What trip to sunny southern California would be complete without indulging in some tasty tube-encased meat?
Making my way north through the San Fernando Valley, I once again felt myself inexplicably pulled west along a wide boulevard known as Sherman Way. Now, as you may or may not recall from a past entry, the intersection of Reseda Boulevard at Sherman Way just happens to be the area where several local sites were used in the filming of Boogie Nights. It was at one of those locations, a pastry shop now known as Miss Donuts, where I had a chance encounter with a glazed twist of significant breadth aptly named The Diggler.
It was about a mile west of Miss Donuts where I noticed a familiar red-roofed A-frame structure on the north side of the street. <Cue the sounds of harps and angels>
Nope, we’re not talking IHOP. That would be too pedestrian for such a discerning audience as the somewhat-regular eleven readers of the blog.
We’re talking Wienerschnitzel, baby. Hot dogs. Chili-cheese dogs. Tube-encased meat byproducts.
The original restaurant, opened in 1961 along the Pacific Coast Highway, is said to still be in operation. There’s also just a touch of irony in the back story, in so much that the owner had at one time worked for Glen Bell Jr, who would himself go on to create the mega-chain Taco Bell.
Although Wienerschnitzel would never quite rival the Taco Bell franchise, it seems to have done well enough to find itself still in existence with well over 300 outlets spread throughout the western United States. Much of this success, I suspect, is owed to a distinctive brand and a none-too-subtle advertising campaign involving an anthropomorphized hot dog known as The Delicious One.
You’ve all seen the commercial in which an attractive woman is chasing a beleaguered cartoon hot dog from room to room, right? Like I said, not terribly subtle.
I opted for a naked dog with mustard.
Okay, kids. This is admittedly where it gets a little weird.
Although I’m sure it’s been mentioned previously in the blog, I’m a junkie for anything related to the 1950 Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard.
You got Netflix? Check it out. Don’t have Netflix? Well, I also happen to have copies in Betamax, VHS, and DVD. Sorry, but no Laserdisc.
In short, the film is a noir send-up of all the things wrong with Hollywood and the movie industry. The protagonist, unemployed screenwriter Joe Gillis (played by William Holden), ends up an unwitting gigolo for one Norma Desmond, an eccentric former movie star played by Gloria Swanson. Joe is initially hired by Norma to ghostwrite the script which she believes will resurrect her once successful career as a silent movie icon, but love soon gets in the way. Of course, it’s a one-sided love in which Norma gets all possessive and just plain creepy. Much drama ensues, complete with a dead monkey, suicide attempts, and the eventual death of Joe Gillis.
Yep. You read it correctly in the previous paragraph. A dead monkey. After all, it’s been a longtime requirement in Hollywood that any celebrity worth his or her weight have a chimpanzee to fling poop all over the fine Italian tapestries. Norma’s monkey kicks it early in the movie, which lends itself to a memorable scene in which Norma and her butler bury the creepy little bastard in the backyard of the mansion.
The mansion where the exteriors were shot was located not on Sunset Boulevard, but just off of Wilshire at 641 S. Irving Boulevard. The home was originally built in 1924 by millionaire William O. Jenkins, but was inhabited for only a year before being abandoned for the next decade. The mansion was then purchased in 1936 by oil magnate J. Paul Getty, but it remained abandoned after he ceded it to his wife during their divorce. The home, boasting fourteen bedrooms and cement walls a foot thick, would eventually become known by neighborhood children as The Phantom House. In 1949, the ex-Mrs. Getty agreed to allow the mansion to be used for the filming of Sunset Boulevard, but only if Paramount Studios agreed to install a swimming pool in the backyard. The swimming pool remained after the film wrapped, and was later showcased in the third act of the 1955 film Rebel Without A Cause. In 1957 and shortly after the completion of RWAC, the mansion was demolished to make way for the monstrosity of an office building that currently occupies the property.
According to an overlay of tax maps, nearly half of the mansion occupied the area where the parking lot now borders S. Irving Street.
Of course I had to check it out.
