Monday, November 30, 2009


The LA Auto Show is back -- and this year boasts a new "Kids Fun Zone," a 20,000 square foot area featuring a toy Jeep driving course at Camp Jeep Jr. The area will also include bounce houses, bubble making, arts and crafts and XBOX simulators, all to keep the kids stimulated, I suppose.

Of course, the autos are still the main attraction, and this year's event includes more than 900 vehicles, as well as 30 major world and North American debuts.

The folks at the LA Auto Show have hooked us up with a gift pack valued at over $50 to giveaway. It includes:
4 general admission passes to the Show
4 LA Auto Show T-shirts
LA Auto Show Messenger Bag
other goodies from the Show

To enter, tell us about your favorite local L.A. auto dealer campaigns. Is it a classic, like Cal Worthington's "Go See Cal" jingle and his dog Spot? Is it those obnoxious Galpin Ford radio ads? One of those annoying jingles like "Keyes-Keyes-Keyes-Keyes on Van Nuys"?

Let us know -- enter via our franklin_avenue(at)yahoo(dot)com address!

'Tis The Season in Los Feliz; Less So In Atwater Village

The Eastsider LA writes that the Atwater Village Christmas Tree -- an actual live, 50-foot redwood found in the Glendale Blvd. median, and decorated/lit up throughout the month of December -- isn't happening this year. UPDATE: The Christmas tree will be back after all! The Eastsider LA confirms that the city's Bureau of Street Services has agreed to lower the price to $6,000 to light the tree -- so it's happening. Whew!

The Eastsider notes that it all began when the city's Bureau of Street Services estimated it would cost about $11,000 to light the tree -- a big jump from last year. Atwater Village found a vendor that would do it for $5,000 -- but there wasn't enough time to pull the necessary permits. As a result, no tree this year:
Next Friday night will still find Atwater Village holding a Winter Wonderland celebration, compete with snow bubble making machines, carolers, live music, dancers and, of course, Santa. But, come around 6 pm, there will be no ceremonial flicking of the switch to turn on the Atwater tree.

In happier holiday news, Los Feliz's annual holiday festival -- which had been one of our favorites -- is back on this year, after taking a break in 2008.

The event's Hillhurst businesses in particular get into the festival in a big way -- some serve wine and cheese, others feature games for the kids and even Yuca's passes out free goodies. Free pics with Santa too. Event begins on Saturday at 6 p.m. with the tree lighting outside the Los Feliz Library, at Franklin and Hillhurst.

Deck the Walt Disney Concert Hall

The folks at the L.A. Phil have been great in passing out free tix to Franklin Avenue readers, so I agreed to pass this info along from them:

Celebrate the holidays in style with L.A.’s latest tradition at Walt Disney Concert Hall. December 9-31, 2009 – seven performances to choose from! Events include: Holiday Organ Spectacular, Handel's Messiah, A Chanticleer Christmas, Holiday Sing-Along, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and New Year's Eve with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

For tickets and more information, visit

Meanwhile, we're also planning this year to finally make it down to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Christmas Eve to check out the 50th annual Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration.

The six-hour, completely free event (audience members are allowed to come and go as they please) is an L.A. tradition, and features more than 40 different performing groups from across the county. PBS outfit KCET also airs the event live.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Caltrans Changes Signs on 110 North; Richard Ankrom's Famed "5 North" Installation Feared Lost

The new sign, heading north on the 110.

If you're driving north on the 110 past downtown Los Angeles this weekend, you'll notice the brand-spanking new freeway signs installed by California's Department of Transportation.

The new signs are much more reflective, and also for the first time give equal weight to both the 5 and 110 freeways. The new signs designate the 5 North for drivers in the left two lanes, and the 110 North for the right two lanes.

Quite a difference from a few years ago, when the signs didn't mention the 5 North at all. Back then, motorists were left scrambling to figure out on their own how to find the 5 North turnoff from the 110 North (if you knew it was there at all).

That is, until artist Richard Ankrom's infamous August 2001 installation "Guerilla Public Service."

(Pic: Gary Leonard/Downtown News)

Ankrom took two years to design an exact replica of the Interstate 5 logo, as well as the word "NORTH" in an identical font to Caltrans signs. Then, in the middle of a sunny day, Ankrom -- dressed as a Caltrans worker -- installed the markers on an existing "110 North" sign.

And then... nobody noticed! The helpful signs finally directed 110 drivers to the 5, and yet Caltrans didn't have any idea. Nine months later, the Los Angeles Downtown News finally broke the story.

