing. The HBO party is an exception to this rule because it is kind of awesome.

First off, the design is always impressive. Every year is themed. This year's theme was less obvious but no less magical. If I had to guess, it was some kind of meshing of the gardens of the Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, the country of Japan, and vampires. The boyfriend noted that, since True Blood is one of HBO’s successes right now, the latter element makes sense.

As heavily made-up maidens danced with parasols on raised stages to harp and tabla transcriptions of chart-topping 80’s pop songs (Baroque renditions of Bon Jovi, anyone?) the boyfriend and I made our way through the mazes of Godiva chocolate bars and Blackberry-hypnotized publicists to the cocktails.

Which is where our story takes a turn for the worse.

The boyfriend opted to try the specially crafted house cocktail for the night, which was some – and please excuse me but there really is no better word for it – faggy concoction of fruit liqueurs and vodka which ended up tasting like Kool-Aid flavored with batteries, while I played it safe (oh, irony) and ordered a dirty martini.

Next we got in line for the food buffet where I jockeyed for rare slices of filet mignon against Sally Field who, turns out, is quite adept with a steel fork.

Our plates piled high, the boyfriend and I found an empty table near the temporary fountain where the plus-ones of celebrities like to smoke reefers.

Having been naively seduced into selecting food simply because it advertised “…with shaved truffles,” I tried tiny bites of many dishes, sadly learning that no amount of thinly-sliced Tuber melanosporum can save a scallop that’s been sitting on a hot-plate since 1994. What can I say? I’m the most adventurous foodie I know and am willing to give anything a shot, but there’s a reason why puréed broccoli laced with butterscotch and stuffed into candied shrimp with caper and unseeded-cotton sauce is rarely served.

As a result of the conceptually intriguing but ultimately unpalatable food, I ate next to nothing while continuing on with my second dirty martini of the evening, finding new appreciation for the delicious simplicity of a green olive.

You can see where this is going, right?

The boyfriend and I went on a walkabout, thrilling in brushing against a gorgeous and scowling Shirley MacLaine, or laughing with our friend Clark, who was a deer-in-headlights, being some eight yards from his celebrity crush, Sigourney Weaver, or appreciating David Cross giving the right-away to whomever in the thick people traffic as he held two drinks, dressed less for the Emmys and more for Tuesday night poker with the guys.

Amidst all this celebrity sighting, I made occasional stops at any of the plentiful open bars to order a new dirty martini until, without realizing it, I had consumed five of them.

Now, if you were to take the amount of booze in five martinis and put it into one glass and told me to drink it, I’d tell you you’re out of your [word that makes baby Jesus cry] mind, but apparently if you split that same alcohol into five separate, cone-shaped bowls placed upon stems above flat bases – hey, ho, let’s go!

I don’t remember leaving the party. I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember carrying my cat around the house and showing him the tops of doors and explaining to the boyfriend, “He likes to see the tops of doors!” I don’t remember insisting on watching a documentary on Harriet Tubman, only to pass out on the sofa five minutes into it. I don’t remember the boyfriend having to literally push me up the stairs while I complained “Push harder! Faster!” I don’t remember sitting in front of the toilet and listening to Boudewijn de Groot

…and I don’t remember filling the toilet with slightly digested, dirty martinis with shaved truffles. I don’t remember being tucked into bed by my patient boyfriend and I don’t remember my last words being a whiny complaint that “people don’t use puppets to their full advantage… puppets could be so cool…!”

I don’t remember these things, but they happened, and I heard all about them the next afternoon when I woke-up.

Having obliterated my immune system with a flood of dry vermouth, it’s unsurprising that I caught a cold. And let me tell you kids, having a cold in the middle of an L.A. heat-wave is a stupid and gross affair. It’s not easy when your stomach wants chicken soup and all you can manage is a Diet Coke. I even called in sick that Thursday, so those of you who came to Amoeba Music Hollywood that day, hoping for helpful suggestions on which soundtracks would be best for your step-daughter’s bat mitzvah, I apologize.

It had been 15 years since I drank so much I puked, when my dear friend Sadie looked after me and made sure I didn’t die like Jimi Hendrix, a kindness for which I thanked her by drunkenly punching her face as she laid me to bed. (I will be apologizing to Sadie for the rest of my life for that.) Hopefully it will be at least that much time before I re-learn how un-sexy a thing it is to get alcohol poisoning.

Anyway, that’s the sordid truth behind my failure to blog the last week. But I’m back, I’m sober, and ready for more Amoeblog. Thank the gods.

Hispanic Heritage Month - Latinos in American Cinema

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 26, 2009 01:51pm | Post a Comment

Aside from a brief fetish for Latin Lovers in the silent era, roles for Hispanics and Latinos in American silent film were few, far between and generally quite minor. In the sound era, images of Hispanics and Latinos in Hollywood began to increase in number, although Latino characters were at first usually portrayed by non-Latinos in brownface whilst real Latinos were frequently used as all-purpose ethnic types.

          Ramon Novarro and Lupe Velez (as Navaho) in Laughing Boy                                Leo Carrillo and Duncan Renaldo

In the first decade of sound, there weren't many roles for Hispanics or Latinos aside from in popular, long-running series like Zorro, The Cisco Kid and The Mexican Spitfire series, the latter a vehicle for Lupe Velez. Pedro Armendáriz mostly starred in Mexican films; when cast in American ones, he invariably had to exaggerate his accent sufficiently. Throughout the '30s and the following decade, Arizona-born Chris Pin-Martin appeared in almost eighty films, invariably as a heavily-accented, broken English-speaking Mexican in small roles and as sidekicks, like Pancho in the Cisco Kid movies and as Gordito in the Zorro series. The Zorro franchise, begun in the 20s, continued to be popular throughout the era. The Cisco Kid series dated back to the teens. In them, unlike with Zorro, Hispanic actors like Leo Carrillo, Duncan Ronaldo and Cesar Romero were usually cast in the lead. Hispanic actress Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Cansino) was initially billed as Rita Cansino in a series of unrelated B-movies. In them, she usually played a variation on the fiery Mexican maiden in need of an honorable Anglo's protection and love.

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