Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Talks on Los Angeles History, Late May, Early June 2015

These pictures were taken at the Armed Forces Day Parade in Torrance last week. The parade has been going on for 56 years now; it started in 1959. And I was at that one too.

Of course, I remember very little about it, being only four years old. My grandmother was friends with Bert Lynn & his wife Chick, and they had invited us over to their home, which was on the parade route. We sat on maple chairs made for children, just back from the curb, and I think Mr. Lynn rode in the parade, since he was on the School Board.

But the soldiers marching and the military vehicles made no impression at all. In fact, my most vivid memory is of the glazed donuts my Mom brought to us when she got off work at the doctors' office down the street. Glazed donuts were a rare treat!

Here are some interesting events and talks going on in the next few weeks--the first two are presented through Zocalo.

Thursday, May 28th at 7:30 pm: How do you film the (Mexican) American Story?

Luis Valdez, producer of La Bamba, and Moctezuma Esparza, producer of Selena, join film critic Claudia Puig to discuss not only challenges in film making, but how movies like theirs express and shape culture. At Arclight Hollywood, 6360 Sunset Blvd. Details here. From what I can tell, this talk is free though they do ask for reservations.

Monday, June 1st, at 7:30 pm: Is L.A.'s Past Worth Saving?  KCRW's Saul Gonzalez moderates a panel of guests: crime novelist Denise Hamilton, Libros Schmibros founder David Kipen, L.A. Office of Historic Resources manager Ken Bernstein, L.A. Weekly staff writer Dennis Romero, and KCET arts and culture columnist Lynell George. The event (details here) takes place at the Plaza on Olvera Street.

The backstory: In the ongoing wake of our constant destruction of local historical sites (the bulldozing of Ray Bradbury's home being a very recent example), the Getty and the City of Los Angeles have partnered to create HistoricPlacesLA. The purpose is (according to Zocalo), "To help us get a grip on our local heritage."  This panel celebrates the debut of that site. HistoricPlacesLA is "the first online system to inventory, map, describe and help protect Los Angeles' significant cultural resources."

The site maps out the areas of Los Angeles to be included, and divides the criteria of historical significance to cover industrial and commercial properties as well as historical periods.

Saturday, June 13th, from 2 to 4 pm, rock photographer Neil Zlozower will be interviewed by music historian Jeff Schwartz at Los Angeles Central Library, in the Mark Taper Auditorium. Zlozower has been taking pictures of rock stars like Guns N' Roses and Van Halen for four decades, and this interview is in conjunction with the ongoing exhibit of Zlozower's work--which will be on view until June 28.

Sunday, June 14th, from 2 to 3:30 pm, Adam Arenson will talk about Millard Sheets and the Art of Home Savings. Professor Arenson is writing a book with the projected title is Privately Sponsored Public Art: The Millard Sheets Studio, Home Savings and Loan, and the Corporate Creation of a New American Urban History. 

The free talk will be at the Santa Monica Main Library and  this link has the info and another link to directions.

And, of course, the LA Conservancy continues to offer its Walking Tours, taking folks through Union Station on Saturdays, the Biltmore Hotel on Sundays, and many themed Los Angeles neighborhood tours. Want free ? They've got self-guided walking tours as well--all you have to do is print out the information.  Like this one that takes you to all the shooting locations of one of my favorite movies, (500) Days of Summer.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Happy Mosaic Monday from the south end of San Pedro

Mid century geometric mosaics on an apartment house on 25th Street, just east of where it turns into Palos Verdes Drive South.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dress Up at Disneyland

Did you know there were sort of secret days on which visitors dress up to go to the Magic Kingdom? Some really epitomize the term "dress up," as in "Sunday morning church and stroll clothes." The most exquisite dress up day would be Dapper Day and it occurs twice a year.

Dapper Day has its own website, which is where the above montage came from. The next Dapper Day in Orange County is September 18--upwards of 20,000 people come dressed in their finest from their era of choice, and you can join them!

