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.

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

Wednesday, 3 May 2006
Notes on Hollywood History
Topic: Historic Hollywood

Notes on Hollywood History

Palm in bloom, Laurel Avenue, Hollywood
The palm on the right, as seen from front door, says it's spring. It's in bloom.

But as May begins, the sunshine is rare. If it's going to be a typical year, each day begins with light fog, the usual marine layer off the Pacific, and then grey low clouds until mid-afternoon, when the sun makes its way out for an hour or two, then the clouds roll in again from the coast. Thus usually goes on, day after day, until late June, but it makes for interesting diffused light.


The shot below was taken in that diffused light, and whatever you make of the composition, for locals here, the old-timers, it evokes Old Hollywood.

The roof belongs to the last remaining Victorian cottage on Hollywood Boulevard, Jane's House, built in 1903, and once used as a schoolhouse where the children of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille and all sorts of other early Hollywood moguls and stars. It sits back from the boulevard at the end of a narrow courtyard, and now it's a new trendy restaurant, Memphis (southern cooking), reviewed in the Los Angeles Times here if you'd care to drop by. The Times opens with the history, but the food sounds reasonable, and the scene impressive. How trendy is it? The supermodel Kate Moss celebrated her birthday here, and Dustin Hoffman's son Jake for now is the DJ on Tuesday nights. Whatever. Things change.

The sign in the background is on top of the Fontenoy, a tall concrete apartment building designed by the architect Leland A. Bryant in 1928, the year before he did his famous Sunset Tower over on the Sunset Strip (photos of that here and here).

Memphis and the Fontenoy, Hudson and Hollywood Boulevard

The Fontenoy has its history, as in this, from someone who was living there in 1981 -

Harry and Lee were two old vaudeville veterans who lived across the hall from each other, and who had a million great stories to tell about decades in the entertainment industry, from the Orpheum Circuit to Broadway, Las Vegas to USO camp shows during WWII. Harry produced the "Delmar Revels" revue in 1927, which played 112 performances at New York's Shubert Theater and introduced a young comedian named Bert Lahr to Broadway. Lee had toured extensively throughout Europe following the war, playing for kings and commoners. When I met them they were still working, in vastly diminished roles, filling in as extras on movie sets at Universal, Paramount and Columbia.

They threw legendary parties at the Fontenoy in the 1950s and 1960s, with guest lists that included Mae West, Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, and Irene Ryan. Lee, who rented the larger apartment on the northwest corner of the second floor, usually played host, entertaining guests on his Steinway grand piano.
Ah, those were the days.

But you can still live there. It's not expensive.

The Fontenoy on Hollywood, negative image

The name? See British Battles on the Battle of Fontenoy during the War of the Austrian Succession (King George's War) - 11th May 1745. It was east of the Scheldt opposite Tournai and around the villages of Fontenoy, Vezin and Saint Anthoine in southwest Belgium - the British, Hanoverians, Austrian and Dutch against the French, about fifty thousand on each side. The link has all the details, and a map of which regiment was where, and the associated paintings. The French won.

See also this from November 1998, where Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis and sometimes contributor to these pages, comments on the Eurostar rail service between London and Paris through the "chunnel." The French didn't think much of the west end of the trip ending at Waterloo Station in London, and joking that maybe Paris' Gare du Nord, at the east end of the trip, should be renamed Fontenoy.

That has nothing to do with Hollywood, but it's amusing.

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

Tuesday, 2 May 2006
It's big and green...
Topic: Color Studies

It's big and green...

The Wiltern Theatre and adjacent Pellissier Building, an Art Deco landmark located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, CaliforniaJust the basics -

"The Wiltern Theatre and adjacent twelve-story Pellissier Building are an Art Deco landmark located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, California (the entire complex is commonly referred to as simply the Wiltern). Clad in a blue-green terra-cotta tile and situated on a diagonal to the street corner, the complex is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the United States. In addition to the building's architectural significance, the construction of the Wiltern marked the beginning of the change in Wilshire Boulevard from a sleepy residential street to a busy commercial one and of Los Angeles from a city with a central core to one of many "centers".

"... Originally built in 1931, the Wiltern was designed by architect Stiles O. Clements of Morgan, Walls & Clements, the city's oldest architectural firm. The Wiltern Theatre was originally designed as a vaudeville theater and initially opened as the Warner Brothers Western Theater, the flagship for the theater chain. Quickly closing a year later, the theater reopened in the mid 1930s and was renamed the Wiltern Theatre for the major intersection which it faces (Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue).

"In 1956, the building and theater were sold to the Franklin Life Insurance Company of Springfield, Illinois. However, the company ignored the landmark building and by the late 1970s the Wiltern had fallen into complete disarray. Only the intervention of a group of local preservationists saved the complex from being demolished on two occasions in the late 1970s when the owners filed for demolition permits (the preservation of the Wiltern was one of the Los Angeles Conservancy's first victories in its fight to preserve the architectural heritage of the City).

