March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
Two back-to-back storms have brought more rain to Los Angeles in the past three days than has fallen in the past year–in some areas, twice as much. In Beachwood Canyon at least two trees have fallen, and one of them caused a power failure for some residents last night. There has been some flooding and a lot of mud, but today the Canyon looks green and fresh. From the Farmer’s Market this morning the Hollywood Sign was invisible, shrouded in mist and clouds.
Grey weather and intermittant showers have reduced the Canyon’s tourist traffic dramatically, since most people want their photos of the Hollywood Sign against a blue background. But while walking around the neighborhood a little while ago, I met a visitor from Antwerp who was undeterred by the less-than-ideal conditions. It was his only day to see the Sign, and I was glad to direct him to a good–and no doubt uncrowded–spot for picture-taking.
February 17, 2014 § 1 Comment
It was with great interest that I read this article on proposed plans for Silver Lake Reservoir, which will soon be decommissioned as LA’s water supply is moved underground. There are proposals for a swimming area, a beach and an esplanade, any of which would be a boon for park-starved Angelenos.
New recreational facilities would make Silver Lake Reservoir a welcome destination for tourists as well. Perhaps the redesigned Reservoir would grow popular enough to siphon some of the Beachwood’s tourist traffic to an area that is far more accessible than Beachwood Canyon. I can dream, can’t I?
February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
The year before last, I wrote a couple of pieces about New York and Los Angeles and their shifting fortunes as artistic capitals:
Today I read an essay by Moby that beautifully describes the mutability and wildness of Los Angeles as well as its artistic ferment. About his reasons for moving here from New York, he writes:
There’s a sense that New Yorkers never fail, but if they do, they’re exorcised from memory, kind of like Trotsky in early pictures of the Soviet Communist Politburo. In New York you can be easily overwhelmed by how much success everyone else seems to be having, whereas in L.A., everybody publicly fails at some point—even the most successful people. A writer’s screenplay may be turned into a major movie, but there’s a good chance her next five screenplays won’t even get picked up. An actor may star in acclaimed films for two years, then go a decade without work. A musician who has sold well might put out a complete failure of a record—then bounce back with the next one. Experimentation and a grudging familiarity with occasional failure are part of L.A.’s ethos.
Maybe I’m romanticizing failure, but when it’s shared, it can be emancipating and even create solidarity.
The full essay can be seen here:
January 20, 2014 § 1 Comment
Several months ago, Jeep Grand Cherokee started running a commercial set to California’s State Song. I wrote about it and the song’s origins in this post http://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/i-love-you-california-the-song-the-era-and-the-ad/
Lately I’ve noticed that increasing numbers of visitors to Beachwood Canyon expect to be able to drive to the Hollywood Sign–not to its vicinity or to a lookout, but all the way up to it. Over the weekend it finally occurred to me that the Jeep ad, still in heavy rotation, might have something to do with this idea, so I watched it a few times.
Six seconds in, we see a Grand Cherokee ascending a hill that appears to be directly beneath the Sign; from the trajectory, it seems clear the Jeep is heading straight up to it. But it’s not, and it can’t. The hill in question is the so-called Millennium Plateau* which lies not directly under the Sign but east and far south of it. Although Jeep filmed at the Plateau, you can’t drive there: the road is closed except to police and fire vehicles, and to cars on official business. (Disclosure: I have been permitted to drive up the road to an area above the Sign for filming purposes on two occasions.) You could walk to the Plateau, but even if you’re up for a considerable hike, it’s nowhere near spitting distance to the Hollywood Sign. It’s not even the best view.
As long as we’re on the subject of tourist traffic in Hollywoodland, this weekend saw some of the worst traffic ever–and it’s only January. Saturday brought total gridlock on the streets leading to Lake Hollywood Park. On several blocks of Beachwood Drive north of the Gates, there was no street parking at all. The merchants in Beachwood Village have opposed parking restrictions near the stores on the grounds that restrictions would affect their businesses, but as far as I could see everyone who parked on my block was heading in the opposite direction, toward the Sign. Most of these sightseers were gone for hours, and the car with out-of-state plates blocking my garage sat there all day.
The influx of cars has become so severe that one elderly resident apparently died while waiting for paramedics who couldn’t get through a the traffic jam at the north end of Beachwood Drive. As a result of constant gridlock, many of our streets–including upper Beachwood Drive–will soon get permit parking. While I’m happy for those residents, my neighbors and I can forget about ever having friends or family over during daylight hours: all the spaces outside our houses will be taken up by tourists’ cars.
Those who say “You knew the Sign was there when you moved in,” should realize that this wasn’t the situation when we moved in; it dates to when GPS became ubiquitous on phones and has become a crisis only in the past two years. The tourist season is now year-round and affects us daily, and rarely in a good way. So here’s some advice for visitors: if you must come to Hollywoodland, please use public transportation to the Village and prepare to walk. Buy something more than bottled water from the Market and Cafe, especially if you expect to use the restrooms. And don’t smoke anywhere, including in your car. In a bone-dry canyon during the worst drought in memory, one spark equals catastrophe.
