2005: May 2020 Photography

May 2020 Photography

A Riot of Color: Now the riot seems to be two miles down the street, Fairfax at Beverly. They’re storming CBS Television City – games shows, Bill Mahar’s show, the old Carol Burnett show – police cars on fire everywhere – fires everywhere. That’s Raoul Wallenberg Square too. And this extends down the block to Third – the Grove and Farmer’s Market and whatnot – an MTA bus on fire too. There’s smoke in the air – and LAPD helicopters too – and the sound of sirens. But all is quiet up here at the foot of Laurel Canyon. Today, the riot here was the riot of color in the local gardens. There’s always that. ~ Saturday, May 30, 2020

Sad Faces: The streets out here on the day the country finally fell apart were full of sad faces. ~ Friday, May 29, 2020

Big Dogs and a Flamingo: This is Main Street at Horizon Avenue in Venice Beach, two surreal painted houses with giant dogs – doghouses, actually – and that liquor store on the corner with its giant flamingo, and much more. Don’t stand on this corner too long. It’s too easy to get lost in another world. It might be hard to get back. ~ Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ghost Faces: Dennis Hopper used to live in Venice Beach. Jim Morrison used to live in Venice Beach. Venice Beach used to be cool. Now it’s just these ghost faces on Main Street near the traffic circle at Windward. The past is heavy here. ~ Thursday, May 28, 2020

By Day: A closed world now, currently abandoned Hollywood nightclubs by day, when the sunlight is brutal and the streets empty, but the drama is still high. ~ Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Hollywood Heroics: Memorial Day in Hollywood – the heroic Yucca-Vine Tower, 1928, by the architectural firm of Gogerty and Weyl – 6305-09 Yucca Street at Vine – now the main campus of the AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy – and the old Knickerbocker Hotel on Ivar – every Halloween Houdini’s widow held a séance on the roof, to chat with her late husband once again, but he never showed up – and new golden doors of the very old Avalon Theater on Vine – and the mysterious back wall of the Equitable Building at Hollywood and Vine – facing the now lonely jazz people on the south wall of the Capitol Records building. There’s no one around. ~ Monday, May 25, 2020

The Best and Brightest: Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, just as Labor Day, the first Monday of September, is when glorious summer ends and it’s back to school or work and that’s that. But this is Memorial Day weekend. This is summer now – with nearly one hundred thousand dead from the pandemic and the economy in ruins – so this summer will be different. But the roses are better than ever. These are some of the best and brightest. ~ Saturday, May 23, 2020

A May Surprise: The local gardens in late May are full of the usual suspects – agapanthus and whatnot – but there’s a new white flower in the neighborhood. Everyone seems to be growing Coulter’s Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) – also known as California tree poppy, mission poppy, and fried-egg plant – for obvious reasons. It’s good to mix things up now and then. ~ Saturday, May 23, 2020

Left Behind: This is Hollywood and Vine on a quiet Friday afternoon, with one hundred thousand dead from the pandemic and the economy in ruins. None of this matters now, as if it ever mattered. ~ Friday, May 22, 2020

Distance: The parks are open but with signs about social distancing – keep at a safe distance from all others – but that’s easy with the telephoto lens at Echo Park Lake. No one’s around and the only way to photograph the birds there is from a distance anyway. They have no use for humans. But they can be understood from a distance, as can the lotus in the pools near the fountain. This is another world. ~ Thursday, May 21, 2020

Shooting Stars: All the clubs on the Sunset Strip are closed. The stars used to come out and play here each night, since the thirties, trailed by all those photographers. That may be over now, but now there’s a new paparazzi mural in progress on the Sunset Strip, at the tall glass bank building with its HBO supergraphics on east and west walls, across the street from the Roxy at Hammond Street. It’s a reminder of what is gone now. ~ Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Just Breathe: Forget high fashion, forever. This store at Melrose and Vista is boarded up and empty. It will never reopen, and it’s the same up and down the avenue. This store is now an informal street art gallery. Perhaps that’s for the best. Just breathe. ~ Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Distant Beach: California is slowly opening again. The beaches are open, but the beach parking lots aren’t, and there are new rules – face masks and social distancing, and keep moving, no picnics and no sunbathing. It’s all a bit surreal, but there was roadside parking all along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and at Topanga State Beach too. This is the Pacific Coast now, as seen from a distance. ~ Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rose Subtleties: Choose a new angle, this weekend’s roses seen from somewhat different perspectives. ~ Saturday, May 16, 2020

The May Details: The details matter. This is what the gardens of Los Angeles look like in the middle of May, in extreme detail. ~ Saturday, May 16, 2020

Los Angeles Gems: The heart of the Los Angeles Jewelry Mart is the old theater at 7th and Hill. That opened on August 17, 1920, as the Pantages Theatre, in the days when the Pantages circuit had moved to a format of vaudeville along with feature films. After Joseph P. Kennedy, the president’s father, put RKO together in 1928 by merging Radio Corporation of America and the Keith Albee and Orpheum circuits, he tried to buy the place, but old man Pantages wouldn’t sell. Kennedy arranged for old man Pantages to be charged with the rape of a sweet young thing, to force him to sell, but the case fell apart and the police had a long talk with Joe, who eventually sold RKO to Howard Hughes and left town. He ended up as FDR’s Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. Here, the theater reopened September 26, 1929, as the Warner Bros. Downtown Theatre. It finally closed in 1975. It was used by an odd church for few years, but now this is the Jewelry Theater Center. And it’s a real gem. But so are all the other old buildings at that intersection. ~ Friday, May 15, 2020

