2002: February 2020 Photography

February 2020 Photography

An Extra Day: The year had an extra day – Leap Year and all that – and there was no better way to spend that extra day than in the public gardens here in Los Angeles. ~ Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Impossible Light: February in Los Angeles ended in the eighties with strange skies and even stranger shadows – odd weather on the way soon – and the place didn’t seem real. But it was, under impossible skies. ~ Friday, February 28, 2020

Curiously Dark: It was a curiously dark day down on La Cienega by the old Coronet Theater, but that’s a curiously dark place even in the California sunshine. People drive through there. They don’t stop. ~ Thursday, February 27, 2020

Between Hope and Grand: The renovated Music Center plaza between the Mark Taper Forum and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Music Center complex – the plaza had been closed for twenty months and forty-one million dollars later this is it. Rios Clementi Hale Studios lifted up a sunken area of the plaza and relocated the rather grotesque “Peace on Earth” sculpture from the plaza’s fountain to a spot on Hope Street – across the street from the absurdly angular Department of Water and Power building. But the plaza faces Grand, with the iconic Los Angeles City Hall in the distance. The fountain in the center of the plaza was reconfigured and reprogrammed. The Ahmanson Theater and the Mark Taper Forum and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion were all designed by Welton Becket, the architect of the Capitol Records building and the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, and they’re still here, and still unremarkable. But the new plaza is pretty cool. And of course Frank Gehry’s curved and surreal Walt Disney Concert Hall is across the street to the west. This part of Los Angeles is between Hope and Grand. ~ Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Method Acting: The acting school at the bottom of the hill here – next door to a 7-11 and a laundromat – the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute (and its Marilyn Monroe Theater) – 7936 Santa Monica Boulevard at Hayworth (as in Rita) – and yes, Marilyn Monroe studied method acting with Strasberg. But both of them are quite dead so that doesn’t matter much. The shadows were cool. And across the street that’s a hot new club with an even hotter new mural – startling high drama appropriate for this particular corner. It’s Hollywood. ~ Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Deep Shadows: The Hollywood Athletic Club, 6525 Sunset Boulevard, 1924, designed by Meyer and Holler, the same architectural firm that built the Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Egyptian Theater – founded by Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino and others. It became a hangout for Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. Johnny Weissmuller trained in the pool here for his Tarzan films and Cornel Wilde was a fencing instructor. Dick Powell brought the corpse of John Barrymore here for “one last drink” and John Wayne often tossed billiard balls from the roof at passing cars below. Jean Harlow once showed up here after she was stood up by Errol Flynn, wearing only a fur coat, which she soon shed. It was that kind of place. The past casts shadows here. But next door the new striped rock club cast its own new shadows. There’s the past, but there always a new rock club. ~ Monday, February 24, 2020

That Winter Glow: A bit of a winter storm blew through, but winter storms don’t matter much here, and it wasn’t much of a storm. The gardens all around Hollywood continue to glow, on and on and on. ~ Saturday, February 22, 2020

Inspiration Point: The sky was unsettling in Hollywood just after dawn – time to get out of there – this time to where Santa Monica drops off into Rustic Canyon, on the way to Malibu. At the turn of the century, long ago, that was a lively place. Robert C. Gillis and Robert P. Sherman built an incline railway from Inspiration Point – 101 Ocean Avenue – down to the beach. Gillis had a family beach house directly on the waterfront and all the neighboring families up top were given a key to both the railway and the beach house, so everyone could enjoy the trip down Rustic Canyon without the exhausting walk or ride back up the hill. But the incline railway is long gone. The only thing left from the old days is a curious totem pole – and the views – and the amazing sky. The place is oddly inspiring. ~ Friday, February 21, 2020

The Dramatic Arts: The loading docks at the old Charlie Chaplin Studios on La Brea haven’t changed much since 1919, and the studio offices are still the original English cottages. Chaplin was homesick, but this is where he filmed The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and Limelight (1952) – but then had to leave the country in October 1952 when his liberal politics got too hot – Joe McCarthy and all that. And then the world moved on. In February 2000, Jim Henson’s children purchased the studio, as the new home of The Jim Henson Company. Kermit lives here now. But so do the ghosts of all the drama on this corner. In fact, the stunning mid-century modern American Academy of Dramatic Arts is just next door, so the drama will continue. ~ Thursday, February 20, 2020

Once Upon a Time: At the edge of the UCLA campus, the Fox Theater Westwood Village, designed by architect Percy Parke Lewis, opened on August 14, 1931, and has hosted movie premieres ever since. It has figured in a few movies too, because it’s so flamboyantly dramatic. And this day it was hosting another premiere, something Japanese, while across the street, the Bruin, by S. Charles Lee, with its Streamline Moderne marquee, was quiet. The Bruin opened in December 1937, but both theaters are famous, and the Bruin just popped up in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – Sharon Tate stops by the Bruin to watch herself in “The Wrecking Crew” – the 1969 film starring Dean Martin. She had a minor part. The Bruin had a minor part. But that wasn’t always so, once upon a time, in Hollywood. ~ Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Floating Free: There are those two lonely disembodied hearts that drifted into the wires high about the street, where they will stay. And there’s that man who isn’t there. This isn’t happening. Some days the whole world is disconnected and floating free. ~ Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Still Colorful: Santa Monica Boulevard at Cole Avenue in the flats south of Hollywood, old buildings built by the Technicolor Corporation long ago, to which someone added new pastel colors – but this is still a working neighborhood – television production now, at the edge of a small theater district. Technicolor is long gone, but the place is still beyond colorful. ~ Monday, February 17, 2020

