Four Neat Things About Los Angeles.

A while ago, Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and Make tagged me with a "To Live & Meme in L.A.", a four things meme (see Mark's entry with precious nuggets of info such as he likes to watch Pee Wee's Big Adventure and to eat at Carney's in Studio City).

Now, having fruitlessly racked my brain about the Los Angeles meme - simple as it is (I just moved here from San Francisco about two years ago and am not very familiar with the city and surrounding sprawl), I've decided to slightly change the meme (is this legit? Oh well...).

I'm going to write about some neat (and by neat I mean weird or interesting) things about Los Angeles and I will invite/tag other people to write 4 neat things about their hometown - the format is up to them. OK, here we go:

4 Neat Things about the Streets of LA

Angels Flight: The Shortest Railway in the World

Built in 1901, Angels Flight is known as the world's shortest railway: just 320 feet. This line was closed in the 1960s due to disuse and was re-opened in 1996 only to close again in 2001 due to an accident. Supposedly, it'll re-open again in late 2006.

Angels Flight is on 4th and Hills Streets in Downtown Los Angeles. See also: LA Area Funiculars

Rare Ferrari That Crashed in Malibu

Weirdness and mystery abound in the story of the $1 million Ferrari Enzo that crashed in Malibu on Feb 21, 2006.

The car's owner (later disputed) Stefan Eriksson, claimed that a man he knew only as "Dietrich", was driving at the time - and when the cops were questioning him, men from Homeland Security came for him. Stefan himself turned out to be a "deputy" of a private police department ran by a local transit bus company.

As if that's not enough, it turns out that Stefan's old company Gizmondo was ran into the ground and that Stefan was actually a convicted criminal - he was busted for running a counterfeiting ring in Sweden.

And now, he's busted here, too.

Read it for yourself: SF Chronicle | LA Times

Police Chases

On average, 15 people in try to drive away from the cops in LA on any given day - much more than any other parts of the country!

Indeed, car chases (remember OJ's famous slow speed chase?) are a part of LA - they are often televised ("breaking news") and they consistently garner high ratings.

Jaywalking Ticket for Walking Too Slow

Mayvis Coyle became a celebrity when an LAPD officer gave her a $114 ticket for jaywalking for walking too slow across the street.

Editorial writers from Sacramento to Scotland have rushed to Coyle's defense. Strangers in distant lands are rising to support her. Camera crews show up at her Sunland trailer unannounced, wanting Coyle to repeat the story once again.

And she doesn't even have a phone.

As Coyle tells it, she was doing her best to shuffle across Foothill Boulevard, with her cane in one hand, groceries in the other, when the light changed from "Walk" to "Don't Walk".

Enter an LAPD motorcycle officer, who gave her the ticket, which she is challenging in court.

Four Neat LA Signs

Hollywood Sign.

Not many people know that this famous sign was first put up in 1923 to advertise a housing development in Hollywood.

The sign has seen many pranks, promotions, and even a suicide (in 1932, aspiring actress Peg Entwistle, jumped off the H to her death).

Dork Street

Yes, that's a real street name in Pico Rivera!

Officials say there is no record at City Hall explaining how the street got its distinctive moniker, but residents believe it was named after someone called Dork. It first appeared on a Los Angeles County tract map in 1936.

Angelyne Billboard. Angelyne, a model and sometimes actress, is famous for purchasing billboards advertising herself and for riding around in her pink corvette.

She also ran (unsuccessfully) for California governor during the 2003 recall election.

Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Walk of Fame is actually a sidewalk along Hollywood Blvd and Vine St. It has about 2,000 stars with names of celebs.

By the way, Winnie the Pooh just got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and CNN had this perfect headline: " Star wears red shirt, no pants to Walk of Fame ceremony"

Four Neat LA Museums

Museum of Jurrasic Technology

This one is Hagop Sandaldjian's The Eye of the Needle exhibit at the Culver City museum:

Born of obsessive devotion, an individual figure could take as many as fourteen months to finish. Each sculpted micron represented not only endless hours of toil, but exacting travail fraught with peril, as his work could so easily be destroyed or lost. An unexpected sneeze or misdirected breath could blow away a microminiature with hurricane force, while a casual movement could sabotage the work of months. Since even a pulse in his fingers could cause an accident, Sandaldjian ultimately learned to apply his decisive strokes only between heartbeats.

