Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Local Historical Societies

A bit of editorializing (like, when does a blog not editorialize?) and a wish for the New Year.

Historical societies all over Los Angeles County suffer from lack of interest and funding. Often, the archives (if archives exist) are cared for by loving volunteers. Are they trained? Do they know how to handle old documents or ephemera? Do they know the best ways to store, file, retrieve, or make sense of the archives?

Not always. These people are hard-working saints, imho. With little or no access to professional training and no funding, they do the best they can.

If they're lucky, they have a home. I took this picture of Redondo Beach's Morrell House, a living history museum. Behind it is another historic Queen Anne House that holds most of the Redondo Beach Historical Society records. But many groups are not so lucky.

So my wish for the New Year is that we all support our local groups and societies that are trying desperately to save our history. They may have old records, donated clothes or furniture, with no safe place to protect such items. They may have turn-of-the-century newspapers that are crumbling--with no money to pay for scanning and preserving them, let alone indexing.

In some cases (Los Angeles itself, and Palos Verdes come to mind) the libraries create space for local history collections. But even here, extra funding is needed. So if you find yourself looking for some end-of-the-year worthies on which to bestow a tithe, look up your local historical society!

They need your help--and who better than you? If you're reading this blog, you do care about preserving and remembering the past.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Mosaic from Burbank

I neglect the north shamefully, mainly because I never get up there. But what does that matter, with pictures all over the internet?

Today's mosaic was installed in Burbank in 1995. The artist is Marie Moseley and the title of the work is "Something BIG, Like Unity."

It's mounted on the SMC Properties Building at 3800 W. Vanowen--very near the airport and across the street from the Bob Hope Metrolink station.

Made of granite, it emulates a roll of film unwinding. The length of the mosaic is forty feet, but the size of the white wall it ornaments dwarfs the work. The wall must stretch over 200 feet in length. The building houses a couple of high tech graphic arts firms...wonder if they are planning to do anything more to frame the mosaic or show it off...?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grauman's Theaters--Guest Blog

A post from guest Blogger Debra Ann Pawlak

Sidney Patrick Grauman loved nothing better than to put on a show. When ticket-buying patrons came to one of his theaters, they got more than just a night out. They experienced an event. In 1918, he opened his first Los Angeles venue, the Million Dollar Theater, at Third and Broadway—an opulent Spanish Baroque-style building filled with murals, statues and word carvings.  Grauman had no problem filling the 2,345 seats.  His problem concerned the potential movie goers he turned away each night.

As a result of his success, he opened two more lavish theaters in downtown Los Angeles, the New Rialto and the Metropolitan. The latter’s lobby boasted a sphinx with the head of George Washington and an inscription that read: "You cannot speak to us, O George Washington, but you can speak to God   Ask him to make us good citizens.” 
No doubt, Grauman would be asked to have such an atrocity removed from the premises today, but back then people found it amusing.

When Grauman built his fourth theater, he moved outside of the city limits to Hollywood.  On Hollywood Boulevard at McCadden Place he oversaw the construction of the impressive Egyptian Theater.  Unlike his other establishments, this one boasted a forecourt with shops safeguarded by elephant statues in royal garb. Grauman even paid an employee to dress like an ancient Egyptian soldier and march along the roof announcing show times.

To enter the building, patrons passed through oversized columns that stood 20 feet tall by four and half feet wide. Once inside the lobby, they found themselves in another world. Surrounded by Egyptian figures, a Sphinx and sarcophagi, visitors examined the hieroglyphic-like writing on the walls. A large, golden sunburst hovered over the movie screen, which only enhanced the mystical ambiance. Cleopatra would have been proud.

The Egyptian had no balcony and sat just over 1,700 guests when it opened on October 18, 1922 with the first showing of Robin Hood (1922) featuring everyone’s favorite swashbuckler, Douglas Fairbanks. Thousands of movie fans lined the streets hoping to see their favorite stars. Searchlights lit up the sky and a red carpet was unfurled to welcome the filmmaking elite dressed in their finest. That evening, Sid Grauman flawlessly delivered the razzle dazzle and set the bar for future Hollywood premiers.

