An Odd Hollywood Star
An Odd Hollywood Star
Friday, May 26, 2006, and Miles Davis would have been eighty today. This is his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his birthday. It's on south side of the street, just west of Sycamore. The local jazz station, KJZZ out of Cal State Long Beach, was playing his music all day.
The Wikipedia has most everything you might want to know about Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 - September 28, 1991), at least the highlights, here, including this detail -
And the rest is history.
Miles Davis was born into a relatively wealthy African-American family living in Alton, Illinois. His father, Miles Henry Davis, was a dentist, and in 1927 the family moved to a white neighborhood in East St. Louis. They also owned a substantial ranch, and Davis learned to ride horses as a boy.
Davis's mother, Cleota, wanted Davis to learn the violin - she was a capable blues pianist, but kept this hidden from her son, feeling that "negro" music was not sufficiently genteel. At the age of nine, one of Davis's father's friends gave him his first trumpet, but he did not start learning to play seriously until the age of thirteen, when his father gave him a new trumpet and arranged lessons with local trumpeter Elwood Buchanan and, later, a man named Mone Peterson. Against the fashion of the time, Buchanan stressed the importance of playing without vibrato, and Davis would carry his clear signature tone throughout his career.
Clark Terry was another important early influence and friend of Davis's. By the age of sixteen, Davis was a member of the musician's union and working professionally when not at high school. At seventeen, he spent a year playing in bandleader Eddie Randle's "Blue Devils". During this time, Sonny Stitt tried to persuade him to join the Tiny Bradshaw band then passing through town, but Cleota insisted that he finish his final year of high school.
In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited St. Louis. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were members of the band, and Davis was taken on as third trumpet for a couple of weeks because of the illness of Buddy Anderson. When Eckstine's band left Davis behind to complete the tour, the trumpeter's parents were still keen for him to continue formal academic studies.
... In 1944 Davis moved to New York City, ostensibly to take up a scholarship at the Juilliard School of Music. In reality, however, he neglected his studies and immediately set about tracking down Charlie Parker.
The connection to Hollywood? He was married to actress Cicely Tyson in 1981 and they were divorced in 1988. And Davis was the very first subject of a Playboy magazine interview - the interviewer was Alex Haley. Playboy's Heffner lives out here of course. The Playboy Jazz Festival hits the Hollywood Bowl in a few weeks. A Hollywood sidewalk star will do nicely.
Previously in these pages see Something for a Hot Day in Los Angeles, from last July, a discussion Louis Malle's first film, "Elevator to the Gallows" - with its Miles Davis score. And two years earlier, this on that film score, now available on CD -
Cool. And note that for the birthday there's a new four-CD boxed set available, Miles Davis - The Legendary Prestige Quintet Recordings. From the mid-fifties you get Davis with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. All recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, digitally remastered in from the original analog masters, with bonus CD of eight previously unavailable radio and television audio performances - two tunes from The Tonight Show With Steve Allen among others. The cover art is by Davis - the painting "New York by Night" - and you five complete transcriptions of Davis' solos. Buy it? Just a thought.
The album is rather fine. Moody, "cool" and spare late fifties jazz. It holds up well. It's a lot freer and less mannered than the stuff on the album that is so famous. It's better, and sounds just fine now. Odd that when I hear it I know this is what is known as the "West Coast Sound," born here in Los Angeles with The Birth of the Cool album. Recorded in Paris for a French film, this might just as well have been recorded at the old Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach.
The Hollywood Boulevard palm trees looking down on the Miles Davis star.
And Marilyn Monroe is showing off for him.
Hollywood Lived Here
Topic: Historic Hollywood
Hollywood Lived Here
There are still a few of these little bungalow apartments in some parts of Hollywood. They were built in the twenties by the studios for their stars, or at least for the second-stringers who would become stars. Most have been torn down and replaced by strip malls or modern "courtyard" apartment buildings, or by asphalt parking lots. This one below, a classic, is across the street and a few feet south of the old Charlie Chapin Studios on La Brea. The studios opened there in 1919, and this place probably went up soon after. It's amazing that it survived.
For a giggle, see this -
Hollywood Lived Here
The semi-glorious and sometimes gory history of Hollywood apartment living.
