Hollywood Journal – Relaxing at the Roosevelt

Another visit to the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel. I used to like hanging out there back in the nineties because the lobby was big and dark and quiet. It was a great place to chill, in large part because it was usually pretty empty. Since then it’s been remodelled, and they’ve managed to attract a young, hip crowd, so the place is a little more lively these days. I’m glad they’re doing more business, but I spend less time there now.

The photos were taken recently, and while the lobby is substantially the same, it has changed some in the past fifteen years. And as I’ve mentioned before, in transcribing these entries from my journal I’ve left the errors alone. The correct spelling for the name of the hotel is “Roosevelt”.

January, Nineteen Ninety Nine

Today I was on Hollywood Boulevard. I think it was around four o’ clock. And I decided to go to the Rooseveldt. Have a beer. Kick back. It’s been a while since I stopped in there.

The lobby was pretty empty. I walked up to the bar. Ordered a beer. Then strolled over to the table by the piano and sank into a big, soft chair.

It was so nice. So quiet. I sat there looking at the patterns on the ceiling. I finished my beer and thought, what the hell, why not have another.

Rsvt Chand

The guy comes in to play the piano. I ask him if he knows any Mancini. He says not a lot. I mention Charade. No dice. He throws out a few titles. Pink Panther. Baby Elephant Walk. I’m disappointed but I settle for The Pink Panther.

There are quite a few people in the lobby by now. A man with a cell phone sitting across the table from me. At the next table over a woman reading a paperback. And there are a couple of guys sitting to my left. One of them is talking about Barry Fitzgerald. He’s trying to name movies Fitzgerald was in. The man with the cell phone jumps into the conversation. He offers Going My Way. Then he says Ten Little Indians. I want to correct him, he’s thinking of And Then There Were None. But these days I’m reluctant to start chatting with strangers.

So they go on talking. The guy who was going on about Barry Fitzgerald says he works in movies. I think he said either as an actor or a stunt man. The guy with the cell phone says he’s a producer. In the exchange that follows I’m obviously not setting down what was said verbatim. I’m just trying to give an outline of the conversation.

The actor (stunt man?) asks,

What did you produce?

The producer answers,

The Buddy Holly Story.

At this point I can’t restrain myself.

You produced The Buddy Holly Story? I say. I liked that movie.

I never thought it’d make any money, the producer says.

What else did you make?

Diner.

That was a cool movie.

Who was in Diner, asks the actor.

Oh, wow, a lot of people. Mickey Rourke.

And Kevin Bacon, says the woman with the paperback.

Now I know there are a lot of people in this town who will claim to have produced, directed, written all sorts of famous films. Who knows if this guy was legit. But I think I was on my third beer by that time and obviously not feeling very skeptical. The guy probably could’ve said he produced Dinner at Eight and I would have believed him.

The conversation moves on to other subjects. Italian food in New Jersey. Mexican food in LA. I ask the pianist for something by Gershwin. He plays Someone to Watch over Me.

I felt pretty good when I left.

Rsvt Chat

Hollywood Journal – Some Photos

While I was keeping my Hollywood Journal, I tried to take photos to document some of the changes that were occurring. These were taken while the Hollywood & Highland Center was being constructed, and they sort of go along with the first entry I wrote (Hollywood Journal – Intro). Sorry the quality isn’t better. I’m not a great photographer, and these were taken with a disposable camera.

It’s important to remember that Hollywood & Highland was being built as the same time as the Red Line was under construction below Hollywood Boulevard. Because one of the subway stops is built into the complex, the two projects had to be done concurrently. It was a crazy time, because the construction of that stretch of the Red Line was a mess. Hollywood Boulevard sank six inches, in part because the contractor was was not following proper procedures during tunneling. It was reported that they were using telephone books instead of metal wedges to prop up the supports.

Construction site on Hollywood Boulevard.

Construction site on Hollywood Boulevard.

A different angle on the site.

A different angle on the site.