And here’s a little bit of irony for those not paying attention. In the final scene of Sunset Boulevard when the police are trying to coax Norma Desmond out of the mansion and into custody for killing Joe Gillis, there’s a gossip columnist using a nearby telephone to call the developing story into the newspaper. The gossip columnist in the movie? None other than Hedda Hopper.
Yep, the very same gossip columnist who supposedly owned the mansion we recently fled in fear.
I’m sure Kevin Bacon is involved in this somehow . . .
Not terribly much to report from sunny southern California today. Much of the morning was spent driving around my old neighborhood in Downey, stifling sobs and generally being a lot more pussified and histrionic than is fitting of a fifty-year old man.
After choking down a lunch consisting of quite possibly the whitest Mexican food to be found outside of the Midwest, I scurried over to Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood to check yet another item off that goddamned list of mine.
Studs Theatre began life as one of the numerous Pussycat theaters dotting the landscape of California in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. To put it as generically as possible, Pussycat theaters were an oasis where one could go and relax with one’s thoughts and also enjoy an intense moment of self-amusement if one were so inclined. Couples patronized the theaters as well, but we’re really talking Pee Wee Herman stuff here, boys and girls.
Pussycat theaters were known as being top-of-the-line, allowing one to enjoy their pornography in plush, tasteful air-conditioned surroundings. Heck, they even had snack bars for those in need of nourishment and rehydration, which are prudent medical needs for those attempting to pull the all-nighter.
Although numbering as many as forty-seven theaters at the height of celluloid blue movies, the proliferation of videotaped porn beginning in 1983 led to a quick demise for our friend the Pussycat. At the cusp of the 1990’s, very few theaters remained, and it was in 2001 that the theater on Santa Monica Boulevard found itself as the sole survivor.
Reincarnated as Studs Theatre, the location continues to show big-screen sex, although certainly with less of that hairy 1970’s look. Catering primarily to the gay community, the grindhouse still screens films in both gay and straight formats in its four spacious theaters. Billing itself as a “must see big-screen porn multiplex,” the joint also boasts discounted snacks and free WiFi. Who woulda thought?
During its heyday in the 1970’s, the Pussycat on Santa Monica attempted a knock-off of Grauman’s Chinese by memorializing in concrete the handprints and footprints of the day’s current porn stars. You know . . . Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Marilyn Chambers, Tuna-Can Tommy.
Incredibly and quite despite L.A.’s raze and rebuild attitude, these simple monuments still occupy the sidewalk in front of the theater.
Our present mission, long-planned after a chance run-in with the movie Nasty Nurses in 1984 when I was in Okinawa, involved chasing down a legend.
John Holmes, otherwise known as “Johnny Wadd” or The Waddman, is perhaps the most famous of twentieth-century skin-flick artists. Possessing a gift likely bestowed upon him by genetic mutation, he would become the undisputed king of . . . well, I think we all know what I’m talking about here.
A couple of movies have been made about him and his eventual descent into the world of crime and cocaine, most notably Boogie Nights and Wonderland. The Waddman kicked it in 1988, kneeling to the ravages of AIDS at the age of 43.
For the record, I hated Val Kilmer in his role in Wonderland, but loved the former Marky Mark in Boogie Nights. For those interested, you can link back to my visit with the actual film locations during my visit to the epicenter of celluloid sleaze. http://teenyworld.net/2009/01/02/pushing-the-envelope-of-a-pg-17-rating/
As much as this might sound like a gushing love-letter to a long dead hero, it’s not. I can truly say I never wanted to meet the man, finding his choices in life cheap and deplorable. It’s widely rumored that Holmes intentionally continued working in porn, concealing the fact that he was HIV positive. He was a thief, a dope fiend, and someone not to be relied upon.
My interest in John Holmes simply comes down to a quest to see if the legend was true and if an age-old wives tale might actually be measurably accurate.
When it was all said and done, let it be known that my hand prints and foot prints are the same size of those of the late, great Johnny Wadd.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
As most of the readership probably knows, I’d always planned on moving back to Los Angeles and joining the LAPD. In fact, it was the reason I joined the Marines in the first place. I’d written for applications and had even built a resume around joining one of the most elite policing units in the nation, if not the entire world. It was only after a very firm stance taken by someone I’d happened to marry that I ended up pushing around a blue-and-white in Eugene, Oregon.
