Category Archives: Los Angeles

Tommy’s

tommys-hamburgers

Original Tommy’s was opened on May 15, 1946, by Tom Koulax (October 26, 1918 – May 28, 1992), the son of Greek immigrants, on the northeast corner of Beverly and Rampart Boulevards west of downtown Los Angeles. The stand, which still exists today, sold hamburgers and hot dogs topped with chili. At first business was slow, but started to pick up. During the 1960s, the entire lot at this intersection was purchased. Soon after, the northwest corner was acquired for expanded parking and storage of goods. Not long after that, a second service counter occupying the building at the perimeter of the northeast lot was set up. The food was essentially the same from both locations, except for longer lines at the original shack counter, perhaps for nostalgic reasons.

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Koulax credited the students, both as workers and customers, from nearby Belmont High School for making Tommy’s a success. He supported the school by placing advertisements in the school newspaper and yearbooks. In his last will and testament, he left a scholarship fund for Belmont.

In the 1970s, Tommy’s initiated a conservative expansion plan, growing from the original location to 30 locations in 2006. Tommy’s did not expand to more than a handful of locations per year. Most Original Tommy’s restaurants are found in the Greater Los Angeles Area. There are also Original Tommy’s restaurants in San Diego, Barstow, Palmdale, La Habra, Riverside, Henderson, Las Vegas, and most recently, in Lake Forest. In recent years several locations have closed.

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The company is based in Monrovia, California, after years at Glendale, California, and is run by the late Mr. Koulax’ family. The restaurants are all company-owned, and there are no plans for the company to offer any franchised locations.

A ladle or two of Koulax’ signature chili tops nearly every available menu item, even the breakfast sandwich. Original Tommy’s chili is a mixture of an all-beef chili con carne base, flour, water, and a “secret” blend of spices, and resembles a condiment more than a conventional bowl of chili. The flour-water mixture allows the chili to “set up” and adhere to the burger or fries.

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Except for an occasional television commercial and a brief flirtation with radio advertising in the 1990s, Original Tommy’s has relied on word-of-mouth and local newspaper advertising to gain popularity.

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 

 

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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’.

Inside the LAPD’s elite airborne unit

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(Originally published in the Palisades Post online, January 3, 2013, by staff writer Reza Gostar)

 

Negotiating traffic on Sunset Boulevard and PCH may be challenging for police officers on the ground, but not for officers piloting the airborne units of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division (ASD).

These elite helicopter units have become legendary not only in movies like ‘Blue Thunder’ and ‘Terminator 2,’ but also on the streets where they are often referred to as ‘ghetto birds’ by the criminals they chase.

Somewhere over southeast L.A. on December 20, LAPD Pilot David Swanson is flying a AStar B-2 helicopter to the scene of a potential robbery. The victim’s neighbor has spotted the two suspects, Swanson tells a Palisadian-Post reporter who is along for the ride.

Tactical Flight Officer Renee Muro, a veteran LAPD officer and one of only seven women in the ASD, is listening to several police radios simultaneously as she coordinates the response. In less than four minutes, the helicopter arrives at its destination and, down below, neighbors are peeking out of their homes to see what all the commotion is about.

Swanson keeps the helicopter at 600 to 700 feet in elevation as he circles the perimeter. This is standard practice for LAPD helicopter pilots, who avoid hovering in one place. They keep the aircraft moving because in case of an emergency, such as a malfunction, there needs to be enough wind speed built up for the blades so the pilot can attempt to land. News media helicopters fly 500 feet above the police to avoid interfering with any activity.

On the streets below, the scene is chaotic. Curious neighbors have started to come out of their homes, adding to the number of bodies visible by air. Suddenly, Muro, who is not using binoculars, spots two pairs of sneakers underneath one of the home’s overhangs and quickly coordinates with the officers on the ground. Within minutes, the two suspected robbers are placed in custody.

Not three minutes go by before Muro picks up another call over the radio’this time a gunshot victim. The helicopter is again the first to arrive and quickly directs the first responders to the victim.

‘This is a known gang and drug area,’ Swanson says, adding that it is unlikely that any witnesses will come forward. After he and Muro canvas the perimeter, the calls begin to slow and the helicopter sweeps over congested freeways to Venice, and then to Pacific Palisades.

‘I landed there once when I had engine trouble,’ says Swanson, pointing down to the Field of Dreams at the Palisades Recreation Center. He was one of the units that responded to a burglary call at a home on Alma Real Drive last August. (The Post ran a photo of the downed helicopter.)

