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Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Flickr Friday: Me ‘n Henry Moore

I’ve uploaded some of my favorite pics from our recent Los Angeles trip in a flickr set – the Burbank and Getty days were set up today, and I will get to the Sherman Oaks/Downtown/Palm Springs pics later on this weekend.

Voyage to La-La Land, Pt. 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here is the conclusion of our four-day trip to Los Angeles, Burbank, Sherman Oaks and Palm Springs. Since our Getty museum trip turned out to be a single day, we spent Thursday morning looking through the shops on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Although getting around and parking is a problem around there, we eventually got settled behind a store called “Aunt Teek’s” and looked around. One of the neater things we came across was a building that was a converted motor court from the ’30s or ’40s that had various small businesses. We dropped in on a jewelry shop nestled in the back and had our rings resized while chatting with the ladies who worked there. It was a fun bit of local color. We also went through the main antique mall. I ended up buying a vintage ’50s brochure for Disneyland’s Aluminum Hall of Fame – which wasn’t cheap, but it’s a good addition to my paper ephemera collection.

We had an appointment in downtown L.A. that afternoon, so we got back to the hotel room and checked out before navigating the freeways. Obama was in town at that time, but strangely the traffic was okay (despite all the helicopters hovering around). Having a couple of hours to kill, we went back to the Japanese district which is just down the street from the historic City Hall building. This is one of my favorite parts of L.A. The shops are a riot of fantastic imagery and nifty packaging. Although I was tempted to buy everything I saw, I wound up settling on some cute toys (including a blind-boxed plastic “cute animal inside a household object” toy which turned out to be a cockatiel in a rice bowl), a book on Japanese cinema, and several bags of gummi candies, cookies and shrimp-flavored chips.

After Japan Town, we drove up to the Fashion Institute to meet with our friend Shirley and see the new exhibit they’ve got of costumes from many of the major films released in 2011 – including all the films nominated for this year’s Oscar awards. We drove through the “skid row” area and the fabric merchandising districts to get there, both of which were really something to see (from the safety of a locked car!). The exhibit was wonderful. Christopher wrote about it here. One of the genuine surprises of the exhibit was that it had a handful of classic-era costumes, including two (Jean Harlow’s shorts from Reckless and a hat from Pride and Prejudice) designed by MGM’s Adrian. After meeting with our friend, we went on a little walking tour of downtown which included L.A. Live, Staples Center and that area of downtown. L.A. Live was too chaotic and overcommercialized for my tastes, but it was still interesting to walk around and people watch. Most of it is chain restaurants. The Grammy Hall of Fame Museum was also there, but the admission was too expensive for us. I got a kick out of the sidewalk pieces with each year’s Grammy award winners inscribed in a metal record, however. There was some hubbub with the police going on there — a large group of local Tibetians were there to protest China’s treatment of their country while the Chinese Vice President was staying at the nearby Ritz-Carlton hotel. That was pretty cool to watch. We also stumbled across the historic Figueroa Hotel and took mucho pictures. It looked especially pretty as the sun was setting.

Thursday was a long day — and we still had to drive out of town to get to our hotel, in San Bernadino! I was really hungry by the time we got there, devouring my bean and cheese burrito dinner. The next morning, we enjoyed the free Best Western breakfast buffet and headed out to Palm Springs to visit with Christopher’s plastic collecting friend, Robin. We arrived pretty early, so we checked out the little exhibit of ’50s-’60s items at the visitors center (perfect timing; it was “Modernism Week”) and gaped at the overpriced furniture and decor in the Midcentury Modern shops along Palm Canyon Drive. We also looked at a few of the thrift shops in the area (I picked up a few kitschy, unused ’60s greeting cards at one). The weather was a bit dry and hot, but otherwise it was a relaxed, fun time. After a long time spent looking for it, we finally found Robin’s place and he regaled us with a bunch of neat vintage plastic pieces from his collection (tiny creamers for airline use, demitasse cups, etc.). After a satisfying lunch at one of the older Mexican places in town, we shipped off for Phoenix. Did you know that Palm Springs is one of the hardest places to get out of? It was frustrating to drive down the same road, sitting through 100 red lights, but once we were out on that highway back home it was a total relief. At about 8:30 that night, we were finally home — safe in the knowledge that we had another memorable trip!