Caltrans, amazingly, agreed that the new signs were helpful -- and kept them up! The agency even installed a similar marker on another 110 North sign.

Sadly, these brand new freeway signs installed this weekend -- while even helpful than the old ones -- mean that Ankrom's work has now disappeared. I emailed Ankrom on Friday, and he hadn't heard the news:

Missed the change on the freeway signs until you pointed it out. Immediately went to look, hopefully I can recover the sign.

A little disappointed that it's down, but the new signs are a big improvement. After being up for 9 years and three months it was a good run. It helped my career in a subtle way. Still get surprised when it comes up.

Here's hoping the sign is somewhere in storage and can be saved. I'm a bit sad to see it go -- I often think of Ankrom's installation when I pass under the "5 North" marker on the 110.

Photo composite of Ankrom's installation, by Jim Payne.

Here's how Ankrom described "Guerilla Public Service":
The installation and documentation of missing information on the freeway sign system, guerrilla public service. Exact reproduction of guide signs (Caltrans part numbers G-27, G-47) placed on existing structure (gantry 23100) to aid motorists to their destination and ease traffic congestion.
To prove the integrity of the arts, its place in culture and why civilization needs it. The benefits of the artistic endeavor in everyday life, what we see, don’t see, and take for granted.
For the hundreds of millions of motorists in their commute, in which they use the freeway sign system.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly!"

The classic "Turkeys Away" episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati," found on Hulu.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FRANKLIN AVENUE CONTEST: LA Phil Presents Piano Spheres: California Keyboard

Looking for something to do on Sunday night? We've got a pair of tix to see LA Phil Presents Piano Spheres: California Keyboard, courtesy Allied Live.

Piano Spheres
Sunday, November 29, 2009, 7:30 PM at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Featured Artists: Gloria Cheng-piano, Vicki Ray-piano, Mark Robson-piano, & Susan Svrček-piano

Piano Spheres will be part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's West Coast: Left Coast Festival on Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 7:30 pm in Disney Concert Hall.

Displaying powerhouse technique while bringing contemporary works to life, the innovative Los Angeles-based Piano Spheres presents California Keyboard, an exploration of the sounds and styles of notable California composers.

Send an email to our franklin_avenue(at)yahoo(dot)com address, we'll pick a winner tomorrow!

Monday, November 23, 2009

GREAT LOS ANGELES WALK 2009: Eight Hours and 17.4 Miles Later, We Did It!

OK, so it was a tad longer than expected. I had promised 13.5 miles, but walker Will Campbell's mileage counter said 17.4 miles. That sounds a lot more impressive, so let's go with it!

For the fourth annual Great Los Angeles Walk, we decided to make it more about just walking down a major Los Angeles boulevard. With so many amazing homes, buildings, mansions and churches in the West Adams district, it made sense to do Adams.

But I also wanted to start the walk at some place grand -- and the Shrine Auditorium fit the bill. (Plus, we were able to walk by the always cool Felix Chevrolet.) But with Adams' interesting sights petering out by Mid-City, the solution was obvious: Let's finish the walk on Washington -- and for the first time, wind up in Los Angeles City Limits (Venice Beach) rather than Santa Monica.

So approximately 250 of us gathered early in the day (some had been up super early, parking in Venice and then taking the bus out east) for the event. We started at the Shrine at about 9:30 in the morning (accounting for stragglers, and folks spinning the Yelp wheel), and after I smartly eliminated a plan to walk down to the Coliseum, we headed north on Figueroa.

It was at the St. Vincent de Paul church that West Adams Heritage Association member Laura Meyers told us about the history of West Adams -- including the endangered Woolen Mills Zanja, the last evidence of the concrete irrigation system that brought water to folks down there more than a century ago.

We then headed West on Adams, through Mount St. Mary's campus (where the amazing Doheny Mansion stands), through St. James Park (Stearns/Dockweiler mansion) and back down to Adams (Second Church of Christ Scientist, now closed). Another detour took us down Hoover, to see beautiful Victorians like the Cockins House, the Salisbury House and the Forthmann House. Back to Adams again by way of 27th and Magnolia, we saw the Roger Williams Baptist Church, the Menlo Ave. National Register Historic District, the First AME-Zion church and the Van Buren Place Historic District.

It was then up Normandie to hit the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery at Washington, and later the Ray Charles RPM International recording studios. Back down Gramercy, we saw the Marvin Gaye house (right smack next to the 10!). We walked through the Kinney Heights and Gramercy Park neighborhoods and got back to Adams, where we saw the Britt Mansion (now home to LA84) and the Fitzgerald mansion.

