Sunday, November 21, 2010

GREAT LOS ANGELES WALK 2010 RECAP: We Conquer All 15.8 Miles of Wilshire

It was going to take more than a little rain to keep a Great Walk down.

And turns out the rain was mostly an afterthought by the time we kicked off the fifth annual Great Los Angeles Walk on Saturday, Nov. 20 at Pershing Square. Besides a few sprinkles at the start of the walk, the weather cooperated just fine -- if anything, the mid-60s temps were perfect for a day-long urban hike.

At least 100 die-hard Angelenos decided to brave the weather (before the dire forecasts, we were expecting around 350) -- and were treated to some amazing sights on Wilshire Boulevard.

And after an all-day, 15.8-mile journey (with several stops along the way), we celebrated over margaritas at Border Grill Santa Monica.

The morning started with a surprise guest: Councilman Tom LaBonge, who stopped by Pershing Square to send us off and say a few words. "Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles" authors Kevin Roderick and Eric Lynxwiler then took to the megaphone and gave us a bit of history about the street we were about to walk.

A KABC/Channel 7 Eyewitness News cameraman was also there to record the start (it later appeared on the station's 4 p.m. newscast; KNBC/Channel 4 had a camera out there as well). And thanks to the Los Angeles Conservancy, everyone grabbed a copy of "Curating the City: Wilshire Boulevard," a thorough guide to the historic buildings and sites up and down the Wilshire.

At 10 a.m., we headed West.

From there, the sights were many. Bullock's Wilshire. The Park Plaza Hotel. MacArthur Park. The "Shambassador" high school.

Los Angeles Conservancy docent Marcello Vavala met us at the mid-60s St. Basil's Catholic Church to give us a history of the structure; he then took us over to the Ahmanson Center/Wilshire Colonnade to share the background of that early-70s complex.

Surprises continued: We walked by the historic Wiltern Theatre -- the first-ever L.A. Conservancy success story -- and saw that the theater had put a welcome message for the Great L.A. Walk on its marquee. At the Los Altos Apartments, we were welcomed in by management (they happened to be holding an open house). Some lucky walkers got a chance to tour the Julia Morgan-designed Hearst apartment inside (while sipping Mimosas).

Many Walkers breaked for lunch at Black Dog Coffee in the Miracle Mile, where owner Brad Gold was offering $1 his sandwiches and hot dogs. Down the street, LACMA staffer Mary Lenihan gave us a history of the museum.

Later, we passed by a wedding (a Great LA Walk tradition!) in Westwood, and even spotted another message for us -- stuck on a lamppost by a crew member on HBO's upcoming series "Luck."

Most of us made it to Santa Monica (and the Santa Monica statue at the very edge of Wilshire) around 5:30 p.m. A sliver of light remained in the distant horizon as we took photos, nursed blisters and then hobbled over to Border Grill.

It was a great day -- and my prediction that the rain wouldn't be a factor paid off.

The hot topic toward the end of The Great Los Angeles Walk: Where are we going next year? Stay tuned. And remember to keep the Saturday before Thanksgiving free. We'll see you in 2011!

And now, some pics:

I'm interviewed by KABC Channel 7. (Pic by Davey Gonzalez.)

With Councilman Tom LaBonge, who yes, called me a "great Angeleno." Don't know about that, but what the hell, I'm flattered!

Kevin Roderick speaks, as Eric Lynxwiler and Tom LaBonge look on. (Pic by Raul.)

And they're off!

Making our way up Wilshire.

The Wilshire Special.

Below, it's a swap meet. Above, the Westlake Theatre balcony remains.

Harrison Grey Otis points us in the right direction (at MacArthur Park).

American Cement building.


Inside the Wilshire Galleria department store -- formerly I. Magnin.

LA Conservancy docent Marcello Vavala gives us some background on St. Basil's Catholic Church.

Marcello describes the Wilshire Colonnade.

A bunch of us gather under the Wiltern Theatre marquee. OK, so they didn't quite get the name of our Walk right. It's the gesture that counts. Thanks, Wiltern!

Get your MAN SUITS! MAN SUITS, everybody!

Los Altos apartments.

Inside the Hearst apartment at the Los Altos. (Pic by Will Campbell.)

Members of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council sponsor a rest stop.

LACMA staffer Mary Lenihan gives a history of the museum.

View of the Variety Building from LACMA's Urban Lights installation.

Yes, we are in Beverly Hills.

Creepiest statue on Wilshire?

An HBO "Luck" crew member leaves a message on Wilshire for us Walkers.

Jesus drives by the walk, and flashes a peace sign to Will Campbell. (Pic by Will Campbell.)

A Great Los Angeles Walk tradition: Wedding (this time in Westwood)

Didn't quite work out for you, huh?

Truman Capote's grave, at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery (Pic by Atwater Village Newbie.)

This late in the walk, no one takes up this inflatable ref's hug offer.

"Walk On" -- we're trying our best!


We celebrate at the Santa Monica statue - at the very end of Wilshire.

Walkers on KABC Channel 7's Eyewitness News

Thanks again to Councilman Tom LaBonge; "Wilshire Boulevard" authors Kevin Roderick and Eric Lynxwiler; L.A. Conservancy docent Marcello Vavala; and LACMA staffer Mary Lenihan, all of whom gave great speeches and shared some history for us.

Mark your calendars: The sixth GREAT LOS ANGELES WALK takes place Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011!


Great Los Angeles Walk photo group on Flickr

Talking the Walk: The Great LA Walk 2010 Does Wilshire Blvd. (LAist)

Wilshire walkers catch a weather break (LA Observed)

Great L.A. Walk 2010: Wilshire Blvd. (Raul is Running)

Great Los Angeles Walk: Car-free urban adventure (Siel Ju, via KPCC)

I Saw Jesus Christ on Yesterday's Great LA Walk (Will Campbell, via

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