Monday, July 23, 2018

In Memory of Jonathan Gold, King of Los Angeles

It was a coincidence that just two days after the death of Jonathan Gold, the New York Times published the latest in its ongoing series of Stories That Get Los Angeles So, So Wrong. For such an important metropolis, LA is constantly misunderstood — sometimes by its own residents. But Jonathan Gold was the antidote to that — the ambassador, or as Roy Choi called him, the "King of LA" — someone who not only understood our city, but helped thousands of others understand it too.

I've enjoyed reading so many tributes in the last few days that all credited J. Gold for opening their eyes to the neighborhoods, the people, the culture, and of course, the food of Los Angeles. The rest of the world still sees L.A. as mostly Hollywood and the Westside. But in J. Gold's LA, that is just a fraction of it. Boyle Heights, Koreatown, South LA, the San Gabriel Valley, and on and on. These are the people of Los Angeles, and we are damn lucky to live in the most diverse and vibrant metropolis in the world.

J. Gold inspired us to get out of the house and explore that world. His annual list of the 101 best restaurants was a cultural check list, a chance to travel around the world within the L.A. county limits. And he used his power wisely, helping support small businesses by highlighting the best.

Of course, like many, I was inspired by J. Gold's famous Pico Boulevard Project, in which he ate his way down the street — from downtown to the ocean — chronicling every birria taco and every gastrobomb along the way. For our second Great Los Angeles Walk in 2007, I reached out to Gold and asked him to give us a roster of places to eat as we made our way down Pico. (I dusted off the list when we did the Pico walk again in 2016.) So, of course, back then I had to contact the Pulitzer Prize-winning scrbe. To my pleasant surprise, he emailed back quickly, and even said he read Franklin Avenue! I managed to pick his brain on a few spots and he gave a selection. From 2007:

  • El Salvador Cafe. 575 E. Pico

  • El Parian. 1528 W. Pico ("I went on record in 1990 claiming that El Parian’s birria was the single best Mexican dish in Los Angeles, and nothing in the thousand L.A. Mexican meals I have eaten since then has done anything to sway me from that belief," Gold wrote in 2006)

  • La 27th Restaurante Familar. 1830 W. Pico (Nicaraguan food -- Gold suggests "nacatamals and fritanga").

  • El Colmao. 2328 W. Pico (Cuban food -- Gold suggests "fried pork leg with onions).

  • Las 7 Regiones de Oaxaca. 2648 W. Pico. ("It is Las 7 Regiones’ coloradito, its version of one of the famous seven moles of Oaxaca, that is a really remarkable concoction — thick and dense and sweet-hot and unctuous, the product of hours of labor and probably 20-odd toasted seeds and chiles and spices," Gold writes.)

  • Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. 5006 W. Pico. ("Roscoe’s is the Carnegie Deli of L.A.’s R&B scene," Gold wrote in an old review.)

  • Oki-Dog. 5056 W. Pico. (Go for the pastrami burritos, Gold says.)

  • Magic Carpet. 8566 W. Pico. (Gold once wrote that he used to live close by: " if I had tasted Magic Carpet's melawach back then, I might never have moved - a bronzed, pizza-size fried Yemenite pancake that seems to have a hundred levels of wheatiness, a thousand layers of crunch and the taste of clean oil, melawach is one of the greatest dishes in Los Angeles.")

  • Twin Dragon. 8597 W. Pico. (Gold admits that he likes some of the Shanghaiese dishes here, writing a few years back: "Although the kitchen is perfectly capable of turning out dishes stunning only in their mediocrity, some of the truly Shanghainese dishes -- smoked fish, round steamed dumplings, shredded pork sautéed with salted vegetables -- are fine.")

  • Pico Kosher Deli. 8826 W. Pico. (Gold recommends the pastrami sandwiches, and wrote in 2004 about its "PLT" -- like a BLT, but with pastrami.)

  • John O'Groats. 10516 W. Pico. ("Smoked pork chops," Gold recommends.)

  • Pico Teriyaki House. 10610 W. Pico. (Gold notes it's nearly impossible to get in, so it's not a spot to visit during our hike. But for future reference, he says try the robatayaki.)

