Wednesday, June 29, 2011

License Plate of the Day: Late Edition

I love this one. Thanks to Franklin Avenue reader Paul Kuszynski for sending it in: "Geez, I'm late!"

Keep sending your license plates of the day!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Say Los Angeles, We Say Los Angeles

Grab a piece of film about Los Angeles from the early part of the 20th century, and chances are you'll hear a completely different pronunciation for our city. "Lahs AAANG-eh-leez," with a hard "G," or something to that effect.

As the L.A. Times' Steve Harvey noted in Sunday's paper, the debate over how to pronounce "Los Angeles" has been heated:

Mispronouncing L.A. is an old tradition.

"There is no other city in the world whose inhabitants so miserably and shamelessly, and with so many varieties of foolishness, miscall the name of the town they live in," author Charles Lummis wrote in 1914.

As early as 1880 the Chamber of Commerce issued this reminder to visitors (and residents):

The Lady would remind you, please

Her name is not Lost AN-jie-lees."

But what is the lady's name? It depends, of course, on whether one is talking about a Spanish or Anglicized pronunciation.

In the early 1900s, The Times advocated the Spanish version, carrying a box by its editorial page masthead that proclaimed the way to say Los Angeles was Loce AHNG-hayl-ais.

English speakers who found that difficult could only be thankful that the city had shortened its original name, which some scholars believe was El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula.
The only thing most Angeleno pundits have agreed on over the years: The use of "L.A." is frowned upon.

Richard Anrom Re-Creates His Famed Guerilla Freeway Piece '5 North'

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For eight years, Richard Ankrom's guerilla art installation "5 North" guided motorists on the 110 in downtown as they figured out, well, how to find the 5 North. Ankrom made a freeway sign identical to Caltrans' actual signs, and one night in August 2001, installed the sign. The amazing part: Caltrans agreed that the sign was useful, and added addition "5 North" signs throughout the 110 North.

Then, in November 2009, Franklin Avenue Caltrans replaced the signs with brand-new ones. The good news: 5 North was prominently displayed on these signs. The bad news: Ankrom's art was lost. (We were the ones who actual first informed him of the disappearance).

KCET's Departures blog is recounting Ankrom's now-legendary piece of public guerilla art (read here. And above, here's Ankrom re-creating the complexities to make the sign.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Los Angeles Times Checks in on Los Angeles Magazine, and Approves

As Los Angeles magazine celebrates its 50th anniversary (read about their party here), L.A. Times media columnist James Rainey notes that the magazine has managed to keep its mojo - and even win some big magazine prizes -- despite a downsized staff:

The magazine today has taken on the glow of a survivor, with a recovering bottom line and a couple of big journalism prizes having just arrived in the editor's office. It has shed its fixation with the city's Westside, gotten friendlier to time-strapped readers (features tend to be shorter) and shucked the skeptical remove that reigned in the 1990s, when a couple of editors from the East Coast ascended.

The resulting magazine doesn't exactly demand to be read but when it is read can provide a tasty repast.
Rainey gives props to Franklin Avenue pal Mary Melton, the Los Angeles mag editor "who has embraced the mission of doing less with more and unashamedly attempts to present her city in its full splendor and incoherence." Rainey notes that if anyone still thinks Los Angeles magazine sports a Westside bias, Mary lives in Eagle Rock.

The only thing that I'm surprised Rainey didn't mention is Los Angeles magazine's ability to still provoke. Its "Failure" cover, featuring a dour Antonio Villaraigosa, scored high marks in design circles and was most definitely the talk of the town when it came out.

I'm All For Tradition, But Good Riddance, Glendale Rose Parade Float

Glendale has had annual entry in the Tournament of Roses Parade for 98 years -- representing the second-longest presence in the parade. But the city is looking to end its annual $130,000 subsidy to build the float -- and that could mean the end of that streak, the Glendale News-Press reports.

I'm all for streaks. And history. But let's be honest here. With a few exceptions, the Glendale float is usually... bad. Hokey. Cheesy. Embarrassing. See above for a sketch of the 2011 float.

