Tag Archives: hollywood

hollywood (again)

Last week a twenty-six year old man walked out into the middle of Hollywood and Vine with a pistol . He had just broken up with his girlfriend . Maybe that’s why he snapped . He shot at passing cars . The video played on the evening news . Pop . Pop . One after another . He seemed limber and relaxed , low keyed .

It was the sort of behavior that the LAPD wouldn’t be relaxed about. There would be no magnanimous cops on Hollywood and Vine . Of course the gunslinger would know that . Wanted a death-by-cop . He needed a cop out and he got it soon enough .

A man passing in his car said he thought it was a movie being filmed . He wondered why someone hadn’t blocked off the street .  He changed his mind abruptly when he heard a bullet rip into metal . And he hoped that he wouldn’t be shot .

I stood behind a disturbed man in the 99 Cent store last week , too . I thought that he was talking on his bluetooth . I didn’t think anything of it . I didn’t listen to the non-sensical jabbering . But he was talking to his imaginary companions . He seemed to be getting the better of the argument , too. I couldn’t hear their responses because they were hidden somewhere in the interior spaces of his brain . And then , I guess , he began losing the argument because he started shouting . He was standing near the glass exit door shouting  .

I was working as a security guard in a counseling center on DeLongpre years ago in the middle of Hollywood . Just before our eight o’clock closing time a man walked in . I need counseling ! He looked like he did , too . He wore a beret and an anxious expression .

The young latina clerk asked him : Where did you come from ?

San Rafael , California . I flew down from there this morning .

What airline did you take ?  she innocently asked .

No , he said , and flapped his arms like a bird . I flew .

Fill this out , she said , and shoved intake papers in triplicate over the counter to him . He filled them out . Name . Answer : God .  Who referred you ? Answer : Lenny Bruce . Education . Answer : Cosmic Universe .  On and on . The counselors were coming out of their offices as God filled out the forms . We all wanted to go home .

I’m not blaming all of this on Hollywood . Hollywood’s just a place and just an idea .  It’s an endless  engine cranking out successes and failures .  And most of us sit in the audience , some of us fascinated and some not . Hollywood is  a projection on a huge screen that no one can really grab hold of .

Pretty Peggy Entwhistle came to Hollywood an accomplished actress by the age of twenty-four , about the same age as our pistol man .  She  walked from Beachwood Drive up the hill and climbed to the top of the H of the Hollywoodland sign and jumped to her death in 1932 . She left a note saying I’m sorry .

No one found a note yet left by the man with the pistol . No I’m sorry . Give me Peggy Entwhistle any day . At least she flew off into oblivion on her own wings . Only she knows why , I guess .

Some cop’s got to go through life from now on mulling over pistol man’s selfish suicide and some ex-girlfriend has to wonder if she’s the reason he climbed out into that Hollywood intersection and made  his own particular jump  from  H .

He should have left a note for the cop and the girlfriend and the man with the bullet hole in his car : I’m sorry . He should’ve sought help so someone could have given him an intake form in triplicate .

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hard boiled

I’m almost finished reading Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective novel The Big Sleep again . I read it several years ago . Marlowe is still the same old Marlowe , but he doesn’t seem to have his gun with him this time around as often as I would have thought. Maybe I’ve been watching too many movie versions of the story . Sorry , I should’ve said ” He wasn’t  wearing his gat “.

The novel was published in 1939 and it’s set in Los Angeles ;  Hollywood mostly . There are Philip Marlowe aficionados who track the various locations mentioned in the Chandler novels . I imagine that some entrepreneurs somewhere give tours of the places , like the bus tours of the Charles Bukowski hangouts , or the cemetery tours to grave sites of famous idols who’ve bitten  the dust , who’re pushing up daisies .  You know : the big sleep .

A Chicago overcoat is what it would get you , little man .  So says the out-of-town hired killer Canino to Harry Jones , the two-bit not-so-tough guy  who tries to put the bite on Marlowe for two hundred bucks for certain information . Marlowe holds back  at first , but then agrees to meet Harry one night ; but  Canino gets there first .

