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- The Ambassador Hotel is one of Los Angeles’ most famous hotels, which is no mean feat in a city which boasts the Beverly Wilshire, the Biltmore, the Chateau Marmont and countless other famous – and infamous – hotels. The Ambassador’s fame principally comes from its reputation as a place of entertainment and glamor from it’s opening to the 1950’s and from being the location of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968.The Ambassador Hotel opened its doors with much fanfare on New Year’s Day, 1921. It was located on Wilshire Boulevard, in what was then a fast-developing area three miles west of downtown Los Angeles, and in fact the new hotel spurred the development of the area into one of the main commercial and cultural arteries of the city. Designed by local Pasadena architect Myron Hunt, opinions always differed about the architectural quality of the design, but it nevertheless rapidly became a landmark building. The Ambassador’s swift rise to prominence was speeded partly through its willingness to serve alcohol (despite Prohibition) and partly by the opening there, a few months after the hotel, of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub. Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino, to name but a few, all became much-photographed regulars and the nightclub’s reputation as the L.A. hot spot was sealed.During the 1930’s and 40’s, the Ambassador’s reputation for glitz and glamor continued to spread as from 1930 to 1943 no less than six Academy Award ceremonies were held at the hotel and every U.S. President from Hoover to Nixon stayed there while visiting Los Angeles. Even Nikita Khrushchev, the Russian Premier, was a guest – and was visited by none other than Mickey Mouse when he was unable to take a trip Disneyland.Unfortunately for the Ambassador’s owners in the 1950’s and 60’s the neighborhood around the hotel became less fashionable and lower income. Once branded as being the “Ambassador District” the area became known as Koreatown (which it’s now called). This is the background to the tragic events of June 5th1968.That day saw Robert Kennedy give a speech in the Embassy Ballroom, following his victory in the California Democratic Primary over Senator Eugene McCarthy. After addressing his supporters, Kennedy was ushered through the kitchens to the waiting press and while walking through the pantry he was shot by a Palestinian radical Sirhan Sirhan who had immigrated to the U.S. as a child. Sirhan was incensed by comments Kennedy had made in support of Israel and also appeared to be suffering from mental illness (today he claims to have no memory of the actual shooting – but he has also stated that there was a second assassin who fired the fatal shots). After shooting Kennedy several times he continued firing and hit five other people before running out of bullets and being subdued. Kennedy initially survived the assassination, but he died in hospital after over three hours of neurosurgery. The assassination of Robert Kennedy, just a few years after his brother, has created one of the great what-ifs of history. Kennedy was almost certain to win the Democratic Primary campaign, which would have led to a Presidential contest between him and Richard Nixon (a Californian, let it not be forgotten). It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have won and taken America in a very different direction. No Watergate to start with and therefore no Nixonian paranoia. Civil Rights, one of Kennedy’s main priorities, would have been elevated to a level of much greater prominence. Almost certainly no bombing of Cambodia and Laos – but also perhaps no rapprochement with China. Who knows? Nevertheless history was changed because of the events of that night at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.The assassination of Kennedy only hastened the decline of the hotel and on New Year’s Day 1989, exactly sixty-eight years after it opened, the Ambassador was permanently closed to guests, although it remained available for private functions and, perhaps more memorably, filming. The hotel has made appearances in The Graduate, Forrest Gump and Pretty Woman as well as many other movies and TV shows. However in 2001, LAUSD purchased the twenty-four acre property with the aim of building three schools there for the underserved neighborhood. In 2004, the Ambassador Hotel was demolished and in 2010 the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools were opened in its place. Many felt that naming the schools after the murdered presidential candidate only continued Los Angeles’ uneasy (or should that be queasy) relationship with its own history. After all, why demolish a famous historic hotel and yet name the schools built in its place after a tragic historic event at said hotel? To remember or to forget? Nevertheless I, for one, am glad that it was schools that were built on the site instead of a one hundred and twenty-five storey golden tower by a New York real estate developer called, you guessed it, Donald J. Trump.By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE AMBASSADOR HOTEL & ITS DATE WITH HISTORY
The Ambassador Hotel is one of Los Angeles’ most famous hotels, which is no mean feat...Posted on : 16th Jun 2019
- I’ll go out on a limb here and say that in my humble opinion since we began putting together this list of the best things to do in Los Angeles every month, back in 2015, this month’s line up of activities and events is the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what it is and why exactly this month has so many fun, interesting and must do things to do, but boy, Los Angeles really pulled all the stops out for June!THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN JUNE
1 Last Remaining Seats (June 1st-29th). This has been one of the highlights of summer in Los Angeles since the 1980’s, when the Los Angeles Conservancy opens up the historic movie palaces and theatres on Broadway to show beloved, classic movies. In recent years the Conservancy have spread the love by including movie theatres outside of the Broadway Historic Theatre District, such as the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, so there are always new (old) venues to experience. See It Happened One Night, the original romantic comedy, on June 1st.2. June First Fridays at the Natural History Museum (June 7th). What are First Fridays? It’s an event on the first of the month – usually involving music and food trucks. At the Natural History Museum it’s all about the dino’s and DJ’s. Sounds like fun, right? The museum is open late and KCRW provide the sounds, so you can enjoy the guided tours and talks by researchers and scientists.3. Ghostbusters Fan Fest (June 7th-8th). For fans of the paranormal, it’s time to retool the Ectomobile, charge the proton pack weapon and kick some ghost butt! Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City play host to screenings, panels, photo ops and most of the original cast will be there.4. LA Pride Week (May 31st-June 9th). Amazingly LA Pride began all the way back in 1970, nearly 50 years ago, but it does look amazing for it’s age though. It seems more important than ever nowadays to support people who are in minorities, or on the margins, especially the LGBTQ+ community, but you don’t need high-minded reasons to want to experience LA Pride Week – you can just want to have fun. Because this is, after all, one hell of a party :-).5. Bauhaus Exhibition (June 11th-October 13th). The Bauhaus was an art and design school in Weimar, Germany, established just after World War One. It quickly became incredibly influential, influencing the development of Art Deco and later post-modernism. Oh and the last director was Mies van der Rohe. Check out this exhibition at the beautiful Getty Museum.6. Eat|See|Hear (June 1st-22nd). One of the biggest of the outdoor movie screening organisers in Los Angeles these guys are all about movies, music and food trucks. It turns out that putting them all together creates a really fun night. This month they’re screening Young Frankenstein, The Princess Bride, Thelma and Louise and Fight Club.7. Jazz at LACMA (June 7th-28th). You never need an excuse to go to LACMA, but they’ve given you a good one here. One of the nicest things about these concerts is that they’re all organised around some of the very best L.A. Jazz musicians, so celebrating Los Angeles’ important role in Jazz.8. LA Zoo Sustainable Wine + Dinner Series (June 27th). Great food and good wine isn’t necessarily what you would expect from a visit to the zoo, but you’ll get that and more here. The evening offers “farm-to-table dinners, local wineries, and an exciting take on conservation and sustainability”. So there are talks on important various conservation issues, in cool parts of the zoo, followed by “animal encounters” and then a gourmet five-course meal with wine. Intrigued?9. Friday Night Wine Tastings, Barnsdall Park (June 7th– September 6th). Barnsdall Park is home to Hollyhock House, one of the most famous houses in Los Angeles. What’s so great about it? It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and it’s situated in a lovely little park, on top of a hill, overlooking Hollywood and Los Angeles. Bring a blanket and a picnic, add wine and enjoy!10. Fluxus Festival and Noon to Midnight (June 1st). Fluxus is an art movement, beginning in the 1960’s, that seeks to break down the walls between art and life. Sounds good, but what does that mean, right? In this instance a performance in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where performers will mingle with the audience and slowly a thousand voices will rise up in harmony. After that it’s food trucks and beer gardens. How does that sound?By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that in my humble opinion since...Posted on : 29th May 2019
- The toughest part of developing our DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour was reading about all the horrible murders that have taken place in and around downtown Los Angeles while I was researching it. I couldn’t get the gory details out of my mind. It seemed incredible that one human being could do these things to another. Of all the serial killers that I researched arguably the worst was Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker.Ramirez’s reign of horror began in June 1984 and for more than a year he terrorized Los Angeles, spending his nights driving around, looking for houses and apartments he could break into. Once inside he would attempt to kill any men and rape, then kill, any women that were inside. He would also take all the money, jewelry and other valuables he could find or persuade his petrified victims to give him. In the end he killed thirteen people. Throughout his crime spree he was a transient, sometimes living on the streets, or staying in cheap hotels and motels. The then night clerk at the Hotel Cecil, on Main St, swore that Ramirez spent a few weeks at the hotel during this period and it somehow seems preordained that it would be this downtown hotel that he would stay in, as the Cecil has its own hellish history, which includes multiple suicides, murders, deaths and rapes.Probably one reason I found it hard to get his crimes out of my head is the impossibility of understanding his motives. Was he a psychopath? Is it that simple? There’s always been a debate as to whether killers like Ramirez are created by circumstance or if they are born that way. In Ramirez’s case it seems likely that his own childhood experiences of abuse had a big impact. He saw his cousin, Miguel, shoot his wife in the face and later that was something he did to several of his victims.In describing Ramirez to guests on our tour I tell them to imagine him as the Terminator and I paraphrase a line from the first film in the series. There was no stopping this guy. You couldn’t negotiate with him and you couldn’t appeal to anything human in him. He wanted to kill, rape and rob – he almost seemed programmed for it. Friends of mine that lived in L.A. at the time still remember the period with a shudder. Thankfully he was stopped, finally, in August 1985. It’s very likely nowadays that right-wing politicians would use the fact that Ramirez was Latino to encourage anti-immigrant sentiment, but ironically it was a group of Hispanic women who pointed him out to police (a mug shot by then having been released to the media by the authorities). He was chased by a group of Latino men across a freeway, before being beaten up and captured. It’s said he was quite glad when the police showed up and rescued him!Richard Ramirez died in prison, in 2013, but his crimes continue to fascinate.(This article also appeared in the DTLA Book 2019)By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE NIGHT STALKER
The toughest part of developing our DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour was reading about all the...Posted on : 20th May 2019