(All of the black and white pictures are from the Los Angeles Public Library's online photo collection. The one above left is from 1922, reproduced for the library by Marc Wanamaker. The crowd is waiting for the arrival of Pickford and Fairbanks--Vix)

Just five years later another Hollywood landmark opened next door—The Pig ‘N Whistle. The tidy little restaurant featured a dining area, soda fountain, candy counter and decorative wall tiles that depicted a quirky flute-playing pig. Taking advantage of its location, the place even had a side door that opened directly into the Egyptian Theater’s forecourt. Customers found it convenient to have dinner and then see a movie right after or stop by for a snack after the show. During its heyday, the popular Pig ‘N Whistle hosted many Hollywood greats from Spencer Tracy to Shirley Temple.

Unfortunately, both burgeoning businesses fell victim to hard times and eventually closed. The buildings themselves fell to ruin. During the last fifteen years, however, multi-million dollar renovations occurred and both the Egyptian and The Pig ‘N Whistle are once again open to the public. So if you are in the area visiting Grauman’s most famous of theaters, The Chinese, take a stroll down the block and have a bite at The Pig ‘N Whistle before you drop in to see the Egyptian.

* * * *

(Photo at left is from 1989, when the Pig 'N Whistle was a Numero Uno pizza place. Color photo shows the restoration of the sunburst over the movie screen, from the Eqyptian Theater's website.)

Thanks so much, Deb!  Debra Ann Pawlak's new book, Bringing Up Oscar: The Story of the Men and Women Who Founded the Academy, will be out next month, and can be pre-ordered on Amazon by following the link on the title. You can also follow her Hollywood: Tales from Tinseltown  Facebook page and read updates on early Hollywood trivia and gossip.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Miraleste Intermediate School Mosaic

Today's mosaic is at another Palos Verdes school: Miraleste Intermediate in Rancho Palos Verdes. And it's probably the last PV school mosaic that I'll do, because I've been to most of the schools in the district and I think I've found them all (famous last words. Please correct me.)

The mosaic's design was laid out on Photoshop a year ago by art teacher Geoff Guerrero. He & his students worked on it for one trimester, and a few 8th graders completed the work before the end of the school. Guerrero calls the 8th graders his crew: he would give them instructions every morning about breaking tile, setting tile, and all the other tasks they had to do, then send them off.

The benches in the picture give some perspective; this is a big mosaic.

And although its not a mosaic, I'm posting a picture of another art project that Guerrero designed. They were initially plain old gray columns that Guerrero walked by each day, thinking, "Gosh, these would be great if they were painted." So he put together a proposal, got funding, and voila.

Miraleste Intermediate was once Miraleste High School, so it's got a "very expansive, beautiful campus," as Guerrero describes it. "The columns are really one of my favorites...they're like big, minimalist sculpture pieces."

Guerrero was named an Educator of the Year last month for his own positive energy and contributions.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Culver Hotel

The six-story Culver Hotel opened in early September of  1924. A celebratory crowd of 8000 attended the grand opening, according to the Los Angeles Times. The mayor of Culver City proclaimed a half-day holiday for city workers so that they could partake of free refreshments and dancing.

A combination of hotel and office building, the first two floors of the building were originally occupied by the Henry H. Culver Company, although a lobby was set aside for the use of the Hunt Hotel, which took up the other four floors. The hotel had 150 rooms and 50 single apartment units. AND EACH ROOM HAD A RADIO! Wowwee!

There is a rumor that the Culver Hotel was once a trysting place. Up to the late 1950s, supposedly a six-foot-high secret tunnel ran under Main Street from the old RKO Studio lot directly to the hotel, for the use of prostitutes and their partners.

