Looking Back

This is how the middle of September looked, out here, from 2015 to 2020, from the archives.

Grabbing the Light (35 images): There are days out here when the light is excellent. Down on Wilshire, the severely geometric Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the swoopy new façade of the Petersen Automotive Museum, Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” – the iconic grouping 202 vintage Los Angeles streetlamps – and Renzo Piano’s light and airy Broad Contemporary Art Museum. It’s all good, when the light is good. ~ Monday, September 14, 2015

Up In Hollywood (40 images): Hollywood and Vine, at street level, is shabby and nasty – tourists and the homeless sleeping in doorways and the occasional madman stumbling around and shouting at the sky, and cops. It’s best to look up. What’s left of the golden past floats above it all. ~ Friday, September 18, 2015

All That Jazz (35 images): At the corner of Sunset and Bronson, the Old Warner Brothers Studio, now the Sunset Bronson Studios, designated as a Historic Cultural Landmark in 1977 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 – built in 1919 – where the first talkie feature “The Jazz Singer” was filmed in 1927. That makes it a landmark, but Warner Brothers moved out to Burbank in 1934. This place now lives on as an independent production facility. At one time the Gene Autry Golden West Broadcasting organization owned the place. That explains the television tower, but times change. Netflix is building a giant production facility on the site – a glass and concrete cantilevered monster that will open soon. That Al Jolson movie was a long time ago – and across the street there’s the new Metropolitan Lofts with that Space Woman. This is an odd corner of Hollywood. ~ Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Trees by the Lake (30 images): Hollywood can fill your head with nonsense, but there’s a way to deal with that, and it’s nearby – Echo Park Lake. The trees by the lake have nothing to do movies and celebrity. They are what they are, and the waterfowl know nothing about Hollywood, just a few miles away. No one is hustling anyone here. A walk around the circumference of the lake clears up everything. ~ Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dark Light (30 images): Strange light at the Point Fermin lighthouse in San Pedro, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hollywood Library (32 images): Frank Gehry from 1983 – the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Branch Library at 1623 North Ivar – just down the hill from the Parva Sed Apartments at 1817 North Ivar, where, in the mid-thirties, Nathaniel West wrote his famous novel Day of the Locust – his tale of a disparate group of people whose dreams of success have failed. The novel ends with a giant riot and massive fires that destroy Hollywood and then all of Los Angeles. It’s a metaphor for America, but then so is Hollywood. Look around. Hollywood is itself a library, and a metaphor for America. ~ Friday, September 15, 2017

All Orange Again: The Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Boulevard, out east where Hollywood Boulevard begins, needed a new coat of bright orange paint. It was designed by Lewis A. Smith and opened on October 16, 1923, with Baby Peggy in “Tips” along with live vaudeville acts on stage. Six years later it was showing the new talkies and it just kept going. Ed Wood – voted the worst director of all time again and again, mainly for “Plan 9 from Outer Space” in 1956 – had an office in this building. But the Vista was getting shabby. The new coat of bright orange paint makes it 1923 again. “It pays to look good” – that’s what it says at Rudy’s Barber Shop next door – and further down Sunset there’s the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. The world needs Upright Citizens again too. ~ Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rethinking Hollywood (35 images): There’s Hollywood as it is – just another place, really – and then there’s how the local street artists see Hollywood all around them. Their view is darker. ~ Monday, September 17, 2018

Down on the Corner (40 images): Forget Willie the Poor Boy and forget Creedence Clearwater Revival and forget 1969 – that was fifty years ago. There’s no amateur jive music down on this corner. This is Melrose Avenue at Harper – hip and surreal in the long Los Angeles light. This is a Hollywood corner. ~ Monday, September 16, 2019

From Afar (50 images): Close-ups are fine. Detail is good. But telephoto shots show more – the patterns of life – and all telephoto shots are candid shots. The observer is far away, unnoticed, so there’s no posing. There’s more truth. These are shots from or in Palisades Park, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, looking down on Pacific Coast Highway and out across the beach to the bay and beyond. This is how things are. ~ Thursday, September 12, 2019

In the Past (40 images): It’s just one block – La Brea between Beverly Boulevard and First Street – just south of Hollywood – but it’s packed with the past – old buildings from the twenties and thirties that really shouldn’t be here anymore, but really are here. It’s a good place to get lost in the past. ~ Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Old Heroism (40 images): The mural next door works. American architecture used to be heroic. This is the heroic California Bank branch, 1929, by John and Donald B. Parkinson, at 5620 Hollywood Boulevard. It has that attitude. America can do anything. There is nothing to fear but fear itself, a useful attitude as the Great Depression deepened. But this bank was abandoned soon enough. Warner Brothers slapped a temporary marquee on it and pretended it was a movie palace in 1997 in “L.A. Confidential” – everyone was corrupt and nasty in that movie. Now it’s a “collision center” – they repair wrecked cars in there. But it’s still heroic. The rest of the neighborhood, East Hollywood where Little Armenia meets Thai Town, isn’t. It’s mysterious. ~ Wednesday, September 23, 2020

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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