Saturday, March 31, 2012

Come for the Breakfast...

Stay and look at that amazing, retro-cool ceiling!

(Shakers, may you never ever change.)

Friday, March 30, 2012

That's Show Biz, Baby

So many film and TV productions have been turning up around town lately, it really feels like living on a set. Here, Bistro de la Gare serves as a location for something that looked pretty fancy. (Expensive suits! Fancy dresses!)
I actually was living on a set yesterday. My delightful little street got yet another 15 minutes of fame as the location of a TV commercial. Well, make that about 15 hours of fame -- that's about how long it took to finish the shoot.
Note to new South Pas residents who might not know the drill: make sure to find out all specifics when a production company tells you they're using your street for a location. If they are going to feature your house, you definitely want to get paid appropriately, and find out in advance how long you will be required to find alternative parking and how long a crew will have cameras trained on your front door. (Also, for heaven's sake, make sure not to run around in front of an open upstairs window in your underwear while filming is going on, either. Not that I've done that or anything...)
For more on movie and TV production in South Pasadena, check out my tag below and look at the column and slideshow I did last year for Patch.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

subtleties of major and minor

"I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe?"

--Kate Chopin

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012


Rainy day bad idea:

Decide to do a big grocery shop at Ralphs, grabbing the umbrella with the broken spokes and wearing the wool coat that soaks up water better than a squeegee, getting stuck standing in the parking lot as an elderly woman in an 80s Lincoln Continental pulls out and then desperately tries to clean her wet glasses with her crocheted shawl as you helplessly watch your cereal boxes get soggier and soggier and you wish that you had included a bottle of scotch on your grocery list.

Rainy day good idea:

Put away the wet groceries, dry off and head over to Charlie's for great coffee, warm atmosphere and cool tunes. (Which is exactly what I did when I was stopped by the train crossing, and noticed this lovely shot.)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's a Jungle Out There...

When you think about it, jungles are colorful, exciting and strange. I'll take that over boring, ordinary and bleak any day.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sign On

It's official: Landmark wants the Rialto sign to stay exactly where it is!

We still have a long, long, LONG way to go to officially save and revitalize our beloved Rialto Theatre, but as Escott Norton of Friends of the Rialto posted on Facebook, "I would say today's news is a very good 'sign'!"

(Be sure to let Landmark Theaters know that we don't want to stop here. We want more than a secure sign. We want our movie palace back! You can write Landmark by clicking here.)

I want to thank Landmark Theaters for recognizing the importance of this historic piece of South Pas. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I can hear those ghosts of the Rialto screen right now...

Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd are also saying thank you. (We can't hear them, of course, but it's written in lovely font across a silent film card.) Malle, Truffaut and Rohmer are saying merci. Lang, Lubitsch and Fassbinder are saying danke schoen.

Danke schoen?

Heck, with this kind of shake-it-up good news I'll bet it goes something like this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Phil slowed down and looked at the property. Isolated? Check. Right color scheme? Check. Vaulted ceilings?

"Damn!" He said. "No vaulted ceilings!"

Once again, Phil drove on. (It wasn't easy being the Jolly Green Giant's realtor.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Storm Clouds

Nice of that woman to be walking with such a striking red coat just as the clouds parted...

(For Rialto fans, the clouds have still not parted. I'll repeat my update from the bottom of yesterday's post:

Pasadena Star News reports that Rialto sign can be saved if Landmark Theaters fund repairs. Officials from Landmark have not returned repeated calls for comment.

I'll say it again: write and let Landmark know how much the Rialto means to us. After all, there's power (and persuasion) in numbers. Just take a look at this.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hanging in the Balance

Expert structural engineer Michael Krakower will offer the city of South Pasadena a report today regarding the safety of the historic Rialto sign. (LA Times blog got a few facts wrong -- Landmark Theaters leases but does not own the Rialto, for example -- but you can read more about the latest in the saga in the Times story here.) I say, let's make sure we do whatever it takes to keep the Rialto sign safely in place. Then, let's use this as a starting point to finally bring this grand movie palace back to life.

