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5 Haunting Tales of True Crime in Los Angeles

October 17, 2016 by Guest Contributor

The following is a guest post by James T. Bartlett whose latest book, Gourmet Ghosts 2, looks at some of the lesser-known murders and weirdness (and ghosts) that took place in bars, restaurants and hotels in the City of Angels – places you can visit today!

* * * * * * *

America’s obsession with the murder and mystery of yesteryear has reached an all-time high. O.J. and JonBenét have come back to haunt us. Netflix is bursting with true crime documentaries. And that’s to say nothing of the “ripped from the headlines” shows we all chomp on like hungry zombies locked in a graveyard.

During my research for Gourmet Ghosts 2 I’ve had the unique opportunity to delve deeper still into the dark underbelly of our very own Los Angeles. What I’ve uncovered are countless tales of death and deception that titillate nearly as much as they confound.

And, if you’d allow me, I’d like to share just a few of my favorites below.

Albert Goldberg suicide at the Stowell Hotel

Love leads to tragedy at The Stowell Hotel in 1945. Photo via Los Angeles Public Library

1. The Thelma & Louise of The Fine Arts Building

September, 1967. The Fine Arts building is the scene of a theft by secretaries Terry Frank and Annalie Mohn. The pair stole thousands of dollars of bank securities from the company they worked for then made a Thelma & Louise/Psycho-style run for it across the country.

Fine Arts Building Los Angeles

The Fine Arts Building in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo by James T. Bartlett

Terry and Annalie hopped a ‘hound to Miami, where Terry’s estranged husband lived, but their high hopes for days of beach living would be soon come to an end.

Mixed up with a bad crowd (a gang that included thief Jack “Murf the Surf” Murphy), Terry and Annalie were found clad in their swimming suits and jewelry in an isolated waterway – and with blocks of concrete tied around their necks. They’d made it to Hollywood – but Hollywood, Florida.

2. Deadly Pills and The Plaza

The year was 1954, and Diane Wells was in town under a cloud.  She and her jazz drummer lover Johnny Warren were on the hook for the murder of Diane’s husband Cecil back in Fairbanks.

She was staying at the Drake Hotel – now the Scientology Welcome Center – and friends were worried about her; they’d already found pills in her handbag. The trial was coming, and it had everything, including an inter-racial affair and rumors of an abortion. That was red-hot stuff for the time.

Diane couldn’t handle it. She left the Drake, walked along Hollywood Blvd and turned onto Vine, taking a room at the Hollywood Plaza under a different name.

Hollywood Plaza Hotel. Photo by James T. Bartlett

Hollywood Plaza Hotel. Photo by James T. Bartlett

Later that night she swallowed a deadly dose of pills – and, of course, soon after that the case against her was dropped. You can share in that bittersweet memory at the Plaza – there’s a Chocolate Bar Pastry Café on street level – but back on the Boulevard there’s a suicide pact that requires your attention. It also began at the Drake, which was then called its original name, The Christie.

3. A Chorus Girl’s Chloroform

The year was 1924, and director Lew Mason turned on his gas taps, his suicide note reading:
“It’s too much, too fast.” But what was it? Turned out it was probably his affair with chorus girl Cecil Warner, who, on hearing the news, swallowed a bottle of chloroform – even though Mason wasn’t dead, just in the hospital. Her sad note?

“It all seems so futile to me…. not worth the reward.”

4. The Real American Horror Story Hotel

The Cecil Hotel was renamed Stay on Main some years ago, but signage indicating the old moniker remains to this day. Of course there’s more than just signs that make The Cecil a name that sticks.

While it’s true – but creepy – to think that all hotels have suffered a case or three of suicide over the years, the archives show that the Cecil has an extraordinary catalog of violence and death.

Hotel Cecil

The Hotel Cecil in 2005 before it was rebranded to Stay on Main. Photo by Jim Winstead via flickr cc

Serial killers, a sniper, an arsonist, a baby killer – they’ve all stayed there. And that’s to say nothing of many suicides, or the viral sensation that was the puzzling death of Elisa Lam, whose naked body was found in the water tank just a few years ago.

Talk about a real American Horror Story Hotel.

5. The Hoax Drowning

In June 1928 a jewelry thief named Ferdinand Albor was arrested. Ho hum.

Spooling ahead a few days in the newspaper archives though, there was a story about K.L. Baumgartner, who had returned from the dead – his clothes had been left on a beach in Venice, California, and it had been assumed he committed suicide.

Headline from the L.A. Examiner, July 24, 1928.

A headline from the L.A. Examiner, July 24, 1928.

But he hadn’t. He’d changed his name and occupation (he used to run a downtown restaurant; one I couldn’t pinpoint), and, yes, he was “Ferdinand Albor.”

He blamed a head injury for his four year scam, but since his wife had remarried, she now needed to obtain an annulment and then re-marry her new husband (a process that would take at least a year). Bizarrely, this meant that meant the estranged pair had to have an awkward meeting at the County Jail.

The L.A. Times, in a master of understatement, said it was a “strange reunion.”

Quite.


gourmet-ghosts-2-coverGourmet Ghosts 2 is now available for purchase on Amazon ($19.95) and via select Los Angeles retailers. Author James T. Bartlett will be in conversation at The Last Bookstore on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. Find out more about the author at gourmetghosts.com or follow him on Twitter @gourmetghosts.

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Lifestyle, Things To Do

9 Thrifty L.A. Adventures That’ll Really Get Your Blood Pumping (Without Breaking The Bank!)

June 7, 2016 by Guest Contributor

This following is a guest post from Melissa Rodriguez, co-founder of adventurself.com, a lifestyle site dedicated to inspiring the millennial adventurers of our generation! 

Alright my fellow Los Angeles adventurers, if you’re anything like me there is no better feeling than getting your blood pumping and heart racing while undertaking a brand new experience.