I called the dress up days "sort of secret" because there's a website or facebook page for many of them. You just have to know where to look for it. Here is a list of the days that was published by LA Weekly (thank you, thank you!).

The day coming up  next on the calendar is April 26: Pin-up Day. This involves goodie bags and special group pictures at certain rides. See the linked FB page for times. Also see their links for what constitutes a pin up outfit. They're much milder than I thought. Attitude seems to be the defining factor of the ensemble.

The 10th Annual Unofficial Star Wars Day was last June, but I haven't found a date for a 2015 event. You can "like" the event site on Facebook to stay informed.

For the record, I think that Disneyland does not allow full-on costumes. Star Wars fans can wear tee shirts, etc. but not their Padawan or Jedi Master outfits. On Dapper Day--well, when does a suit with a bow tie become a costume? It doesn't! Get thee to a habadashery!

Gay Days are old hat by now--but Boomers like me remember when, back in the 70s or 80s, this was a big issue. Hah! According to many, any day is gay day at the Magic Kingdom. For the record, however, Gay Days fall in October.

Other special days include the twice-a-year Raver Days, Dr. Who day--also called Galliday--and the Harry Potter Day. Then there's Lolita day, Tikis, steampunk, rockabily, Bats, and goths. And lions and tigers and bears--well, why don't they have an Oz day?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Giannini Place

If you hear "Giannini", you might think of Bank of America--especially if you're into corporate histories, because A. P. Giannini created the Bank of America as we know it.

Did you know that before there was a Bank of America, there was a Bank of Italy, founded by Giannini in 1904 in San Francisco? In fact, the Bank of Italy helped the city recover from the 1906 earthquake by providing loans for rebuilding. In 1923, Giannini placed its corporate headquarters right here in Los Angeles. After just five years, he merged his Bank of Italy with a small, local firm called Bank of America Los Angeles, and then changed the name of his banking chain. From 1930 on it's been Bank of America. The building itself has housed other companies, but of late it's stood abandoned.

Giannini Place, as the former corporate headquarters is now called, is a 12-story building at Olive and 7th Street, and as the Los Angeles Times reports in this story, it's about to be transformed from one of our top eyesores into a "hip hotel,"by Sydell Group.

Sydell Group recently bought the site for $30 million (according to the Times) and is already converting another structure--the Commercial Exchange Building on Olive and 8th, one block away--into the Freehand Hotel.

The Times story has links back to 1923 articles about the opening of the Bank of Italy headquarters, and also describes the plans for both the Freehand and Giannini Place hotel (there's no official name yet). It's an interesting read in itself--here's the link again--but it is also accompanied by a SLIDESHOW! Yay! No separate link--it's embedded right into the beginning of the article.

The pictures show that while columns and marble and ornate ceilings are still in place, there are lots of repairs to be done. And that there's a big ol' vault in the basement.

My black and white photo is from the Los Angeles Library's Herald Examiner collection. It was taken in 1941 and identifies the structure as the TransAmerica Building.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mid April Report

Old and new on Abbott Kinney in Venice

On April 28, go see a lecture and slide show about Pacific Ocean Park--remember that wild place? Did you know that it was built because it's owner was miffed at Walt Disney and Disneyland, so he built his own "Space Age Nautical Pleasure Pier" ? So there.

The speakers will be Marc Wanamaker (who often writes and talks about Venice and early movie history) and Dominic Priore, who has written the book on POP and will have it for sale at the lecture.

7 PM, April 28, at SPARC (the old police station), 686 Venice Blvd. It's presented by the Venice Historical Society. If you're a member of that august group, the event is free; otherwise, it's $10.

Have you seen the Sunset Strip Rock and Roll Billboards exhibit at the Skirball Center? On April 21 (Tuesday) at 8 pm, photographer Robert Landau and billboard artist Enrique Vidal will talk about their careers and the exhibit itself. Free, but rsvp's are recommended. They always say that.