Established in 1956 by a group of Korean War veterans, the ASD units are in the air 20 hours a day patrolling L.A.’s 470-plus square miles of steel, chaparral and concrete landscapes. ‘We try to be as proactive as we can,’ said Lt. Phillip Smith, assistant commanding officer.

‘The helicopters get up to 140-150 miles per hour,’ Smith said. ‘If I leave the deck here [at the LAPD Hopper heliport near Union Station] and get a call way out in Chatsworth, it’s probably going to take me seven or eight minutes but that can still seem like forever when you have an officer screaming for help.’

Separated by the Santa Monica Mountains, there are two police helicopters patrolling at any given time. One works the San Fernando Valley and the other handles everything south of the Cahuenga Pass, Smith said, noting that rapid response is the reason why the helicopters remain in constant flight.

‘We are a force multiplier’that’s really what we do,’ Smith said. ‘We do the job of between six and eight police cars out there. ‘

Smith said that ASD helicopters are able to quickly determine if indeed there was a crime and whether or not additional units are needed. ‘Our big thing is getting to the scene and offering some security, and painting a visual picture for the officers responding.’

The Air Support Division, which averages more than 300 police car pursuit calls a year, currently operates 19 helicopters, including 14 Eurocopter Astar B-2s, four Bell Jet Rangers, and one recently acquired Bell Uh-1H (Huey) that is replacing an older one that retired about four years ago. The Huey is used by the division’s special flights section for special operations, which involve such missions as rapelling Special Weapons and Tactics officers onto the tops of buildings and other operational activities, Smith said.

The ASD staff and personnel include 35 police officer pilots, 10 sergeants who are pilots, three lieutenant pilots, 28 tactical flight officers, which totals to about 100 staff members, counting civilian employees and support staff. Some officers serve as both tactical flight officers (TFOs) and pilots, Smith said. However, all of the TFO and pilots have to serve as regular patrol officers for at least five years before being considered for a position in the elite division.

How effective is the ASD? Of the 51,000-plus incidents that the ASD responded to last year, ‘probably 16,000 times we were the first on scene,’ said Smith, who moonlights for the security firm ACS in the Palisades once a week.

Many aspects of the ASD’s missions are classified, such as their special radiological equipment (which can be used to detect terrorist activity), monitoring for environmental dangers, and high-altitude surveillance flights, which involve multimillion-dollar cameras and other equipment.”

The helicopters are also equipped with the famous ‘Nightsun’ spotlight, which is linked to the helicopter’s 360-degree infrared camera system that is mounted underneath the aircraft. During night patrols, the spotlight can be activated to track the camera’s position, which is remotely controlled by the tactical flight officer inside the helicopter.

However, the officers themselves are the most valuable aspect of the arsenal. Accumulating thousands of hours of flight time a year (about 18,000 hours in 2011), the ASD pilots are some of the most experienced aviators in the world. Subsequently, the ASD trains multiple other agencies from around the country, including foreign allied military units in their use of special police tactics, especially the ‘Nightsun’ spotlight. The instruction room is located on the aircraft carrier-size heliport on top of the Piper Technical Center in downtown.

Yet, despite all the technical gadgetry and their elite status as one of the largest and most sophisticated airborne law enforcement forces in the nation, the ASD’s humble motto exemplifies their commitment and attitude to the job: ‘The mission is the same, only the vehicle has changed.’

 

Griffith Observatory

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Griffith Observatory is in Los Angeles, California. Sitting on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in L.A.’s Griffith Park, it commands a view of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast, Hollywood to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest. The observatory is a popular tourist attraction with an extensive array of space and science-related displays.

3,015 acres (12.20 km2) of land surrounding the observatory was donated to the City of Los Angeles by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith on December 16, 1896. In his will Griffith donated funds to build an observatory, exhibit hall, and planetarium on the donated land. As a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, construction began on June 20, 1933, using a design developed by architect John C. Austin based on preliminary sketches by Russell W. Porter. The observatory and accompanying exhibits were opened to the public on May 14, 1935. In its first five days of operation the observatory logged more than 13,000 visitors. Dinsmore Alter was the museum’s director during its first years; today, Dr. Ed Krupp is the director of the Observatory.