Voyage to La-La Land, Pt. 1

Since there was only one movie watched this week (Miller’s Crossing, excellent), I won’t be doing a Flick Clique. Instead, I will be doing a little writeup of what occupied most of our time this week, a road trip!

We left on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, to take a four-day trip to Los Angeles, Burbank, Sherman Oaks and Palm Springs. Much of that first day was spent driving in the dark (we got up at four a.m.). At around 11:00, we needed some gas and I was getting hungry for some sustenance, so we stopped in Azusa and drove around a bit. It was a lovely town, and the affordable eats at T-Burgers got us rearin’ to move along. Arriving towards L.A., we made a second stop in Pasadena to look around. The bungalows are beautiful there, and they have a nice (if too chain-store heavy) downtown. We got out and shot a few pics of Christopher with the Colorado Boulevard sign:

It was a nice, sunny day and the traffic was strangely not congested. We ended up at our destination, the Best Western in Sherman Oaks, ahead of schedule. I ended up picking this particular place since it was at a perfect right angle to our two main destinations, the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank and the J. Paul Getty Museum high in the L.A. hills.
After checking in and having a light lunch in the Denny’s at the hotel, we were all set for the TV sitcom taping that we’d reserved tickets for a month earlier. In 2009, we attended a Big Bang Theory recording. This time, we decided on 2 Broke Girls (which happens to be one of our faves). As we got shepherded onto the studio grounds, it struck me (again) how gorgeous the grounds at W.B. are. Everything is so well-manicured and beautifully maintained there — and it’s one of the few places around L.A. that still has that aura of the classic Hollywood 1930s-40s period. As we waited in line, we both marveled at the studio and expressed wishes that we could work there someday, somehow. The afternoon we were there, The Big Bang Theory was also taping an episode and we saw the cast members discreetly going about their business — Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco passed by our line walking to the studio Starbucks (named after Friends‘ hangout, The Central Perk) and we spied Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayaar going to get some grub at the W.B. commissary. The taping itself was a ton of fun. Long, but fun — this one required multiple retakes for every scene. Luckily the script was funny enough to survive three, four, and (in one butt-numbing example) eleven takes. The warmup comedian was the same one we saw at a Rules of Engagement taping in 2009 and he surprisingly recognized Christopher when we went to chat with him after the taping was done (four plus hours later!). We hung around, got autographs and a chocolate cupcake. Christopher wrote about it here.

The following day, Wednesday, was our daylong trip to the Getty. I personally picked this over Disneyland for this trip for the simple fact that I’ve never been there and always wanted to go. The Getty complex is located atop a mountain overlooking the ocean and the rest of the city. Patrons visit by parking in a lot at the base of the mountain and going by tram to the top. That day was really cold and windy, but we enjoyed it — and the crisp air offered some really outstanding views. The museum is divided into about five pavilions. Each pavilion deals with a certain historical period with changing exhibits and decorative art on the ground floors and painting/art on the upper floors. In the morning, the place was swarming with school groups, but those thinned out as the day went on and we were able to enjoy most of the exhibits in solitude (many of the guards can get touchy, however – be warned!). We got to see paintings by Sergeant, Titian, Rembrandt, Cezanne and Van Gogh (Irises in the flesh!). The decorative stuff was even more interesting and enlightening. Those Getty folks run a nice, state-of-the-art museum. Although many insist that two or three days is optimal, we saw everything we wanted to in a single day. Probably the funnest part of that day was goofing around in the outdoor sculpture garden by where the tram deposits visitors to their vehicles (see photo below).

After our whirlwind Getty day, we ended up checking out the sights around Sherman Oaks. Although we passed by the famous Galleria (like, totally, fer sure) a few times, most of our exploring centered around Ventura boulevard and its funky shops and restaurants. There’s a fair share of bland chain businesses along that stretch, but it’s good to know that the city’s bread-and-butter comes from locally owned places with unique charm and character. That night, I wanted to eat at a Thai place called Anajak. It took a while to find it (we forgot to write down the address), but once found it was a wonderful experience. The dining room was tiny and romantically lit, and Christopher chatted up some of the other customers. Service was excellent; the chef even brought us a free appetizer dish.

This portion of the trip ended up taking so much space that I will resume writing about it later. The part of our trip where we explored downtown Los Angeles and Palm Springs will come tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Hung Up on Clifton’s

I was watching an episode of the HBO series Hung today when another favorite location caught my eye — twice! Although the show is set in Detroit, the location crew used the famous Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles as the settings for two restaurants the show’s characters dined in. Both are featured in episode #5, titled Do It, Monkey.

The first restaurant is a plush red-wallpapered eatery that might look familiar to Mad Men fans — it’s the third floor of Clifton’s, which I wrote about last May. For Hung, the room was decorated pretty much the same way we saw it two years ago. While it was classed up a bit as Don Draper’s New York getaway, for the tacky fondue restaurant patronized by actors Jane Adams and Steve Hytner not much change was needed. Our photo of the dining room is here.

The second restaurant was used by a different set of Hung characters as the woodsy-themed buffet where a suddenly downsized Anne Heche and family must eat. This is the ground floor of Clifton’s, where most of the customers dine. In the top photo, they dressed up the wall behind the buffet line with knick-knacks. Other than that, the restaurant is basically untouched in all its kitschy glory. I love that you can see a bit of the ’50s era Specialties sign (better photo here). The wide view at the bottom is the main dining area, surrounded by painted murals, fake pine trees and a stuffed moose head. It’s wonderful! My photo of the area from a different angle is here.

Mad About Clifton’s

While catching up with Mad Men, we noticed a locale that looked strangely familiar in the season 3 opener, Out of Town. It was the quasi-Victorian restaurant where Don and Sal have dinner with two stewardesses and a pilot from the airline flight they just took. I couldn’t pinpoint the place until I heard one of the show’s actors on the commentary describing the perfectly preserved, Disneyland-like ambiance of the eatery. Right then I knew it as the third floor of Clifton’s Brookdale in downtown Los Angeles. How fun!

Contrast the publicity still below with the photos we took during our October ’09 visit. It looks like the Mad Men set dressers replaced the Clifton’s memorabilia on the walls with various old-style paintings, but they kept the lighting fixtures and the flocked wallpaper the same — not to mention the arches and the dark wood stair banisters (click the images for a closer view).





Saturday: L.A. Is My Bitch

We’re back from our trip to Los Angeles. We did a lot in five days. In the end, both of us agreed it was the best trip ever. I will have some photos to share later on, but first a travelogue of what we did. I was going to write up all of our trip in one blog post, but there was simply too much! For now, I will regale you with what we did the first day.

  • Saturday — An early morning. Left at 5 a.m. and got to Long Beach at about 10:30. We had a lunch scheduled later on with our friend Dan (who lives there; lucky him), so after finding a parking spot we walked around the piers and the commercialized areas around the aquarium. It’s funny how, after all these years, the ocean is so exotic to me. Since Christopher was in a seafood mood, we settled at the King’s location downtown for a long lunch of good conversation with Dan. This was an excellent, relaxing way to start off our trip! We said our goodbyes to Dan and headed off through the treacherous freeways towards downtown L.A. (actually, the traffic was surprisingly okay for L.A. the whole time we were there). After a bit of confusion with the one way streets, we finally located the fabboo Westin Bonaventure Hotel where we were booked for two nights. I always loved this hotel, going back to when it was the setting for the waitressing sitcom It’s a Living. Architecturally, the place is forever stuck in a retro-futuristic ’70s, which is totally cool with me. It’s also laid out in a crazy way, with elevators going only to certain floors and restaurants and shops perched confusingly on rounded balconies above the expansive lobby. I dug it! Luckily, our wedge-shaped room was furnished with tasteful late ’00s decor. Later that night, we met with Christopher’s old friend Shirley for dinner. Shirley once worked as Edith Head’s assistant and now has an office at FIDM (where the current Project Runway season was filmed). She had tons of entertaining stories about everyone from Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn to Joan Crawford. It was such a trip driving around in her car and having her point out every important building in the area! She took us to a trendy Beverly Hills eatery called Orso. This place had the neatest outdoor patio with giant trees and subtle lighting in an environment that vaguely reminded me of the restaurant inside Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean. As we sat down, I noticed a beautiful woman sitting at the table next to us that looked exactly like actress Wendy Malick of Just Shoot Me fame. I tried hard not to stare (luckily she was in the same sightline as Christopher), but this lady did speak with actressy hand gestures to the gentleman dining with her, so I’m gonna say it was her (and damn, she looked great). Although it was after 11 p.m. when we finished our meal, we weren’t exhausted at all. Shirley drove us around, showing us Bullock’s Wilshire, Paramount Pictures and all the fancy homes in that area. All in all, a night that could only be described as magical.