My Los Angeles Times

When I review my years in Los Angeles, I see them as a journey, sometimes more inner than outer. Going from a young writer in awe, to a working stiff becoming disillusioned with the "Hollywood" scene and finally, missing the small town atmosphere. This journal will chronicle those changes.

L.A. History 101

Los Angeles: The Expansion of a City, Part I

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 7, 2010

Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city -- Dorothy Parker

Olvera Street Area

In 1781, eleven families settled the area that is now known as Los Angeles. They based their settlement (El Pueblo de Nuesta Senora Reina de Los Angeles) close to the river, southeast of Olvera Street. Due to flooding this settlement moved to higher ground around 1800, when a plaza was established, surrounded by adobe buildings and, beyond that, agricultural fields and cattle ranches.

This new village remained under Spanish control until 1821 when Mexico declared its independence. In 1877 the long street by the plaza became known as Olvera Street, after a prominent early judge. In the 1880s the center of town shifted -- in part due to the arrival of a large number of European settlers -- and the area fell into disuse. The population was now based around as the center of town shifted to (present-day) Temple and Main Streets. The population in 1880 was 11,000, which exploded to 100,000 by 1896.

Olvera Street Today

The area has been restored, and the Spanish influence is celebrated - it’s a great place to commemorate Cinco de Mayo. In the old Plaza, around the bandstand, Mariachi bands fill the air with triumphant music and vendors offer fresh fruit sprinkled with chili powder. Down Olvera Street itself, a multitude of shops sell handmade Mexican crafts, and cafes offer tasty tamales and cold, creamy horchata.


The Plaza Fire House
126 Plaza Street

The Plaza Fire Station was built in 1884, though there had been a volunteer system in place since 1871. This had been known as the Volunteer 38, which was made up of 38 volunteers, three horses and a cart. The building was designed by William Boring, who was a native of Illinois, where it was common to house horses and equipment together due to the colder climate. (Anyone who has visited L.A. in August pities those poor horses). The total cost of the building: $4,665.

These early firefighters were paid only when they actually put out a fire. Several buildings turned to ashes, due to fights about jurisdiction and who was responsible for paying the men. An official fire department was created in 1885, and the firefighters moved out of the firehouse in 1892 because the city forgot to actually purchase the property! But, in 1953 the firehouse was restored and turned into a museum.



In 1847 the United States took control of the area from the Mexicans with the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga. Two years later the railroads arrived and, in 1892, oil was discovered in the area. Over the next 30 years the Los Angeles area produced 25% of the world’s crude oil.

By 1920 the rail system connected four counties, and rivaled New York’s system in size. It was during this era -- when the population was at just over half a million people, and L.A. was the 10th largest city -- that the downtown saw a building explosion. It grew big enough to be divided into districts: Financial, Arts, Fashion, Jewelry, Toy, Warehouse, and etc.

As in many cities, after WWII the soldiers returned home to marry, start the Baby Boom and move into the suburbs.

Downtown Today

Since 1955, several attempts have been made to revitalize the downtown area. Many of the vacant buildings have been developed into trendy lofts. In 1999, the Staples Center opened and became the home of the Lakers and Clippers, as well as the Kings and Sparks.

The city still has a long way to go. Skid Row -- defined as 3rd to 7th streets, and Los Angeles to Alameda streets -- contains the largest population of homeless persons in the U.S., estimated beween 7,000-8,000.


If you aren’t a movie star or married to a Rockefeller, you will savor the bargain shopping of the "Fashion District." Santee Alley is a simple back alley, downtown (between Maple and Santee streets). You can expect counterfeit purses and illegally downloaded copies of DVDs, CDs, faux designer watches and perfumes. But, you cannot beat the prices of the 150 vendors.

Let’s start with parking — it rarely goes over $5 in a lot. Within the nearby food court, $3 gets you a great lunch. And, the last time we visited we got luggage for $20. (Which we still have). With these kind of prices, no wonder the place is always packed!

Hint: Go early. Most stores begin opening at 9:00 AM. Take cash. Some vendors don’t accept credit cards. For more information:



The history -- and locations -- of Chinatown are many and varied.

Old Chinatown
The first Chinese recorded in the area arrived in 1852. By 1857, they had established a settlement, that the locals had started calling "Chinatown" by 1870. At this time there were roughly 200 Chinese centered around Calle de Los Negros - Street of the Dark Hued Ones - which was located close to the El Pueblo Plaza (see Olvera Street). Between 1890 and 1910 the population grew to 3,000, and the area expanded to fifteen streets or alleys, and an estimated 200 buildings. Chinatown had a Chinese Opera, its own newspaper, and three temples.

However, Chinatown’s success was limited by the Exclusion Act, signed into law on 1882 by President Chester A. Arthur. The Act suspended Chinese immigration, and placed restrictions on current Chinese immigrants - they couldn’t own property. The Chinese had initially come as laborers during the Gold Rush era. At the time of the signing of the Exclusion Act, they were the largest minority in California.

Anti-Chinese sentiment had grown for over a decade prior to the Exclusion Act. In 1871 a caucasin bystander had been shot, when two Chinese gangs began a shoot-out over a woman. Over 500 caucasians surged through Chinatown, robbing and killing 18 Chinese immigrants in retaliation. It would become known as the ‘Massacre of 1871’.

In the 1930s Chinatown was moved to make room for Union Station, the train terminal, that was built at 800 North Alameda Street.

New Chinatown
The new area was bordered by Olvera Street and Dodger Stadium. In order to promote the area as a bonafide attraction, the Central Plaza was developed. Hollywood added exotic touches Chinatown, thanks to director Cecil B. DeMille who wanted the area to pass for Shanghai, to save on filming costs.


The fine to funky art galleries along Chung King Road: Mary Goldman Gallery (932), China Art Objects (933), Black Dragon Society (961-971), The Happy Lion (963) and Peres Projects (969).

Los Angeles: The Expansion of a City, Part II

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 7, 2010

Echo Park

In a hilly area, then untouched, and known as Edendale, Thomas Kelly -- a former carriage maker -- developed the ‘Montana Tract’, complete with a lake in the center. The grassy hills proved the perfect location to shoot very early Westerns, starring Tom Mix, so the studios began settling into the area -- long before Hollywood was developed and ‘talkies’ were filmed.

Tom Mix, and another early screen actress, Gloria Swanson, and many other performers began buying homes in the developing area. This marked the birth of L.A.’s first Bohemian quarter. Prior to WWI, it earned the nickname "Red Hill," due to the large number of political radicals living here, intermixed with writers and artists. Post WWII, as the white population fled for newer surburbs, Latinos and working-class Chinese moved into the area. And since the early 2000s a large population of gays and lesbians have purchased homes, making it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the nation.


In the 1910s, several early movie studios were located on Allesandro Avenue (now Glendale Blvd.), including Selig Polyscope Company and Pathe West Coast Film Studio. The most famous studio was Max Sennett Studios/Keystone Pictures (1712 Glendale Blvd., now part of a warehouse facility).

Max Sennett was responsible for launching the careers of Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Gloria Swanson, Bing Crosby, Mabel Normand, the Keystone Cops, W.C. Fields, and more. Both Max and his studio developed a very unique and enduring tradition, the old pie-in-the-face schtick. In the 1913 movie ‘A Noise from the Deep’, Mabel Normand plastered Fatty Arbuckle with a whipped cream-topped pie. And, comedies have been using the gag ever since.



The land that is now Burbank started as two seperate land tracts (Rancho San Rafael and Rancho Providencia) under the Spanish government. In 1867, Dr. David Burbank, a dentist, purchased 4,600 acres from each Rancho to begin growing wheat. He then focused on creating a small village and, in 1893, a stage for performers - Burbank Theatre (which became more tacky with time, moving from burlesque to showing X-rated films, before it was demolished in 1973.)

The railroad began running through Burbank in 1874, and a depot was built in 1887. Developers gobbled up all available land in the area, including Dr. Burbank’s for a reported $250,000. Burbank officially became a city in 1911 (population 500), after the first L.A. trolley rolled into the area.