Nikki Finke - LA Weekly - Issue of April 29 - May 5, 2005
The key passage -
And you remember how The Doors' LA Woman opens -
L.A. apartments have been the scene of grisly Hollywood suicides, murders and accidents. The condo complex of 875 Bundy Ave. in Brentwood became famous after Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were found knifed to death on June 12, 1994. (After O.J. Simpson stood criminal and civil trials for the murders, the large numbers of looky-loos caused the condo association to change the street number to 879 and change the appearance of the entrance.) Inside an apartment at 139 Fraser St. in Santa Monica, model-actress Margaux Hemingway committed suicide with an overdose of pills on July 2, 1996, the same day her grandfather Ernest Hemingway took his life 35 years earlier. In 1981, actor William Holden was found dead in an apartment at Shorecliff Towers at 535 Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica after falling, striking his head and then bleeding to death. In an apartment at 86575 Comstock Ave. in Westwood, 22-year-old comic sensation Freddie Prinze committed suicide by shooting himself in 1977. In 1976, Rebel Without a Cause co-star Sal Mineo, 37, was robbed and stabbed to death in the carport of his apartment building at 8563 Holloway Drive in West Hollywood. The daughter of TV host Art Linkletter (Kids Say the Darndest Things) jumped to her death from her sixth-floor apartment at 8787 Shoreham Drive in West Hollywood. And one of the biggest crimes in Hollywood took place in 1922 when silent-film director William Desmond Taylor was shot in the back of the head in his bungalow apartment in Alvarado Court on S. Alvarado St. in Westlake Park. The murder sent shock waves through the film community because Taylor was a celebrity, several movie figures were implicated and the neighborhood was affluent. Not only was the murder never solved (sound familiar, O.J. and Robert Blake?), but, as with most historical spots in L.A., that apartment complex is now a parking lot.
There's even a techno-trance band called Hollywood Bungalow, but they probably don't live here.
Well, I just got into town about an hour ago
Took a look around, see which way the wind blow
Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows
Are you a lucky little lady in the city of light
Or just another lost angel... city of night
City of night, city of night, city of night...
A decade later the film industry had generated a ton of money and edifices like this went up, the west facing wall of something or other on the southeast corner of North Sycamore and Hollywood Boulevard. The thirties were fun too.
Kermit the Frog at Charlie Chaplin's Place
Topic: Insider Stuff
Kermit the Frog at Charlie Chaplin's Place
Kermit the Frog can be found at Charlie Chaplin Studios, on the northeast corner of La Brea and De Longpre Avenues, just south of Sunset Boulevard. Chaplin built his own Hollywood studio in 1918, and that's what this was until 1953. Then it became Kling Studios and they produced the old Superman television series with George Reeves. Red Skelton used the sound stages for his CBS variety show when CBS followed Kling as the owners of the place, and they filmed the Perry Mason series with Raymond Burr here. Then it became the home of A&M Records and Tijuana Brass Enterprises. A&M Records was formed in 1962 by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, and their first choice for a name was Carnival Records, but after two singles they got in trouble as another label had already taken the Carnival name. Oops. A&M Records is now down in Santa Monica, part of they Universal Music Group, with a catalog that includes the Carpenters, the Police, Barry White and Sheryl Crow. And Alpert has his jazz club, the Vibrato Grill high above Bel Air, up Mulholland Drive way.
The old Charlie Chaplin Studios is currently the home of The Jim Henson Company, as in the Muppets, as in Kermit the Frog. In 1969 the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board named the studio a historical cultural monument, and that explains why Kermit the Frog is on the roof dressed as Charlie Chaplin's tramp, sort of. It's a nod to history.
The history here, the Chaplin films - A Dog's Life (1918), and Pay Day (1922), and longer films, Shoulder Arms (1918) and The Pilgrim (1923), and the silent feature films, The Kid (1921), A Woman of Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), and The Circus (1928). And there was City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936). Modern Times was the first film where Chaplin's voice is heard (in the nonsense song at the end). He wasn't big on the sound thing. But there was "The Great Dictator" (1940) - Chaplin played a fascist dictator who looked a lot like Hitler. Chaplin and Hitler were born only four days apart, but had different sorts of careers of course. All those films came from here.
You will find a bit on the Jim Henson Company here, being told it was founded in 1958 by puppeteer Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. The company is now run by his son Brian and daughter Lisa, who serve as co-chairs and co-CEOs. The company's units include Jim Henson Pictures, Jim Henson Television, Jim Henson Records, and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. That's what's here now. Kermit the Frog was the mascot for the Jim Henson Company until the sale of the Muppet characters (just the rights to use the characters) to the Walt Disney Company, but Disney seems to have no problem with Kermit in this non-Disney context. It's history.
The neighborhood? Across the street there's a strip joint, and above it a billboard for the current hot movie - Tom and Audrey (shown here), in Paris, hot on the trail of the clues to the real story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and what the Catholic Church really doesn't want you to know (aside from the priests and the young boys). Jesus had children? It's hack suspense fiction - it's Agatha Christie fused with dark suspicions of the Catholic Church (or so says Andrew Sullivan), but this is really odd product placement.