While some shy away from the thrills we (the adventurous ones) run as fast as we can towards them. Of course, while we may love that ever so evasive sense of fearlessness, this adrenaline junky knows from experience it’s not always the cheapest hobby to keep up.

And, hey, while I’d be all for jumping out of a plane or getting behind the wheel of a race car whenever possible, let’s face it, the hefty price tag that follows these adrenaline-charged activities is not always the most sustainable of habits. So in lieu of dropping $100+ just to get that heart racing adrenaline, I’ve compiled a list of some adventures and activities in our very own backyard that won’t break the bank (All under $50, mostly under $20, and a few that are free).

So what’s stopping you? Nothing!

via Touchstone Climbing / YouTube

1. Bouldering (Under $20)

Lose the ropes, lose the harness this place lets you climb without the confines of the safety nets. Get in early on the weekdays before 3pm and pay only $13! But hey even if you can’t make that work, weekdays after 3pm and weekends is only $20 bucks, can you say hello good deal?!

Pro-tip: You will need to chalk up $5 for equipment rental and a chalk bag

More information

2. Stair Climbing (free)

Looking for unique stairwells to climb in Los Angeles isn’t just a fun way to burn calories, it’ll allow you to explore Los Angeles at vantage points you’ve never even imagined were there. You’ll come away with a sense of knowing the city of angels on a whole other level.

Pro-tip: Check out this list of 10 Secret (and Not-So Secret) L.A. Staircases, or you can join this excellent Stairclimbers Meetup Group if you want to have someone help guide your way.

 

Climb Culver City Stairs

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Trail. Photo Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

3. Shooting Range (Under $50)

What better way to get those fingers tingling then the recoil that comes from shooting a firearm? Gun rentals start at $5-$25 per gun and up to $40 for two people. If you really want to step it up you can even rent a rifle. Adrenaline? Check! Safety? Check!

Make sure to attend the safety briefings before starting on this heart racing activity and exercise all the safety measures provided.

Pro-tip: There is usually a Groupon or LivingSocial deal for these if you have some days to plan in advance.

More information

4. Roller Derby Action ($15)

Few live sporting events will racket up the adrenaline in the same way as watching the LA Derby Dolls. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the embed below featuring a playoff game from 2014 and tell me I’m wrong.

More information

via LA Derby Dolls / YouTube

5. Swings & Ropes at Santa Monica Pier (Free)

Check out this awesome outdoors spot in Santa Monica and use all the fun set-ups to get an awesome work out while having some fun!

Pro-tip: Bring some gloves (any really) so you don’t miss out on the rope climb, remember, the higher the better!

More information

6. Dodgeball (Under $10)

Did you know there is a World Dodgeball Society? Yeah that’s a thing! An awesome thing. Simply find a session, hit the gym for some arm work and you’re ready to rock n’ roll . Held at Gyms and rec centers all over Los Angeles, the game is two hours long and cost $5.

Pro-tip: You don’t need to be a part of a league to partake, just drop in on one of their open play sessions over the weekend and get ready to be a kid again.

More information

via World Dodgeball Society / YouTube

7. Salsa Lessons at The Granada LA ($15)

One, two, sweat! Remember those hot and sweaty dance moves in Dirty Dancing? Salsa gives you a chance to dance your heart out just like Baby Houseman and Johnny Castle. As a salsa dancer myself, I can vouch that no matter how new you are to the dance you will be turning and twirling by the time the night is over. The music, experienced dancers and the energy of the dance floor will take you over. Sure, you’ll miss a beat here and there, but you will be having so much fun it won’t matter!

Pro-tip: For my ladies, toss those sexy high skinny heels to the side all you really need for this adventure is some strappy thick heeled shoes sturdy enough to twirl around.

More information

8. Hiking (Free)

LA is notorious for its incredible and endless options of places to hike so why not take advantage and pick a more challenging one?

Pro-tip: If you want to really add on the adrenaline check out the East Fork of San Gabriel River 10 mile hike to the Bridge to Nowhere. And, if you’re brave enough you can even splurge on California’s only bungee jumping location on the 120 foot high arch bridge (sign me up)!

5 Hikes You Gotta Do Your First Year Living in Los Angeles (According to Modern Hiker)

The 7 Best SoCal Hikes to Do As a Couple

Bridge to Nowhere

The Bridge to Nowhere. Photo Credit: Eric Chan via flickr cc

9. Escape Rooms (Under $20)

You’re locked in a room, with no way to escape until you figure out how to crack each clue, leading you one step closer to your freedom. Not to worry you won’t be stuck for long, fortunately there is a time limit. But, this is certainly a great way for all you Clue lovers (guilty) to re-live your love for mysteries and adventure in real life! From an Alchemists’s Lab to ‘The Virus‘, Escape Room LA, or The Exit Game, there are many options all over L.A. you can choose from to meet your particular interests.

Pro-tip: You can get these tickets half off if you check out some discount ticket sites such as Groupon or Goldstar (affiliate links).


What are your favorites ways to find bargain adventure in Los Angeles? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

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Lifestyle

10 L.A. Freebies You Didn’t Even Know About But Should Definitely Take Advantage Of

March 11, 2016 by Guest Contributor

The following is a special guest post from Nancy Matson, creator of Stuff You Don’t Want, a handy blog for getting the most out of used, unwanted, and thrifted items.

* * * * *

Everyones knows you can get free books at the public library or go hiking at amazing parks maintained by the city or state, but are you really taking full advantage of all the goodies offered by local government services?

You might as well use what your taxes have already paid for, right?

To that end, below I’ve curated a list of local services you might not have even heard of, but should definitely take advantage of if you have the need.

From tax prep to cooking classes, energy rebates to toy loans, there’s bound to be something useful on the list for everyone.