My regular readers have seen most of the following links already, but for newbies:

Read my history of the Rialto Theater, including my historical photo slideshow at Patch here.

Read my analysis of other historic theaters that have been successfully revitalized at Patch here, and make sure to watch the included portion of my longer film project: The Rialto: Remembered and Imagined.

Read my plea to leaseholder Landmark Theaters to help us save our beloved movie palace here, and my follow up here.

Join others who want to make sure the Rialto is saved, restored and reopened by signing up with Friends of the Rialto at the website here or on the Facebook page here.

Let Landmark Theaters know that since they have the power -- and the keys to the place -- we really, really, really need their help to save the Rialto. You can write them online here or send mail to:

Customer Service
Landmark Theatres
2222 South Barrington Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90064.

We don't have to go all Network on them. I really believe once Landmark knows how important the Rialto is to South Pasadena as well as greater Los Angeles, we'll have something more along the lines of this...

Stay tuned for more as this develops.

UPDATE 5:40PM: Pasadena Star News reports that Rialto sign can be saved if Landmark Theaters fund repairs. Officials from Landmark have not returned repeated calls for comment.

I'll say it again: write and let Landmark know how much the Rialto means to us. After all, there's power (and persuasion) in numbers. Just take a look at this.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

If only it were this easy...


(For those of you who don't live in Los Angeles, this type of sign points to a movie/TV production location around town. Projects often have code words to identify them to the cast and crew, or perhaps a shortened version of the working title.

For all of us, we know what a bully is. And for our children, there seem to be more and more than we ever had to deal with when we were kids. I have my theories about this, but I'll save it for another rant post.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

What Was That Name Again?

The man who built this building, Alexander R. Graham, named it after himself. (The Alexander Building.) Not content with one mere structure as his namesake, he built another one right next to it and named that one after himself, too. (The A. R. Graham Building.)

What would you bet he would have been peeved to be upstaged by that dramatic sky?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Intermission Extended

Recently, I wrote about the impending removal of the historic Rialto Theatre's famous sign. As of today, there may be hope: structural engineer Michael Krakower has been hired to formulate a plan to shore up the sign and make sure it will be able to remain in place. Krakower previously worked on Pasadena's historic Raymond Theatre.
Don't start sighing with relief just yet, however. The sign is still slated to come down, unless Landmark and Krakower can convince the city that all future plans for the sign are safe. After that, building officials must approve the plans. For more on the story, check out Patch's coverage here.
I'm no expert, and this is all hearsay, but I spoke to a structural engineer who told me that given what he could see, a plan for securing the sign should not be an issue. One film producer even told me that he could have a crew fix the sign in a couple of hours if given the chance. A contractor standing outside the theatre when I was taking pictures told me he'd seen worse safety violations in home renovations.
Do I have hope? Yes. Am I convinced we're in the clear? Not yet. Though I'm reminded of Dustin Hoffman's fantastic portrayal of producer Stanley Motss in Wag the Dog. When presented with a seemingly insurmountable problem of war, he would joyfully compare it to a catastrophe he had averted when shooting a film.
"This is nothing!" He said at one point. "Did you ever shoot in Italy? Try three Italian starlets wacked out on Benzedrine and grappa, this is a walk in the park!"
I sincerely hope that fixing the sign really is a walk in the park. But I also hope that this issue of sign safety and neglect finally forces the hands of those in control of the gorgeous treasure box theater sitting right in the heart of South Pas. The Rialto is just waiting to be polished and reopened, with its jewels given back to the greater community.
Trust me on this: I've seen very recent photographs of the interior of the building taken from just about every angle. It's even more spectacular than many of you realize, and it's in surprisingly great shape from the pristine light fixtures to the exquisite carved details.
In fact, it's still downright dazzling in there.
You hear that, Landmark? We still have a long way to go, but let's try to channel a little Stanley Motss. "You think you're in a spot?" He asked. "You think this is a tight spot? Try making the Hunchback of Notre Dame when your three lead actors die, two weeks from the end of principal photography!"
More as this develops.
For updates, make sure to join us at the Friends of the Rialto: website Or friend the Friends of the Rialto on Facebook

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No. No entry.