The town grew steadily, and over the next 20 years, a bank, newspaper (Burbank Review), high school and main street were established. By 1927, the city had 125 miles of paved roads. Within a few years major corporations began moving into the area, including, Lockheed, Andrew Jergens, and Libby Canning. The population exploded to more than 16,000.

One of the first permanent studios to move into the area was First National in 1917. It had begun as a merger of 26 "first run" cinema chains. They were brought together under Thomas L. Tally with the idea of showing, distributing, and eventually, producing their own films. In 1918 the company signed million-dollar deals with both Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin (the first deals of this magnitude). This captured rival Paramount’s attention, and a hostile take-over was attempted, but it was Warner Brothers who swooped in to buy the majority interest in 1928.

Major movie studios now located in Burbank:
Warner Brothers at 4000 Warner Blvd. and Walt Disney Studios at 500 S. Buena Vista St. (Universal is also located in ‘the valley’ in Universal City. Of the majors, only Paramount remains in Hollywood).

Highlight (tired of Hollywood yet?)
220 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank

The number of batting cages in L.A. is dwindling fast, and this is the perfect place to wear off some steam -- especially if your film project just got the axe by the neighboring film studios (see above). There are cages for fast and slow pitch softball and also for baseball. All cages are covered, and they are open late - 10:00 p.m. They also have a small snack bar, vending machines, and an arcade. Rates are cheap at 25 pitches for $3.



This shoreline section of Los Angeles got its start as a beach resort town in 1905, with the help of tobacco tycoon, Abbot Kinney. (The resort itself was called Ocean Park). By 1910, the population had climbed to roughly 3,100 people, but it attracted another 50,000 as tourists. There were plenty of leisure activities available: an aquarium, and amusement parks spread over three piers. By 1925, as a result of the heavy day-use, the water, sewer and road systems were in bad shape, and more expansion was needed. The last of these piers was dismantled in the 1950s.

The beach town voted to be annexed by the city of Los Angeles. Before L.A. could do much to improve the area, oil was discovered south of Washington Street and by 1931 there were 450 oil wells dotting the area (which remained in operation until the 1970s). The result was the "Slum by the Sea".

Then, the Beat Generation of the 1950s discovered cheap rent, and writers, artists and musicians flocked to the area. These counter cultural rebels took over the cafes, especially along the boarwalk, and Venice became fashionable again. (By the way, the cheap rent is long, long gone).


Everyone knows about the Venice Beach Boardwalk (if not, check out But the Venice canals should not be overlooked. They provide the perfect backdrop for a quiet afternoon stroll.

The area is now upscale, remodeled and a scene right out of a postcard. The canals were the brain child of Abbot Kinney, and building began in 1904. Sixteen miles of canals were built within the year. By 1929, cars were replacing boats and many of the canals were covered over. In 1994, Los Angeles renovated the remaining six canals for $6 million.

The canals are situated south of Venice Blvd., between Carroll and Court Streets, Strongs Drive and Eastern Court. The Main Canal runs south of Venice Blvd, along Strongs Drive, and into Ballona Lagoon.

The homes along the canals vary in style, from the original bungalows (500 square feet) of the early 1900s to contemporary three-stories (3,000 square feet). The walkways are kept immaculate, each resident adding their own garden, sculptures and styles to the communal area next to their home. (No bicycling or skating allowed on the walkways, and only non-motor watercraft allowed in the canals themselves).

Los Angeles: The Expansion of a City, Part III

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 7, 2010


Before this pristine, 21-mile stretch of shoreline became the ‘Land of Ferraris’, it was home to the Chumash tribe, which called the area "Hu-maliwo’ (which transformed into Malibu). Then, Spanish explorer, Juan Cabrillo, discovered the area, and the land was forever changed. The Spanish returned to build the famous Californian mission system, up and down the coast. In the meantime, the Rindge family settled in the central area of Malibu, where current day Topanga Canyon connects with Malibu.

The Rindge family was a reclusive clan that wanted to keep the public out. Southern Pacific challenged the family in court to allow railroad access, in an early example of eminent domain. Next, the Pacific Coast Highway demanded access rights and the family was forced to divide and sell the land. (Though their homestead, now known as the Adamson House, can be found in the Malibu Creek State Park).

The area has become a playground to the stars, and ‘The Colony’ (along Malibu Road) is a ‘Who’s Who’ of Hollywood Royalty. (Don’t even think about visiting. It is completely gated.) These multi-million dollar homes are wedged tightly together for a coastline view known as ‘the Queen’s Necklace’ -- or Santa Monica to Rancho Palos Verde.

But, you can still visit Malibu and its abundance of great beaches: Topanga State Beach, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Malibu Surfrider, Dan Blocker Beach, Big Dume State Beach, Point Dume State Beach, Westward Beach, Zuma Beach, La Piedra Beach, Nicholas Canyon Beach, El Pescador and El Matador Beaches.

Note: There has been an on-going battle of private Malibu owners versus public beach-goers for decades. Translation: Kazillionaires don’t want your grimy flip flops anywhere near their home. But, after many lawsuits, the California Coastal Commission intervened: "the state of California owns... the land seaward... of what is called the mean high tide line." Basically, as long as your toes -- or grimy flip flops -- are wet, the private owners can do nothing to you. But watch out, the private owners have now built giant garages, side-by-side, in an attempt to keep the hoi polloi out! The lawsuits continue.

Don’t want to fight over beach access?
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades

Oil baron, J. Paul Getty opened an art gallery next to his home (located at the back of the property), which he filled to capacity in no time, so he built a second, and larger, gallery on the same property. He bequeathed the future museum to the city in 1974, and its focus was on the "ancient" arts. There is also a lovely garden area, and views of the Pacific. Best of all, the Getty Villa is free (advance ticket reservation required). However parking is $15.

**This is not to be confused with the Getty Museum, which is located at 1200 Getty Drive in L.A. This second museum is also free and parking is cheaper.**


The Future of L.A.: Water and Fire

Who knew that the city best known for its famous faces and trend setting, had such a history. But what does the future hold for L.A.? How will the city handle the problems of water and fire, as it continues to expand. (Current population over 9.8 million in the county).

When Frederick Eaton was elected mayor in 1898, he created the LA Department of Water and Power, which was headed by his friend, William Mulholland. The population at that time was just over 100,000, but water was becoming scarce. (Los Angeles is similar to the Southern Mediterranean with 320 days of sunshine, and only 32 days of precipitation. Rain rarely falls between February and November. And, when it does rain, it tops out at roughly three inches of water.) LA was drying up, wilting in its endless sun.

The solution was simple. Mulholland would just go up to Owen County. This was an agricultural area, still very remote. In fact the Desert Land Act of 1877 actually offered land to people (up to 640 acres) simply to move there. L.A. would just take the run-off from the Sierra Nevada mountains, and water from Owens Lake. A large gravity-fed aqueduct was proposed.

By 1913, the aqueduct (estimated to sustain a population of three million) was complete, all 233 miles of it. So the "Switzerland of California" was turned into a desert - Owens Lake was completely empty by 1924. That was when a second aquaduct was built. By 1941 L.A. was draining Mono Lake (chock full of very rare shrimp and a key refueling point for many migrating birds). Thankfully, by 1977 a report on the effects of drainage was published by a biologist, and a committee to protect the lake was formed two years later. The Committee (and partner, the National Audubon Society) sued the LADWP, and a decade of haggling ensued. Eventually, in 1994, the city had to release enough water into the lake to raise it 20 feet (though still under the 1941 levels).

Today, Los Angeles, gets its water from groundwater (and we’ve already discussed how much that is), the Colorado River, and "other major water sources" (whatever that means.) And removing this groundwater has lowered the water table even more, effectively turning L.A. into a desert. End result: more and more fires.

Highlight (sort of)

At the corner of Los Feliz Blvd. and Riverside Drive (at the entrance of Griffith Park) lies the "Kool Aid" Fountain. On August 1st, 1940, the city dedicated a fountain to William Mulholland (five years after his death). Atop a 90 foot diameter reflecting pool, rests a pedestal which shoots up water at varying distances and intervals. Changing lights add to the spectacle, and helped it earns its nickname. (Meanwhile, Owens lake, once 50 foot deep, and twelve miles long, is a salt flat with the occasional briny soup after long rains).

