Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mexican Wrestling In a Mayan Porno Palace

I've remarked before that the older I get, the more burnt I like my toast. I just prefer stronger flavors as the years wane on.

But it didn't occur to me until recently that the same is true when it comes to my tastes in architectural design. I'm gravitating more and more towards Frank Gehry, Art Deco ziggurats, and Brutalism than, say, the clean lines of International Style or even Arts and Crafts.

I'm even coming around to appreciating the new fa├žade of the Petersen Museum. There's something about how horrible it is that makes me really respect it. At least it's a bold statement.

So when it comes to most of the historic movie palaces of Los Angeles, I'm in seventh heaven. Whether it's the Million Dollar or the United Artists, give me cornices and reliefs and plaster molds and mosaics and murals and chandeliers and all the other stuff—the more, the better!



That's one of the reasons why the Mayan Theatre—not on Broadway in LA's Downtown, but close enough—has been calling my name.



With an ornamental "stone" sculpture consisting of seven concrete bas-relief busts of warriors wearing Mayan headdresses by Baja-born painter and archaeologist Francisco Cornejo...



...the exterior gives visitors the feeling of entering a pre-Columbian temple...



...a theme that continues throughout the interior as well, whether in The Hall of Feathered Serpents (downstairs lobby) or The Hall of Emperors (balcony lobby).



There's no shortage of stuff to look at inside the Mayan Theatre.



And although much of it is awash in contemporary colors like pink and hot purple thanks to a modern LED lighting system...



...there's also a great amount of authenticity to the architectural designs by Morgan, Walls, and Clements (also responsible for The Deco BuildingAdamson House, and the El CapitanLeimert, and Wiltern theatres).



Building this theatre—as well as its neighbor, the Belasco, also designed by the same architecture firm—was part of an effort to establish a new theatre district west of Broadway.



That effort was spearheaded by oil magnate Edward L. Doheny, who owned both theatres.



But the new "fashionable" district never really took hold.



The Mayan originally opened in 1927 not as a movie palace but as a legit theatre—one that specialized in musical comedies (some even produced by movie palace impresario Sid Grauman).



It didn't start programming "talkies" until two years later—and even then, it continued to host I've theatrical performances through the 1940s before eventually switching to Spanish-language films and, later, adult films.



Like Downtown's other legit theatre, The Morosco (now The Globe), the way that the Mayan has managed to survive this long is by having transformed into a nightclub and concert venue.



The seats have been removed (though you can still sit on the floor of the risers in the balcony)...



...and twice a year, a ring is brought in for Mexican wrestling (at least, an Americanized version of lucha libre) and burlesque.



Appropriately, the event is known as "Lucha VaVoom," and it's as outrageous as the structure that surrounds it.

I mean, if you're going to try to revive an ancient style, you might as well go as far as you can with it.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Aztec Hotel's Mayan Legacy
Photo Essay: Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House, Exterior
Photo Essay: Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis House, Interior
Upon the Disappointing Lack of a Mayan Apocalypse