Southern California Photography by Alan Pavlik, editor and publisher of Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik

If you use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me

These were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0

The original large-format raw files are available upon request.

Contact the Editor

Visitors from February 28, 2006, 10:00 am Pacific Time to date -

Saturday, 4 March 2006
Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America...
Topic: Historic Hollywood

Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America...
A poster for a Universal picture, dubbed in French, showing at the German theater, antique store wall, Hollywoodland, Beachwood Drive, Los Angeles

A poster for sale in the antique shop in the middle of Hollywoodland, Beachwood Drive, just under the famous Hollywood sign - a poster for a Universal picture, dubbed in French, showing at the German theater.

CNN Live, three days before the Oscars - Some Say Hollywood Movies Out Of Touch With Mainstream America - ANDERSON COOPER: "Many have asked the question, is Hollywood out of touch with middle America? What better place to find out than the middle of America. This is the geographic center of the continental United States in Lebanon, Kansas."

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair on this matter here, two days before the Oscars:

The truth is that Hollywood has almost never reflected heartland values, from its birth it's reflected urban energy, cosmopolitan taste, social conscience, and pagan fascination, and when it's conformed to conventional pieties, as during the dreariest stretches of the postwar period, when disillusionment and subversion had to sneak in through the shadows of film noir as the topline product stayed shiny, bright, and chipmunk cheerful. Do you really think the racy, wisecracking, night-owl-edition, socially conscious crime dramas and comedies of Warner Brothers in the thirties reflected heartland values? Or those Lubitsch comedies with their flirty innuendos and musky intrigues so redolent of Paris and Budapest? Or the Astaire-Rogers "white telephone" musicals, with their French farce plots and Manhattan-skyline sparkle? MGM manufactured an enduring neo-Victorian mimicry of smalltown America in the Andy Hardy movies and others, but that didn't so much reflect heartland values as reflect the immigrant vision of what the white-picket-fence country they imagined lay east of the Hollywood hills.

Think of the movies now considered classic (or semi-classic) from the great grunge stretch of the late Sixties and Seventies, movies such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, The Last Detail, Five Easy Pieces, Blazing Saddles, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, on and on - do these movies speak to the pieties and platitudes that William Bennett holds dear? Even back then during all the noise and excitement I remember sweet old ladies wondering why they didn't make nice movies like The Sound of Music anymore, and they're still asking that same question today. It may be the same old ladies, having gone through two generations of floral muu-muus. Get over it, grandma! They're not going to make movies like Sound of Music anymore, they barely made them back then.

The heartland issue is such a crock, especially when it's taken up by pseudo-populist pundits who cling to both coasts and wouldn't move to the middle of the country unless the name of that middle was Chicago. Fuck the heartland. It doesn't exist. It's a metaphor for all the simple good things Americans would believe in if they flattered themselves by believing in simple good things. (Go reread Sherwood Anderson or Sinclair Lewis if you want to savor the loneliness and cultureless vacuity of so much of the bedrock America we insist on coloring with Norman Rockwell nostalgia.) It's true that more Americans than usual are unacquainted and uninterested in the Oscar pics this year, but how many Americans saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller when it came out? Or Mean Streets? Not that long ago, the Oscars noms were panned because for being an index of popularity, not quality; now quality prevails in the judging, tastes have improved even at the Golden Globes, and the kvetching chorus is complaining that the finalists chosen aren't commercial enough, and don't reflect the interests and values of average Americans. There's no such thing as an average American anymore (if there ever was), unless by "average American" you mean (as news producers and pundits seem to do) white, middle-aged, heterosexual Christian small-towners and suburbanites who won't even be watching the Academy Awards because it'll be past their bedtime and they have elk to milk the next morning.

P.S.: A good thing for their blood pressure, too, because according to this veteran entertainment observer, the upcoming Oscar show promises to be a "fornication festival," a three-hour Satyricon. The Tom Ford pheromone effect must be pandemic!

Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America. That's what has made the industry successful.

Posted by Alan at 9:08 AM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006 9:09 AM PST
Friday, 3 March 2006
Topic: Oddities


Thursday, March 2nd, while on a photo shoot to get some good pre-Oscar digital images of the famous Hollywood sign and historic Hollywoodland (see these), I met Sherlock. Sherlock is a Hollywood dog, a purebred bloodhound, a "red" in this case, and a very pleasant beast. And his owners provided insider advice on the best way to get up close to the big sign on the hill. They also suggested Sherlock pose with the Hollywood sign - and he was happy to do so, as you can see.

Sherlock Holmes had his Toby for tough cases. Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlow, hanging around Hollywood untangling mysteries, should have had his Sherlock, this one, although The Big Sleep might have been Sherlock snoozing. Surely, William Faulkner, when puzzling over the screenplay, could have found room for a lovable bloodhound somewhere in there.