When A&M Records was active at this site, a popular French singer, Mylène Farmer, recorded an album here - Anamorphosée (1995). Farmer is one of those sex kitten types, and perfect for Hollywood. She was born to French parents in Pierrefonds, in Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, and they took her back to France when she was eight. But she spends time out here as she likes it out here. You see, her birth name is Mylène Gautier, but she chose her stage name Farmer in homage to Frances Farmer, of all people. That's so Hollywood. Hardly anyone in America has ever heard of Mylène Farmer of course.
The number seven song in France in 1996 was from this La Brea studio album, Anamorphosée. It was called "California." The music video is amazing (you can watch it here) - all the exteriors shot on the Sunset Strip, within a few blocks of the desk where these words are being written. There's an opening shot of the Coconut Teaser, at Sunset and Laurel Canyon, and that's gone now, but all of the rest is still out there, just down the street. It's very edgy. It's very arty (or very pretentious, if you prefer). It's very sexy. It very LA. And it's quite French.
From the lyrics -
You get the idea. C'est sexy le ciel de Californie, except for Kermit the Frog up there.
Sex appeal, c'est Sunset
C'est Marlboro qui me sourit
Mon amour, mon moi, je
Sais qu'il existe
La chaleur de l'abandon
C'est comme une symphonie
C'est sexy le ciel de Californie
Sous ma peau j'ai L.A. en overdose
So sexy le spleen d'un road movie
Dans l'rétro ma vie qui s'anamorphose
And as for what Herb Alpert is up to these days, see this. The recording genius, and perhaps the worst trumpet player ever to make a hit record (he was awful), is joining the tragically hip and doing a remix album -
God help us all - a club remix of "Tijuana Taxi" is not what we need.
Herb Alpert wasn't too jazzed when he heard about a remix of his classic "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" album - until he tasted some of the new cuts.
He liked what he heard, and the trumpeter and music-industry pacesetter threw his weight behind the new version of the toe-tapping, genre-bending album that featured Grammy-winner "A Taste of Honey" and "Whipped Cream," and other food-oriented treats.
Things That Aren't What They Seem, or Are
Things That Aren't What They Seem, or Are
A reality television production company - Rocket Science Laboratories gave us the reality shows Joe Millionaire, Temptation Island, and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé. They've got this little sign by the door, but no other indication they're inside. This is the only sign. It's very mysterious. But in 2003 the company entered a multi-year overall production deal with the FOX Broadcasting Company. Rocket Science Laboratories was founded by partners Jean-Michel Michenaud and Chris Cowan, who, given what they named their company, obviously have a sense of humor. What they do is not exactly rocket science, as they say. In fact, it's somewhat the opposite, and has made them rich. They seem to enjoy the joke.
They're just down the street, on Santa Monica Boulevard, next to Barney's Beanery, where one night Janis Joplin had a few drinks (two screwdrivers) before she went up the hill to the old Landmark Theater, played a few sets, and died. She was not a rocket scientist herself.
Rocket Science Laboratories
8441 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Stephanie Mata has this store around the corner from the Groundlings Theater on Melrose Avenue. And it's true. The LA Weekly says this about her -
Her store reflects her personality, doesn't it?
With 20 years of coddling VIPs, hard-assing too-cool-to-pay-a-cover scenesters and managing everything from crowd control to the cash box at Hollywood's most rockin' nightclubs, Stephanie Mata, who currently works the Viper Room and Key Club, knows all when it comes to the dynamics of the door. The store owner (she's got a by-appointment-only shop below her Melrose apartment called the Never Open Store)/mother/door diva supreme has manned the entrances of some legendary joints over the years, including metal haven the Cathouse, the retro-à-gogo 1970 and the Pretty Ugly Club, to name a few. And though the locales have changed, the stuff coming out of people's mouths definitely has not. "The worst possible thing you can say at the door, and people always do, is 'I know so-and-so...' or 'I'm friends with so-and-so?' If I hear that, I usually let 'em have it." Mata says, even if it is a friend, "no one gets in for free all the time at my door," and she has no qualms about asking pals to kick down when necessary. After all, "clubs are there to make money," she says. Toting her ever-present clipboard, Mata is one of the few women you'll actually see out in the trenches (as opposed to inside the club, sheltered in a booth or behind a table), and her straightforward, no-bullshit approach commands respect, often striking fear into the hearts of even the burliest male club-hoppers. Still, even those who've endured her wrath seem to respect her sharp-witted and vivacious demeanor, traits that have surely helped her stay in the biz for so long. "All I have is my personality," she says. "But I come from the school of 'the customer is always wrong,' so I'm really not cut out for a traditional job. I'll probably end up the world's only 100-year-old door girl."
Playa del Rey, late April. Well, duh!