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September 2020 Photography

The Piano Corner: There’s an odd Art Deco building on Wilshire Boulevard at Robertson in Beverly Hills. It’s a bit of a nightmare, and across the street from the Steinway showroom, now with one bright red grand piano in the window, next to a big purple one. Someone’s into surrealism. But this corner is like that – all curved glass with the big bronze “Pablo at the Beach” (2013) by Guy Dill on the corner there. Life here is a visual treat. ~ Thursday, September 24, 2020

Old Heroism: 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

Three Walls: There’s the new “Love” wall on Beverly Boulevard. There’s that cactus wall next door. There’s the odd glass wall across the street. And there’s Andy Warhol. This is West Los Angeles. ~ Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fifty Shades Clearer: The fires are still raging everywhere but the wind shifted. The smoke is gone. After two weeks of thick haze and the constant smell of that smoke in the air, all of Los Angeles is visible again. And the gardens are back. They made it through this. All is well. ~ Saturday, September 19, 2020

I’m suspending the photography until the smoke clears.

Softened Light: The smoke was thick all day from the fires everywhere. The air was unbreathable. That made for a day of diffused light. The softened light made the local gardens rather mysterious. ~ September 12, 2020

Smoked Cactus: Hollywood smelled of smoke at dawn and the morning got darker and darker, not lighter. The whole Los Angeles basin filled with smoke from the fires out east and the sky turned dull orange. The air was thick. Breathing was difficult. And it looked like this – the cactus garden in Beverly Hills, looking like the end of the world. ~ Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Empty Plaza: Sunset Plaza on the Sunset Strip is empty all day now, every day. A raging pandemic will do that. But this stretch of the Sunset Strip is still ridiculously photogenic. ~ Wednesday, September 9, 2020

These Dark Days: Hollywood was filled with smoke, not sunshine. All of California seemed to be on fire. But that only makes things more interesting – a new tattoo parlor just off Hollywood Boulevard, the odd façades from long ago, and the Hillview Hollywood built in 1917 by Jesse Lasky, the co-founder of Paramount Pictures, and his brother-in-law Samuel Goldwyn, the co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the time this was Hollywood’s only apartment building willing to rent to aspiring actors – they were a suspicious lot – but that only made this “the” place to be. The basement housed a rehearsal space until Rudolph Valentino turned it into a speakeasy. Clara Bow found her first home at the Hillview in 1923 – but the building was eventually abandoned. It was a tear-down, and then a group of investors restored and completely redid the place in 2005, and went bankrupt, and then others jumped in. It was back in 2015 – and now it’s dead again – the Covid pandemic did it in – but Alfredo de Batuc’s 1990 mural “A Tribute to Dolores del Rio” next door has just been restored. She’s not dead yet. But Hollywood is. ~ Tuesday, September 8, 2020

That Dome: At the center of Hollywood, the Cinerama dome on Sunset Boulevard, across the street from the campus of Los Angeles Film School, around the corner from the CNN studios at Larry King Square, all looking quite odd now that Hollywood has been shut down, perhaps forever. ~ Monday, September 7, 2020

Just Too Hot: These are Los Angeles roses in the middle of a heat wave, over one hundred in the shade just before noon. It’s too hot for humans. They persist. They’re doing just fine. ~ Saturday, September 5, 2020

More Hidden Gems: There are curious things hidden in the local gardens on a quiet Saturday morning here in Los Angeles. ~ Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Heat Light: “State of emergency declared as California faces historic heat, possible power outages…” And the Air Quality Index was at 218 and rising – “Very Unhealthy” – don’t breathe that stuff out there. So it was time to drive around and take pictures of nothing at all, of just the light and heat. But that’s really something. ~ Friday, September 4, 2020

Prehistoric Los Angeles: They’re still digging up Wooly Mammoths and Saber-Toothed Tigers down the hill at the La Brea Tar Pits. And they built a nifty new museum next to the excavation pits, with their research facilities in the basement, where they try to reconstruct what they just found. The friezes at the museum are stunning, but this is still a working scientific site. It seems that prehistoric Los Angeles is down there, just three miles from up here in Hollywood. ~ Thursday, September 3, 2020

