Artist and sculptor Robert Graham died over the weekend here in Los Angeles. I've always admired his elegant sculptures. At left, is his "Torso" the best thing about Beverly Hills' "Walk of Style." His bronze works at the entrance to the Coliseum were the high point of the L.A.'s Olympic arts project. His Mary appears to float over the monumental bronze doors at downtown's Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels. He considered that work one of his best.
Earlier this year I interviewed artist/illustrator and gallery owner (Subliminal Projects) Shepard Fairey. He's now the cover artist for Time Magazine person of the year issue--very cool. Save your Obama posters and stickers--now they're real collectibles. He's got a major show upcoming in Boston at the ICA--also great. Entitled Shepard Fairey: Supply & Demand -- opens Feb. 6. Congrats!
Imagine finding water in the desert? Cabot Yerxa, a pioneer and traveller, was the first Anglo to find water in Desert Hot Springs. He then spent the rest of his life building his own version of a Hopi-style pueblo (above) from scavenged materials. Now a house museum, Cabot's Pueblo Museum, is the oddest attraction in Desert Hot Springs. The first time I visited the house ten years ago with my kids, there was an even odder caretaker who gave us a personal, private tour. These days, the museum is securely fenced in and run by the city--still weird but not so wild. The primary reason for visiting the city is to take in the waters as I outlined intoday's L.A. Times.
While staying at the mid-century styled Miracle Manor Resort, with its twice-filtered mineral waters, I had a water massage. Very trippy indeed--not necessarily the most restorative massage ever (it's certainly not a deep tissue) but because of the water and movement, it was more like a journey back in geologic time.
After years of meeting and master plans and a prolonged construction schedule, the final leg of the Silver Lake walking path will officially open on Dec 20--that's the date for the ribbon cutting, hard to know how they'll keep joggers, walkers and dogs off the crushed granite path until then as it looks very inviting. Took some pictures yesterday as I walked next to the path; really changes your perspective and John Lautner's Silver Top seemed to stand out even more.
The Richard Neutra-designed homes on Silver Lake Blvd. are now seen in full perspective. Great for jogging/walking architectural buffs. Years in the making--I recall going to a master plan meeting 10+ years ago--the path is definitely a safer alternative to walking on busy Silver Lake Blvd and it's great that we have more open public space. Can't wait to circle the reservoir in style!
From the it's in the Zeitgeist department: today's L.A. Times Home section covers urbanites with chickens and their fancy coops. Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne get a great plug for their blog. And egg-laying hens get more positive press. Roosters not so much.
I admire Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen: they're part of a new generation of homesteaders that promote modern self-sufficiency. In their case: a farm in Echo Park within view of my old house that produces almost all of their veggies and some fruit. I liked the fact that they've turned the entire landscape into mostly edible plants like artichokes, tomatoes, beds of lettuce, herbs with some very healthy and well-protected chickens (hawks, coyotes and raccoons are the local predators). They were kind enough to share some "farm fresh" eggs when I visited them for an interview for the Los Feliz Ledger. They have a very useful blog; the most recent post includes plans for a cocktail bar in your hand built fallout shelter--definitely a must have.
Just listening to the horns honking down at Ralph's--a holiday tradition here as shoppers go mad the days before every holiday. At dinner, my family has a tradition of each person saying what they are thankful for. Here's my thanks in advance: I'm thankful for my health, my sons who are in excellent health, my family, my friends, my boyfriend, my happiness and my sense of humor, which I'm proud to say I've passed down to my kids. Work is certainly slowing down but adversity presents opportunity. I'm happy to be here! Let's feast!
Fiora Boes at Silver Lake's Ghettogloss is the princess of artsy and entertaining art events. Tonight a showcase of art created at her summer event, the Bronx Zoo opens. As pictured, it was cha-cha ladies in peek-a-boo bikinis or spangly showgirl outfits plus rather intimidating gorilla masks. Ferocious faces + supple girly-girls, people went ape-shit for this drawing class with a sexy twist. Dozens of artists have submitted their work: sketches, photos and some crazy collages.
Worth a peek tonight thru Dec. 1st at 2380 Glendale Blvd.
If my polling place at the Silver Lake Recreation Center is any indication, voting percentages will be historic today. I was happy to see so many friends and neighbors and our ubiquitous council member Tom LaBonge all in line and hopefully voting for the Democratic candidate, happier chickens via Proposition 2, high speed trains and equal marriage rights.
