Category Archives: L.A. Remembered

Ciro’s & the Trocadero

CIRO’S

1941, Ciro's Nightclub

 

Ciro’s (also known as Ciro’s Le Disc) was a nightclub in West Hollywood, California, at 8433 Sunset Boulevard, on the Sunset Strip, opened in January 1940, by entrepreneur William Wilkerson. Herman Hover took over management of Ciro’s in 1942 until it closed its doors in 1957. Hover filed for bankruptcy in 1959, and Ciro’s was sold at public auction for $350,000.

Ciro’s combined an overdone baroque interior with an unadorned exterior, and became a famous hangout for movie people of the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. It was one of “the” places to be seen, and guaranteed being written about in the gossip columns of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.

Among the galaxy of celebrities who frequented Ciro’s were Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Sidney Poitier, Anita Ekberg, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Dean Martin, Mickey Rooney, Cary Grant, George Raft, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Judy Garland, June Allyson and Dick Powell, Mamie Van Doren, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Benny, Peter Lawford, and Lana Turner (who often said Ciro’s was her favorite nightspot) among many others. During his first visit to Hollywood in the late 1940s, future President John F. Kennedy dined at Ciro’s.

In the 1960s, Ciro’s became a Sunset Strip rock and roll club, and was the only major venue to make such a transition while keeping its original name. The Byrds got their start there in 1964. Accounts of the period (reproduced in the sleeve notes to The Preflyte Sessions box set) describe a “church-like” atmosphere, with interpretive dancing. The club also served as the host during the recording of the 1965 Dick Dale album “Rock Out With Dick Dale: Live At Ciro’s.”

Co-founder Wilkerson also opened other nightclubs on the Sunset Strip such as Cafe Trocadero, and later The Flamingo in Las Vegas.

The site of Ciro’s became The Comedy Store in 1972.

Notable performers

 

THE TROCADERO 

 

trocadero

In West Hollywood, California, the Cafe Trocadero was the center of jitterbug craze in the 1930s. Today, a ” new” Trocadero stands as a nightclub at 8610 Sunset Boulevard on the Sunset Strip. A black tie, French-inspired supper club, the original Trocadero, now demolished, was considered the jewel of the Strip in the 1930s, and became synonymous with stars, starlets, movie producers, and fun. Founded by William R. Wilkerson in 1934, the successful publisher of The Hollywood Reporter who owned other nightclubs nearby on the Sunset Strip like Ciro’s and LaRue. It was also the scene of many famous movie premiere parties. There was a mid 1940s low-budget film about the Trocadero and its history starring Ralph Morgan which bore little resemblance to reality.

Among the celebrities who frequented the Trocadero were Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Jackie Gleason, Henry Fonda, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Jean Harlow, and Norma Shearer. The Trocadero was featured in the 1937 movie, A Star is Born starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. That same year, vaudevillian and Three Stooges manager Ted Healy died shortly after a fight in the parking lot, allegedly at the hands of fellow contractee Wallace Beery and MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix. A 2004 documentary film claimed that Healy’s assailants were actually Wallace Beery, gangster Pat DiCicco, and DiCicco’s cousin Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.

Actress/comedienne Thelma Todd, who died mysteriously in December 1935, spent an evening at the Trocadero at a party thrown by Ida Lupino and her father Stanley. Todd had formerly been married to Pat DiCicco, and was angry that he had shown up there with another actress, Margaret Lindsay. The party was one of the last times she was seen alive.

The dance club was parodied in the 1938 Warner Bros. cartoon, Porky at the Crocadero. The club also received a brief mention, via actual film footage, in 1944’s What’s Cookin’ Doc?.

 

Parker Center — end of an LA era

parkercenter

 

After over 60 years of service, on Tuesday, January 15th at 2 PM, the Los Angeles Police Department closed the tinted, large glass doors for the last time to its headquarters in Parker Center, located downtown at 150 North Los Angeles Street.

Originally called the Police Administration Building (PAB), groundbreaking for the Center occurred on December 30, 1952, and construction was completed in 1955. The architect was Welton Becket. The building combined police facilities that had been located throughout the Civic Center area. The location was previously home to the Olympic Hotel.

The PAB was a state of the art facility, and the envy of other police departments across the nation. So great was the demand for public tours that the Department assigned policewomen full-time for the first year to give tours several times a day.

It was later renamed in honor of Chief William H. Parker, who died in office on July 16, 1966 from a heart attack. Chief since 1950, he helped establish the LAPD’s reputation as a world leader in law enforcement.

15WEBB

Soon after his death, the Los Angeles City Council renamed the building “Parker Center.” The building was one of the sites of unrest during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, following a not-guilty verdict for the four police officers involved in the Rodney King matter.

A MEDIA STAR

200px-Dragnet_title_screen

Probably Parker Center’s greatest early notoriety began with the fifth season in 1955 of the television drama by Jack Webb’s Mark VII Productions, Dragnet, and again in the late 1960’s when the show returned to TV, this time in color.

 

6a010536b86d36970c01761778711e970c-800wi

 

This was only the start. The PAB appeared in several establishing shots for the Perry Mason TV series between 1958 and 1966. This was followed by the popular NBC drama Hunter that also used the building in its sixth and seventh seasons, as did the TNT series The Closer. Parker Center is also featured as one of the main locations in Police Quest: Open Season, the fourth installment of the Police Quest series, a 1993 PC video game by Sierra Entertainment.

Parker Center is often mentioned in the novels of the Harry Bosch series, written by Michael Connelly.

Featured as a backdrop in countless other movie and television features over the decades, Parker Center was a place where the line between art and real-life truly blurred.

At times art imitated life, and at times life imitated art in the fictional and real life dramas that unfolded at Parker Center. High profile investigations took place there, and it was not unusual for occasional big-name celebrities to be booked into the Parker Center Jail—tagged “the glass house” by arrestees because of its large glass-walled holding tanks—on anything from minor charges up to homicide.

