Saturday, February 26, 2005

a David Lynch morning

Thanks to a last-second invite from Chris Nichols, most exalted King of L.A. Modernism, Nathan Marsak and I spent the day crawling three of downtown's most impressive historic theaters. The open house began in the fanciful French Renaissance Tower (802 S. Broadway), where Marc Wannamaker from Bison Archives presented a slide lecture on the forgotten role of downtown in the early history of L.A. filmmaking. In addition to stunning images of rural Hollywood Blvd., the back side of the Gates of Babylon and the Sennet Studios from the Silverlake hills, he shared a great shot of the old Lincoln Park Selig Zoo entryway, with its ring of trumpeting cement pachyderms, presently being replicated for the Griffith Park Zoo. As Marc finished, our host Jon Olivan introduced Rebekah Del Rio, who stepped up onto the Tower's low stage and revived her a capella performance of Roy Orbison's "Crying" en espanol from Mulholland Drive. Jon had mentioned the theater ghost Helen who lives, or rather stays, in the basement, but Ms. Del Rio's song was so deliciously spooky that I lost all desire to hunt haunts. We then visited the owner-restored Orpheum (842 S. Broadway) for a guided tour through the stops of the pipe organ, which can replicate bird song, pounding surf, a 1920s car horn and numerous percussion insruments that are actually being played with air-powered hammers, nothing to do with the pipes at all. But these fine theaters pale beside the memory of the Los Angeles Theater (615 S. Broadway), which opened seemingly all its secret doors today. Highlights included the glassed-in crying rooms where mothers could take their squalling brats, the ladies toilets with each stall clad in a different colored marble (though Nathan was more enraptured with the stinky mens room and its intact rows of scarce green fixtures), the elegant children's playroom with tasteful, circa 1930 circus-themed wall paintings and an astonishing tent-shaped ceiling crowned by a ring of carved animal heads, the crystal chandelier-style fountain with its monstrous marble flanking fish and the figural curtain peopled with three-dimensional sewn silk courtiers and ladies. King Kukelele should be spanked for ending our outing by pointing out a stone plaque on another downtown building that said it had been "erected" by so 'n so, then hooting. Way to spoil the mood, uke-boy! -Kim Cooper

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