Hope it’s helpful!

[RELATEDWhere Do I Buy the Best Used Stuff in Los Angeles?]

Los Angeles Central Library

Los Angeles Central Library. Credit: Ellen Forsyth via flickr cc

1. Free Tax Preparation at the Library

Daunted by the prospect of doing your taxes? Get some help from the AARP Tax Foundation or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) at your local library!

I spoke to Ken Blum, branch manager at the West Valley Regional Branch Library, who told me that the AARP volunteers at his library assist patrons of any age, though they give preference to people over 50 and low-income patrons.

There are some restrictions based on the type of tax forms your return requires, so if yours are unusually complex, best to call ahead to see if they can help you. Check the Los Angeles Public Library site for a participating branch near you (type in “tax” in the calendar search box) and stop in or call them for details.

Please note that some of the branches have income qualifications, though not all. (The Panorama City branch, for example, serviced by California State University Northridge, limits their assistance to anyone making under $54,000 annually.)

While you’re at the library, pick up a book or DVD and glance at their events schedule. Maybe it’s finally time for you to learn how to play chess.

2. Free Mediation Services

The Department of Consumer and Business Affairs offers free mediation services to any LA County residents involved in a dispute, whether it’s landlord/tenant, business/customer, or HOA/condo owner, or even between family members. As long as both parties agree to it, it’s a great alternative to the court system, which ultimately saves you time and money and frees up the legal system for more pressing matters. If mediation fails, you can still pursue the matter in court afterward.

The DCBA also provides consumer counseling, small claims advice, and assistance for small businesses, as well as advice for homeowners facing foreclosure.

3. Rebates, Trees, and Free Low Flow Faucets from the LADWP

You want to save energy, and The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants the same thing. Bad. To nudge you along, it offers a number of rebates for installing things like high-efficiency toilets and Energy Star windows. It also offers free shade trees, including fruit trees, to both residents and businesses, since trees remove pollutants from the air and decrease ambient temperatures in building – generally a good thing in hot Los Angeles.

If you still haven’t picked up low flow faucets to do your bit for the drought, it’s not too late to get some for absolutely nothing. I will personally vouch for their shower heads, which work great and have a slider so you can temporarily stop the flow of water while you’re sudsing up.

via LADWP / YouTube

4. Job Leads for Young People

Are you between the ages of 16 and 24 and could use some help landing a job, especially your first job? Sign up with L.A. Youth at Work! Once you’ve gone through their program and earned one of their work readiness certificates, you can tap into their network of job leads. They’ll help you put together a professional resume and give you job interview tips, skills that will come in handy no matter what, and give you a leg up on the competition.

5. Volunteer Placement

Do you want to give back but you’re not sure where to start? If you’re in the Culver City area, you can check their volunteer directory or get advice from certified volunteer administrator Jill Thomsen. If you can’t commit to a regular volunteer slot, sign up for SWAT (Someone With Available Time) and fill in on an ad hoc basis when their occasional requests come in. Your local area might have a similar service.

Non-profit LA Works is also a great resource for helping residents give back citywide, whether you have a single Saturday afternoon free or can commit to something more regular. Check their community service opportunities for a position that’s right for you.

[RELATED16 Awesome Volunteer Opportunities in Los Angeles for Angelenos Looking to Give Something Back]

via L.A. Works / YouTube

6. Cooking Classes

Sick of your kids complaining about what you make them for dinner? Sign them up for cooking lessons through the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation and start make them cook for you!

There are a handful of parks that offer cooking classes for kids as young as six. Ladera Park’s next class if starting up in the spring, so if you’re interested, stop by or call in a few months. Some of the park branches also offering cooking classes for seniors.

Other classes available include crafting, BMX racing, dog obedience programs, and a wide variety of sports. I am most intrigued by the Crime Scene Investigations Camp at Amelia Mayberry Park, so if anyone signs up for that, please let me know how it is!

Make sure to call individual L.A. County parks directly for a complete list of available classes at each location.

7. Toy Loans

The Department of Public Social Services sponsors a Toy Loan program, offering free toys for checkout at dozens of centers throughout L.A.. While some of them are not open to the public, serving only the students at a particular school or other institution, there are about a dozen centers located at state parks that are open to any interested kids.

The one at Mary M. Bethune Park, for example, has board games, trucks, and dolls available for checkout on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (The staff member I spoke to warned me that it’s no ToysRUs over there, so don’t ramp up your expectations too high. You will not be getting a free Xbox.)

All toy centers offer a chance for participating children to earn their own toys through responsible use of the program over a multi-week period.

8. Free or Discounted Spaying and Neutering For Your Animal Companion

While we can all appreciate the efforts made by various rescue organizations to save individual dogs and cats from being euthanized in city shelters, the best way to keep future generations of unwanted pets from spending years in a shelter or facing an early death is for everyone to spay or neuter their animals. Do it if you haven’t! There are many health benefits to this procedure, and it is required by law in most cases.

All L.A. residents are entitled to a $30 voucher towards the procedure, which can be claimed in person at your closest city shelter by simply showing your ID. If you live in a household that made less than $30,000 last year, you can get a voucher that covers the full cost. If this is you, bring your 2015 income taxes, social security statement, or Department of Water and Power bill showing your income-based discount along with your ID.

[RELATED13 Things Your Dog Really Wants To Do With You in Los Angeles]

Vista Hermosa Park DTLA

Hanging out with the dog at Vista Hermosa Park. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

9. Online Services From the Library

Not a big reader? It’s still worth making the one trek to the your local branch for a card so you can sign up for online classes from Lynda.com, Khan Academy, or Mango Languages. You’ll be designing in Photoshop while chatting in Arabic in no time.