I’m a grifter , Harry had told Marlowe . We’re all grifters . So we sell each other out for a nickel .Okey .   

Marlowe observes :  He reached for another of my cigarettes , placed it neatly between his lips and lit it with a match the way I do myself , missing twice on his thumbnail and then using his foot . He puffed evenly and then stared at me level-eyed , a funny little hard guy I could’ve thrown from home plate to second base . A small man in a big man’s world . There was something I liked about him .

Marlowe had suggested that Harry might consider taking the information he had to the police .  Harry answers : I haven’t pulled anything in here . I come in talking two C’s . That’s still the price . I come because I thought I’d get a take or leave it , one right gee to another . Now you’re waving cops at me . You oughta be ashamed of yourself .The Notorious John Dillinger (2)

We never quite know where Marlowe stands . He knows cops and he knows the underworld , but he holds his cards close to the chest and he makes up his own mind when and how to cooperate with either side . He knows the 1930s L.A. cops can be as corrupt and vicious as the criminal hordes and the corrupt politicians and high rollers who run the city . He harbors his own sense of right and wrong and he gets by ; he does his thing for twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses .

At the beginning of The Big Sleep Marlowe goes up to the Sternwood mansion and talks to old General Sternwood in the old man’s orchid greenhouse . The old man is half-dead and needs the cloying wet warmth of the orchids . A butler brings Marlowe a drink and the General tells Marlowe of a blackmail letter he’s received , or two , and mentions his run-away son-in -law , the ex-bootlegger ,ex-Irish Republican Army leader Rusty Regan . Marlowe agrees to work on the blackmail angle —- for $25 a day plus expenses .

At some point in the story the Sternwood chauffeur runs a family car off the Lido pier into the ocean one night with him in it . Accident ? Is it suicide ? The coroner finds an ugly bruise on the side of the guy’s head . It looks like the guy was sapped and the car set full-throttle . It looks like murder .women-smoking-pipe-1930s

We never find out just who murdered the chauffeur , by the way . Chandler was asked about that little loose end in his novel . He said that he didn’t care . I think maybe Marlowe had figured it out , that he always knew but didn’t tell even the author the straight dope on that caper . Maybe because Chandler wouldn’t fork over the twenty-five bucks daily fee or tried to chisel on the expenses .

It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in . 

Cronjager , the Chief of Police , tells Marlowe off in front of the District Attorney when they both met in the D.A.’s home :NIECHORZE Baltic 2018 194

That kind of thinking is police business , Marlowe . The Chief L.A. cop goes over some of the recent events . There were murders that might not have occured , he says , if Marlowe had turned over his information to the police .  Harry Jones , the small-time grifter , has been poisoned by Canino . The Chief says something to the effect that he won’t loose any sleep over the loss of a guy like that  ,  But a life is a life , he says .

Marlowe , no wilting violet , answers back : Right . Tell that to your coppers next time  they shoot down some scared petty larceny crook running away up an alley with a stolen spare . 

And then there’s Eddie Mars , the gambling joint owner whose wife may or may not have run off with Rusty Regan . He tells Marlowe : I’m nice to be nice to , soldier. I’m not nice not to be nice to .  Okey . Fair warning .

Marlowe has a comment on the newspaper reporting on his adventures  : I read all three of the morning papers over my eggs and bacon the next morning. Their accounts of the affair came as close to the truth as newspaper stories usually come — as close as Mars is to Saturn . donut hole size

Well , the plot is a little less important in a Chandler novel than the dialog and the atmosphere . And the descriptions . When he enters the building in Santa Monica where he is to meet Harry Jones : I shook the rain off my hat and looked at the building directory . Numbers with names and numbers without names. Plenty of vacancies or plenty of tenants who wished to remain anonymous . Painless dentists , shyster detective agencies , small sick businesses that had crawled there to die , mail order schools that would teach you how to become a railroad clerk or a radio technician or a screen writer — if the postal inspectors didn’t catch up with them first . A nasty building . A building in which the smell of stale cigar butts  would be the cleanest odor . milkman 1960

or

The purring voice was now as false as an usherette’s eyelashes and as slippery as a watermelon seed. ford truck

or

The voice was as stiff as a breadstick.

