Saturday, May 26, 2007

The RIALTO: One of the old Broadway movie theaters that has, obviously, not been graced with the magnificent restoration work recently done on the Orpheum (which is just down the street from the Rialto). Note the vestiges of its noble movie past with the name of one of the great stars of MGM still clinging precariously to this side of the old marquee. I remember those old classic plastic letters to well, not to mention the great Esther Williams who is still one of my favorite stars.

Hopefully the many classic old theaters on this stretch of Broadway will be saved by the wonderful restoration work that has begun with the Orpheum. Photo by/COPYRIGHT: Ross Care

NIFTY NEON: The entrance to the Orpheum Theatre after the Wed., May 23, 2007, screening of NxNW. Note the spotlight creating the ambiance of an old Hollywood premiere. Photo by/COPYRIGHT: Ross Care

Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre on Broadway in "downtown" Los Angeles. Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross CARE. Taken just before the screening of Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST which I describe in my previous post. Note the spotlight.

Friday, May 25, 2007

NORTH by NORTHWEST on Broadway (LA)

NORTH by NORTHWEST on Broadway

No, not the musical.

The Hitchcock - may I say Alfred Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann film? - was screened on Wed. night (May 23, 2007) as part of the Los Angeles Conservancy's "Last Remaining Seats" film series.

Star Eva Marie Saint and Patricia Hitchcock, Hitchcock's daughter and sometime actress, were in attendance and were interviewed by LA CONFIDENTIAL director, Curtis Hanson, before the screening.

But for many the real star of the evening was the Orpheum Theatre itself.

Never having seen it in its prime IMHO the recent restoration job was magnificent. From the lobby to the upper reaches of the spacious balcony this is grand elegance on a scale unknown in today’s climate of tawdry vulgarity.

One only hopes the restoration fever spreads to the other derelict theaters of the what is now finally being touted as LA's Historic Theaters district.

Though in spite of the gentrification efforts a stroll down Broadway (towards Grand Central Market) still has more of a feeling of MIDNIGHT COWBOY than of even of THE BANDWAGON's 42nd St., the area still has what is probably the greatest concentration of classic theater buildings/movie palaces still standing (some just barely) in the USA.

I always feel a strange combination of exhilaration, nostalgia, and depression when I see them. Many now house hideous commercial malls; some are simply abandoned.

Names like the Roxie, the State (the old MGM LA flagship theater), and many others, can still be discerned. There is even an old Pantages Theater and building (beside the Roxie), in an extremely decrepit state but with four impressive Eagle sculptures still intact on the second story.

The impressive Tower Theater is just down the street from the Orpheum. It also seems relatively intact, aside from the dreadful arcade of street vendors lining 8th St. Hopefully it may join the Orpheum in an eventual makeover.

Also down the street (on Broadway) from the Orpheum: the Rialto. Amazingly, one side of the marquee (away from the Orpheum) spelled out in those distinctive plastic serifs I remember so well from my first movie going days, the name of one of my favorite MGM stars.
(I could not make out the movie title, too many letters missing....)

Exhilarating, yet as I walked away from the glowing neon rainbows of the Orpheum under the darkened, somewhat eerie eaves of the Tower it was with that pervasively bittersweet sense of nostalgia I probably feel too often these days.

I can only wish for a personal Time Machine to take me back to Broadway - the Los Angeles Broadway - to revisit the entire Golden Age of Hollywood.

Actually, the period between 1948 and 1953 would do.....

Special THANKS to the Los Angeles Conservancy for this magnificent evening.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Desert Garden, the Huntington Musuem and Garden, San Marino (Pasadena), Caliofornia.

Palms to Pines

The "Palms to Pine's highway, a.k.a. route 74, above Palm Spring.
Note there are no Palms OR Pines at this point.
The car and tiny figure (to the middle right) give some impression of the size this vast and rather brutal landscape. On this day the wind was so ferocious we only drove to about 2,000 feet or so, then feared for the Honda being swept away into the abyss by the blast! (This did not seem to deter the natives who passed us and zoomed on with a rather shocking distain for the curves, altitue and wind velocity!)
There is, however, actually some hardy, rather picturesque flora growing here. (It's a bit like Mars with castus, yucca, and aloe). I photographed some when we stopped to turn around.
Palm Springs was very pleasant last week, not exceptionally hot (for Palm Springs). It IS a surreal environment though. You can't see it in this photo but somewhere beyond those far hills is an unreal strip of unnatural GREEN which is the town of Palm Desert. Going up this highway is kind of environmental culture shock.
You leave the artifical lushness of the Palm Canyon highway (which runs from Palm Springs to Palm Desert and beyond) and ascend very quickly into this ominous Mercury-like terrain which reminds you that what you just left behind is in reality a fragile strip of civilization (if you call Starbuck's civilization) and, of course, consumerism, in an arid, burning desert.
One just hopes the water holds out for this and most of the rest of the west/southwest. But at the moment the prognosis does not look good.......
On Friday we left Palm Springs in a major sand/dust storm which closed one of the routes out of town.
On Tuesday we left the lushness of the Huntington in Pasadena to skirt the Griffith Park wildfire which was miraculously contained with very little damage.
This time........

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Fire Next Time

The wildfire in Griffith Park has been contained. No structures were damaged.

However, there's a new fire on Catalina Island. At this writing I am not aware of its status, but the LA Times reported it was moving towards the town of Avalon this morning.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Wildfire Thoughts

Aside from the rather terrifying experience of the Griffith Park wildfire on the way home, yesterday was actually one of the most peaceful, almost spiritual days I have experienced in quite awhile.

It was an off day at the Huntington and anyone with a Bank of America account could get in for free, a welcome change from the monthly Free Days when the musuems are overcrowded and the grounds (and cafe) become mommy/stroller HELLs!

Actually, I felt I was seeing this beautiful refuge for the first time.

And there was actually time and space to appreciate the musuems art and collections. At one point I was almost transfixed by a Sergeant portrait of Pauline Astor. For a moment I felt like James Stewart (or Kim Novak) in Hitchcock's VERTIGO, sitting almost alone in the gallery staring at this beautiful painting.

The lovely face and pearl necklace were almost three-dimensional, the rest of the painting (including the mischievious King Charles dog at the lady's skirts, were almost stylized. I was quite entranced by it all.

Just before we left we took a long walk through the Huntington's desert garden. These are always a revelation and one is always stunned and amazed by the sheer variety of nature, even in the planet's more arid and forbidding zones.....

The feeling, the total absorbtion took me quite unawares, as did the great column of smoke that loomed ever larger as we left the security of the Huntington at about 4.30 and moved down the freeway towards and by the out-of-control wildfire climbing the dry hills and canyons of Griffith Park.

A very strange and illuminating day, only in California (for better or worse)......

The FIRE This Time

Driving out of Pasadena yesterday after a tranquil day at the Huntington Musuem and Gardens I noticed that the smog seemed especially dense.

When we were on the 134 (Ventura) freeway moving west towards LA we realized it was NOT smog. About half of Griffith Park between Glendale and Burbank was on fire.

You have probably read about or seen this in the news by now.

This was not our first experience of a wildfire Out Here, but they are always terrifying.
After the column of smoke I could actually see the fires consuming the hillsides at Griffith, home of the lengendary Griffith Park Observatory and also of the LA Zoo.

There are horrifying photos in the LA TIMEs today and apparently the fire has NOT been contained due to excessively dry conditions and heavy winds.

Who'd have thought as we were enjoying the balmy breezes on the lush Huntington grounds this was happening just down the freeway?????

But that's life Out Here on the Edge....

More later if I'm up to it.