What follows is heavy on photographs. I’ll apologize in advance for the lack of sparkling repertoire.
Any visit to downtown Los Angeles must include a stop to visit the original Los Angeles Police Academy. Although there is a new bright and shiny academy at a different location, the original academy has been maintained to house the benevolent association’s Revolver and Athletic Club as well as satellite training facilities. I was connected to the academy early on in life, as our next-door neighbor happened to work in the armory at the facility. The neighbor’s daughter, a virtual sister to me in those early times, spent many summer days with me at the academy, exploring the grounds and generally doing whatever it is nine-year olds do when left to run amok in the foothills of Los Angeles.
Following my teary-eyed reunion with Chavez Ravine, I headed north and east to one of the old sections of the city; the enclave of Highland Park. Just like Echo Park, Los Feliz, and Silverlake, Highland Park is one of the oldest and funkiest areas to be found in the basin and its surrounding hills. It is home to artists, self-proclaimed bohemians, and not an insignificant gentrification.
As the oldest standing former police precinct in Los Angeles, the official historical museum of the LAPD at 6045 York Boulevard is not to be missed. Although it was closed as a station house in 1983, it is one of the few remaining historic police buildings yet to fall victim to the raze and rebuild attitude that pervades southern California. A distinctive brick fortress hard to emulate simply by façade, the building has found itself host to countless films and television shows.
In addition to documenting the history of the LAPD, the museum hosts several exhibits of significance.
The Symbionese Liberation Army pervaded and at times dominated the national news from roughly 1973 to 1975. It was a leftist-radical group, borne of the California prisons and gullible college students needing their very own war. In addition to numerous armed robberies and a couple of murders, they were most known for having kidnapped publishing heiress Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Initially a victim of kidnap, Patty would become known as “Tania” after drinking the Kool-Aid and becoming an active participant in the domestic terror campaign. I’m too tired to go into the history of the SLA, but it’s worth a read on Wikipedia for those of you who weren’t quite cellular at the time.
As a boy, I vividly recall the news regarding the SLA and their shenanigans. The seven-headed cobra was terrifying, and it was all very close to my home.
On May 17, 1974, a shootout occurring at 1466 East 54th Street in Los Angeles between the SLA and LAPD became the most noted police/bad guy skirmish of modern times, only to be topped by the North Hollywood bank robbery and shootout in 1997.
I watched the shootout unfold on live television, just eight miles from where we were living in Downey. I can vividly recall wondering if any of the bullets being fired would land inside or outside our house.
All six SLA members within the house on East 54th were killed. Patty Hearst was not one of them. She was later captured, tried in court, convicted, and sentenced to a short prison term that was eventually commuted with a pardon by then President Jimmy Carter. She has since lead a clean and apparently reputable life, going on to write a book and appear in a number of B-movies.
The SLA dust-up on East 54th Street was one of the many early tests of LAPD’s SWAT team, which is widely credited as the first such tactical unit in the nation and was championed by controversial Chief Darryl Gates. The shoulder patch of current team members displays the number 54 in memory of this significant battle, as well as also carrying the number 41 alluding to the prior shootout with Black Panthers at 41st and Central.
Not to go unmentioned was the SLA’s attempt to fire-bomb two police cars in random areas of the city, as well as at the very precinct station where the LAPD museum now resides on York Boulevard in Highland Park. It occurred on August 21st, 1975, although the rudimentary explosives did not detonate. Irony? Yes, but nonetheless very cool when touring the facility and enjoying the exhibit.
Also on display at the museum are artifacts involved in the North Hollywood bank robbery and shootout occurring in 1997. In addition to weapons and home-made body armor worn by the suspects, the museum also allows you to get up close and personal with the actual vehicle driven by the suspects as well as a similarly bullet-riddled LAPD squad car.
The main purpose for this most recent visit was to take in a new exhibit at the museum.