Activities, Events, Tips and More

Plastic Changed The World

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

It's part of the mythology, which is: The place didn't exist before I got here. Back home, you were Norma Jean. In California, it's Marilyn Monroe. -- Tim Hodson

Certainly, Los Angeles has its flaws. One time, the smoke from the fires kept us inside for three days. Then, there was the permanent Rush Hour - you really do have to see it to believe it. People are flaky and showing up 20 minutes late is the norm -- if people show up at all. And, once, my car was used as a shield, by the police, during a shoot out.

But, Los Angeles is remarkable in ways too. No one cares if you show up in a supermarket in PJs to buy cereal at 9:30 at night. It’s a live and let live attitude. People can become who they were meant to be -- because who’s going to tell Pops back in Bancroft, Iowa what you’re doing? And, nothing can surprise someone in Los Angeles. I once came out of a bar in West Hollywood and saw two men (one dressed as Little Bo Peep) heading towards intimacy on the hood of a car right smack in the middle of Santa Monica Blvd. I turned to my friend to make a bet as to when the car alarm would go off.

And, then there’s Hollywood. We are not referring to Hollywood as a geographic area. Yes, the historic sites are still there, but the studios have long since moved out, leaving behind an area of T-shirt shacks, smokes-for-less shops and terrible restaurants, which even the hookers shun. (I am really going to be fired from the tourism board after this.) Instead, we mean Hollywood as "the biz", those who make images for the screen, and those obsessed with image.

I knew the odds of ‘making it’ were against me, so the very first thing that I did in Hollywood was hunt down the ‘Queen of the Screen’. Who better to bless me than the legend? After a little research ( I discovered that she was in Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. This is not the easiest cemetery to find as skyscrapers and the campus of U.C.L.A. has grown up around it. There are only two entrances, and one is gated (frequently locked). Try entering from the east side, on Glendon Ave.

I located her grave (Corridor of Memories, crypt 24), which was a simple plaque on a crypt wall with only Marilyn Monroe and the years of her life inscribed on it. (You can also look for the flowers which adorn her grave — there are always, always flowers). Nearby is a bench also bearing her name. I said a small prayer, wished her well, and set a quarter on the bench. I asked for as much Hollywoodness as she could lend. Then, I sought out a video store to rent ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ and ‘Some Like It Hot’.

(Thanks Marilyn.)

Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park
1218 Glendon Ave., Westwood.

Notable graves: Eddie Albert, Ray Bradbury, James Coburn, Rodney Dangerfield, Farrah Fawcett, Eva Gabor, Merv Griffin, Don Knotts, Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, Karl Malden, Dean Martin, Walter Matthau, Carroll O’Connor, Roy Orbison, Bettie Page, Donna Reed, Buddy Rich, George C. Scott, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Stack, Mel Torme, Billy Wilder… and the one everyone goes to see, Norma Jean Baker/Marilyn Monroe.

Other cemeteries with stars:
Forest Lawn (Glendale)
1712 South Glendale Ave., Glendale
If you can only see one cemetery, this one has the most Hollywood stars per square foot than any other cemetery. It has 300 acres and attracts over a million visitors a year. Plus, you can — and should — get married here. Just as Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman did. Dead celebrities not your thing? Check out the sculptures in the gardens, which are decorated with replicas of famous churches and mosaics.

Notable graves: Gracie Allen & George Burns, Humphrey Bogart, Clara Bow, William ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ Boyd, Lon Chaney, Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Walt Disney (wasn’t he frozen?), W.C. Fields, Larry Fine (of the Three Stooges), Errol Flynn, Clark Gable & Carole Lombard, Samuel Goldwyn, Jean Harlow, Michael Jackson, Ted Knight, Louis L’Amour, Alan Ladd, Harold Lloyd, Jeanette MacDonald, Chico Marx (of the Marx Brothers), Tom Mix, Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger), Mary Pickford, David O. Selznick, Red Skelton, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Marbeth Wright and Robert Young.

Caution: Employees are complete jerks about pointing out the graves of celebrities here. Don’t ask. Use the information.

Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills)
6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles
Appropriately, this cemetery overlooks several movie studios.

Notable graves: Steve Allen, Gene Autry, Lucille Ball (original burial site, remains have been removed), Benji (the dog), David Carradine, Bette Davis, Sandra Dee, Andy Gibb, Gabby Hayes, Buster Keaton, Dorothy Lamour, Charles Laughton, Stan Laurel (of Laurel & Hardy), Liberace, Art Linkletter, the Nelson family (Ozzie, Harriet & Ricky), Lou Rawls, John Ritter, Telly Savalas, Rod Steiger and Jack Webb.

Again, use before you go.

Hollywood Forever
6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
This is an older cemetery (established 1899) in which you’ll find Russian and Polish immigrants buried next to yesterday’s biggest stars.

Notable graves: Don Adams, Mel Blanc, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Estelle Getty, John Huston, Peter Lorre, Hattie McDaniel, Darren McGavin, Tyrone Power Jr., Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer and Rudolph Valentino.

Sidenote: As the funeral service of Rudolph Valentino was carried out on August 24th, 1926, in New York City, fans smashed the windows trying to enter the Frank Campbell funeral home. Over 100,000 fans lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the hearse carrying his coffin. Over the next 24 hours, several fans committed suicide.

Holy Cross
5835 West Slauson Ave., Culver City
Another extremely large (Roman Catholic) cemetery. Do some research, prior to your visit, to find any celebrity’s grave. (

Notable graves: Ray Bolger, John Candy, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Rita Hayworth, Bela Lugosi, Fred MacMurray, Ricardo Montalban, Pat O’Brien, Sharon Tate, Lawrence Welk and Loretta Young.

Inglewood Park
720 East Florence Ave., Inglewood
A lovely older cemetery with a vast lake, with fewer celebrities than the previous cemeteries.

Notable graves: Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Grable, Billy Preston, Sugar Ray Robinson, Cesar Romero and William ‘Buckwheat’ Thomas.

Caution: This is not the best area of town. Be careful after dark.

Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park
10621 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood

Notable graves: Amelia Earhart (memorial) and Oliver Hardy (of Laurel & Hardy)

Mt. Sinai Memorial Park
5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Hollywood Hills
This cemetery bumps up against Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, and is a Jewish cemetery.

Notable graves: Cass Elliot, Larry Harmon (Bozo the Clown) and Irving Mills.

Hillside Memorial Park
6001 West Centinela Ave., Culver City

Notable graves: Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Eddie Cantor, Lorne Greene, Moe Howard (of the Three Stooges), Al Jolson, Michael Landon, Suzanne Pleshette, Dinah Shore, Aaron Spelling and Shelley Winters.

Oakwood Memorial Cemetery
22600 Lassen Street, Chatsworth
Located out in ‘the valley’ (San Fernando) where you can find peace… so long as you weren’t a celebrity.

Notable graves: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Now for a bit of trivia:

What was the first movie studio?
The Black Maria was built by Thomas Edison in 1893 in West Orange, New Jersey.

Where Dreams Come True, and with Popcorn

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

Disneyland is such a big thing to Californians, I discovered that when you cross the border you have to raise your right hand and take an oath that you believe in Walt Disney -- Jack Paar

In my years of living in L.A. I managed to only be forced to Disneyland twice. (I have the firm belief that Disney is out for my soul, and for the money in my wallet). And, I was amazed at what that little rodent has accomplished. Since his 1928 debut in ‘Steamboat Willie’ (which was actually the third MM cartoon) that little mouse has amassed a fortune. Did you know that Disney was the first studio to make $1 billion in one year. (In 1994, with some help from ‘The Lion King’.)

If you want something a little less Disney, I will tell you where to go: the El Capitan. It’s owned by Disney, but it’s a movie ‘palace’. It started out as a stage theatre in 1926 but was converted to a movie theatre (the Paramount) in time to premiere ‘Citizen Kane’ in 1941. Disney restored the theatre in 1991, though not to its original interior.

