Amoeblog

Beachwood Sparks Reignite

Posted by Billy Gil, August 2, 2012 04:35pm | Post a Comment
A new band is poised to take over L.A. this weekend. No, it’s not some band of upstarts on Slumberland or Captured Tracks, it’s the recently reformed, reenergized Beachwood Sparks. Hot on the tracks of their excellent new album, The Tarnished Gold, the Sparks are playing The Echo Friday night with Tomorrows Tulips, The Abigails and DJ Kevin Fitzgerald. The show kicks off Saturday’s The New LA Folk Festival, at Zorthian Ranch in Altadena (about which Eric Brightwell recently blogged). That show takes place from 1:30 p.m. to about 1 a.m. and also features He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister, White Magic, Spindrift, Sea of Bees and Restavrant, among others.
 
You may recall Beachwood Sparks’ early 2000s output, their self-titled debut, 2001’s breakthrough Once We Were Trees and the 2002 EP Make the Robots Cry, which poured psychedelic touches and smoggy haze over faithful country-rock, encapsulating certain histories of California music — 1950s Bakersfield rough country rockers like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Laurel Canyon hippies like Buffalo Springfield and Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds, and the San Francisco psychedelia of bands like The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But Beachwood Sparks didn’t feel derivative, and were more in line with contemporaries Wilco and The Flaming Lips for their incorporation of neo-psychedelic sounds. They also played in a web of related bands like The Tyde, Mystic Chords of Memory, Frausdots and All Night Radio, while founding member and bassist Brent Rademaker, his brother, Darren, and guitarist Christopher Gunst were in the beloved ’90s cult band Further.
 



Then they all but disappeared for a decade. Members joined various bands — Gunst had Mystic Chords of Memory with partner Jen Cohen (of The Aislers Set); Brent Rademaker had The Tyde with his brother, as well as his own band, Frausdots; drummer Jimi Hey and guitarist “Farmer” Dave Scher had All Night Radio; Scher toured and played with Interpol, Jenny Lewis and Elvis Costello; and drummer Aaron Sperske joined Ariel Pink’s (now defunct) Haunted Graffiti. Rademaker says, simply, the band needed a break.
 
“We had been touring under really bad conditions and kind of living the life of the band but without any really kind of financial support,” Rademaker says. “… None of us were married, a lot of us lived together in close quarters like monkeys. … We had done a really, really successful tour, our first kind of one that really felt like, wow, things are really starting to happen.”
 
Exhausted, the band took a break, and life events started taking precedence — some members got married, some moved, Rademaker included, to Tampa, Fla. Consistent members Gunst, Scher and Rademaker couldn’t schedule a time to get together as Gunst went to school to get his master’s degree, Scher toured and Rademaker worked at Ikea in Florida. But things finally lined up: Gunst was off from school for the summer, Scher needed a break from touring and a health issue forced Rademaker to take a break from the Swedish furniture giant. The band’s cover of Sade’s “By Your Side” appeared on the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack. And Sub Pop had asked the band to play its 20th anniversary show in 2008, and that showed the band it still had places to go. The three reformed along with Sperske, Cohen, Ben Knight and Dan Horne. The lineup now also includes drummer Andres Renteria, though it seems to be a revolving lineup that centers around Gunst, Scher and Rademaker.
 


“We went through that whole thing that new bands go through — growing pains,” Rademaker says. “… [But] we came out on the other side. It kind of makes you feel young to do that shit. You know what I mean? It’s like you’re in a punk band and you’ve just opened for a heavy metal band and the crowd has been throwing bottles at you, but then you’ve won them over.”
 
The quality of The Tarnished Gold attests to that. Starting with the somber “Forget the Song,” we’re instantly time-portaled back to early 2000s California indie-rock heaven. Following is the jangly “Sparks Fly Again,” a sort of fight song Scher wrote for the band as it regrouped, with lyrics like “sparks fly again for you.”
 