Can’t Be Stopped: This sort of thing can’t be stopped. Hollywood’s “Can’t Be Stopped” crew was one of the most influential and recognizable graffiti crews in the early eighties, when the initials CBS popped up everywhere. They’re still around, but now no one can be stopped. No one can stop the street art now. ~ Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Reaching Back: The Italianate “luxury” apartment building from the late twenties on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and North Stanley Avenue, surrounded by Craftsman bungalows from a decade earlier, each with a lush garden now – with a new glass McMansion wedged in here and there. Before the bungalows, and long before there was a movie industry, this was all orange groves, and Hollywood Boulevard was a dirt road named Prospect Avenue until 1910, when the town of Hollywood, created by H. J. Whitley, was annexed by the City of Los Angeles. Things change. ~ Tuesday, September 1, 2020

August 2020 Photography

Hollywood Style: The end of summer in the year the pandemic shut down everything, and Hollywood is now dead. Hollywood will not recover. This is Hollywood Boulevard at Cherokee. The streets are empty and silent. There’s only the past. ~ Monday, August 31, 2020

A Blast of Roses: These are insistent. That last roses of August will not be ignored. ~ Saturday, August 29, 2020

Summer High: Everything in bloom all across Los Angeles in high summer would make anyone high. In the sixties they’d call this psychedelic. Out here it’s just summer. ~ Saturday, August 29, 2020

Entirely Abstract: Don’t expect a statement or a story or history or any deep inner meaning. This is one block of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood on sunny summer afternoon, in the abstract. Sometimes the abstract is more than enough. This block just feels kind of cool, for some reason, or for no reason at all. ~ Friday, August 28, 2020

Distant Drums: Stopped at a light just down the street on Sunset Boulevard and a fantastic drum solo from the second floor of the building on the right tickled the air. This is Guitar Row where all the rock stars buy their gear, or have it repaired, and there are private studios above the shops. Roll down the window. This guy was damned good, whoever he was. And that must be his big black motorcycle out front. That’s a rock star’s ride. This is a rock star’s neighborhood. Everything is startling, even the details of the old Italianate auction house on the corner. Bid on Jean Harlow’s old jewelry. And that guy kept drumming away. ~ Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Seville Tower: The La Giralda Tower at the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – 333 South La Cienega Boulevard at Olympic – is modeled after La Giralda, the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville, in Spain. The first two-thirds of that is a former minaret from the Moorish period, with the top third serious Spanish Renaissance detailing. El Cid won. He did drive out the Moors. Here architect Arthur Taylor offers a precise replica of that tower, from 1927, but his sits on top of a Mission-style building, red tile roofs and low arches, which looks like it came from a Roy Rogers movie. All of this was originally the City of Beverly Hills Water Treatment Plant Number 1 – abandoned in 1976 when Beverly Hills began to purchase its water from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District. In March 1988 the City of Beverly Hills accepted a proposal by the Academy that the abandoned waterworks be restored to house their library and film archives, and this opened in January 1991. It’s named after Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. – the first president of the Academy. The Academy Film Archive is here, the most complete film archive in the world, along with just about every screenplay and book on film ever written, and there’s the Cecil B. DeMille Reading Room with all the biographical files. The lobby is named after Bob Hope. But really, it’s all about the tower. ~ Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Set in Stone: The late Millard Sheets was an architect, illustrator, muralist, printmaker, and he juried art exhibitions, and in 1954 he was appointed Director of Otis Art Institute. Back in the thirties he was one of fifteen artists chosen to paint murals in the Department of the Interior in Washington and he served on the executive committee of the Public Works Arts Project, the first New Deal art project. And years later, in 1952, he met Howard Ahmanson, the somewhat eccentric multimillionaire, who asked him if he’d be interested in designing a few buildings on Wilshire Boulevard for him. He was interested and beginning in 1952 designed mosaics for the offices of Ahmanson’s Home Savings of America throughout California, fifty of them, and of course he designed most of the buildings too. This is the mosaic mural at Sunset and Vine for the new bank building that replaced NBC’s 1938 Radio City. Sheets’ mural here is site-specific. This is Hollywood so there’s Greta Garbo and Bette Davis and Gary Cooper and all the rest. The bull in the fountain out front is by Paul Howard Manship, the sculptor who created the iconic big gold Prometheus in Rockefeller Center, just around the corner from Radio City Music Hall. The bull has been here since 1938, left over from this coast’s Radio City, now surrounded by more and more new glass towers. But some things in Hollywood are set in stone. ~ Tuesday, August 25, 2020