Growing up in Florida we never celebrated "Dia de los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead"--Nov. 1 is All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation for Catholics. After living in Los Angeles I've come to like Day of the Dead--a holiday with its own set of unique rituals (sugar skulls, hanging out in cemeteries, folk art pieces) and mini-industry of events. I went to the first Day of the Dead event at Hollywood Forever Cemetery nine years ago (photos are from 2006). Since then, the event has amplified with more music, vendors homemade altars and an admission charge.
I'm hoping to go to Self-Help Graphics 35th annual event. Artist Leo Limon promised he'd be in a booth as the Kiss of Death.
Tis the season for numerous blog posts on hauntings a timely subject and always fascinating due to lack of empirical evidence but a certainty by those who have been haunted or "felt something" that can only be described as a dreadful feeling. A nice piece from Jessica Wakeman on haunted hotels in America.I was intrigued to read paranormal expert Dom Villella's explanation on "residual energy," the idea that because so many people pass through hotels, and engage in some crazy and deadly activity on occasion, there's a possibility that they leave these energy footprints. In Los Angeles, there's definitely that vibe at the Biltmore Hotel downtown (allegedly haunted by a former manager--ex-employees are frequently cited as possible ghosts at allegedly haunted hotels). Another possibility: the Standard Hollywood where its prior incarnation as an old age home has meant apparitions of elderly customers in the coffee shop (who disappear) and funny stuff like tops popping off liquor bottles on their own. Crazy, undocumented activities reported to me, however, I've been to a haunted house in Tennessee which served as field hospital in the Civil War, a theme explored in Wakeman's piece. And I was recently at the Huntington Gardens and Library and walked (alone) to Henry and Arabella Huntington's mausoleum. (They are buried on the grounds is this neo-classic white marble tomb (above) by architect John Russell Pope who also designed the Jefferson Memorial). There's definitely some "residual energy"---Mrs. Huntington was known to be stern and strong-willed--a visit with an infrared camera may be in order.
Do you feel the scary vibe? Hallway (above) is a corridor on the Queen Mary, a classic luxury ocean liner, now permanently berthed in Long Beach's harbor (also scary, because of polluted runoff--but that's another story). The ship promotes its haunted history via a rather cheesy Ghosts & Legends tour that for all its silliness does provide some scares and takes you way down into the bowels of the ship. Scariest of all is a night on the ship: it creaks and makes odd noises and the corridors tend to bring up memories of "The Shining."
Cleverly utilizing the ship's grandeur and spooky rep, a recent episode of "Ghost Whisperer" filled it with soggy, wicked ghosts and took full advantage of the glorious Art Deco grand salon. Whether it's truly haunted or not, the ship is indeed a legend and is worth a visit. You can decide for yourself about the paranormal extras.
The first film selected for the Sundance 2008 Film Festival, per festival honcho Geoff Gilmore, "Secrecy" is the kind of film that gives thoughtful audience members nightmares. The amount of money spent on keeping things secret (an estimated $8 billion annually) and the sheer numbers of documents and information deemed top secret are really disheartening, if not plain dumb. Directors Peter Galison and Robb Moss dissect the thorny subject which is really an issue of control and power. (Moss directed an excellent documentary "The Same River Twice"--idealist rafters in 1978 and where they are today; very watchable.) "Secrecy" is not a history of U.S. secrecy but rather a weaving together of examples that expose how bureaucratic secrecy is a real threat to democracy and a free and open society. Bloggers and googlers take note. Where does all Google info go? One of the many provocative ideas raised in the film now playing at Laemmle Music Hall.
Despite efforts from concerned neighbors, historic preservationists and activistsas recounted on Curbed LA, the art deco styled former gas station at Lakewood and Rowena/Glendale Avenues was razed on Friday. Yes, the building wasn't in the greatest shape but it had potential and more importantly was part of my neighborhood's historic fabric. Surrounded by residences and adjacent to low-rise commercial buildings (one mid-century, one an Art Deco gem from the May Company's architect), there was opportunity to restore the station (perhaps remake it into a cafe, skate park or pocket park--Glendale managed to create one at Adams Square,on a former gas station site). Diane Keaton makes a good case for the green benefits of historic preservation in her LA Times piece. Destroying iconic buildings, like the Ambassador Hotel, wastes resources she argues. Definitely and it also, in this sad little case, wastes an opportunity to keep history alive. Instead I'm betting we get an ugly stucco mini-mall that will only add to the corner's already dicey traffic patterns. Adios streamline modern; hello dreck.