No entry here.
Don't come in.
Go away.
Go back
south with your umbrella,
go back
north with your serpent's teeth.
A poet lives here.
No sadness may
cross this threshold.
Through these windows
comes the breath of the world,
fresh red roses,
flags embroidered with
the victories of the people.
No entry.

--Pablo Neruda

(Okay, so without the high contrast black and white this house isn't really noir, and it definitely doesn't have this much of a goth vibe but hey, it's been one of those weeks for me. And it's only Tuesday.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

equally dark view of the car

"By the time of early film noir the internal combustion automobile was already firmly entrenched in the American way of life. The country’s ideals of individual freedom, prosperity, and technological advancement all found a perfect symbol in the car, a liberating machine with the promise of personal mobility and control. But as the automobile began to affect the physical and social fabric of cities and their environs, a film movement focused on the dark sides of the city and humanity would take an equally dark view of the car."

Excerpted from: Driving is Murder: The Automobile, Violence, and the City in Film Noir

Written for Professor Joan Copjec's Reading the City: Film Noir
at City College of New York, December 15, 2006

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy to Oblige

This whimsical convertible van was parked here for almost 7 hours yesterday. (And yes, that umbrella was attached to it.) Given its choice of parking spot, I think it wanted its picture taken...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2 Columns, Some Lace and a Pot

When I zoom in on familiar places, I find all kinds of things I never noticed. I must have driven past this porch a few dozen times but I never really looked at it before.

Hmmmm. I feel a series coming on...

Update 7:40AM: Thanks to those who let me know my post wasn't up this morning. My bad. I scheduled it to post at noon instead of midnight.

Friday, March 9, 2012

In Bloom

I'm not sure what I love more: the red hair, or that almost-hidden anklet.

You go, girl.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sign Off

Yesterday afternoon I tweeted this:

Rumor:historic South Theatre sign being removed for safety. Is there hope for now?

