November 26, 2023

Photo Essay: The Egyptian Theatre Rises From Its Restoration Tomb

In May 2020, a deal was finalized to transfer ownership of the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood (a.k.a. Grauman's Egyptian) from the non-profit American Cinematheque to the very much for-profit streaming service (and now film studio) Netflix. 

And it caused quite an uproar.

Because when the City of LA's Community Redevelopment Agency sold the Egyptian to American Cinematheque in 1996—for just $1, a symbolic transaction—it was so that the historic property could be made accessible for the public good. 

To complicate matters, one of the American Cinematheque board members at the time worked for Netflix. 

Now, I don't know what American Cinemetheque's bylaws state in reference to potential conflicts of interest. It may be that the board reviewed the situation and decided that the possible interested person didn't stand to gain anything financially by the transaction, and so it wasn't an actual conflict of interest.

But it seems as though A.C. may not have even had the right to sell the property at all—much less transfer it to a corporation that would use it for private gain. 

Sure, the streamer will still allow the non-profit to occasionally screen repertory cinema and festivals; but it will primarily use the theatre as a screening room for its original productions. 

How did Netflix get around the Supreme Court decision of 1948 (known as the "Paramount Act," the "Paramount Decision," and the "Paramount Decree") that forbade movie studios from owning their own movie theatres and booking their own films there, as a violation of anti-trust laws? 

The same year that Netflix bought the Egyptian, the U.S. Department of Justice motioned to lift the ban—and a judge granted the motion

The anti-trust regulation of movie theatres was terminated—which means studios can once again legally own their own movie houses and monopolize the market, potentially edging out smaller chains and independent-run cinemas. 

It's a funny thing, a digital-first platform turning to brick-and-mortar—much like opening real-life grocery stores. (Or Amazon Studios taking over the Pacific Culver City multiplex for Prime screenings last December.)

They've both already cannibalized mom-and-pop retail by shifting consumer behavioral patterns online—so moving to physical locations feels a little like they're turning the knife. 

I appreciate that Netflix wanted to take over and preserve an existing, historic theatre rather than building something anew (or, gasp, tearing something down in the process). So, I had to put all this drama aside for myself—because in the end, no matter who owns it, the Egyptian is a 101-year-old Hollywood landmark. I want to support it; I want to help it stay open and active; I want to experience it. 

November 19, 2023

Photo Essay: The 44th Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, Back in Old Town

Pasadena is known for its annual Tournament of Roses—which occurs on New Year's Day, but never on a Sunday—as well as for the "twisted sister" of the Rose Parade, the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, which occasionally, not necessarily every year, takes place on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. 


November 18, 2023

Photo Essay: Tracing the Remains of the "Gateway to Southern California" at Cajon Pass

"I'm going to take a tour of the former Camp Cajon," I told my friends, when they asked why I had plans in the Inland Empire. 

"What was it?" they asked. 

"I'm not sure, so I guess I'll find out!" 

November 08, 2023

Photo Essay: Stepping Foot on America's First Freeway, the 110 (a.k.a. Arroyo Seco Parkway)

Why do I do this to myself

That's what I was thinking as I sat waiting for the Gold Line (a.k.a. "A Line") Metro train at the Heritage Square station, numbered bib safety-clipped to my tank top. 

I'd parked just three stops away from the starting point of the "Run the 110" race I'd signed up for—a 10K, though I'd never done a 10K before, and although I had no intention of actually running it. 

But it was a special way of experiencing the 110 Freeway when it was closed to traffic—and for the first time in 20 years. 

Sure, I could've just walked on the 110 at my leisure, not gotten up at 5 a.m. and not hightailed it to South Pasadena for a 7 a.m. starting time. I could've just joined everybody else during the event known as "ArroyoFest," part of the 626 Golden Streets open street event. 

But I wanted to be held accountable to do the whole thing. I wanted to make sure I would go at all—knowing my habit of bailing on myself when I haven't gotten enough sleep or when I'm in a flare-up. 

And that meant paying good money to get a T-shirt, be assigned a number, and receive a medal for finishing. Even though I wasn't sure if I could finish the whole thing. 

November 04, 2023

Photo Essay: A 'Haunted' Underground Tour of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Circa 1912

I've toured the 111-year-old Los Angeles Athletic Club in Downtown Los Angeles twice now, including once in 2012 upon its centennial, but there's one spot I hadn't gotten to yet: the basement. 
So, we took the opportunity to attend LAAC's Roaring Twenties Masquerade right before Halloween, which offered a "haunted underground tour" in addition to the masked revelry upstairs.

November 01, 2023

Photo Essay: The Return of the Once-Dead WeHo Halloween Carnaval

I haven't been to the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval every single Halloween night since I moved into the neighborhood—but I always liked knowing it was there as an option.

When I walked Santa Monica Boulevard back in October 2019, I had no idea that the street festival wouldn't return the next year—or the next, and next.

By Halloween 2022, the City of West Hollywood had declared that after the pandemic pause of the event, nobody in charge was very interested in bringing it back. 

And there was a community uproar. 

After all, the event brings a lot of business into the neighborhood—and it's a tremendous resource for those that want to go out and do something on Halloween night that's not necessarily drinking in a bar or a club, and doesn't necessarily require any driving. 

I know I love leaving my car at home and being able to just walk right over, and then walk home whenever I'm done.

So it was pretty exciting to witness the return of the WeHo Carnaval this year, four years since all those costumed revelers had been able to take over the boulevard.

October 18, 2023

October 15, 2023

Photo Essay: Covina Bowl, Partially Preserved, Awaits Its Second Chance

It was New Year's Day. I was hung over but I'd managed to go on an adventure with the guy I was dating at the time, the same guy who'd wimped out on our New Year's Eve plans the night before. 

We were headed back to LA from Pomona, and he was driving. 

"Can we please drive by Covina Bowl?" I asked. 

"I don't want to go bowling..." he said, probably flatly, though I heard it as a whine. 

"I just want to see it."

And so we drove up to the mid-century bowling palace and walked in the front door. My date was sighing. 

I took a quick look around and said, "OK, I've seen it."

We turned around, walked away, and went back home. 

I didn't know back then that Covina Bowl would close for good in 2017. And that I would never get more than a passing glance at it in all its glory, never get the chance to roll a ball down its lanes. 

But life is full of strikes and gutters, ups and downs. 

 circa 2022

And fortunately, part of Covina Bowl still remains. And part of it will one day reopen to the public to enjoy once again. 

October 06, 2023

Photo Essay: Pumpkin Rock, Under the Cloak of Fog

Not all my adventures are winners. But sometimes that makes for great content to fall under the umbrella of "Avoiding Regret."

Take my recent hike to Pumpkin Rock in Norco, for instance. 

September 30, 2023

Photo Essay: Boney Island Gets Reanimated at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Back around the new millennium, Emmy-winning animation producer for The Simpsons Rick Polizzi created a super-sized yard haunt in his San Fernando Valley neighborhood

But it became too popular for its own good—with traffic congesting the residential area and an unwieldy crowd size arriving nightly to check out the array of skeletons and the fountain show. 

So it closed in 2016 and took a year off, reopening in Griffith Park in 2018.

I saw the original version in person in 2014 but missed out on its redux, which closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fortunately, it reopened once again for the 2023 Halloween season—this time in yet another new location.