Monday, October 26, 2020

The Haunted Car Wash Inside a Tunnel of Terror

I've been wondering why there aren't more themed car washes. Why not make something so mundane as cleaning your car a little more... entertaining

And this Halloween, the Russell Fischer Xpress car wash in Huntington Beach, California stepped up to the plate with its "Tunnel of Terror" Haunted Car Wash. 

I'm never really terrified at haunted attractions. I'm much more scared by real life. 
In fact, I'm downright giddy when I encounter a clown who's maniacally giggling at me. 

I just giggle back. 

And this year, I was just so happy for any Halloween festivities I encountered—especially when I already needed a car wash. 

They laughed at me when they saw me all by myself in my car. But it's too hard to make plans with somebody else these days. 

And I don't need to have kids in tow in order to appreciate a spooky spectacle. 

At this haunted car wash, much of the show actually occurred outside of the bubbly tunnel...
...with scary characters wielding squeegees and beckoning you forth into the darkness. 

After you enter the mouth...

...this car wash doesn't start out much differently than any other car wash.

At least, any other car wash with a good multi-colored light show. 

But then, something begins to emerge into the light at the end of the car wash tunnel...

...a shadowy figure who's been standing there, waiting for you to emerge from the soap and rinse cycle. 

And just as soon as they appear...

...they disappear behind your car to greet the next victim in line. 

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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Photo Essay: Driving Through the Anaheim Halloween Parade

This is exactly what I had wished for the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Instead of being canceled for COVID-19, could it still go on—as a drive-by experience?

Well, it didn't work out that way for the Rose Parade this coming New Year's Day. 

But the city of Anaheim in Orange County, California wasn't going to let anything interrupt its nearly 100-year tradition—and made its annual Halloween Parade a drive-thru. 

I'd gone down to Anaheim to see its Halloween parade once, back in 2016—but I'd been frustrated watching it pass me by without really being able to see it. It's always scheduled after sunset—and so it was plenty dark by the time the floats reached where I'd stationed myself along the parade route.  

This year, I showed up early to get an advance peek of the action while the floats were still being set up, where—in a coronavirus switcheroo—they'd be stationed while cars drove past them

Anaheim is known for its parade floats—which are created by locals, many of whom have a Disney pedigree, and often hearken back to vintage 1950s designs. 

In the 1950s and '60s, the parade was so popular that it was televised locally. 

Grumpy Trees

Its popularity waned until it was revived and revitalized in 2012—harnessing local artistic talent and volunteer manpower to bring dozens of floats to life. 

There's never a shortage of good ol' fashioned whimsey...
...and always a good dose of spookiness, too. 

And although this year's parade was massively scaled down from prior years, like in 1953 when the "Flying Sasser" made its debut... was clear as I was driving through that the energy and passion was just as strong this year as it's ever been. 

The Rocket Witch was once again ready to take flight, as she first did in 1951. 

The Anaheim Short Line rode the rails as it first did in 1948—this time with puppeteers from the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre front and center.  

The Candy Box Haunted House

This year's parade, in fact, was like a "greatest hits" of classic floats that have made their triumphant returns (in replica form) in the last 8 years. 

One of the more recent additions is the "Haunted House" float, whose current version debuted in 2016. 

For years, I've been tempted to just peep the floats at the daytime Anaheim Fall Festival rather than attending the actual parade...

But then I'd miss the animatronics, smoke effects, and personalities like the Pumpkin Man. 

And I wouldn't get my own trick or treat bag, either. It's the little things. 

I hear that some drivers had to wait a couple of hours to get their cars through the line and past the floats later in the evening—something I'd been wary of myself, and something that almost kept me away from the parade altogether this year. 

But I was more determined than ever this year to get a dose of Halloween—any semblance of Halloween normalcy—wherever, whenever, however I could. 

And now I'm wondering why I ever missed so many parades of past years. 

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Knott's Berry Farm Taste of Fall-O-Ween Whets the Appetite for the Full Park Experience

Knott's Scary Farm may be canceled this year, but Halloween has nevertheless arrived at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. 

The annual haunt usually features a number of mazes with long lines and scare actors who interact with those who are waiting—neither of which is really possible right now with the coronavirus pandemic

But the family-friendly theme park has figured out a way to open its doors—something Disneyland has yet to do—while it’s decked out for Halloween and Día de los Muertos

During its "Taste of Fall-O-Ween" food event..., shops and food stands are fully operational. 

Rides, however, are not. 

But honestly, Knott's is endlessly entertaining even without the rides...
...especially in its Ghost Town

And it's hard to resist the chance to have some pumpkin-flavored soft serve ice cream, washed down with a boysenberry beer. 

And stilt walkers' faces are so high up, it's pretty easy to keep a safe distance. 

The entire park is open—from Ghost Town to Fiesta and even the Boardwalk. 

And while there's no indoor dining, you can find an outdoor spot to perch and refresh—a necessary thing, since you can't walk around with your mask off. 

It had been a couple of years since I'd been to Knott's for its Boysenberry Festival—and I hadn't realized how much I'd missed it.

I'm hoping for a Knott's Merry Farm version of this tasting event so I can return (maybe not at 5 p.m. on a Saturday, when it's so crowded). 

And whenever the rides reopen safely, I'll be queuing up.      

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Photo Essay: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Where Dead Stars Still Draw Crowds

Every year, around this time of year, I think I might like to go check out the Día de Muertos event at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California—the largest of its kind outside of Mexico. But the closer it gets to the date, the more reticent I become to deal with the festiveness of the festivities.

Well, this won't be my year to go, as the event—which usually occurs a few days before the Day of the Dead—is canceled for COVID-19. 