Yes, 1923 was a grand year for downtown Los Angeles--a brand new hotel overlooking then gracious (now beyond help) Pershing Square. Enjoyed a celebratory night of libations, historic cars and an abbreviated tour from the LA Conservancy at the very artistically lit Biltmore Hotel. Loved the ceiling stencils and mythological figures--one can never have too many muses and nymphs; the indoor pool, decorated in glorious hand-crafted tile, is one of L.A.'s hidden gems (makes an appearance in "Bugsy" BTW). An endless supply of sushi from Sai Sai, the hotel's Japanese restaurant, and passed hors d'ouevres (Escargot! Lobster gelee! crab cakes!) and top shelf liquor in the gilt and chandelier-lit ballroom made for a retro-styled evening.
I'm a dedicated art walker: Venice, Silver Lake (when there was the art crawl), Pasadena, Frogtown, Chinatown and now there's the Los Feliz Art Walk. Last month it was low-key and pleasant, not a lot of art but great tacos at Yuca's on Hollywood, a fun scene at Fresh Pressed and great views from Barnsdall Art Park. I wrote about it for the Los Feliz Ledger, (though it's not online yet). Gotta support art in the 'hood! Scheduled for the first Friday of the month: Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. Start in the courtyard of Hollywood Lutheran Church--Pastor Dan Hooper is one of the organizers and a terrific guy.
Sunshine and Struggle: The Italian Experience in Los Angeles 1827-1927 at the Pico House Gallery.
Kudos to my friend Mariann Gatto who organized this exhibition and also wrote the accompanying book. This exhibition looks at the economic contribution and cultural legacy of Italian immigrants and Los Angeles’ own vanished Little Italy, once located in the heart of the city, close to El Pueblo Historical Monument and present-day Chinatown. Historic photographs and artifacts are presented that illuminate the Italian experience.
It's not everyday that the New York Times posts a photo of my neighborhood. Above is the Glendale Blvd. bridge over the lovely 5 freeway, literally down the block from my house--though it must have been some months back as there hasn't been that much green grass in some time. The photo accompanies a story on the very small house movement. Yes the trend is downsizing your living space to as small as 80 feet; I can understand the appeal after dealing with a 2000 square foot house and yard on my own. I'd have to really edit out a lot of stuff to even slim back down to an apartment sized space much less a cozy little mini-cottage. However, I would put my little house somewhere a tad more scenic.
I'm a big fan of HBO's "Entourage"--it's more than a guilty pleasure, it's become a favorite and this season is definitely funnier (only two episodes but still...). Without a doubt my favorite character is Johnny "Drama" Chase (Kevin Dillon); he's always been the Everyman character and I'm sincerely hoping he wins an Emmy this Sunday. I interviewed the show's producer last year because, as you might notice, the show is a fun travelogue of a certain "aspirational" part of Los Angeles. New clubs, venues and this week the historic Orpheum theater are shown off and seamlessly integrated into the story lines. Locations with views are a signature feature.
Vinnie Chase's (Adrian Grenier) former pad had jetliner views of the basin: in real life it's the wow home of L.A.'s nightlife kingpin and soon-to-be hotelier Sam Nazarian. During the summer, I sat on Sam's fab built-in deck and took in the city lights while sampling star chef Jose Andres' elegant paella and smooth cocktails. No Turtle or E in sight, but I could just imagine that they would have dug it too!
In the garden with the art collective Fallen Fruit was a very pleasant afternoon during the interview for my New Angeles Monthly story. Matias Viegener, Austin Young and David Burns are really into fruit--salvaging and studying it and making an art of it. I went to their public fruit jam in August and came home a sticky mess but ended up with three tasty jars. Two were trades; mine was made from figs and kumquats in my yard and random fruit brought by others. Try it, you'll like it.
Thanks to LA Observedfor linking to a recent AP story in the SF Chronicle on one of L.A.'s living cultural treasures: Mrs.Sosei Matsumoto a teacher in the way of tea. Here's some excerpts from the story I wrote on the delightful octogenarian (she's now 88!) for the sadly defunct East West Magazine:
Entering Mrs. Sosei Matsumoto's traditional Japanese-style tearoom is a journey to another time and place: one that is serene and ordered, where people are impeccably polite and respectful of each other. Here the 86-year old sensei (teacher) continues to meticulously instruct students in the 450-year old, Urasenke tradition of Chado or way of tea.
Preparing and serving a perfect bowl of tea sounds simple enough but the Japanese way of tea is a truly complex discipline, one that incorporates the most exquisite Japanese arts and crafts and exemplifies ideal Japanese etiquette and taste. At the heart of the ceremony is the Zen Buddhist principle that enlightenment can be achieved even in the most mundane task.