It was then another detour, on Arlington to see the Six Feet Under house and the South Seas house. Back down 4th, we saw the Gray Residence (used on "Numb3rs") and then on Adams gaped at the Guasti Villa/Busby Berkeley estate and the MacGowan mansion. We walked to the McCarty Memorial Christian Church, then turned around and headed up 10th to Washington -- and through Mid-City (spotting Magic Johnson at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center!) to our midway point, the Atomic Cafe.

Whew! The second half of the walk wasn't nearly as eventful, but we took Washington through Culver City, past Marina del Rey and finally to the Venice Beach pier.

And then we celebrated at Venice's Baja Cantina.

It was cool to hear from a number of USC grads who noted that they lived around there for four years -- yet had never ventured out into the neighborhood. (It's definitely a much safer and gentrified area than it once was -- but I know several of you were warned by cops to be careful!)

I've uploaded a ton of photos at our Flickr group site: If you were on the walk, feel free to add your pics to the group as well!

And please send me the web addresses to your blog posts and photo collections, we'll post all the links here, for easy access.

THANKS to the West Adams Heritage Association (especially Laura!) and the Mid-City Neighborhood Council (especially Bruce Durbin) for making this walk extra special.

Now, some shots from my camera:

Will and Joni, ready to go!

And they're off!

Thomas Stinson mansion

The crowd gathers in the St. Vincent de Paul parking lot for a talk from WAHA's Laura Mink

Marching down Adams

Doheny Mansion

Cockins House

Forthmann House

First AME-Zion Church

I'm not sure what's going on here, or whether it makes me want to cash more checks.

The imprisoned trees of Washington Blvd.

Ray Charles' RPM recording studio

Marvin Gaye house

"Six Feet Under" house

House used in "Numb3rs"

South Seas house

McCarty Memorial church

You hear that, 10 Freeway? No stopping at any time!

Crossing over the 10

We're on camera!

The Great LA Walk's big celeb sighting: Magic Johnson, at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center.

Cool "GEM" sign on Washington

Walkers take a break at the Atomic Cafe

The Mid-City Neighborhood Council provides a rest stop at the Atomic Cafe for walkers


The youngest walker -- 4 mos. old! (Blogger Baby 2.0 was in the car, so he doesn't count.)

Apparently you can put a price on romantic notions -- and they're half-off!

Wedding at the Culver City City Hall.

Winner for sketchiest business on this year's route. A few walkers poked their head in and asked what he sells -- and he couldn't tell them!

Now that's a wash that went horribly wrong.

One of several groups to make it to the very end.

We'll see you again next year, on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 for the fifth annual Great Los Angeles Walk!



Green LA Girl

Frenchy But Chic

And check out the Great Los Angeles Walk 2009 Flickr photo pool for pics from the event!

One Walker's Great Los Angeles Walk Video

Thanks to Great Los Angeles Walk participant Prints Charmn for uploading this video, which includes a few highlights from this year's event.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Great Los Angeles Walk 2009 is Tomorrow!

The Great Los Angeles Walk 2009 takes place tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.! For those of you walking, a reminder: You that you should make sure you have a transportation plan in place, so you're not stranded after walking all day!

The best option for those of you without anyone picking you up is to carpool... or to PARK IN THE MORNING in Venice, and take the bus all the way to USC/Shrine Auditorium BEFORE the walk. (That way, your car is waiting for you when it's all done.)

Also, a reminder: This isn't a race! We're going to take our time zig-zagging through West Adams to take in some of the best-loved historic homes in Los Angeles. We'll see the house from "Six Feet Under," the house from "Numb3rs," the home where Marvin Gaye died, Ray Charles' music studio, classic mansions and so much more. How fast or slow you walk is up to you -- but if you leave us all in the dust, you're gonna miss the fun of doing the Great LA Walk -- experiencing a part of the city you wouldn't usually see by foot.

It's always hard to time these things, but we'll probably hit the Atomic Cafe in Mid-City -- the official half-way mark of the walk -- at noon or so. Atomic can accomodate a lot of us, but there are other restaurants around the same area too -- we'll have the details tomorrow. The walk will start back up again around 1:30 from Atomic Cafe.

WEATHER: It's looking good for a walk! Weather Channel says to expect partly cloudy skies and a high of 66 degrees. You know how temps fluctuate here, especially at the coast -- so be prepared to be hot at mid-day and then chilly at the afterparty.

A quick reminder: This is a loosely organized event. We're all coming together to have fun and walk L.A. streets -- but this is not backed by any major organization. We're all responsible for ourselves -- so make sure you have money for meals (and drinks at the afterparty!), transporation set up and... sunscreen.