Of course, the big event this weekend will be the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC. There's so much going on there that I can't even begin to list the authors, panels, specialists, celebrities, etc. John Scalzi with Wil Wheaton! Plus there are so many talks aimed at writers of every genre, even those who cross genres (cough). Go to the page, and go to the Festival!

What to read? How about the story of Jymm, one of the 6,300 homeless veterans in Los Angeles. Read it through to the last sentence. This story raises painful issues, like: does a person have to conform to my standard of normal to get the benefit of the doubt when decisions are made about his health, his mental health, his care? Or how about: how many demands can be made on overworked agencies before incarceration is chosen as simply the easiest way to deal with a difficult person?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Church Photos and Picnic Sites

Angelenos, Vickey Kall is here to help you celebrate spring! Easter and picnics express the season so well, and Easter means churches, right?

So from Zocalo Public Square:

A photo collection and essay on Los Angeles' one-room churches by Kevin McKollister.

A dozen photos, mostly exterior, are included with the piece. McKollister says he has been photographing these churches for nine years, relishing their warmth, simplicity, and humility.

"Occasionally I have been invited in. Warmly. And fed. Generously. Fried chicken and iceberg lettuce. Pupusas. No judgment when I told them why I was asking to take a photograph. I’ve been prayed over—not to be saved from damnation, but just to be given something nice."

A bastion of grace in the world.

Also from Zocalo:

Ann article on street vendors. Specifically, a piece by food critic/writers Javier Cabral about food cart vendors on the streets of Los Angeles, and why he won't review them (spoiler: they'd wind up in jail). Cabral gives us a brief history of street food vendors and the ins and outs and ironies of permits that satisfy one county department but not another. He talks about the efforts to legalize them, the number of jobs such vendors create (as they are buying their food, hiring workers) and the taxes they would pay, if legalized.

Segue time: this picture of Kenneth Hahn Park is from PhotoPartyLA.com, and neither the park nor the site is mentioned in the following. But it makes a great presentation of the topic, which is picnic sites in Los Angles.

Now that the weather's changing, from "in like a lion" to the dry dregs of August, KCET has posted a roundup of SoCal's best sites for picnics, which includes the following:

  • Spring (this is spring, right?): the best places to drive to and picnic while surrounded by poppies, lupin, and other wildflowers, and most of those are NOT in Los Angeles County

  • Summer: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, with it's summertime movie screenings--although there are other events there as well, which you can check out here. The Hollywood Bowl and Leona Valley are other locations

  • ;A hike to Cucamonga Peak was mentioned, but in today's heat, I have trouble thinking of that as fun, especially when carrying cold drinks and food.

KCET did not mention  Griffith Park, oddly enough. But wait! CBS News came up with a list just a couple of weeks ago that includes Palisades Park in Santa Monica, Echo Park  Lake, Grand Park, and the Rose Garden in Exposition Park, as well as Griffith Park and the Bowl. 

And of course, you can just Google, which is where I found HikeSpeak and all its l interesting data and lovely photos, like this one of the Old Zoo ruins in Griffith Park.

Friday, March 20, 2015

From PV to Bell and Facebook

Long time no see!

I don't want to abandon this blog about Los Angeles history, because I still love the topic. I know that others find it interesting too.

But long, well-researched posts  are time-consuming, and I can't commit to them.

Almost daily, I run across fascinating articles that I think would make great blog posts, but if I took the time to pursue them I wouldn't have time to make a living!

Here's an example--Sam Gnerre of the Daily Breeze wrote this blog post last year titled "Marineland's tumultuous final days," He details the skullduggery of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, the last corporate overlords of the late lamented attraction, which makes a fascinating and tragic tale.

The posts on Sam Gnerre's blog, called South Bay History, go into detail about things like the Harbor City Ice Rink (which is still there!), the Tongva village of Suangna, bootlegging during Prohibition--when rum runners landed at Portuguese Bend and other coastal sites, and much more.

Follow his blog; you won't be sorry.