- 1 Les Miserables (May 7th – June 5th). What can one say about Les Mis (as you should DEFINITELY call it if you can’t pronounce the name in full) that hasn’t already been said? As it says on the poster: “The Musical Phenomenon”). And it really is! Here it is – rolling into town – nearly forty years old and looking great for it’s age no doubt. Why is it so popular? Because it’s a timeless story told with some beautiful music. Go see it!2. Mainopoly (May 26th). Santa Monica at any time is just a great place to hang out. You don’t need an excuse. But in any case we’re giving you one: Mainopoly. What is Mainopoly? It’s a music and street festival that plays itself out on the streets around Main Street in Santa Monica. Sounds good, right?3. Cinespia (May 11th onwards). The ongoing movie screening program at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is back and it’s got some great films on the list this year. Really? Yeah – The Matrix, Rear Window and Jaws.4. Food Bowl (May 1st – 31st). A new type of Food Festival? Well this one “features hundreds of events across Los Angeles with a mix of local favorites and world-renowned chefs. Spanning 31 days of food, Food Bowl encompasses a mix of dinners, parties, tours, pop-ups, classes and our 5-day Night Market in Grand Park.” I like food festivals, so I’m betting I’ll like this one.5. Beverly Hills Art Show (May 18th – 19th). This annual art show stretches for several blocks along the famous Beverly Gardens stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, right in the heart of 90210. This isn’t a high-end art sale for millionaires, it involves art, but also jewelry, ceramics, photography and sculpture. Great place to pick up a memento of that trip to LA?6. RuPaul’s DragCon Los Angeles 2019 (May 24th – 26th). I think you know who RuPaul is – and if you don’t I’m not going to be able to give you an adequate description here… This drag convention promises “three days of art, pop culture and all things drag. Join your squirrel friends in discussions that range from political resistance to fabulous makeovers.” With the crowd that you’re going to get going to this one it’s for sure going to be entertaining.7. Beachlife Festival (May 3rd – 5th). This is the inaugural version of this Redondo Beach based music fest, so the reviews aren’t in yet, but I feel with the location and the promised line-up this should be a fun L.A. event. Who’s on the list? Brian Wilson (how L.A. is that), Willie Nelson and Ziggy Marley to mention just a few of the well-known names.8. An Evening with the Clintons (May 4th). The ultimate in power couples plays the Forum in Inglewood for this one night. The fact is, love them or hate them, the Clinton’s have been there or there-about for many of the biggest events of the last thirty years. Even if you hate them what could be more beneficial than hearing what they have to say to make up your mind. Unmissable.9. PhotovilleLA (May 2nd – 5th). The Largest Photographic Event in New York City Is Coming to Los Angeles apparently. For the first time in it’s seven year history no less! The exhibition uses shipping containers, light cubes and lightboxes to create a festival like atmosphere. Sounds intriguing, right?10. Moby (May 6th). You know Moby. He wrote and produced the album Play, which was completely ubiquitous all those years ago around the beginning of the new millennium (oh those halcyon days!). Turns out he went a little off the rails back then. Which is what this tour is about. It asks the question “what do you do when you realise you have everything you think you’ve ever wanted but still feel completely empty? What do you do when it all starts to fall apart?” Good question. To answer it check out his show.By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN MAY
1 Les Miserables (May 7th – June 5th). What can one say about Les Mis (as you should DEFINITELY...Posted on : 01st May 2019
- On our LA In A Day Tour and The Real Hollywood Tour we pay respects to a Los Angeles institution, which this year is celebrating its centenary. Musso and Frank’s Grill opened in 1919, when Hollywood was something of a Bohemian enclave, seven miles from the political, financial and commercial center of Los Angeles, which at that time was downtown. Back in those days, Charles Chaplin would come with his employees, galloping down Hollywood Boulevard on horseback – and whoever came last would pick up the tab! The party kept their eyes on the horses from the only booth with a window view, which is still known as the Chaplin booth and is, so I’ve been told, by far the most requested table in the restaurant.Musso and Frank’s has changed little in its first hundred years of business, inside the Hollywood history is almost palpable. The menu and cocktails are exactly how you would want them to be, timeless classics, and the clientele continue to include the movers and shakers of the entertainment industry. As a movie location, Musso and Frank’s has featured in several notable films including Ed Wood (1994), Oceans Eleven (2001) and Chaplin (1992). The Hollywood icon, originally named Francois, opened in 1919, with the feel of a New York cafe and was an immediate hit with the East Coast movie crowd who nicknamed it “Frank’s”. When owner Frank Toulet teamed with restaurateur Joseph Musso in the early 1920’s it became Musso and Frank’s. It was sold to Italian immigrants Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso in 1927 and has been a Hollywood Boulevard fixture ever since. Today Mosso’s three granddaughters and their children run the restaurant. Its cultural role in the life of Los Angeles blossomed when, in 1935, Stanley Rose moved his famous bookstore, a hangout for many screenwriters and novelists, from Vine Street to a shop neighboring Musso and Frank’s. The fusion of these two Hollywood institutions created an unofficial club for the Hollywood set. Historian Kevin Starr writes: “The bookshop and the bar [at Musso & Frank’s] operated together with superb synergy, creating a welcomed sense of community for screenwriters suffering from an understandable sense of displacement.”The place became known as the Genesis of Hollywood and had an impact on the immediate locality with the Screen Writers Guild finding its home in the lovely Art Deco building directly opposite, along with many other bookstores, including Larry Edmunds, which opened in 1937 and has survived to this day. These writer-friendly environments inspired the title of Edmund Wilson’s 1940 monograph, The Boys in the Back Room: Notes on California Novelists, with one of the boys, a twenty-five-year-old Orson Welles, writing Citizen Kane in one of the booths in 1941 (a brass plaque marks the spot).In a town that doesn’t always hold fast to its history, Musso & Frank’s remains one of the strongest connections we have to the spirit of Golden Age of Hollywood, when the creative community required physical spaces to find like minds, to co-create and to do business. Everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Bukowski has breathed, laughed, eaten and drank here – and so it continues today, discreetly, with the restaurant’s current celebrity clientele. By Stuart WoodStuart Wood is a guide for The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @stuiewood100 YEARS OF MUSSO & FRANK’S GRILL
On our LA In A Day Tour and The Real Hollywood Tour we pay respects to a...Posted on : 12th Apr 2019
- 1. Foodie Con (April 6-7). Love food? It may seem like a funny question – who doesn’t, right? But some people just aren’t that bothered. If you’re like me though and you do love it, then you’ll want to go to this festival. It’s just on the edge of downtown’s South Park, with easy access by public transit, and promises classes, presentations, tastings, drinks and just all round foodie fun. 2. Cinco de Mayo (April 28). Fiesta Broadway is in its 30thyear and is one of the big celebrations here in Los Angeles. What is Cinco de Mayo? It means 5th of May and It’s the annual celebration of the Mexican’s defeating the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Confusingly it’s not really considered such a big deal in Mexico – but it is in L.A. Join the fun as downtown shuts the streets off to cars, well known Latin American bands give performances, local vendors provide great food and carnival style games rule. This year we get the party going early. Why not?3. Earth Day (April 11). What could be better right now than celebrating this precious planet that we inhabit, as it’s increasingly under threat – from us? Earth Day events are centered on Grand Park, in downtown, and offers “ideas and solutions on how to live clean and go green. The annual event features performances, children’s recycled-art projects, e-waste collection, drought tolerant plant tours, plant giveaways and demonstrations of the latest in green technology.”4. Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (April 13-14). Even in this modern age, with smart phones, tablets and computers, there’s still something very nice about reading from an actual, you know, book. They also make for great home decoration. Since 1996 the festival has grown into the largest one of its kind in the entire United States. Based on the USC campus, the event features readings, including performances by well-known authors and poets and loads and loads of, you know, books.5. Noir City: Hollywood (March 29-April 7). Film Noir is a movie genre that gets its name from the French, but it started in Hollywood. Many of the most famous examples, such as Double Indemnity and Kiss Me Deadly are set in L.A. Directors and writers loved the idea of setting such dark stories about man’s moral ambiguity and illicit desires against the sunny backdrop of the city of angels. This Noir Festival is at the historic Egyptian Theatre in the heart of Hollywood and is not to be missed.6. Knott’s Boysenberry Festival (March 29-April 28). Knott’s Berry Farm is in Anaheim, just south of Los Angeles (near the Mouse Kingdom) and is a great place to visit if you’re in Southern California (it’s also considerably cheaper than Disneyland). The Boysenberry festival is “features over 75 one-of-a-kind boysenberry inspired dishes, drinks and more, plus foot-stompin’ entertainment, the Wine and Craft Brew Tasting Garden, and family fun”. Sounds good to me!7. Craig Ferguson (Ace Hotel, April 4). Craig Ferguson was for years the host of The Late Late Show, bringing his inimitable and free-ranging humor to a wide audience. This month the historic and beautiful theater at the Ace Hotel, in downtown, is hosting his stand-up comedy show. A great show by an in-form comedian is one of the best nights that you can have – this should be it.8. Wanderlust 108 (April 27). Los Angeles has quite a reputation for being, how can I put this, very New Agey and this Mindful Triathlon (the only one in the world apparently) is the perfect example of L.A. being on the cutting edge of the New Age. But then, can you blame us? What could be better than going to Santa Monica, on what will almost certainly be a lovely day, to run 5K and then join a mass Yoga event, fuelled by DJ’s. Oh, and after that you get to meditate for twenty-five minutes to clear your mind and relax your body. Namaste!9. Thai New Year Festival (April 28). Los Angeles is a city of neighborhoods: downtown, Venice, Koreatown, Hollywood, Little Ethiopia and many others. Thai Town, in East Hollywood, seems like the perfect place to celebrate Thai New Year. It’s one of the largest festivals in the L.A. area, as the streets close to traffic and simply amazing food is on offer everywhere you look. Even if you’re not super into Thai food there’s Thai Boxing, parades and stage entertainment to keep you occupied.10. Skirball Puppet Festival (April 28). A puppet show is one of those things that you may not have ever seen, and may not have ever really thought about going to see, but that once you do see one you fall in love with the art form. L.A. is home to the famous Bob Baker Marionette Theater, who will be performing here, but that’s not all we have to offer the puppetry world – we also have this amazing festival. Why are puppets shows cool? Because of the very fact that you have to work to suspend your disbelief, that once you do, and you really buy into it, it seems so magical. Take the little ones – they’ll love it.By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN APRIL
1. Foodie Con (April 6-7). Love food? It may seem like a funny question – who doesn’t,...Posted on : 30th Mar 2019