The diminutive but spirited octogenarian doesn't see herself retiring, "until life retires." Many tea masters are 99 or 100 years old, she declares. If anything, she wants to be reborn, so she can do it all over again until the entire world has Urasenke tea. However, the appeal of the way of tea remains a mystery, an almost magical wonder. To Mrs. Matsumoto, her vocation is 'a beautiful feeling, no enemy, everybody beautiful people."
Oh, to be a Hollywood player c. 1925-1950, when you had the pick of modernist masters like Richard Neutra, Lloyd Wright and Irving Gill to design and build your LA manse or signature office building. On Sept. 3, author and UCLA professor Thomas Hines spoke on the connection between mid-century Hollywood creatives and execs and LA's famed modernists in an inaugural lecture sponsored by Hollyhock House. Among the highlights: a discussion of Richard Neutra's aluminum-clad house for film director Josef vonSternberg that was demolished in 1971 (Dion Neutra advised a film of the demolition is available on the Neutra website); a look at Neutra's also long gone, classic international-style office building for Carl Laemmle in Hollywood; and a tidbit I didn't know: Lloyd Wright designed those eternally sinking mastodons caught in the La Brea Tar Pits. A second lecture from writer/filmmaker Thom Anderson is scheduled for Oct 1, also in the Barnsdall Gallery. In this month's Los Feliz Ledger special Arts section I highlighted the lecture as well as profiled famed street artist Shepard Fairey,Machine Project and a locally made film called "The Scenesters."
On August 29, 2005, hurricane Katrina passed close to New Orleans and the subsequent failure of the city's levies and failure of the city, state and federal government to aid those in need is a modern American tragedy. Filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal chronicle one family's experience in "Trouble the Water" currently in theaters in LA, with a scheduled roll out nationally. The film screens as part the Impact Film Festival at the Democratic (on Wednesday 8/27) and Republican conventions as well. Let's hope some politicians and citizens are moved to action by the documentary. At a recent LA screening, the film's Kimberly Roberts (shown above with husband Scott) explained how she "caught history" and is proud to represent New Orleans' disenfranchised. She also touched on some of the many problems facing New Orleans particularly the city's dismal public school system that was recently dissected by Paul Tough as "A Teachable Moment" in the New York Times. I sent James and Heather to a screening of the film in New Orleans. Read Heather's account of the emotional impact of the film and you'll know the power of this story.
After a two-year battle with cancer, my friend Chris Rubin died a week ago today. Chris was my mentor in the business of travel writing--he could be counted on to share resources and information, edged with a dry wit and remarkable sense of professionalism.We shared many a dinner together and visited sites from Monterey to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.He had a true appreciation and great knowledge of wine, spirits, music and the finer things in life.On a trip to Las Vegas (above) we toured the Strip in a Mercedes-Benz Maybach--sweet! My condolences go out to his wife Deborah Calla, his family and his many friends.
Just back from five days and nights camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Above is a picture of burnt Mt. Manuel one of the many hillsides hit hard by the Basin Complex Fire which burned more than 162,000 acres. Although the campground re-opened in late July, many trails and camp sites were closed. Behind ropes were some below burnt out hillsides and my favorite site (#218), the site closest to the entrance to the Gorge trail, which was also sadly closed. I now understand the meaning of fire road as they helped save the campground: the fire burned down to the very edge of the campground, destroying the lovely Oak Grove in the process.
I've taken my kids there for the last eight years--it's our summer tradition and while many spots were the same-- the towering groves of redwoods, the black gorge swimming hole-- the feeling of mortality and disaster just beyond the trees, couldn't be shaken. One great addition to the experience was Corey Costanzo, an Esalen trained massage therapist who gave healing massages under a redwood canopy, capping the treatment with didgeridoo and Tibetan healing bowl vibes. If only it could work as well for the scarred hillsides as it did for me.
Expect winter rains to deal a heavy blow to the area where underbrush is gone. Hopefully the river won't be completely ruined. Fingers crossed for Highway 1, which will be subject to land and mudslides. On the ride home we had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing a wild-born California condor soaring directly above us (my son thought it looked like a pterodactyl). According to the two rangers tracking the bird, she and her four feathery pals had been feasting on a dead sea lion on the beach below. Our campground meals were just as delectable; we ate out once at the Big Sur Bakery on the way back to Los Angeles that coincidentally was profiled in the New York Times that day. I had the yummy mocha chip cookie, Tibetan barley bread and several other pastries. The cappuccino machine was broken---too bad because it's definitely a highlight of one's visit.
