History

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Remember the specifics of the controversy a few years ago surrounding the city of LA’s deal with large, politically-connected outdoor advertising firms over the installation of bright digital billboards, many of which had been originally placed illegally? I don’t either. Controversy is fleeting, but those billboards are here to stay.

This is an interesting survey of billboards in the 1940’s that’s part of a presentation on why outdoor advertising is important for YOUR business. (They’re all so low to the ground!)

See if you can spot the Brown Derby cameo. Let’s have a cocktail and dinner and watch, shall we?

(Via Vintage Los Angeles)

I remember watching the Emmys years ago, seeing an actress accept her award by gushing something to the effect of thanking “the people of this town for your support.”  A few minutes later, David Letterman, either as host or winner, dryly wondered aloud whether when she referred to the people of “this town,” she was referring to Hollywood… or to Pasadena?

From 1977 to 1997, the Primetime Emmys were held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.  Between 1998 and 2001, Pasadena was relegated to the Creative Arts Emmys.  Now, there are none handed out here at all.  The awards are coming up this weekend and I thought we could take a look back at some great Pasadena Emmy moments.

So let’s take our Emmy time machine to that magical decade known as the 80’s and see the glamour on the red carpet on Green Street.

Not much has changed at the Auditorium since 1980.  Though the area around it is quite different these days, now that the new convention center next door is complete.  Let’s run across the street and watch the stars as they arrive…

Why there’s Danny Glover in 1985.  And what’s that behind him?  It IS!  The Plaza Pasadena mall, replaced by the Paseo!

Could anyone outdo Danny’s fabulous outfit?  Of course Betty White can.  There she is, sassy as always, nominated for her role on “Saturday Night Live.”  I mean “The Golden Girls.”  Jamie Lee Curtis has a warm glow around her.  And there’s Fred Savage, and Tim Reid!  All from 1989.

Let’s sneak inside…

The 1980 set design is definitely pre-high-def.

But I don’t want to miss the action out front.  Back outside we go…

What happened?!  Our time machine seems to have malfunctioned and taken us back to 1932.  These unidentified young ladies happened by a construction site and posed for a picture in front of the nearly completed building.  Just look at them there.  What riffraff.  What commoners.  They don’t know the meaning of well-dressed or style or glamour.

At last.  Back to the 80’s.  I’ll leave you with some well-dressed celebrities arriving in their Emmy finest for television’s most important night.  What style!  What glamour!

Happy Emmy watching!

The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards.  Sunday Aug. 29, 8:00ET (5:00PT), NBC.

(Images from the LA Public Library Photo Collection)

For those who can’t get enough of Bunker Hill the way it used to be,  Bunker Hill 1956 has just been posted to vimeo.

The 17-minute film was a project by students at USC Film School, directed by Kent MacKenzie, who went on to direct The Exiles, a feature about Native Americans living on Bunker Hill.  As with the series of stunning color photographs mentioned here before, those documenting the neighborhood for this film knew that its days were numbered.  In this case, the focus is on the pensioners living there and what was to become of them.  As one longtime resident says of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s plan:

Their method of going about it is to not only clear the slums but clear all the people out of the area, and rebeautify the whole thing, rebuild and  put an opera house up here.  Make a picture area out of it, without keeping the inhabitants in mind at all.

The film vividly captures the fabric of the area, the rich textures of a drug store, a shoemaker’s shop, meager apartments, and everyday street scenes.  And there are great shots of Angels’ Flight (in its original form) and the Grand Central Market.

(via LA Observed)

The Theremin, invented in the 1920’s by Russian physicist Léon Thermin, has all too often been relegated to producing creepy sounds for 1950’s sci-fi flicks or making horrible noise to augment the music of 90’s hipster bands.  This is due in part to the obscurity of the instrument, it’s interesting electronic sound, and the fact that the player never actually touches the Theremin, instead moving their hands in the proximity of its antennas to vary the pitch and volume.  Because of its novelty, few people have taken the time to actually practice on it and learn to play it as the musical instrument it is.

Clara Rockmore worked with Léon Thermin and toured the world playing this incredible instrument.  Arguably the greatest thereminist who ever lived, she played for over 50 years until her death in 1998 at age 87.

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Early in the video, she’s interviewed while having dinner with synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog, whose company manufactures theremins.  Late in the clip, she plays another song.  She’s so good, you’d swear she’s playing a cello, but it’s actually a series of capacitors and oscillators.

About 10 years ago, I heard an interview with Bob Moog on NPR about the theremin.  I started researching it and eventually obsessing over owning and playing one.  When I started to dream I was playing one, I knew it was time for action.  One of the two electronic instrument dealers in LA who actually stocked Big Briar theremins was, strangely enough, half a block from my office.  Imagine dreaming of buying a theremin for months, only to find out a dozen were sitting on a shelf a few hundred feet away from my desk.  The place was off a back alley in North Hollywood, and I picked one up on my lunch hour.  I don’t know if that place is still there.  Maybe it was never there.  More about my theremin experience in a later post (if anyone is interested).

CalArts was founded by Walt and Roy Disney in 1961 with the merger of the LA Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute.  Classes weren’t offered until 1970, and the current location in Valencia didn’t open until 1971, so the vision set forth in this mid-60’s film was pretty much just that.

But the quality of the film and the vibrancy of the color is stunning.  There are gorgeous renderings of the future Music Center downtown, as well as a LACMA that didn’t materialize as shown.  And a huge modern film museum across from the Hollywood Bowl that also didn’t happen, though the site currently houses the Hollywood Heritage Museum‘s Lasky-Demille Barn.

The most shocking revelation are the renderings of the proposed campus perched high above Hollywood in the Cahuenga Pass between the 101 and Lake Hollywood.  When I checked Google Earth, the ridge today is still mostly open space, save for one tiny feature: the beautiful and historic Ford Amphitheater.  Now how could the city allow a venerable landmark to be destroyed to build a school?  Oh right.

via The CalArts Story on Vimeo.

On Bunker Hill has unearthed a trove of newly found photos of the once opulent, formerly run down, then gone area of downtown.  In addition to being so detailed and vivid so as to look like they were taken only 10 years ago instead of 50, the snapshots have the distinction of having been taken by a former vaudeville star and originally in 3D.

On Bunker Hill writes of the area:

Bunker Hill is a ghost, and though you may today walk streets named Grand and Hope and imagine that you stand where once were grand Victorian homes turned flophouses, you are in fact one hundred feet beneath the old roads, which the city shaved away to make a wider footprint for the high rise tenants that replaced them.

Look up, ten stories up, and if you’re a dreamer you can almost see the big houses bobbing there between the towers, old men and women toddling out onto the porches and down the avenues, exchanging gossip, feeding the cats, collapsing under some junkie’s fists, boarding Sinai or Olivet for the ride down to Grand Central Market, pruning the roses. . .

See the rest of them here.