On March 9, 1963, two plainclothes officers of the LAPD stopped a vehicle at the intersection of Carlos Avenue and North Gower in Hollywood. Although initially in search of stolen vehicles, the officers had happened upon two armed robbers who soon took them hostage and forced them to drive to a secluded onion field near Bakersfield. One of the officers, Ian Campbell, was executed without provocation and was left lying in a bar ditch. The other officer, Karl Hettinger, was somehow able to flee on foot and eventually seek refuge at a farmhouse.
The killers, Gregory Ulas Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith, were eventually captured and convicted of the kidnapping and murder. Although initially sentenced to death, several retrials ensued based upon appeal and both death sentences were eventually set aside in 1972 when the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty. Jimmy Smith, the less complicit of the two suspects, was eventually released from prison, but returned on a parole violation and died in 2007 at the age of 76. Gregory Powell never again tasted freedom, remaining in prison until his death of prostate cancer in 2012. He was 79 years old. I can only hope it was an extremely painful death.
Karl Hettinger, wrecked by the guilt of relinquishing his weapon as the suspects held his partner at gunpoint, eventually resigned from the LAPD and ultimately ended up drinking himself to death at the age of 59.
The murder of Officer Ian Campbell was memorialized in the 1973 novel “The Onion Field,” penned by former LAPD sergeant Joseph Wambaugh. The book was adapted for a 1979 film featuring Ted Danson as Officer Campbell and James Woods as Gregory Powell.
Another irony lay in the fact that the lead investigator in the murder, LAPD detective-sergeant Pierce Brooks, would later become Chief of Police in both Springfield and Eugene. I met him in the late 1980’s, finding him appropriately engaging and yet physically diminutive to the figure I’d imagined after all the hoopla written about him. He died in 1998.
The exhibit includes the duty-weapon taken from Ian Campbell which was later used in his execution, as well as several other artifacts, court exhibits, and photographs from the case. Also included in the exhibit, occupying a large central display case, was the head and torso of a mannequin used by the police and prosecution in their reconstruction of the case. The mannequin, along with several dowel rods used to demonstrate the trajectory of the bullets fired into Ian Campbell, is an eerie court exhibit that was central to the case and was also featured prominently in the 1979 film.
Officer Ian Campbell was a bagpipe enthusiast. His bagpipes are also on display at the museum.
Following my visit to the museum, I drove to the intersection of Carlos and Gower in order to put my very own coda on the experience.
Surprisingly, I found the intersection and surrounding buildings little changed from the original 1963 photographs. Appropriately, the intersection has been dedicated by the City of Los Angeles in the memory of Officer Ian Campbell.
Okay, what trip to my very own paradise would be complete without catering to my penchant for kicking the grass on a few celebrity graves?
Los Angeles and the surrounding areas are home to thousands of notable dead folks, scattered generously across the southland in the many cemeteries and memorial parks that dot this suburban landscape. I could spend the rest of my life exploring these places, and I’ve already got an idea to get with Shirley Maclaine to work out a deal on an extra lifetime or two with which to pursue my interests.
In prior entries, I’ve spent considerable time at two of the biggies; Hollywood Forever on Santa Monica Boulevard and Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park located just off of Wilshire near the pristine campus at UCLA. There are still many celebrities left to discover in those two parks, but I decided to take my game south to Orange County. After all, predictability is so . . . well, predictable.
Having caught a tip that iconic movie star John Wayne could be found moldering somewhere around Newport Beach, I pointed the Silverado south from Anaheim in search of my childhood idol.
John Wayne was burned into my brainpan as a small boy, not uncommon for many other children of my generation. When I think of John Wayne, I think of Rooster Cogburn and the movie True Grit. In those pre-cable and pre-VCR days, the only way to revisit the movie was when they brought it back to the drive-in theater once every year. I had the same attachment to the Jimmy Stewart/Henry Fonda vehicle Cheyenne Social Club. Westerns were big back then, every bit as big as the CGI-based fantasy crap that dominates the screen nowadays.