- In honor of Black History Month (last month) and Women’s History Month (this month) we’ve decided to remember Biddy Mason, an African American woman who moved to Los Angeles (against her will) in the 1850’s, only to become a wealthy businesswoman and much loved community leader.The 1850 census for the city of Los Angeles showed only 12 persons of African descent and in the subsequent years, African-Americans struggled to find a place for themselves in the nascent town of less than 5,000 inhabitants. Lynching, illegal bounty hunters and California’s wishy-washy commitment to black freedom dogged them in their efforts to find work and raise their families. It was into this world that Biddy Mason stepped in 1856.Born in Georgia in 1818, the teenage Biddy was taken from her family and given as a wedding present to a man called Robert Smith. She had no education and would never learn to read, but she learned about child-birth and herbal medicines from other slave women and became well-regarded as a midwife. While working for Smith, Biddy gave birth to three daughters: Ellen, Ann and Harriet - all, apparently, fathered by her master.Smith, a Mormon, was inspired by church leaders to move West and so Biddy and her children were compelled to follow him to establish a new Mormon community, in what would become Salt Lake City, Utah (at that time part of Mexico). In 1848 she walked with her youngest on her back and two other daughters in tow for 2,000 miles, behind Smith’s wagon. Biddy’s responsibilities included serving as a midwife to several black and white babies born en route.Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – Biddy’s migration was not yet complete, as several years later Smith and his household would set out once again, this time for San Bernardino, California, to establish another Mormon community. Ignoring Brigham Young’s warning that slavery was illegal in California, Smith brought Mason and his other slaves nearly a thousand miles through the mountains and over the high plains, to the new community. In December 1855 Smith, fearing the loss of his slaves, decided to move to Texas, still at that time a slave state, where he could sell them for a profit. However Robert Owens, a successful black businessman in Los Angeles, had a vested interest in Biddy because one of his sons was romantically involved with Mason’s 17-year-old daughter, Ellen. When Owens told the County Sheriff that slaves were being held illegally, the lawman gathered a posse, which apprehended Smith’s wagon train en route to Texas and brought the group to the small town of Los Angeles (as it was only just becoming known then).So Biddy sued Smith in court for her freedom. Smith did not appear, nonetheless claiming that she and her family were not slaves, but members of his family (which at least seems to have been true of her children). Since California law at the time prohibited blacks from testifying in court, Biddy couldn’t speak on her own behalf. Nevertheless Judge Benjamin Hayes met with her privately and soon after found in her favor, citing California’s constitution, which prohibited slavery. At long last, at the age of thirty-eight years old, Biddy was a free woman.Biddy then moved to Los Angeles, accepting an invitation to live with the Owens family, and her life began to take a turn for the better. Her daughter Ellen married Robert’s son, Charles and Biddy herself began to work for Dr. John Griffin, a Los Angeles physician who was the brother-in-law of Judge Hayes. She quickly became much sought after as a nurse and midwife, assisting in hundreds of births to mothers of all races and social classes. She also gained a reputation for her herbal remedies. Biddy earned $2.50 a day working for Griffin and over ten years Biddy thriftily saved up the then princely sum of $250. Using that nest egg, in 1866, she bought two lots on the then-remote Spring Street, becoming one of the first African American women to ever own property in Los Angeles. There, on one parcel of her property, she built a clapboard house, which she occupied for the rest of her life. On the other parcel she built some small houses to rent for additional income (in an early version of Airbnb). However as the town began to rapidly grow after the transcontinental railroad reached L.A. in 1876, this ex-slave revealed a hitherto dormant talent for entrepreneurialism, buying several more lots. As the town continued to develop, her investments ultimately became the central commercial district of Los Angeles.By the 1880’s Biddy had become an independently wealthy woman. She spoke fluent Spanish and was a well-known figure, dining on occasion at the home of Pio Pico, the wealthy Los Angeles rancher, African-Mexican and last governor of the Mexican territory of Alta California. Biddy fed and sheltered the poor and visited prisoners in the local jail, bringing gifts and aid. She was instrumental in founding a traveler’s aid center and an elementary school for black children. Because of her kind and giving spirit many called her Grandma Mason. Biddy also organized the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest African American church in the city, in her living room. Their first church was built at a site donated by Biddy on Azuza Street, in what’s now Little Tokyo.Biddy Mason died in 1891 at the age of 73 and was buried in an unmarked grave at the Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. Nearly a century later, her accomplishments were finally given the respect they were due when a tombstone, marking her grave for the first time, was unveiled in a ceremony attended by Mayor Tom Bradley, the first African American mayor of Los Angeles, and several thousand members of the F.A.M.E church. November 16, 1989, was declared Biddy Mason Day in Los Angeles. On the following day, the Broadway Spring Center, where Biddy’s homestead once stood, was opened. The site (known as Biddy Mason Park) includes a memorial wall dedicated to Biddy, which we visit on our LA: Wild West to Now tour. What a lady!By Margaret Wineland and Damien BlackshawBRIDGET “BIDDY” MASON: A LOS ANGELES PIONEER WHO BROKE ALL THE RULES
Margaret is on twitter: @maggiewineland.
Damien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
In honor of Black History Month (last month) and Women’s History Month (this month) we’ve...Posted on : 19th Mar 2019
- 1. Contemplate the nothingness of existence at the Broad (all month). Visit this new kid on the block that’s no longer the new kid on the block – the museum’s now their older, more attractive sibling. In addition to the superlative 2000 piece collection rattling around upstairs there are now TWO infinity rooms downstairs to complete the seismic upgrade. You can even visit MedMen in downtown on the way in, in order to better appreciate the said nothingness.2. Watch a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium (March 28th). What could be a better thing to in Los Angeles in Spring than take part in this time-honored ritual? As recently as 2 years ago the Dodgers came within a whisker of winning the World Series. Welcome them home for the new season!3. LA Marathon (March 24th). What better way to spend time than showing up to the largest marathon on the west coast and joining all the other masochists taking part by putting yourself through a living hell? Seriously – you may not want to run for anything like 26 miles, but why not show up and cheer on the foolhardy, but determined, souls that do?4. See Cats at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre (March 1st-24th). See this Musical Theatre classic at the beautiful and historic Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, near Vine St. “Midnight, not a sound from the pavement…”5. See a different side of Los Angeles with CicLAvia (March 3rd). CicLAvia has only been a good thing for LA, closing streets to traffic all round the city for these events that feel most like a jamboree crossed with a street protest. This version is taking place in Culver City, Mar Vista and Palms. You can easily get to it via the Metro Expo Line.6. Become an art connoisseur at ArtNight Pasadena (March 8th). There are many reasons to visit Pasadena – the restaurants and bars of Old Town Pasadena, the Rose Bowl, going to the Norton Simon Museum or for that matter the Huntington Library (although technically that’s in San Marino) – but here’s another one. Pasadena has an underrated collection of art museums and this is the perfect opportunity to bring yourself up to speed on them.7. Visit the Descanso Gardens (March 16th). “As the sun sets, Descanso sinks into darkness and the fun begins.” Sounds exciting, right? Well it is! There’s music, science, “libations” and surprises. What more could you ask for?8. Laugh at Judd Apatow (March 2nd). Judd’s been pretty successful – you could say things worked out pretty well for him with the old writing/directing career. But he’s not resting on his laurels, oh no. Recently he got back into stand-up, where he started back in the day (not that successfully at the time, at least according to him) and you can catch him doing a set at the Largo. Some of his famous friends may show up as special guests…9. Watch a Ballet Hispanico performance (March 22nd and 23rd). Ballet Hispánico are the premier Latino dance-company in the U.S. and they explore the different Latino communities experiences through dance. Catch them doing their ground-breaking work the Broad Stage while you can.10. Celebrate St Patrick’s Day in DTLA (March 17th). What could be more authentic to Los Angeles than celebrating the famous patron saint of Ireland in downtown? Well, you may know that St Patrick’s day is a pretty big thing on this side of the pond too and Angeleno’s need no excuse for a street party – after all the weather’s much for better for it than back home on the often damp Emerald Isle. The New York and Chicago celebrations are bigger, but we make up for it here with our laid-back and light-hearted enjoyment of the day.By Damien BlackshawTHE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN MARCH 2019
Damien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
1. Contemplate the nothingness of existence at the Broad (all month). Visit this new kid on...Posted on : 28th Feb 2019
- With this month being the start of the lunar New Year (as celebrated in China and much of Asia) we wanted to take a look at the birth of Chinese-American culture in Los Angeles.The oldest surviving building of Los Angeles’ Old Chinatown is the Garnier Building (not to be confused with the nearby Garnier Block), which was built for local Chinese merchants in 1890 on the edge of the historic Pueblo area. Unfortunately in 1933 Los Angeles’ city fathers ordered the clearing of most of the neighborhood, where Chinese residents had been living for decades, in order to construct Union Station. Although many blocks, including several bordellos, gambling houses and opium dens were razed, a respectable section survived until the middle of the century, before the city ordered its destruction to make way for the 101 Hollywood freeway. By that time Chinatown had been re-imagined and re-constructed a little to the north, in what had been Los Angeles’ very own Little Italy. It was this – Los Angeles’ old Chinatown – that gave its name to the famous noir movie Chinatown, which was set during the 1930’s.There had been a Chinese community in Los Angeles since the 1850’s, when many Chinese made the dangerous journey across the Pacific hoping to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush. However due to their distinctive clothing, customs and language they weren’t easily accepted into American Society and faced increasing hostility, culminating in the Chinatown Massacre of 1871, still one of the worst mass lynching’s in U.S. history. In spite of this, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1883, the community survived and even thrived into the late nineteenth century in an area centered on Alameda and Macy (now Cesar Chavez) streets.Commissioned by Basque settler and successful businessman Philippe Garnier and solidly constructed from limestone and brick, the Garnier Building was a cultural home and sanctuary for early Chinese Angelenos, who had exclusive use of the building. General merchants, where locals could gather and gossip, lawyers and a Chinese Laundrymen’s Association were located on the ground and mezzanine levels, while social organizations (such as Tongs), schools and temples occupied the second floor. Being closer to heaven the top level was considered more appropriate for these institutions and, amongst other things, they would help resolve business and personal disagreements, care for the elderly and act as mediators between the community and Anglo Los Angeles. There were also theatrical and Chinese opera performances for the community. Many businesses and organizations that occupied the Garnier Building during this period are still active today in Southern California. It was almost considered a Chinese City Hall.What Los Angeles now considers its Chinatown is actually ‘New Chinatown’, only a few blocks away. It looks more Chinese, with its architectural China-fications, even on the modern buildings, but the Garnier Building, despite its strictly Western look, with a commercial Italianatefaçade, is the most Chinese building in Los Angeles. In fact, since the more famous San Francisco Chinatown was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, it’s been the oldest and most significant building associated with the Chinese community in any of California’s cities.The Garnier Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 as part of the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District. In 1987 the local Chinese community, including many descendants of those Chinese American pioneer families, formed the Friends of the Chinese American Museum, with the Garnier Building as the home for the museum. This is the group that puts on L.A.’s not-to-be-missed Lantern Festival in March. The El Pueblo Commission, the state-appointed group that runs the Plaza Historic area, also helped fund initial work. Many Chinese American families and businesses have donated cherished possessions to the museum, including antique furniture, children’s toys, herbal store furnishings and supplies, traditional wedding gowns, photographs and letters from loved ones. Elderly Chinese Americans have also had their memories of growing up in Old Chinatown recorded on audiotape.The City of Los Angeles’ contribution to the C.A.M. is substantial and demonstrates its commitment to small multicultural venues. For $1 a year, the city and state of California rent 7,200 square feet of the Garnier Building to the museum and fund the employees to staff it. We only wish the rest of the Historic Plaza’s unused buildings could be utilized so effectively!By Margaret Wineland and Damien BlackshawMargaret is on twitter: @maggiewineland.WHERE IS LOS ANGELES’ CHINATOWN?