  • Torafuku. 10914 W. Pico. (Their izakaya dishes are a little too pricy for he hike, but Gold named it one of L.A.'s 99 essential restaurants in 2005.)

  • "Man, it's a long street. I'll try and think of some others," he wrote.

    Last night I watched "City of Gold," the documentary about J. Gold — now streaming on Hulu. It will make you hungry, which is the point — in honor of the legend, take a moment this week and explore a neighborhood you've never visited, and eat at a restaurant you've never tried. Now, more than ever, J. Gold's message of community is so important to combat those who'd like to tear us apart.

    Saturday, June 23, 2018

    Los Angeles Times Building: One Last Tour Inside Spring Street

    When Tribune split into two companies, Tribune Media — which took the TV and digital assets — also shamelessly grabbed the real estate where Tribune Publishing's newspapers had lived for decades. It forced papers like the Chicago Tribune and our Los Angeles Times to suddenly pay rent on their own buildings! Now that the L.A. Times is out of the Tronc (er, I guess it's Tribune Publishing again) orbit, new owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is moving the newspaper to a building in El Segundo. He's promising updated facilities — and considering the sorry shape of the LA Times building, which hasn't been kept up by its Tribune Media landlords — that could be a good thing. Not so much for some of the staff, which will now have to alter their commutes. (Some will remain in downtown, in a new space above The Last Bookstore).

    As a Los Angeles booster, I had somehow never taken a Los Angeles Times tour. Shame on me. I had, well, decades where I could have. So when I discovered that the final tour was this past Friday — and that it was all booked up — I put a plea out to my pals at the paper: Let me visit!

    Thankfully, Kate Stanhope and Yvonne Villarreal came through, and offered to invite me over for a peek inside the LA Times building, one last time. Thanks to them — and here's a look at the final days of the Los Angeles Times on Spring Street.

    In the Spring Street lobby (where most employees and people enter).

    The Los Angeles Times hallways are filled with history: Key front pages, Pulitzer Awards, tributes to legendary employees like Jim Murray, and much more.

    In the Globe lobby — the iconic space most people think of, when they think about the LA Times building — a museum's worth of historic artifacts, including this typesetting machine. Most of this will be moving to the El Segundo building, where Soon-Shiong plans a new museum.

    The famed Globe lobby.

    The Los Angeles Times has won 44 Pulitzer Prizes since 1942.

    Harry Chandler.

    Gen Harrison Gray Otis.

    More from the Globe lobby.

    Hidden inside the old phone booth: A relic of an old pay phone!

    Also in the lobby: This eagle was saved from the old Los Angeles Times building that was famously bombed in 1910.

    The old publisher's office.

    The famed Los Angeles Times test kitchen.

    Now mostly packed up and ready for the move.

    Where LA Times staffers would often do live news shots.

    A view of the Calendar section newsroom.

    More old memorabilia — classic cameras.

    Signs from the recent fight to form a union are still everywhere.

    PTSD -- Post-Tronc Stress Disorder.

    Super Patrick!

    The Tronc banner of shame, featuring Sam Zell and Lee Abrams as well.

    Not a lot of fans of Tronc's money-grabbing exiting chairman Michael Ferro.

    Friday, April 20, 2018

    Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    KCRW's Screengrab: Down From Its Former Glory, But 'The Walking Dead' Is Still a Hit

    Every week, Joe Adalian and I talk TV on KCRW's "Screengrab," a weekly segment that airs on Tuesday mornings at 8:45 a.m. on KCRW during "Morning Edition."

    On Tuesday's episode, we talked about the fact that "The Walking Dead" is still a huge enterprise for AMC, even though the show's ratings have declined:
    Once delayed viewing is factored in, more than 10 million people will have watched the season 8 finale of 'The Walking Dead.' The show is an interesting case study in the world of Peak TV. It was a ratings juggernaut for many years, with devoted fans across the country. The numbers have slipped significantly in the past two seasons--about a third fewer people watch the show today than at its high point. But, it's still a huge, huge hit for AMC--in addition to still being the most popular show on TV for ages 18-49, it spawned the popular spin-off 'Fear the Walking Dead.' Also, a lot of fans left the show after some fan favorite characters were killed off in a particularly violent fashion, but the show aims to take a new creative, less violent direction now.

    Listen below!

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