It also was the scene of occasional public protests and raucous police commission meetings. If the PAB’s walls were to talk, how much they would have to say!

 

NEW HEADQUARTERS

l

 

With time, the Parker Center became outdated and was in need of expensive seismic retrofits. After considering a number of downtown sites for a new facility, the city council selected a property directly south of City Hall, Caltrans‘ former Los Angeles headquarters. Ground was broken for the new building in January 2007. It was dedicated on October 24, 2009.

Since 2009, Parker Center continued to house portions of the Department’s Scientific Investigations Division (SID). This division has since been transferred to the nearby C. Erwin Piper Technical Building.

Until recently LAPD’s Robbery – Homicide Division operated from a Parker Center annex.

The heliport at the new facility is marked with an ‘H’. The Parker Center’s heliport was marked with a ‘5’.

“Let’s fire it up!”

 

lapraaclogo1

by PAT CONNELLY

 

Sgt. II, Pat Connelly retired from the LAPD in 1996.  He was elected to the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club (LAPRAAC ) Board of Directors, and presently serves in the retirement position. A member of the Baker to Vegas Race Committee, Connelly was appointed the “Official B to V Team Coach & Coordinator.”

 

 

A while back, I went to the Police Academy in Elysian Park to attend a LAPRAAC Board of Directors meeting. I walked past the security office and up the road to the Chief Daryl F. Gates Lounge. Making my way, I passed between the familiar stone walls on each side of the roadway. My walk brought back memories of the first time I did so, over 46 years ago.

Before the Watts Riots in August 1965, I joined the LAPD Reserve Corps. My training commenced on a Saturday morning in the Academy gym. Greeting our class were Officer Les Jenkins and Sergeant George Morrison (the late Morrison retired at the rank of Commander). Both men were spit and polish; standing tall in Class A uniforms, impressing all 30 members of a nervous and unsuspecting recruit reserve class.

The first thing Sgt. Morrison did after mustering the class, was speak about the heritage and history of the Los Angeles Police Academy, and the role that LAPRAAC played in its development.

Starting at the two rock pillars supporting the arcing Police Academy sign, the two men in blue took us on a tour of the grounds. As we walked along, Sgt Morrison pointed out different structures, landscaping, and memorable and historical landmarks. He spoke softly, and the steady tempo of his words radiated his strong sense of pride. It was obvious he was honored to be a member of the LAPD, as well as a member and in his day a noted athlete in LAPRAAC.

Sgt. Morrison explained the rock formations that divide the narrow roadway and then stated, “As you can see,, the walls are made of slabs of concrete, broken chunks of sidewalk brought up here in 1935 by trustees and a cadre of police officers. I will say more on this project later.”

As we walked, he told us the Academy’s history and how it became what it was on that day in 1965 and still is today.

In 1926, Chief James Davis was instrumental in the development and the formalizing of training for officers. The first such training was held in an armory downtown, where officers were instructed in all aspects of criminal justice and street police training. However, no firearms training was provided, except for a makeshift firing range behind the Lincoln Heights station. Today, it is known as Hollenbeck Station.

In 1931, Chief Davis set his sights on obtaining an area in the City of Los Angeles that would provide a formal shooting range for firearms instruction, qualification (including a bonus shoot) and shooting practice. Griffith Park was first suggested, but subsequently disapproved by the Recreation and Parks Commission. An alternative site in Elysian Park, consisting of 21 hillside acres, was then selected and approved; the rugged land was situated above Chavez Ravine.

Chief Davis put out a call throughout the Department for any officers skilled in building, and in electrical and plumbing installation. Sgt. Henry Fricket, assigned Lincoln Heights Station, was the first officer to answer the call. He applied his expertise in carpentry, constructing a 25-yard enclosed pit area, target frames, and firing points. The Department finally had a place to improve one’s shooting skills with the newly approved .45 caliber revolver. Officer Ronald French was the first range master.

In early 1931, eight officers formed a competitive pistol (revolver) team. The “Bulls Eye” shooting specialists were Chief James Davis, and Officers Stanley Stone, Jack Bartley, Joe Dircks, Bud Buchanan, R. J. Ward, J.J. Engbecht, and Mark Wheeler. The team was the first of many championship pistol teams to earn prestige and national fame for the Department and LAPRAAC.

The 25-yard range design and construction was professionally laid out and so complete that it was chosen as the venue for the 1932 Summer Olympic Games pistol competition.

In the fall of 1934, the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club filed and obtained legal status. It then took on the responsibility of maintaining the Academy grounds. Under the supervision of Chief Davis (at the time he was President of the LAPRAAC Board of Directors), Sgt William H. Parker, also a lawyer, was assigned to draw up the necessary documents. Sgt. Parker would later become Chief of Police and rebuild what had been a corrupt entity into a professional police department, respected throughout the world. A bust of Chief Parker, commemorating his contributions during his long and distinguished career, currently stands in an honored spot on the Academy grounds.

Once the legal paperwork was approved, signed and delivered, the “club” started focusing on recreational and athletic outlets for its membership.

Officer Fred Eberhart obtained the services of the Department of Forestry. This action brought pine trees and shrubs to the Academy that stand today. Club members supervised 400 trusties that were put to work constructing the rock garden, landscaping, and building the pair of entry pillars and high walls traversing up the hill alongside the Academy roadway. The walls, made of rock and concrete chunks, had been pedestrian walkways on both sides of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.

Tons of concrete from the sidewalks torn out for road widening, utilizing a federal worker program (WPA) during the Depression, were transported to Elysian Park. In addition, the Department of Fish and Game donated 200 quail, 18 gray squirrels, and many fish to create a natural habitat within the hillside rock garden and its several waterfalls and shaped pools.

The first building constructed at the Academy had been an Olympic Village mess hall, located in Baldwin Hills during the 1932 Summer Games. It now is called the Chief Daryl F. Gates Lounge. Club members disassembled the building and reassembled it at its present location. After its completion, a large pool and athletic field and track were constructed across the street.

To cover the cost, members of the Department donated 1% of one month’s salary.

The Academy’s first graduating class of forty recruits, numbers 1-36, called their group “Club 40.” A plaque is on display honoring their place in Academy history. A photograph of class members is on the wall in the public café. The first female class graduated ten years later, in 1946.

The indoor gymnasium was constructed in 1935 at a cost of $181,000. Included in the project were a stage, a locker room, handball courts, administrative offices, billiards room, barbershop, beauty salon, steam room, and a massage alcove. A licensed masseur was available.

Officer Bob Burke (retired LAPRAAC Club Athletic Director) revealed a legendary story about a closet in the Academy Commanding Officer’s office. At one time it opened to a wet bar, designed and constructed for the comfort (possibly on and off duty) of Chief James Davis. Burke says if one looks hard, one will see a piece of the old liquor cabinet still in the office.

Only months after the start of WW II, police recruits in training lived on the grounds; they were allowed to go home on the weekends. A barracks type bunkroom was set up in the present day lounge. A small, separate, square-shaped building just inside the wall near the security office, is where meals were served. That area and the barbeque pit are still present. The building used to be the Law Instructor’s Unit; it currently is leased to a commercial real estate business.

A consultant for the residents’ living and training needs was Melvin Furbish, a retired Marine Corps general. General Furbish patterned discipline of the recruits after his beloved Corps. He included the class “A” uniform style worn today by the Department, and still worn by the USMC.

Another Academy landmark is the concrete seating area on the athletic field. The long and tiered seating, three levels high, is located behind home plate, where LAPRAAC’s baseball team plays. Many Department participants were former college and semi-professional baseball players. They played other local pro teams, including the Hollywood Stars and the Los Angeles Angels, as well as university teams from USC and UCLA. The LAPD diamond-field hardball athletes have won their fair share of games.

On March 3, 2013, the Department baseball team will have been playing continuously for 100 years.

A former member of a LAPRAAC post-WWII baseball team was my watch commander at West Valley Division (1967), Lt. Frank Mullins. At the age of 48, he participated on the Department’s long distance running/relay team, sponsored by LAPRAAC. Frank retired out of Robbery-Homicide Division, RHD. He loved to talk about the Club’s all-star team and how proud he was to wear the LAPD logo on his baseball uniform.

Frank’s baseball-playing name was “Moon” Mullins. He got his nickname playing shortstop as a member of the Chicago Cub’s farm team, the Vancouver Canucks. His moniker is not to be confused with 1959 Dodger, Wally Moon. However they did have one thing in common: hitting a home run, a short distance over a high fence.

Moon claimed he mastered his swing with a flick of his wrist, often hitting a very high pop fly over the Academy’s 50-foot-tall right field fence. The arcing balls would either bounce onto the road and roll down to Chavez Ravine, or would splash into the pool. An unlucky class recruit, usually on discipline, had the task of retrieving each ball.

Lieutenant Frank “Moon” Mullins, a Medal of Valor winner, passed away in 2010. He is another part of Academy history.

Sergeant George Morrison ended his Academy history lesson and tour where it started an hour earlier. He closed by stating (I believe with a tear), “Don’t ever take this place for granted. Be respectful of its history and legacy and be thankful for all the Department personnel who funded, sacrificed, and labored to make this place unique in American law enforcement, along with its notable athletic history. Now you can enjoy a place to recreate, increase your physical fitness, and have family and partner privacy. Complementing all we have seen today, you too, can proudly wear a sports competition uniform displaying the logo LAPD/ LAPRAAC.”

The Venice of America

busyweekend

Venice is a beachfront neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles, California, United States. It is known for its canals, beaches and circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, artists, and vendors. Venice was home to some of Los Angeles’ early beat poets and artists and has served as an important cultural center of the city.

HISTORY

Venicewas founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town, 14 miles (23 km) west of Los Angeles. He and his partner Francis Ryan had bought two miles (3.24 km) of oceanfront property south of Santa Monica in 1891. They built a resort town on the north end of the property called Ocean Park, which was soon annexed to Santa Monica. After Ryan died, Kinney and his new partners continued building south of Navy Street in the unincorporated territory. After the partnership dissolved in 1904, Kinney built on the marshy land on the south end of the property, intending to create a seaside resort like its namesake in Italy.

When “Venice of America” opened on July 4, 1905, Kinney had dug several miles of canals to drain the marshes for his residential area, built a 1,200-foot (370 m)-long pleasure pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant, and dance hall, constructed a hot salt-water plunge, and built a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture. Tourists, mostly arriving on the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, then rode Venice’s miniature railroad and gondolas to tour the town. But the biggest attraction was Venice’s mile-long, gently sloping beach. Cottages and housekeeping tents were available for rent.

The town’s population increased; it annexed adjacent housing tracts and changed its official name from Ocean Park to Venice in 1911. The population (3,119 residents in 1910) soon exceeded 10,000; the town drew 50,000 to 150,000 tourists on weekends.

Attractions on the Kinney Pier became more amusement-oriented by 1910, when a Venice Scenic Railway, Aquarium, Virginia Reel, Whip, Racing Derby, and other rides and game booths were added. Since the business district was allotted only three one-block-long streets, and the City Hall was more than a mile away, other competing business districts developed. Unfortunately, this created a fractious political climate. Kinney, however, governed with an iron hand and kept things in check. When he died in November 1920, Venice became harder to govern. With the amusement pier burning six weeks later in December 1920, and Prohibition (which had begun the previous January), the town’s tax revenue was severely affected.

