Careless, loud, colourful, free, gay, happy, boisterous, cheap, techno. And for a moment I was back, home. It is this awkward time of the year when girls dress up as sluts and guys dress up as girls. But some very interesting ideas too! West Hollywood was celebrating its annual Halloween parade on Santa Monica Boulevard, between Doheny Dr. and Holloway St. and this is what happened.
This was really my first and only reason for visiting LA while planning out the trip. It’s not like this is a city full of… you know, it’s not Rome. History in any given american city will only span for about 100/200 years. But LA has made so much out of its last century in terms of entertainment, we had to go see were it all stems from.
At first I was put off when I found out that the tour for Universal Studio lots were part of an amusement park and you had to pay for the whole ticket. – WTF? – I didn’t want to go into a cardboard park to see cardboard actors play the part to me. Hollywood is as fake as it gets, but I still wanted the real fake, not something made specially for the flock of tourists.
On our second morning in LA, we figured we would go and learn about the movie studios all the way in Burbank (other side of the hills). For that we rented a convertible (yes, in december!), but I’m telling you about that on my next post, to be able to keep this one right under novel length —hehe.
On our way back we had time to visit the Hollywood area where classic movie stars used to live.
The Hollywood sign
The HOLLYWOODLAND sign was erected in 1923 to advertise a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce contracted to repair and rebuild the sign. The contract stipulated that “LAND” be removed to reflect the district, not the housing development. Each letter of the sign is 10m wide and 15m high.
(1976) — The Hollywood sign was altered to read HOLLYWeeD in January 1976, following the passage of a state law decriminalizing marijuana.
(2012) — Space Shuttle Endeavour makes its final flight to LAX on September 21, 2012 as it passes over Disney Hall and the Hollywood Sign.
The sign is not accessible by car and you must park and keep on walking about an hour. Glad we asked because the sun was already coming down and we weren’t going to be able to make it, so guess what I discovered…
Ok, please don’t attempt that way if you’re not wearing proper shoes, and definitely not a tight mini skirt! Luckily no snakes were in our way, but we did see the warning signs.
Back in Hollywood, mandatory stop at In-N-Out to try our first (and only) burger from this chain. I must say the burger is ok for a fast food bistro, but the fries are waaaaay too bad. If I ever go back to Cali I will try two burgers instead of a combo, as our acquaintance had. We met a moldavian guy there, married to an american and living with a green card for two years now. He told us about interesting highlights for our future stop in Las Vegas.
Hollywood Boulevard is a street in Hollywood formerly named Prospect Avenue from 1887 until 1910, when the town of Hollywood was annexed by the City of Los Angeles.
In 1958 the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue (and an additional three blocks on Vine Street), was created as a tribute to artists working in the entertainment industry.
In early 2006, the city made revamping plans on Hollywood Boulevard for future tourists. The three-part plan was to exchange the original streetlights with red stars into two-headed old-fashioned streetlights, put in new palm trees, and put in new stoplights. The renovations were completed in late 2006.
By the way, don’t drive a convertible without a ponytail:
Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,500 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street. The stars are permanent public monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry, bearing the names of a mix of actors, musicians, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters, and others. The Walk of Fame is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust. It is a popular tourist destination. Gene Autry (fun fact — he created the christmas carols “Rudolph the red nose reindeer” and “Here comes Santa”) is the only honoree with stars in all five categories.
Locations of individual stars are not necessarily random or arbitrary. Stars of most legendary and world-famous celebrities—the so-called “show business royalty”—are found in front of TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre. Oscar winners’ stars are usually placed near the Dolby Theatre, site of the annual Academy Awards presentations. Decisions are occasionally made with a dollop of whimsy: Mike Myers’s star, for example, lies in front of an adult store called the International Love Boutique, an association with his Austin Powers roles, Roger Moore’s star is located at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard in recognition of his seven James Bond films, Ed O’Neill’s star is located outside a shoe store in reference to his character’s occupation on the TV show “Married…with Children”…
Hollywood Pacific Theater
In the picture, the Hollywood Pacific Theatre. A movie theatre located at 6433 Hollywood Blvd. Originally known as the Warner Bros. Theatre or Warner Hollywood Theatre. Warner Bros. owned radio station KFWB positioned its radio transmitter towers on top of the building, which remain to this day. Though covered by “PACIFIC” lettering, the original “WARNERS” lettering can still be seen inside each tower. In 1968,Stanley Warner sold the theatre to Pacific Theatres, which renamed it the present day Hollywood Pacific Theatre.
The theatre finally closed its doors as a full-time cinema on August 15, 1994. This was mostly due to water damage to the basement caused by the construction of the Hollywood Subway Red Line and structural damage caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
After Kodak filed for bankruptcy, Dolby would sign an agreement with CIM, owner of Hollywood & Highland Center, to be the new teathre sponsor. Hollywood & Highland Center is a destination in the center of the Hollywood tourist attractions, shopping mall and entertainment complex on Hollywood Boulevard. Dolby updated the sound system first by installing Dolby Atmos. The company plans to continue updating the auditorium with newer technologies as they become available.