10. Little Free Libraries in West Hollywood

If you reside in West Hollywood and are a fan of those tiny little libraries that offer free books, and are willing to be a steward for one for a year, apply for a $600 grant from the city to fund your own.

If you’re handy, you could build one, or you could buy a super cute pre-made one from the Little Free Library people. It’s a great way to promote reading and meet your neighbors. As of this writing, they have 6 stipends left! Wouldn’t one look adorable in your front yard?


For more information on Nancy be sure to follow her on Twitter @StuffuDontWant

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Food, History

8 Delicious Dishes That Were Actually Invented in Los Angeles (Allegedly)

November 30, 2015 by Guest Contributor

The following is a guest post co-written by Greg Gonzalez and Daniel Zafran, the co-hosts of LA Meekly, a monthly podcast dedicated to the unique history of the city of Los Angeles. 

Many people say L.A. hasn’t contributed enough to American culture other than West Coast Jazz, skateboarding, beach music and the entire film industry. They make a fair point, but we’re here to humbly offer up 8 dishes invented in our city.

Long before the current culinary renaissance we are now living in, this city was pushing the limits of what could, and in some cases should, be passed off as food.

But don’t take our word for it.

Have a read below!

1. The French Dip Sandwich

Despite what old man Cole’s will tell you, the French dip sandwich was created in 1918 at Philippe’s just on the edge of Chinatown. Philippe’s had been around since 1908 but even 10 years in, mistakes still happen, as the legend goes, when a police officer came in for a roast beef sandwich and the decidedly French Philippe Mathieu, apparently intimidated by the concept of a hungry cop, dropped the sandwich in a pan full of meat juice still hot from the oven. The cop loved it so much, he let Philippe out of the choke hold and came back later with friends all eager to try his new creation. And thus, a sandwich named after a completely different place was born in L.A.

Additional background via Phillippe’s

2. The Oyster Cocktail

Not much food existed before the year 1900 but what did sounded pretty gross. In July 1894, Al Levy began selling what he called “California Oyster Cocktails” out of his push cart at 1st and Main downtown. It combined the city’s two loves of drinking cocktails with crustaceans in them and eating seafood off of a push cart. The drink was a hit not just with the local street urchins (no relation to the contents of the drink) but also with the high class opera crowds. It was so successful that in 1896 he was able to open up an actual restaurant at 3rd and Main that solidified the drink as a must try food while in L.A. This was a classic rags to riches story for Mr. Levy proving, once again, that the world is your oyster cocktail.

Additional background via LA Times

3. The Hot Fudge Sundae

Lookin’ for some hot fudge, baby? So was Clarence Clifton Brown when he became the first person to pour some on an ice cream sundae at C.C. Brown’s on 7th and Flower downtown; creating the world’s first hot fudge sundae. The place had been open since 1906 but the success of his signature fudge allowed him to move in 1929 to a better location right by the Chinese Theater at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard solidifying themselves as a tourist and celebrity hotspot and cementing the hot fudge sundae as an American classic. The place closed in 1996 but a sign on the lamppost out front marks the spot and tastes almost as good.

Additional background via NY Times and Eatocracy.

4. The Chili Burger

Sometimes to invent a new dish, all you have to do is add buns which is exactly what “Ptomaine” Tommy Deforest did at The Original Ptomaine Tommy’s at 2420 N. Broadway in Lincoln Heights. The 24-hour chili parlor had been slopping chili down people’s gullets since 1913 but it wasn’t until he took his popular “chili size” (a hamburger patty drowned in chili) and served it with buns that the chili burger was born. Always the jokester, Tommy Deforest’s nickname “Ptomaine” is actually the scientific name for food poisoning. Finally explaining the age old saying “Chili today, ptomaine tomorrow.”

Additional background via examiner.com

5. The Cheeseburger

It’s hard to imagine a time when grilled cheese sandwiches and hamburgers weren’t interbreeding but before the Rite Spot opened up in the early 20s at 1500 W. Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena you better believe they were sleeping in separate buns. The cheeseburger was created by the owner of this establishment: Lionel Sternberger. A man who took his namesake very seriously. Rumor has it that the Aristocratic Burger, as he called it, was created by accident when he burnt one side of a hamburger patty and decided to cover up his mistake with a pile of cheese rather than apologies. Sternberger’s second big impact on the city was when he decided to loan a Mr. Bob Wain some money to start a burger stand of his own: Bob’s Big Boy.

Additional background via LA Times

Bob's Big Boy Sign

Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. Credit: Jessica Rossi on flickr

6. The Orange Julius

When life gives you orange groves, make Orange Julius. Just take it from Julius Freed who decided in 1926 to open up a mobile orange juice stand. Things really took off when a friend of his desperately wanted a sip of the juice but couldn’t stomach it due to his severe acid reflux. To compensate, he blended the juice with milk, sugar, vanilla extract, egg and ice; making the focus less on the tummy and more on the yummy. Julius started selling this concoction at his cart and the people loved it so much they’d come up and say “Give me an orange, Julius!” and the you-know-what was born.

Additional background via The Daily Meal and orangejulius.com

7. The Cobb Salad

Have you ever met a salad so famous you asked for its autograph?  Then you may have cartoon oasis disorder.  Seek help.  But if you’re looking for the salad of the stars, look no further than the old Brown Derby at 1628 Vine in the heart of Hollywood.  But don’t go looking because it’s not there anymore.  This was the second Brown Derby location and became a celebrity hotspot due to its proximity to the local studios but it really left its mark in either 1929 or 37, depending on which story you want to believe, when the guy who ran the place, Robert H. Cobb, was hanging out in the dining area with some Hollywood big shots and was sent into the kitchen to rustle something up for his glitterati guests.  He grabbed everything he could find in the kitchen (iceburg lettuce, watercress, romaine, chicory, tomato, roasted chicken, bacon, avocado, hardboiled egg, chives, Roquefort cheese and French dressing), threw it in a bowl and the Cobb Salad was born. The celebrities loved it so much they would request it every time they came in and next thing they knew, it had its own star on the walk of fame with a star of French dressing on the side.

