Topic: Historic Hollywood
Notes on Hollywood History
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).
The Fontenoy has its history, as in this, from someone who was living there in 1981 -
Ah, those were the days.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.
But you can still live there. It's not expensive.
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.