I know a gaggle of people put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into producing Tournament of Roses parade floats. And I know I'm a bit of an ass for saying this. But maybe a shakeup was overdue anyway. Glendale fronted great floats in 2008 and 2009, when the city decided to illustrate its history, using the Alex Theatre and the long-gone Grand Central Terminal as float focal points. But beyond that, the Glendale float has not been a good representation of the city. Unless somehow donations can be raised (and that's doubtful, as only $500 has been generated so far), it's time to go.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Brady Westwater's L.A. Tours Start This Saturday

(Photo by Gary Leonard)

Well-known downtown fixture Brady Westwater is joining the downtown tour ranks, launching a series of guided walking tours of Historic Downtown Los Angeles.
The first two tours take place this Saturday June 25th from 11 AM - 1:30 PM and Sunday, June 26th, from Noon to 2:30 PM. Cost is just $15. Details:

The first two “Historic Downtown 101” tours will be a general introduction to our rapidly developing neighborhood and an overview of the multiple histories of the streets of Broadway, Spring and Main.

If you are a participant, you will see the first motion picture theater built, the place where Babe Ruth signed his contract with the Yankees, the hotel where Charlie Chaplin lived when he made his early films (and the place where he made his Los Angeles vaudeville debut in 1910) - plus the homes and haunts of everyone from actor Nicholas Cage, the Black Dahlia, Rudolph Valentino, LA’s version of Jack the Ripper, President Teddy Roosevelt, the Night Stalker, western outlaw Emmet Dalton, actor Ryan Gosling and more. And you will also visit where O. J. Simpson bought his knife.

You’ll explore an intersection where all four buildings were often visited by gunfighter/sheriff Wyatt Earp since they were all built or occupied by friends of his from Tombstone during the shoot-out at the OK Corral. At this intersection you will also discover what John Wayne, a prime minister of Italy, Houdini, Winston Churchill, boxer Jack Dempsey, Greta Garbo, President Woodrow Wilson and multiple Mexican boxing champions all had in common here.
Sounds like fun. All tours begin at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, at 453 S. Spring St.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Retro Friday: L.A. Radio, Back in the Day

Wow, this 1991 spot for KPWR "Power 106" screams, well, "1991." From back when Power 106 was "L.A.'s Hottest Music."

KLAC is now all-sports, but back in 1985 it was a country station. This low-rent spot seems like it was made for some small radio market, not Los Angeles.

In 1993, KNX and KFWB were still owned by different companies -- KNX by CBS, and KFWB by Group W. Here's an animated spot from all-news KFWB.

A rock spot from KLOS in the mid-1980s.

KDAY goes disco in 1979.

Space-age KRTH in 1980.

KROQ's famed "Roq of the '80s" logo and spot in the 1980s.

KOST, from its "beautiful music" days. Remember when elevator music was played on the radio? Yikes!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, But First In Our Hearts

Last Bookstore

If The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles indeed winds up as L.A.'s last bookstore, well, at least it's worthy.

The store, run by Josh Spencer, recently moved into a new 10,000-square foot home at the corner of 5th and Spring in downtown's Historic Core. And it's quite a welcome addition to what has become a lively, thriving example of Downtown's comeback.

With my sisters visiting from out of town, we decided to take them downtown on Sunday afternoon and visit the new store. (After a quick stop at CoffeeBar, located down the street on Spring, for a snack and some java.)

The brand-new location lived up to the hype. Now housed in the historic Spring Arts Tower (next door to the Crocker Club), the Last Bookstore is housed in what was once the lobby to the Citizens National Bank. The ceiling is still intact, the bank vault is still there... but the floor is now filled with shelves and shelves of affordable used books.

And that's the big draw -- unlike many used book stores, the product at The Last Bookstore is priced to move. We picked up several children's books, all priced at $1 or $2, for the Blogger Boys. If there was one disappointment, it was the Last Bookstore's paltry collection of Los Angeles-themed books. But with the shelves constantly being refreshed, I'm sure new ones are on the way.

The Last Bookstore is a great way to spend an afternoon in Downtown -- and I'm even impressed by the store's lengthy hours of operation: Until 10 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. (The store closes at 5 p.m. on Sundays.)

The Last Bookstore
453 S. Spring St.
Ground Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90013

More pics:

Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

Last Bookstore

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Militant Angeleno Visits Long Beach

Ever since the L.A. City Nerd stopped blogging, the equally mysterious Militant Angeleno has taken the crown as the most passionate blogger about our great city. Now, the Militant has hopped on the Blue Line and traveled down to Long Beach, filing a series of reports this week about Los Angeles County's No. 2 city.

The first two entries are chock full of interesting info:

Seven LB Buildings You Should Know About

Under the Bridg-izzle

The first entry highlights several of Long Beach's famous and historic structures, including 1929's Villa Riviera (above) and 1967's circular International Tower.