Above are two views of the construction site from Hollywood Boulevard. In both you can see part of the office building that used to stand on the northwest corner of Hollywood and Highland. Also, in the background you can see the former Holiday Inn, which is now Loews Hollywood Hotel. Those familiar with the area will notice that in those days it didn’t have the facade which was added back when it was known as the Renaissance.

Looking down Orchid to the El Capitan.

Looking down Orchid to the El Capitan.

This is a shot of the El Capitan from Orchid. This part of the street no longer exists, since it was closed off in order to construct Hollywood & Highland. You can still enter Orchid from the north on Franklin, but it no longer continues through to Hollywood Boulevard.

The Walk of Fame during construction.

The Walk of Fame during construction.

The stars on the sidewalk in front of the project were removed during construction, and then replaced when the project was finished.

Looking west on Hollywood Boulevard.

Looking west on Hollywood Boulevard.

Above is a shot looking west. It’s too bad the image isn’t very sharp, but you can see the remnants of a cool mural depicting whales in the ocean. It was painted on the side of the Chinese Theatres. Also, in the distance, you can see the Roosevelt Hotel.

The construction site, again facing west.

The construction site, again facing west.

Another shot of the construction site facing west.

The First National Building stands alone against the sky.

The First National Building stands alone against the sky.

In the first two photos above you can see the office building that used to stand on the northwest corner of Hollywood and Highland. It had to be demolished to make way for the new mall, and I remember how its disappearance created this amazing sense of space. Before the new structure rose up, you had a mostly unobstructed view of the hills. And for a while the First National Building, which still stands today, seemed to tower over everything.

Looking across the construction site towards the El Capitan.

Looking across the construction site towards the El Capitan.

Another view of the construction site, looking towards the El Capitan.

Next to the Chinese Theatre, you can see the Chinese Two and Three, not long before demolition.

Next to the Chinese Theatre, you can see the Chinese Two and Three, not long before demolition.

During the eighties movie exhibitors began building multiplexes instead of stand-alone theatres. In order to compete, the company that owned the Chinese built two more auditoriums right next door, the Chinese Two and Three. They didn’t look like much from the outside, but they both offered large screens and excellent sound. When Hollywood & Highland was built these two theatres were demolished, and were replaced with six more inside the mall.

Hollywood Journal – Leave the Dome Alone

Another entry from my Hollywood journal, this one very brief.

The wrangling over Pacific Theaters’ plans for the Cinerama Dome continues. There was a good deal of anger in the Hollywood community over the proposed project. The Community Redevelopment Agency had received letters of protest from over a hundred concerned citizens, including Steven Spielberg and Richard Schickel. And the people at Pacific had started paying attention.

I also mention a couple of record stores I used to frequent. Eastside was in a strip-mall on Hillhurst. It’s long gone now. Record Recycler was on Sunset near Vermont. It’s actually still around, though it hasn’t been at that location for years. The owner moved the store down to Torrance. Those of you who are into used vinyl can get more info by clicking here.

For a while I was in the habit of hitting the Roosevelt Hotel for a drink at the end of the day. I loved zoning out in the lobby and listening to the guy at the piano. Totally relaxing. I should point out that the photo below was not taken at the time I wrote this journal entry. I snapped it on a recent visit. I wanted to show a little bit of the Roosevelt lobby, but it’s important to say that it’s been remodeled since this entry was written.

And finally, in transcribing this journal I’ve decided to leave the errors in, which is why “Roosevelt” is misspelled in the last paragraph.

June, Nineteen Ninety Eight

Yesterday I called Pacific Theaters again to see if there was any change in the Cinerama Dome situation. And apparently, yeah, they’ve made some concessions. It’s still hard to say whether this so-called remodeling is gonna work out okay, but from what the woman told me, it sounds like they’re finally thinking a little bit about design. I heard they were talking to the L.A. Conservancy. Thank God for the Conservancy.

This afternoon I went and bought some records, first at Eastside, then at Record Recycler.

A little after six I walked into the lobby of the Rooseveldt. Ordered a beer. Sat down in a chair over by the piano. The guy actually played Three Coins in the Fountain. Mercy.