It's not often all aspects of my writing career morph together into one event--music, fashion, hotels and movies. On Wednesday night, the Sunset Marquis Hotel & Villas celebrated the completion of their 40 swank new villas, spa and restaurant. I recently wrote about the hotel's hidden coffee shop for the LA Times and I've covered the hotel for Fodor's since 2000.
Now the grounds are leafy and the elegantly decorated villas (left) are filled with shimmery mosaic tiles and plush finishes--a stark contrast to the last time I toured the property with general manager Rod Gruendyke (pictured above with Stevie Wonder) when it was a dusty construction site. No expense was spared in the renovation including a pre-construction seance by a psychic who cleared the site of bad juju (not sure of the technical term.) The launch party featured tasty skewers of chicken, steak and even asparagus plus lots of passed plates of sushi rolls and some curious stuffed clams.
Yes, some of the usual party suspects were there, but also a true mix of rockers (the Scorpions, John Hall), movie types (writer Cameron Crowe), fashionistas (designers Henry Duarte and the pink hair-hued Petra Zilla), super-models (in their own legion of the very tall and super-thin) and LA nightclub owners from Falcon and Cafe Was(which will open in two weeks per owner Ivan Kane).
Because of the fashion connection, there were numerous examples of sky high heels (this 6.5 " pair are by DSquared)--even on the black clad wait staff. While sipping glasses of Mumm, I started waxing nostalgic about the early 80s version of the Sunset Marquis. Where I interviewed Dutch rockers Golden Earring is now the poolside bar; where I interviewed Rush in the garden is now the path to the villas and spa. I knew it was time to leave when I started trying to hum Golden Earring's only hit. Although he played only two songs, Stevie Wonder gave a nice benediction ("there's nothing we can't do when we come together in the spirit of love") and proved why he's a superstar by electrifying the crowd, who begged for more, with just one note of "Superstition."
Earlier this year I interviewed director Nanette Burstein for Creative Screenwriting on the nature of documentary screenwriting--not necessarily a good idea to confuse reality with a written by credit, Burstein thought. I'm returning to her film mainly because I was very intrigued by the story of a five Indiana high school seniors' lives. I lived that year myself in 2007, not as a student, but as a parent of a senior. What struck me most about the film, was that it captured the amount pressure students feel (to succeed in college applications, decide their future, etc). As Burstein found, "The hardest part of high school is finding out who you are and trying to maneuver through all that." There's been some controversy around the film. Mark Olsen's story, in what's left of the LA Times, ably chronicles the drama and critical reaction surrounding the film. At the Sundance Film Festival screening Q&A I asked Burstein why there were no scenes of pot smoking, something as a parent of American teens, I would think would be rather rampant. Burstein agreed that there was, "definitely other stuff going on," but her concern was damaging her teen subjects' futures. You can find them on the movie's Facebook page and each kid, Hannah, Colin, Mitch, Jake and Megan, has one too...just like real American teens.
Materials & Applications (M&A) outdoor pocket gallery/exhibition space captivates Silver Lake Blvd.'s drivers and pedestrians with intriguing, thought provoking and always visual and highly visible outdoor installations--whether Jimenez Lai's current installation, "Planstery Module" to past installations like "Density Fields"(above) and "Here There Be Monsters," (below).
Sunday's NY Times profiled the arty wedding of the team behind M&A, Jenna Didier and Oliver Hess , who I interviewed some months back. As Didier explained, "M&A's space is for things that have been unbuilt, which previously existed only in the digital realm or someone's imagination." Their wedding sounds equally imaginative with a reception in the space that held "Not a Cornfield," now a public park.
My favorite film at the Sundance Film Festival this year was Man On Wire, which is coming out this week in New York and next week in Los Angeles. It's the story of wire walker Philippe Petit's famed 1974 tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Breathtaking, suspenseful and a great post-modern documentary--it mixes recreations, interviews and historic footage-- I interviewed the spry Petit (who juggled for me) for the International Documentary Association's fab ezine. Petit turned out to be an amazing documentary subject--a true raconteur. I'm old enough to remember the day he crossed between the towers--an unequalled feat. While I don't entirely share Petit's obsession with the towers, my first visit to New York included a walk by of the construction site.
He and director James Marsh (left) answered questions after the premiere at Sundance-- Petit held court--it was a thrilling Q&A and the film, not surprisingly, went on to win a major prize.
I showed Petit my snapshot with the towers under construction from the Statute of Liberty...he knew exactly when the photo was taken and that construction was up to the 84th floor. Check out the film if you have the chance.