And the bridg-izzle story? The Militant investigates "a concrete bridge supporting Orange Ave. and East Hill Street in Long Beach, just near the Signal Hill border. That sunken trench was once the Pacific Electric Railway's Newport-Balboa Line," the Militant writes.

As for Long Beach, the Militant explains his interest in the city: Known for a big boat, an aquarium, Snoop Dogg and the harbor, it also has many other unique qualities to it and its own history. The Militant's Long Beach Week will by no means be comprehensive, and you probably won't be some Longbeachologist by next week, but living basically in the shadow of Los Angeles for its entire history, its time to at least give The LBC some props. So Long Beach, this ones for you.
Militant Angeleno just celebrated his/her fourth blogiiversary.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Holy Star on the Walk of Fame, Batman!

The fan-funded documentary "Starring Adam West" now has an ending.

The project, currently in the works, chronicles the efforts to get TV's original "Batman," Adam West, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And now, it's official: West will be receiving the honor in 2012.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced 2012's Walk of Fame star recipients, including West. Here's the full list:

Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel, Scarlett Johansson, John Lasseter, Malcolm McDowell, Sumner Redstone, Kate Winslet and Richard Burton (posthumous)

Valerie Bertinelli, Matt Groening, Mariska Hargitay, Patricia Heaton, Marg Helgenberger, Walter Koenig, and Adam West

Pepe Aguilar, America, Boyz II Men, Hal David, David Foster, Vince Gill, Jennifer Lopez, Ann and Nancy Wilson (Heart) and Barry White (posthumous)

Ellen K.
Boyz II Men? Seriously, way to stay current, there, Chamber of Commerce.

The Adam West movement reminds me of the move a few years ago (spearheaded by KROQ's Kevin & Bean) to get a star for Rodney Bingenheimer (read about it here).

More on Franklin Avenue:

Hollywood Walk of Fame, Demystified (July 2005)

Walk of Shame? (March 2005)

Hollywood Crack of Fame (October 2003)

Find of the Day: 'Good Good Eat'

[Good Good Eat

As spotted at a Koreatown grocery store: "Everyone says good good eat." Yes, they do. (By the way, I was intrigued by the idea of Ramen noodles with black pepper, hence my purchase.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

An Evening at the Wigwam Motel on Route 66

Chris Nichols did it again. The Los Angeles magazine staffer (and man behind its popular column "Ask Chris") throws an elaborate event each year for his birthday, usually incorporating L.A. history, landmarks and a dose of kitsch. And this year he outdid himself by throwing "TV Jamboree," a 1950s-style TV revue (think Spade Cooley, Bandstand Revue or Dixie Showboat) at the famed Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino.

Among the performers: Charles Phoenix (singing "You're Just Too Good To Be True" in an Indian head dress, in honor of the Wig Wam), a Hurdy Gurdy duo, a Stan Chambers impersonator, and -- in the flesh -- Tom Hatten, the host of The Popeye Show on KTLA for three decades.

As for the Wigwam, even histo-entertainer Phoenix admitted that despite his many trips down Route 66, he hadn't stopped to check out the Wigwam until Saturday night. The legendary motel consists of rooms designed to look like teepees. Some history from the Wigwam's site:

The California Wigwam Motel was built within the city limits of San Bernardino in 1949, a period when citrus groves flourished. The motel would later acquire a Rialto postal address, creating confusions as the property actually sits in San Bernardino. The motel's village-style arrangement of nineteen 30-foot-tall tepees made from wood framing, concrete and stuco draws much admiration from all generations. Each individual wigwam is carefully equipped with all the traveler's essentials with grounds that includes of grass area, an outdoor barbecue grill and kidney-shaped swimming pool.

The mastermind behind this retro motel was a clever man by the name of Frank Redford, who was heavily influenced by the native Indian culture. He would bring his imagination to a reality in the early 1930s explained in the following section.

A total of only seven Wigwam Motels were built throughout the nation, of which three managed to remain preserved. Two of the last three remaining rest along historic Route 66 in the states of Arizona and California, while the other rests in Redford's home state of Kentucky.

Photos from the Wigwam:

Wig Wam
Wood carving invites motorists in.

old tractor.

Wig Wam
The sun sets.

Wig Wam
More sunset over the Wigwams and Route 66.

Wig Wam
Friend of Franklin Avenue, Ellen Bloom.

Wig Wam
Charles Phoenix croons.

Wig Wam
Tom Hatten draws Popeye for the grown-up boys and girls.