I like the old Los Angeles nostalgia that swirls up from Chandler novels . I like that there were three morning papers to read and somehow I like the idea of striking a match on your thumbnail and , if that doesn’t work , then scratching it on a shoe heel . I like the idealistic detective Philip Marlowe , the real true -to- form tough guy .

He’d never make it in today’s world , though . He’s too sexist . He’s distinctly  too this and definitely too that . And his matches wouldn’t strike on his thumb or his shoe even if he did find a place where he could smoke . And he’d have to raise his fee if he wanted to have any chance at all of paying the rent on his Hollywood office .

I haven’t quite yet  finished reading the novel this time . We haven’t found Rusty Regan so far or uncovered just what Eddie Mar’s angle is and the cops haven’t found the cold dead body of Harry Jones still sitting in the chair at that nasty building in Santa Monica . I don’t  really remember how the story ends . I never remember many of the details . I’d never make it in the detective racket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fleiss & chains

I bought a fixer-upper house in 1980 in east Hollywood right next to Doctor Fleiss’ office. He had an old bungalow on a corner where he did his pediatric medical stuff . He had a great reputation ; he was very highly respected pediatrician in the neighborhood and , I think , in the medical community .hollywood bowl

In the mid-eighties the young Armenians in the area started to organize into gangs . Two young Armenian guys lived right across the street from me . The older one wanted to work his way up in the gang , I guess . His group used to congregate at night in Doctor Fleiss’ parking lot , which was next to my front lawn .alley walking 13 069

I talked to the wannabe gangster across the street a few times about the noise problem . It became clear that he wasn’t about to stand up to the others .  Soon , anyway , his family moved out of the house . Maybe the parents wanted a safer place for their boys . But the gang continued to use Doctor Fleiss’  lot to park their cars  , party , play their loud music , and , generally , act like assholes .

Fleiss had a low concrete wall on that side of his property . He had a heavy steel chain ready to be strung across the entry to his parking lot . I think that that chain could have simply ended the problem  . All he had to do was to stretch it and lock it . He never did , though .

After a few weeks of this loud nightly activity the Armenians began tagging . Doctor Fleiss’ low concrete wall was spray painted with Armenian gang signs and symbols  .  Not good !

I talked to these guys , at first , asking them to hold the volume down . No dice . I asked Fleiss to chain up his lot . No dice . Fleiss wasn’t there at night , by the way , to experience  the noise . I tried to communicate the problem to him ; tried to politely express my frustration . Maybe he would chain the lot and stop the problem ?  No dice .

I called the police , of course . Over several months I called several times . Trespassing . Noise violations . Hollywood cops —— they never came out . Not once . Never .

I used to go out in the morning and paint over the graffitti on the doctor’s wall . Fleiss had lost his good reputation with me .

Several months later the Armenians vanished . There are bigger and better  parking lots in the city , after all . Maybe the expanding gang  had outgrown the little Fleiss lot . Who knows  . Maybe they all moved to Glendale . alley walking 13 004

Fleiss is still there . I got out . After I moved out of the house the neighborhood got super cool , so cool I think I wouldn’t really like to live there anymore anyway .

I was walking in the alley yesterday when I passed a low concrete wall and a fence blocking a parking lot of a veterinarian’s office . All those forgotten old Hollywood memories swamped my thoughts for a moment or two again . Funny how a mind works .

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more on car repair

Up or down ?

I used to live in east Hollywood . In the tens and twenties the place was hopping with the movie business . D.W. Griffith’s studio was just down the street a few blocks , where Sunset Boulevard  and Hollywood Blvd. come together and Hollywood Blvd. disappears .  I used to moonlight selling popcorn at the Vista Theater in the 1980s . The Vista  had been the site of the silent film  Intolerance .  The swashbuckling Doug Fairbanks had a studio two blocks away from what would later be my house . Now the somewhat  shrunken studio lot is dedicated to television news  . The Essanay studio was a half mile away , over on Sunset , not too far from the Music Box steps my friend Willie and I visited a few weeks ago . Flip and Flap ( the Polish name for Laurel and Hardy ) were already long  gone .  Mabel Normand had a little studio down on Bates Ave. , too . Oh , I knew all those spots in those days .