Zocalo is another site where you can find Los Angeles history stories, which is odd because Zocalo is actually a product of Arizona State University.

Their stories are usually accompanied by in-depth analysis--like this one that starts with a summing up of the scandal in the city of Bell. But as author Joe Mathews says, "The sense of triumph we feel after getting past a scandal is part of our problem." 

The small towns in our area have complex financial issues, partly because we've saddled them with so many regulations and laws. But it's still possible to cheat, and officials are often desperate. It's a thought-provoking tale.

Zocalo's featured a first-hand account of Martin Luther King's Freedom Rally at the Sports Arena in the early 1960s, written by then-teenager Ellen Broms, and artist Barbara A. Thomason's story about her 100 paintings exploring the not-so-famous views of Los Angeles. These are unique tales that you probably won't find anywhere else.

Pointing you toward articles like these seems a good reason to blog.

The internet landscape has changed in the eight years since I started the History Los Angeles blog. Social media--most especially Facebook--circulates so many bits of Los Angeles history that a blog can't possibly keep up.

Do you follow the Facebook pages Photos of Los Angeles and SoCal Historic Architecture, which post both old and new photos (and often overlap)? Photos like this one of Tom Breneman's restaurant on Vine. Followers then chime in with bits of information and memories of the place. Breneman hosted a radio show called "Breakfast in Hollywood" from this place in the 40s, and folks all over the US tuned in. Facebook fans responded to this picture with a half dozen black and white photos of the restaurant, including an old ad for the show, and bits of trivia like the fact that the restaurant closed with Breneman's death in the late 40s and was briefly an ABC studio, and that a movie with Zasu Pitts was filmed using the radio show as a plot and setting.

Now you can't beat that. Facebook is interactive, and blogs--though you can leave comments--really aren't.

So I'm going to blog periodically, but mostly I'll be rounding up other sites and linking to them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Surfridge, Torrance, Eagle Rock & More

Here are a few stories on Los Angeles history to entertain you while the turkey is roasting:

  • A collection of how LA neighborhoods got their names. I know the LA Times has printed lists like this recently, but this one is from Mental Floss and has a great picture of Eagle Rock (right). Why does that appeal? Because in the 1920s my uncle used to ditch school and eat his lunch while hanging his legs over the rock edge. 

  • From MessyNessyChic, the history of Surfridge, an area of Playa del Rey (or as it was known, in the 20s and 30s, Palisades del Rey). Lots of pictures, but the area is nothing but cracked sidewalks now--a victim of our air traffic.

  • A story about the Uncertain Future of the Lummis House, from the LA Times

  • Like Pictures? Indulge yourself here, with tons o' pictures of the Warner Huntington Park Theater, courtesy of LA Curbed. 

  • Also from LA Curbed, a story of Ye Olde Torrance, close to my heart since I was born and raised there. This tale goes back to 1912 and the planning of the city as a workers' or company paradise, sorta. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Collection of Articles on LA History

My poor, neglected blog . . .

I'm afraid things aren't going to get much more active here, at least until 2015--unless guest bloggers wish to volunteer.

Prospective guest bloggers: I will absolutely upload Los Angeles history-related posts and pictures that are appropriate. If you'd like to contribute, start the ball rolling with a comment, or go to my website, VickeyKall.com, and use the contact form there.

Otherwise, I am gainfully busy, promoting The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories, available as an ebook and soon--any day now--in print at a new price of $25, an incredible savings! (That's how fast technology moves now--last year, my price as author was $28--now, with a new color printing method, the list price is only $25!)

It makes a great Christmas gift, and my website lists the places where I'll be talking about it. I'm also working on a new book for the new year, so this blog is sitting fallow.

But please allow me to list some of the wonderful stories about Los Angeles History that people have sent me lately. Just because I don't have time to write about them doesn't mean you can't enjoy reading these articles:

  • From CurbedLA, a long, detailed, picture-laden story about Batchelder tiles and The Chocolate Factory on 6th Street between Broadway and Spring. This piece was posted last sumner and is written by Liz Arnold.