I had it on fairly good authority that our beloved Rialto sign was going to be removed due to safety issues -- structural damage that occurred during the recent windstorm. Not long after my tweet, the story was confirmed by my editor at Patch. You can read the story here, including all kinds of optimistic yet obtuse quotes from powers-that-be about finding the right business model for the place and being uncertain if removal of the sign would reduce the possibility of reopening...
To which I say, bah. I'm sorry, I wish I could smile and nod and be optimistic but I just feel like this is yet another nail in the Rialto's coffin.
Let's be honest, here. The state of the Rialto has gotten so bad that it is literally falling into the street. First, heavy rains a few years ago caused huge chunks of plaster to fall off. Shortly after, the entire place was red-tagged. Now, we've got a situation so dire that the iconic, historical sign of one of the greatest movie palaces in Los Angeles has to be taken down. Of course these safety and structural issues have to be addressed, but why were they ever allowed to get to this point? And why are still hearing about searching for a business model? Where, exactly, is this search taking place?
There's a great line in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof -- a film that was probably once shown at the Rialto. "There is nothing more powerful," said Big Daddy Pollitt, "than the odor of mendacity!"
For years the Rialto -- a city treasure and historical masterpiece of architecture -- has been allowed to fall into this tragic, unsafe condition. It's not like it is in a war zone, it is not located in the south section of Bogota, in Grozny, Chechnya or in the middle of cholera-infected swamp. It is a building listed on various historical registers, loved by its community. It has owners and a leaseholder. It also happens to be in a city that prides itself on a reputation of preservation.
Sure, it would cost more money to transform it into a multiuse entertainment complex than it would to produce an all-star film about its history. But it's abhorrent condition came purely from neglect. And that neglect is reprehensible. This is not a cookie cutter strip mall losing a few bricks. It's a priceless treasure, entrusted to people who have let it rot. So, you'll forgive me if I shake my head and start channeling my inner Big Daddy when I see yet another sign of disaster. Actually, when I don't see the sign -- because it's being taken down.
There are people working tirelessly to keep alive the dream of a revitalized Rialto Theatre. Chamber of Commerce president Scott Feldmann should win a special award for his efforts. Escott Norton saved the theater once, back in the 80s, and I'm certain would be delighted to try to do it again -- if the people in charge would join in. Miranda Gontz is a brilliant high school student who, by all rights, should have been more interested in her SAT scores but what did she do last year? Made a documentary about the history of the Rialto Theatre. Why? Because she thought it was important.
It is.
I've contributed a few things toward the fight to save the Rialto. You can go back and look at my Patch columns and videos here and here. I have many more hours of video interviews that I have not yet edited together featuring dozens of people expressing how much the Rialto means to them.
Over and over again my video subjects asked, "Why has nothing been done to save this?" In my search for that answer, I kept coming up against another line that really should have been growled by Big Daddy at some point. "It takes time," I kept hearing. "It just takes time to find a Rialto solution."
Well, you know what else happens with time? Decay. And ultimately? Destruction.
So, I'd like to offer my own heartfelt open letter to Landmark Theaters, the leaseholders of the Rialto:
Dear Cool and Powerful People of Landmark Theaters,
You are a company that transformed moviegoing during an era of popcorn blockbusters. You brought people independent films, art house classics and foreign cinema. Your theaters gave film lovers a chance to be not only entertained but enriched, shocked and amazed. Bottom line? You took a chance on substance during an era of fluff. And for many years it paid off.
I was personally transformed in your theaters. I still remember sitting in a daze after seeing Requiem for a Dream not knowing exactly what I felt, but knowing that I needed to talk about it. So I started talking about it right there in the theater, with the others who were still sitting in a daze.
Now, I know times are tough. I know that nobody can figure out how to keep people in movie seats anymore when we live in an era of 46" flatscreen televisions, Hulu and On Demand. I get it. You've got mortgages and bottom lines.
But you, Landmark, have done great, miraculous things before. You once brought another moldering, forgotten cinema treasure back to its glory. Remember? The historic Mayan in Denver would not have been saved if it weren't for your brilliant intervention, and willingness to take a chance on a tarnished yet valuable cinema.
I know it would be easy to let the Rialto fall apart. After all, it's just another line item on your company balance sheet. I'm sure many of you don't even know where South Pasadena is. (Don't feel bad, I lived in Los Angeles for several years before I did.) And anyway, who cares if some old theater ends up at the wrong end of the wrecking ball?
We do. The people of South Pas and Los Angeles. We film geeks and art lovers and fans of architecture and history buffs realize that landmarks like the Rialto are our country's very own great pyramids and palaces of Versailles. They might not be listed as wonders of the world, but they create wonder in our world. We care because we don't want to see yet another part of art and history carted off, piece by piece, until nothing remains but the memory.
We care because the Rialto is, like Bogart said in The Maltese Falcon, "The stuff that dreams are made of." If we could, this community would march over to the Rialto right now and start fixing it with our own hands. The problem is, we just don't have the legal right, or the power, or the money.
Can you help us?
Letting the Rialto fail is more than crossing off a property on your roster, it's like throwing out a pile of old celluloid not realizing that it contained an original print of Citizen Kane. Please, dear people at Landmark. Please don't just show up with walls are caving in. Help us put those walls back together again.
In Martin Scorcese's recent Academy Award winning film Hugo, the genius film director Georges Méliès had been forgotten, relegated to a broken-down version of himself, surrounded by other broken things. The one remaining symbol of his glory was a mechanical man, an automaton from a lost era that could not work because of a missing key.
Most might have thought that the automaton was useless -- a relic of the past, just like the old filmmaker and his forgotten movies. But look what happened in the film. (If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil the ending for you. But I'm sure you know, dear people at Landmark, because Hugo is exactly the kind of movie that plays at your theaters.)
I don't have all the answers to the problems of the Rialto. I just have one question: Will you please help us save it? It will be difficult and expensive and filled with all matter of sturm und drang. But it will be worth it. And the next time someone talks about searching for the right business model, we can say, hey, Landmark found it.
Laurie Allee
For updates on the Rialto, make sure to join Escott O. Norton's Friends of the Rialto:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rebel Artist (#2)