But , this isn’t really a post about east Hollywood or now forgotten  old Hollywood glitter . This is a post about car repair .

Oh . Again ?Antique trucks and cars along the road in Montana

I drove old cars in those days,  the kind of cars  the government begged to buy so they could crush them to keep them off the roads .  Not knowing anything about car engines or mechanics , I always needed a good mechanic .

I had two .

One was up the Hillhurst hill a couple of blocks and one was down the Hillhurst hill a couple of blocks . If the car could make it uphill I’d drive it uphill . I lived one house away from Hillhurst .  Both mechanics were good , ie. competent and honest .  That’s worth a lot .

If the car was completely broken down , I’d push it to the corner and roll it down Hillhurst to Ise .  Ise was the choice of last resort . Ise would immediately demand : ” What you do to the car ? ” His voice was harsh , a command voice , dictatorial and uncompromising .

” Nothing , Ise . It just stopped working . ”

” You musta done something ! What you do ? ”

” Nothing Ise .”  At this point he’d  slowly  shake his head . I always envisioned during those moments  the Japanese commander in the film The Bridge On The River Kwai .  He’d tell me , then , that he’d find out what I did to the car . He’d narrow his eyes then just a little bit . He’d remind me that last time he’d found spider webs in the wheel wells .  I think that he was waiting for an apology from me for that , or maybe I should break down and cry .

We’d stare at each other for a few seconds . Competitive . He’d look me in the eye , accusative , adversarial .  I’d have to save face , not show weakness , not waver in my denials .

That was Ise . I’d have to endure those interrogations each time I  took the car to him . His lieutenants , young Japanese guys in blue overalls  , would look over at us with unreadable stares . Did they feel any sympathy for me at all ?

” When will it be ready , Ise ? ”

” Depends how much damage you done to it .”

” I didn’t do anything . It just stopped working . ”

” Yes . ”  There was a particular ominous sound to  Ise’s  ” yes ” .  It didn’t hold any resemblance to anyone else’s   “yes”.  It echoed , perhaps , an old Samurai’s interior yes as he drew and  wielded his sword , ready now for battle , happy in having a target at hand to overwhelm , energized in a face-to-face combat warrior’s way ,  thrilled to put his superb training  to work , to exercise his skill and discipline : Yes !

And that was it . I’d walk out of his mechanic shop with my head intentionally  held high , showing strength, standing up to  the challenge , not crumbling in the face of opposition . There would be another conflict , I knew , when I came back for the car . The engine is dirty . Spider webs . Rust . Cracked this and worn out that .   ” Why you not take better care of your car ? ”

Ise put customers through the wringer . He’d fix the car , alright. But , they’d pay a price beyond the cash .  So , being naturally of weak -minded , non-confrontational , avoidance-if-at-all-possible sort of a guy in  spirit and practice , I’d try to avoid Ise’s garage  . The uphill mechanic never interrogated me , never challenged my veracity , never insulted my car-pacity to properly maintain  my vehicles .

I liked Ise , though , in small doses .  And , truth be told , he’d always seen  the car at its worst , since the only time I took it to him would be  when it had to be rolled  in to his shop .

I wonder if Ise is still there , still glaring and still  barking at customers . He’d be a decrepit old geezer by now . But , he’d be the type to hang in there , to keep up the fight , to carry on the war  no matter what,  to preserve the old values , the vehicle values , the  proper care of cars , to practice forever  his  Hollywood vehicular bushido .samurai

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music box steps

laurel and hardySaturday came and went .