Additional background via Wall Street Journal

8. The Chinese Chicken Salad

A lot of people credit this one to Wolfgang Puck but puck that. It was actually created by Madame Sylvia Wu at her restaurant, Wu’s Garden, at 2628 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica in the 1960s. Local celebrities loved the place as it was one of the few joints in town to offer quality Chinese food at the time. It’s even credited with introducing L.A. to one of its greatest romances of all time: tofu. The salad came about when Cary Grant came in one day describing to Madame Wu a salad he had eaten one time and, ever the charmer, demanded she recreate it. What she came up with was the modern Chinese chicken salad complete with citrus and that signature crunch, heralding in yet another locally created dish named after a completely different place.

Additional background via KCET

Final Food For Thought

Even if no other types of food came to town, we would still have a complete homegrown meal out of these 8 dishes. We wouldn’t live long on such a diet but luckily we don’t have to because of the rich diversity of cuisine we have to choose from but let these 8 menu items stand as our local contribution to the world-wide menu.

For more background on the food origin stories mentioned above be sure to check out the LA Meekly podcast episode entitled City Bites: Original Los Angeles Dishes. And if you have a comment on the list be sure to harass Daniel and Greg on Twitter @LAMeekly.

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Lifestyle

Where Do I Buy the Best Used Stuff in Los Angeles?

November 4, 2015 by Guest Contributor

The following is a special guest post from Nancy Matson, creator of Stuff You Don’t Want, a handy blog for getting the most out of used, unwanted, and thrifted items.

In a city where fashion trends come and go in what seems like weeks and 26-year-olds scour their faces for wrinkles, it’s easy to think that what’s not shiny and new is played out.

Don’t fall into this trap, fellow Angelenos. If you’re smart, instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, you should be trying to figure out where to snap up their castoffs on the cheap.

Here’s a guide to get you started, from clothing and books to furniture and flatware.

Enjoy!

1. Furniture

You can’t beat Wertz Brothers in West Los Angeles for sheer volume of inventory combined with reasonable pricing. Their warehouse is 55,000 square feet of coffee tables, coatracks, dressers and wardrobes representing every style and period of furniture from the modern age. They’ll have something you like whether you’ve got an unlimited budget and a specific decorating need or are just looking for a non-IKEA dresser for a couple hundred bucks. They also sell dishes, artwork, lamps and mirrors.

If you’re going vintage/antique, Studio Antiques in El Segundo is another great option. I’m not the only one that respects the taste and knowledge of the couple that owns and operates the store – they’ve been featured on shows like Storage Wars as well as Baggage Battles. The store is on the cluttered side, so if presentation is important to you, you’d best shop elsewhere. If you enjoy the hunt, you’re in for good times ahead.

2. Clothes

There’s always somebody trotting out a story about how they found a Kate Spade bag under a pile of umbrellas for six bucks at their local Goodwill, but that’s not something you can plan on. (I wouldn’t even put money on the pile of umbrellas.) If the cheapest possible price point is your number one priority, I recommend Out of the Closet, which has multiple locations throughout Southern California. Their clothing section tends to be better curated than your average Salvation Army or Goodwill, and yet they maintain true thrift store prices.

If you want to take it up a notch but price is still your bottom line, Crossroads Trading is a good option. I stopped in at the one in Santa Monica store recently and found a Lucky shirt for half-off $12.50 ($6.25 for the math impaired) as well as a glitzy black Bebe shirt, new with tags, for $15.00. There are some nasty Yelp reviews from people who tried and failed to sell their clothes there, but that shows they’re picky about inventory, which is good for shoppers.

If you’ve got a little more to spend, or are looking for a special piece for your wardrobe, I recommend It’s A Wrap. They resell clothes (often unworn) from movies and TV shows. You can find good deals here, especially in the racks out front in both the mid-Wilshire and Burbank locations, where I’ve gotten many a $5 item. Do your homework, though. Some of the items are incredibly overpriced. It’s not uncommon at all to see a used Banana Republic sweater for $35.00 when you could quite easily get a brand new one on sale for half that. Yet I’ve gotten Theory pants here for $40, so how much of a hater can I be?

Keep in mind since the clothes have often been worn by actors, they tend to skew petite.

Crossroads Trading

Crossroads Trading. Credit: Nancy Matson / Stuff You Don’t Want

3. Uniforms

Except for the week and a half I spent in high school working at Burger King before I quit to bag groceries at the supermarket – no regrets, FYI – I’ve never been required to wear a uniform at work. I know if I did, and I was also required to pay for said uniform, I would bitterly resent it.

If you have to buy scrubs for work and live in the southern part of our great city, you might want to stop by Savers Thrift Store in Lomita, which is the only thrift store I’ve seen with a dedicated uniform section. Their uniforms go for a buck or two, which is significantly less than buying them new. It’s an okay thrift store overall, though I wouldn’t otherwise rush to get there.

Used Uniforms

Credit: Nancy Matson / Stuff You Don’t Want

4. Refrigerators and Other Large Appliances

One word: Craiglist. Note that there are several people on there who buy and sell refrigerators as a business, which is not necessarily bad, but there are also average people who simply have to unload a perfectly functional frig. Refrigerators have an average lifespan of 13 years, so I would recommend buying one from the last five years or so, and finding out the exact type so you can do a quick search of reviews to make sure you’re getting a quality item. If it looks clean and they still have the original paperwork and instructions, it’s a sign that took good care of it. If you can, make sure you get one that’s Energy Star certified, as your refrigerator is by far the biggest drain on your electric bill, and an efficient refrigerator will save you a lot of money in the long run, as well as burn fewer greenhouse gases.