The Dolby Theatre hosts The Oscars year after year. It doesn’t look like it when you’re there, so I searched for photos of the event for a proper comparison. The Hollywood Boulevard would be nicely carpeted in red, and there’d be a 30 metre long curtain hanging from the gallery entrance. In fact, shops in the inside are also dressed and covered. The lighted columns in the hall and staircase list Academy Award Best Picture winners of past four decades. I went all the way up to the door of the theatre, but nothing could be seen other than quite a bit of dust I hope they are cleaning away already… The Oscars are due in weeks time.
Graunam’s Chinese Theatre
Built over 18 months, from January 1926 by a partnership headed by Sid Grauman, the theatre opened May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s film The King of Kings. It has since been home to many premieres, including the 1977 launch of George Lucas’s Star Wars, as well as birthday parties, corporate junkets and three Academy Awards ceremonies. Among the theatre’s most distinctive features are the concrete blocks set in the forecourt, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day. The TCL Chinese Theatre has partnered with IMAX Corporation to introduce the single largest IMAX auditorium in the world. The new theatre seats 932 people, and hosts the third largest commercial movie screen in North America.
Capitol Records is a major American record label that is part of the Capitol Music Group and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Universal Music Group. Founded in 1942 by three industry insiders, the label has recorded and released material by artists such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, The Kingston Trio, Les Paul, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Glen Campbell, Megadeth, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, and Katy Perry among many others.
Capitol’s recording studios were designed by guitarist and sound expert Les Paul to minimize noise and vibration. The studios feature 25cm concrete exterior walls, surrounding a 2.5cm air gap, surrounding an inner wall that floats on layers of rubber and cork – all in an effort to provide complete sound isolation.
The facility features echo chambers: subterranean concrete bunkers allowing engineers to add reverberations during the recording process. The eight chambers are located 9m underground. They are trapezoidal-shaped with 25cm concrete walls and 30cm concrete ceilings. The chambers feature speakers on one side and microphones on the other, permitting an echo effect of up to five seconds.
The Hollywood Bowl is a 1920s amphitheater used primarily for music performances. It is known for its band shell, a distinctive set of concentric arches that graced the site from 1929 through 2003, before being replaced with a somewhat larger one beginning in the 2004 season. The shell is set against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood Sign to the Northeast.
We also headed Downtown in the convertible to have a look at the Staples Center, the Nokia Plaza and the Walt Disney Theatre, yet another Frank Gehry design.
Next day we woke up to the sunny Malibu. We were continuing our trip east to Las Vegas, but we wanted to check out this piece of paradise first.
Want an awesome unique experience for breakfast? Malibu Farm delivers not only a panoramic view of Malibu but also provides a great place to eat healthy organic local food right on the Malibu Pier.
A deep breath of ocean breeze, suitcases packed, and back in the road this time heading to Las Vegas. On our way we found the most authentic 50s diner: Peggy Sue’s. True discovery, real hamburgers, cute walls full of memorabilia… and a clear inspiration for spanish restaurants with the same name. Perhaps they already knew about this gem in Getafe.
It’s 23:00h on Christmas Night. The taxi driver drops us off from LAX in Manning Street. Westwood is silent and resting. A few lights can be seen lit, but I noticed a clear, open night sky above. We arrive at Christina’s. It is the first time I meet her. She’s speaking softly not to wake Jon up I guess.
We had no plans for this city, other than wander around, eat tacos and drool our way through the mansions… and yet, or thus rather, I want to go back so badly. I was captivated by the peace of the first daylight sun rays on the palm trees, perfectly mown lawns, birds singing, light sea breeze and ideal temperature. You get the idea. Sort of like Valencia back in Spain, but with more money, bigger trucks, and less buildings.
Space in LA is cheap. Obviously they’re not in a hurry to build upwards and squares tend to spread widely into residential areas, leaving the stores and cafes to the main boulevards only. It is not LA Downtown I’m talking about, but the other cities that make up this ginormous county area, that you never see the end of no matter how up the mountain you hike.
Café Chez Marie
First morning there we brunched at Café Chez Marie. A few steps from Santa Monica Blvd. (precisely 10669-10683 Santa Monica Blvd, in Westwood) and you’re in a charming Norman village, complete with conical towers and shingled roofs. It’s The Grove (or Grove Bungalow Court), designed by Allen Siple back in 1932. The property has been listed on the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments on the Westside since March 11, 1987.
One of the French cottages is home to this fine little restaurant with an extensive, but strange menu that seems to consist mostly of snacks, salads, breakfast items and super omelettes. Seems a bit out-of sorts, yet perfectly in harmony with it’s surroundings.
