30 June 2006

The Melrose Neighborhood —4

Last time around I said I'd be concentrating on the period between 1900 and 1920. It turns out I'm not that disciplined a blogger. I go where the material takes me. While browsing the online archive of the Los Angeles Public Library — a great cache of photography— I discovered a dozen or so images related to the neighborhood. Here's today's selections. The first (3) shows Melrose Avenue at Detroit Avenue, facing west. It's from 1928. I assume the building on the right is the original elementary school. At the western boundary of the neighborhood, also on Melrose, (4 & 5) is Fairfax High. These two images are each dated 1927 yet there's slight differences in the details —like the baseball diamond inside the track. I suspect they were taken a year or so apart. Something that interests me about all three of these pictures: while the neighborhood had begun to fill considerably there's many vacant lots along Melrose.

  • Los Angeles Public Library.
  • 27 June 2006

    You Don't See These Sights On The Regular Tours

    Here's a paradox. Craig Yoe of "Arf Lovers" posted his recent find —a comic / pamphlet from 1958 that looks at Americans traveling abroad. It's got contributions by greats like Charles Schulz, Walt Kelly, Milton Caniff, Al Capp —the list goes on. As Yoe says, "It's not exactly clear who the audience is. Is it trying to educate insensitive Americans? Or is it an arrogant defense to ungrateful foreigners who should be damn happy for the American dollars being spent on their lands?" Frankly, I'm just as confused!
  • Click for slide show of the pamphlet
  • Arf Lovers
  • 25 June 2006

    The Melrose Neighborhood — 3

    Unlike the rest of the neighborhood, homes around Wilcox Avenue date closer to the turn of the century. These were typically clapboard houses and California bungalows. The eastern fringe of the neighborhood has always been a funny mix. Farm houses cozy up to commercial structures and film stages. What used to be called a working neighborhood, I suppose. Almost all of those original dwellings are gone —though examples are plentiful in other, nearby Hollywood neighborhoods. They've been replaced by large —and largely unattractive— apartment complexes. This is practically the last bungalow standing on Wilcox (1). Certainly the last one in it's original state. It's flanked by apartments. I doubt it's long for this world.

    Go west just a few blocks and the zoning is stricter. Residences are mostly single-family and the neighborhood is relatively intact. There's definately a spirit of preservation and renovation. Many of these houses came in the next generation of building. I'll get to those later. For now I'd like to show some of what came first —circa 1900-1920. Like this example on Orange Avenue (2). I adore that wrap-around porch. Check out the built-in bench/porch rail. The house is on the west side of the street making the front porch an excellent shady spot at the end of the day. Click on the images for a closer look.

    22 June 2006

    PES and the Art of War

    For anyone who's looked at a piece of broccoli yet saw a fallen tree or pretended a dab of ketchup on the end of a french fry was a lit match or looked at a gelatin mold and saw The Emerald City or —well, you get the idea. "KaBoom!" is a dime store riot of found objects, skeleton keys and clown heads. "Roof Sex" is pretty funny too.
  • View KaBoom!
  • 21 June 2006

    The Melrose Neighborhood — 2

    These days it's called the Melrose neighborhood though I'm sure there was a different name for the original tract development. That appellation's lost now —either to time or a dusty archive of the Los Angeles Public Library. As defined by the Melrose Neighborhood Association, its boundaries are Wilcox and Fairfax Avenues to the east and west with Wiloughby and Rosewood Avenues to the north and south. Melrose Avenue runs right through the middle.

    There was a Melrose family. They were ranchers. Their property was a few miles east of here in an area known as Melrose Hill. I mentioned in a previous post that my neighborhood was originally California scrub. When this was Spanish domain the land was part of Rancho La Brea. The principle industry of the Rancho was the extraction of tar from the famous tar pits. Later, mineral extraction turned to oil. Lots and lots of oil.

    This picture, taken in 1912, shows the view from Orchid Street just above Franklin Avenue. The orange patch in the middle distance indicates the highlighted area on the map. Those are oil derricks in the far distance around what would later become the Miracle Mile of Wilshire Boulevard.

    A city map from 1926. All the black squares indicate developed properties. The circles dotting the bottom portion of the map are oil wells.

    The United Artists Studio on Santa Monica Boulevard —highlighted in green on the map. The enormous set behind it was constructed for 'Robin Hood" which dates the photo around 1922. The studio's still there though under a different name. The grassy field behind it with the winding roads and gullies is where the Melrose neighborhood would be built.

    Click on the images for a closer look.