  • From LA Observed, an article  by Karen Wada (also with pictures) about a Millard Sheets mural that has been moved from a private home in the Hollywood Hills to the Huntington. Taken down and put on big rollers, because the mural was done on a woven fabric called Sanitas. In future, it will ornament a new boardroom at the Huntington's Visitors Center.

  • Also on LA Observed: Cute pictures and video of a model of the legendary Garden of Allah apartments. This and the Batchelder tile article were sent by Flo Selfman--Thanks!

  • Missing Mosaic Monday? (Me too). Here's a link to the Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum in Malibu, thanks to Lee Gale Gruen who has posted here before. 

  • Do you listen to You Can't Eat the Sunshine, the podcast of Esotouric Tours? Just glance at the list of subjects on the left--Felix the Cat in Hollywood? How could you not want to listen to that?

That's it for now, boys and girls. Let me know if you'd like to do a guest stint here, and I'll try to post more interesting things to read every once in a while!

Monday, September 29, 2014

St Sophia's Mosaics Circle Dome

St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral is unbelievably ornate, so today I am confining the post to the dome. Artist William Chavalas created the 27-foot wide/long picture of Christ--whose head alone is ten feet tall. Chavalas also designed the stained glass windows.

This particular photo is posted on Flickr by Michael Fletcher, who retains all rights to it.

The amazing thing to realize as you look up is this: See those tiny figures of saints, in between the stained glass windows? See them? Those are actually life-sized mosaic figures. If you were to get up there, you would stand about as high.

Now, the dome is a painting. But those 24 saints that look so tiny are mosaics, They were completed in 1989 by artist Sirio Tonelli, who has since installed Byzantine style mosaics in over 100 churches in the US, including St. Paul's Cathedral in Orange County and St. Sava in San Gabriel, which I blogged about. He also created the double eagle mosaic in St. Sophia's plaza courtyard. I believe he still has his studio in Chicago.

In 1989, the "Procession of Saints" mosaics cost $300,000, and were created in Italy then transported to the US. There's actually only 21 saints, two archangels, and one representation of the "spirit" of Christ. They replaced the paintings of angels that had been there since 1952.

There are incredibly detailed and beautiful pictures of the dome and one of the figures in this photostream by photographer John Gaylord.--this to the right is a partial image. It's all I can find of the mosaics!

Seeing-Stars has a write up on this church, as it was the setting for a wedding on NYPD Blue. In real life (what's that?) it hosted the wedding of the same NYPD Blue star, Sharon Lawrence, as well as the funeral of actor Telly Savalas.

Charles Skouras helped lay the cornerstone to St. Sophia's in 1948  after making it very big in Hollywood--as the head of Fox West Coast and National Theaters. His two brothers (all three were poor immigrants at one time) also found success, Spyros as president of 20th Century Fox for twenty years ending in 1962, and George as head of United Artists Theaters.

No expense was spared on this Byzantine-inspired cathedral. Here's a few sentences from a 2003 article on St. Sophia:

With leaded glass from Belgium, England and Germany; marble from Greece and Italy; 17 over-the-top chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, three of which each weigh a ton; 25,000 pounds of copper on the roof; religious depictions everywhere; a dome rising 90 feet into the air and lots of 24-carat gold leaf; St. Sophia is a very visible symbol of Orthodox faith and a translation of Skouras’ belief in service. Built for approximately $2 million between 1948 and 1952, if built today, costs would exceed $50 million.

When it opened in 1952, the church was situated in LA's Greek neighborhood at Pico and Normandie. Not true now, but the big Greek Festival is still held there every year, and in fact just wrapped  up.

Here is a picture of artist Sirio Tonelli, a fairly recent one. The mosaic he's completing is definitely not from St. Sophia Cathedral, though it could be from St. Paul's out in Irvine. But I don't know--the picture wasn't captioned.