The theatre now offers the latest Disney flick, with a pre-movie stage show, and the pricing of your movie ticket reflects this little extra. You get to see people dressed in dog, mouse, horse or whatever costumes dance and sing... in the comfort of a balcony seat, from which they cannot possibly reach to force you to "join the fun".

Other Movie Palaces:

Grauman’s Chinese
6925 Hollywood Blvd.
Opened in 1927, its first premiere was Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘King of Kings’ and it hosted the Academy Awards show for some of the 1940s. (The current home of the Oscars, the Kodak Theatre, is located down the street at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.)

Grauman’s is the granddaddy of movie palaces, completely restored and mobbed by thousands every year. Many come to see the footprints of movie stars in the cement courtyard. (There are now over 175 sets of prints). It is rumored that Norma Talmage "accidentally" stepped in wet cement to start the enduring trend, but it was actually a publicity stunt by Sid Grauman, the theatre’s original owner.

Cinerama Dome
6360 Sunset Blvd.
Opened in 1963 for the premiere of ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’. The theatre is known for it’s acoustics, 86 foot wide screen and 70 mm film capability. It is now part of a 14-screen complex owned by ArcLight. It still premieres movies, including James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ in December 2009.

Grauman’s Egyptian
6712 Hollywood Blvd.
The predecessor of the Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian opened in 1922 for the premiere of ‘Robin Hood’ (the version starring Douglas Fairbanks). It was originally designed to have a Spanish theme, but King Tut’s tomb was discovered during the building process so the theme was adjusted.

The theatre is now home to the American Cinematheque (, which shows a variety of arthouse, foreign, independent, little known and under shown films.

6233 Hollywood Blvd.
Opening in 1930 as RKO Pantages theatre, it was then sold to Fox. After that, Howard Hughes purchased the theater, in 1949, when the Academy Awards show moved here (until 1959). The Art Deco theatre is currently used for stage productions, especially musicals.

Hollywood Pacific/Warner Bros Hollywood
6433 Hollywood Blvd.
This theater opened in 1928, for the premiere of ‘The Glorious Betsy’. It has an Art Deco, or Italianate, or Spanish-Moorish design, or just a hodge podge since its restoration. This theatre closed in 1994 to the public.

My recommendations for film viewing:

1. The Vista (4473 Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake). This is a movie palace outside of Hollywood with an Egyptian interior. People with long legs, rejoice, as every other row of seats has been removed from the Vista. It has only one screen and tickets sell out quick for the latest blockbuster.

[If you happen to be in the area, you may as well head down to El Cid at 4212 Sunset Blvd. The theatre was built in 1900 by D.W. Griffith and premiered his ‘Birth of a Nation’. It also saw the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and others who took to the stage. It is currently a Spanish restaurant with live music and theatre shows.]

2. Silent Movie Theatre (611 N. Fairfax Ave.) This one screen theatre, with comfy couches up front, hosts a variety of films, aside from silent movies. See cult classics and films which have sat in the vaults for years.

3. Go to any Laemmle Theatre. Multiple locations. This is the place to find indie films, documentaries and those little gems which turn up at all of the awards shows. Do not expect to see a blockbuster with all of the special effects here.

Another trivia tidbit:

The first movie theatre (built for the sole purpose of showing films) was constructed in Paris. Cinema Omnia Pathe opened on December 1, 1906. The 20 ft by 13 ft screen was the largest at that time.

Location, Location, Location

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

You’re just trying to return a library book, but the street is blocked off - without warning - by uniformed police officers (who are strangely off-duty). You’re simply carrying groceries to your car when someone runs up, clipboard in hand, and tells you to "Get out of the shot". Or, suddenly, the bar you’re trying to enter, breaks out in a large fistfight -- all captured on film. Welcome to "Location Filming" in L.A.

There are a few ways to find out where films have been shot, and where they are currently filming.
1) You can pester the people at the L.A. film permit office for a "daily shoot sheet". Film L.A. Inc. Physical address: Los Angeles Center Studios, 450 S. Bixel St., Ste T-800, downtown. Mailing address: 1201 W. 5th St., Ste T-800, LA, CA 90017. Phone (213) 977-8600.
2) Buy a $5 map from any of the many, many vendors around the Hollywood area. They’ll point out the locations of past films, and stars homes. (Don’t expect to see Jennifer Aniston’s house listed. It’s behind 45 different gates, locked up like a prison. These are the home of the ‘by gone’ era stars.)
3) Sign up for a Hollywood Tour - information is available at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. (See the note about ‘by gone’ era).
4) Check out the following websites: or (British locations) or (college campuses)

If you are looking for somewhere a bit less crowded, and a location which has been used multiple times, we have a couple of suggestions for you.

Greystone Mansion
905 Loma Vista Drive
off of Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills

It all began with the 1929 short film, Small Talk.

Forever Amber – The Invisible Boy – General Hospital – The Day Mars Invaded Earth – The Disorderly Orderly – Dead Ringer – The Loved One – Brainstorm – Picture Mommy Dead – Maryjane – Phantom of the Paradise – Eraserhead – The Stronger – Stripes – Knight Rider – Bare Essence – The Winds of War – Murder, She Wrote – Ghost Busters – All of Me – Jumpin’ Jack Flash – MacGyver – Dark Mansions – The Witches of Eastwick – Flowers in the Attic – Falcon Crest – Ghostbusters II – The Fabulous Baker Boys – Dynasty: The Reunion – The Marrying Man – Dark Shadows – Nothing But Trouble – Guilty By Suspicion – Memoirs of an Invisible Man – The Bodyguard – Death Becomes Her – Indecent Proposal – The Puppet Masters – Cabin Boy – Nixon – Marvin’s Room – The Phantom – The Lost World: Jurassic Park – Batman & Robin – The Beautician and the Beast – Air Force One – The Inheritance – The Big Lewbowski – Jane Austen’s Mafia – The Astronaut’s Wife – What Women Want – Hanging Up – Gilmore Girls – X-Men – Town & Country – Rock Star – A Mighty Wind – The Prestige – Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties – The Holiday – My First Time Driving – There Will be Blood – National Treasure: Book of Secrets….

More than 65 films, TV shows and music videos have one thing in common: Greystone Mansion. This ever popular film location is the largest home ever built in Beverly Hills. The Tudor mansion, on 16 acres, boasts 55 rooms and 46,000 square feet of living space, and was built by oil tycoon Edward Doheny in 1928 to the tune of $4 million.

The estate was a gift to his son, Edward Jr. But, just four months after moving into the home with his family, Edward Jr. was part of a murder-suicide, along with his secretary. The deaths were connected to Edward Sr.’s trial over the Teapot Dome scandal (a bribery investigation into Warren G. Harding’s White House administration.)

The mansion can only be viewed from the outside, unless you are lucky enough to attend a private event. Soon-to-be President Obama held a $28,500 per plate function here in 2008. Or you could attend a wedding. Both James Woods and Kirk Douglas married (though not to each other) at the estate.

Paramount Ranch
2813 Paramount Ranch Road (off of Cornell Road) in Agoura Hills.

As you stand on a hill topped with long meadow grasses, you look down to see a small, western town, something out of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. You look closer. It is Colorado Springs!

A clapboard town filled with a stable, barns, outbuildings, log cabins, a saloon, sheriff’s office, why, it’s the very street Jane Seymour, John Wayne, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Roy Rogers and Gary Cooper walked.

Paramount Ranch was the backdrop for over 200 films and TV shows, in use for more than 60 years. The 2,700 acre parcel of land, on the banks of Malibu Creek, became a filming location in 1927 when Paramount Pictures purchased it. And now, though many of the film sets are gone, you too can stroll the dusty streets, as it became part of the National Park Service in 1980.

Other Movie Ranches:

Movie ranches sprung up all over Southern California in the 1920s -- partly in an attempt to capture the open range for the newly-popular Western movies. Some ranches are open to the public.

1) Hopetown: Bob Hope purchased the property, the Corriganville Movie Ranch, in 1966. It has become part of the Corriganville Regional Park. However, little remains of the sets built for filming. 7001 Smith Road, Simi Valley.