5. Dishes

I am appalled by people’s insistence on buying new dishes at low-end department stores that are going to chip the minute you drop them when you can pick up a quality used set of dishes for next to nothing. Because previous generations typically had an everyday and fancy dish set, the used dish market is flooded with beautiful dishes in need of a good home, as well as more modern sets that can be snapped up for a song. I see these all the time at Council Thrift, which has eight locations, including three in the Valley. If you’re in Santa Monica, you can try the Salvation Army’s boutique store, which is next to the regular store. I saw this lovely yet sturdy 25 piece set for $75 at the Council Thrift at Canoga Park less than two weeks ago. That’s three bucks for each piece, including plates, bowls, and a teapot. That’s equivalent to this cheapo set that’s on sale from Target.

Used Dishes

Credit: Nancy Matson / Stuff You Don’t Want

6. Books

The best used bookstore in Los Angeles is easily The Last Bookstore downtown. If you’ve got the time, you can cruise their attic, which is jam-packed full of titles that go for a mere dollar. Plus they collect used books from throughout the city, reselling what they can and distributing the rest to various non-profits with Re-Book It, which makes us love them even more.

I can also personally recommend Angel City Bookstore in Venice, as well as Friends of the Library book sales, which are happening at some branch of the Los Angeles Public Library virtually every weekend.

The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

7. Camping Equipment

I am pleased to live in an era where being continually outside, exposed to the elements, and cooking over an open fire is no longer necessary, but I am open-minded enough to recognize that not everybody agrees with me on this point. If you only camp for a week or so every year, your most eco-friendly and thrifty option is to rent equipment from Adventure 16. A one or two person tent is available from them for $18 for the first night, and a mere $3 per subsequent night. That means you can rent one for an entire week for a mere $32 at while a brand new tent is going to run you $200 minimum. That means you’d have to use that tent for seven weeklong vacations to make the numbers crunch, and that doesn’t account for the inconvenience and potential cost of storage. They rent backpacks, sleeping bags, and everything else you might need, too.

If you are intent on owning your own equipment and your usage makes this a more economical choice, keep your eyes peeled for REI’s sales of used gear.

8. Everything Else

If you crave a department store experience at thrift store prices, why not take a field trip to St. Vincent de Paul’s, just north of downtown? They have basically everything, from pianos to wedding dresses. Now that I write that, I realize it’s the perfect place for a spontaneous wedding. Something to think about!

If you’re looking for something vintage, the Rose Bowl flea market, which happens on the second Sunday of every month, is the obvious option, but the Torrance Street Faire, at the other end of the city, is also great and much less of a project. It’s held on the fourth Sunday of every month.

Rose Bowl Flea

Shopping at The Rose Bowl Flea Market. Credit: Amatullah Guyot Photography

I also urge you to join your local Buy Nothing group, where you can exchange unwanted items with your immediate neighbors. There are a number of active chapters in Los Angeles, including the one I belong to in Marina del Rey. It’s also a great way to borrow big ticket items or lend them out if you have them.

Finally, there’s neighborrow, a program which formalizes the borrowing and lending of items to neighbors for a small fee. You simply sign up, ask for what you want to borrow, or offer an item you’re willing to lend. It’s in the early stages, but there’s already a lawnmower available for $5 a day, as well as a drill for a mere $1 a day. The next time I need a ladder, I’m signing up.

Let’s do this thing, Los Angeles!

For more information on Nancy be sure to follow her on Twitter @StuffuDontWant

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Cool Spots, Food

7 Haunted Places in L.A. Where You Can (Allegedly) Dine With the Dead

October 14, 2015 by Guest Contributor

The following is a guest post from James T. Bartlett, author of Gourmet Ghosts – Los Angeles, a guide to the haunted bars and restaurants of L.A.

Halloween is flying at us faster than a vampire bat, but since staring through the windows at somewhere infamous isn’t bloody enough and tour buses are well, tour buses, where can you go if you want to dine with the devil, or sip a spirit in spooky company?

As I explore in my book, Gourmet Ghosts, Los Angeles has literally dozens of bars, hotels and restaurants with a secret (and some not-so-secret) haunted past, but I wanted to present a few choice cuts to the readers here at We Like L.A.

To that end, I’ve listed seven of my favorite haunted food spots below, in no particular order, numbered only for reference.

Enjoy the food… and the spirits.

1. The Magic Castle

Part museum, part library and home to several performance theatres (and five bars), this fun-loving club hideaway in the Hills is home to “ghost” Invisible Irma, who happily plays her piano for tips.

Dreamt up and built with his own sweat and tears by “Magic” Milt Larsen, the castle is a haven of theaters, chandeliers, sliding bookcases, mystery staircases and corridors – and there’s also a séance room dedicated to Harry Houdini. The mustachioed Milt is there most nights, so grab a Corpse Reviver #2 (Lillet Blanc, gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and a splash of Galliano) and ask him for a story.

According to Milt, Irma befriended original building owners the Lane family and they allowed her to play on their piano. She loved it so much, she came back after she died – and so now she performs every night, at Friday lunch time and at Sunday brunch.

There has been real tragedy here though; a magician died backstage before he was due to go on, and Milt says that when guests describe the man working at the English Hat & Hare pub there, he knows they’re talking about bartender Loren Tate – who died many years ago.

More information
7001 Franklin Ave, Hollywood 90028
(323) 851-3313

(Keep in mind you must be a member or have a guest card from a member to gain admittance to the Magic Castle)

Invisible Irma

Invisible Irma at the Magic Castle. Image via James T. Bartlett

2. Boardner’s

An art deco-style celeb favorite (the walls are lined with signed photos and Lucille Ball often talked about going for a drink here in the “I Love Lucy” shows), it was also a regular joint for the infamous murder victim Elizabeth Short (better known as The Black Dahlia), corrupt cops, dodgy politicians, and many others.

