Friday, October 15, 2004

LA Losing a Piece of History

A 4-3 vote from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) defeated years of struggle to save the historic Ambassador Hotel.

For the past eight years conservationists, spearheaded by the L.A. Conservancy, have battled to save the legendary hotel from total demolition. The school board decided to raze the most of the grounds and build a $318.2 million complex for grades K-12.

Conservationists were hoping that the LAUSD would incorporate existing buildings into the their designs for the school and remove only what was necessary. However, the latest vote was that only the renowned night club, The Cocoanut Grove, would be preserved and a committee will decide if other historic locations in the hotel should be saved.

The famous hotel is home to many infamous moments. It is of course where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 by Sirhan Sirhan. The pantry where the murder occured is one of the locations up for committee decision. Its bungalows were the home-away-from home for many celebrities like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rudolph Valentino and Albert Einstein. After its closing in 1989 it became a stage for many movies including Pretty Woman and Charlie's Angels 2. It was used so often that it was referred to as Ambassador Studios. The hotel was also home to six Academy Award ceremonies, and was where the Oscar made its debut.

Erika and I saw a performace there last year by Dance Collage that depicted what life would have been like at the hotel in its prime through modern dance. The building itself is an architectural gem with an amazing art deco design.

I am very sad that the battle was lost. I wonder why progress has to be at the expense of history? I think we lose a sense of who we are when this happens. I love history and I love to visit historical places. My active imagination takes me back to what it must have been like in its heyday.

Buildings like the Ambassador Hotel are a part of L.A. culture, a place many argue doesn't have much to begin with. I wish they would let us have one more tour of the place before it is destroyed as an homage to what it was.

On a side note - The L.A. Convervancy offers great walking tours. Go check out some of the great architecture in the city, who knows what will be next on the chopping block.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Night with Norah

Eating tasty food, drinking hot chocolate and listening to Norah Jones under the stars, what a way to spend the evening. She, like Michael Buble, has a soothing voice. My friend Jer described her as adult-level entertainment, and that she is, which is why the Hollywood Bowl is perfect for her.

It was a good show, a mix of her first album and some of her favorite songs. I'm glad she didn't play too much from her current CD, Feels like Home, it's too country. I know that's counter-intuitive to a concert promotion of the new album but who cares.

We paid the big bucks this trip the Bowl to sit in the coveted box seats. We thought it would be a whole new world down where the tables are. It was a new world, but not the one we expected. Normally we sit with the masses up in the bench seating. Your food rests in your lap and you watch the show on the gigantic screens, cause the musicians are about an inch tall. Most everyone is fun and its a great shared experience.

Life in the box seats has its perks. Seats are definitely more comfortable and you don't need to bring your own cushions to keep your butt from going numb. There is also a table to eat on and the entertainment is definitely closer. But is it better? I guess that depends on what's important. They don't tell you that most tables are on a 30-degree angle. Anything we put on our handy pop-up table slid down. Luckily we didn't bring candles or I would have set Joanna on fire.

The boxes themselves are big enough for said table and four chairs. You can't get in or out of the box once you are seated. So if you're sitting in the back corner and need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the concert then everyone has to stand up, one chair, possibly two have to be removed for your exit. It doesn't make you a popular person, especially if you don't know your boxmates. Doesn't make those behind you love you either since now they can't see.

Luckily, Joanna and I didn't have to share a box. However, we were surrounded by some interesting characters. The most interesting would be the drunk couples that showed up an hour and a half late for the show. They were loud, bumbling and stumbling. I'm sure Norah must have heard them from the stage. I'm surprised she didn't remind them that she provides adult-level entertainment, not music for frat parties. They continued to drink through the remainder of the concert and left early. We think that the concert was merely a stop on their bar hop across Hollywood, but why buy expensive seats when the cheap seats, closer to the bar will do?

In the end, it was a cold night in the expensive seats of a really good show. It was nice to feel the cold chill in L.A. beneath both visible stars listening to fabulous music with your best friend. That is life as it is meant to be lived.