2) Ahmanson Ranch (formerly Lasky Mesa): The 4,000 acre ranch has seen its fair share of big films, including one of the biggest, ‘Gone With The Wind’. It has been absorbed into the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, and there’s not much left of filming there.

3) 20th Century Fox Ranch: The lot was purchased in 1946 by Fox and has remained in the company’s holdings. It’s famous for being the backdrop of the Tarzan movies and MASH TV series. Today, it is still used as a filming location, but has become part of the Malibu Creek State Park.

4) The Spahn Movie Ranch: This is now part of the Santa Susana Pass State Historick Park. Most of the movie sets are gone, destroyed in a fire in 1970. Perhaps the park is more famous for it’s connection to the Manson Family, who took up residence here in the late 1960s.

5) Golden Oak Ranch: Walt Disney purchased the 315 acre parcel in 1959 and expanded it to 827 acres. It is still a working movie ranch, but open to the public. The ranch is located off of Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall, California.

6) Columbia Ranch (Warner Bros): One of the better kept ranches, complete with a New York street, Colonial street, Modern street, etc. and the fountain that can be seen in the opening credits of ‘Friends’. The 40-acre parcel has become part of Columbia’s ‘backlot’, located on Hollywood Way and Oak street.

Last Bit o’ Trivia:

Florence Lawrence was the first person to receive screen credits in 1910 for ‘The Broken Oath’. Prior to this she was known as the Biograph Girl. The studios didn’t want any one person to be recognized so that they could control the actors.

Maybe they should’ve stuck with the plan, then they wouldn’t have had to pay Jim Carrey $20 million for ‘The Cable Guy’ in 1996. (Carrey was the first $20 million celeb, and his salary took up nearly half of the film’s $47 million budget).

What I Miss Most About L.A.

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

It’s the food. Los Angeles offers over 25,000 restaurants, and 26 ethnic groups cook up dinner. The choices are limitless. Even in a town where you have to get financing for dinner at one of those trendy restaurants, there are options for those who are broker than the ten commandments.

Or, you can go to the trendy places to see stars. But, here’s some advice. 1) Stars don’t want to be bothered so they will dine at out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall places. Somewhere that a celebrity wouldn’t be caught dead in. 2) If the star wants to be seen (oh, say, they have a movie coming out soon) they will go to some place like The Ivy (113 Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills).

The restaurant is named for the ivy growing on the (raised) front patio. The Ivy wants to show off who’s eating there and the celeb needs to be promoted. But, they don’t want to be seen, so they surround themselves with bodyguards. J-Lo once had her bodyguards open umbrellas to shield her, which drew more attention, and the papparazzi swarmed. I honestly don’t see how anyone could enjoy their apricot-glazed pork tenderloins like this, but that’s just me.

Now, for real food for real people:

The Apple Pan
10801 West Pico Blvd.
Across from the Westside Pavilion

Since before you were born, there have been a dozen or so seats lined up around the U-shaped counter of the Apple Pan. The open grill cooks up the juiciest burgers (get them with the unbelievably good hickory sauce) and the best fries in L.A. It’s the fries and the pies, man. They use grandma’s recipes for heavenly banana cream pies. There’s always a wait, but everyone maintains an "we’re all in this together" attitude. A small parking lot is available out back, but its usually packed. Cash only.

Clifton’s Cafeteria
648 S. Broadway

Since 1935 Clifton’s has been serving up over 100 choices on their buffet — from salads, hot entrees, breads, desserts and more — for a fraction of the cost of other places. The food is average, but you’re coming for the price and the decor, a setting right out of a Woodland Wonderland. There’s a cabin and critters, and even a creek. Kids love this place. Closes early (7:30PM). Street parking.

911 Seward Street

Tucked away amid post-production facilities and warehouses is this little cottage turned cafe. Sit outside where you are surrounded by a garden. The staff is always friendly. But, what you are here for is the food. Wow. They serve "crack bacon" which is crisp and spicy (and helps them to win "Best Breakfast" awards again and again). They also offer their very own homemade ginger ale, and you can use the choice of flavorings on the table for any drink you order. And, no matter what you decide on, it will be good. Period. A free parking lot is available down the street and limited alcohol choices are available at dinner.

Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken
Two locations.

The staff gets hurried during lunch rush and the place is small without much decor, but I still dream of their biscuits. The fried chicken is hand-dipped, and some of the best that I’ve had. Juicy, juicy, juicy. This is some really good soul food! A small parking lot available nearby.

The Pantry
877 S. Figueroa St.

Who said this place was a cafe? It’s a large old-style diner, complete with counter space. And, no matter how large the place is, there’s always a wait. Let’s face it, this is a breakfast joint. And, what you order is meat and eggs. Large portions, small prices. Pay lot. Cash only. Open 24/7 — since 1924.

709 N. La Brea Ave.

This is the first place everyone hears about when they come to LA. It’s a legend, it’s famous, and it’s all about hot dogs. If you stop by and it’s not crowded, it’s worth it. If theres a two-hour wait (seriously), then keep on going. There are quite the variety of dogs, and you can mix and match whatever toppings you want. And check out all of the signed celeb photos on the wall of this expanded shack. Open until 2AM. Small parking lot.

315 N. Brand Blvd.

This is great Cuban-style food, and super bakery. I just couldn’t believe this place when we found it. The decor is nothing special, and the staff is only so-so, but the food will bring you back. They serve the juiciest sandwiches, full of flavor, and pastries flaky and drenched in sin. This little gem has been discovered so you will be waiting. Street parking. Outside seating available. Closes early (7PM)

Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles
Multiple locations but we prefer the original at Gower St.

A tiny, tucked away place. Look for the line out the door. It has old photos of African American celebs on the wall, and a tired wait staff. The menu isn’t large, strictly chicken and/or waffles. It’s the food that draws the crowd. (And, don’t over order because the servings are large.) The biscuits are buttery and the chicken nicely fried, but the gravy... now, this is gravy. Flavorful, thick, spiced properly. Perfect gravy. Street parking. Good luck.

Tito’s Tacos
11222 Washington Place
Culver City

There’s seating, but we always ordered to go because we could never find any available chairs at this taco shack. This is a great place for value. For less than $2 you can get a taco (no cheese) which is juicy and spiced to perfection. Run by the third generation of the family, this is a real find. Cash only. Parking lot.

Multiple locations.

Another great Cuban restaurant. The food is moist and tasty — get the chicken. It has garlic and citrus flavorings, and is served with beans and rice. Don’t forget the fried plantains! You will have leftovers.

Riding To End It

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

One of the best memories that I have of Los Angeles, is not necessarily Los Angeles, but an activity which took me from San Francisco to L.A. It wasn’t for myself, it was to help another human being, someone that I didn’t even know. I rode a bicycle 563 miles to raise money -- and awareness -- for AIDS and HIV research and education.

Certainly I had known those with AIDS, but I buried the last in 1998. Collectively, we have buried more than 25 million family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers since 1981. And, 2.7 million new cases are reported every year.

I couldn’t sit on my butt, er, actually I could, as I pedaled those miles, each mile representing 1 pill for someone desperately in need. For example, Aptivus, which has the ability to inhibit the replication of viruses that are resistant to other protease inhibitors, and that is recommended for patients who are resistant to other treatments, can cost upwards of $1,100 a month.

The Mission: Ride To End AIDS (
The Amount To Raise: $11 million (to fund the GLBT centers in LA and San Francisco)

The AIDS Lifecycle (ALC) is a fully supported ride with Roadies, medical personnel and cheerleaders to help along the way. All meals are included, and you are given a tent to camp in, with shower and toilet facilities for you to use. (Wow. What can I say about the mobile showers with lukewarm water and the "dear God" port-o-potties?) All you have to do is raise $2500 in sponsorship for this amazing memory. Oh, and train. Seriously, for like nine months.

The Ride:
Day 1: San Francisco to Santa Cruz

After the Opening Ceremonies I rode ride out from the Cow Palace in Daly City (along with 2500 of my closest friends) with a quick change from the rolling hills of the city to the mountains surrounding the bay area.