“When we play it life, there’s no irony,” Rademaker says. “Public Image Ltd. had the song ‘Public Image,’ and there’s ‘Clash City Rockers.’ It’s kind of cool to have a theme song. It’s fun to be on stage and sit there and get on the mic with all the guys. It’s like telling you what we’re gonna do. Only Farmer Dave could come up with that.”


 
The album is loaded with gems, like the ’70s AM gold of the title track and spaced-out mariachi-style of “No Queremos Oro,” which is sung in Spanish with an English dub floating over it.
 
“Dave, Chris and Ben [Knight] are all of Spanish descent, and their families go way, way back, generations and generations in L.A.,” Rademaker says. “This is the first full-length we’ve recorded in L.A. … Whenever we go to Spain and Europe and stuff, they always say we’re ambassadors for the L.A. sound. I was like, this is the L.A. sound right here. … Even The Tarnished Gold, the album artwork, it’s supposed to represent the heritage of Los Angeles.”
 
Rademaker says he’s excited to play The New LA Folk Festival, which he calls “crucial … People should put on folk festivals every day.” He’s also excited to play the new songs, just as long as the band has learned them.
 
“It’s really surprising, people are shouting out new songs more than the oldies,” he says. “It was like, we haven’t learned those yet! We’re gonna make sure we know the whole new album for the shows in L.A.”
 
Something else that’s been shouted out at shows, Rademaker says: “California Bummer,” that unbeatable summer song by his former band, Further. So … what about that, speaking of reunions?
 


“I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Rademaker says of the possibility of a Further reunion, though extenuating circumstances prevent it from becoming a reality at the moment.
 
For now, Rademaker’s glad to be back in L.A. and to be a part of its music scene once again, even hearing his own music spinning recently upon entering Amoeba Hollywood.
 
“You don’t know how that feels until that happens to you,” he says. “Nothing compares to walking into your favorite record store and your record’s playing. It’s really radical.”
 
 

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:


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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 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.


Though better known as an escapologist, Hungarian magician Harry Houdini sometimes acted in the silent era and was another resident to Laurel Canyon. Other stars of the silent screen who made Laurel Canyon their home include Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Theda Bara, Bessie Love, Wallace Reid and Norman Kerry.


After most of the movie stars left, the rustic neighborhood was still a draw from some bohemian types. It was there, in 1948, that actors Robert Mitchum and Lila Leeds were busted for possession of jazz cigarettes. Mitchum moved away in the '60s. The next influx of inhabitants were more often part of the music industry.


"she lives on Love Street"





 
Located as it is, just up the hill from the famed hippie and folk-rock nexus The Troubadour, the nearby bucolic setting attracted members of that scene. In the 1960s, many musicians moved to the neighborhood including Love’s Arthur Lee, The ByrdsRoger McGuinn and David Crosby, The DoorsJim Morrison and Robby Krieger, the Mamas & PapasDenny Doherty and Cass Elliot, The TurtlesMark Volman, The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, Troy Donahue, Fabian, The Beach BoysBrian Wilson, Buffalo Springfield’s Neil Young and The Mothers of Invention’s Frank Zappa.

Laurel Canyon Country Store - "the place where the Creatures meet."

In 1968, Laurel Canyon's navelgazing period truly began -- That year, Crosby, Stills and Nash formed one of the first supergroups, named after themselves, of course. The amount of musicians who referenced the neighborhood in their works is pretty humorous. The great, underrated Jackie DeShannon was first, with Laurel Canyon.  Two months later, John Mayall released Blues from Laurel Canyon. The following year, Joni Mitchell began recording Ladies of the Canyon. David Geffen moved to the neighborhood hoping to exploit the increasingly mellow singer-writer and soft rock scene embodied by new residents like Jackson Browne, Carole King, James Taylor, Judee Sill, Linda Ronstadt and members of The Eagles and America. In 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sang the highly irritating "Our House" about Nash and Mitchell's home. The transition from acid rock psychonauts to self-worshiping cocaine cowboys was completed in 1973, when The Roxy opened down the hill in West Hollywood.