Wig Wam
The entire cast of "TV Jamboree."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nic Harcourt Jumps to KCSN, Says KCRW 'Misrepresented' Exit

Surprising fireworks in the public radio arena today. First, KCRW announces Nic Harcourt's exit from KCRW to focus on his newish gig at MTV. Then, my ex-station (R.I.P., "Hawaiian Eye") KCSN announces that Harcourt is joining to host a weekend show.

Harcourt later told the L.A. Times that he felt KCRW "misrepresented" his exit, and that he originally hoped to continue at KCRW while doing a volunteer shift at KCSN. (There's precedent, as KCSN is unpaid, which means several KCSN jocks in the past have also worked at other public stations, like KKJZ, simultaneously.) But Harcourt said he was given an ultimatum: Pick one. He doesn't explain why he chose KCSN.

Here's part of the KCSN announcement:

KCSN/Los Angeles is proud to announce that legendary music industry veteran, Nic Harcourt, is joining the station. KCSN 88.5 FM is the non-commercial station that broadcasts a Triple-A format from California State University, Northridge.

Harcourt worked for KCRW/Los Angeles for 12 years, 10 as music director and host of the highly influential “Morning Becomes Eclectic” program... He has also helped launch the careers of Phoenix, Dido, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab for Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, KT Tunstall, Ting Tings, Sigur Ros, Damien, Rice, The Shins, Interpol and countless others. He has been described by music writer Mark Weingarten as “the most influential DJ in America.”

Harcourt has also been a music journalist for the Los Angeles Times, and currently holds the title of Music Supervisor in Residence for MTV. He also serves as host of the award-winning Guitar Center Sessions on DirecTV’s 101 and n3D channels.

Karen Kearns, General Manager of KCSN commented, “Nic’s status as a music tastemaker will be a great addition to our programming.”

Sky Daniels, newly appointed Program Director of KCSN added, “It is an honor to have Nic join us as we begin a new journey as the Album Adult Alternative station for Los Angeles. Nic defines music discovery for Los Angeles listeners and will bring that devotion to KCSN. His vision will be an incredible asset to our listeners.”

Harcourt stated, “Change is good. I’m truly excited about the opportunity to work with the team at KCSN as they build a dynamic new music format for Los Angeles.”
Read some of our past stories about Nic Harcourt here.

R.I.P. Wild Man Fischer, the 'Spiritual Godfather' of Rhino Records

Wild Man Fischer

In early 1990s Chicago, we had Wesley Willis: A schizophrenic musician who lived on the streets and recorded odd CDs to pay the bills.

But back in 1960s and 1970s Los Angeles, it was Larry "Wild Man" Fischer who became a cult figure for his similar bout with schizophrenia and how it translated into music. Frank Zappa first brought wider attention to Wild Man, who eventually became a "spiritual godfather" to Rhino Records, having recorded the store-turned-record-label's first-ever release.

Rhino founder Richard Foos sent this note out today on the passing of Fischer:

I wanted to let everyone know that this morning the spiritual godfather of Rhino "Wild Man Fischer" passed away.

Wild Man used to hang out at the Rhino store, So when we wanted to record a theme song for the store and press it on a 45 we had him make one up.

When we decided to record our first album the only fitting artist was Wild Man. Somehow we managed to sell five thousand records which gave us enough money to release the next album.

Wild Man's creativity, passion and chutzpah to become as he would say "bigger than the Beatles" despite having a total lack of musical training, ability to keep a tune, and being schizophrenia symbolized the can do spirit we had in the early days of Rhino and fueled us on to never give up.

Wild Man never achieved his goal of being bigger than the Beatles but his passion sparked a little label that has brought joy to millions...

Read more about Wild Man on his Wikipedia page. Here's Wild Man's self-titled "Wild Man Fischer Story":

And here's a 15-minute clip from a documentary all about Fischer:

Rate-A-Restaurant #253: The Edison

Restaurant: The Edison

Location: 108 West 2nd Street (Downtown)

Type of restaurant: Bar/Speakeasy


We stipulated: Maria and I were in downtown for the Last Remaining Seats, and looking for a place to grab a quick bite and drink before the movie. Because this screening was being held at the Million Dollar Theatre, we were close to 2nd Street -- and Maria had never been to the Edison. Mission accomplished.