EXHIBITS

The first exhibit visitors encountered in 1935 was the Foucault pendulum, which was designed to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.[3] The exhibits also included a twelve-inch (305 mm) Zeiss refracting telescope in the east dome, a triple-beam coelostat (solar telescope) in the west dome, and a thirty-eight foot relief model of the moon’s north polar region.

Col. Griffith requested that the observatory include a display on evolution which was accomplished with the Cosmochron exhibit which included a narration from Caltech Professor Chester Stock and an accompanying slide show. The evolution exhibit existed from 1937 to the mid 1960s.

Also included in the original design was a planetarium under the large central dome. The first shows covered topics including the Moon, worlds of the solar system, and eclipses.

During World War II the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation. The planetarium was again used for this purpose in the 1960s to train Apollo program astronauts for the first lunar missions.

The planetarium theater was renovated in 1964 and a Mark IV Zeiss projector was installed.

RENOVATION & EXPANSION

The observatory closed in 2002 for renovation and a major expansion of exhibit space. It reopened to the public on November 3, 2006, retaining its art deco exterior. The $93 million renovation, paid largely by a public bond issue, restored the building, as well as replaced the aging planetarium dome. The building was expanded underground, with completely new exhibits, a café, gift shop, and the new Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater. The Café at the End of the Universe, an homage to Restaurant at the End of the Universe, is one of the many cafés run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. One wall inside the building is covered with the largest astronomically accurate image ever constructed (152 feet long by 20 feet (6.1 m) high), called “The Big Picture” (http://bigpicture.caltech.edu), depicting the Virgo Cluster of galaxies; visitors can explore the highly detailed image from within arm’s reach or through telescopes 60 feet (18 m) away. The 1964-vintage Zeiss Mark IV star projector was replaced with a Zeiss Mark IX Universarium. The former planetarium projector is part of the underground exhibit on ways in which humanity has visualized the skies.

Since the observatory opened in 1935, admission has been free, in accordance with Griffith’s will. Tickets for the show Centered in the Universe in the 290-seat Samuel Oschin Planetarium Theater are purchased separately at the box office within the observatory. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

Children under 5 are free, but are admitted to only the first planetarium show of the day. Only members of the observatory’s support group, Friends Of The Observatory, may reserve tickets for the planetarium show.

Centered in the Universe features a high-resolution immersive video projected by an innovative laser system developed by Evans and Sutherland Corporation, along with a short night sky simulation projected by the Zeiss Universarium. A team of animators worked more than two years to create the 30-minute program. Actors, holding a glowing orb, perform the presentation, under the direction of Chris Shelton.

A wildfire in the hills came dangerously close to the observatory on May 10, 2007.

On May 25, 2008, the Observatory offered visitors live coverage of the Phoenix landing on Mars.

VISITING GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY

Admission to the building and grounds of Griffith Observatory is free of charge, excluding some of the shows for a minimal price at the planetarium. The Observatory is open five days a week. There is a small parking lot next to the Observatory. Additional parking is along the steep road leading up to the observatory. Parking is free of charge.

There are photo opportunities and scenery at and around the Observatory, with views of the Pacific Ocean, the Hollywood Sign and Downtown Los Angeles. Ideal for tourist destination, field trips, dates and outings with the family and friends.

FILMING LOCATION

The observatory was featured in two major sequences of the celebrated James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause (1955); a bust of Dean was subsequently placed at the west side of the grounds.

It has also appeared in a number of other movies:

The Phantom Empire (1935)

Phantom from Space (1953)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

The Cosmic Man (1959)

The Spy with My Face (1964)

Flesh Gordon (1974)

Midnight Madness (1980)

The Terminator (1984)

Dragnet (1987)

Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)

The Rocketeer (1991)

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

The End of Violence (1997)

Bowfinger (1999)

House on Haunted Hill (1999 remake)

Queen of the Damned (2002)

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

Transformers (2007 live-action film)

Yes Man (2008)

Terminator Salvation (2009)

Valentine’s Day (2010) (In the opening scene of credits in the theater version a quick shot of the Observatory is shown)

Television

The Observatory has appeared in episodes of the following TV shows:

Other media

  • An image of the observatory is shown in a 2Pac music video, To Live And Die In L.A.. The video pays homage to Los Angeles and its best known landmarks.
  • Some interview segments with rock musician Ringo Starr for the Beatles Anthology video were conducted on the observatory grounds during the early 1990s.

It is assumed to be in Grand Theft Auto V, after being seen in the second trailer