One of the treats was pumping up a 12-mile climb with 6% grade. When I thought my lungs would burst, I was only half-way. However, there was a nice African drumming corp keeping a beat for us at the midway point. From looking up at the redwood trees I started looking down at them, and deer could be seen running next to us in the forest. Lunch was atop a bluff with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.

This is when I discovered two vital things: 1) Keep your mouth shut going down hill or you’ll swallow a bug. 2) When I asked what happened if it rains, the reply was, "Pedal faster."

Day 2: Santa Cruz to King City

After dodging rush hour commuters we spent a long day (and over a 100 miles) pedaling. The flat terrain boasts vineyards and fields of artichokes and strawberries. There was a place to stop to purchase a steamed artichoke, which proved a very nice break.

That night, after the best dinner ever (grilled meats of all sorts), we collapsed in our tents to discover the sound of wind. And more wind. Washed outfits flew from make-shift clotheslines and more then one tent blew over. We thought we’d lose a port-o-potty or two.

Day 3: King City to Paso Robles

You know when bicyclists name a hill, it’s going to be a rough climb. Today was Quadbusters, followed by an unnamed hill, which we quickly dubbed ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

Today, I was honored by being inducted into the ‘Positive Pedalers’. Three of the group gave me pig ears for my helmet and I was given a pig-name, Slops. (A PIG is Passion In Gear). I honestly don’t know if ‘Positive Pedalers’ stood for their HIV status or their energy.

Day 4: Paso Robles to Santa Maria

The Evil Twins. Another glorious hill. But, by the second Twin, I was half-way to L.A. Then came some farmland, rolling vistas and seaside towns, such as Pismo Beach, where they welcomed us with saltwater taffy. (The great thing about this ride is that you can eat EVERYTHING and still wear off the calories. I lost 20 pounds!).

Along the second hill the Opera Singer arrived. He sang ‘Habanera’ from Carmen, ‘O Patria Mia’ from Aida, ‘Una Furtiva’ from the Elixir of Love, and ‘Porgi Amor’ from The Marriage of Figaro, until each and every rider had made it to the top.

I also had the honor of meeting Ginger Brulee, a drag queen who cheered us on from start to finish, and Beth, the transportation manager who stood by every morning flashing riders as we headed out from camp. (She wore a different colored bra every day).

I did the ride for people, but it was the people who really made the ride.

Day 5: Santa Maria to Lompoc

This was a wine country day, with many miles through rolling vineyards. Lunch was served in the Danish-inspired town of Solvang.

The best part of the day: Red Dress. Many years ago, when the ride first began to be an annual event, a rider noted that the stream of bicyclists winding through a twisting hill looked like the AIDS Ribbon. It became ‘Dress in Red’ Day. Or, given to a group of fashionable gay guys, Red Dress Day.

Yes, the beads, lace and wigs all came out in force. Everyone was deepingly impressed by the queen who turned his 6-inch stilettos into bike clips. After lunch I had to stop to help another poor queen. Her feather boa had become trapped in her wheel spokes. Sadly, I had to snip her free. (Only during the ALC will a biker every encounter an "Accessory Accident").

Now, imagine this display rolling through Kalispell (where the population is under 1,000... including dogs). But, the townspeople opened up the general store to hand out ice pops and turned up their stereos in the street. We were the biggest thing to hit town all year. And, every rider bought at least one candy bar from the kids trying to raise money for the Little League.

Day 6: Lompoc to Ventura

This day brought wildflower-covered ranch lands followed by riding the rolling hills next to the coast. The day couldn’t have been prettier. But, I had been warned, as you get more tired, and are alone on long stretches of road, you start thinking. And I was reviewing my life. Though it wasn’t pretty, and I was disappointed in some things, I made a vow to continue writing, as long as it took to get published. (If you do this ride, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Your demons will appear.)

And, this day I embraced a biker’s product. Butt Butt’r. On day one I slid discreetly into the port-o-potty and applied it carefully. By day six I dropped my shorts in broad daylight and slathered it maniacally with a smile on my face.

Day 7: Ventura to Los Angeles

I passed a few small towns, and could see military aircraft taking off from the Naval Air Station before I began the rollers in Malibu. And, I must say it was nice to see the Ferrari-drivers pull over and get out to applaud -- everyone in L.A. knew that we were coming. The last part of the trip is filled with banners and well-wishers.

But, my highlight is the Santa Barbara Pit Stop. The entire SB Bike Club rode with us and/or stuffed us with cookies and home-made ice cream. They go all out. Trust me.

Though the Ride was filled with so much goodness, one moment was more poignant than any other. In a small town along the coast I stopped at a family-run convenience store. I was out of Gatorade. The young clerk behind the counter asked me about all of the bicyclists and I explained the Ride to her. She paused then announced "You should ride to New York, across the whole country." She didn’t charge me for the Gatorade. If an event like that was organized, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up, because for one week I saw the world as it should be. Everyone helping each other, and people focused on one goal, a goal which could change the world.

What A Wild, Wild Ride, Dude

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

Ah, come on. It’s Southern California. You have to try it at least once, man. Surfing. You just have to surf. So, I will tell you what not to do the first time out on your board. I didn’t take any classes. I read no books. Watched no videos. Instead, I went to a surf shop and purchased the cheapest used board they had ($100 and full of dings). Then, I went to where I knew the surfers would be, Huntington Beach, allegedly the first town built by surf.

I watched the waves roll in, and how the surfers rode them. Probably for an hour or so. Then I practiced getting on the board while still on the sandy shore. I did a couple of pop-ups and tossed my board into the waves -- donning shorts and a T-shirt (this is not surf ware).

It took an eternity to figure out how to paddle beyond the first set of smaller waves breaking closest to the shore. A real good kick and thrust did the job. Then came a second, larger set of waves further out. Now that took some time to work through, but eventually, I saw that others actually dove with their board under the wave. Ah-ha!

An hour later I was sitting atop my cheap longboard, legs dangling in the water, bobbing along, waiting for the perfect wave. Trouble is, I didn’t know what one looked like. So I tried to ride everything. I was out there several hours before I got tired of standing up, falling off and swimming to shore to retrieve my board only to have to paddle back out through both sets of waves again.

Plus, I was now starved. I figured, one more time, then I’d forget about this California obsession. And, that’s when the Big Mama started to roll in. I felt my board start to push forward, looked over my shoulder, realized ‘this is it’ and I popped up, balancing myself with both arms, left foot forward. You can feel the power under your feet, how the energy pushes your body along. Don’t fight it, let the wave move you. It was mesmerizing. And, I was hooked.

Certainly, I drank enough salt water to brine a turkey, and I hit the sea floor several times, and that first board was smashed into two pieces on a rock in Malibu, but it became an addiction. Sunday was Surf Day.

Here’s some tips to save you hours of beatings on a board:

1) Take a few lessons. Consistently good teachers are available through Personal Surf Lessons (
2) Find a good surf shop where you can purchase a decent board. Suggestions: Shelter Surf Shop, 2148 E. 4th St. in Long Beach -and- Harbour Surfboards at 329 Main St. in Seal Beach. (If you’re a beginner, you will want a longboard. The longer the better.)
3) Check the wave report before you push your way through L.A. traffic.

Best Surf Spots:
1) Zuma Beach: 19 miles north of Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway. No entrance fee. Free parking along PCH (if you get there early). During the week it’s peaceful, but oh, the summer weekends are terrible. It has restrooms, showers with changing facilities and a small snack bar. No dogs.
2) Manhattan Beach: Exit the I-405 at Hawthorne Blvd., go north and turn left onto Manhattan Beach Blvd. No entrance fee. Street parking is available, but hard to find. They offer restrooms and showers. No dogs on the beach itself. Note: Do not use this beach after it has rained as the water quality is disgusting.
3) Santa Monica Beach: Where the PCH and I-10 collide. No entrance fee. Parking available on the street or in lots at Ocean Ave. They offer restrooms, showers and plenty of restaurants are nearby. No dogs. This is a great beginners beach as the slope allows for gentle waves.
4) Huntington State Beach: Two miles of shoreline from Newport Beach north to Beach Blvd. No entrance fee. Parking available along the street and in lots. They offer restrooms, and there are restaurants nearby. No dogs. Sandbars dramatically shift for three-quarters of the year which makes for exciting surf conditions, and swells.
5) County Line: At the county line north of Malibu along the PCH. No entrance fee. Free parking wherever you can find it along PCH. Port-o-potties are available and I’ve seen plenty of dogs on the beach. It has a beach break which allows for a great ride. But the best reason to come to county line:

Neptune’s Net

This is a true surf shack with the freshest fish around. There are two sides to the place: those who want fried or those who prefer steamed. The steamed side is also a seafood market. And help yourself to the wall of coolers, for the beer of your choice. Simply place your order at the counter and head out to the patio (often packed with surfers and bikers). Condiments are at a small table outside. Wait for your number to be called through the window.

