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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Experiencing L.A. - "Upper Deck" View from Santa Monica

Two years ago this month I had a doctor's appointment at the Santa Monica Medical Plaza, at 15th & Arizona. I expected a routine visit.

What I didn't expect was the view.

Wow, nice. Glad I had my camera.

This is looking northeast towards the Los Angeles communities of Brentwood and Westwood. 

A close up of the same location (click on any of these photos for a larger view). 

On the left is Brentwood, and on the right, Westwood. The hills in the distance are part of Beverly Hills and Hollywood - and in the far distance are the much larger San Gabriel Mountains.

Barely visible in the distance are the snow capped mountains, to the right. 

As an aside, later that same month (April) my wife and kids and I were at a conference in the local mountains, which had just received six inches of snow. We stopped at the beach on the way up and were in the snow about two hours later. Our kids were able to play in the surf and two hours later play in the snow.

From the same office tower, this is looking south toward the Pacific Ocean, with the western edge of Catalina Island - about 40 miles away - visible in the distance.

Turned out the doctor wasn't in that day - I had to reschedule. I had a few minutes, so I took the elevator up to the top floor for (in my opinion) an even better view. This is looking up Arizona Avenue, which runs between Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds through Santa Monica into West Los Angeles.

Another close up looking the same direction. On the right side of the photo, just above the last tall building, you can see the Hollywood sign

As I've blogged previously, I was constantly reminded how fortunate we were to live in this area. It also was a reminder of the responsibility that comes with that. As the pastor at my church said many years ago, "if God has blessed us economically or materially, we shouldn't feel guilty - we should feel responsible."

I think it's easier just to feel guilty. Responsibility implies actually doing something.

Jesus said on multiple occasions "to whom much is given, much is expected."

I - and others on the westside of L.A. - honestly have been given much. And it was (and is) challenging thinking what that means in terms of investing my time, my abilities, and my resources in the lives of others. There were certainly lots of needs and opportunities. We hope that in a small way our lives made Los Angeles a better place for others.

A few more shots: this was looking north towards Brentwood is the massive Getty Center.

Looking northwest towards the community of Pacific Palisades with the Santa Monica Mountains and Topanga State Park in the distance.

Here's a final wide angle shot. Towards the right are the office towers of downtown Los Angeles, about 15 miles away.

The Santa Monica Medical Plaza is only about 10 or 12 stories tall - but it's a great location if you'd like a view of Santa Monica, the Pacific Ocean, and metro Los Angeles. 

Here's a final link to a previous post with a map of metro Los Angeles. 

View Arizona & 15th Street, Santa Monica in a larger map

© 2012 - originally posted 7/4/2010


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Experiencing L.A. at Hollywood & Highland

This is Part II of a two part series on Hollywood in and around Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Hollywood and Highland complex. Here's a link to Part I from last week. 

In many ways the urban renaissance that Hollywood is experiencing can be traced back to this one spot: the El Capitan Theater.

In 1989 the Walt Disney Company partnered with Pacific Theaters in restoring the 1926 El Capitan to it's original greatness. The theater re-opened to the public in June of 1991.

The theater now serves as an exclusive location of first-run Disney films. Disney took a gamble in investing in this part of Hollywood, and it paid off. The El Capitan Theatre has hosted live stage shows, world premieres, and other special events that have helped restore showmanship to this stretch of Hollywood Boulevard. 

A quick peek at the entry court gives a glimpse at how much work Disney put into restoring the El Capitan. I've been inside on three separate occasions - it's a fantastic experience, one I highly recommend. 

This is Part II of a two part series on Hollywood. Click here for last weeks post on the Grauman's Chinese Theater, Kodak Theater, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Kodak Theater, part of the much larger Hollywood and Highland complex, is the home to the Academy Awards, as well as a ongoing Cirque du Soleil performances. 

Here's a view across the street from the El Capitan Theater of the Hollywood and Highland complex. The complex opened in 2001 - ten years after the restoration of the El Capitan. More on Hollywood and Highland in a bit. 

Hollywood Blvd still has an abundance (an over abundance imo) of t-shirt shops, souvenir stands, tattoo parlors, and trashy lingerie shops. Most tourists who visit are usually surprised how, well, run down much of the area feels. 

Having grown up in Los Angeles in the 1970's, I can attest that this who area is much nicer, more cleaned up, than it was 30+ years ago. 

The area is not - and maybe will never be - a Beverly Hills, but it's become a much more enjoyable place to visit than when I was a kid.

At the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Avenue is the First National Bank Building. Built in 1928, is was at the time the second tallest building in Los Angeles. The 13 story structure was most known as one of the backdrops of Metropolis in the 1950's Superman TV series.

Looking east on Hollywood Blvd. There's a Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum on the southeast corner of Hollywood and Highland (never been - no interest). The Pantages Theater is a mile east (here's a link to a when my wife and I had to attend a show with friends). 

Meanwhile, the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex has given the area a bit more of a "Times Square" feel and vibe - on a much smaller scale, of course. The City of Los Angeles (Hollywood is a community within the City of Los Angeles) relaxed some it's zoning regulations to allow these billboards, much to the chagrin of some neighbors. 

Out of town visitors reading the subway map. Yes, Los Angeles does have a subway - going 16 miles from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood and finally terminating in North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley. Plans include extending a second line west through Beverly Hills into Westwood and UCLA, but that's many many years away. 