Another rumor--this one on Wikipedia--says that Charlie Chaplin partnered with Mr. Culver in building the hotel. Not only that, but supposedly Chaplin lost his share of the building to John Wayne in a poker game. Now really.

Of course, the really wild stories revolve around the Culver Hotel's role as home to the 124 actors who played Munchkins during the filming of the Wizard of Oz in the late 1930s.

This picture shows a small display right outside the hotel's entrance. Here's a link to photos of "The Munchkins Return" on the Beyond the Rainbow site. In 1997, then-owner Rudy Hu hosted a get-together of the remaining Munchkins at the hotel.

Snopes debunks a recent rumor of a munchkin suicide on the set during the filming, and says that the stories of wild partying are exaggerated. Dunno. Apparently, during the reunion in 1997, the munchkins recorded their reminiscences for the local historical society. Bet that's an interesting tale!

The decades between the filming and the return were largely seedy ones for the hotel. It was allowed to deteriorate--along with the surrounding neighborhood--until a movement in the 1970s eventually led to urban renewal and rennovation. It's lovely now, though there never seems to be enough room in restaurants or lounge for the parties hosted there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Lovely View in the Far South of LA County

Except for the giant corrugated pipe, you'd never know you were in LA, would you? Or even in the 21st century? A path to this viewing spot and a fairly steep, rough path leading down for an even better view, runs unannounced and unsigned, right next to a multi-million dollar estate in Palos Verdes, on Paseo del Mar. This is what the big bucks buy--views like this. I think that's a good investment, myself.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seasonal Decorations at the Biltmore

First, the exit from the old lobby. In ye olden days--1923 and on up to the late 1980s--guests entered the Biltmore from 5th Street, and after registering they crossed the lobby and went up a short flight of stairs. See all the ribbons and lights and greenery? The stairway is just beyond, coming up from either side.

At the top--through this doorway--is a long hallway with doorways leading into fabled places like the Crystal Ballroom or the Emerald Room. Also along the hallway are wonderful blown-up black-and-white pictures of the past 50 years, including one of the opening night party in 1923.

BTW, the ceiling is not wood (I didn't know that; maybe every other Angeleno does). The ceilings are plaster, painted to look like wood. Much easier to maintain, and no worries about termites!

This lovely room is the current lobby. It used to be the Music Room. It was also the room featured in Ghostbusters, where our heroes cornered their first (I think) weiner-eating ghost. Not New York, but right here at the Biltmore.

The counter for guests is just to the right, out of this picture (which isn't such a great picture, I admit. The hotel website has pictures, but I'm not too crazy about them either.)

Anyway, I've been so busy that I haven't posted to this website as I should, but I did get to go to the Biltmore a few days ago, it's gorgeous (duh!) and if the pictures don't do it justice...well, heck, go there in person and get an eyeful! The LA Conservancy does tours of the building every Sunday!

Monday, December 6, 2010

School Mosaic: Lunada Bay Elementary

This five-by-nine foot mosaic represents about 360 hours of work by Girl Scout Troop 603, during the 2005-2006 school year. The girls worked in two-hour shifts on weekends and evenings to piece together the tile mosaic. The completed artwork got the troop a Bronze Award, the highest honor that Girl Scouts of that age (juniors) can earn.

Why China? Lunada Bay Elementary is one of several Palos Verdes Peninsula schools that teaches Chinese language and culture to kids. The panda in the center represents China, of course, and the dolphin is the mascot of Lunada Bay Elementary--in fact, the second photo shows a sculpture of dolphins outside the school.

Parents say the fifth-grade girls designed the mosaic themselves. The Chinese character for "Friendship" is in there, between the two animals that share the earth. Each student made a tile with their own names in both English and Chinese.