The Kinney family rebuilt their amusement pier quickly to compete with Ocean Park’s Pickering Pleasure Pier and the new Sunset Pier. When it opened it had two roller coasters, a new Racing Derby, a Noah’s Ark, a Mill Chutes, and many other rides. By 1925 with the addition of a third coaster, a tall Dragon Slide, Fun House, and Flying Circus aerial ride, it was the finest amusement pier on the West Coast. Several hundred thousand tourists visited on weekends. In 1923 Charles Lick built the Lick Pier at Navy Street in Venice, adjacent to the Ocean Park Pier at Pier Avenue in Ocean Park. Another pier was planned for Venice in 1925 at Leona Street (now Washington Street).

For the amusement of the public, Kinney hired aviators to do aerial stunts over the beach. One of them, movie aviator and Venice airport owner B. H. DeLay, implemented the first lighted airport in the United States on DeLay Field (previously known as Ince Field). He also initiated the first aerial police in the nation, after a marine rescue attempt was thwarted. DeLay also performed many of the world’s first aerial stunts for motion pictures in Venice.

By 1925, Venice’s politics became unmanageable. It’s roads, water and sewage systems badly needed repair and expansion to keep up with its growing population. When it was proposed that Venice be annexed to Los Angeles, the board of trustees voted to hold an election. Those for annexation and those against were nearly evenly matched, but many Los Angeles residents, who moved to Venice to vote, turned the tide. Venice became part of Los Angeles in November 1925.

Los Angeles had annexed the Disneyland of its day and proceeded to remake Venice in its own image. It was felt that the town needed more streets – not canals – and most of them were paved in 1929 after a three-year court battle led by canal residents. They wanted to close Venice’s three amusement piers but had to wait until the first of the tidelands leases expired in 1946.

In 1929, oil was discovered south of Washington Street on the Venice Peninsula. Within two years, 450 oil wells covered the area, and drilling waste clogged the remaining waterways. It was a short-lived boom that provided needed income to the community, which suffered during the Great Depression. The wells produced oil into the 1970s.

Los Angeles had neglected Venice so long that, by the 1950s, it had become the “Slum by the Sea.” With the exception of new police and fire stations in 1930, the city spent little on improvements after annexation. The city did not pave Trolleyway (Pacific Avenue) until 1954 when county and state funds became available. Low rents for run-down bungalows attracted predominantly European immigrants (including a substantial number of Holocaust survivors) and young counterculture artists, poets, and writers. The Beat Generation hung out at the Gas House on Ocean Front Walk and at Venice West Cafe on Dudley. Police raids were frequent during that era

Venice and neighboring Santa Monica were hosts for a decade to Pacific Ocean Park (POP), an amusement and pleasure-pier built atop the old Lick Pier and Ocean Park Pier by CBS and the Los Angeles Turf Club (Santa Anita). It opened in July 1958, in Santa Monica. They kept the pier’s old roller coaster, airplane ride, and historic carousel but converted its theaters and smaller pier buildings into sea-themed rides and space-themed attractions designed by Hollywood special-effects people. Visitors could travel in space on the Flight to Mars ride, tour the world in Around the World in 80 Turns, go beneath the sea in the Diving Bells or at Neptune’s Kingdom, take a fantasy excursion into the Tales of the Arabian Nights on the Flying Carpet ride, visit a pirate world at Davy Jones’ Locker, or visit a tropical paradise and its volcano by riding a train on Mystery Island. There were also thrill rides like the Whirlpool (rotor whose floor dropped out), the Flying Fish wild mouse coaster, an auto ride, gondola ride, double Ferris wheel, safari ride, and an area of children’s rides called Fun Forest. Sea lion shows were performed at the Sea Circus.

Since attendance at the park was too low to justify winter operation, and with competition from Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Marineland, it was sold after two seasons to a succession of owners, who allowed the park to deteriorate. Since Santa Monica was redeveloping the surrounding area for high-rise apartments and condos, it became difficult for patrons to reach the park, and it was forced into bankruptcy in 1967. The park suffered a series of arson fires beginning in 1970, and it was demolished by 1974. Another aging attraction in the 1960s was the Aragon Ballroom that had been the longtime home of The Lawrence Welk Show and the Spade Cooley Show, and later the Cheetah Club where rock bands such as the Doors, Blue Cheer, & many other top bands performed. It burned in the 1970 fire. The district around POP in the southside of Santa Monica is known as Dogtown. It is a common misconception that Dogtown is in Venice, but the original Z-boys surfing and skateboarding shop was and is still on Main St. in Santa Monica. Venice and Santa Monica were home to pioneering skateboarders the Z-Boys, as profiled in the documentary film, Dogtown and Z-Boys. It is little known that POP pier was actually completely in Santa Monica; it started at the end of Ocean Park Blvd and extended to the line where Venice meets Santa Monica.

Producer Roger Corman owned a production facility, the Concorde/New Horizons Studio, on Main Street, where many of his films were shot. This facility was razed to build the Venice Art Lofts and Dogtown Station lofts.

DEMOGRAPHICS

As of 2008, the population was estimated to be around 40,885. The median household income was $67,057, making it one the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. The racial and ethnic composition in Venice in 2008 was White (63.9%), Latino (22.2%), African American (5.6%), Asian (3.7%), and Other (4.6%).

ATTRACTIONS & NEIGHBORHOODS

Venice is today one of the most vibrant and eclectic areas in Los Angeles and it continues a tradition of liberal social change involving prominent Westsiders. Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the country.

The Venice Farmers’ Market, founded in 1987, operates every Friday morning from 7–11 a.m. on Venice Blvd at Venice Way.

72 Market Street Oyster Bar and Grill was one of several historical footnotes associated with Market Street in Venice, one of the first streets designated for commerce when the city was founded in 1905. During the depression era, Upton Sinclair had an office there when he was running for governor, and the same historic building where the restaurant was located was also the site of the first Ace/Venice Gallery in the early 1970s and, before that, the studio of American installation artist Robert Irwin.