Ada would be  working Saturday . I had mentioned to my friend Willie during the pool game on Thursday that Saturday might be a good day to go see the Music Box steps . We had been talking about it , off and  on , for several years .music box steps 008

I’ve seen the steps .   I spent years passing close to them on my way to work . Once I made a point of finding them and taking a look . Or twice . Maybe twice . But Willie was enthusiastic about seeing them one day .

In 1932  Laurel and Hardy made a film called The Music Box .  Willie claims it was a silent film , and I am a bit skeptical , but Willie’s  probably right .  The film plot involves moving a piano up a long flight of concrete steps . It keeps sliding down , etc. , etc.

music box guys music box guys 2 music box guys 3

The steps are still there .  They’re located on Vendome Street in Los Angeles .  Is it the Silver Lake district ? I think so . Or it might be in Echo Park . Lots of steps in this hilly neighborhood just west of downtown . Twenty or thirty years ago you would have been able to buy a house around there for a song . Not so nowadays , I suspect .music box steps 029

The steps are very close to Sunset Boulevard . This part of Sunset is cool now , has been trendy for twenty years  now , or a few more . Before that it was part of the refuse left behind after earlier Los Angeles folk ran off to the outlying areas, zipped optimistically west along Sunset , for example ,  and left the spurned inner city areas to rot . This one somehow survived in pretty good shape . The streets above the Music Box Steps  are quiet , tree -lined , peaceful . Seems like a fine escape from the hubbub of the city , an oasis hiding almost in plain sight .music box steps 025

Willie called me on Saturday just as I was going to call him : Music ox Steps .  Are we on ?music box steps 022

So , about 3:00  we headed out toward the steps .   Had to climb them , of course . Apartments  line the steps now . One house at the bottom looks as if it were there in 1932 . The one on the other side of the steps obviously wasn’t .

A Hollywood heritage organization has placed a small plaque in one of the lower steps . Someone has scratched a name on it , the trace tag of a social defective .  There’s  a sign , too , designating the steps as Music Box Steps .music box steps 023

It occurred to me that a person born the year the movie was made would be 81 years old now . I wonder how many people know or care about the Vendome  Street steps . I mean , other than the poor souls who have to lug their  groceries up  those steps or cart their garbage down . Do they channel the two comedians when they do ?

Willie can scratch seeing the Music Box Steps off his list of things to do .

We took a little detour on the way home and saw some Disney history , too . I used to know all of this Hollywood history stuff when I lived there .

A neighbor asked me soon after I’d moved there what I knew about the history of the neighborhood . I launched into a wonderful speech about the studio down the street , now a place solely dedicated to television news , but that had been where Doug Fairbanks made some of his early silent swashbucklers ;  about how close the D. W. Griffith studio had been , now gone , and how Intolerance  had been filmed on the site of what is now the Vista Theater ; about how Walt Disney lived two blocks away when he’d first come to L.A. , had lived there in his aunt’s house and had used her garage as his studio .music box steps 031

The neighbor looked bored , irritated . He interrupted me . ” No ,” he said . ” I meant the history of the neigborhood . ”

Then he launched into his own rendition , about how one woman on our street was a hoarder , her  house packed to the gills with junk ; about how the couple across the street had been divorced ……………….. That kind of thing was what he meant by history .

To each his own .

A page of history is worth a volume of logic —- Oliver Wendell Holmescarouse

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L.A.

I wonder what strangers  who come to see L.A. do when they get here .

Is there a Los Angeles , or is it a collection of other cities masquerading as a city ? Do visitors actually go downtown to L.A. ?

Maybe .

But , why not go to the beach , to Santa Monica , or to Malibu , or to Venice or to Long Beach , etc. ?

Or , go see Hollywood . Go to Grauman’s  Chinese Theater  and navigate the small army of costumed hawkers hoping to separate tourists from their petty  cash ?  Go to Hollywood and wonder where the movie stars are , because they’re not here , and perhaps  ponder why the place is so run down .

Most of the studios went north over the hill to the San Fernando Valley , to Studio City , or to North Hollywood , etc .  Go there , perhaps , and visit Universal Studios . Did you already take the bus tour , mostly cruising around  Beverly Hills , of the movie stars ‘ homes ?