I'll be updating mile by mile, as well as when we stop and start, take breaks, etc. at

Here are a few more people who plan to Twitter:


We'll see you on Saturday!

MIKE ON TV: Oprah's Long Farewell

Here I am on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning, chatting about the news that you're going to be hearing about non-stop for the next two years: Oprah Winfrey's decision to end her daytime talkshow.

(Click the pic above, or click here: The End of an Era: Oprah to Sign Off in 2011.)

Retro Friday: Oprah Edition

Before the 1986 launch of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" into nationwide syndication, Winfrey hosted the local "A.M. Chicago" on WLS-TV in Chicago. Here she is in those "A.M. Chicago" days, interviewing John Denver.

Most disturbing note: She was doing that I'll-scream-my-guest's-name-in-a-shrill-sing-songy-way thing even back then. ("Johnnnn DEN-VERRRR!")

Of course, Oprah announced on Thursday her intention to leave the talk show in September 2011 to focus on her new cable network.

And Starring Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank as Pawnee, Indiana

Viewers of NBC's Amy Poehler comedy "Parks and Recreation" have probably figured out that the Pasadena City Hall doubles as Pawnee, Ind.'s city hall. (Above, another view from a recent episode.)

And as we've written before, the empty pit (recently filled) on "Parks and Rec" is located in Van Nuys.

A few more recent shots from the show:

The coffee shop where Ron Swanson takes his ex-wife (played by Megan Mullally) is Frank's -- located in real life at 16 West Olive and Victory Blvd in Burbank.

The Motel Glen Capri, on San Fernando Rd. -- near the Glendale/Burbank border. It's where Ron and his ex-wife sneak away for their tryst. And according to the motel, the location -- perhaps because of that cool, '60s era neon sign -- is a popular spot for filming:

Movies such as The Good Girl with Jennifer Aniston, Raising Helen with Kate Hudson, and Georgia Rule with Lindsay Lohan, are just some of the actresses that have visited the Glen Capri Inn & Suites-San Fernando.

The Animal/Samuel Adams Taste Test

The scene inside Animal on Tuesday night.

When you get an invite for dinner at Animal -- the Fairfax meat-centric eatery that I hadn't yet tried -- along with promises of sampling an extra strong beer, you don't say no.

And indeed, the invite came from Samuel Adams, which was interested in touting its 2009 Samuel Adams Utopias -- a dark beer that actually looks, smells and tastes much more like a port. Guinness Book of World Records calls the Utopias -- with 25 percent alcohol by volume -- the strongest beer in the world.

Animal chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo came up with the menu to pair with a range of Samuel Adams beers. Here were the highlights (and yes, we were stuffed):

First course: Crispy hominy and lime (left) and lettuce/beets/avocado/pita/feta/creamy sumac. (Not pictured: Fluke, grape & yuzu granita, apple, orange, serrano, mint.) Paired with the Samuel Adams Coastal Wheat.

The Fluke/grape/yuzu granita combo was fascinating, and one of my favorite dishes of the night. The icy yet crunchy texture of the granita fit well with the raw fish. Extremely refreshing. The crispy hominy, meanwhile, was a guiltly pleasure. No interest in the lettuce though -- feta's a deal breaker for me.

Second course: Melted petit basque, chorizo, grilled bread. Paired with Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic.

In small doses, great. But don't want to overdo this one.

Second course, continued: Poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar.

This was unlike any poutine I've ever encountered. If poutine normally looked like this, I'd be a fan.

Second course, continued: Barbecue pork belly sandwiches, slaw.

The winner of the night, of course. Can't go wrong with pork belly sandwiches. Could have kept eating this.

Main course: Ribeye roast, escargot butter, mash, brussel sprouts. Paired with Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Steak was a little too red for my taste. And the brussel sprouts were ordinary.

Dessert: Panna cotta, saba (left); bacon chocolate crunch barm s&p anglaise. Paired with Samuel Adams Holiday Porter.

I think the edge went to the panna cotta; was intrigued by the bacon chocolate -- one of their signature items -- and thought it was fine.

Joe's doughnuts -- cinnamon sugar, caramel; paired here with the Samuel Adams Triple Bock (1994)

How could this be anything but fantastic. And it was. The triple bock, meanwhile, is a bit too bitter.

The Samuel Adams Utopias (2009)

Gotta say, did like the Utopias; it was like a nice port, but didn't taste as strong -- even with the high alcoholic content.

I'll be interested to try Animal again in a normal dining situation. But definitely a pretty nice meal.
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