Damien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
With this month being the start of the lunar New Year (as celebrated in China...Posted on : 21st Feb 2019
- 1. Night of Ideas (Feb 1st). Night of Ideas is a worldwide event that celebrates the stream of ideas between countries, cultures and generations. Each year people from around the globe come together to learn about and discuss the latest discoveries and issues facing the world at that time. This year’s theme, “Facing Our Time,” explores global challenges around ecological and climate change through the lenses of science, nature, and art. Los Angeles’ entry is a collaboration between the Natural History Museum and the Consulate General of France.2. Elton John at the Forum (Feb 1stand 2nd). Elton John surely needs no introduction – even my eight year old knows some of his songs. He’s up there with the greats of popular music and he’s playing two dates at the Forum in Inglewood. There are still some tickets available…3. Museum Free For All (Feb 2ndand 3rd). We’re very lucky in Los Angeles to have the array of world-class institutions that are here. At the beginning of February many of them throw open their doors to let the general public in for nothing. Take full advantage of it!4. Sleepless: the Music Center After Hours (Feb 9th). What is this? It’s a series of late-night immersive art “happenings” that take place in the various spaces of the Music Center. Sleepless invites Los Angeles-based artists to re-imagine the Music Center experience through live music, performance and art. Sleepless: Quinceañera Reimagined takes on and plays with issues of class, gender and sexuality, and asserts the power of women. 5. Celebrate Lunar New Year in Chinatown (Feb 9th). As most people know, the Chinese and other Asian countries (and their descendents here) celebrate the lunar New Year in February. This means an annual Golden Dragon Parade (this year is the 120th) through L.A.’s Chinatown, near downtown, in which tens of thousands take part. It’s fun, it’s loud, it’s colourful – and watch out for the red packets of money.6. Cupid’s Undie Run (Feb 9th). This is one of those activities that might lead to raising an eyebrow or rolling the eyes – along with a comment along the lines of: “only in LA!” Running through the streets of Santa Monica in one’s underwear?! Except that this isn’t only in L.A. (it’s being held in cities all over the U.S.) and it’s “a brief, mile(ish), fun run that takes place in the middle of a BIG party – all to find a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic tumor disorder that affects 1 in every 3,000 births”. So there you have it. This is a run in your smalls in aid of a good cause.7. Downtown LA Art Walk (Feb 14th). The LA Art Walk is no longer up and coming, it’s been around for a while (we’re now in the 15th year), but it’s always fun and it’s always interesting. There are over fifty galleries involved and more than ten thousand people attend. It’s a great way to experience downtown if you’re a visitor.8. Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Shows (Feb 15th – 23rd). Even if you’re not into basketball there’s something so infectiously fun about watching these guys do their tricks and show off some serious court skills. Tickets start at a reasonable $25 and, if you’re new to the states, what could be more culturally correct than experiencing a sport as American as this while in the U.S.9. Travel & Adventure Show (Feb 16thand 17th). Most people who come on our tours are into travel, it goes with the territory as it were, so this kind of event should be right up your street. At “America’s favorite travel show” attendees can explore different travel options, plan trips and attend seminars. All useful preparation for your next trip.10. Academy Awards (Feb 24th). Another event that surely needs no explanation. It’s the big cahuna, as far as the entertainment industry is concerned. It’s grown a lot since the early days – when just a few hundred people were invited and the whole thing would take barely half an hour. And it wasn’t televised live. But now it is and the whole of Hollywood is shut down for the weekend of the ceremony (we can’t operate tours in Hollywood on the day of the Oscars). There are many viewing parties around Los Angeles, often in movie theaters and bars. Why not take the opportunity to enjoy it with some Los Angeles natives as it takes place in another part of the city?By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN FEBRUARY
1. Night of Ideas (Feb 1st). Night of Ideas is a worldwide event that celebrates the...Posted on : 01st Feb 2019
- The South Park neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing enormous change at the moment, as new apartment and condo blocks sprout upwards and older buildings (such as the beautiful old Herald Examiner Building) are renovated and repurposed. The Staples Center, LA Live, restaurants, galleries and watering holes are steadily luring Angelenos to the area and property values are sky-rocketing. However, despite South Park’s popularity and despite having housed the publishing offices of Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs (who also gave the Tarzana neighborhood of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley its name, since he had a ranch there), the beautiful structure that is the Commercial Exchange Building on 8th and Olive Streets sat lonely and vacant for decades, not commercially viable due to the need for costly renovations and modifications and so rejected by one developer after another – until recently. This is even more noteworthy due to the building’s very unique engineering history. The Commercial Exchange Building was constructed in 1924 as offices, with ground floor retail space, to a design by the well-known Los Angeles architectural firm Walker and Eisen, architects of the nearby Fine Arts Building (which was completed in 1926). It’s a great example of the Beaux Arts architectural style that was all the rage in the U.S. at the time, although the design itself is not truly remarkable. Unfortunately a few years after the building had been completed the growing car culture in Los Angeles (which took off in the 1920’s) necessitated widening many of downtown’s streets, including Olive. In 1929 the city demanded that five feet be taken off the west side of the Commercial Exchange building, entailing the destruction of its beautiful bay windows and brick and terracotta cladding on that side. Enter George Kress, a house-mover since 1902, who’d had no formal engineering training but had made a successful business from this popular service. Believe it or not, but at that time homes were often moved, sometimes more than once in their lifetimes, usually by a team of horses and a big flatbed wagon. Especially in fast-growing Los Angeles entrepreneurial property owners found it profitable to sell the downtown land their house sat on and then move their entire home to an outlying area. So when the widening of Olive St. threatened the Commercial Exchange Building Kress devised a plan to save it.In 1935 he removed five feet of brick, masonry and steel from the CENTER of the structure, top to bottom, like removing a slice of bread from the middle of a loaf. Then, an inch at a time, using a series of jacks, tracks and a crew of seventy-five men, Kress moved the western half of the Commercial Exchange to join it back together with its other half. All this, apparently, while the workers inside went about their business at their desks (bear in mind that Kress is the house mover reputed to have moved a mansion in three pieces from downtown to Hancock Park while a party went on inside). The two Commercial Exchange Building pieces were reunited in nine hours, not one worker was injured and, Kress boasted, not a single window was broken. According the Los Angeles Times the whole operation cost $60,000. A truly remarkable piece of engineering for a very reasonable price, doubtlessly inspiring Burroughs, who was at the time developing a new Tarzan movie.Today the Commercial Exchange Building has become the Freehand Hotel, with a wonderful rooftop bar and swimming pool (see photo below). Since downtown Los Angeles’ unique adaptive reuse ordinance has resulted in massive residential development ‘between the four freeways’ over the past twenty years, many Angelenos expected the Commercial Exchange Building to become expensive condos or apartments. But since hotels add more to a city’s coffers than almost all other potential uses that this historic building could have, it makes sense that the Freehand developer was the one to finally bring the Commercial Exchange Building back to life. I’m sure that practical, solutions-oriented George R. Kress would approve.By Margaret Wineland and Damien BlackshawMargaret is on twitter: @maggiewineland.LOS ANGELES’ COMMERCIAL EXCHANGE BUILDING’S UNIQUE HISTORY
Damien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
The South Park neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing enormous change at the moment,...Posted on : 15th Jan 2019
- 1. The Nutcracker: with the Los Angeles Ballet or the Moscow Ballet (dates throughout December). What could be more Christmassy than going to see this Yuletide staple? What’s more several performances of the Los Angeles Ballet’s version are at the Dolby Theatre. That’s right! Where the annual Academy Awards are held. The Wiltern Theatre, the venue for the Moscow Ballet’s production, is also very beautiful, with its 1920′s art deco design.2. Christmastime at Harry Potter World: (through December) what can we say about Harry Potter that hasn’t already been said? Many times. But the world of Harry Potter does seem, somehow, to be perfectly attuned to Christmas. Universal are being tight-lipped about what new twists they’re adding tot he attraction this year, but either way this is sure to be fun. 3. The Groundlings Holiday Show: (dates through December). The Groundlings is a breeding ground for comic talent that often ends up becoming very famous – including such talents as Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte to name just two. Their shows are usually very funny – and very reasonably priced. You may even see some well-known faces in the audience too! 4. Los Angeles Auto Show: (November 30-December 9). Some people are really into cars. If that’s you then get down to the Los Angeles Auto Show. It’s one of the biggest auto shows in the world – which makes sense for a city that’s so associated with driving. You can often see cool concept cars presented here before anywhere else, so it’s also a good way to see what the future of personal transportation could be like.5. Grand Park’s Winter Glow: (December 1-25). For the first time Grand Park is hosting an immersive nighttime art experience in celebration of the holidays, so that “families will make new holiday memories, strolling together through this 12-acre art, projection and light display… and experience the wonder of Grand Park lit up like never before”. It’s free. Sounds cool, right?6. CicLAvia: Heart of L.A.: (December 2). CicLAvia is without doubt one of the best things to happen to Los Angeles in the last decade. When whole neighborhoods, which had been lost to pedestrians and cyclists and taken over by cars, are periodically reclaimed by banning said cars, it’s amazing what can happen. People walking, cycling and having fun – suddenly Los Angeles feels like a very different place and we can realize that actually L.A. wasn’t designed around the car.7. Ice Skating in downtown Los Angeles: (throughout December). The annual ice skating rink in Pershing Square is always fun to visit, even if you’re skating skills are pretty rudimentary (as are mine). As the area around the park continues to develop it’s only going to get better and better. 8. Santa Monica Pub Crawl: (December 8). Pub crawl you say? Sign me up! Part of the joy of Christmas is the sense that it’s allowed – and even encouraged – to have just a little too much to drink… to get into the spirit of the season of course. And when you combine that with a pub crawl, well, you’re getting some exercise too. Santa Monica is almost the perfect place to have a pub crawl (the other is downtown), since there are so many great bars within walking distance of each other. Have fun! And stay safe!9. L.A. County Holiday Celebration: (December 24). This is a really fantastic FREE annual event held at the Music Center with all kinds of performers, from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, to Le Ballet Dembaya, to the Pasadena Girls’ Choir, to Kayamanan Ng Lahi Phillipine Folk Arts. It’s a cornucopia of Christmas celebrations and promises to be a lot of fun.10. New Year’s Eve Fireworks: (December 31). As you would expect we have fireworks celebrations to herald the New Year in Los Angeles. There are several different events around the L.A. area, but the big one for the city of Los Angeles is at Marina Del Rey, at the harbor. If fireworks are not your thing, or you want to try something different this year, consider going to the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Grand Park in downtown, which has a ball (like the one in Times Square, New York), DJ’s, food trucks and a big street party. By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN DECEMBER