Nothing bets sitting on their front porch, watching the sun dip into the water, salty breeze caressing you, as you suck down a cold one, and crack open more crab legs. This isn’t a fancy place if you haven’t figured that out. (The bathrooms are around back and are of the ‘temporary’ variety.)

Surf Dawg!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

It was very early on a Saturday morning when I got the phone call, and, frankly, Dad didn’t care about the three hour time difference. It was the dog. The puppy was driving him crazy. I had to come get the little Westie. We had planned to visit Ohio soon. And, my better half and I were discussing getting a second dog anyway.

Our first dog, Bambi, was, well, divalicious. She hated men, children and life. She was afraid of the wind, neighbors, other dogs and tulips. All she did was lounge in bed, or spend the day basking in the sun that came through the living room sliding door. We thought a second dog would bring her out of her shell.

The little Westie had a sweet face, so we drugged her, loaded her into a doggie crate and took her back to L.A. Well, in Dallas, during the plane change, the drugs wore off and the luggage started barking and bouncing, but we managed to get her home.

Within two weeks we thought we had made a huge, huge mistake, and we demanded Valium from the doctor -- both human and canine. Not knowing how to control a dog who bounced off the walls, we tried a dog trainer, and a second dog trainer, before we realized she simply needed to be worn out.

I discovered an amazing beach that would solve our problems. The County of Los Angeles doesn’t allow dogs on beaches, but God Bless Orange County. Huntington Beach has an off-leash Dog Beach. They have a complete mile of Pooch Paradise, complete with parking lots (metered), Port-o-Potties, a walking path and baggies available for "accidents". During the weekend look for the tent where you can make a donation to this great beach -- they also have a well-stocked water bowl.

Dog Beach is located on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Huntington Beach between 21st and Seapoint Streets. For more information:

It was here that we were able to finally wear out our new pup. And, we discovered that she loves to run on sand, thus we named her Maui. We have now had Maui for over two years. She has become the dog of our dreams, which was fortunate because Bambi never did come out of her shell -- no matter how much her sister coaxed her to play.

Hint: After playing in the surf, you can head over to:

The Park Bench Cafe
11732 Goldenwest Street, Huntington Beach

They are open (seasonally) for breakfast and lunch. There’s plenty of outdoor seating -- although there is usually a wait on weekends -- and parking. They serve standard fare of burgers, sandwiches, snacks and salads, along with omelettes and breakfast burritos.

Their specialty? The doggie menu, which offers up ‘Hot Diggity Dog’ (hot dog), ‘Bow Wow Wow’ (chicken filet), and much more. Ask for the doggie ice cream.

If there’s a wait you can always walk your dog around the connected park.

Gardens in the Los Angeles Area

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 6, 2010

As I started towards retirement, I decided to upgrade my little point-n-shoot Kodak. After reading loads of reviews I settled on a Nikon D700. It arrived in the mail last November, and I instantly set off to learn to photograph. I quickly discovered a passion for flowers -- and, as a bonus, they don’t move. This lead us on a quest to find great gardens.

Here our my top garden picks:

Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Drive
La Canada Flintridge
Intersection of the 210 and 2 freeways
$8 admission. Gift shop and cafe available. A tram runs daily around the gardens.

The property originally belong to E. Manchester Boddy, owner of the L.A. Daily News, and the site was used as a commercial camellia garden. The property was donated to L.A. County in 1953, though the garden has maintained a camellia section. Other garden sections include an Iris and Lilac Garden, along with a Japanese Garden (complete with tea house) and California Garden, which has native plants on 8-acres.

The Huntington
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino
$15 (weekday) admission. Parking, gift shop and cafe available.

Though the Huntington offers a library and art collections, we are focusing on the gardens.

The gardens are set on 120 acres, and divided into 12 themed sections. In 1903 Henry Huntington purchased the San Marino Ranch with the idea of changing it into a botanic garden filled with rare flowers. With the help of his property manager, William Hertrich, they landscaped 120 of the 600 (original) acres with over 12,000 species of flowers. The garden is most noted for its collection of Cycads, (America’s largest). The largest collection of desert plants in the world is also found here. The Huntingdon is one of the few gardens able to grow the extremely rare "corpse flower" (the largest individual flower on the planet, weighing up to 24 lbs.)

Sidenote: The garden doubled as a filming location for ‘National Treasure: Book of Secrets’. It was the White House Rose Garden.

Lake Shrine Temple
17190 Sunset Blvd.
Pacific Palisades
Fee free. Restrooms and parking available.

Lake Shrine Temple was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950, but is owned by the Self-Realization Fellowship. It has mediation areas devoted to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hebrews and Hindus. (They offer classes and a book room also). Though it is a designated as a spiritual retreat, the gardens are lovely: filled with waterfalls, a windmill, flora of many varieties, all centered around a natural spring-fed pond.

The large white temple contains a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus, which holds a brass and silver coffer. Part of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are inside.

South Coast Botanic Garden
26300 Crenshaw Blvd.
Palos Verde Peninsula
$8 admission. Parking and facilities available.

The South Coast Botanic Garden is the smallest of the gardens at 87 acres, but rich in diversity, with 150,000 plants from over 2,000 different species. They specialize in South American and African plants, which attract over 300 types of birds. The highlights are the charming children’s area and the garden of the senses.

The garden is a far cry from its beginnings. It was an open pit mine from 1929 to 1956, before becoming a landfill. Thankfully, the area was rescued by the county in 1961.

The Big Move

Hollywood's Calling: Part I

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 4, 2010

By day I was working in a call center answering phone calls from the general public. We "supported" medical supplies by addressing concerns and questions from consumers. I was assigned to the incontinence products. My most used line was that our product couldn’t hold the "full human void of 600 cc." I didn’t know what a cc was, and I wondered why I had to explain that we were referring only to human voids.

By night I was working on a local television show called ‘The Travel Junkie’. It was my love and passion, and I would stay up all night researching and writing scripts. The next day I often slept between cc’s.

A lovely career before me, and a relationship heading towards splitsville, it wouldn’t take much for me to move from my hometown of Cincinnati. The final push came in the form of a screenplay contest. I watched my entry rise up through the various levels of competition, and had packed up my slightly worn Mustang -- cc’s didn’t pay much -- before I reached the finals.

It was a nearly 2,000 mile drive, but I was on top of the world. In fact, when I feel blue, I re-read the letters that I mailed home. They were so full of joy, hope and energy, something only youth provides. I had made a mad dash towards something new, a place I hadn’t seen before. My first stop was Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial

I was in college that Wednesday morning, in an English class, listening to a lecture on William Faulkner. It would be nearly an hour before I would realize what had transpired, as America awakened to a new terror. At 9:02 a.m. on a clear April morning in 1995, a bomb made from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil exploded in Oklahoma City, outside the Alfred P. Murreh government building.

The blast damaged or destroyed 324 buildings within a sixteen block radius, burned 86 cars beyond salvage, and shattered the glass of 258 nearby buildings. Inside the Murreh government building were the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Social Security Administration, the Housing and Urban Development office, the Veteran’s Affairs Department, the Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Agency, and a child care center for the employees. Over 680 people were injured, and 168 people — including 19 children — were killed.

Ninety minutes after the bombing, an Oklahoma state trooper stopped Timothy McVeigh on a firearms charge. And the plot behind the bombing began to unfold. On September 14th, 1994 McVeigh began stockpiling explosives. On April 14th, 1995 McVeigh bought a 1977 Mercury Marquis, his getaway car, and three days later, rented a Ryder truck with which to carry the bomb.