Many of Venice’s houses have their principal entries from pedestrian-only streets and have house numbers on these footpaths. (Automobile access is by alleys in the rear.) However, like much of Los Angeles, Venice is also well known for traffic congestion. It lies 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the nearest freeway, and its unusually dense network of narrow streets was not planned for modern traffic. Mindful of the tourist nature of much of the district’s vehicle traffic, its residents have successfully fought numerous attempts to extend the Marina Freeway (SR 90) into southern Venice.

Venice Beach includes the beach, the promenade that runs parallel to the beach (“Ocean Front Walk” or just “the boardwalk“), Muscle Beach, the handball courts, the paddle tennis courts, Skate Dancing plaza, the numerous beach volleyball courts, the bike trail and the businesses on Ocean Front Walk. The basketball courts in Venice are renowned across the country for their high level of streetball; numerous NBA players developed their games or are recruited on these courts.

Along the southern portion of the beach, at the end of Washington Boulevard, is the Venice Fishing Pier. A 1,310-foot (400 m) concrete structure, it first opened in 1964, was closed in 1983 due to El Niño storm damage, and re-opened in the mid-1990s. On December 21, 2005, the pier again suffered damage when waves from a large northern swell caused the part of the pier where the restrooms were located to fall into the ocean.

The pier remained closed until May 25, 2006, when it was finally re-opened after an engineering study concluded the pier was structurally sound.

The Venice Breakwater is an acclaimed local surf spot in Venice. It is located north of the Venice Pier and Lifeguard Headquarters and south of the Santa Monica Pier. This spot is sheltered on the north by an artificial barrier, the breakwater, consisting of an extending sand bar, piping, and large rocks at its end.

OAKWOOD

The Oakwood portion of Venice, also known as Ghost Town and the “Oakwood Pentagon,” lies inland from the tourist areas and is one of the few historically African American areas in West Los Angeles; however, Latinos now constitute the overwhelming majority of the residents. During the age of restrictive covenants that enforced racial segregation, Oakwood was set aside as a settlement area for blacks, who came by the hundreds to Venice to work in the oil fields during the 1930s and 1940s. After the construction of the San Diego Freeway, which passed through predominantly Mexican American and immigrant communities, those groups moved further west and into Oakwood where black residents were already established. Whites moved in Oakwood during the 1980s and 1990s.

The Venice Shoreline Crips and the Latino Venice 13 gangs, which are under a shaky truce, continue to remain active in Venice. By 2002, numbers of gang members in Oakwood were reduced due to gentrification and increased police presence. According to a Los Angeles City Beat article, by 2003, many Los Angeles Westside gang members resettled in the city of Inglewood.

By the end of the 20th century, gentrification had altered Oakwood. Although still a primarily Latino and African-American neighborhood, the neighborhood is in flux. According to Los Angeles City Beat, “In Venice, the transformation is… obvious. Homes are fetching sometimes more than $1 million, and homies are being displaced every day.” Author John Brodie challenges the idea of gentrification causing change and commented “… the gunplay of the Shoreline Crips and the V-13 is as much a part of life in Venice as pit bulls playing with blond Labs at the local dog park.” Xinachtli, a Latino student group from Venice High School and subset of MEChA, refers to Oakwood as one of last beachside communities of color in California. Chicanos and Latinos of any race make up over 50% of Venice High School’s student body.

EAST VENICE

East Venice is a racially and ethnically mixed residential neighborhood of Venice that is separated from Oakwood and Milwood (the area south of Oakwood) by Lincoln Boulevard, extending east to the border with the Mar Vista neighborhood, near Venice High School. Aside from the commercial strip on Lincoln (including the Venice Boys and Girls Club and the Venice United Methodist Church), the area almost entirely consists of small homes and apartments as well as Penmar Park and (bordering Santa Monica) Penmar Golf Course. The existing population (primarily composed of Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians, with small numbers of other groups) is being supplemented by new arrivals that have moved in with gentrification.

A housing project, Lincoln Place, built by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles is currently in the midst of an extensive legal battle between past and present tenants and the owner, AIMCO. The developer, which acquired the property in 2003, plans to demolish it and build a mixed-use condominium and retail structure on the site. As of 2010, the housing developer AIMCO has settled with tenants and agreed to reopen the project and return scores of evicted residents to their homes and add hundreds of below-market-rate units to the Venice area.

VENICE & ART

Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic. In the 1950s and 1960s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art. Major participants included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, Robert Farrington, Philomene Long, and Tom Sewell. In the 1970s, prominent performance artist Chris Burden created some of his early, groundbreaking work in Venice, such as Trans-fixed.

GOVERNMENT & INFRASTRUCTURE

Local government

The Los Angeles Fire Department operates Station 63, which serves Venice with two engines, a truck, and an ALS rescue ambulance.

Los Angeles Police Department serves the area through the Pacific Community Police Station at 12312 Culver Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066, and a beach sub-station at 1530 W. Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90921.

Los Angeles County Lifeguards

Venice Beach is the headquarters of the Lifeguard Division of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. It is located at 2300 Ocean Front Walk. It is the nation’s largest ocean lifeguard organization with over 200 full-time and 700 part-time or seasonal lifeguards. The headquarter building used to be the City of Los Angeles Lifeguard Headquarters until Los Angeles City and Santa Monica Lifeguards were merged into the County in 1975. The department is commonly referred to by Angelenos as the Baywatch Lifeguards.

The Los Angeles County Lifeguards safeguard 31 miles (50 km) of beach and 70 miles (110 km) of coastline, from San Pedro in the south, to Malibu in the north. Lifeguards also provide Paramedic and rescue boat services to Catalina Island, with operations out of Avalon and the Isthmus.

Lifeguard Division employs 120 full-time and 600 seasonal lifeguards, operating out of three sectional headquarters, Hermosa, Santa Monica, and Zuma beach. Each of these headquarters staffs a 24-hour EMT-D response unit and are part of the 911 system. In addition to providing for beach safety, Los Angeles County Lifeguards have specialized training for Baywatch rescue boat operations, underwater rescue and recovery, swift water rescue, cliff rescue, marine mammal rescue and marine firefighting.

