Expo Rail Line Watch: Bridge O’er La Brea

Expo Line bridge across La Brea, southbound toward the airport

Expo Line bridge across La Brea, southbound toward the airport

For months now, construction workers have built the massive framework of the Expo Rail Line closer and closer to La Brea Avenue.   When a sign went up last week saying La Brea would be closed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Oct. 9, I knew they were about to build the bridge right over the road.   And it’s happened! As of Sunday morning, the rough framework is now halfway across — spanning the southbound lanes, but not yet the northbound. 

La Brea northbound, with Expo rail bridge poised to cross

La Brea northbound, with Expo rail bridge poised to cross

The Expo line, an above ground light rail line with elevated crossings at La Brea and La Cienega, was slated to open in summer 2010, less than a year from now, but the latest word is that the opening may be delayed until late in 2011.  The 8.6-mile rail line, budgeted at $862 million, will run from Culver City to the 7th and Metro station downtown, connecting to the Red Line into Hollywood and all the rest of the subway and rail system.

La Brea southbound, from directly under the beams of the Expo Rail line

La Brea southbound, from directly under the beams of the Expo Rail line

It’s a huge project, and it seems like a significant milestone to me that from now on, everyone taking La Brea to the airport will pass underneath it.  I’ll post again as it progresses.  For now, here’s a link to video posted by the MTA showing a very cool simulation of the way this system is project to look once it’s up and running.

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Spot Check L.A. (Friday photo puzzle #2)

L.A. Explored had a great first week, thanks to support from friends and colleagues and a generous write-up in L.A. Observed on Sept. 30 by uber-blogger Kevin Roderick.   The winner of last Friday’s photo puzzle is Harry Chandler, who correctly located the image as part of the brightly painted outside wall of  Loteria at the Farmer’s Market,  where it’s visible to anyone who lunches at the communal patio tables at the historic outdoor gathering spot (corner of 3rd and Fairfax).  A close runner-up is actor and comic Pete Handelman, who minutes after the post went up guessed “Loteria?”  But there are two locations of this gourmet taqueria in L.A., so Harry wins this time.   Specifics, people.  It’s all about location.  Thanks very much for playing, and here’s this week’s puzzle:

Ever noticed this?  If so, where in L.A. is it?

Ever noticed this? If so, where in L.A. is it?

To play, post your answer as a comment.  The most specific correct answer wins. 

Puzzle #1 Location Scout winner:  Harry Chandler.  Runner-up: Pete Handelman.

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Meet the Chandlers

This Monday, Oct. 5 from 9-11 p.m., PBS airs a new documentary, Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times.  I caught the world premiere in January at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, so I can report in advance that  it’s really good –a fascinating, unsentimental portrait of our home-grown media dynasty and a newspaper era that’s fast fading to history.  A lot of former L.A. Times employees were in that audience, not suprisingly.  Anyone interested in L.A. and its media will want to catch it.

Otis Chandler family, early 1960s

Otis Chandler family, early 1960s

Filmmaker Peter Jones, who won acclaim doing profiles for A&E’s Biography series, covers four generations of the Chandler family from Harrison Gray Otis, founding publisher of The Los Angeles Times, through succeeding publishers Harry Chandler (who reputedly inspired the villain in Chinatown), Norman Chandler and finally, Otis Chandler, shown above with wife Missy and their five children.   Otis makes a fascinating character, and despite his  hale and hearty physique, was a serious newsman who elevated the paper’s standards considerably. The youth in the center of the photo is Harry Chandler, a former exec at the Times and other media companies who aided the filmmakers with photographs and letters, and who’s interviewed in the film, as are Missy, Bettina (Otis’ second wife and widow), Catherine Mulholland, Kevin Starr, Mike Davis, and many others who lend a unique perspective.  The younger Harry Chandler, who certainly has a personal stake in the history, had this to say in an email he sent out this week: “In the end, I found it a moving and powerful documentary that is quite accurate and very watchable.”  

The photograph above, originally taken by Alex Spear, is reproduced from the end materials in Harry Chandler’s Dreamers In Dream City, a recently published collection of profiles and inventive photo-portraits of influential figures in L.A. history and current affairs.   Coincidentally, the 55 photos in that book (all either taken by Chandler or enhanced by him with techniques such as digital backgrounds and hand-coloring) are getting a full-on museum exhibit now through Jan. 3 at the Autry National Center (the Gene Autry Museum of the West, out near the L.A. Zoo).   Congrats, Harry! 

And last but not least, Angel City Press, which published Harry’s book, has also published a companion book to the Chandler documentary, written by Bill Boyarsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times.   Autographed copies are available for $24.95 here.

(Disclosure: although I worked on the Dreamers book as a contributing editor, I have no interest other than a rooting one in the projects described above.   I just think you’ll find them interesting!).