As for the other tiles--the girls cracked them with their own hammers, cut and fitted and glued them in place. And to me--bearing in mind that I am not an artist--it looks fantastic.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mosaic Monday--Dapplegray School

Finding schools in Palos Verdes is no easy task. Private or public, they are hidden away on winding roads, in dips and valleys, shrouded by rows of pepper or eucalyptus trees or ridges of high ground. Some, I am convinced, are accessible only on horseback.

Dapplegray Elementary does have one nice, ceramic tile sign overlooking PV Drive North, but otherwise...good luck. The school--and this mosaic--face away from street traffic, overlooking more rustic vistas. Quite nice, actually. With such lovely and well-tended public schools, one wonders why private academys do so well in the area...

This mosaic looks rather new, but I was not able to learn anything about it (when it was installed, who the artists were) from local newspapers. So...just another lovely example of how mosaics turn up in surprising places, ready to delight us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mystery Mosaic in Playa Vista

And by the way, when did Westchester become Playa Vista and why? Does it sound more exotic?

I like the community but I think Aero Vista might be a more appropriate name.

I digress. This mosaic puzzles me. I personally think it's lovely. I'm sure it was stunning when installed (before some bozo decided to cut a door opening through it). The snake, in particular, still fascinates today. The colors are bright though the tiles seem to be coming loose. And no one, as far as I can tell, knows anything about it.

The mosaic faces Sepulveda, just south of Manchester. The address is 8618 Sepulveda, and a sign on the building reads "Orthopedic Medical Group of the West." The sign may be dated, though there is a Sobol Othopedic Group in the building.

A call is in to the Historical Society of Centinela Valley and the building owners, so if I learn more I'll post it here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kick Off Christmas at the Million Dollar Theater

Take that as you like--kick off the season, or literally kick the holiday off into the wild blue yonder with a resounding "Bah humbug!"

Either way, the LA Conservancy is hosting a showing of Scrooge starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness on December 5, at 2pm. The theater's at 307 S. Broadway--the SW corner of 4th & Broadway. Free candy canes for the kiddies! And the movie is only $10 for adults. Buy tickets here.

The Million Dollar Theater was built by Sid Graumann in 1918--before his Chinese and Egyptian Theaters. The first movie shown there on February 1, 1918, was The Silent Man, a western with William S. Hart.

The theater itself is at the bottom of a 12-story tower, and you can read about the architect and sculptor and more of the history at this Wikipedia page, or at PublicArtin LA. The facade was in Blade Runner!

Another piece of trivia: The building once housed L.A.'s Metropolitan Water District, and William Mulholland's office was on the top floor.

Graumann started a tradition of bringing in Vaudeville acts before showing the movie--acts that complemented the film. (Most theaters in those days started as Vaudeville houses and added a movie screen;. The Million Dollar Theater was the first big movie theater built here.) Years later, when the theater showed Spanish language films, live performers like Mariachi bands introduced the movie.

After decades as a movie house, the Million Dollar Theater served as a church for a bit. It re-opened as a live theater within the last ten years, and sometimes hosts movies--as it will on December 5 for the LA Conservancy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another Student Art Mosaic

Mark Twain Middle School is in Mar Vista. That's all I know!  Well, that and if you look close you'll see that this mosaic is based on the Character Counts principles of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. I think.
Six days later: Surprised no one called me on this. I got my radio holy men (or is it holier-than-thou men?) mixed up. Character Counts--which I believe this mosaic represents--is actually the program of Michael Josephson.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Quickie for Mosaic Monday

The last time I featured a less-than-lovely mosaic, I wrote that not all mosaics are works of art. What shall I say now? Shall I compare it to an autumn day?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and truthfully, this design on the exterior of Marukai Market in Gardena, at Western and Artesia, is a lot prettier than plain beige paint. I see a sky and orange clouds--a not-too-unusual image when looking west at sunset or east (since the sky beyond is in the east) at dawn.