County, state and federal representation

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services SPA 5 West Area Health Office serves Venice.

The United States Postal Service operates the Venice Post Office at 1601 Main Street and the Venice Carrier Annex at 313 Grand Boulevard.

PARKS & RECREATION

The Venice Beach Recreation Center, nominally located at 1800 Ocean Front Walk, comprises a number of facilities sprawling between Ocean Front Walk and the bike path, Horizon Ave to the north, and N.Venice Blvd to the south. The installation has basketball courts (unlighted/outdoor), several children play areas with a gymnastics apparatus, handball courts (unlighted), tennis courts (unlighted), and volleyball courts (unlighted). At the south end of the area is the famous muscle beach outdoor gymnasium. In March 2009, the city opened a sophisticated $2,000,000 skate park on the sand towards the north. While not technically part of the park the Graffiti Walls on the beach side of the bike path in the same vicinity.

The Oakwood Recreation Center is located at 767 California Ave. The center, which also acts as a Los Angeles Police Department stop-in center, includes an auditorium, an unlighted baseball diamond, lighted indoor basketball courts, unlighted outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area, a community room, a lighted American football field, an indoor gymnasium without weights, picnic tables, and an unlighted soccer field.

The Westminster Off-Leash Dog Park is in Venice.

VENICE & MOVIES

Dozens of movies and hundreds of television shows have used locations in Venice, including its beach, its pleasure piers, the canals and colonnades, the boardwalk, the high school, even a particular hamburger stand. While it is neither possible nor desirable to list every movie which features scenes shot in Venice, the following films show views of the neighborhood which are interesting in the context of its history and culture:

“Hollywoodland” — a look back

THE STORY OF HOLLYWOODLAND
 
by Gregory Williams

From the moment of its inception, Hollywoodland defined the lifestyle known as “living in the Hollywood Hills.” With a steady stream of publicity, it acquired and retained the adjective “famed.” A lot of this is due to the huge metal sign crowning the tract, the neighborhood landmark.

Originally it read “Hollywoodland,” but missing its last four letters, what started as a real estate promotional stunt has become the international symbol for the Hollywood film industry. On any day, tourists stand smack in the middle of Beachwood Drive, having their pictures taken with it.

It’s hard to figure a giant flashing electric sign as a classy touch, but in the twenties, the developers attracted the sophisticated and artistic crowd they intended. “Hollywoodland, one of the show places of the world” is how they saw their 500 acre subdivision. To their credit, they sensitively laid out Hollywoodland. A charming small town feeling has presided for close to seventy years. 

The draw of the place? A lot has to do with location. Longtime resident Irene Wyman remembers these hills and canyons back to 1915, before Hollywoodland appeared. “It was so lovely with the oak trees, holly bushes, greasewood, and poppies. Ferns grew under the trees and by the little streambeds. Up in Ledgewood Canyon, we found two natural springs with overhanging rocks. We would crawl back to the small basins where the springs dripped down to pools and drink the cool water.”

For all of us kids growing up here in the fifties and sixties, the undeveloped area of Hollywoodland opened our imaginations. We explored the canyons like real frontier, building forts on unfinished tract roads and mining for quartz in a canyon filled with rocks spilled over from the grading of Mt.Lee.
Jannette K. Mathewson, living here as a little girl in 1924, loved the foxes,  “and their almost nightly playtime on our porch. The great cowboy artist, Charles M. Russell, was also enthralled watching them.” Coyotes and cottontails, deer, squirrels, possums, raccoons, lizards, and tarantulas still make their homes with us. Unfortunately, the foxes have disappeared. According to some natural scientists, the coyotes ate them. No wild animal living here can escape this area, with Mt. Lee and neighboring Griffith Park now completely surrounded by city and freeways.

Another draw to Hollywoodland, expressed in the developer’s phrase “freedom of the hills” applies to residents of the area lucky enough to live and work within the canyon. An artist, writer, or musician can hole up with creative work, yet remain close to the rest of the world. When our father, Dino, moved us here in the fifties, our neighborhood included painter Edward Biberman who lived across the street, painting scenes of Southern California, and writer Aldous Huxley, who lived and worked down the hill from us. (Mr. Huxley’s long, thoughtful walks at that time often included my four-year-old sister.) My grandfather, Alex Williams, had been here since the beginning of the tract with ownership of the commercial property at the west gate. At one time or other, everyone in the family got to live and work in the canyon, dispensing with the need for a daily commute. It was a treat.

Undoubtedly, Hollywoodland’s strongest appeal lies in the original homes of the tract. Part “kitsch,” part beauty, they range from a vine-covered cottage you just know houses seven dwarves, to Normandy castles fit for royalty. That the original Hollywoodland homes offer suitable settings for Hollywood period movies seems appropriate. Most retain an elegant aesthetic to them; how they are situated on the hillsides, how they present themselves to spectators. They were laid out by thoughtful, artistic people who, it seems, wanted to create an environment of beauty, not tract housing as we know it today.

Much has changed as new houses have appeared in the neighborhood over the decades. Architectural restrictions were lifted when the developers bowed out in the forties, and since then, people build houses to suit their own tastes. Some houses are great; some are awful. When land was cheap in the sixties, platform homes perched on steel stilts became the architectural rage. It was an inexpensive way of construction, which is no longer allowed by the Los Angeles building code. The eighties trend of “mansionization,” building large homes that fill their lots, seems like a half-hearted attempt to recapture some of Hollywoodland’s past glory. As the new houses go up, the spaciousness that marked the development disappears.

Still, a sense of community remains. The commitment from seventy-five years of homeowners blesses the neighborhood with its own vitality and character. The future is secure as people discover charms originally voiced by the developers in 1923. As Los Angeles congests, the uniqueness of this area becomes more pronounced, where you can still hear the hooting owl or the howling coyote, where you can step outside your door and witness a beautiful sunset.

