Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Star tour of Beverly Hills

A friend of mine who just moved here's parents came to visit a few weeks ago, and I made up a tour for them of my neighborhood. I figured that this is a tour that they could do in a few hours at most, and still have time to cruise off to the Grove or Robertson. If anyone is interested (or looking), I'm posting it here.

We start at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Palm Drive (you need to be going west on SM blvd or west on Beverly Blvd, there is no turn up Palm from eastbound Santa Monica)

508 N Palm Drive (above Santa Monica): Marilyn Monroe/ Joe DiMaggio honeymoon house

512 N Palm Drive: Last home of 20's superstar Jean Harlow

at the next block, make a left onto Camelita, go two blocks and turn right at Elm Drive, go north

722 N Elm Drive (2 blocks west of Palm, between Elevado & Lomitas): House where Lyle and Eric Menendez killed their parents.

Turn around and make a right on Elevado, go west 7 blocks, take a right on Rodeo, north 1 block to Lomitas

732 N Rodeo (at Lomitas) house where 30's actress Lupe Velez killed herself. She was pregnant and the man who got her that way refused to marry her. She got dolled up in her finest, fixed herself a last meal and downed a handful of seconal. According to some Kenneth Anger's "Hollywood Babylon", she woke violently ill and lurched to the bathroom, slipping on the bathroom rug, she ended up drowning in the bowl of the toilet.

Make the left on Lomitas and go 2 blocks to Bedford Drive

730 N Bedford (at Lomitas, a white house on the SE corner): House where Lana Turner,s mob boyfriend was stabbed to death by her teen daughter. It's still open to question whether the daughter did it (as she wrote in her autobiography) or Lana did it herself

Go south on Bedford to 512: House of 20's sensation Clara Bow

Go right on Santa Monica to right on Walden, to the corner of Walden and Carmelita: The Witches house. Originally a film company office, the house was moved from Culver City to Beverly Hills in the 30's. It's new owner is doing a sensitive re-do of this storybook cottage.

Right on Carmelita, left on Linden to #810: This house, which was leased at the time to Mob moll Virginia Hill is the house where Bugsy Siegel was shot. Siegel built the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas, basically starting the whole Las Vegas thing. (If you've seen the movie "Bugsy" with Warren Beatty, you get the idea)

Proceed north on Walden, it shortly becomes Whittier Drive. Go past Sunset at the light. You are now in the most expensive part of "the flats" of BH- these houses start at 10 million for a "fixer"

Make a right on Lexington, then a right on Roxbury

905: Oscar Levant

911: Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched)

918: Jimmy Stewart (site, house was demolished)

921: Rick Schroeder (Silver Spoons, NYPD Blue)

Turn around and go back north:

1000 Roxbury (at Lexington): Lucille Ball. The present owner remodelled (and ruined) the house and put up a six foot wall to keep tourists away. The city forced him to cut the wall back to 3 feet, per code. He complained that he had no idea who Lucille Ball was when he bought he place....

1002: Jack Benny

1004: Peter Falk

1015: Diane Keaton, who sold it Madonna (who has
since moved)

1019: Ira Gershwin, then Rosemary Clooney

1021: George Gershwin

1023: Agnes Moorehead (Endora from Bewitched)

1025: Polly Bergen

go back down to Lexington, go left through the light at Benedict Canyon along Lexington. At the NE corner of Lexington Rd and Crescent drive is the house once owned by Columbia studio chief Harry Cohn, later owned by Merv Griffin. Continue east on Lex, after Beverly Drive, turn right onto Rexford. At the light make a left onto Sunset Blvd. On the left side of Sunset at Alpine Drive is a huge pile of dirt with a tarp over it. This was the site of one of the most (in)famous mansions is Beverly Hills. The house that stood there was built in 1917 for one of the founder of Beverly Hills; in 1978 was bought by an arab sheik, who proceeded to paint the place puke green, and paint the statues facing Sunset in lifelike flesh tones, including male and female private parts (if you've seen the Steve Martin movie "The Jerk", they used the house as-is as the house Navin gets when he becomes rich). The house was gutted by a suspicious fire in 1982 and razed in 1985. Neighbors toasted it's destruction with champagne. There are two monster Mansions being built on the site as of this writing.

Continue east on Sunset to the light at Hillcrest Rd. Left onto Hillcrest, then left onto Doheny Rd. At Loma Vista drive is perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most filmed house in Beverly Hills. Built in 1928 by oil billionaire E. L. Doheny at the then unheard of cast of 9 million dollars, the house was a present to his son upon his marriage. Young Edward's time in the house was not long however, he was murdered by his private secretary in a fight over a raise, whereupon the secretary shot himself. It's rumored that the shooting may have been for darker reasons; it's rumored that Edward, Jr was having an affair with his (male) secretary, and killed him when the affair was going to be made public. The other rumor is that Dad himself shot the pair. In any case, the magificent house still stands, and is used for many movies and TV shows. You can't tour the house without special permission (and it's really creepy- the room where Doheny's body was still has a ghost of the tape outline in the wood floor), but the grounds are a lovely public park (entrance on Loma Vista drive, up the street). You can also rent "The Loved One", "Dead Ringer" (the one with Bette Davis) or Steve Martin's "All of Me" to get a look inside- all three were filmed inside ond on the grounds