This Marukai Forum (as opposed to Marukai's other Gardena store, Marukai Pacific on Redondo Beach Blvd.) opened in 1996.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Early Air Show in Santa Monica

Ahh, weekends in LA...If it were 1926, we could go to the air show today and touch Admiral Byrd's North Pole Fokker plane. Man, is that a loaded suggestion. The plane had actually flown over the North Pole a few months before.

At Clover Field in Santa Monica, ten or twenty thousand people watched from their cars as stunt pilots performed death-defying acts. Truly...stunt pilots died in alarming numbers back then.

Clover Field became Douglas Air Field, and you can read about its history here, at  That's also where I found this great picture.

At that airshow on November 7, 1926, Bobby Chase, a female parachutist, got caught in the plane's gear when she jumped. Chase dangled in the air for 20 minutes before Fred Osborne and Al Johnson, in another plane, flew to her rescue. According to the Los Angeles Times, Osborne actually wing-walked to Chase's plane,  several hundred feet up in the air, so he could cut the safety line that kept her dangling. She deployed her parachute, landed on a street near Venice beach and sprained her ankle on a curb.

The parachutists were vying for a prize that went to the jumper who landed closest to a mark on the ground. A 17-year-old girl named Jackie Dare won...wonder if that was her real name?

Pilot Paul Richter set an altitude record at the air show, climbing to 18,000 feet. He went on to found TWA.

Richter, Fred Osborne and Al Johnson, btw, were members of the "Thirteen Black Cats," the first group of Hollywood stunt pilots. They were also called the Suicide Club.

Al Johnson wing-walked and changed planes that day--as a scheduled performance, quite separate from the rescue of Ms. Chase. This was a daring, popular stunt, hopping from one plane's wing to another. The two planes actually crashed slightly in midair, tearing fabric from one wing.

In another parachuting stunt, Johnson jumped from a plane later, and his parachute failed to open until it was too late to avoid being hurt. The newspaper account said he suffered no serious injury, but I recall reading elsewhere that he was injured (either his back or his neck was broken) but he didn't want to lose work because of it and kept it quiet.

According to this site on early stunt pilots, Johnson is in the center of this photo, kneeling next to the numeral one in "13." Hope they don't mind that I borrowed their photo of the 13 Black Cats, but it does seem to be "borrowed" by every other site from somewhere....

Johnson's one screen credit is Hells Angels, and apparently he crashed in Glendale while filming--got tangled up in power lines. That and other early valley aviation is described in the The Valley Observer blog. The book It Happened in Hollywood: Remarkable Events That Shaped History (It Happened In Series) says that Johnson died in that crash when the plane exploded. I'm not sure of that...would love to know if it's true or what happened to Al Johnson.

Anyone care to enlighten me?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lady Liberty in the Fashion District

Does Lady Liberty fit the definition of mosaic? I think so. PublicArtinLA calls it a tile mural, but mosaics are art made with pieces of stone, glass, or other materials.

This fifty-foot-tall tile picture looks west over Los Angeles Street, and is part of the Lady Liberty Building, which went up in 1914. The picture, though, was added in 1987--a year after the Statue of Liberty's centennial.

According to PublicArtinLA, artist Victor di Suvero approached the owners of 843 Los Angeles St. in the 1980s, knowing they were immigrants from Iran. He suggested and designed this patriotic artwork and they liked the idea. Barbara Beall Studios in Torrance fabricated it, and Judith Harper fine-tuned and executed the design on six-inch tile.

Here's a broader view. Mr. di Suvero was also director of the Poetry Festival LA (The Fringe Festival) in 1987, which makes sense because he is, first and foremost, a poet. Wikipedia identifies him as a poet, playwrite, entrepreneur, and real estate investor. As for Judith Harker--there are many of them, but I could find no reference to an artist by that name. Barbara Beall moved her art studio from Torrance to Santa Barbara, but her work adorns the Autry Museum, Epcot Center, and other well-known places.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

USC Libraries has a Twitter Feed!

