LETTER FROM L.A.: Living
Los Angeles; Living Sculptures; Living It Up
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
Lord is an English actress and journalist. She is also a long-time L.A.
resident and so when Thunder Bay Press needed an author for the Los Angeles
volume in their “Then and Now” series, she was a natural. The result is Los
Angeles Then and Now, available from www.advantagebooksonline.com,
in which archive photos are set face to face with new ones shot (by Simon Clay)
from exactly the same angles and at the same times of day.
always love this kind of past and present comparison. In the case of L.A., it
can be comforting to see that a house like the Witch’s House, an eerily
high-peaked house used in several films, is still intact, years after being
moved to Beverly Hills, or, alternately, infuriating to see that the hat-shaped
Brown Derby, which was to be preserved even after it was closed, was destroyed
in the dead of night and replaced with a strip mall. Anyone who’s driven around
“Downtown” (once central, now often deserted) knows that numerous old hotels
and movie theatres endure, but without these old pictures you might never
suspect their former glory. Nor is all the city’s most colorful architecture a
product of leisure culture: among the enduring treasures shown are a library, a
fire station, a police station and a Masonic temple.
I wasn’t expecting much from a reading of this book of photographs recently at
Studio City’s Portrait of a Bookstore. As it turned out, though, this was more
of a mini-lecture on the city’s history. I picked up a number of tidbits. I’d
long known that ‘Hollywood’ was originally a real estate development whose sign
read ‘HOLLYWOODLAND’, but not that it was almost named ‘Figwood’ (the
developer’s wife preferred ‘Hollywood’). Nor that the sign was once covered
with light bulbs which a man living in a shack in back of it was responsible
for changing – and which people kept stealing. Access to the sign was blocked
after a starlet jumped off one of the letters. Protests kept it up when it was
about to be torn down, but it was shortened by removing the “LAND”. Oh, and
Beverly Hills, it turns out, was once a humble train stop called ‘Morocco’.
it’s a stretch for a New Yorker to even realize Hollywood has a history.
Having once lived in Paris, I never thought of New York as ‘old’ until I moved
to Los Angeles.
many actors, coming out here, expect to become living sculptures? Having gone
to the Track 16 Gallery for a show called “The Godfrey Daniels School of
Charm”, I was surprised to see a French actress I know walk up to me, look at
me blankly and continue in a circle, picking up little horse dolls and
rearranging them. I then noticed a very tall bride in a camouflage dress,
looking down at all and sundry and saying, “I am the bride! Today is the day!”,
over and over again. Just when I’d decided it would be gauche to actually
address any of these people, a woman in another shade of camouflage and a retro
wig came up to me and started chatting energetically and inanely. Turned out
her character was Party Girl, and along with Camouflage Bride, Working Woman,
Newspaper Man, Business Man and Spinning Girl, they were all performing in Liz
Young’s piece “seams and sutures”.
where this fits on a resume, I can’t say. (‘THEATER’, ‘FILM AND TV’,
actors out here bemoan the lack of places to practice their craft, it’s strange
that less actors attend the monthly Artist’s Salon (www.artistsalon.com). Perhaps it’s
because this bit of creative optimism simply seems too good to be true: come,
eat, drink watch, and, if you want, perform. Or show your art. Anything. And
all free. This month’s assortment of comics, singers, writers, a video and,
yes, even actors (including me) was pretty typical of a really exciting and
supportive monthly event, which celebrated its second anniversary Sunday.
Thanks to Jason Waters for founding it and, for all of us, many more.