By the ‘80s, most of the singer-writer scene had dried up and blown away but the coke hadn’t. In 1981, four members of The Wonderland Gang (Laurel Canyon’s premier coke distributors), were murdered, leading to the arrest of porn star John C. Holmes. The sleaze quotient rose further when shock jocks Adam Carrola and Tom Leykis moved there (not together).
 

In the '90s, the neighborhood became the home of mainstream darlings including Jennifer Aniston, Neve Campbell and Trent Reznor. A new generation of cocaine cowboys began to wax about the good old days of Laurel Canyon. In 2001, British band The Charlatans released their album Wonderland. Accepted into the scene, by the time of his solo debut a couple of years later, singer Tim Burgess seemed to embody the Laurel Canyon revival. In 2002, in true Laurel Canyon fashion, a movie about Laurel Canyon was released, titled Laurel Canyon.


 
World's largest dog park 

Today, Laurel Canyon still exudes considerable charm. The whimsical houses are in a variety of styles, although their current residents are unfailingly scowly types with dogs in their purses and yoga pants on at all times. Their chilly expressions are somewhat fitting in a neighborhood that, despite being surrounded by urban Los Angeles, conveys an undeniably autumnal vibe.





*****


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(During which the author continues to unpack.)

Posted by Job O Brother, May 17, 2009 10:20pm | Post a Comment

The author decorates his new Study.

It’s late. I’m tired. And earthquaked. I’d no sooner finished up my final box of bric-a-brac placement, when the latest in seismic waves rocked my little piece of Los Angeles.

What occurred in my imagination was far more dramatic than what actually took place. In my mind, my bookshelf toppled over on me and I was knocked unconscious by my collection of creepy, antique clowns and monkeys. Naturally the wound would cause me to fall into a coma, and since the boyfriend is in Vegas for the weekend, I wouldn’t be discovered until late tomorrow. Although he’d rush me to the hospital (taking time to wolf down a Cliff Builder Bar – this candy bar masquerading as a protein supplement he’s addicted to) and I’d be put on life-support, my vegetative state would last for days.

By the time I came out of the coma, I would have lost 180 pounds (making me a very fashionable 5 pounds) and my speech would sound like a recitation of Dada poetry. For some reason I’d be scared of celery, too, though the doctors would never understand why.


Now with easy-to-open flaps!

My fantasy tragedy went on longer than the actual earthquake.

Throughout unpacking my ridiculous belongings, music played. I found I gravitated to two kinds of tunes while I worked: female musicians who could be linked (either directly or loosely) to the "Laurel Canyon sound," and creepy, difficult noises. (And yes, I know that for some of you, those two things are one and the same. Har – de – f**king – har.)

What follows is a short version of today’s playlist. For the full experience, I recommend playing this music while dusting off crickety, old portraits of dead people, polishing a Samurai sword, trying to find the right place to hang portraits (that’s plural) of St. Rita, and eating a salad from Trader Joe’s. And, of course, during the last song, get into an earthquake.

Have fun!











(In which we consider the mystical & tragic Judee Sill.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 29, 2008 12:25pm | Post a Comment

Last night I was mugged at gunpoint. The perpetrator not only made off with the $560.00 in cash that I was carrying (which I had intended to deposit today) but he knocked me down to the ground and kicked me hard enough that he left a nasty bruise in my ribs before he made his getaway on a magic, chocolate-colored Pegasus.

None of which is true, but it is a rather exciting way to begin this week’s blog entry, isn’t it? Except that, by lying to you, I have now risked alienating you emotionally, because you will now think twice about trusting what I tell you, even if it’s about how much I like that top you’re wearing and how to sets off the flecks of color in your shimmering eyes.