*The Plateau is where camera crews filmed the light show at the Hollywood Sign on New Year’s Eve of 1999. The lighted Sign drew such a stampede of cars into the Canyon that all access, including that of emergency vehicles, was completely blocked. It’s a nightmare that haunts residents to this day.
January 10, 2014 § 7 Comments
After much petitioning from neighborhood groups, the trailhead at the dead end of Beachwood Drive will be closed temporarily, according to the office of Councilman Tom LaBonge.
Because of the challenges surrounding access to the Hollyridge Trail, Sunset Ranch, the Mt. Lee communications center and the Hollywood Sign, I feel it is important to close the trailhead for a 180 day period. Ultimately, a determination will require the guidance and cooperation of many other City departments. The neighborhood is being overwhelmed by the influx of vehicle [sic], substandard streets, no sidewalks, and we want to insure that in the event of an emergency, that [sic] there can be access.”
December 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
My two short documentaries on Peg Entwistle are available on a new DVD for $12. The first,”Peg Entwistle: A Life,” is a biography featuring interviews with family members, as well as previously unpublished photos and artifacts. The second, “Last Walk,” is a black-and-white short feature about her fateful walk to the Hollywoodland Sign in 1932. You can order it at http://hopeandersonproductions.com/?page_id=3361
December 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Thanks to Virginia Parry for this wonderful closeup of a bobcat–probably the same one that was photographed a half-mile north in my recent post http://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/wild-things-of-hollywoodland/ Keep an eye peeled, Beachwooders!
December 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
On my recent trip to England I spent a weekend in Margate, a lovely old seaside resort on the southeast coast. (I was invited there by the playwright Heath Woodward, whose musical about Peg Entwistle “Goodnight September” was in rehearsals, one of which I attended and greatly enjoyed.) Margate is famous for several reasons, the most important of them having to do with art. The great landscape painter J. M. W. Turner painted in Margate throughout his life, producing about 100 canvases there. Many of them are seascapes whose dramatic clouds I thought were exaggerated until I saw them for myself and realized that Turner took no liberties.
Then there’s the T.S. Eliot connection. Readers of “The Wasteland” will remember the passage in Part III: On Margate Sands/I can connect/Nothing with nothing. Perhaps the most moving expression of alienation in modern poetry, it was written in Margate when Eliot was recovering from a nervous breakdown in 1921. While staying at the stylish Albermarle Hotel in Margate’s Cliftonville district, Eliot worked on his masterpiece at the Nayland Rock Shelter, a three-sided glass pavilion on the Promenade. But the Margate Sands were already famous: while other English resorts have pebbled shorelines, Margate’s beaches boast the kind of golden sand associated with Italy and Spain.
The Albermarle is long gone, but the Walpole Bay Hotel, where I stayed, is a worthy successor. A graceful Victorian-era landmark just off the Promenade, the Walpole Bay features cream teas, Sunday lunches and a museum of Victorian and Edwardian artifacts collected by its charming owner, Jane Bishop.
There’s also a gallery of artwork drawn on the hotel’s linen, a tradition begun when a guest started sketching on his napkin in the dining room. One of the contributors to the Napery is the Turner Prize-nominated conceptual artist, recent CBE and all-around badass Tracey Emin, a Margate native who stays at the hotel during her visits, but most aren’t as famous, or even necessarily visual artists. I found the collection fascinating, and when Jane presented me with a napkin at the end of my stay I knew exactly what I would do. The result is pictured above: the view of the Hollywood Sign from my upstairs window, painted with acrylics.
November 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
When my plane from San Francisco was descending over LAX on Monday, I made sure to look for the Hollywood Sign. It was easy to spot: a white line of letters on a distant mountainside, unobstructed by buildings or trees. Perhaps that’s why people who visit Los Angeles are surprised that the Sign is located in a residential neighborhood, and that houses and trees crowd the area below it. Since I live only a mile away from the Sign and a mile below it, I mostly glimpse it between tree branches, houses and telephone wires. Like the moon on a cloudy night, the Sign shifts in and out of view, surprising me with its appearances.
Today it rained, a welcome change from the drought that has plagued California during the past several years. At times it was sunny, and late this morning it managed to be sunny and rainy at the same time. Around 4:30pm, I went for a walk and took this photo of the Sign partially obscured by trees. A short time later, walking down Beachwood Drive, I looked up at the beautiful sky–blue, amber and dotted with clouds.
Next time: My painting for the Walpole Bay Hotel
November 12, 2013 § 4 Comments
Since I moved to upper Beachwood Canyon in 2005, the deer have grown rarer while every other animal seems to have grown more common. Yesterday alone brought a fat squirrel in search of acorns to my door and a large red tail hawk to my deck–it was trying to get my lovebird, who was outside in a cage. On my way home last night at 7:30, I passed a coyote standing nonchalantly on the sidewalk a block north of the commercial district.
But the best recent animal sighting took place on the 3000 block of North Beachwood Drive, when the bobcat pictured above stopped to enjoy someone’s garden.