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 -


Monday, 21 August 2006
The Forgotten Original
Topic: West of Hollywood
The Forgotten Original
The original Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, CaliforniaMuscle Beach is an area in Venice on Ocean Front Walk two blocks north of Venice Boulevard - set up by the city as an outdoors weightlifting gym.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, the original Muscle Beach was located in Santa Monica just south of the Santa Monica Pier. Popular gymnastic exhibitions were routinely held there on city-provided equipment. In the late fifties the popularity of that sort of thing began to wane and the area had become a bit seedy. Then there was the outcry over an alleged rape that led the city to shut it down in 1959. They moved it south to Venice.

Now?

The original Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book on this spot is Remembering Muscle Beach, reviewed in the Santa Monica Mirror by Peggy Clifford here (the link has a number of good photos from the glory days).

Excerpt for the Clifford review -

It was long ago, in a time very different from today, yet it probably couldn't have happened anywhere but Santa Monica - "the zenith city by the sundown sea," as its boosters once called it, the beach town whose leaders have tried, intermittently, to ignore the beach, shut it down or dress it up, and, inevitably, failed, because the beach is the primary fact of Santa Monica.

"Remembering Muscle Beach" (Angel City Press, 1999) by Harold Zinkin with Bonnie Hearn recalls, in grand detail, one of the most glorious, significant and ultimately shameful chapters in Santa Monica's history.

Zinkin became the first Mr. California in 1941. In 1945, he won the national AAU weightlifting championship, light heavyweight division, and went on to invent the Universal Gym Machine. He was here, at Muscle Beach, at the center of it all, and his memory is as sharp as the extraordinary photographs which illustrate his story.

He begins the book with an apt quotation from Camus: "In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."

In the mid-1930s, when the country had been brought low by the Depression, a bunch of boys began gathering at The Beach, after school and work. Zinkin mopped the cafeteria floor at his school and later set pins in a bowling alley for 25 cents an hour. Then, he and his pals, drove 21 miles from east L.A. to The Beach.

"It began," Zinkin and Hearn write, "as a place where a few friends could work out in the sand and grew to include a mismatched but amiable group of athletes, circus performers, wrestlers, college gymnasts, movie stunt people.... On weekends the crowd of spectators could easily top ten thousand, all lining the sidewalk to watch amazing stunts."

Stuntmen and circus performers went to the beach to practice their craft. The "kids," boys and girls, went there for fun and stayed on to make lives, and livelihoods, out of it. Future stuntman Russ Saunders, future gym impresarios Vic Tanney and Joe Gold and Jack LaLanne (who used to drive all night from his Berkeley health club), along with Zinkin, were among the young athletes who became regulars at what Zinkin calls "the birthplace of the fitness movement,"

"Muscle Beach really was glue," he says. "You became part of it. You became part of the activities. There wasn't anywhere else in the world where you could find that kind of life or know people like these."

Legend credits a physical education teacher, Kate Giroux, with persuading the City of Santa Monica and the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) to install a tumbling platform and other equipment on the beach. In fact, according to Zinkin, Paul Brewer and Jimmy Pfeiffer, who took gymnastics at John Adams Junior High, and Al Niederman, a former gymnast who worked as a mechanic for the bus company, built some basic equipment themselves and finally persuaded the City to kick in some money. As for Giroux, at one point, she tried to get the Muscle Beach habitués banned from the beach.

No one knows where the name came from, but some of the regulars, like Brewer, didn't like it, nor did they like to be labeled "Muscleheads," as they were, but they loved gymnastics and people loved watching them. Just south of the Santa Monica Pier, the Beach became more and more popular with athletes - including many young women - and spectators. In 1935, the City of Santa Monica hired UCLA coach Cecil Hollingsworth to teach gymnastics at Muscle Beach. By the late 1930s, there were 50 or 60 regulars and thousands of spectators came to see them perform on weekends.

Writers and photographers did countless stories and eventually The Beach was known nationally and internationally. To Zinkin and the other regulars, its fame was irrelevant, it was, he writes, "our education, our club, our cause. It was our youth."

When America went to war in 1941, Muscle Beach went with it.

The City of Santa Monica sent Zinkin, Saunders and Ran Hall out to promote the sale of war bonds. Subsequently, they and most of their pals served in the armed forces. One of then, John Kornoff, appeared on the cover of LOOK magazine, bare-chested, holding a rifle, as a symbol of the American fighting man. As much as anything else, Zinkin believes, that photo was "the beginning of a change of attitude regarding fitness," but, he adds, "It was certainly revolutionary to see a Muscle Beach regular glorified instead of vilified."

Joe Gold, served in the Coast Guard, and suffered spinal injuries that later made it necessary for him to use a wheelchair, but it didn't stop him from founding Gold's Gym and world Gym.