The Banana Museum

The Banana Museum in Altadena, ran by Ken "Top Banana" Bannister, has over 17,000 banana-related items!

Museum of Neon Art (MONA).

This offbeat museum on West Olympic Blvd. is dedicated to neon light artworks.

This one on the left is by Jen Elek, titled "$laves" - it's about "corporate targetting of American youths".

The Bunny Museum.

On Valentine's Day in 1993, Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski gave each other bunnies (and bunny-related items) and this turned out to be a daily ritual.

Now, their home, or the Bunny Museum, in Pasadena has over 20,000 bunny items - a world record.

Four Neat Places to Eat and Drink in LA

Farmers Market

The Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax is home to 70 mom-n-pop eateries and shops. FAQ from the website:

13. The original merchants at the Market – the farmers who sold produce from the back of their trucks – paid 50 cents a day in rent.

14. When she saw the farmers vending produce at 3rd & Fairfax, Blanche Magee thought they might get hungry, so she began selling sandwiches. 68 years later, Magee’s is still serving Market patrons.

48. Liberace once pulled his convertible up to the front door of a Market shop, purchased every set of cuff links and most of the robes in the shop, had the goods gift wrapped, tossed it all in the back seat drove away.

65. Before the Market offered evening hours (we’re now open 9 to 9 Monday-Friday, 9 to 8 on Saturdays, 10 to 7 on Sundays), it was once taken over for a fundraising event at which, among other Hollywood stars, Shirley Temple “worked” as a counter girl. Her stall was so popular and the crowd so large that, out of concern for her safety, the fire department was called and extracted Ms. Temple from her booth by cutting a hole in the roof.

Tail o' the Pup.

The iconic restaurant was designed by architect Milton J. Black in 1938 and built in 1945. It first opened at its original Beverly Boulevard location in 1946.

Tail o' the Pup is an excellent example of Programmatic Architecture, where the building is designed to resemble the product sold inside. It is also one of a dwindling number of such structures in the Los Angeles area.

Unfortunately, the famous hot dog stand Tail O' the Pup on San Vicente closed earlier in 2006 when it lost its lease. Rumor has it, the popular hot dog stand will reopen in Westwood Village.

Randy's Donuts

Another example of kitsch architecture is the famous Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, near the LAX airport.

The 22-foot wide donut was built as part of a Big DoNut chain, which has now gone out of business (Randy's it the only remaining example).

This famous donut has also been featured in many movies, like Earth Girls are Easy, Mars Attack! (one of my favs), Coming to America, and so on.

Galco's Soda Pop Stop

If you like weird drinks, you'll love Galco's Soda Pop Stop. This unique market on York Blvd. in Los Angeles has about 400 hard-to-find sodas. Far from LA? They ship sodas worldwide.

4 Neat LA Buildings

Watts Towers

Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant construction worker, built the Watts Towers (formally Nuestra Pueblo), from 1921 to 1954 from scraps and found objects.

The towers are a collection of 17 interconnected structures, with the highest tower as tall as 99 feet.

During World War II, rumors swept the neighborhood that the Towers were transmission stations used to send classified information to the enemy Japanese and, later, to pass secrets to the Communists. Rodia was becoming increasingly solitary, isolating himself from his neighbors, angry at the world and what he saw as its disintegrating values. ... Local children, gleaning from their parents that he was a crazy old man, tossed rocks and climbed over the walls to smoke and drink; treasure hunters unearthed sections and smashed the crockery, certain there was a fortune buried underneath; debris and trash accumulated. Finally, Rodia had had enough.

In 1954, Rodia packed up his few belongings, deeded his property to his neighbor, Louis H. Saucedo, and walked away, never to return. (from History of the Towers)

Giant Binoculars at the Chiat/Day Building

The gigantic binocular makes Chiat/Day building in Venice one of Frank Gehry's most memorable architecture.

The entry to the parking structure is through the centrally placed binoculars, conceived and created in collaboration with Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The binoculars contain space for private conferencing and research and are tied into the main client conference room. Each cylinder is topped by one skylight oculus.

Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village

In 1956, at the age of 60, Tressa "Grandma" Prisbrey began building houses and structures from tens of thousands of bottles she recovered from her daily visits to the dump and from her husband's own bad habit.