McVeigh was found guilty on 11 counts of murder and conspiracy, and was executed on June 11, 2001. His accomplice, Terry Nichols, was sentenced to life in prison.

Think about the people as if they were storm troopers in Star Wars. They may be individually innocent, but they are guilty because they work for the Evil Empire. — Timothy McVeigh

I stopped to see the memorial, which was completed in 2000. Long gone were the sirens and wails of fresh pain. Instead, myself, and another couple holding hands across the way, strolled the peaceful greenery.

In the center is a fountain in which birds bathe, with time-stamped arches at each end of the fountain, and row after row of shiny chairs. Each chair represents a soul lost, and the smaller chairs are for the nineteen children taken too soon.

More touching was a nearby fence, just a simple wire fence, to which loved ones, and strangers from across the country, had tacked up, stapled or taped mementos of that day, or of someone special. Teddy bears, T-shirts, photos and poems fluttered in the breeze.

Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain. -- William Faulkner

For more information on visiting the memorial, visit the official website.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

What brought me to Santa Fe, for the first time, was a whim, a need to get off of the highway. And, as I was passing through Albuquerque, I realized that Santa Fe – one-time home of the legendary Georgia O’Keeffe – was only an hour north.

I was greeted by a thick, Adobe-walled, tan colored town, where even the McDonald’s blended in. But, McDonald’s was only on the outskirts, as I saw not a chain store nor cookie cutter restaurant within the historic center. I passed over a trickle – which the sign stated was the Rio Grande river – and towards the historic square. The square contained a bandstand, century old trees and tamale vendors.

The buildings surrounding the square are ancient by American standards (Santa Fe is the oldest U.S. capital), and one boasted a large portal (covered porch-like area) under which the Native Americans spread woven blankets to sell their wares.

Santa Fe is most definitely the center of the "land of enchantment." I strolled through the town, reading historic plaques (Billy the Kid was here!) and found a delightful pastry shop down a small alley.

I exclaimed in a letter home, "My God, what country." And it was all captured in the colorful paintings by O’Keeffe that were hung in a large gallery downtown. Cattle skulls, flowers and the hills surrounding the area floated before my wandering eyes. I quickly found out that O’Keeffe didn’t actually live within Santa Fe, but had an artist’s compound at nearby Ghost Ranch.

Though I felt a peace in the earthy town, I didn’t yet realize that I would retire to the region. At that point in my life, all I could think about was the dazzle of Hollywood.

Hollywood's Calling: Part II

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by aboutthatplace on June 4, 2010

Oatman, Arizona

It was one-thirty, the sun was high in the sky, and it was hot enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk. An aged cowboy sat in a rocker on a wooden sidewalk, fanning himself with a hat. A woman wearing an apron came to the doorway of a worn clapboard building, to look outside, wiping her hands on the apron, and shielding her eyes from the sun. Then, from nowhere, BAM BAM, two scoundrels fell, dead. The sheriff was back in Oatman. It could have been a scene from How The West Was Won (filmed here).

Located 28 miles from Kingman, Arizona, this old west town curls around the craggy rocks of Black Mountains. Good luck making it up those hairpin turns and butterflies-in-your-belly drop offs during the eight mile climb.

The mining tent camp, which was called Vivian, became more settled as the Oatman Hotel opened in 1902. This was the oldest, two-story structure in Mohave County. It was a choice place to honeymoon and hosted newlyweds Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, in March 1939. They shared room fifteen, and it’s said that you can still hear the bride’s laughter. (Lombard was killed in a plane crash just three years later).

From 1903 Oatman became a stop on the railroad and, in 1904, a post office was established. The mining boom followed. From 1904 until 1907 over $3 million worth of gold was dug out of the area.

The place was changing: the population boomed to nearly 3,500 and the mining town became Oatman. It was named in honor of Olive Oatman, a young girl from Illinois. In 1851 her family was traveling near Gila Bend, and a band of Apache Indians killed her parents and four siblings. A brother, Lorenzo, and sister, Mary, survived the attack, along with Olive. However, Olive and Mary were taken and held for five years as captives, then sold to the Mojave tribe. Though Mary died in captivity, Lorenzo was able to arrange for Olive’s release in 1857.

In 1915, two miners struck it rich – to the tune of $10 million – and the town boomed again, but the luck didn’t hold. In 1921 much of the town was burnt down and, three years later, the United Eastern mines (the largest in the area) closed. By 1931 the mines had produced 1.8 million ounces of gold. In 1942, all remaining mines were closed by the U.S. government and the focus shifted to mining for materials that would be useful during World War II.

Oatman attracted travelers heading west along route 66 (which had come through the town during the 1920s). However, the tourist dollars dried up in 1952, when an easier route was found south of the mountain passes. The only visitors to the town were the wild burros, descendants of the mules once used in the mines. The herd still comes into town every afternoon to beg for carrots.

Over the years the town has undergone a renaissance or two, first from the renewed interest in Route 66, then as a side trip from the gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada. In 1995 the Gold Road mine reopened for three years, then fell into disuse, except for gold mine tours.

The town now sees 500,000 visitors a year, with the peak being near Fourth of July, when the town hosts the Sidewalk Egg Fry. Be warned: the most dangerous thing in the town now is parking!

Mojave Desert

If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.

It winds from Chicago to L.A.,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.

It was a sign. Right there in front of me. A brown and white sign. Historic Route 66. This way. And I turned my Mustang away from I-40. I couldn’t imagine a better way to enter California, to start my new life. At Kingman, Arizona, I stopped at a 1950s style diner (Mr. D’z) to gobble down a tasty burger, hot fries and a thick, rich chocolate milkshake.

Route 66 starts in Chicago and continues 2,448 miles west to Santa Monica. From 1926 onwards, it carried thousands of travelers, and refugees from the 1930s Dust Bowl. Now it would carry me to Hollywood.

Within the hour I slid into what is now known as the Mojave National Preserve. The Preserve contains 1.4 million acres and eleven mountain ranges (from 1,000 to 8,000 foot in height), four dry lakes, cindercones, badlands, mesas, buttes, too many washes to count, caves, lava beds and a super-sized sand dune system. I was compelled to photograph the junction of three desert ecosystems, home to 300 different species of animals.

After some nail-biting twists in the road, I stopped at a mountain peak to look forward, towards my future, and California, spread out before me. As I got back into my Mustang, I popped open the sunroof and turned on the radio. A Beach Boys song greeted my ears. I strummed my fingers on the steering wheel as I sang along, at the top of my lungs.

You know they never roll the streets up
’cause there’s always somethin’ goin’
Surf City, here we come

You know they’re either out surfin’
or they got a party growin’
Surf City, here we come

Santa Monica

I stood among the fishermen, as far out in the water as I could, watching them cast. The sun started to dip into the ocean, the sky growing dark, except for the lights behind me. I was 1,080 feet out over the Pacific Ocean, standing on the Santa Monica Pier. It had been a long drive, and I was simply enjoying the view, feeling the breeze on my face, listening to the call of the sea gulls, and watching men bait hooks to recast.

The one hundred year-old pier rests in the middle of the town and glorifies the beach lifestyle: sun, sand and flip flops. Today, the pier boasts an amusement park, shops, arcade, trapeze school, restaurants, and an aquarium. The present day pier was formed from two older piers, dating from the early 1900s. Long ago couples could dance in the Pier’s ballroom and skate on the ice rink.

The landmark has also been the preferred location for film crews working on movies (Titanic, Forrest Gump and Iron Man), TV shows (South Park, Three’s Company and 24), video games (Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland) and music videos ("The Unknown Soldiers" by the Doors, "Clarity" by John Mayer and "Maybe California" by Tori Amos).

As I exited the pier, I noticed bicyclers, women in bikinis on roller blades, a fire eater, and families ending their day at the beach. This really was Southern California. But, I wasn’t ready for tofu just yet, so I opted for a Hot Dog on a Stick (the original location is at the base of the pier).

See the Pier, live on the webcam!

© LP 2000-2009