Not touristic, frequent diners are either locals or the creative and media executives that work in the nearby building and cottages and perhaps some neighbourhood pups because this is a doggy friendly location.
The J. Paul Getty Museum
The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as The Getty, is an art museum in California housed on two campuses: the Getty Center (since 1997) and Getty Villa (since 1974) —Frank Gehry buildings. The Getty Center is in the Brentwood neighbourhood and is the primary location of the Museum. The collection features Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. Its estimated 1.3 million visitors annually make it one of the most visited museums in the United States. The Museum’s second location, the Getty Villa, is in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood and displays art from ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.
Born in Minnesota to an oil family, J. Paul Getty —father to Mark Getty, founder of Gettyimages— was one of the first in the world to ever have a fortune over 1.000 million dollars and was also an avid art and antiquity collector.
We visited only the Getty Center and were able to see works from Rembrandt, Rubens, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, etc. Being from Europe and having visited already museums in Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, Madrid… Renaissance and medieval paintings were not new to us, but I could understand why the hype over the Getty for americans. Some of the most world renown pieces of art are found here. In addition, and what I found a really good idea, was an area were one could sit for a while and draw from observation selected paintings and sculptures. Obviously, by observing originals! That’s kind of an experience there! Unfortunately we couldn’t wait for the queue but I would’ve certainly liked to hang a picture there. Next time!
The J. Paul Getty Trust is a cultural and philanthropic institution dedicated to critical thinking in the presentation, conservation, and interpretation of the world’s artistic legacy. Through the collective and individual work of its constituent Programs—the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute—it pursues its mission in Los Angeles and throughout the world, serving both the general interested public and a wide range of professional communities with the conviction that a greater and more profound sensitivity to and knowledge of the visual arts and their many histories are crucial to the promotion of a vital and civil society.
Santa Monica Promenade
Once back down the hill, we strolled down the 3rd Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica, an upscale shopping, dining and entertainment complex since the 1960s, enclosing the Santa Monica Place —also a Frank Gehry design. As you can see in the picture above, Dexter was also wandering lonely through the promenade —hehe.
The Adidas Store, perfect time to buy some LA souvenirs from the Lakers. Unluckily there are no sizes, but we’ll keep on looking for the perfect Lakers outfit!
Santa Monica beach and pier.
The story of a sunset.
Dusk was ticking so we headed to the beach to observe what was surprisingly my first sunset on the beach ever. I’m from an east coast, see? I never get to see the sun drop below sea level.
Being so close to the mexican border, LA is greatly influenced by mexican food and culture. A Taco seemed the best option this evening… if only I would’ve known the red sauce was not tomato sauce, but scalding hot spicy chili!
Santa Monica State Beach is 3 miles long, covering 245 acres of sand along Santa Monica Bay. Residents and visitors enjoy broad stretches of sandy beach, rolling waves, meandering bike and walking paths, and inspiring views of the Santa Monica Mountains year-round.
Santa Monica Pierbegan in 1909 —the first concrete pier on the U.S. set coast— with an infamous mission. It was built to dump sewage 500m into the ocean. Fortunately this practice was discontinued in 1920. On June 12, 1916, Charles Looff opened to the public his newest project, the pier’s amusement park — the Looff Pleasure Pier.
But in 1919 the pier collapsed and it was closed for two years, during which it was rebuilt but this time using the old-fashion wooden piles. The Santa Monica Lifeguard Service was founded on 1920.
On July 1924 the La Monica Ballroom opened, but its success was short lived due to the Grand Depression of the mid thirties and was used as a convention center and even as a jail. A retired sailor, Olaf C. Olsen, came to work in the pier during the Great Depression, helping the needy and becoming inspiration for the comic character “Popeye”. In 1934 a breakwater was constructed for a yacht harbour.
In 1943 the amusement park was purchased by Walter Newcomb and after the II World War the pier regained activity. The La Monica Ballroom hosted the first-ever live broadcast of a variety show, by TV station KTLA.
But the pier was ageing badly and the City Council was proposed the idea of demolition in order to build a bridge to a manmade island resort. Community rallies would force Council member to back the pier and not one finally voted to demolish. In 1975 voters passed “Proposition I — an initiative which preserves the pier forever”. The storms of ’83 destructed one third of the pier, but in the end, it served as a good fresh start to restoration, which was completed in 1990 and a new amusement park — Pacific Park — was added in 1996. Together with the Pacific Park, the pier also hosts cafes, restaurants, fishermen activity, an aquarium, a hotel, concerts, a classic arcade… There’s even a Trapeze School
We stopped at the 66 to Cali store. Where the iconic Route 66 ends at the sea there’s this small shop dedicated to its legend. The historic route is no longer available. Gas stations, bars, motels and other services closed down as the amount of visitors and passers by decreased, so it is practically impossible to drive all the way now —but you can still drive along short sections.
When the night was tight, we headed home walking along the beach and couldn’t help notice the beautiful houses and architecture lining up by the sand.