Appearances aside, Bottle Village began as two purely practical needs for a cheap building material to build a structure to store her pencil collection, which eventually numbered 17,000 and a bottle wall to keep away the smell and dust of the adjacent turkey farm. However, it was her own ability to have fun and infuse her wit and whimsy into what she made which over time became the essence of Bottle Village. Practicality alone would not explain The Leaning Tower of Bottle Village, the Dolls Head Shrine, car - headlight - bird - baths, and the intravenous - feeding - tube - firescreen, a few examples of her delightfully idiosyncratic creations.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

When the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles opened in 2003, people complained that the shiny steel exterior was too shiny - so much so that workers had to sand the metal to dull the gloss!

See also: You are Here's large list of buildings in LA.

4 Neat LA Art Installations

Great Wall of LA

A mural titled Great Wall of LA in Valley Glen portrays the history of California from pre-history to today. At 2,754 ft, it is the longest mural in the world, built by SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center)
The Great Wall of Los Angeles is one of Los Angeles’ true cultural landmarks and one of the country’s most respected and largest monuments to inter-racial harmony. SPARC’s first public art project and its true signature piece, the Great Wall is a landmark pictorial representation of the history of ethnic peoples of California from prehistoric times to the 1950’s, conceived by SPARC’S artistic director and founder Judith F. Baca. Begun in 1974 and completed over five summers, the Great Wall employed over 400 youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members.

See also Rich Puchalsky's comprehensive List of LA Murals.

Corporate Head for Business

In Los Angeles, developers must allocate 1% of new buildings cost to fund public works of art - this is how the Poet's Walk on Figueroa and 7th was funded.

One particularly interesting sculpture is "Corporate Head for Business" by Terry Allen and Philip Levine.

The plaque near the statue reads:
They said
I had a head
for business.
The said
to get ahead
I had to lose
my head.
They said
be concrete
& I became
They said
go, my son,
divide, conquer.
I did my best.

Walk on LA

Carl Cheng's "Walk on LA" is a giant concrete stamp on the beach in Santa Monica that makes cool impressions on the sand.

Art on the Outside

The City of West Hollywood's Art on the Outside past art installations included several gems like Laura Haddad and Thomas Drugan's Starchief (Garden Car) and Blue McRight's Lawn Chair.

There are many more neat things about Los Angeles - we haven't even touched movies, music, celebrities, politics, and scandals... Maybe next time.

For now, I'd like to propagate this 4 Neat Things About My Hometown meme by tagging a whole bunch of people: Norwood Matt at Stuff on Fire, Hanan at grow-a-brain, Miss Cellania, Tim Mosley, John at Jaf Project, John Walkenbach at J-Walk, Gerard at Presurfer, Steve "ILuvNUFC" at Look at This, Bibi at Bibi's Box, Bernie at Deep Fun, Cynical-C, Tom Whaples, Nina at Shenanigans, Yayo, Gail at Scribal Terror

Lastly, an open invitation to anyone who want to write 4 Neat Things About My Hometown (format up to you) - let me know, and I'll link to your blog. If it's particularly funny or interesting, I'll put it on the front page!

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The Battle of Las Angeles in 1942

I and my family have lived many years in L.A and surounding towns and of all the strange events in this world let alone L.A.'s this one takes the cake, it is unbelieveble and it was a mass hysteria event of the largest scale and so bizzar it was just forgotten and blended into every day war time and world news, but 1,490 to 1,500 rounds of High explosive masive 90mm aaa anti- aircraft shells were fired and scored direct hits but had no efect at all upon it, I am writing and indepth artical on the entire event and anolizing all criteria at at hand, I will post when I am ready to, but for now you can google "Battle of Las Angeles in 1942.

The Battle of Las Angeles in 1942



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Randy's is not the only location of the Big Donut Drive-In chain still in existence. There are at least four others:
Kindle's Do-Nuts on South Normandie, LA (the original location, opened in 1950)
Donut King II on South Western Avenue in Gardena
Dale's Donuts on South Atlantic Avenue in Compton
Bellflower Bagels on Bellflower Blvd in Bellflower
Each of these features the 22 foot diameter donut on top.
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As a result of its metallic facade and non conformity with surrounding structures, the nickname "Schrottplatz (nee Disney) Hall" has become associated with our symphony venue. Google defines "Schrottplatz" as "scrap metal recycling depot", but it sounds so intellectual and artistic in German that even classical lovers affectionally toss off "I'm going to the Schrottplatz tonight for the Schubert song cycle".
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There is even a neat mini-mentary about the Watts towers

A twelve minute gem, simply entitled "The Towers" from 1957, avaiable for download here


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