Good luck finding L.A. if you have never been and you come to visit . Come out to Arcadia during horse race season and visit the Santa Anita track .

Or , are you more of a Disneyland type ? That’s 35 miles  away , down in Anaheim .

Ada and I are going downtown ( Los Angeles ) today . I’ll let you know how it is .  But , you may say , ” I thought you live there ” because when you asked me where I live I told you Los Angeles . Los Angeles is the generic term for the whole conception  . When you’re from out of town I tell you  ” L.A. ”

But , I live in Arcadia . It’s right next to Pasadena . You , know , in  Los Angeles .

Venice .

VENICE CA

Santa Monica Pier Sign at NightSanta Monica

s, cal coast

San Pedro.point fermin lighthouse

Long Beach .Queen Mary

Malibu.malibu house

Hollywood.Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

Westwood.Getty CenterO.K.  Los Angeles .Disney Hall

Hollywood , again .chinese theater

L.A.pershing square, downtown 017

pershing square, downtown 016

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hollywood (again)

Last week a twenty-six year old man walked out into the middle of Hollywood and Vine with a pistol . He had just broken up with his girlfriend . Maybe that’s why he snapped . He shot at passing cars . The video played on the evening news . Pop . Pop . One after another . He seemed limber and relaxed , low keyed .

It was the sort of behavior that the LAPD wouldn’t be relaxed about. There would be no magnanimous cops on Hollywood and Vine . Of course the gunslinger would know that . Wanted a death-by-cop . He needed a cop out and he got it soon enough .

A man passing in his car said he thought it was a movie being filmed . He wondered why someone hadn’t blocked off the street .  He changed his mind abruptly when he heard a bullet rip into metal . And he hoped that he wouldn’t be shot .

I stood behind a disturbed man in the 99 Cent store last week , too . I thought that he was talking on his bluetooth . I didn’t think anything of it . I didn’t listen to the non-sensical jabbering . But he was talking to his imaginary companions . He seemed to be getting the better of the argument , too. I couldn’t hear their responses because they were hidden somewhere in the interior spaces of his brain . And then , I guess , he began losing the argument because he started shouting . He was standing near the glass exit door shouting  .

I was working as a security guard in a counseling center on DeLongpre years ago in the middle of Hollywood . Just before our eight o’clock closing time a man walked in . I need counseling ! He looked like he did , too . He wore a beret and an anxious expression .

The young latina clerk asked him : Where did you come from ?

San Rafael , California . I flew down from there this morning .

What airline did you take ?  she innocently asked .

No , he said , and flapped his arms like a bird . I flew .

Fill this out , she said , and shoved intake papers in triplicate over the counter to him . He filled them out . Name . Answer : God .  Who referred you ? Answer : Lenny Bruce . Education . Answer : Cosmic Universe .  On and on . The counselors were coming out of their offices as God filled out the forms . We all wanted to go home .

I’m not blaming all of this on Hollywood . Hollywood’s just a place and just an idea .  It’s an endless  engine cranking out successes and failures .  And most of us sit in the audience , some of us fascinated and some not . Hollywood is  a projection on a huge screen that no one can really grab hold of .

Pretty Peggy Entwhistle came to Hollywood an accomplished actress by the age of twenty-four , about the same age as our pistol man .  She  walked from Beachwood Drive up the hill and climbed to the top of the H of the Hollywoodland sign and jumped to her death in 1932 . She left a note saying I’m sorry .

No one found a note yet left by the man with the pistol . No I’m sorry . Give me Peggy Entwhistle any day . At least she flew off into oblivion on her own wings . Only she knows why , I guess .

Some cop’s got to go through life from now on mulling over pistol man’s selfish suicide and some ex-girlfriend has to wonder if she’s the reason he climbed out into that Hollywood intersection and made  his own particular jump  from  H .

He should have left a note for the cop and the girlfriend and the man with the bullet hole in his car : I’m sorry . He should’ve sought help so someone could have given him an intake form in triplicate .

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