From here you can continue west on Doheny Road to Foothill Rd to Sunset Blvd. Make a right and cintinue west on Sunset to Crescent Drive. On the right there is the Beverly Hills Hotel. The older Mediterranean looking part is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built to lure people west to what was then a very remote are to own a home (at that time, the fashionable areas were just north or west of downtown, and Sunset Blvd was a dirt road west of Fairfax), the newer part facing Sunset (with the hotels name in it's famous script) was added in the 40's by famous LA architect Paul Williams. The hotel was totally redone (and in my opinion, ruined) by the sultan of Brunei in the 90's. I would suggest skipping the Polo Lounge, which looks nothing like it did in it's heyday and heading downstairs to the coffee shop. Cooler heads kept the sultan's designers out, and they merely refurished, rather then redoing. It's a snapshot of 40's Hollywood glam.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This Thursday, Columbina is graciously printing another one of my perfume reviews. This one is for Serge Lutens Tuebereuse Criminelle (gotta love that name) that also touches upon Robert Piguet's Fracas

Monday, August 21, 2006

Downtown Life, Part Deaux

Today I went out to get an oversized get-well card at lunch for a co-worker struck with appendicitis. This took me out of my little bubble in the "Historic Core" and put me in the Bunker Hill area. Bunker Hill originally was the first suburb of LA, filled with grand mansions (some of which have been moved to Heritage Square off the Pasadena Freeway) of the elite of Los Angeles, the owners of the buildings in the business area down the hill. By the thirties and forties, most of these places were either gone or chopped up into rooming houses (rent "Kiss Me Deadly" or "Dead Ringer" for a pretty good look at what it was like back in the day..) and in the sixties the city decided that the area was ripe for revitalisation. This meant a lot of very sterile new towers plonked in very sterile plazas, some of which were very nice examples of that they are, some of which were awful: completely turning away from the street, creating blocks and blocks that to this day are about as inviting as death valley. There are attractions, MoCA, The Disney Concert Hall, The Los Angeles Music Center, to name a few, as well as some restaurants that range from pretty good (Ciudad, Cicada) to IMHO massively overrated (anything Patina Group). The mall I went to was the one featured in "Earthquake", a depressing 70's affair, mostly underground. I got the card and a really indifferent Fettuccine Alfredo.

One of the big new things in downtown is the "adaptive reuse" of office buildings. It started in the area I work in, and has moved into the Bunker Hill/ Financial district. The Standard Hotel opened a branch of it's tragically hip chain in an old office building on Flower, practically right next to Pegasus Lofts, in the old Mobil Oil building. Personally, If I want to pay through the nose for a dinky apartment in a noisy, overcrowded area close to skid row, I'll move back to New York, but that's what 20 years in BH will do to you...

I have to admit, this is not my favorite part of the city, but it's certainly worth a look.....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Downtown life

For about the past seven years, I have worked in downtown Los Angeles. This after more than a decade working no further east than West Hollywood (not counting Thong World- that doesn't get anywhere near my resume...). At first, I was a bit ambivalent about it, it was more of a commute than I liked, and it was the part of downtown that more resembles pre-Giuliani New York than the ultra-clean Bunker Hill area. In any case, over the years I have grown quite fond of my little part of downtown, and would like to share with the many hoards reading (sound of own voice echoing back) some of the highlights, most of which are right on the main drag of my area, the "historic core": Broadway.

You have seen it in TV shows and movies, but the Bradbury Building is truly one of the gems of greater LA. Designed by a layman (read the page), it has a singular and spectacular five story wrought iron and brick interior that is open for five stories, capped by a skylight. I was lucky enough to have an office in there for the better part of two years, and I was never less than thrilled to go to work in the place. I was truly sad when we were moved back to the boring 70's building in which we are now stationed.

Across Broadway is another must-see: Grand Central Market. Gracing downtown for 90 years (and still the only grocery store in the area), this place is a dream of incredibly cheap produce, take-out places that range from burgers to burritos to bento. If you live anywhere in a 15 mile radius and are having any sort of party, run, do not walk over there and stock up on veggies: I have personally catered parties spending no more that $50 at this place. Be sure to check out the small sundires store tucked away on the lower level, there are bargains galore- and the place validates! Right next door is the Million Dollar Theater, a gorgeous beax-arts building now sadly shutterred. Let's hope that it reopens, as some of the other theaters in downtown have. the LA Conservancy has a program called the "Last Ramaining Seats" which tours these theaters, sadly the Million Dollar is not one of them.

Also lining Broadway are multitudes of shops, selling everything from electronics to sock to perfumes- all at great prices. If you can get over a bit of New York style grunge (this is where Hollywood come to pretend it's New York), you can find great bargains on great stuff- not just cheap crap. Unlocked GSM RAZR phones I've seen for $150 and I recently purchased a bottle of Caron Yatagan for $25- a lot less than retail. Bring comfortable shoes (hell, buy them there..) and get ready to see more crowds than you've ever seen in LA before.

An absolute must see on the street is Clifton's Cafeteria, an LA institution for 75 years, there used to be several locations downtown. Now there is only one, on Broadway at 7th street. This is Clifton's Brookdale, a fever dream of a cavern in the redwood forest, complete with "a 20ft. waterfall cascading into a quiet stream that meanders through the dining room". It's little changed since the thirties, and is not exactly shall we say "dainty". But it's real and a real piece of LA history, and the food is quite good if you can get over the fact that it's a cafeteria and not California Pizza Kitchen.

While I realise that most people who come downtown are more likely to stay with the more accessible parts like Bunker Hill with it's Disney Concert Hall, MOCA and list of squeaky clean restaurants that you can find practically anywhere, I urge you to come down the hill to Broadway and discover the other LA. If you're lucky, Angels Flight will have re-opened and you won't even have to climb the stairs......

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I got this link from Billy Masters forums (and if you aren't visiting him, you should).

You tube is great- the ultimate recepticle for cultural detritus. Gotta love that: and that clip with Rock Hudson and Bea Arthur singing about drug addiction? Howls.....