After the war, "No longer kids, the Muscle Beach regulars tried to find their places in the world that was ever so slowly starting to accept them... (and) show business was a natural next step."

Stars worked out with them. They worked as stunt doubles and one, Steve Reeves, became a star himself. As some of the regulars went off to work as chorus boys with Mae West, weight lifters and wrestlers began to join the gymnasts at The Beach.

In 1952, Zinkin opened a gym in Fresno. Within three years, he had five gyms and a TV exercise show, but he began to hear stories about trouble back at Muscle Beach.

The crowds of spectators had got too big for the City to deal with and it wanted to turn the space into parking lots. In addition, it was rumored that the owners of the Ocean Park Pier alleged that the free shows drew paying customers away from the Pier, while the owners of the Surf Rider Hotel found the entire scene offensive. In any event, the City closed Muscle Beach down after five weight lifters who lived in a boardwalk apartment were reportedly found partying with two underage girls. The headline in the Evening Outlook read: "Officials Stirred as Sex Orgy Bared." Although the cases against the weight lifters were dropped, the City bulldozed the area, claiming it had become a magnet for "perverts" and "narcissistic parasites." Several months later, the City reopened it, as "Beach Park 4." Use of the name "Muscle Beach" was forbidden, as were weightlifting and any events not approved by the City's recreation department.

It was never the same. Zinkin concludes, "Muscle Beach, as we knew it, may be gone, but the Muscle Beach attitude is not. Those of us who were around in the early days feel vindicated - happy to be alive and still flexing our muscles."

The City of Santa Monica has changed its mind and restored the site. It's back. But Venice is now the draw. Everyone went south. It's a quiet place now. This is how it looked Monday, August 21, 2006, late morning.

The original Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, California


Posted by Alan at 6:03 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006 6:10 PM PDT
Sunday, 20 August 2006
Words and Symbols
Topic: Oddities
Words and Symbols
Words: On the back of a Walk, Don't Walk signal on Melrose Avenue, a band slapped their sticker - Sounds Like Disaster. If this reflects their attitude - rebels expressing just how awful this world really is and what the authentic response should be - fine. It's punk rock tradition. If it's an admission of their skill level, that's another matter.

You have to assume the name was carefully chosen, not the result of using this random band name generator - each time you refresh the page you get new names you can call your post-punk beyond-new-wave band. It just produced Order of The Movable Dog, and A Fistful of Mice, and Venomous Furniture, and Stack of Noises, and Invisible Bone. Other bands may be cheating.

In any event, this is the Los Angeles alternative music scene in one image.

Stickers on the a Walk, Don't Walk signal on Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symbols: A trashcan across the street. You don't even need the words.

Stylized trashcan on Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles


Posted by Alan at 6:27 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Saturday, 19 August 2006
Just Posters
Topic: Insider Stuff
Just Posters
Posters for sale in the window of Melrose Music, 7714 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

The first is of the old icons, the second of the new one -

Hollywood icons poster for sale in the window of Melrose Music, 7714 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Depp poster for sale in the window of Melrose Music, 7714 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Jay Stakelon on Melrose Music here -

Amid Melrose Avenue's many DJ shops, this oasis caters to indie rockers and headbangers alike.

The Scene - Rock and roll might not be dead, but it's sure hard to find among the beat-heavy, vinyl-centric DJ shops on Melrose Avenue. Enter Melrose Music, which eschews electronic beats and hip-hop for a strong collection of new and used punk, metal and indie rock.

The Goods - Everything from Pennywise's frat-ified punk rock to old-school hard-core essentials from Minor Threat and Gorilla Biscuit to The Get Up Kids and Weezer for the cardigan-and-Converse set. Metal also gets preferential treatment, with an impressive assortment of death metal for those who find Pantera and Biohazard too sedate. Grab a cold drink from the fridge in the front of the store while browsing the DVDs and videos, and check out posters suitable for dorm room or den.
Visit, if that's your thing.


Posted by Alan at 1:45 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Updated: Saturday, 19 August 2006 1:47 PM PDT
Friday, 18 August 2006
Melrose Bicycle
Topic: Color Studies
Melrose Bicycle
Parked in an alley behind Melrose Avenue, Friday, August 18, a bicycle -

 Melrose Avenue bicycle with orange mural, Los Angeles


Posted by Alan at 6:29 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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Thursday, 17 August 2006
One Shot
Topic: Botanical Studies
One Shot
Hibiscus in the shadows, Rosewood Avenue at Alfred, just off La Cienega Boulevard, West Los Angeles, Tuesday, 15 August 2006, late afternoon.

Hibiscus in the shadows -


Posted by Alan at 5:17 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
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