These Dog Days: It’s August, the dog days of summer. That’s when Sirius the “dog star” rises with the sun and then sets with the sun. During late July, Sirius is in conjunction with the sun. Roman astronomers had the notion that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and nasty and thoroughly uncomfortable weather. They named this period, from twenty days before the conjunction to twenty days after, the “dog days” after the Dog Star, Sirius. And it’s that time again. Look! Dogs! This is an odd time of year. ~ Monday, August 24, 2020

The Saturday Roses: These need no explanation. It’s August. It’s hot as hell. Roses, Los Angeles, Saturday, August 22, 2020.

Quiet Gardens: There are curious things hidden in the garden shadows here in Hollywood. ~ Saturday, August 22, 2020

No Fairy Tale: August has been brutal, too damned hot to do much of anything, and now dark and steamy all day. So was the Sunset Strip. One of the billboards above it all said “This Is No Fairy Tale.” That’s about right. ~ Friday, August 21, 2020

Coffee with Bernie: On the day Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination as their presidential candidate, with a rip-roaring acceptance speech, coffee with Bernie Sanders seemed like a good idea, at Bernie’s Coffee Shop down on Wilshire Boulevard by the new spherical museum. This used to be Johnny’s Coffee Shop, a bit of kitsch from the late fifties, but it’s been Bernie’s place for years. There’s always hope, even on this strange corner. ~ Thursday, August 20, 2020

City One Hundred: When it’s one hundred in the shade Los Angeles is empty, and the sightlines are clear. There’s the Hotel Figueroa that was opened on August 14, 1926, by the YWCA as a safe haven for unaccompanied female travelers, who were prohibited from checking into most hotels without a male chaperone – Italian Renaissance Revival by local architect Lester Hibbard. Now it’s just hip. Across the street it’s the Friday Morning Club, designed by architects Allison and Allison, built in 1923. The Friday Morning Club was founded by the abolitionist and suffragist Caroline Severance in 1891. She was a good friend of Susan B. Anthony and this was the club’s headquarters, a place for self-improvement and study of the arts, literature and culture, and the political and social advancement of women. William Butler Yeats gave a reading here once, and then it turned into the Variety Arts Center. And down the street it’s the new Grammy Museum. The rest is glass. And no one was around. ~ Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Save Our Stages: The Troubadour down on Santa Monica Boulevard is closed. It’s shut up tight. That’s where Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, the Eagles, the Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, Buffalo Springfield, and others, established themselves – next door to Dan Tana’s where Frank Sinatra used to hang out and where the Eagles wrote “Lyin’ Eyes” – but there’s a new “Save Our Stages” mural on the plywood encasing the Troubadour. There’s hope. There’s pending legislation, the Save Our Stages Act introduced in the Senate in July, to provide Small Business Administration grants to music venues and theaters and other venues that rely on crowds in order to operate, to tide them over until crowds are possible again. That may save the Troubadour. Until then, everything is visual. ~ Monday, August 17, 2020

Increasing Intensity: An array of August roses here in Los Angeles should be displayed in order of increasing intensity. So here they are. ~ Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Jungle Out There: Another extreme heat advisory and it’s a jungle out there, here in Hollywood. ~ Saturday, August 15, 2020

All Everything: There are urgent sociopolitical messages at the corner of Melrose and Laurel in West Los Angeles, and also that mural in the manner of Joan Miró who joined the Surrealist group in Paris in 1924 and hung out with the Dada crowd, around the corner from a bit of thirties Bauhaus and whatnot. So this corner is right now, and also someplace else, from long ago. This is a bit overwhelming. Los Angeles is perpetually overloaded. ~ Friday, August 14, 2020