They stipulated: "By creating living history, Andrew Meieran's award-winning design celebrates an era of invention and imagination -- the blending of science, art and industry. The space retains many of its architectural and mechanical artifacts from its history as Downtown LA's first private power plant. The design combines styles ranging from Art Nouveau to Industrial Gothic in order to create a lavish Industrial Cathedral -- a space that needs to be experienced more than just seen."


What we ordered: It was happy hour (5 to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday), so we took advantage of the 35 cent martini, and several $5 specials: Kobe beef burger, calamari ("Electric Company squid") and "Singapore wings." All came with "Tesla fries" (sweet potato fries)


High point: The Happy Hour prices. We were able to dine for $20.

Low point: The confusion over where to sit. There were "reserved" signs on every table -- and most of those tables were empty. We finally just took a seat and promised the waitress that we'd be out by 8.

Overall impression: The Edison is a spot you want to show off to folks who still don't believe in the downtown renaissance. It's a magnificent place, and the happy hour can't be beat. Even the circa 1900 silent films they flicker on the wall lend themselves to an air of history and intrigue (well, except for the one with the blackface. Yikes. Maybe remove that one.)


Chance we'll go back:  I'd say it's a great spot to meet downtown with friends or with out-of-towners, particularly for happy hour. So yes.

For a complete list of our more than 250 restaurant reviews, check out Franklin Avenue's companion Rate-A-Restaurant site.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Los Angeles Magazine's 50th Anniversary Bash Looks Back, Looks Ahead

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary

There was a lot of talk about 2061 at Los Angeles magazine's 50th anniversary party. The event, held Wednesday night in the lobby of the Variety Building (also home to Los Angeles mag), asked guests to imagine what L.A. might be like when the city magazine hits 100.

In one room, attendees were asked to fill out cards and give their take on the future of Los Angeles. Those cards will be put in a time capsule -- along with items such as a signed Simpsons script by Matt Groening -- and buried, to be open again in 2061. (I'll be 87 years young!)

L.A. mag also asked readers to design mock covers of what L.A. mag like look like in 2061 -- and some of the entries were quite comedic.

Also at the party, Chef John Rivera Sedlar created special Hors d'oeuvres tied to classic L.A. eats: Chili, inspired by Chasen's; Cobb salad shooters, inspired by the Brown Derby; tricolore amuse, inspired by Rex; duck prosciutto, inspired by L'Ermitage; pastrami tacos, inspired by Saint Estephe; and chocolate bacon truffles, inspired by Animal. The chili was a particular hit with me -- a nice spice, with crispy sage.

Among those in attendance: George Takei; Rodney Bingenheimer; Councilwoman Jan Perry; histo-tainer Charles Phoenix; KCBS anchor Laura Diaz; Los Angeles City Office of Historic Resources head Ken Bernstein; the L.A. Times' James Rainey; and "Flipping Out's" Jeff Lewis. It was also great to see LA Observed's Kevin Roderick, and we hung out with Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman, my former Variety co-worker. Congrats to Los Angeles magazine editor Mary Melton and everyone at the magazine for pulling off a fun and tasty event!

Some photos:

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Los Angeles magazine editor Mary Melton toasts the anniversary.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Councilwoman Jan Perry delivers a city of Los Angeles proclamation.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Me with George Takei, who now can be seen on Nickelodeon's "Supah Ninjas."

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
The cover of a 1971 issue: "Smiling Through the Downturn California Style." I can't get past this cover: A flabby old guy in a lawn chair, his feet sticking right at us. Not quite visually appealing. Can you imagine anyone doing a cover like this today?

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Cobb salad shooter.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
The 50th anniversary cake -- which prompted a debate earlier in the evening: Was it truly a cake? Turns out it was. And delicious.

Tricolore amuse.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Celebrities were a big choice for the magazine's cover in the 1980s.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Pastrami tacos.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Me with Rodney on the Roq.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Playing the theramin.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Fake future Los Angeles magazine cover in 2061

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
"Mayor Bieber." Another fake future cover.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
"Lady Gaga's Comeback at 75." Another fake cover, this one by Charles Phoenix.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Photographer Larry Underhill: He doesn't just shoot pictures, he creates time capsules! Larry took sewer pipe and created the capsule, and then etched in the magazine's name and a message.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
Among the items going into the time capsule: A "Simpsons" script signed by Matt Groening.

Los Angeles magazine 50th anniversary
One of Los Angeles mag's most buzzed-about covers, the famous Villaraigosa "Failure" issue. (Nope, Mayor V wasn't at Wednesday night's affair. That might have been embarrassing.)
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