The interior court of the Hollywood and Highland complex. Nice. But where is something like  NBC's The Today Show? A west coast version of the very popluar New York City based syndicated show?  Wouldn't something like THAT be a draw for both locals and out of town guests? 

The white elephants are designed to invoke the equally massive "Babylon Court" set from pioneer film maker D.W. Griffin's 1916 film Intolerance. It would be another twenty years before any studio would again attempt to built sets of this magnitude. 

A plaque commemorating the film and the set. What I found interesting is that the original set was considered the first tourist attraction related to the movie business. 

"The Road to Hollywood: How Some of Us Got Here." Along the pavement you'll find a series of interesting quips and quotes from directors, producers, actors and other professionals in the entertainment community in how they got their start in the industry. 

Here's a link to a website that catalogued every single quote - and with the actual person who originally said it. In this case the "Director" was Mervyn LeRoy.

Los Angeles, and Hollywood specifically, is a city of incredible ambition. Every year 19,000 people move to Hollywood to try and break into the entertainment industry. For every one person that does, at least  one hundred don't. It's very challenging, very demanding. 

Thinking about moving to L.A. to try and make it in the entertainment industry? Here's a link to a post a couple years back with some thoughts from a good friend from our church in L.A. who did just that. I'd suggest reading it before you pack your bags ...

Several months ago I heard a fascinating message on the topic of "ambition." Specifically, "what does it mean to be ambitious in a city like Los Angeles?" Here's a link to the talk, given by Pastor Rankin Wilbourne of Pacific Crossroads Church, part of a larger series "How To Live In and Love Los Angeles."

What would a visit to Hollywood be without a chance to see the world famous Hollywood Sign? Walk up to the third floor at Hollywood and Highland and you'll get nice view. Here's a link to a previous post on the best place to (legally) get "up close" to the Sign. 

The white cross is designed to be visible from the nearby Hollywood Bowl for their sunrise Easter Services, held since the 1920's. Here's a link to our experience there a few years ago. 

Back at Hollywood and Highland. Another view looking up Highland Avenue with the Hollywood Sign in the distance. 

Another angle of the same view. 

Looking south down Highland with another view of the First National Bank Building. Beautiful, classic building. 

Another view of the Babylon Court. Here's a link to a one minute clip from D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance".

Heading down towards the massive parking garage under the Hollywood and Highland complex, my wife and I noticed a large sculpture consisting of a series of mirrors. Fitting, in many ways, to both the ambition and vanity that is so often Hollywood. 

Hollywood and Highland, along with Grauman's Chinese Theater, is a good place to start if you want a little taste of Hollywood. You'll see a whole lot more tourists than movie stars - actually, you probably won't see any stars. But it's still fun to walk around for a hour or two, and experience a bit of Hollywood's past, present, and future. 

Here's a final link to the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex. 

© 2012


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Experiencing L.A. at Grauman's Chinese Theater, Hollywood

Arguably the most famous movie theater in the world, Grauman's Chinese Theater is located on Hollywood Blvd in the heart of Hollywood.

The theater opened to the public in 1927 at a cost of $2 million. It's located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.

As a fully operating movie theater, Grauman's continues to show first run films. Of course, the real draw for people from around the world is it's famous footprint "Forecourt of the Stars."

The story goes that in 1927 Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped into some wet cement in front of the theater. Ever the showman, theater owner Sid Grauman quickly had them sign their names below their footprints and the rest, as they say, was history.

85 years later, the forecourt continues to draw people from around the world.

The are approximately 175 stars footprints (and in many cases, handprints) in front of the theater.

Here's a link to a map, on the theater's website, listing the stars and where to find their prints.

The forecourt is open to the public and absolutely free to visit. Hence, it's popularity - attracting two million visitors a year.

Just outside of the forecourt, on the public sidewalk, are celebrity impersonators posing for photographs, for tips (of course).

Apparently, Michael Jackson, Spiderman and all the rest can not legally charge for photos, but they can ask for tips.

Families pay hundreds of dollars to get into Disneyland - and then line up for 30 minutes to get a picture with Mickey Mouse. I guess tipping a dollar or two to get a pic with Darth Vader is a pretty good deal. I mean, hey, no wait.

Down the street, you'll find Elvis chatting it up with a Japanese geisha girl.

The King heading back to his "spot" on the sidewalk.

Of maybe he's going to meet up with the Scream guy.

Or Superman. Looks like a slow day for the Man of Steel.

By the way, you'll notice along the sidewalk are the stars of the Hollywood "Walk of Fame."

Unlike the very limited space in the Chinese Theater forecourt, there are over 2400 stars along Hollywood Blvd. Above, Harrison Ford's star at 6801 Hollywood Blvd (conveniently located directly in front of the Theater). Here's a link to a list of all the stars found on the Walk of Fame.

Back on the street to Michael Jackson: looks like the King of Pop was trying to drum up business.

Down the street from Grauman's Chinese Theater is the Kodak Theater, part of the larger "Hollywood and Highland" complex.

In between the Kodak Theater and Grauman's Chinese is the Hard Rock Cafe, a restaurant chain found in major cities around the world (we didn't bother to stop).

Another look at the Kodak Theater. The Kodak was specifically built to host the Academy Awards, although there is talk of possibly moving the Academy Awards to the larger Nokia Theater a few miles away in downtown Los Angeles.

"That's All Folks" - for now. More on the Hollywood and Highland complex in Part II next week.

Here's a link to the Grauman's Chinese Theater website.

© 2012