Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween special: Haunted L.A.

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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween special: Queen Mary scares up ghosts

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. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

In LA theaters: "Secrecy" from Rob Moss and Peter Galison

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.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Silver Lake: Goodbye art deco gas station

Despite efforts from concerned neighbors, historic preservationists and activists as 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.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Los Angeles: Happy 85th birthday to the Biltmore!

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. 
Here's hoping we all look so good at 85.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Los Feliz Art Walk: Strolling the boulevard

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.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Los Angeles: Sunshine & Struggle @ Pico House Gallery

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. 
October 1 through November 15 at the Pico House Gallery at El Pueblo Historical Monument, 424 North Main St. There's an opening Saturday night 10/4 @ 7 p.m.