HOLLYWOOD TIMELINE

by Steve Grant and Jay Teitzell

1888 – A bucolic hillside area populated by citrus farmers is given the name “Hollywood” by Harvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife, Daeida, as part of a residential development. It is Daeida who selects the name after she meets a lady on a train whose summer home is called Hollywood.

1903 – At an election held November 14, the residents of Hollywood vote to incorporate as an independent city.

1910 – Independence is short-lived. The community votes to annex to the growing city of Los Angeles in order to assure a reliable water supply. (To this day, Hollywood is a community within the City of Los Angeles.)

1911 – Albert Beach paves the way to the Hollywood Hills and names “Beachwood Drive” after himself.

1916 – May 16 – Hollywood participates in the world celebration of William Shakespeare’s 300th birthday. A star-studded performance of “Julius Caesar” is mounted in the huge outdoor natural amphitheater at the top of Beachwood Drive (where the Beachwood Market and Village is now).

1923 – February – Developers Woodruff and Shoults conceive of “Hollywoodland” as a neighborhood of “superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.”

1923 – The construction of Lake Hollywood Reservoir commences in order to provide the burgeoning city with water and pressure. The Lake is first filled in 1925.

1924 – The “Hollywoodland” sign is constructed at a cost of $21,000 atop Mt. Lee. Thirteen 50-foot letters and four thousand 20 watt light bulbs pronouncing, in classic advertising phonics, “Holly”… “wood”… “land”… Hollywoodland.””

1929 – The stock market crashes and the Depression dashes developers’ plans for extending Hollywoodland farther east. The limits of our neighborhood are essentially set.

1931 – The Hollywoodland “bus,” a Model A Ford, is the first public transportation
serving the hilly neighborhood from the Hollywood 3 flats.

1932 – Peg Entwistle, despondent over her lackluster acting career, jumps to her death from one of The Hollywoodland Sign’s 50-foot letters.

1933 – Where The Humpty Dumpty Store previously stood, The Beachwood Market now opens its doors for the first time.

1934 – On New Year’s Day, torrential rains flood the Hollywoodland canyons with mud and debris.

1935 – The now-familiar Griffith Park Observatory appears on the horizon in neighboring Griffith Park.

1938-39 – Bugsy Siegel opens a Speakeasy at the Castillo del Lago mansion on Hollywoodland’s Durand Drive.

1944 – Hollywoodland developers deed the land north of Mulholland Highway (including The Hollywoodland Sign) to the City of Los Angeles. Later, it becomes part of Griffith Park.

1949 – The Hollywoodland Sign, originally built to last only 18 months, is in total disrepair (and all the light bulbs have long-since been stolen). The City begins removing it but is halted by a public outcry Ð the citizens have come to love the symbol. Instead, the sign is refurbished and shortened to “Hollywood.”

1952 – The Beachwood Market expands after purchasing the Safeway Market next door.

1956 – Scenes from the classic film, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” starring Kevin McCarthy, are shot in front of The Beachwood Market and Village.

1958 – Chef Milton Pinkney takes command of the kitchen of the Beachwood Coffee Shop.

1961 – May – A hillside brushfire damages 30 Hollywoodland homes and destroys 24 more including that of Aldous and Laura Huxley of Deronda Drive.

1962 – February – Torrential rains once more flood canyons with mud and debris. Cars are carried downhill by the force of the waters.

1962 – July – “Home Magazine” features the geodesic dome of thick plastic sheets built on Durand Drive. The owners are notorious for being “well-tanned.”

1978 – The second restoration of the sign begins, led by prominent celebrities and city officials. Cost is $27,000 per letter using sheet metal and a steel framework. The public contributes significantly.

1998 – January 7 – The Hollywoodland Homeowners Association kicks off the 75th Anniversary of Hollywoodland with a gala screening of “Titanic” at the Vista Theatre, newly restored to its 1920’s splendor. Many attend in period dress – one gentleman wearing a vintage tuxedo with seaweed filigree.

1998 – October – “The Village Plaza” (originally called “The Village Green”) is dedicated in front of The Beachwood Market. This public area and “micro park” is the culmination of 10 years planning, fundraising and lots of hard volunteer work.

1998 – December – “The Hollywoodland Storycookbook” is released commemorating the 75th anniversary of Hollywoodland.

A pioneering public hospital checks out

(Excerpted from “L.A. Then and Now,”  by  Cecilia Rasmussen, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, October 2, 2005)

Celebrities, mayors, judges, and fire and police chiefs drew their last breaths here, as did thousands of rich and poor Angelenos. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy received last rites here.

Now, this pioneering public hospital is receiving its last rites. It will be razed this week to make way for the Los Angeles Police Department’s new $29-million Rampart station.

For more than a century, the institution most recently known as Central Receiving Hospital provided emergency care and, later, paramedic services. Many a police officer and firefighter owed his life to this frontline first-aid station for those who needed to be stitched up and sent on to bigger hospitals.

The two-story, brick-faced structure at 6th Street and Loma Drive, just west f downtown, is the hospital’s fifth location. Built in 1957 for $1.5 million, it closed to the public in 1970. But as recently as August, it offered physical psychological exams to police officers and firefighters.

The city’s first receiving hospital of sorts opened in 1868 as a “pesthouse”—in effect, a hospice for victims of pestilence, especially smallpox. But soon the Chavez Ravine institution took in victims of other contagious diseases as well.

Its second incarnation began in the late 1880s as a two-room emergency first-aid unit in the back of the downtown Central Police Station. One police surgeon tended all comers: victims of shooting, rapes and assorted mayhem.

By the end of 1889, 562 patients had been treated there. A year later, the number had multiplied to 3,515 as the area’s population soared.

A few years later, in 1896, a new Central Police Station and Receiving Hospital opened on the south side of 1st Street, between Broadway and Hill streets. Horse-drawn ambulances rushed victims through the drive-up entrance.