But I'm kind of relieved. And kind of grateful, too. Because the pandemic has allowed me to visit Hollywood Forever a few times on a weekday, without the crowds, and with nothing special going on except the cemetery itself. 

In the nearly 10 years that I've lived in LA, Hollywood Forever has really become a thing—partially because of its outdoor movie screenings and its concerts and other events at the Masonic Lodge.

Most of the building is part of the cemetery’s administration complex. It's the upstairs main meeting room—the "lodge"—that's got the most esoteric origins, with its wood beam ceilings and mystical energy. 

Designated a national historic landmark, the Morgan, Walls and Clements-designed lodge was completed in 1931 with interiors (including lighting fixtures and furnishings) also designed by the firm in the Spanish Renaissance style. 

On the outside, the Spanish Baroque-style structure has been stripped of many of its visible ties to freemasonry—but it once served as the home base for the members of the Southland Lodge No. 617, who used the entire complex as a community center until the 1960s. 

That part of the cemetery stood essentially abandoned for three decades—despite being at the main entrance.

Hollywood Forever—which Isaac Van Nuys and his father-in-law Isaac Lankershim opened in 1899 as Hollywood Cemetery—is perhaps best-known for its celebrity grave sites. It is Hollywood, after all. And it's directly behind the Paramount Studios lot, too.  

As with most cemeteries, I'm a bit more interested in the art and architecture (like of the chapel and the  columbarium dome behind it, both circa 1928). 

But Hollywood Forever (also formerly known as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery) has the added bonus of peafowl, which have resided there for over 15 years

clock tower (built 1930)

On the west side of Hollywood Forever—with entrances off of Gower Street (named after Hollywood pioneer Mary Love Gower, who once owned the land)—is the Beth Olam Jewish Cemetery. 

That's where you'll find the final resting place of Mel Blanc, the "Man of 1,000 Voices" (Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester the Cat, Porky Pig)...

...and actress Estelle Getty, who was born the daughter of Polish Jews and not, like her character Sophia from The Golden Girls, Italians from Sicily. 

Hollywood pioneers are buried at this cemetery, too... Paramount co-founder Jesse Lasky, producer of The Squaw Man (also namesake of the Lasky-DeMille Barn, Hollywood's "first movie studio," which now houses Hollywood Heritage).

The Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum, designed by Marston & Maybury, started out in the 1930s...

...and has grown over time to also include the Sanctuary of Memories (and of Faith, Light, Trust, and so on). 

With the 8-foot, bronze statue of Johnny Ramone in 2004, Hollywood Forever also solidified its status as a destination for music fans...

...looking to pay tribute to their favorite punk idols...

...which also include Johnny's bandmate, Dee Dee Ramone, who's buried just down the way. 

Johnny isn't actually buried there yet—his ashes will be interred there after his wife, who is holding onto them, passes away. 

His neighbor in the (Sound)Garden of Legends will be fellow rocker Chris Cornell, who was buried next to the statue in 2017.  

They're both near the south shore of Sylvan Lake—one of two original lakes (the other one, more centrally located, has since been filled in)—where the Classical Revival-style Clark Family Mausoleum (circa 1920, by Robert Farquhar) occupies Clark Island, both named after Los Angeles Philharmonic founder William Andrews Clark, Jr. 

Facing the Italian carrera marble monolith is a likeness of Russian-born actor Anton Yelchin, who died at the age of 27 in 2016.

In addition to bronze statues, a number of other memorials can be created by Hollywood Forever's in-house studio of stonemasons. 

That helps make each gravesite a special destination in its own right—like the one for Terry, the dog who portrayed "Toto" in The Wizard of Oz (though she was actually buried at a pet cemetery that was destroyed for the construction of the 101 Freeway).

The last new structure to be built is the Fairbanks Memorial Reflecting Pool in Fairbanks Gardens (circa 1939), named after swashbuckling sex symbol Douglas Fairbanks

It sits just west of the Italian Renaissance-style Hollywood Cathedral Mausoleum, designed by the Pasadena architectural team Marston and Van Pelt. It was constructed out of California granite and completed in 1922. 

That's where Mickey Rooney is buried, his interment visible from the exterior. 

Inside, the crypts are covered in slabs of Alabama marble...

...some, like that of silent film-era Hollywood heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, flanked by bronze urns. 

Tjere are shrines to those interred in the mausoleum, too—like to actor Peter Lorre in the Alcove of Reverence. 

Even the darker corners of the mausoleum—where the niches are less often frequented by fans—there is vibrant color and light, thanks to panels of stained glass windows.

Some were fabricated by American Art Glass Co., circa 1945...


...while others don't carry an artist signature or maker's mark (though Judson Studios is known to have contributed art glass to the Cathedral Mausoleum, perhaps the skylights). 

While Hollywood Forever was one of the first "lawn park"-style cemeteries in California, the burial plots currently aren't restricted to just low-profile markers. 

But Cecile B. DeMille's sarcophagus and Alfred Hitchcock's gravestone are surprisingly modest for such heralded directors. 

When I visit, I like to make a loop from the Santa Monica Boulevard gate entrance, through the cemetery, and back to the exit by passing the old pump house... I can try to spot any of the feral cats that the cemetery helps feed and shelter. 

The cats tend to hang out just east of the bird pens, where dozens of peacocks can escape the crowds or head out onto 64 acres of lawn for a little strutting and grooming. 

Although I think I've seen each of the cemetery's 40 peacocks and peahens over the course of a handful of visits, I still haven't made it to the final resting places of Judy Garland, Bugsy Siegel, Tyrone Power, Marion DaviesGriffith J. Griffith, or Harry Chandler

And I'm sure there are other "must-see" graves that I've been missing out on.

But I'll surely be back. Especially if this pandemic continues to drone on like it has. 

For a full history of Hollywood Forever up until 1999, click here

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