1. The Nutcracker: with the Los Angeles Ballet or the Moscow Ballet (dates throughout December). What could be...Posted on : 30th Nov 2018
- The modern history of Los Angeles begins in 1781 with the Los Angeles Pobladores, the forty-four settlers who founded what is now known as Los Angeles on September 4thof that year. At that time the tiny settlement was on the far reaches of the Spanish Empire and it had been incredibly difficult for the Governor of Las Californias, Felipe de Neve, to find volunteers to make the dangerous journey north from Mexico to settle this distant frontier territory. In fact pioneers had only been forthcoming once they had been promised the gift of some free land in return for their cooperation. Of course Los Angeles in those early days was nothing like Los Angeles today. Not least its name was different – or at any rate much longer. When what’s known as the Portolà Expedition passed through the area in 1769 a Franciscan Friar from Spain called Juan Crespi had named the river that flowed through the valley El Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula. Quite a mouthful, right? The Portolà Expedition was the first expedition the Spanish had sent into the vast territory, from Colorado in the east to California in the west and from Montana in the north to Arizona in the south, that the Spanish Crown had claimed as its own. Of course the inhabitants of what’s since become Los Angeles, the Tongva, would have known nothing about the Spanish until 1769 and they had their own name for their main village, Yang-Na, meaning “place of the poison oaks”. In 1781, with the arrival of the Pobladores, it would be given a new title - the unwieldy El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula, so taking its name from its river. Over time it would be shortened to El Pueblo de Los Angeles and then Los Angeles (or even just L.A.).What is perhaps most interesting about the early Los Angeles settlers is just how diverse they were and the effect that diversity would have on the town that would eventually emerge. Only two of the Pobladores are listed as being Spanish or Peninsulares. This most probably meant they were of Spanish descent, since it’s highly unlikely that they had been born in Spain. The rest were a mix of either native Mexican, African, or mixed race – so basically Los Angeles was founded by people of Mexican and African heritage.By 1900 the African-American population had grown to around 2,200 people, mostly concentrated in what was known as the Furlong Tract, near downtown. The majority of those would have moved to Los Angeles after the Civil War, when, for obvious reasons, black people would have found it easier to move around the U.S. and could have moved West, looking for work. Some found a measure of success in Los Angeles that was not available in many other parts of the U.S. (such as Biddy Mason, probably the first female African American millionaire and the site of whose old home we visit on the LA: Wild West to Now tour), although, as one would expect, there were many barriers to success for them. The reason the African American community was concentrated in one area is because they were barred from almost any other part of L.A. by racist housing covenants that barred property owners from selling to black people – even if they’d wanted to, or if black people had been able to raise the money to buy property. This community produced the first African-American School in Los Angeles in 1910, the 51stStreet School, which hired its first African-American teacher, Bessie Bruington Burke, in 1911. She would become its first black principal in 1919, and the school would endure as the Holmes Avenue School to the present day.However, despite the evidence of Los Angeles’ rich history of ethnic diversity fueling its rise, there have been many attempts to suppress that past. In 1950 a plaque commemorating the Pobladores, and their ethnic diversity, was quietly installed in the Pueblo neighborhood. But, when the fact that the Pobladores had been such a mixed group became more widely known, the plaque was removed. Finally in 1981, the current plaque was installed, which lists the Pobladores along with their age, sex and ethnic background.By Grant Jossi & Damien BlackshawLOS ANGELES’ DIVERSE BEGINNINGS
You can email Grant Jossi: [email protected] Blackshaw is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
The modern history of Los Angeles begins in 1781 with the Los Angeles Pobladores, the...Posted on : 20th Nov 2018
- 1. Triforium Fridays (November 2nd). You can only now make the last act of this “three-part series of polyphonoptic parties” (the first two were in October). Nevertheles this is too offbeat and interesting not to make our list. The Triforium is an unloved sixty ton public artwork in downtown, which was apparently (according to the website) forty years ahead of its time. Many times there have been moves to demolish it – but it’s survived and “this fall… will live again. Its original light and sound programs will return, reacting in real-time to live musical performances” by THAO NGUYEN (of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down), TAIKOPROJECT, world champion whistler MOLLY LEWIS playing with accompaniment and RESTLESS NITES DJs. Piqued your curiosity?2. Tropicália Fest (November 2nd-3rd) Celebrate Mexican heritage, and music of all genres, during the massively expanded Tropicália Fest in Long Beach, with headlining sets by acts including Morrissey, Cardi B, Chicano Batman, Kalu Uchis, Mac DeMarco and Mazzy Star. Take the Blue Line to Long Beach and check it out!3. Puppet Up! Uncensored (November 2nd-3rd). This event, at the Jim Henson Company Lot (Charlie Chaplin’s old studio lot – a hundred years old last year) in Hollywood. The show promises “puppets behaving badly” and “comedy, music and mayhem”. Sounds intriguing, right? Just remember this isn’t a kids show – unless you’ll sitting next to your kids watching “raunchy, trash-talking puppets that’d make Miss Piggy blush”. Nuff said!4. Old Pasadena Day of the Dead (November 2nd-4th). The Day of the Dead is BIG in Los Angeles, so how about seeing it as “Old Pasadena celebrates the reverent yet vibrant Mexican holiday that honors loved ones who have passed before us. During the event, numerous Old Pasadena businesses will create beautiful altars in their spaces to showcase during the self-guided Tour of Altars”.5. Grand Ave Arts: All Access (November 2nd). Grand Avenue, from Central Library up to the Music Center, is one of the best cultural quarters in Los Angeles, housing the afore mentioned library, MOCA, the Broad Museum, the Colburn Music School, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, REDCAT, the L.A. Opera, Center Theater Group and Grand Park itself. On November 2ndall of the above hold fun and free events, such as scavenger hunts, talks, performances and tours. This is a must do!6. Rooftop Cinema Club (dates through November). Los Angeles loves outdoor cinemas – and why not? The weather’s perfect for them here and we do love our movies. It can get a bit chilly at night in November, but if you wrap up a little there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the experience. This particular series is at the historic CBS Television City, where many famous TV shows, and a few movies, have been shot.7. Rose Bowl Flea Market (November 11th). This is one of the largest and most famous flea markets in the world. Now in its 50thyear, around 20,000 people turn up to browse the 2,500 stalls in this historic stadium. A vast array of antiques, clothes, jewelry, arts and crafts and many other kinds of merchandise is available – as well as a good selection of food stalls. 8. AFI Film Festival (November 8th-15th). The American Film Institute was founded by Presidential decree in the 1960’s, to preserve American film heritage, educate filmmakers and honor the artists working in film. Obviously it’s always been based in Los Angeles. Every year the AFI organizes a film festival here and it’s a great one to see some classics and movies by emerging filmmakers. There are also panel discussions with well known directors and actors (amongst others).9. The Great Los Angeles Walk (November 17th). People don’t walk in L.A., right? It’s become such a cliché there was even a song titled exactly that. Well, they do! Especially for this annual event. Participants walk from Pershing Square in downtown to the sea, at Santa Monica (the route varies from year to year). Now in its 13thyear, this is a great way to see L.A. from a different perspective. And you don’t have to do the whole walk – you can just join the happy throng anywhere along the route.10. Annual Mariachi Festival (November 18th). Now in its 28thyear, the Mariachi Festival was established to promote mariachi music, the arts and the historically Latino community of Boyle Heights. The event is centered around the aptly named Mariachi Plaza. It’s a really fun, noisy and vibrant L.A. festival – with great food – and can be easily reached on the Gold Line via Mariachi Plaza Station.By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN NOVEMBER
1. Triforium Fridays (November 2nd). You can only now make the last act of this “three-part...Posted on : 30th Oct 2018
- On our Central Downtown LA Tour we stop at the Tower Theatre on the corner of Broadway and 8th Street. The clock on the tower is stuck at 6 o’ clock, and I usually joke that this was the exact time that the 1971 San Fernando earthquake struck, taking the top off the tower and freezing time. To my surprise, I recently found out that indeed the quake struck at 6 am!Like many of the historic theatres in downtown it has been dark for many years, closing in 1987, and has been featured in numerous films, perhaps most notably the David Lynch’s neo-noir, Mulholland Drive (2001). I had the pleasure of seeing its interior at the annual Night on Broadway, in which many of the movie palaces in downtown’s historic theater district open to the public, and the interior is extraordinarily ornate, with much of its original charm and magical atmosphere perfectly intact.The original fabric of the building resonates with a fascinating history. On the night of October 5th 1927, the theatre opened with a very special showing of a movie that would change the course of cinema - the first fully synchronized sound feature film, The Jazz Singer. The official premiere was held the following night in New York, but this was the theatre where the first audience saw Al Jolson turn to the camera and say, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”. The audience jumped out of their seats. It put Warner Bros into the major league and ushered in the new world of ‘talkies’. The Tower Theatre was also the first theater in Los Angeles to have refrigerated air conditioning, the mechanics of which could be viewed through glass portals by the patrons. Rumours had circulated for more than a year that tech giant Apple wanted to lease the theatre in order to fully restore it as an event space for Beats Music, and would put a new Apple store across the street in the 1905 May Department Store building, which is also being restored. This seemed like a perfect match, a gesture of Noblesse Oblige from a $trillion California company towards its home state. Maybe even drawing inspiration from downtown Oakland’s beautifully restored theaters, which have had a hugely positive impact on their neighborhood.However, I was devastated to find that recent plans reveal that the theatre will become a new Apple Store instead. My stomach literally turned! The stage will be removed along with the original balcony seating and exterior doors and who knows what else? Well, I can tell you who - the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, who have approved the designs and agreed for a change in use, from theater to retail. Could this be another nail in the coffin for any hope of Broadway becoming the cultural mecca that it once was? Apple Stores all over the world, have very much the same clinical, overpriced vibe, but there is, however, only one Tower Theatre. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Apple’s senior director of retail design BJ Siegel explained that the planned stored will be “in the upper echelon of what Apple does”. Turning a historic movie palace into a retail space is a loss for all of us. It amounts to cultural vandalism and generations to come will blame us for not fighting more fervently for its preservation.By Stuart WoodStuart Wood is a guide for The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @stuiewoodEXIT STAGE LEFT FOR THE TOWER THEATRE?
On our Central Downtown LA Tour we stop at the Tower Theatre on the corner...Posted on : 22nd Oct 2018
- 1. Knotts Scary Farm (September 20-October 31). There’s a distinctly Halloween-like flavor to our suggestions on the 10 best things to do in LA this month. Obviously it’s a big deal here in the U.S. and there are numerous events associated with it in L.A. According to their website Knott’s Scary Farm “is the largest and most haunting Halloween experience in Southern California.” That’s quite some claim, but it’s probably true and this is definitely something to think about if you’re visiting Los Angeles with kids.2. Los Angeles Haunted Hayride (September 29-October 31). Here’s another Halloween event, this one at Griffith Park, in the Old Zoo – one of the best places to do an event such as this. The Old Zoo used to be Los Angeles’ zoo until the current zoo opened and even in sunny daylight it’s an atmospheric place to wander, with its old cages and deep caves, but all dressed up for Halloween it’s something else. “In this haunted village Halloween never ends…”3. Diavolo: Architecture in Motion (October 12-14). Once again the dance company Diavolo return to the Music Center with their signature style that encompasses modern dance, acrobatics and gymnastics. Recently they were top ten finalists on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, which has raised their profile even more. In this show Diavolo explore the relationship between humans and their architectural environment.4. Taste of Soul (October 20). This is a fantastic free event that takes place every year (it’s now in its thirteenth) in October around Crenshaw Boulevard in west Los Angeles. Around 350,000 people attend, so it’s pretty big, and it celebrates all things “soulful”, including food, music and entertainment. Go early and go big!5. Oktoberfest Downtown (October 20-21). The other thing October is famous for – the annual Bavarian beer event. Oktoberfest has spread all over the world and of course we have our own editions here in Los Angeles. The one in downtown is probably the easiest to get to if you’re visiting Los Angeles and it’s in Pershing Square. Large quantities of beer are available (as you’d expect), there’s an entertainment line up featuring some cool bands and entry is only $5. So what are you waiting for?6. Street Food Cinema (October) “is L.A.’s largest outdoor movie series featuring cool movies, tasty food trucks, live music, interactive games and more!” Now that sounds like a pretty good combination to me. There are 14 different locations all over the city, so undoubtedly you can find one that works for you. Tickets are very reasonably priced, there are great food options available and the locations are all cool, interesting places to visit. Check it out!7. Dia de los Muertos (October 27) – the big Central American festival of the dead. This is a big deal in Los Angeles and Dia de los Muertos at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the best. Obviously the venue itself is a key part of that and wandering past the graves and tombs in the landscaped cemetery while passing Angelenos in full costume is quite an experience. Put this one down in the calendar and “honor the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the moon, stars, and the sun”.8. West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval (October 31). This is an enormous free event on the streets of West Hollywood and is a must do if you’re here on Halloween. You’ll never forget it. It’s one of Southern California’s largest events of any kind, as it feels like almost the entire population of L.A. has descended on the Carnival in full make-up and costume for a night of fun and abandon. Don’t even think about driving to this event – you’ll never get parking anywhere near it.9. Coast Open Streets Festival (October 7). This is a fun, family friendly, event that takes over the streets of Santa Monica every year. The idea is to close off the streets to vehicular traffic so people can, you know, actually walk around and enjoy the city. In this way the festival explores art, sustainability and mobility with live music, art installations, activities and food. 10. Joshua Tree Music Festival (October 4-7). Joshua Tree National Park is about two hours drive east of Los Angeles and had a weirdly beautiful, almost Martian like, landscape. October is actually a great time to visit, as the days are not as insanely hot as they are in the summer and the nights are not as cold as in winter. The festival itself features Grammy, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, World Music luminaries and “promotes personal growth through a variety of multidisciplinary workshops, such as yoga and movement, visual arts, music, and myth.” It’s also very family friendly and it’s not as intense as Burning Man. Commune, revel and bond!By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN OCTOBER
1. Knotts Scary Farm (September 20-October 31). There’s a distinctly Halloween-like flavor to our suggestions on...Posted on : 29th Sep 2018
- The theatre at 1735 Vine Street, now known as the Avalon, has been singularly successful over the course of its ninety one years (and counting). When it was born as the Hollywood Playhouse in 1927 most theaters were designed for moving pictures, meaning a smaller stage area was needed. The developers of the Hollywood Playhouse however still believed in ‘flesh shows’ (meaning live shows, not ‘nude’ as the name suggests) and gave it a full rope counterweight fly system for changing the background scenery and curtains, a double door to Vine Street and balcony seating. This has given it a long life as entertainment needs in Hollywood have changed over the last century.THE HOLLYWOOD PLAYHOUSE: FROM THEATRE, TO BURLESQUE, TO MICHAEL JACKSON
Built during a golden age of theater construction in California, the Hollywood Playhouse was constructed in the Churrigueresque, or Spanish Baroque, style, which was popular in the 1910′s and 20′s and is characterized by plain, adobe-looking walls and fancifully decorated windows and door openings. The architects were Gogerty and Weyl, who designed several other Hollywood landmarks that still stand.It’s had a number of names over the years including the Hollywood Playhouse, the WPA Federal Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, the Jerry Lewis Theatre, the Hollywood Palace and the Palace. During its “El Capitan” phase, it hosted a popular burlesque and vaudeville show: Ken Murray’s Blackouts. Murray’s greatest weapon was buxom blonde comedienne Marie Wilson, whose banter danced the delicate line between what was considered ‘racy’ and ‘vulgar’ in 1946. When asked what was new, Marie would say that she’d been reading a study about the advantages of using mothers’ milk over bottled milk. When Murray asked the advantages of mother’s milk she’d reply, “Well, it doesn’t need refrigerating, the cats can’t get at it and, best of all, it comes in such cute containers.” Although often portrayed as decorative fluff, her contribution to the show’s success was proved beyond doubt when Murray later opened the show in New York without her - and it flopped.In those days television networks often broadcast live shows and dozens were staged in the theater. In the 1960′s, the Hollywood Palace (as it was known by then) hosted ABC’s the Hollywood Palace Variety Show which was very successful and ran until 1970. It featured many notable guest hosts, such as Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland and Joan Crawford. Many famed musical acts appeared on the show, including the Rolling Stones AND the Beetles (in their first appearances in the U.S.), as well as the Jackson 5, featuring a young Michael Jackson. Today it’s known as the Avalon, a popular dance club whose events feature international DJ’s. Their promotional media invites the public to “… dance into the wee hours at this huge nightclub housed in a historic theater.” And so the Hollywood Playhouse continues to remain relevant by finding new uses (and names) for itself.You can see the Hollywood Playhouse/Avalon, across the street from the Capitol Records Building near the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, on The Real Hollywood Tour, our popular tour of Hollywood. It’s a beautiful building.By Margaret Wineland and Damien BlackshawMargaret is on twitter: @maggiewineland.
Damien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
The theatre at 1735 Vine Street, now known as the Avalon, has been singularly successful...Posted on : 19th Sep 2018
- 1. PaleyFest Fall TV Previews (September 6-16). L.A. is at the center of the American entertainment industry, right? Well, one of the benefits of that is events like this. All the networks, Hulu, Netflix and others are represented, with screenings of new pilots and shows followed by round table talks with the stars (including Sarah Silverman, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul, Nathan Fillion, Tim Allen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sarayu Blue, Cedric the Entertainer, Damon Wayans Jr and many others). If you watch TV you should definitely do this one.2. Dance Downtown + DJ Nights (August 31-September 7). “A summer favorite, Dance DTLA is an evening of dance under the stars curated by influential artists and tastemakers who give voice to Los Angeles’ dynamic and vibrant culture through music, dancing, arts and aesthetics. DJ Nights offer Angelenos the opportunity to dance the night away in Grand Park”. Sounds good to me!3. Silver Lake Picture Show (August 30-September 13). One of the many benefits to living in L.A. is the great weather. So why not get outside and watch a movie on the streets of L.A. by checking out Get Out or Rush Hour, which are being screened in an old Los Angeles neighborhood that’s newly hip? The venue, the Sunset Triangle Plaza, is an area that’s been reclaimed from the car to give back to pedestrians. I know – in L.A.? Imagine that!4. Smorgasburg LA (every Sunday). Smorgasburg is in Row DTLA, a new development in the old Alameda Produce Market (which operates Monday-Friday). Cafes, restaurants, food stalls and food trucks provide the solid and liquid refreshments, while other cultural pop-ups and surprises entertain you. Oh and there are also plenty of nice design, craft, clothing and art stores to wander around too.5. Childish Gambino (September 26-October 3). Donald Glover, heard of him? If you haven’t, believe me, you soon will. When this guy blows up, he really blows up. Like all overnight success stories his one took about 10-15 years, but recently he’s really picked up steam, starring in a small indie movie called Solo: A Star Wars Story and Atlanta, a TV comedy show that he also created. His alter-ego rap star, Childish Gambino, has recently hit the big time too. See him live at the Forum before he goes completely stratospheric!6. The Future is Female (September 4). This concert, featuring the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, celebrates and showcases the wonderful contributions of women composers in film and television, as well as the global music composition community at large. Many remarkably talented female composers will perform original music as a tribute to Maestras around the world. While there has been a major rise in film music concerts, very few feature the musical works of women composers. The Future is Female Concert is a platform where talented female composers can showcase their works in a film music concert. The future is now!7. Roaring Nights at the LA Zoo (September 14). This summer series is back and better than ever – offering fun and fascinating explorations at the intersection of music, art and wildlife. It’s not often I’m at that particular intersection, but whenever I am I always enjoy animal spotlights and close-ups, then spend the rest of the evening exploring dance areas, open-air lounges, interactive art galleries, and eclectic food truck offerings. I’m always glad I did.8. Mexican Independence Day (September 15-16). Miguel Hidalgo’s cry of Dolores in 1810, known as El Grito de Dolores, “Mexicanos! Viva México!” set the stage for Mexico’s long struggle for independence from Spain. This is a big day for Los Angeles, which has a large population of Mexican descent. The best place to celebrate the day is at the Pueblo de Los Angeles, birthplace of the city of Angels and spiritual center of the Mexican community in L.A.9. L.A. Film Festival (September 20-28). There’s nothing Los Angeles loves to celebrate more than movies and this festival is one of the top ones for independent films. You know, films that make you think. In addition to watching the movies there are panels, q and a’s and other filmic events. Disclaimer – I have a friend in Ashes in the Snow, so be sure to check that one out!10. Free National Park Day (September 22). We don’t actually have any National Parks in Los Angeles, but we do have some (relatively) nearby. In any case this is such a great opportunity to check out some of the amazing National Parks in California (which is another great thing about living here) that I had to mention it. You can drive down to Joshua Tree Park for the day, or if you don’t mind pushing it a little, you could drive north to Sequioa Park (which has the biggest trees in the world). Either way if you’re spending more than a few days in California – you’ve got to do it.By Damien BlackshawDamien is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN SEPTEMBER
1. PaleyFest Fall TV Previews (September 6-16). L.A. is at the center of the American entertainment...Posted on : 30th Aug 2018