    20 June 2006

    Dents de Lait, Dents de Loup

    More France Gall. This time, an all too short blast of a yé-yé, swing-fest with collaborator Serge Gainsbourg playing big bad wolf to her red riding hood. Génial!
  • View the clip
  • 19 June 2006

    Yesterday, Tomorrow and Last Weekend

    I attended an auction preview over the weekend held by L.A. Modern. A pretty amazing collection of mid century stuff. Mostly furnishings. Some fantastic wood pieces. They had photography, posters, ceramics, textiles — you name it. The draw for me was news they'd be auctioning large panels from the Charles and Ray Eames designed IBM Pavilion for the 1964 Worlds Fair. One item —a steel kiosk— was so large it wouldn't fit in the showroom. It was displayed in the Pacific Design Center's lobby. I'm a wee bit young to have seen the '64 Fair but I dig a certain Go-Go vision of the future. The closest I ever got was Disney's Tomorrowland during the mid seventies. Many of those exhibits at the time were transplants from the Fair. Whither the Mighty Microscope? By all accounts the IBM Pavilion was something to have experienced. Here's a couple of shots of two favorite panels. The circuit board stands about 10 feet tall. It went for $24,000 The Sherlock Holmes panel is about three feet tall. It's painted trompe l'oeil and entirely hand lettered —click for a closer look. Sold for $7,000.
  • More about the IBM Pavilion
  • '64 Worlds Fair Guidebook, The IBM Pavilion
  • L.A. Modern
  • 15 June 2006

    Big Fun

    Mark Schwartz at American Comic Archive sent an e-mail this week announcing publication of the latest Big Fun Comics. Big Fun reprints classic adventure strips from the 1930's, 40's and 50's. It's a good looking magazine and one that lives up to the name on the masthead. What distinguishes it in my mind is the care taken to reproduce the artwork —especially when one considers the source material is old newsprint. It's well designed and printed too. The cherry on the cake for me is the inclusion of Scorchy Smith by Noel Sickles. Sickles was a contemporary of the great Milton Caniff. For several years they shared a studio together —with facing drawing tables as I understand it. It's said Sickles use of chiaroscuro was a huge influence on Caniff. There's even some controversy as to whether Sickles ghosted on Terry and the Pirates. I have no idea if that's true or not but there is a stretch on Terry that bears an uncanny resemblance what went on in Scorchy. Sickles work can be found in Big Fun issues one and two. Mark says the current issue won't be sold through stores. Though you can pick it up online at the American Comic Archive website.
  • American Comic Archive
  • More Scorchy Smith
    Update: I recieved my copy of #4 today. For whatever reasons, it's bound laser copies, not the offset litho of the previous three editions. Alas, not quite the same. Buyer beware.
  • 14 June 2006

    The Melrose Neighborhood

    Here's the view from my kitchen window on a typical spring or summer morning. Brilliant sunlight dappled through sycamores onto green lawn. I never tire of seeing it while I make coffee in my quasi Edward Hopper reverie. My neighborhood, as best as I can tell, was established around 1922. Before that it was California scrub. The little yellow house in the picture was here before mine —which was built in '27, the same year movies began to talk. I realize using the motion picture industry as a yardstick for one's neighborhood is a little odd but I do live in Hollywood.

    13 June 2006

    Tes Lacets Sont des Fées

    Dionysos from spacewang on Vimeo.

    A favorite bit of animation by Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset, aka Keroscoët. I love their drawing style —the line work, the backgrounds— especially their way with poses and costume. Keroscoët really seems to take delight in the risque. They know how to navigate the twin currents of naughty and nice without being overtaken by either. I've just finished their recent comic 'Miss Pas Touche' (Dargaud), a saga of murder and intrigue set in 1930's Paris. If only my French were a little better. Dommage. Perhaps by the time part two is published. Still, isn't that what the pictures are for?

  • Miss Pas Touche
  • Keroscoët
  • 12 June 2006

    Kind Hearts and Coronets

    Last fall the good people at The Criterion Collection had me design the package for "Kind Hearts and Coronets". For anyone unfamiliar with the movie, it's about a distant heir to nobility who moves to the head of the line by knocking off all those standing between him and dukedom. A comedy! Dennis Price plays the plotting heir and Alec Guiness takes the parts of all the hapless royals. "Can we do something with a family tree?" the art director asked. I love notes like that. Specific yet open ended enough so there's room to interpret. I admire old movie posters about as much as I do old movies and I wanted the DVD cover to have the look of another time and place —an old movie poster that never was.
  • The Criterion Collection
  • 11 June 2006

    Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son

    La jeune fille, France Gall, at the 1965 Eurovision contest performing her first big hit. About a dozen France Gall clips can be found on YouTube. Some are even watchable. "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" is a catchy tune, to be sure. Though when it comes to mademoiselle Gall give me "Teenie Weenie Boppie". Now there's a clip I'd love to see. I wonder if such a thing exists?
  • View the clip (.wmv)

  • { via: wfmu.org }