If one were able to somehow slip back forty years or so and look into the backyard of my small home on Benares Street in Downey, you’d certainly see me and my neighborhood friends reenacting scenes from both True Grit and Cheyenne Social Club. Also as you might expect, since it was my backyard where we had the full-sized playhouse and because we also owned a Shetland pony, I always grabbed the starring roles while my friends were forced to carry all the other parts. Cute girls in the area were scarce, but I was fortunate to have a next door neighbor that fit the bill and was able to wrap up all the heroine roles. Sadly, I was never able to recruit the shy Asian-American girl who I quietly admired across the courtyard of Spencer V. Williams Elementary School.
Having made note of a particular Chinese joint in Garden Grove that was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I decided to grab a late lunch before continuing south to see The Duke. Although you may not believe it, I find restaurants almost as interesting as graveyards. Quiet meals alone allow me the opportunity to pour over my notes, plot new adventures, and jot down ideas for the blog.
As my bird-dropping soup was served, I opened my worn accordion folder and began to sift through all the lists, maps, and notes I obsessively prepare before embarking on such journeys. Let it be known that I’m just a bit anal about preparation, finding planning and process much more appealing than the actual end result.
Sadly, as I rifled through all the notepads and loose scribblings, I found that my intricate directions to John Wayne’s grave were missing. No amount of turning and shaking of the accordion file could make the missing document appear. If those text balloons you see in comic books were real, you’d have certainly seen the words, “Idiot!” hovering over me. The directions to The Duke’s grave were likely sitting on my desk at home in Oregon.
I know what you’re thinking. Why not just jump on the smartphone and Google the directions? Here’s where I’m a little bit embarrassed. I’m too cheap to upgrade to a smartphone.
I’ve resisted an upgrade for the longest time and for just two reasons, the first of which has to do with my frugal (read: cheap) nature. I just can’t feature throwing an extra $20 toward a data plan when I have Internet at home and WiFi at so many places on the road. Additionally, I’m quite resistive to joining the popular masses with my head buried in a handheld electronic device. Let it be known that I also distain the mediocrity associated with playing Texas Hold’em Poker, the television series Dexter, or having multiple tattoos unless you spent time in the military or a biker gang.
In other words, I like to think of myself as a loner. A rebel.
In my panic, I was reduced to interrogating my Chinese waiter about any knowledge he might hold about the whereabouts of John Wayne’s grave. After all, this was Orange County and John Wayne only has a freakin’ airport named after him . . .
Although our ability to communicate was seriously compromised by my lack of any discernable Mandarin, I think I was finally able to get my point across with some rudimentary pantomime involving pointing my fingers as if they were six-shooters and emulating the rolling, staggering gate of my idol while shouting, “John Wayne! John Wayne, goddammit!”
Eventually we came to some understanding, according to the vigorous head nodding by my waiter, and directions to a nearby cemetery were hastily scribbled on a napkin. For his trouble, I left Hop Sing a five-dollar tip. I’m nothing if not generous . . .
Interpreting written directions in Chinese is no easy thing, even for a seasoned traveler like me, but I was finally able to make my way to the involved gravesite within an expansive cemetery in nearby Westminster. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting . . .
Okay, John Wayne’s grave is truly located in Corona del Mar at Pacific View Memorial Park. The cemetery occupies a prime piece of real estate overlooking Newport Bay and is quite similar in size and scope to any number of the Forest Lawn parks. It’s quiet and peaceful, and not altogether inexpensive if you were to want to rest your bones there.
Although John Wayne was interred there in 1979, his gravesite went unmarked for roughly twenty years before a simple plaque was installed. It seems that his family was fearful of people like me showing up and doing whatever it is we do at gravesites.
While still on the trail of dead celebrities, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to visit one of Hollywood’s major babes who rests within a mere five-minute drive of the Happiest Place on Earth.
Carolyn Jones was well-established as a movie star long before being offered the role of Morticia Adams in the 1960’s television comedy serial The Adams Family. During her career, she found herself nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. She even went so far as marrying Aaron Spelling at one point, although this was well before he became Hollywood’s richest dude.
Possessing exquisite features, limpid eyes bordering on Asian, and a tiny girlish frame, Carolyn Jones was hard to top. She was everything Yvonne DeCarlo tried to knock-off as Lillian Munster and was far less creepy than Maila Nurmi’s Vampira. Cassandra Peterson tried to do the same thing with her Elvira character, but it was only Elvira’s nifty handbags that gave her any novelty. Carolyn Jones was simply the best. You can consider me a fan.