It would take another dozen years before the city hired its first professional nurse, Charles Whitehead. In his 33 years of service, he treated victims of the 1910 Los Angeles times bombing and picked “scores of metal pieces” out of former LAPD detective turned private eye Harry Raymond, whose car was bombed in 1938 after he blew the whistle on corrupt cops.

Police Chief Charles Edward Sebastian worked there before becoming mayor in 1915. But he was forced to resign the next year when the Los Angeles Record published letters he had written to his mistress describing his wife as “the Old Haybag.”

He tried to return to the LAPD as a lieutenant, but the force refused to take him back. He got a job as a gas station attendant.

Despite his reduced circumstances, he put his son, Charles Francis Sebastian, through Stanford Medical School. The younger Sebastian returned to Los Angeles in 1922 to play a leading role at the hospital.

In 1927, the fourth incarnation of the hospital opened a few miles away, on the third floor of the Georgia Street Police Station. The first patient was “Baby Fauso Bustus, 3 years old, son of Mrs. F. Bustus, 1609 Redwood St.,” a Lost Angeles newspaper reported.

Georgia Street Receiving Hospital was among about a dozen hospitals in the city by then. For three decades it was also the poorest, with outdated tools and technology.

Satellite hospitals in Hollywood, Lincoln Heights and Van Nuys began opening in the late 1930s under the leadership of Dr. Sebastian. In 1949 he was promoted to superintendent in charge of all four city hospitals. Sebastian came up with a life-saving innovation that is ubiquitous today.

In 1952, ambulance attendant Jack Gilson died when he was thrown from the vehicle in a traffic accident. Sebastian had already watched two other ambulance attendants die that way and didn’t care to see a fourth. He devised a series of straps to hold passengers into their seats, according to Al Cowen, retired Los Angeles Fire Department chief paramedic who is chairman of the Department of Emergency Services for Valley College.

“This early form of seat belts was installed in all 13 of the city’s ambulances, commonly referred to as Brown Bombers,” which were tan station wagons “with red crosses painted on the side,” Cowen said.

For more than a decade, Sebastian had been begging the City Council to build a modern facility. At last he prevailed, and the Central Receiving Hospital opened in June 1957. It included 40 rooms: 20 on the first floor for civilians and 20 on the second floor for police officers and firefighters. Each room was equipped with “piped-in oxygen,” the Times reported, and the X-ray and surgical equipment was state of the art.

Georgia Street treated its last patient on June 27, 1957, according to hospital logbooks. The Police Department continued to use the building until the mid-1980s, when it was demolished to expand the Convention Center.

Sebastian directed the hospitals until his retirement in 1961.

Perhaps the most famous of Central Receiving’s patients arrived by ambulance in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot at the nearby Ambassador Hotel after winning the California presidential primary.

News of the shooting traveled fast. By the time Kennedy’s ambulance arrived, more than 300 bystanders had gathered to keep vigil.

Father Thomas Peacha of St Basil’s Catholic Church was driving near the Ambassador Hotel when he heard the news on the radio. He headed for Central Receiving and made his way to the emergency room, where Kennedy was lying on the table. The senator’s wife, Ethel, was sitting nearby on a stool.

“I’m sure he wasn’t conscious,” Peacha said in an interview with The Times shortly afterward. Peacha administered last rites using a tiny piece of cotton soaked in blessed oil.

Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:44 a.m. June 6 at Good Samaritan Hospital across the street, where he had been taken for surgery.

The City Council initially blamed Kennedy’s death on the small, ailing hospital and the ambulance drivers who had bypassed other facilities to take him there. Confidence in the hospital weakened, and the council implemented a policy permitting injured police officers and firefighters to receive emergency care at the nearest hospital.

But several investigations found that the battle to save Kennedy’s life had been lost the moment Sirhan Sirhan pulled the trigger. Hospital personnel had handled everything correctly, the probe found.

In 1969, the hospital came under fire again when LAPD Officer Robert J. Cote was shot as he tried to stop a robbery. Cote was transported four miles through heavy traffic to Central Receiving and pronounced dead more than an hour later.

Again, citizens were assured that it wouldn’t have mattered where he was taken.

“Even if cote had been shot in the lobby of the hospital, he could not have survived,” Central Receiving Hospital Supt. M.X. Anderson said.

Still, the Cote affair continued to be a festering source of community anger. The council pressed to shutter the hospital, and in 1970 it closed to the public. Paramedic services switched to the Fire Department—as Sebastian had suggested 11 years earlier.

As he walked through the old hospital recently, Cowen, the retired chief of paramedics, thought of all the lives that had been saved there.

“Charles Sebastian’s ghost is walking around here somewhere,” Cowen said. “And if he could, he’d embrace everyone, saying thank you.”

A POSTSCRIPT FROM JESS WAID

In August 1963, I was involved in a high-speed wobble on my Harley-Davidson police motorcycle while inbound on the Hollywood Freeway at Barham Boulevard. The bike was heading for the center divider, a chain link fence, so I made the instant decision to lay the bike down on its right side—not the way to do it as my right foot slipped off the brake and pulled me under the heavy motorcycle.

I slid 100 yards resulting in a vertical break of my right scapula, a nasty avulsion under my chin from the windshield, my right knee was torn open, and my right arm filled with roadside gravel accumulated along the center divider strip. Eighty percent of my ulnar nerve was destroyed.

I was rushed Code Three to Central Receiving Hospital, where Doctor Bob Morgan, saved my right arm and my life. I was on the table for six-plus hours. Doc performed three skin grafts to the avulsed areas: chin, right arm and right knee. Two weeks later I was discharged. Several subsequent operations with a plastic surgeion corrected most of the damage to my jaw and face.

So, although I am not a ghost, I am one of those who Cowen referred to who would embrace the CRH staff and Doctor Bob and say, “Thank you.”