This photo comes out clear and fine on their site, not so much here--but it's the thought that counts, right?

The writing at the top of the photo says "Ruth Raum, 10-29-52."

The photo reminds me that KPCC yesterday broadcast an interview with Maila Nurmi--VAMPIRA--and R. H. Greene. Here's the link.

Highly entertaining.

Nurmi describes how she fasted on Friday through Saturday, sweated, used papaya powder under a rubber wrap to dissolve away her waist, so that she could fit into the 17-inch-waisted costume for Saturday night. And lots of other nostalgic giggles.

Nurmi passed away in 2008. Her Vampira show went out live in the 1950s, and other than a promotional segment filmed off a TV that was showing it live (in a certain sense of the word), no copies of her show remain. But of course, that just gives us something to look forward to in the afterlife, right? Seeing Vampira in action?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Los Angeles is Off Kilter

A bit of trivia that I would never have figured out, except for D. J. Waldie's essay "L.A.'s Crooked Heart" in the Los Angeles Times of October 24, 2010.

Turns out that downtown area of our city is not strictly aligned to north, south, east, and west. Or rather, it is, but the alignment is deliberately skewed--as you can see in the arial photo from Flickr, taken in 2006 by user KLA4067.

Anyone's who's looke at a good map or aerial view of the downtown area has probably noticed that in that chunk of real estate the streets run crooked, as if they sat on a lazy susan that got wheeled to the right about 36 degrees. Why?

Well, Los Angeles was part of Mexico when it was laid out. Naturally--as Mexico was then part of New Spain--the planners followed the Spanish practice of civic design. As Waldie points out, that's quite different than our usual Jeffersonian grid that follows north, south, etc. In the Spanish world, following laws from the 16th century, streets and homes were laid out at 45 degree angles to the true direction. That way, all homes got sunlight on all sides. It's actually a pretty sweet idea, imho.

However, the Los Angeles River made the 45 degree angle impossible, so in our city center we're 36 degrees off the cardinal directions. We just have to be difficult. Waldie says it wasn't until the 19th century, when LA really boomed, that new streets and neighborhoods were designed to conform to the true compass points--leaving us with the off-kilter downtown.

For those of you who've tossed the Sunday paper, here's the link. With great pictures!

Author D. J. Waldie just contributed the Forward to a book called Los Angeles in Maps by Glen Creason, with essay by others including Dydia DeLyser. Dydia DeLyser, owner of one of the most memorable names in academia, has published work analyzing the layout Bodie (my favorite ghost town), on using Ebay to study historic geography, and--intriguing--Ramona Memories: Tourism and the Shaping of Southern California.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mar Vista Mosaic--a Work In Progress

Today's mosaic decorates the exterior of Grand View Avenue Elementary School in Mar Vista. In ten years, it might cover half the wall--who knows?

Any of these photos can be clicked to enlarge. In a weird way, budget cuts are responsible for the mosaic.

Budget cuts have forced the elimination of many arts programs from school schedules, as we all know; this has been going on for years...decades, sadly. Volunteers and financial benefactors have stepped in to try and make up for the cuts.

At Grand View El, a privately-funded group called P.S. Arts visits and involves the 600-ish students in both music and art programs, including this mosaic. The students created the tiles you see here.

P.S. Arts brings its art programs to schools all over Southern California. Some are part of LA Unified, others not--Lawndale, Santa Monica and Malibu all participate. The group is funded by private donations. For example, a huge gift from the Herb Albert Foundation supports the Lawndale school projects and classes. P.S. Arts even has an online store.

There are other programs too, besides music and visual arts. P.S. Arts employs teachers in dance and theater. Schools can choose what would most interest their students. And I suspect that similar organizations exist--Art To Grow On in the L.A. Harbor area comes to mind.