On Christmas Eve 1997 co-owners Kurt Richter died while actually drinking at the bar, and current owner Tricia LaBelle is sure someone else is in residence too: “a little guy named Al” who tended bar and got taken in by a sympathetic Steve Boardner, the original owner and namesake of the bar.

Al lived here until he died a few years ago, but LaBelle regularly hears his footsteps around the office, and is sure that “ghosts love to party.”

More information
1652 N. Cherokee Ave, Hollywood 90028
(323) 462-9621

Boardners Neon Sign

Image via James T. Barlett

3. Musso & Frank Grill

Still a celebrity fave, this 96 year-old restaurant is strictly paparazzi-free – so be discreet when you check out the booths to see who is there! Their Thursday chicken pot pie is legendary, and back in the day this place used to be a writer’s haunt for people like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bukowski, Chandler, Faulkner and Vidal too.

Charlie Chaplin had his preferred booth (number 1 in the Old Room – try and grab it), but no one cared about that when a staff member saw la mujer sin cabeza (an apparition or ghost of a woman without a head) one night.

There’s no word on whether the headless lady paid further visits, but most of the long-serving red waist coated staff probably wouldn’t blink an eye even if she did – they’ve seen it all here (and then some).

More information
6667 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood 90028
(323) 467-7788

Bat at Musso & Frank

The Bar at Musso & Frank. Credit: meltwater via flickr

4. Biltmore Hotel

One of the original luxury hotels in L.A., the Biltmore is a world of chandeliers, staircases and afternoon tea. Some of the early Oscar ceremonies were held her, but perhaps most famously it stood in for the “Hotel Sedgewick” in 1984’s Ghostbusters – Ray, Egon and Peter caught “Slimer” in what’s now the lobby.

Ghost stories abound here, but most famously it was the last place Elizabeth Short was seen alive. The opulent Gallery Bar offers the “Black Dahlia” cocktail in her honor (vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, Kahlua), so take a sip and look around for a pick-me-up: the “Biltmore Angel” design is everywhere.

More information
506 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90071
(213) 624-1011

Biltmore Interior Court Los Angeles

Biltmore Hotel interior. Credit: Prayitno Photography via flickr

5. Formosa Cafe

An Old School classic recently redone to modern tastes, this red beacon on Santa Monica is fashioned in part from an old trolley car. Inside it still has many of the signed photos of past star customers (Sinatra, Bogart, Gable and more), and it has been featured in movies like L.A. Confidential and The Majestic.

Mobster Mickey Cohen ran a betting scam out of here (try to find his safe) and though co-owner Lem Quon died in 1993, he’s still around – especially if you choose to sit in his favorite booth, number 8. If you see a small, elderly Asian man in a singular cardigan, be sure to smile and say hello….

More information
7156 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood 90046
(323) 850-9050

Formosa Cafe

Formosa Cafe. Credit: Leslie Kalohi via flickr

6. Traxx Bar

Still looking great at 76, Union Station has been the place where countless starry-eyed wannabes have arrived looking for stardom – though newlywed Martha Virginia James didn’t make it to the City of Angels. In 1943 dining car cook Robert E. Lee Folkes was arrested on arrival at Union Station, and charged with murdering her en route from Seattle.

Barely a year later, an antique black trunk sent from Chicago was opened and “Jane Doe 13” was found inside. She was eventually identified as Louise Villegas, and her bigamous husband was arrested for murder.

Mosey up at the bar, order a Traxx Martini (Hendricks Gin, dry Vermouth, a float of Dubonnet Rouge) and watch the living people arrive in this glorious, high-ceilinged Art Deco masterpiece.

More information
800 N. Alameda St, Los Angeles 90012
(213) 625-1999

Union Station Old Ticket Room

The old ticket room at Union Station. Credit: Steve and Julie via flickr

7. The Basement Tavern

Originally the Kyte home, in 1973 it was moved in one entire piece from 1003 Ocean Avenue and down Main Street, where it ended up as a restaurant. In recent times staff at the upstairs event venue and their underworld bar, The Basement, have reported lights turning on and off, running footsteps, opening drawers, closing doors and strange noises.

Recently, two nieces of “Delia” – a former owner of the building – came to visit, and said she had disappeared a long time ago. There’s no archival evidence of Delia, but it’s possible the story comes via Mary Kyte, whose corpse was kept in a coffin in the house (as was the fashion at the time), when she died in the 1940s.

Either way the staff were convinced enough to create the “Delia Elixir,” a deliciously special cocktail of bourbon, agave, raspberries and lemon, in honor of her.

More information
2640 Main St, Santa Monica 90405
(310) 396-2469

More venues, more history and more ghost stories can be found in Gourmet Ghosts – Los Angeles, available at gift shops and bookstores across LA, and on Amazon and iTunes, plus online at www.gourmetghosts.com. You can also follow on Twitter @gourmetghosts for more spooky dining info. 

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History

19 Little Stories About Baseball in Los Angeles BEFORE The Dodgers Ever Got Here

October 6, 2015 by Guest Contributor

The following is a guest post co-written by Greg Gonzalez and Daniel Zafran, the co-hosts of LA Meekly, a monthly podcast dedicated to the unique history of the city of Los Angeles. 

Long before the boys in blue set cleat in Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles had a thriving baseball scene of its own that stretched from Boyle Heights all the way to Catalina Island.

Not only did we have home grown minor and semi-pro league squads, but many MLB teams and players passed through town on their paths to glory. Through research for the two most recent episodes of our Los Angeles history podcast, we’ve gleaned insight into some of the most interesting moments in the pre-Dodger history of Los Angeles baseball.

