Looking Back

The third week of March in Southern California, from 2015 to 2020, from the archives –

The Heart of Screenland (32 images): Culver City is the Heart of Screenland – it says so right on the city seal – and the heart of Culver City is the old MGM Studios, now Sony Pictures Entertainment, containing Sony Pictures Studios. That’s where Oz was. That’s where Tara was. And across the street from the main gate there’s The Film Strip – stainless steel, 1981, by Natalie Krol – in the fountain at the Veterans Memorial Complex. What was once MGM is in the background – and next door to that is the “Path of Life” bronze family – think Frank Capra on drugs. This was the heart of it all. That’s a scary thought. ~ Monday, March 16, 2015

Dark Light (33 images): The middle of Hollywood on a dark day, a Film Noir day… Where’s Humphrey Bogart when you need him? ~ Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Down at the Dream Factories (33 images): A quiet afternoon at the two dream factories down on the east end of Melrose Avenue, between Gower and Bronson – Paramount Pictures and Raleigh Studios – and the latest dreams are on the walls. Paramount still has that RKO globe, but Raleigh Studios is all glass now, even if it has been there, across the street from Paramount, since 1915, long before Paramount. Raleigh Studios offers no tours. They just do the work, mostly television now. But “In the Heat of the Night” ( Best Picture of 1967) and “The Best Years of Our Lives” (Best Picture of 1946) and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” (1962, with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) were made there, along with the original “A Star is Born” (1937) – and there was “Gunsmoke” (James Arness as marshal Matt Dillon) and “Death Valley Days” (starring Ronald Reagan, before the politics) and “Have Gun Will Travel” (Richard Boone as “Paladin” and all that) – and a young Kevin Costner worked at Raleigh Studios as a grip, using his free time to read scripts and audition for parts. He finally got a few. This town is full of dream factories. ~ Friday, March 20, 2015

Detailing Hollywood (35 images): The essence of Hollywood is in the details – a walk though Hollywood on a sunny spring day – Wilcox over to Hollywood and Vine and back again. This is a wonderfully odd place. ~ Thursday, March 17, 2016

The New Village (30 images) Fairfax Village, just down the hill between Melrose and Pico, is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Los Angeles, but it’s been overrun by hipsters. Canter’s Deli and all the little glatt kosher markets are now surrounded by conceptual-art galleries and impossibly trendy shops of all sorts. Visually, the place now has that Village of the Damned thing going – but the mural at the National Council of Jewish Women has been restored in a bit of vivid defiance. Still, the place will never be the same. ~ Monday, March 21, 2016

Another City (35 images): The old Hollywood is almost gone. The locals are hopping mad – there are glass and steel skyscrapers going up everywhere – nothing charmingly eccentric will be left – and the center of it all is down at the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard. That will stay – in the shadows of the new glass towers. But soon Hollywood will be just another city. That’s pretty much what it is now. Take a look. ~ Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hollywood Cleans House (40 images): The current array of discards at Nick Metropolis’ prop shop on La Brea – this is what Hollywood has thrown away this month. ~ Monday, March 20, 2017

Lost in the Clouds (40 images): It isn’t all sunshine – mysterious late March clouds from the Sunset Strip down to the Pacific Design Center and at the Frank Lloyd Wright Hollyhock House, floating high above the east end of Hollywood Boulevard, with its view of the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign. Hollywood goes dark. ~ Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Oddest Mix: (37 images): Mid-Wilshire on a dark day – the side streets of old Spanish Revival and French-Norman apartment buildings from long ago – the old white Federalist bank, now the Korea Center – the movie palace from the thirties with its inlaid colored sidewalks – out on the boulevard, the Art Deco skyscrapers from the late twenties – and dark skies – a storm barreling in off the Pacific. It’s an odd mix. It’s Los Angeles. ~ Friday, March 16, 2018

Wright in the Rain (30 images): Frank Lloyd Wright expected sunshine. This is his Hollyhock House on Olive Hill at the far end of Hollywood Boulevard – from 1919, from his Mayan period – in the unexpected heavy rain. Two days of steady rain have transformed the place. He didn’t expect this. Hollyhock House turned eerie. ~ Thursday, March 22, 2018

Fogged In: (35 images): The sun never came out. The lagoon not far from the big hanger in Culver City where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose – his giant seaplane that flew once in 1947 and that was that. The hanger is gone. These guys are still around. And no one misses the sun. ~ Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Vernal Equinox (40 images): This was the day winter ended and spring began, at 2:58 PM here in Los Angeles. The skies were unsettled – storm clouds out east at dawn and dramatic backlit clouds all day down on the Sunset Strip, reflected in the glass at the Directors Guild of America building at Hayworth. So, this is spring now. ~ Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Down Topanga (35 images): Topanga Canyon – spring rain – the drive from the Inn of the Seventh Ray – up top – down and down and down to Pacific Coast Highway – Malibu and Catalina in the distance. ~ Thursday, March 21, 2019

Quiet Hollywood (30 images): California Governor Gavin Newsom called for the home isolation of all seniors in California as well as those with chronic conditions, so there’s no going out for anything but groceries now. A few days later Newsom ordered bars and restaurants and gyms and movie theaters and anything nonessential to close – immediately – so no one is going anywhere. Consider this extreme social distancing, but staying home makes photographing this particular part of the world impossible. All there is left is what’s outside the front door and outside the office window, and out back from the balcony, the skies above Laurel Canyon. But that’s enough. The fourth and fifth days of home isolation looked like this. ~ March 18-19, 2020

Appropriate Skies (30 images): Los Angeles has been shut down. California has been shut down. The nation is shutting down. Everyone must stay home. Or we’ll all die. The “pathetic fallacy” is a literary term for the attribution of human emotion and conduct to things found in nature that are not human. It is a kind of personification that occurs in poetic descriptions, when, for example, clouds seem sullen, when leaves dance, or when rocks seem indifferent. The British cultural critic John Ruskin coined the term for what is essentially a cheap trick. But some things just happen. The skies here looked like this. ~ Friday, March 20, 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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