Golden West Broadcasters: There’s that tower down on Sunset, from KTLA, the first television station out here. On January 22, 1947, the station was licensed for commercial broadcasting on channel 5, the first commercial television station in Los Angeles, the first to broadcast west of the Mississippi River, and the eighth commercial television station in the United States. Bob Hope was the emcee for the inaugural broadcast, the “Western Premiere of Commercial Television” broadcast live from a garage on the Paramount Studios lot – to the six hundred or so television sets in Los Angeles at the time. But the station did well and moved its operations to the Paramount Sunset Studios on Sunset Boulevard, now the Sunset Bronson Studios, but mostly Netflix Studios now. In November 1963, KTLA was purchased by Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, and he merged it with his other broadcasting properties, creating Golden West Broadcasters – long gone now. But the station is still going strong there on Sunset, and there’s the original tower, now surrounded by new glass boxes. It’s all very dramatic. This is the Golden West after all. ~ Thursday, May 14, 2020

Set Pieces: Hollywood and the world in neon on an empty Hollywood Boulevard, the whales of the west wall of Paramount Pictures’ Stage 29 down on Gower Street, Raleigh Studios, at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Bronson, across the street from Paramount Pictures, with its retro-streamlined new glass buildings, but the old bungalows are still out back, from the early days – this place started up in 1915 with a Mary Pickford production – and the odd skies above it all. Hollywood is a big set waiting for that final epic movie about itself. That will have to wait for the pandemic to end. ~ Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Hollywood in Storage: On the southwest corner of Argyle and Franklin, in the darkness directly under the Hollywood Freeway rumbling above, at the public warehouses of Hollywood Self Storage, these are hidden Hollywood murals. This is Hollywood in storage. ~ Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Wasteland: This has nothing to do with the T. S. Eliot poem that Ezra Pound, in Paris, edited for Eliot. This is Melrose Avenue. But when even the punk fashion boutique “Wasteland” goes out of business this must be the end of the world. Melrose Avenue is the wasteland now. ~ Monday, May 11, 2020

Endless Roses: The death toll keeps rising. The economy has collapsed. The entire Los Angeles basin is filled with roses for Mother’s Day. They persist. These are strange times. ~ Saturday, May 9, 2020

Glowing in the Dark: Hot sun, deep shadows, and there are dramatic things glowing in the dark. ~ Saturday, May 9, 2020

Since 1934: The Los Feliz Theater, 1822 North Vermont Avenue, three blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard, is closed down now, for the first time since 1934, but this is still Hollywood. ~ Friday, May 8, 2020

Driving Down Sunset: The city is closed down. Hollywood is closed down. Everyone must stay in. But it was ninety in the shade at noon. Inside was worse than outside. And the car does have great air-conditioning. And there was Sunset Boulevard, clear and clean, and hot. This is what it looked like from Sunset-Gower Studios on out to the edge of Beverly Hills. ~ Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Coolest Waters: On a hot day the only thing to do was visit the coolest fountain in Los Angeles, the fountain at the SAG-AFTRA Plaza on Wilshire Boulevard. Two abstract shapes dance in the sun. This is the home of the combined Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists – basically a union hall – but the plaza and the neighborhood are a visual treat. There were, however, no screen actors anywhere. That didn’t matter. The place was cool anyway. It always is. ~ Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Beverly Hills Blue: Sometimes the sky out here is impossibly blue. But the sky is always impossibly blue in Beverly Hills. Everything is. This is North Camden Drive and a few blocks west, the Electric Fountain with its Noble Savage. ~ Tuesday, May 5, 2020

To Be Continued: Some things don’t change, the painted stairs across the street from the 1991 mural by Annie Sperling, A Mural Dedicated to Peace (“Silver Lake Mi Amor”) on the southwest corner of Sunset and Hyperion, east of Hollywood, at Sunset Junction. And there’s the other Egyptian Theater in Hollywood – the nearby Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Boulevard – designed by Lewis A. Smith. That 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. And now, for the first time since 1923, it’s closed – for now at least. Like it says, to be continued. All of this is to be continued. ~ Monday, May 4, 2020

Serious Roses: Okay, a new month begins, May, and the local roses get down to business. They’re serious this time. ~ Saturday, May 2, 2020

A May Bouquet: This was how May opened in the neighborhood, the gift of high drama in the neighbors’ gardens at this end of Hollywood. ~ Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Tao of Hollywood: In the warren of obscure back streets between Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard in central Hollywood, around the corner from the old post office, Concept is just across the street from Tao, and next door to Goya Studios. The Tao is the Way. This is the Tao of Hollywood. ~ Friday, May 1, 2020