- California is the only state now actively developing High Speed Rail (HSR) in the U.S. (there is a consortium developing a bullet train connection between Dallas and Houston, but it’s a private rail company). Americans often imagine that the U.S. is a particularly hostile environment for fast trains, but pretty much anywhere in the world HSR has been planned there has been significant opposition. Their arguments are familiar to anyone who has observed this battle played out over the years, although there are some new twists to the debate in America. What’s surprised me most is that many people who I expected to be keen on HSR - people that otherwise use trains, who are concerned about climate change, who generally consider themselves progressive politically - have absorbed many of the talking points distributed by the opposition and often uncritically repeat them. And I felt so strongly that a lot of these arguments needed to be debunked that I decided to blog about it here.First a bit of background. Most informed observers accept that an HSR network covering the entire U.S. is, at least for now, unlikely, due to the size of the country and the distance between cities. So the Obama Administration devised a plan to develop HSR in certain high density area, such as on the Northeast Corridor (Boston-New York-Washington) and in Florida and California. The thinking was that these areas have big cities close enough to each other that it wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive to build HSR between them, but that the distances were significant enough that the time savings created by using HSR would get people to switch from cars and planes to the trains. Since then the various projects have all got bogged down in partisan political bickering, leaving California as the only state to push ahead. This makes our HSR particularly important, in the sense that if it is blocked here it could be many years, if ever, until an HSR line is built in the U.S. On the other hand if it does move ahead - and is successful - then it would be huge boost to proponents of HSR and would very likely lead to the revival of the other projects. For that reason HSR opponents are determined to kill it here in California.So what are the arguments for and against California’s HSR?1. It’s expensive. Sure $77 billion is a lot of money. BUT THIS IS CALIFORNIA! It’s expensive. Have you ever done a bathroom renovation here? Also the price tag includes everything - construction, buying the trains and building the stations for an 800 mile train line. And that money isn’t being spent in one day, but over thirty years. Do you know how much freeways cost? See below.2. But what about the cost overruns? Originally the project was supposed to cost around $45 billion, right? Been reading the Los Angeles Times? If you notice they’re way harsher on cost overruns for trains than freeways. When the 405 freeway was widened for just ten miles at the Sepulveda Pass it took five years and cost $1.65 billion (a cost overrun of 65%). Now it takes two minutes LONGER to get from Sherman Oaks to Santa Monica during rush hour.3. The cost of plane tickets between Los Angeles and San Francisco is so cheap that no one will use HSR. That argument would also hold for London-Paris, or London-Brussels. And yet the Eurostar is full most days. Let’s face it, traveling by train is much nicer than traveling by plane. It just is. There’s also plenty of scope to offer cheaper tickets on the train when it’s up and running. And by that time plane tickets will likely be much more expensive.4. The time saving isn’t that big a deal. Of course it is. Downtown LA to downtown SF takes a minimum of around four hours traveling by plane (average door to door), so two hours forty minutes on the train is a saving of over an hour. That’s a lot. And if time savings didn’t matter then many more people would drive (which takes at least seven hours and often more). Also don’t make the mistake of assuming that things will stay the same. Traffic is constantly getting worse. Not to mention air pollution.5. Ah - but most people in LA/SF don’t live/work in downtown. Okay - but that also holds for the airport. Even fewer people live/work near the airports. Anyway many millions of people do live/work within a short distance of the two downtowns. And the train will stop at several other stops between LA and SF.6. Europe or Japan, with its population concentrated in big cities which are closer together is better suited to HSR than California. Er, well Spain is slightly larger than California with roughly the same size population. Seems to work there. And if anything it’s easier to develop HSR here because California only has 4 major population centers - San Diego, Los Angeles/Orange County, the Bay area/San Jose and Sacramento.7. Well they should develop HSR in the Northeast first. It makes more sense there because people in Boston, New York and Washington already use trains to travel the region. The funny thing is that HSR opponents there say the same thing about California (i.e. HSR makes more sense here). It’s a variation on the argument “this isn’t a bad idea - but we should just do it somewhere else”. We should really be doing both.8. This is an outdated, low-tech solution that would be better solved by some new development in technology. Actually HSR is new(ish) technology. An old, low-tech solution is using the good old horseless carriage. Or planes (which have also been around a long time). Anyway what a ridiculous argument: let’s not deal with some of the most pressing issues of our time - let’s just hope that Silicon Valley comes up with a solution at some point in the future.9. If California could spend this money on other public transit projects I’d support that. This is another variation on “let’s build it - somewhere else”. We do need to spend more on public transit and develop other projects, but we do still need this one. We have to find lower carbon ways for moving large numbers of people greater distances. Otherwise we’re not going to survive.10. The U.S. does use trains - for freight. We should concentrate on that. Great! By all means let’s continue to use freight trains, but this is a completely separate issue. It isn’t one or the other. Freight trains are privately run and wouldn’t in any way be negatively affected by HSR.The bottom line is if you’re concerned about climate change and air pollution you HAVE to support HSR here. Sure it’s not perfect. Did they start construction in the right place? Have they been over optimistic in analyzing costs? Could they have designed/planned the project better? These are valid questions and it’s right that the Authority is as transparent as possible and oversight of it is rigorous, but the bottom line is this is the project. There’s nothing else on the table and it this fails that’s it. At least for many years. So if any of these arguments in favor of HSR have resonated with you, you need to get on board.By Damien BlackshawDamien Blackshaw is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw10 REASONS WHY THE U.S. NEEDS CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL
California is the only state now actively developing High Speed Rail (HSR) in the U.S....Posted on : 15th Aug 2018
- 1. Jeff Lynne’s ELO – You may have heard of Electric Light Orchestra as they’re also known. Or you may not. But what you should know is that they are a seminal band of the 19702’s and 80’s. During that period they sold fifty million records – but oddly without ever getting a number one on the Billboard Top 40 (in fact they have the record for the most number of hits without a number one single). Go see them – you’ll be surprised how many of their hits you do know.2. Skyline Sound + Cinema – during the summer there are many venues screening movies in the great outdoors, this is our pick for August. Why? It’s in the heart of downtown on the roof of the Bloc and they’ve got a cool line up. Our pick is Die Hard. It’s the quintessential 80’s action movie AND it’s set in Los Angeles itself. You can see the Nakatomi Plaza (as it’s known in the movie) in Century City if you really want to geek out.3. Brew in the Zoo – something for the family? Dad (and mom) can sample beer from 40+ local and craft microbreweries and the kids can enjoy zoo keeper talks and animal discovery. Everyone can enjoy pub-style grub. Even better you’re supporting the L.A. Zoo in it’s global conservation efforts.4. Shakespeare by the Sea – you may associate theatre in the U.S. with New York, but we also have a lot of theatre here in L.A. SBTS are now in their twenty-first year and do great work bringing Shakespeare to a wider audience. This year they’re producing The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Winter’s Tale. Performances are free and in several interesting locations around Los Angeles and Orange County. 5. Venice Beach Music Fest – we have some great beaches here in L.A. and Venice is always one of the most popular with visitors. So if you’re planning on going to the beach while you’re here (it’s a great way to cool off), why not go when the beach is throwing a music festival? Don’t forget the sun block and enjoy!6. The Taste LA – Every year the Los Angeles Times organises this event and every year it gets better and better. This year it’s on Paramount Studios back lot (included in the price is a tour of the studios). What a great venue to try the incredibly diverse foods that make up the L.A. cuisine scene. For sure put this one in the calendar. 7. L.A. County Fair – the LACF has been going nearly a hundred years (the first one was in 1922) and is an institution in Southern California. What is the LACF though? It’s an annual event that traditionally would offer country fair activities and fare and that was really about connecting Californians with the agricultural community. In more recent years it’s branched out and embraces the arts, U.S. history and culture as well as having all the rides and attractions that you’d expect.8. Los Angeles Taco Festival – who doesn’t love tacos? Or should that be who doesn’t love good tacos? The humble taco is definitely something worth celebrating, because a tasty taco is small slice of heaven. This festival is in Grand Park – which is the perfect place for the eclectic collection of food trucks and vendors that’s been assembled this year. There will also be live music and games.9. Long Beach Jazz Festival – this is one for all those jazz cats out there and I must say one of the coolest things about jazz lovers is that they’re really the only people I know who can call themselves “cats” and still be cool. But when you’ve got musicians of the caliber of Randy Crawford and David Benoit the coolness factor is way jazzed up anyway!10. 626 Night Market – after dark this feels like a small part of Asia has been transported to Southern California. Los Angeles has a large Asian population and some of the best Asian restaurants in the world. When you go to 626 Night Market (and I’ve only been to the one at the Santa Anita Racetrack) it feels like almost every one of those restaurants has a food stall set up here, with a line of people in front. It’s a lot of fun – and it’s not all Asian food (it’s just that theirs is probably the best food there) – so go check it out. You won’t see many tourists, this is an event for locals.By Damien BlackshawTHE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN AUGUST
Damien Blackshaw is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
1. Jeff Lynne’s ELO – You may have heard of Electric Light Orchestra as they’re also...Posted on : 27th Jul 2018
- America is almost unique among developed countries for its ban on alcohol during the 1920’s, known as Prohibition. Although Prohibition is now synonymous with the corruption and organized crime it spawned, at the time it was intended to address the harm inflicted on society by the excessive consumption of alcohol. This is of particular interest now, as California has legalized marijuana for recreational use and there’s been a renewed debate about the role of police in society. Prohibition is of interest in both cases because of the effect it had on organized crime, the police force, and the connection between the two. This connection was particularly visible in the Los Angeles of the 1920’s.One of the most famous bootleggers (essentially alcohol smugglers) of the time was a man named Anthony Correro. Originally from Italy, Correro’s family left the old country when his father lost the family farm in a card game and by 1923 Correro had become a rum-runner in California. Under cover of a shrimping business, Correro used a fleet of ships to transport Canadian whiskey and rum down the coast. The largest of his ships, the SS Lilly, could transport up to four thousand cases of liquor at a time. In 1926, he was intercepted by the nascent F.B.I. while returning from Mexico with one thousand cases of rum. Correro escaped the train that was transporting him to jail and spent three years hiding out in Europe, before eventually returning to Los Angeles in 1929. After serving two years in jail, Correro was released and by 1938 (after being an early investor in Las Vegas) had embarked on a new nautical venture: floating casinos. By outfitting big ships with every vice known to man, and then dropping anchor just over three miles off the coast of both Long Beach and Santa Monica, Correro was able to make a killing without risking arrest or further incarceration (because the ships were outside the three mile U.S. territorial waters limit). In doing so, he became famous in Los Angeles and inspired a character in the novel Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler. Wealthy Angelenos would take water taxis out to the ships under the noses of the police, who could do nothing. Correro even offered a day’s takings to the Los Angeles Zoo, which was in financial crisis at the time, although, under pressure, the offer was refused. Eventually California moved the territorial limit (in 1946) and, after a battle, Correro lost his ships. He later returned to running a casino in Las Vegas where he died in 1955, apparently from a heart attack.An only slightly less flamboyant jazz-age inhabitant of Los Angeles was Guy ‘String Bean’ Mcafee. He was a former police officer and fireman who was suspended from the force in 1917 for running a game of craps at a police station. He was eventually placed in the vice squad (the Police Chief must have thought he could bring a lot of personal experience to his work), where his love of gambling and lack of scruples allowed him to expand his craps business from LAPD headquarters to the wider Los Angeles area. He had a knack for making friends amongst the criminal fraternity of L.A., due in no small