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Saturday Night at the Majestic Crest

CrestOrangeMarquee1We all love movie theaters, but there are some we love more than others.   In particular, I love the Majestic Crest in Westwood, where Saturday evening Billy and I went to see Inglorious Basterds

 The Crest has terrific neon, and it’s a stand-alone, independently owned theater that sits slightly apart from the Westwood Village hubbub, on Westwood Boulevard but on the south side of Wilshire.

 Its original owner when it was constructed in 1941 was Frances Seymour Fonda, the mother of Jane and Peter (I’m following Jane on Twitter, and she has a blog, too).  It has the most wonderful mural inside showing all the buildings that formed the skyline of central Hollywood in the ‘40s, with Art Deco details that pop out in tiers. 

Cyclorama inside theater

Cyclorama inside theater

The ‘neon’ on the buildings glows when the lights go down, and the ceiling  fills with stars (it’s a celestially accurate star map, I’m told).   There’s a brief ‘curtain show’ while the music for That’s Entertainment plays, whetting your appetite for the feature.  The red plush seats are very comfortable, and there are no annoying commercials – just a preview or two.  Doesn’t that sound great?  Movie-going the way it’s meant to be!CroppedMarqueeAmy

 An actual movie-loving individual owns this theater – his name is Robert Bucksbaum and he bought it with his life savings (he’d done well in another business) in 2003, and often works the ticket booth and concessions along with his staff.  When a movie has a really great weekend at The Crest, he says, that gives him more clout with distributors and a better shot at booking more of the movies you want to see.  Cool, huh?   So come on out and support an old-style  neighborhood theater.  And the movie?  Outstanding. But you’ve heard that by now.  Here’s a review I agree with.

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Spot Check L.A. (the Friday photo puzzle)

Here’s how it works:  Each Friday at around noon, I’ll post a photo taken somewhere in L.A.  If you recognize it, post a comment that identifies it.   The first one to get it right wins.  If more than one person gets it right, then the person who is most specific wins.  So if you I.D. a photo as “Culver City” and someone else I.D.s it as “Rivers Of The World mural, Ballona Creek Bike Path, Culver City” then I guess we know who wins.  If you win, you’re designated a “Location Scout” (which means you keep your eyes open); and your name is posted as the winner with next week’s puzzle.  Have at it, locals!

Where in L.A. do you see this?

Where in L.A. do you see this?

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Good press!

VGWalkWayIt’s that sweet time of year when the Indian summer musters up a punishing heat by day, but the early mornings and evenings are cool and laced wtih hints of fall.   The nighttime canopy is loud with the singing of tree crickets,   and the other night during a full moon, and I saw two raccoons peering at me from the fork of a tree.   Yes, I’m talking about the Village Green, an urban oasis just south of the 10 freeway and west of La Brea.   Every now and then, our little community gets some good press, as happened just the other day when this terrific story about Village Green  appeared in the Sunday, Sept. 20 edition of the Los Angeles Times.   Check it out and learn more about the origins of this National Historic Landmark, which the architects apparently developed in the late 1930s with funds made available through President Roosevelt’s New Deal.   Good deal, FDR!   And appreciation to my friend and former newspaper colleague Veronique de Turenne, who wrote the article.

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Runners, on your mark…

 Hip hip hooray!  The track at Jackie Robinson Stadium, which has been closed for a $2 million renovation since March, is finally set to reopen on Monday, Sept. 21.  Workers were there today hosing the dust off the metal bleachers to make them sparkle like the rest of the facility, which now boasts a completely new red track surface, with crisp white lane and numbers, and an artificial grass infield ready for a new football season.

I slipped in and got this picture this morning.

I slipped in and got this picture this morning.

 Runners, joggers and walkers are welcomed back on Monday, but a sign says ‘no soccer!’  I’m not sure if this is only a temporary injunction – so if anyone knows when soccer can come back, please leave a comment.

For those who’ve never dropped by there, it would be hard to explain the role the track plays in the community.   Every morning, from dawn until the sun’s too hot, it attracts a parade of regulars ranging from super-athletes to the short-bus crowd from the local school for the disabled.  Everybody gets their exercise.  Talk about a community health program.  A lot of the people who come are older folks who walk the track in convivial groups, shouting and visiting and lingering.  Some of them have kept coming during the long six months of closure, walking the concrete path around the adjacent Rancho Cienega sports fields instead.  

This morning, when I showed up to see if there was any news yet, an older lady shouted “Monday!” to me, pumping her fist in celebration.   And official notices plastered on the fence confirmed it. 

They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, and that’s how it’s felt with the track locked up half the year. Now we know.

What: The track and field at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Where:  Rancho Cienega Park and Sports Complex, 5001 Rodeo Road, just east of La Brea in southwest Los Angeles (zip: 90016). http://www.laparks.org/dos/reccenter/facility/ranchocienegaRC.htm

 

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