"Mommy, how come we almost never go to the Huntington anymore?"
I wasn't sure how to answer that question.
Little Bit and I used to treat nearby San Marino's Huntington Art Gallery like our own personal hideaway. That membership fee was the best money I could have ever spent on early childhood education. Instead of preschool, my daughter spent hours with me learning about art and architecture. (Plus, she spent a lot of after-gallery time looking for fairies in the clover and splashing her hands in the fountains of the Children's Garden.) Her dad and I didn't go in for the Teach Your Baby to Read movement. We didn't know then that with the new educational model, preparation for rigorous academic standards starts around age 2. We were more into a philosophy along the lines of Let Our Baby Think, Feel and Explore.
Although we regularly made our rounds through all of the Huntington buildings, studying the soft blur of Mary Cassatt as well as the sharp form of Arts and Crafts furniture, Little Bit always liked the 18th Century figurative works best of all. Pinkie, by Thomas Laurence, is still one of her favorite portraits.
"So," Little Bit repeated. "Why can't we ever go anymore?"
"We don't have time during the week since you started first grade," I said. "We have to do your homework, and with the sight words, the spelling words, the spelling word sentence drill practice, the timed math test practice, the math worksheets, the spelling worksheets and then the work you couldn't finish during school hours, that means we can't..."
"I know, I know," Little Bit interrupted. "But some of my homework was about art the other day and I think the school needs to come back to the Huntington to learn something about it."
"Learn what?" I said.
"They need to learn that silver is a cool color. We were doing a worksheet on warm and cool colors and they were talking about Monet's haystack paintings. I got mine marked wrong because the sheet said that blue, green and purple were cool colors and I colored silver too. I just thought they knew that Monet actually used silver in those haystacks, too. Of course it's a cool color. Cool like moonlight and shadows. But I think they didn't even know that."
"Why didn't you say something?" I said.
"I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings," she said.
(Try registering that on a standardized test.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Shot of a Shot

My neighborhood doubled as a movie set again last week. This time, it was for Burt Wonderstone, a film featuring Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell. (No, Mr. Carrey and Mr. Carrell weren't around for this particular location. If they were, your faithful blogger might have been arrested for stalking.)
A crew of about 200 took our street back in time to the early 80s -- complete with an old Pinto and a lot of looooong General Motors sedans. It was like being transported back to my youth, except without the Air Supply and mullets. (No, I didn't shoot the cars. Why should I when I can get these cars anytime I want?)
Here, everyone waited while a tracking shot was set up. After about a half day of shooting, they packed up, took their dolly and went home. (Yes, I've always wanted to make that bad pun!)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Winging It

Sorry guys. I got nothing today. (But isn't this a pretty view from my sunroof?)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Madly in Love

The fact that these ridiculously dramatic, over-the-top pink trees bloom here in February is one of the reasons I could never -- not ever -- love a place as much as I love Southern California.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Electrical Storm

Today is the first of the month, and that means it's Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. Today's theme is Electricity.

I think Dave Barry said it best:

“Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles called electrons that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking.”

Here, it looks like I must have been on a real bender: vintage streetlamps reflected on rainy sidewalks with a sky still illuminated by lightening and whatever that magical thing is filling the world with static after a storm passes through.

On nights like this, you might create a spark when you brush up against a stranger. Don't miss out. (Who needs drinking when the current of the universe can pass right through us?)

For more power shots, check out the other Theme Day contributions by my worldwide photoblogger community. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants