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 -

Friday, 25 August 2006
Little Tokyo
Topic: East of Hollywood
Little Tokyo
Roof Detail, Japanese Village Plaza, Little Tokyo, Los AngelesLittle Tokyo is the Japanese American district in downtown Los Angeles - roughly four large city blocks, bounded on the west by Broadway, the east by Alameda Street, the south by Third Street, and the north by Temple. Or really, from the Los Angeles River to the east to downtown Los

Angeles on the west - with City Hall and the LAPD Parker Center to the north, and the new "Artist District" to the south.

As noted here, this particular Little Tokyo dates from 1886, when Charles Kame, an ex-seaman from Japan, opened a Japanese restaurant at 340 East First Street. One thing led to another and by the turn of the century a small Issei (immigrants from Japan) community was in place around First and San Pedro Streets. The area started to be called Little Tokyo after two thousand Issei, recruited in northern California by Henry Huntington to lay tracks for the Pacific Electric Railway in 1903, were later joined by thousands more who fled the racial tensions in San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. They were all denied citizenship under federal law, and barred from owning property by state legislation out here, and local employment and housing was pretty much closed to them, but they had this place - and the name of the game for them was fishing, agriculture (there were a whole lot if successful Japanese American truck farms across the area), wholesale produce and retailing. This was home.

Of course, unlike the Issei, the Nisei (children of Japanese immigrants) were American citizens by birth. But they didn't much like this area and left for the suburbs, and the area withered. In 1934 they started Nisei Week here to bring everyone back together for a festival of Japanese matters - calligraphy and ikebana mixed with typical "American" events, a beauty contest with its coronation and court and all that. And they promoted Nisei Week as an annual celebration of Japanese American "loyalty to the United States." But no one moved back.

And then there was what really destroyed the place, Executive Order 9066 - Franklin Roosevelt signed that on February 19, 1942. It gave the United States Army authority to displace more than a hundred and ten thousand Nikkei living on the west coast and put them in concentration camps in isolated areas out here in the West. That emptied the place. And after the war no one much moved back to this area - bad memories perhaps, or better places to live in the new suburbs. And then in the early fifties the city built its police administration building - Parker Center - on the former site of the Nishi Hongwangi Buddhist temple. That took out housing for a thousand or more, and one-fourth of the district's commercial frontage.

There was an effort to save what was left after that, resulting in the Mayor's Little Tokyo Community Development Advisory Committee, formed in 1969, and the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Project established the following year under the Community Redevelopment Agency. There was a lot of construction in the seventies and eighties - fifteen new structures and the Little Tokyo Historic District, thirteen simple and unpretentious commercial buildings on the north side of First Street. That was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The little shops there now specialize in Japanese-language videos and DVDs, and some in Japanese electronics and video games, if you need to find Japanese video games that were never translated into English. They have them.

Now the center of things is, really, the clean and modern Japanese Village Plaza, in the very center of "Little Tokyo" - ethnic restaurants, karaoke clubs and a Boba café, and shops for tourists. It's an outdoor mall and theme park of sorts - with ghosts. Every August there still is a Nisei Week, and now the LA Tofu Festival.

But the place is not what it once was. Only about a thousand still live here, mostly elderly folks - it's mainly a work and entertainment district. Japanese Americans, if you will, now live out in Torrance and Gardena, and really all over.

Of course there are still several Buddhist temples in Little Tokyo, and a few Japanese Christian churches. And curiously Pentecostalism started in Little Tokyo. The new Japanese American Cultural and Community Center Plaza is located on the original site of the First Pentecostal Church, a multiracial congregation called the Azusa Street Mission. This is where the Azusa Street Revival started in 1906 - the Pentecostal Movement that swept across America. Earlier, it was also the site of the First AME Church.


The last intact block of Little Tokyo to survive massive redevelopment in the seventies and eighties - thirteen buildings on First Street were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 -

Little Tokyo Historic District - the last intact block of Little Tokyo to survive massive redevelopment in the seventies and eighties - thirteen buildings on First Street were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986



















A temple hidden in an alley (the view the other way from the shot above) -

Buddhist Temple, off First Street, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles











 Reflections - not a temple -

Restaurant and club, the modern side First Street, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles












Seriyu-en (Garden of the Clear Stream) - Takeo Uesugi, 1979 (also known as the James Irvine Garden) - 244 South San Pedro Street, behind the Japanese American Community and Cultural Center -

Seriyu-en (Garden of the Clear Stream) - Takeo Uesugi, 1979 (also known as the James Irvine Garden) - 244 South San Pedro Street, behind the Japanese American Community and Cultural Center, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles













You'll find a full array of more than thirty photographs of Little Tokyo, with more background and detail, in this weekend's Just Above Sunset, to be posted early Sunday morning, August 27th.

Posted by Alan at 8:57 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006 9:07 PM PDT
Thursday, 24 August 2006
Blue Shadows
Topic: Light and Shadow
Blue Shadows
The south face of the Hollywood Center Building - Hollywood Boulevard at Cherokee - Wednesday, 23 August 2006, mid-afternoon.

Shadows on the south face of the Hollywood Center Building - Hollywood Boulevard at Cherokee




















Hollywood Center Building - Hollywood Boulevard at Cherokee - the first home of the Screen Actors Guild and of the Writers Guild of America - 1929, by Norton and Wallis - an example of the subset of Art Deco know as Zigzag Moderne - "Zigzag Moderne developed from the classical-inspired designs of Bertram B Goodhue, the vertical Gothic schemes of Eliel Saarinen, the forms of the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratif of 1925, and the early twenties designs of Frank Lloyd Wright."

Posted by Alan at 1:20 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 23 August 2006
Hollywood Calling
Topic: Light and Shadow
Hollywood Calling
A complex shot - in the window of a combination souvenir and pawn shop in the 6600 block of Hollywood Boulevard, junk for sale, Wednesday, August 23rd. The street is reflected in the upper right quadrant - jacaranda and the tourist looking at this stuff for sale - the Tweety Bird and Snow White's Castle phones, and the poster of the lighthouse at sunset. It's a bit of looking in from the real world into something else entirely.

Phones for sale in the window of a shop on Hollywood Boulevard



















Phones for sale - and there's something ineffably sad here -

Phones for sale in the window of a shop on Hollywood Boulevard

Posted by Alan at 4:33 PM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 22 August 2006
Everyday Surrealism - Santa Monica International Chess Park
Topic: West of Hollywood
Everyday Surrealism - Santa Monica International Chess Park
Santa Monica International Chess Park, just off the sand, south of the pier and its amusement park, as seen Monday, August 21, late morning - but for two old men playing in the shade of a palm tree, the place was empty, the pieces caged and only pigeons at all the other tables.

Santa Monica International Chess Park, just off the sand, south of the pier and its amusement park…





















Santa Monica International Chess Park, just off the sand, south of the pier and its amusement park…





















Santa Monica International Chess Park, just off the sand, south of the pier and its amusement park…













Santa Monica International Chess Park, just off the sand, south of the pier and its amusement park…

Posted by Alan at 10:23 AM PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006 10:26 AM PDT
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.


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

Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006 6:10 PM PDT

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