Rsvt Lobby

Hollywood Journal – Intro

As much as I enjoy ranting about greedy developers and sleazy politicians, I realize that this blog would be pretty boring if that’s all I ever wrote about. So I’m going to try to mix it up a little.

For over ten years I kept a journal about the Hollywood area. I’ll be posting excerpts here from time to time. Hopefully this will break the monotony of my ongoing diatribes against the powers that be.

A couple notes about the entry below. Those who have only known the Chinese Theatre in recent years may be puzzled by the mention of the two additional marquees. This was written at time when Mann Theatres had built two large auditoriums right next door, hoping to compete in the age of multi-plexes. These two theatres were torn down when Hollywood & Highland was constructed, and replaced by six inside the mall.

If you don’t live in the LA area, you’ll be wondering why I have a problem with Tutor-Saliba. Even back then they were notorious for cost overruns and long delays, but the city still awards them projects because they’re so well-connected. The names and faces may change, but the dynamics that shape the city stay the same.

April, Nineteen Ninety Eight

Sunday. Early afternoon. I’m sitting in a restaurant right across from the Chinese. In God’s Hands is playing at the main theatre. I look to the right and see that Tarzan and the Lost City is playing next door, and at the far end of the building is the now-familiar sign advertising the Titanic.

Beyond that, across Orchid Ave. is a construction site surrounded by a wooden barrier. The side of this barrier that runs along Hollwyood Boulevard is decorated with pink and yellow stars that have the faces of famous actors painted in the center. The Orchid Ave. side is covered with dull beige paint. And there is a sign announcing that the project is being handled by Tutor-Saliba-Perini. Good God, not again.

Beyond the construction site is the office building that stands at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Off in the distance I can see a tall apartment complex, a billboard and a little piece of the Hollywood Hills.

*

A few days later I’m in my apartment, just a few blocks from Hollywood Boulevard. It’s after nine PM. I can hear the traffic on the Hollwyood Freeway. It’s always there, kind of like the ocean.

I’m thinking about all the stuff that’s happening in Hollywood, all the changes they’re making. There’s that big project over by the Chinese. The Max Factor building is being restored. The Cinerama Dome is gonna be sucked up into a shopping mall. It seems like the little shops and restaurants along the boulevard are doing better than they were five years ago. And I think the MTA still claims they’re gonna have a subway stop here eventually. I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve lived in or around this area for years. I really love Hollywood. Sometimes it tears my heart out when I see the things the crazy developers are doing. But then, this town wouldn’t even exist without the crazy developers.

The Capitol Records Tower

Capitol Records Tower

Capitol Records Tower

The CapitolRecordsTower is a Hollywood landmark.  It is totally unique, and helped set the stage for the era of space age design.  But it’s not just the look of the structure that makes it significant.  It’s one of a number of buildings designed by Welton Becket and Associates within the city of LA.  Becket was involved in creating some of the city’s most distinctive buildings, including the Pan-Pacific Auditorium [destroyed by fire] and the MusicCenter.  His work helped to define the look of mid-century LA.

Capitol Records is one of two Becket buildings that have become Hollywood icons.  The other is the Cinerama Dome, located just a few blocks away.  In light of the threat that the Millennium Hollywood project poses to the status of the former, it might be useful to review the recent history of the latter.

Cinerama Dome

Cinerama Dome

In the late nineties, Pacific Theaters presented a plan for redeveloping the Dome.  There was a huge public outcry, because in its initial form the plan would have meant ruining the Dome and building a nondescript mall around it.  To Pacific’s credit, they listened to the community, went back to the drawing board and came up with a far better design.  Not only did they refurbish the Dome and restore it to its place as a Hollywood landmark, they also added a beautiful state-of-the-art multiplex which includes a restaurant, bar and patio.  The completed complex was a welcome addition to the community, and it offers the best experience you can have in a commercial movie theatre.

It’s doubtful that the developers behind the Millennium Hollywood project will reconsider their plans, which would erase Capitol Records’ presence on the Hollywood skyline.  I like to think that the LA City Council might actually listen to the community and reconsider their support for the project.  But maybe that’s too much to hope for.