Speaking of violence and the romantic visage of your enduring beauty, I know some of you haven’t yet heeded my advice and investigated one of my most favorite balladeers of all time: Judee Sill.
 

Judee Sill conducts herself well.

Judee’s story is one of tragic darkness, from which sprung gorgeous and sage songwriting. She was the Billie Holiday of the “Laurel Canyon sound.”

Influenced more by Johann Sebastian Bach than her 1970’s rock ‘n’ blow contemporaries, methodical composition such as fugue-structure, and over-dubbing of her own voice into chorale-style, inform her heart-wrenched post-hymns.

Her father and brother both died when she was a child, and her mother re-married to Kenneth Muse, an animator for one of my least favorite cartoons of all time, Tom & Jerry. (I mean really, the way that mouse antagonizes that poor cat, who very naturally fights back – both by his nature as a felis catus and in defense of Jerry’s cruelty – only to be downtrodden every time. What kind of message does that send to children? BE A BULLY. That’s what it tells ‘em. And then poor, sensitive, fat kids like me get the brunt of it. And all I ever wanted was to love and be loved. Is that so wrong?!)

[Insert sound of Job sobbing here]

Judee left her dysfunctional home (I imagine her stepfather probably lured her head into a mouse-hole and bopped her face with a mallet) and hit the road for a life of free-wheeling druggery and armed robbery. She developed an addiction to that precocious li’l drug we call heroin. In order to pay for the habit, she prostituted herself (which almost certainly prepared her for a life as a professional musician).

She honed her skills as a keyboard player while serving time in jail for fraudulent check writing, and, as she found herself with some soul to spare after kicking smack, she decided to write music.

She had early success selling compositions to other groups, such as The Turtles, who covered her song “Lady-O.”



She was signed by David Geffen, who was then developing his new Asylum Label, and toured as the opening act for Graham Nash and David Crosby. Her self-titled, debut album was produced by her ex-husband, Bob Harris (who also produced Joni Mitchell’s superb effort Ladies of the Canyon).

While critics gushed praise for her work, sales remained low and, after some snarky comments about Geffen and his sexual-orientation (he was not yet out of the closet), Judee was given the bum’s rush, after only producing two albums. (Don’t rush to assume she was homophobic, though, as she was known to fancy the ladies herself.)
 

EEEK!!! I just now experienced my first earthquake ever! That was some ride. Now I understand what all the hub-bub is about. A giant silver crucifix just fell off my shelf and knocked the } ] key out of my laptop. Anyway, friends and family outside LA, Fangs and I are fine, just a little shaken-up (har har har!).

Silver crucifixes are also apropos when pondering Judee Sill, who sports one on the cover of her debut album. She was deeply interested in the occult and Christian mysticism. Some people, considering her lyrics, assume she was Christian, as Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a reoccurring theme, but her appreciation was esoteric, not dogmatic. (Though it is worth noting that she was baptized by Pat Boone in his swimming pool.)

"Don't worry - I'll save you!" Christian pop icon, Pat Boone

After losing her ties with Geffen, Judee rode a downward spiral into obscurity. Rumors circulated of her death. So much so, that when she actually did die in 1979 from a cocaine overdose, it surprised people. She had seemed to die twice.
 

Cover art painted by Judee

To our good fortune, in 2005, Water Records produced a two cd compilation of unreleased demos, studio recordings, and live video footage of Judee, titled “Dreams Come True.” Jim O’Rourke provided the mixing.)

Judee’s music holds a place so dear to my heart that, while I’ve often been tempted to blog about her, I’ve never felt up to the task. I simply can’t do justice to the ecstasy she evokes in me. (That’s also why you’ve never read any blogs by me regarding Scott Walker.)

Anyway, check her out if, y’know, you’re into gorgeous, haunting music that makes your heart ache and pierces your soul. Otherwise, check out some Warlock Pinchers. They’re fun.