Sherlock, the Hollywood bloodhound, at the Hollywood sign, March 2, 2006

Posted by Alan at 5:41 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 2 March 2006
Adventures in Hollywoodland
Topic: Historic Hollywood

Adventures in Hollywoodland

Thursday is photography day, and it seemed like a good day to get some stock shots of the Hollywood Sign, what with the Oscars coming up this Sunday. From the front door it's just a few feet up to Hollywood Boulevard, so off on the jaunt. Drive east on Hollywood - pleasant and sunny day - and everything is fine for the mile and half to the center of Hollywood. But then everything is blocked off between Orange and Highland as they're rolling out red carpets and assembling bleachers in front of the Kodak Theater and the Boulevard is closed - so down to Sunset, east over to Wilcox, north through downtown Hollywood to Franklin, east to Beachwood Canyon, and up Beachwood Drive to where it ends at the riding stables, as close as you can get to the base of the sign. Took some pictures to appear in the weekly Just Above Sunset, but ended up driving through the hills to the other side of the sign for this shot, which sort of captures Hollywood on Oscar weekend.

The Hollywood sign, Thursday, March 2, 2006, from the west, at the Hollywood Reservoir

But up Beachwood Drive, before you get to the base of the sign, you pass through the gates of "Hollywoodland." Back in October 2002 NPR did a story on Hollywoodland and its connection to the famous sign (here, full text with audio link) -
In 1923, Los Angeles was in the midst of expansion, and the Hills beckoned those set on sniffing out opportunities to make a mint in the real estate game. Harry Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, had involved himself in other real estate schemes previously. "Chandler and his investors owned most of the San Fernando Valley," says David Wallace, author of the books Lost Hollywood and Hollywoodland. "They just grabbed desert land because they knew the minute that water came through with the weather in the Valley it would become a garden!"

Sensing a similar opportunity in the Hills, Chandler teamed up with movie director Mack Sennett, who oversaw the investment company that did the development.

To tune everyone else in to the same signal they were picking up, Chandler had a baker's dozen worth of letters, each standing 50 feet tall, erected in the Hills. The HOLLYWOODLAND sign spelled out an invitation to up-and-comers and wishful thinkers alike that was hard to ignore. To enhance the effect, the sign was lit by 4,000 light bulbs; a nearby cabin housed a maintenance man whose sole job was changing them.

... The sign was left derelict until 1949, when the 'H' toppled in the wind. According to Wallace, the damage made people take notice. "It was at that time that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in," he says. "[They] offered to remove the last four letters of the sign and repair the rest."

But sustained maintenance proved a somewhat trying task. As Hollywood itself started going to seed in the 1960s, the sign once again fell into disrepair. The Hollywood Kiwanis Club raised enough money to fix the damage, but soon after using the last of the funds to restore the 'D,' one of the 'O's crashed down the hill.

Fortunately, help was on the way. Hugh Hefner organized and hosted a party at the Playboy Mansion at which letters for a new sign would be sold at nearly $28,000 a pop. The adopt-a-letter campaign worked, and aided by Gene Autry (who bought an 'L') and rocker Alice Cooper ('O'), among others, Hefner ('Y') raised enough to prop those letters back up where they belonged.
So that's the story, and here's the original real estate office, still open.

Hollywoodland Real Estate office (and Day Spa), Thursday, March 2, 2006

Here's the local coffee shop -

Hollywoodland coffee shop, Beachwood Drive, Thursday, March 2, 2006

The Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood has more detail at The Story Of Hollywoodland

Gregory Williams -
From the moment of its inception, Hollywoodland defined the lifestyle known as "living in the Hollywood Hills." With a steady stream of publicity, it acquired and retained the adjective "famed." A lot of this is due to the huge metal sign crowning the tract, the neighborhood landmark. Originally it read "Hollywoodland," but missing its last four letters, what started as a real estate promotional stunt has become the international symbol for the Hollywood film industry. On any day, tourists stand smack in the middle of Beachwood Drive, having their pictures taken with it.

It's hard to figure a giant flashing electric sign as a classy touch, but in the twenties, the developers attracted the sophisticated and artistic crowd they intended. "Hollywoodland, one of the show places of the world" is how they saw their 500 acre subdivision. To their credit, they sensitively laid out Hollywoodland. A charming small town feeling has presided for close to seventy years.

... Another draw to Hollywoodland, expressed in the developer's phrase "freedom of the hills" applies to residents of Hollywoodland lucky enough to live and work within the canyon. An artist, writer, or musician can hole up with creative work yet remain close to the rest of the world. When our father, Dino, moved us here in the fifties, our neighborhood included painter Edward Biberman who lived across the street, painting scenes of Southern California and writer Aldous Huxley who lived and worked down the hill from us. (Mr. Huxley's long, thoughtful walks at that time often included my four year old sister.)
Selected items from the Steve Grant and Jay Teitzell timeline -
1923 - February - Developers Woodruff and Shoults conceive of "Hollywoodland" as a neighborhood of "superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills."

1923 - The construction of Lake Hollywood Reservoir commences in order to provide the burgeoning city with water and pressure. The Lake is first filled in 1925.