"In 1981, the Wiltern was purchased by developer Wayne Ratkovich who worked with architect Brenda Levin to restore both the theater and the office building to their former glory. The renovation of the office building was complete by 1983, but the Wiltern Theatre presented a much more difficult problem and took another two years to complete. The theater had been poorly maintained - many of the murals and plasterwork were damaged, many of the fixtures had been sold off or pillaged, and portions of the ceiling had crashed onto the ground floor seats. To restore the theater to its original state required some expert craftsmanship to repair what was there (including A.T. Heinsbergen, the son of the original painter) and some creativity to replace what had been lost (including salvaging vintage Art Deco seats from the soon to be demolished Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon). Further, while originally a movie theater, Ratkovich wanted to convert the Wiltern into a performing arts center that could host live concerts and Broadway level stage performances which entailed extending the rear wall of the theater back thirteen feet. After a four year renovation the Wiltern Theatre finally opened again to the public on May 1, 1985.

"Currently, the Wiltern Theatre is one of the largest in Los Angeles and at one time seated 2,344 (subsequent modifications removed 1,200 seats on the ground floor to allow for a variety of configurations from a standing room only crowd to a more intimate arrangement). Since its renovation, the Wiltern Theatre has hosted a diverse range of performing artists including the Los Angeles Orchestra, the American Ballet Theatre, magician David Copperfield, and popular music icons Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Paul Simon, David Bowie, The Pixies and the Rolling Stones."

Photos from Monday, May 1, 2006, mid-afternoon. More to come in this weekend's Just Above Sunset, the weekly magazine-format parent site to this web log.

The Wiltern Theatre and adjacent Pellissier Building, an Art Deco landmark located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, California

The Wiltern Theatre and adjacent Pellissier Building, an Art Deco landmark located on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, California

Posted by Alan at 11:54 AM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006 11:55 AM PDT
Monday, 1 May 2006
Classic LA
Topic: Technical Exercises

Classic LA

Mid-afternoon, May Day 2006, stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard. The mirror of the Mini Cooper frames CNN, where Larry King is no doubt working on this evening's show. The traffic doesn't move. Classic Los Angeles.

Sunset Boulevard as seen in the mirror of the Mini Cooper

Posted by Alan at 9:09 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 30 April 2006
Walk Like an Egyptian, or Something
Topic: Historic Hollywood

Walk Like an Egyptian, or Something

The Egyptian and the Pig 'n Whistle on Hollywood BoulevardHere's Hollywood Boulevard on a cloudy Saturday morning, looking west, past the Egyptian Theater, past the Pig 'N Whistle, the big Scientology building, to the Guinness "Book of Records" place. It's an odd town. And the fellow in the shot doesn't seem to be walking like an Egyptian.

This Pig 'n Whistle place opened on July 22, 1927, and according to them, was "an instant favorite with the movie colony as well as the local citizenry." Who would that be? Shirley Temple, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Loretta Young were regulars, and they say Cary Grant, Jane Wyman or Walter Pidgeon too. The word is that from the late sixties on, whenever the Rolling Stones were in town, Jagger and Richards could be found here, and when the Beatles were in town, recording, as they did, at the Capitol Records Building not that many blocks away, they would drop by. It's supposed to be a hangout for visiting Brit rock stars, but no one really sees them there much, if at all. The menu is pretty much American. And as for the name, that comes from the two words Piggin and Wassail - a piggin is a vessel (usually a jug) used to carry ale, and a wassail is a toast, as in "Good Health," and also a special occasion drink made from spiced wine or sweetened ale. So the name is British, even if the place isn't. Hollywood is a land of fakery.

The Pig 'n Whistle is connected to the forecourt of the Egyptian Theatre by a side entrance, and that place has a history. It was built by Sid Grauman, who also built Chinese Theater, three blocks west across the street, and the Million Dollar Theater on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. In the early twenties this Egyptian thing cost Sid eight hundred thousand dollars, and it took eighteen months to build - the architects were Meyer & Holler and it was built by the Milwaukee Building Company.

Okay, Sid did fake Egyptian, and fake Chinese, and had guys from Milwaukee put it all up, so why not open a fake British pub next door? It's a Hollywood thing.

The joke is that the Egyptian was designed to be Spanish Revival, but they slapped on the Egyptian details at the last moment, just after the discovery of King Tut's tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922 - Sid Grauman was a showman who knew who to ride the buzz. And the Egyptian Theatre was the site of the first-ever Hollywood premiere - "Robin Hood," starring Douglas Fairbanks. That was on Wednesday, October 18, 1922, red carpets and all.

But the Egyptian wasn't to be a success. Grauman abandoned it in 1927, putting up the Chinese Theater down the street. The Egyptian wasn't restored until recently - American Cinematheque purchased it from the City of Los Angeles in 1996 for one dollar, agreeing to restore it. No one likes ratty abandoned historic landmarks, and what could the City do with it? Now it's two smaller halls in the same building, not one big two thousand seat hall, and one of the two is a little seventy-seven seat theater named for Steven Spielberg. The Egyptian reopened on December 4, 1998, after almost thirteen million dollars of work, and it's rather snazzy once again.

The courtyard of the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard

The historical marker at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard

Posted by Alan at 8:22 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006 6:14 AM PDT
Saturday, 29 April 2006
Studies in Red
Topic: Color Studies

Studies in Red

From Saturday, April 29, 2006, nine in the morning - dark and cloudy - Sunset Boulevard

Red wall and poster at the Whisky a Go-Go, Sunset Boulevard

From Saturday, April 29, 2006, nine thirty in the morning - dark and cloudy - Hollywood Boulevard

Entrance, Geisha House, Hollywood Boulevard

Posted by Alan at 2:24 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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