Carolyn Jones died at her home in West Hollywood in 1983 after a ravaging battle with colon cancer. She was just 53 years old. For those interested, you can slip back in time to a previous entry in which I visit the final residence of Carolyn Jones. http://teenyworld.net/2006/09/29/my-day-with-the-dead/
Following cremation, she was interred with her mother at Melrose Abbey Memorial Park in Anaheim.
I prefer to think of her in life.
Hey there, boys and girls.
Not much to report on this end due to having much of our evening taken up mingling with the beautiful people here in West Hollywood, most of which seem to be dudes. What’s up with that?
After checking out of the mansion in Orange County, the boy and I have taken the opportunity to stay in the heart of the Sunset Strip before sending him home on a plane tomorrow.
Now for those of you familiar with the blog, you are well aware that I have a particular affinity for all things L.A. and Hollywood. Oftentimes in the past, the boy and I have gravitated to Sunset Boulevard and environs reaching as far west as Westwood and the 405. Of course, this was back when my chiseled-features had yet to erode and the boy was much cuter and burgeoning on being pimply.
In the past, it was on the Sunset Strip where we had a chance run-in with Paris Hilton and her entourage, and were also invited by Heather Locklear to eat from her personal bag of Funyons™ . Let it be known that Heather was particularly sweet and down-to-earth, while Paris was simply concerned with which hotel we were staying at. Truth be told, we weren’t staying at a Hilton property but I lied about it anyway.
This time, we’re staying in the very epicenter of the Strip at the Best Western Sunset Plaza Hotel.
Directly to our east is the art deco and very nourish Sunset Tower Hotel, harkening back visions of Raymond Chandler and his alter ego Philip Marlowe.
To our west is the House of Blues, and across the street are The Comedy Store, the Saddle Ranch, and the formerly-named Continental Hyatt House, which would at some point become known as the Riot Hyatt.
Also within very close proximity are the Whisky A Go Go, the Roxy, the Viper Room, and the Rainbow Grill.
With a quick stroll to the northeast, it brings you to the Chateau Marmont where Belushi kicked it in Bungalow 3 and Lindsay Lohan continues to periodically attract the attention of TMZ.
Stef and I spent a good amount of time walking up and down the strip, trying not to look too impressed by the $500,000 exotics that raced up and down the famed strip of asphalt as we trudged along on foot. The boy was all decked out; True Religion and Ed Hardy and all the other stuff that kid of mine has come to cherish. Me? I was wearing my best Velcro shoes and distressed Sansibar slacks with the Comfort Waistband™.
Quite interestingly, Justin Bieber was nowhere to be found, which simply goes to prove the kid is truly all chip and no shoulder.
Stefan, being just shy of twenty-one, is in that awkward piece of one’s lifetime; too young to make it into any of the clubs but still old enough to grab a tranny and head to a back alley.
It was about ten years ago on a previous trip to West Hollywood when Stefan pointed out to me that there were very few women to be found in the area. The sidewalks and cafes were knotted with men, young and old alike, sipping coffee and enjoying croissants and generally looking more vibrant than I could ever hope to do. Again, I lied and told my son there was a convention of Abercrombie models in town for the weekend.
Having reached our fill of Hollywood royalty and unbridled excess, we took our dinner at a sidewalk table of the Saddle Ranch Chop House; subject of a now defunct VH1 reality show and employer to some of Hollywood’s most undiscovered actors/dancers/waiters. (Can you believe I just used “took our dinner” in the blog? Certainly a new low.)
Stef chewed the scenery as best he could, hoping to be discovered. Me? I just sat there, sadly wondering how life was slipping by so quickly while Lindsay Lohan continued to boldly demonstrate the indestructible properties of Teflon.
In the end, we retired for the night, dreading the fact that in twelve short hours we would send the boy back to work and his college studies in soggy little Eugene while I remained in L.A. to party like a rock star.
Hey, did I mention I never have to go back to work ever again?