A Late Valentine: The day after Valentine’s Day here in Los Angeles, amazing roses and much more, because this never stops out here. ~ Saturday, February 15, 2020

Art Walls: There’s art on walls and walls as art all along Sunset Boulevard. Sometimes there’s no difference. This is the odd stretch of Sunset between Hollywood and the Sunset Strip. There’s not much here, but there’s everything here. ~ Friday, February 14, 2020

Munchkins: The Culver Hotel – Curlett and Beelman, architects – opened in 1924, the brainchild of city’s founder, Harry Culver. Curlett and Beelman also designed the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard for Louis B. Mayer, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Sid Grauman. The first Academy Awards were handed out there in 1927, but the Culver Hotel has its own history. It was central in Laurel and Hardy shorts like “Putting Pants on Philip” (1927) and in many of the Our Gang shorts that Hal Roach churned out, and Red Skelton, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Ronald Reagan maintained part-time residences here. But it’s most famous because short people stayed here – it was the home of the small actors and actresses who played the “Munchkins” when The Wizard of Oz was being filmed a few blocks west at MGM in the late thirties. Later, the hotel was owned by John Wayne, who eventually donated it to the Los Angeles YMCA.  It was repurchased and restored in the nineties, and became a hotel again. It’s perfect now, and now the Cowardly Lion dances is his fountain in the plaza, forever. He’s ignoring the severe Art Deco across the way. That’s the “new” Culver City. ~ Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Winners: “Bong Joon Ho was ready to party the night away after his historic wins at the 2020 Oscars – and that’s exactly what he and the cast and crew of ‘Parasite’ did, closing out the night with a meal of Korean cuisine at Soban Los Angeles, the highly-rated restaurant in Koreatown, arriving around 2:45 a.m. and continuing the celebration until 5 a.m. The restaurant was opened specially for the Oscar winners, who dined on galbi (grilled short ribs), galbi jjim (braised short ribs), eundaegu jorim (braised spicy black cod), bibimbap, and seafood tofu pancakes…” And this was Koreatown, or a bit of it, a few days later. ~ Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Fountain of Light: You know. California. Winter. And this is Echo Park Lake, where the winter light on the water is dazzling. Long ago, in 1974, when he lived just down the street, Jackson Browne wrote that song – “Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light / You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight / You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight / To keep understanding and compassion in sight / You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right / But you go on smiling so clear and so bright…” That may have been about Joni Mitchell. Or maybe it was an ode to Echo Park. ~ Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Bounce: This is the light bouncing around Hollywood on a bright winter afternoon, from one odd building to the next, from Hollywood and Vine down to Sunset and Vine. That was the day’s entertainment, better than all the movies. ~ Monday, February 10, 2020

Oscar Gardens: This is Oscar weekend. They’ll hand out those little statues down the street, and already the traffic is awful as they set up for the “after-parties” here on the Sunset Strip. But it’s calm and quiet in the local gardens, and just as dramatic in its own way. This is the weekend the saucer magnolia burst into bloom everywhere. That’ll do just fine. ~ Saturday, February 8, 2020

Irrational Walls: There are Mayan monsters on Sunset Boulevard at Occidental, in Silver Lake. That’s from the thirties, and the Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Boulevard, that opened on October 16, 1923, is now very orange, for no reason at all. And there’s a wooden dragon up in the wires overhead. This end of Los Angeles is irrational, and a lot of fun. ~ Friday, February 7, 2020

Chinese Details: The first week of the Year of the Rat, the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak turning into a worldwide pandemic, it seemed like a fine day to drop by Los Angeles’ Chinatown. No one was around. That changes things. The background became the foreground. ~ Thursday, February 6, 2020

Winter Chiaroscuro: There’s a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures, chiaroscuro. Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio and Rembrandt were the masters of this, but it’s always been basic to black-and-white photography and it’s what defines the shadowy world of film noir, where the Maltese Falcon lives. And it defines Los Angeles in winter. The light is angled and mysterious. This is Wilshire Boulevard. ~ Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Kobe: Kobe Bryant died along with his thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 26, 2020, and Los Angeles was shocked. He was forty-one and he was Los Angeles – complicated and aggressive and open and warm too – and the very best at what he did. And then the shock wore off and the city’s street artists went to work. This is Melrose Avenue nine days later. ~ Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Atmospheric Instability: There’s extra parking on the roof level at the Home Depot on Sunset Boulevard here. That’s where the sky is – high winds and odd clouds this time – and at the far end of Hollywood Boulevard there are wild skies over Olive Hill with its odd trees. This is winter in Hollywood. Nothing seems stable. ~ Monday, February 3, 2020

The Four Roses: It’s the middle of winter in Beverly Hills. And here they are again – Gemini, Topsy-Turvy, Julia Child and New Dawn – the four roses of Beverly Gardens Park. This makes the winter better. ~ Saturday, February 1, 2020

Improbable Brightness: This is how February opened in Hollywood, blue skies, in the eighties, and bright gardens everywhere. ~ Saturday, February 1, 2020