1924 - The "Hollywoodland" sign is constructed at a cost of $21,000 atop Mt. Lee. Thirteen 50-foot letters and four thousand 20 watt light bulbs pronouncing, in classic advertising phonics, "Holly"... "wood"... "land"... Hollywoodland."

1929 - The stock market crashes and the Depression dashes developers' plans for extending Hollywoodland further east. The limits of our neighborhood are essentially set.

1930 - Peg Entwhistle, despondent over her lackluster acting career, jumps to her death from one of The Hollywoodland Sign's 50-foot letters.

1938-39 - Bugsy Siegel opens a Speakeasy at the Castillo del Lago mansion on Hollywoodland's Durand Drive.

1944 - Hollywoodland developers deed the land north of Mulholland Highway (including The Hollywoodland Sign) to the City of Los Angeles. Later, it becomes part of Griffith Park.

1949 - The Hollywoodland Sign, originally built to last only 18 months, is in total disrepair (and all the light bulbs have long-since been stolen). The City begins removing it but is halted by a public outcry - the citizens have come to love the symbol. Instead, the sign is refurbished and shortened to "Hollywood."

1961 - May - A hillside brushfire damages 30 Hollywoodland homes and destroys 24 more including that of Aldous and Laura Huxley of Deronda Drive.
Learn more about this unhappy Peg Entwhistle here. And of the ninety digital shots from this day, forty-two were usable, and the best of those will be in the Sunday weekly.

Posted by Alan at 8:14 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006 8:49 AM PST
Wednesday, 1 March 2006
Odd Walls
Topic: Historic Hollywood

Odd Walls

The Hyatt on Sunset (8401 Sunset Boulevard) - the "Riot House" where members of Led Zeppelin used to ride motorcycles through the halls. Little Richard still lives in a penthouse suite. Room 1015 is where Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards mooned the world and dropped a television set out the window. The east wall, Wednesday, March 1, 2006.

The Hyatt on Sunset (8401 Sunset Boulevard), the east wall, Wednesday, March 1, 2006.

Across the street, The Argyle Hotel (Sunset Tower) at 8358 Sunset Boulevard -
Designed in 1929 by architect Leland A Bryant, the Sunset Tower was a landmark from the moment it opened. Its dramatic siting on the Sunset Strip and elegant Art Deco styling, together with its proximity to the famous restaurants and nightclubs of the 30's and 40's, contributed to its appeal.

... Former residents include Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Billie Burke, Joseph Schenck, Paulette Goddard, Zasu Pitts, and even gangster Bugsy Siegel.

... The building has appeared in a number of films, including Wayne's World Part II, Get Shorty, The Player, and Strange Days. Recently, it was the setting for interviews with Ringo Starr for the Beatles Reunion TV special. Its first literary mention was in Raymond Chandler's Farewell My Lovely. In the first film version of that novel, Murder, My Sweet (1944), the line from the book is used as dialogue, making it the first screen reference to the Sunset Tower.

... Most of the exterior surface is smooth concrete, the windows forming a pattern of vertical bands which draw the eye upward and emphasize the height of the structure. Faceted windows accent the corners of the building. Above the street entrance and along the building's set-backs, plaster friezes express a tangle of images, some typical of Deco design, others the product of Bryant's creativity. Flora and Fauna, mythological creatures, zeppelins, and even Adam and Eve share the space comfortably. Atop the tower are engaged pylons and a pineapple finial. In a playful reference to its use, sculptured panels depict the radiator grille of a 20's automobile over the entrance to the garage at the rear.
There's this odd detail -

Sunset Towers, 8358 Sunset Boulevard, Wednesday, March 1, 2006, wall detail

How about a wall of Art Deco windows?

Sunset Towers, 8358 Sunset Boulevard, Wednesday, March 1, 2006, Art Deco windows

Posted by Alan at 5:12 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006 8:50 AM PST
Tuesday, 28 February 2006
Topic: East of Hollywood


This is the last day of Black History Month. And this is the African American Fire Fighter Museum (1401 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles) -
The African American Fire Fighter Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, conserving and sharing the heritage of African American firefighters.

The Museum is housed at old Fire Station 30. This station, which was one of two segregated fire stations in Los Angeles, between 1924 and 1955, was established in 1913, to serve the Central Ave community.

This beautifully restored facility has the original apparatus floor tiles, poles and kitchen out-building, dating back to 1913, when the facility opened as a fire station. The Museum has been designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument 289, and is the recipient of the Los Angeles Conservancy's 1999 preservation Award.
Until 1955 fire stations were segregated? Odd.

These shots were taken February 5, 2006 - it's across the street from The Good Ship Coca-Coca, down in the warehouse district, east of downtown.

The doors -

African American Fire Fighter Museum. Los Angeles, front view

An old machine in the darkness -

African American Fire Fighter Museum. Los Angeles, old fire truck

Posted by Alan at 6:29 PM PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006 6:43 PM PST

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