Grand View Avenue Elementary School began working with P.S. Arts sixteen years ago. And though it's not a mosaic, another example of the tile work by students at the bottom of this post sits on a wall in the lunch area. It's a huge display.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Los Angeles Public Library Photos on Facebook

Love this!

Follow "Photo Collection--Los Angeles Public Library" on Facebook (here) to get a daily blast from the past. This lovely shot is their Profile Picture--if I learn more about it I'll post that in a comment.

The site started up last month (September 2010), so the archives are still very scrollable. Lots of early pictures of branch libraries, families frolicking at celebraty pools, the beach, and 1958 Disneyland, etc.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Where Are the Mosaics Hiding?

I've been working in Westchester--Playa Vista--for a week, and I hear there is a quartet of mosaic benches and urns by Marlo Bartels in the area. But I can't find them!

This picture is from a blog on Mr. Bartels website of public art. Hope he doesn't mind. Bartels lives and works in Laguna Beach and has installed colorful mosaic tile benches, wall art, totems and obelisks, steps, pictures, screens, you name it, all over Southern California.

These in Playa Vista are titled "Seachange" and were installed in 2006--but where?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Alexandria Hotel...104 and Still Solid

...though she's had some work.

This is in no way an ad for the micro-loft development that now occupies the Alexandria, though as it resulted from $14 million in renovations, I'm glad of that usage. And the loft website does hint at the hotel's history, with black-and-whites of famous movie stars.

Nope, this post stems from the fact that I found a great book--Out With the Stars: Hollywood Nightlife in the Golden Era,by Jim Heimann--that tracks movie-star hangouts over the years. And from 1909, when the Alexandria was three years young, this was where the film producers and moguls met in the afternoon. According to Charlie Chaplin, who once lived there, the lobby's thick carpet was nicknamed the "million dollar carpet" because of the astronomical amounts of money discussed on it.

The carpet wasn't the only fancy appointment. I found a 1910 Los Angeles Times article titled  "The Looting of Europe"--a report on the return of the hotel's assistant manager after four months abroad. He brought back cases of valuable wine, vases owned by Napoleon, and antique pottery, silver, Persian and Turkish rugs, glassware, and display baskets.

These two photos at left are from the Los Angeles Public Library's online photo collection, and show the hotel site in 1905--with a big ol' pepper tree being removed in advance of construction at Spring and Fifth Street. Big Orange Landmarks, (in an article which celebrates the Hotel's Palm Court) id's this photo as turning the first shovelful of dirt over. That was done by the child, Albert Constant Bilicky. His Papa was one of the partners building the hotel, the firm of Bilicke and Rowan Fireproof Hotel Building Company. Nice, clear name.

Later that same year, the hotel is shown under construction with scaffolding. The library even has pictures of Al Levy's Oyster House, which stood on that corner before 1905.

The Hotel's bar offered free sandwiches with cocktails, and actors were as hungry in 1909 as they are now--another reason the place became a watering hole for the movie business.

According to my Hollywood night-life book and an article on the hotel by Bryant Arnett, in this hotel:

  • Rudolf Valentino hung out in 1918, making contacts that led to his first few roles,

  • Gloria Swanson was introduced to Herbert Somborn,who would open the Brown Derby Restaurant. He would also marry Ms. Swanson--in a private suite at the Alexandria.

  • United Artists was concieved in 1919 (between Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith)

In addition to Chaplin, Jack Warner lived at the Alexandria for years. Presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson) were guests, along with dignitaries such as Winston Churchill. Movies like Se7en, Spiderman 3, Dreamgirls, and more were filmed here--even some from the silent era (thank you, IMDB).  Lenny Kravitz, Christina Aquilera, Adam Lambert and others have shot music videos at the Alexandria Hotel. And now it features low-income micro-lofts, proving that one can be low-income in real style.

This last picture from the Library shows the dining room of the Hotel Alexandria, back in the day. It isn't dated, and it is not the famous Palm Court. (you'll have to go to the Big Orange site to learn about that.)