La La Land
I live in Los Angeles, one of the vacation capitals in the world. The eyes of the world are upon us on New Year’s Day with the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl. We host the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, and Emmys. We have historic Spanish missions and locations you’d recognize instantly from film and television. There’s much to do and see, and that’s without mentioning the Mouse that dwells to the South. Disneyland is not only not in Los Angeles, but a different county, which gives you an idea of how sprawling the “LA area” is.
Yes, we’re talking travel this week for Romance Writers Weekly, and things near us we would recommend when the day comes we can travel and vacation again. I’m going to avoid some of the obvious choices, such as Universal Studios — but I’d like to point out that the current studio tour, which was begun in 1964, is not the first. In 1915, Carl Laemmle erected grandstands and allowed the public in watch movies being filmed for the price of fifteen cents, which included a box lunch with fried chicken. That tour ended in 1930 with the advent of sound.
Los Angeles has a weird and wonderful history. Originaly settled by the Tongva and Chumash tribes, the land was claimed for Spain in 1542, nearly 70 years before Jamestown was founded in Virginia. It wasn’t until 1781, however, that El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles was founded. The heart of that small settlement can still be found in Olvera Street, which is home to the Avila Adobe, the oldest standing building in Los Angeles, along with a number of other historic buildings from the 19th century. In addition, there is shopping and some seriously good Mexican food, ranging from sit down restaurants to hole in the wall spots serving what are clearly family recipes. Tours are offered, and there is a chance for virtual tours while Los Angeles shelters in place.
Olvera Street is part of downtown which was once the heart of Los Angeles. Since the city was founded, it’s been an ever-changing landscape, the old often making way for the new. When I first worked downtown, I’d often walk past an old movie theater built in 1911. It’s now gone, replaced by a late-Twentieth Century state office building. There are still things have been preserved and thrive. The Bradbury Building, built in 1893, is the oldest landmarked building in the city, and is also included on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’ve seen Blade Runner, you’ve seen the building at its worst, when everyone was convinced it would be demolished due to the cost of seismic retrofiting. Fortunately, an investor stepped up, investing $7 million at a time when the area was, shall we say, not the safest spot in the world. His willingness to do so ensured the salvation of this beautiful landmark, which is still a working office buiding. It’s across the street from Grand Central Market Founded in 1917, and the Million Dollar Theater, built by Sid Grauman before he built the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
The best way to get a feel for Downtown Los Angeles, is on foot, and I recommend one of the Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours, which will give you a chance to step inside many of downtown’s important buildings, not just pass by. They also currently host some virtual tours on their site.
A few other sights of Downtown Los Angeles:
Along Broadway, Los Angeles has the highest concentration of “picture palaces” still in existence. Each year, the LA Conservancy hosts a program known as “The Last Remaining Seats’ where films are screened in these old theaters, often films with some significant attachment to the location.
Talk of movies, of course, brings us to Hollywood, another frequent target of visitors. The problem is, Hollywood is more often a state of mind rather than a physical location. Designed as a home for the Oscars, travelling shows, and television extravaganzas such as American Idol and America’s Got Talent, the Dolby Theatre seems to embody this idea, creating a backdrop for glittering movie stars sweeping up stairs edge in red past columns inscribed with the names of previous Best Picture Winners. It’s a pretty impressive sight even outside the Oscars. I made a stop there the day before the ceremony one year two see how much of the prep work I could document. A surprising amount, and while Hollywood Boulevard itself was shut down (with an amazing number of control trucks parked out of sight of the cameras), pedestrian traffic was still flowing to the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theater, tourists searching the hand and footprints of their favorites. (I’ll let you in on a secret: not all the “autographed” cement blocks are in the forecourt. As space is at a premium, blocks are sometimes removed and stored to make way for new ones or because they need repairs. Charlie Chaplin’s block was removed at some point after World War II because it kept being vandalized.
But if you’re looking to see stars, there’s also the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where prominent entertainers, directors, writers, singers, and other who are considered to have contributed significantly to the industry (or have enough people willing to sign a petition and put up the necessary money) are imortalized. Fun fact: there is a star for “Harrison Ford” in front of the classic watering hole Mussos and Franks. After Star Wars came out, many people assumed it was that Harrison Ford. In fact, it was placed for a silent film actor, whose career ended when the talkies came in. For a long time, Harrison Ford said he was content to share the start with the silent star, but in 2003, he was awarded his own star outside the Dolby Theatre, close to Pearl White’s.
Here’s a few sights which can be found in Hollywood:
Like downtown Los Angeles, there’s something to be said for a walking tour of Hollywood because it gives you a chance to pause and take in the surroundings instead of whizzing by on a bus. You can find a selection here, If you’re looking for to learn something about Hollywood not on the beaten track, I suggest Felix in Hollywood’s tours.
Hollywood has it seamy underside, though, and if you’re curious about who killed the Black Dahlia or love Film Noir and wanted to walk Raymond Chandler’s “mean streets,” check out Esotouric’s offerings. They also have a YouTube Channel with features some of their historical walking tours, as well as sites preservationists are attempting to save.
And, of course, what discussion of things to see in Los Angeles would be complete without a beautiful sunset over the pier at Santa Monica?
Where would you like to visit when folks can travel again? Is there something in Los Angeles you’ve always been curious about? Let me know in the comments, then visit Leslie Hatchel to see the sights she’s talking about.
Before I go, I want to share a special announcement, Christina Alexandra, Clair Brett, and A.S. Fenichel who are all part of Romance Writers Weekly, are thrilled to reveal the cover for their anthology, Once Upon a Twelfth Night. We may be in the middle of summer, but sometimes it’s nice in the summer heat to turn our thoughts to cooler weather. So, the honor of your presence is requested by The Earl and Countess of Stapleton at their house party to celebrate Twelfth Night. Festivities include: a titillating masked ball, ice skating, a romp in the local village, a naughty treasure hunt, midnight kisses in the garden and the Twelfth Night Ball where holiday magic brings about seven perfect matches. Releasing July 28, it sounds delightful and I can’t wait to read it.
Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy.
Dorothea Hindley came to London for one reason: to help launch her cousin into society. The task would be easier if Dorothea’s aunt hadn’t revived a long-standing feud which could make her family a laughingstock. Her best hope to prevent that comes from Martin Drayton, Viscount Abernathy, son of her aunt’s nemesis.
Martin can’t afford the distraction of his mother’s social maneuvering. With King George mad at Windsor Castle and Parliament wrangling over the Regency Bill, he is busy forwarding the Prince of Wales’ cause. Enlisting Dorothea to help to cool the flames of the feud seems not only sensible, but mutually beneficial.
Working together sets in motion an undeniable attraction—and a scandal neither they can ill-afford. Caught in a marriage of convenience, can the accidental viscountess and her unexpected husband get their families to stop feuding long enough to save both the monarchy and their love?
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