Net Sunlight: The light at La Cienega on the Sunset Strip – the new glass towers and strung between them “Dream Catcher” (2016) – Janet Echelman. She was named an Architectural Digest 2012 Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces” and this is what she does – machine-woven polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) suspended between skyscrapers. It shifts and ripples. Perhaps it catches dreams. It did catch the odd summer light this day. ~ Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Best Color: This is Hollywood Boulevard at Schrader – fresh paint just behind the new Hustler Hollywood store just up the street from the Gay and Lesbian Center and other oddities – and the bluest of skies. This is a rather peculiar corner of Hollywood. But the colors were perfect this day. ~ Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Light on Light: These are the art galleries on Melrose Avenue at Orange Drive in bright summer sunshine, with deep shadows. The rows of curved lamps make all of this even more dramatic. They provide commentary. Summer in Los Angeles can be startling. The light is startling. ~ Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Art of Elysium: The Hollywood Palladium opened on September 23, 1940, with a concert by Frank Sinatra and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. The Hollywood Palladium went dark this spring. It was the pandemic. But now, the Art of Elysium, a local nonprofit arts group, has commissioned a new “socially distant public art installation” by Shepard Fairey, filling all the windows along Sunset Boulevard. Art of Elysium founder Jennifer Howell – “August 2020 marks 23 years of the Art of Elysium’s mission and programs that are all centered around bringing the healing power of art to those who need it the most. At this moment in time, the world is in great need and in celebrating our anniversary we wanted to create a moment to honor exactly where we are. My personal belief is that art can change the society for the better much quicker than any politician or policies have been able to. Art unites. Art inspires. Art calls to action the people. Art allows us to transcend. It is an honor to have Shepard and his creativity mark 23 years of this mission.” So here it is. ~ Monday, August 10, 2020

Curbside Roses: No one walks in Los Angeles. Everyone should. There are amazing roses on every street, even on a blazing hot August afternoon. ~ Saturday, August 8, 2020

In the Shadows: The summer sun is brutal. The summer shadows are deep and cool. That’s where the lilies hide. That’s where everything hides. ~ Saturday, August 8, 2020

Late Light: The late afternoon light on Sunset Boulevard was too good to ignore. This is Sunset Boulevard two blocks west of Sunset and Vine, the old part of town, old Hollywood, with some new mixed in. ~ Friday, August 7, 2020

For Rita: The Hayworth Theatre, the performing arts center at 2511 Wilshire Boulevard, with three auditoriums and large ballroom used for rehearsals, classes, and special events, was designed in 1927 by Stiles O. Clements of the firm Morgan, Walls and Clements. Like his El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, this is extreme Spanish Colonial Revival, also called Churrigueresque. It originally opened as the Masque Theatre, a playhouse. In 1950 the building was renovated by architect Dwight Gibbs and became the Vagabond, a first-run movie theater that went out business in 1985, and then the site was occupied by an evangelical church. In 1983, the theater was restored by the Rita Hayworth Theatre Company, who renamed the space based on someone saying that it was once housed a dance studio for the family of Rita Hayworth. Maybe it did. Earlier, in 1969, the corner of the building became La Fonda de Los Camperos, a very high-end mariachi dinner theater. The whole place was designated as a cultural-historic landmark by the city of Los Angeles in 1983, and in 2013 all of this was purchased by Jenji Kohan, the creator of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and Showtime’s “Weeds” – and with her partner Christopher Noxon the two have been renovating and restoring everything. Yep, this place is amazing, but so is the neighborhood. ~ Thursday, August 6, 2020

Pacific Design: Sometimes the background becomes the foreground. The Pacific Design Center and the West Hollywood Public Library across the street are the background in the neighborhood. The locals walk by. Commuters drive by. No one pays attention to the background. No one is surprised by what is here any longer. But pause. Look. This is an extraordinary corner. ~ Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Get Used To It: Things didn’t get better. Things were always this way. We simply got used to it. And the street art really didn’t change. ~ Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Emptied Out: Hollywood is best when no one’s around. The empty office buildings on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, on a silent and empty summer afternoon, prove that. ~ Monday, August 3, 2020

Hot Roses: Get ’em while they’re hot! Get your cool roses in a Los Angeles garden on a blistering hot summer afternoon! ~ Saturday, August 1, 2020

August Heat: The month opened with a heat wave, and fires in the hills, and drama in the local gardens. ~ Saturday, August 1, 2020

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