part to his unerring ability to alert his criminal friends before their hideouts were raided. After quitting the police force, he took up residence in the famous Biltmore Hotel (in downtown), and began working with perhaps the most influential crime figure in Los Angeles at the time: one Charles H. Crawford.Crawford collected names the way some people collect stamps, but his most famous were “The Gray Wolf of Spring Street” and “Good-time Charlie.” He was particularly known for having helped orchestrate the election of Los Angeles Mayor George E. Cryer, who was largely seen as a stooge for organized crime. Indeed, Crawford would use his influence with Cryer to expand his business (chiefly casinos and bordellos) across Los Angeles, and to form important connections and partnerships with other criminal elements (including with Mcafee). Cryer declined to run for office again in 1929, having come under harsh criticism for his connection to Crawford. With his mayoral influence gone, Crawford began to fade from prominence and converted to Christianity the next year, famously dropping his diamond-studded ring into the collections plate at his baptism. He was shot and killed in 1931 by David H. Clark, a former prosecutor and candidate for judge. Clark was acquitted in a sensational trial, when the jury decided that it was highly likely that Crawford had been attempting to blackmail him. Crawford’s wife would go on to build the famous Hollywood landmark the Crossroads of the World, on Sunset Boulevard, at the exact spot that Crawford had died.And what became of old String Bean? He married a Hollywood starlet and bought a Las Vegas casino. He’s famous for being the one who gave the name ‘The Strip’ to the main Las Vegas drag with the big casinos, naming it after the Sunset Strip, in what’s now West Hollywood, where all the illegal gambling shops in Los Angeles were at that time. He died in 1960, in the arms of his third wife, a brothel owner.And so while many of these men’s names have faded from memory, yet the Los Angeles that they inhabited is still around us – the Biltmore, the Crossroads of the World and the Sunset Strip amongst others – if you know where to look. By Grant Jossi & Damien BlackshawYou can email Grant Jossi: [email protected] Blackshaw is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshawGAMBLERS & RUM-RUNNERS IN PROHIBITION LOS ANGELES
America is almost unique among developed countries for its ban on alcohol during the 1920’s,...Posted on : 15th Jul 2018
- 1. Independence Day, July 4th – THE big U.S. celebration, when we celebrate gaining our independence from those pesky Brits who insisted on taxing us even though we didn’t like it – like anyone does! There are numerous ways to celebrate, some of the best are the Grand Park + The Music Center’s 4th of July Block Party in downtown Los Angeles, the Americafest Celebration at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Marina Del Rey fireworks.2. The Bangles play Pershing Square – for a while the Bangles were one of the biggest bands around! Hits like ‘Walk like an Egyptian’, ‘Manic Monday’ and ‘Eternal Flame’ formed the soundtrack to many a teenagers summer during the eighties. They also came to define the southern Californian lifestyle in many ways. So what are you waiting for – this is ‘Everything I Wanted’! Did we mention the concert’s free too?3. Grand Performances – talking of free concerts, Grand Performances is a great program of free events throughout July (and the rest of summer) held at California Plaza in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Bootsy Collins is playing July 7th…4. Shakespeare in the Park – this year the two main productions are Midsummer Night’s Dream, a perennial favorite of summer Shakespeare festivals, and Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare’s lesser (if there is such a thing) known plays – and one of his bloodiest (which is saying something). Griffith Park is a beautiful place to visit at any time, so to see one of the Bard’s plays produced here has to be a highlight of any trip to L.A.5. Hollywood Forever Movie Screenings – another great place to watch performances, in this case film performances. There are several great movies on the program here, but surely the best, and most appropriate has to be The Lost Boys. Watching a movie about beautiful young Californian vampires in a cemetery in Los Angeles? It’s got to be up there. You can bring a picnic too.6. Uncorked: L.A. 90+ – as the organisers put it “Sip over 100 wines from across the globe rated 90 points and higher, savor food from a variety of gourmet food trucks and enjoy live music”. Sounds good to us! Even better – it’s in Santa Monica. 7. 626 Night Market – this is a great event (now in its seventh year), held at the Santa Anita Racetrack on July 20-22. There are hundreds of stalls selling great food, mostly Asian, but with honorary mentions from various other world cuisines. This year there’s also going to be an Art Walk.8. U.S. Open of Surfing – southern California is famous for its surfing scene and this is one of the biggest events on the surf calendar. Each year around half a million people show up at Huntington Beach to see the some of the best surfers in the world compete for some of the biggest prizes on offer in their sport. 9. KCRW Summer Nights – rock out to some cool beats at a variety of locations around Los Angeles throughout July. NPR affiliate KCRW organise these outdoor parties and some of their top DJ’s, like Garth Trinidad and Jason Bentley will be spinning the wheels of steel. Get on down, bust some moves – and party on!10. Hang out on a boat on Echo Park lake – a more leisurely activity would be to take a boat out on this lovely lake and just take in the views of the nearby towers of downtown. Echo Park was one of Los Angeles’ early suburbs and for many years was left behind by the city’s development. Now it’s become quite trendy and there are some great bars and cafes to check out in the area, so you could easily make a day of it.By Damien BlackshawTHE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN JULY
Damien Blackshaw is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.
1. Independence Day, July 4th – THE big U.S. celebration, when we celebrate gaining our independence...Posted on : 26th Jun 2018
- One of the highlights of our Heart of Hollywood and L.A. in a Day tours is visiting the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, one of the most visited and iconic places in Los Angeles. It’s a place where, despite the crowds and superhero impersonators, feels like a religious shrine; a place of reflection and reverence, where we’re confronted with the relics of a past regime called Hollywood, that became the cultural thermometer of America and reactor to the world around it.The Chinese Theatre opened in 1927 and its name usually went together with the showman who created it, Sid Grauman. Grauman played a huge part in deepening the mythology of the movies. He was responsible for elevating the role of movie star into American royalty and indeed, when foreign dignitaries visited America in the 1920’s having tea with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks was considered more important than meeting the President. The forecourt of the Chinese Theatre is America’s version of Poets Corner in London’s Westminster Abbey. It’s a rare place, where we too can make a connection with the myth.Grauman invented the movie premiere in 1922 at his Egyptian Theatre (also on our tours), a block away from the Chinese. A red carpet was laid from the street to the theatre entrance, honoring the stars of Robin Hood (1922), a Douglas Fairbanks extravaganza. Before the movie started, a live musical theatrical event took place, Grauman’s Prologue. Grauman directed his prologues, which were staged at huge expense and would often last longer than the accompanying movie, much to the annoyance of directors like Cecil B DeMille! The concept of the premiere added enormous value to the launch of a new movie and the studios were quick to take note, elevating Grauman to Hollywood’s Master Showman. His ornate picture palaces where classical music, ballet and opera elevated the cultural offering became the equivalent to community arts centers.Grauman started his theatrical career in San Francisco’s vaudeville scene. When the 1906 earthquake destroyed his theater, he continued his productions in a makeshift tent! The Million Dollar Theatre, opening in downtown in 1918, was LA’s first picture palace and Sid’s first business venture in L.A. - it’s on our From Wild West to Now and L.A. in a Day tours and still plays movies occasionally. He moved his business to Hollywood in 1922 and shifted the focus of LA’s entertainment district in the process.There is one quite undistinguished concrete slab in the forecourt of the Chinese Theatre, it’s the only one that honors someone who had nothing to do with the movies. Nestled between Hollywood’s greatest talent of the day Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and the Marx Brothers is Rosa Grauman, Sid’s beloved mother. Sid, who was gay, lived with her at the glamorous Ambassadors Hotel, home to the the famous Cocoanut Grove nightclub. Sid’s legacy was in his ability to respond to growing expectations of the Hollywood PR machine and to public taste and his spirit remains in these three remaining theatres. He was much loved on all sides of the circus. But, what shines through is his humility and sense of gratitude to his mother, still visible at the heart of his story.By Stuart WoodSid Grauman (right) takes Jean Harlow’s footprint in 1933, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles (Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images).SID GRAUMAN: INVENTOR OF THE RED CARPET PREMIERE
Rosa Grauman’s memorial at the Chinese Theatre.Stuart Wood is a guide for The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @stuiewood
One of the highlights of our Heart of Hollywood and L.A. in a Day tours is visiting the Chinese...Posted on : 17th Jun 2018
- 1. Last Remaining Seats – one of the best things about summer in Los Angeles is that the Los Angeles Conservancy opens many of the historic movie palaces in downtown Los Angeles to show classic movies. Many people don’t know that downtown actually has the biggest historic theater district in the U.S. and this year, for the first time, there’s a screening at the San Gabriel Playhouse. On the program this year is Who Framed Roger Rabbit – a movie rooted in L.A. history.2. Summer SOULstice 2018 – enjoy one of the biggest block parties in Los Angeles, in one of the best places to have a block party – Santa Monica. Soundstages are dotted throughout the area and wine, beer and food will be available in copious amounts. This could be the highlight of your L.A. visit!3. LAWineFest – this festival is taking place at Row DTLA, an enormous new mixed use development in the Fashion District. The LAWineFest itself is in its thirteenth year, so they’ve got pretty good at this. Food, wine (and beer) in hip downtown? Cheers!4. King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh – Tutankhamun, King Tut – whatever you want to call him – is an important person. In life he was the Child King of Egypt. In death, when archaeologists found his tomb, it was the first time an intact Royal tomb was found and historians began to realise how rich a culture the ancient Egyptians had. For the first time many of those riches and artefacts are leaving Egypt for this exhibition. Don’t miss it!5. Los Angeles River Ride – many visitors (and a few Angelenos) don’t know that Los Angeles actually has a river. It’s actually pretty important. It’s why L.A. is where it is, as the first Spanish settlers needed the river as a reliable source of clean water. For many years Los Angeles turned it’s back on the river. It was turned into an ugly concrete channel, but slowly it’s making a comeback and, bit by bit, it’s going to be returned to something like it’s original state (or as close to it as we can get now). Take this opportunity to cycle the length of the river, from downtown to Long Beach.6. DTLA Donut Fest – who doesn’t like donuts? Clearly there aren’t many. Take a moment to appreciate the many varieties at this one day festival at historic Union Station. You could combine it with a trip to Olvera St and the Los Angeles Pueblo, the birthplace of L.A., which is just across the street.7. Kevin Hart – what more can I say about Kevin Hart that hasn’t already been said. He’s one of America’s most popular comedians, star of way too many movies to mention here (didn’t Chris Rock memorably say that he’s more prolific than a porn actor?) and he’s playing the Hollywood Bowl June 7th. Put it in the calendar right now!8. LGBT Night at Dodger Stadium – here you can combine an L.A. institution with a modern movement. Sport in general has been more than a little late to the party in terms of acknowledging the LGBT movement and to this day very few professional sportspeople in a major sports team have come out as openly gay – but kudos to the Dodgers for being ahead of the game (pun intended). As they say – come out and celebrate with the Dodgers!9. Sunday Sessions in Grand Park – Grand Park only opened in 2012, but through it’s fun, innovative programming of events like this it’s already become an important – maybe even integral – part of the fabric of Los Angeles. This promises to be just an enjoyable afternoon dancing in a beautiful park in the heart of Los Angeles (in front of City Hall). Get your groove on!10. LA Pride 2018 – L.A. is famously open to alternative lifestyles and so it was one of the first places in the U.S. to have a Pride festival, starting in 1970. It’s still in the spiritual home of the LGBT community in Los Angeles, West Hollywood. Of course it’s bigger than ever. But it’s still fun. If you want the real Los Angeles, this is it!By Damien BlackshawDamien Blackshaw is the owner of The Real Los Angeles Tours and is on twitter: @damienblackshaw.THE 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA IN JUNE
1. Last Remaining Seats – one of the best things about summer in Los Angeles is...Posted on : 25th May 2018