And it all starts when the lights go down…

1. Night and Game

Originally billed as a novelty, the first night game on the west coast was held in Los Angeles in 1893 near 7th and Alameda. The concept was so novel that players came to bat wielding umbrellas and the game had to be put on hold when the umpire’s pet bulldog, which he had brought to the game, forgot his obedience training and would not drop the ball. This dog was the inspiration for the Dodger Dog.

2. Baseball Gets Fatty

In 1919, silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle bought the Hollywood Stars when they were still known as the Vernon Tigers. He led them to two Pacific Coast League championships before selling the team because he was worried he was too fat and misguidedly thought it would be a quick way to lose a few pounds.

3. Cubs In Catalina

The Chicago Cubs had visited Los Angeles for spring training a handful of times in the early 1900s (including Brookside Park in 1917) but they finally committed in 1921 when their new owner, gum enthusiast William Wrigley Jr., brought them to his personal floating fortress, Catalina Island, as their new spring training facility. They were being fawned over by Wrigley and locals alike here until 1951 when it snowed one spring and the team got confused and thought they were back in Chicago so they all went home.

4. Wrigley’s Believe It or Not

When you think of Wrigley Field you think of Chicago. No you don’t, the world’s first Wrigley Field was in L.A.’s very own South Central near San Pedro & 41st Place. Wrigley built it in 1925 for his beloved Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and while the park in Chicago is older, it was still called Cubs Park at the time.

5. Sox In The Spring

It’s tradition for major league teams from the east coast to head west towards warmer climates for their spring training and Los Angeles is as warm and western a climate as you’re gonna get. In 1933, Chicago’s own White Sox set up camp at the baseball field at Brookside Park near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. They came here almost every year up until 1950 when they decided Los Angeles’ pizza just wasn’t deep enough and vowed never to return.

6. El Primero

A local player from the Mexican-American leagues, Baldomero “Mel” Almada, joined the Boston Red Sox on September 9, 1933 to become the first Mexican player in the major leagues. And with that ended all American objection to Mexican immigration.

7. Pork in East L.A.

Led by not-Saved By the Bell star Mario Lopez, Los Chorizeros of the Mexican-American Baseball League became local sensations in Boyle Heights winning 19 city championships between 1934 and 1973 earning them the nickname “The Yankees of East LA.” Lopez’s chorizo producing Carmelita Provision Company still honor the team with their logo of a pig dressed for a baseball game just seconds before being slaughtered.

8. Winter-gration

Although not yet integrated, the California Winter League would regularly pit all white teams against local Negro league teams such as the L.A. White Sox who played at White Sox Park in Boyle Heights. It should have been a home run for racial equality, turned out it was just a triple.

9. The Other DiMaggio

Ya know, we had a DiMaggio too. In the mid-30’s, Joe DiMaggio’s oldest brother, Vince, played two seasons as outfielder for the Hollywood Stars. Which, unfortunately for Vince, was not a point of pride in the DiMaggio family for very long.

10. Stars of San Diego

In 1936, one of the early incarnations of the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars moved south to San Diego to become the San Diego Padres who, decades later, would join the major leagues and become the team we all love to forget.

11. Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson

Another player in Brookside Park was a shortstop for the Pasadena City College baseball team who scored two runs against the White Sox in a 1938 exhibition game. That player’s name? Jackie Robinson. Yes, THAT Jackie Robinson. The team was so impressed that they gave him a secret tryout at Brookside Park in 1942. He didn’t get chosen due to what the team saw as irreconcilable racial differences but the baseball field was renamed Jackie Robinson Memorial Field in 1988 nonetheless.

Jackie Robinson with the Dodgers

12. Bob Cobb Lobs Jobs

The Hollywood Stars really earned their name when in 1938 they were bought by a group of local celebrities led by the creator of the Cobb Salad, Robert Cobb. Cobb’s co-owners included such marquee-friendly names as George Burns,Gracie Allen, Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Cecil B. Demille, George Stevens, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and William Frawley making this team’s governing board a veritable Cobb Salad of people.

13. Farm Team in Blue

The Hollywood Stars weren’t just stars in Hollywood. In 1948 they became a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers sending star players east and even getting a few back in return with the express condition: no refunds.

14. Meet the Browns

L.A. almost had a pro team of its own long before the Dodgers when history’s worst baseball team, the St. Louis Browns, almost moved here in 1941 were it not for wartime panic. Instead, they settled for spring training at Olive Memorial Stadium in Burbank from 1949 to 1952. Had this major move gone through, the city could’ve been a much less successful place.

15. What A Drag

The noble tradition of dragging the infield after the 5th inning began in LA with the Hollywood Stars for the very LA purpose of artificially creating a break in the action for fans to go buy more food at the concession stands.

16. Who Wears Sport Shorts?

The Hollywood Stars perfected the schoolboy look when in 1950 they became the first team to take off their pants and replace them with shorts as their official uniform. They wore them on and off until 1953 when the Angels told them that if they ever showed up to a game looking like that again they’d shove them all into their lockers.

17. Yankee Baseball Came to Town

In 1951 the New York Yankees came to L.A.’s Wrigley Field to play a series of exhibition games against the Angels and the Hollywood Stars. In these games were both Pacific Coast League veteran Joe DiMaggio preparing for his final major league season and Mickey Mantle preparing for his first major league season. Not in attendance were Joe DiMaggio’s future wife, Marilyn Monroe, and Mickey Mantle’s ex-wife, Minnie Mantle.

18. Home Run In the Sun

A 26 episode TV show in 1959 called Home Run Derby that challenged professional baseball players to hit home runs for money was filmed at LA’s Wrigley Field and became the inspiration for today’s modern MLB All Star Game attraction: the Home Run Derby. Two much less successful TV shows filmed here were Freddie’s Fouls and the Bunt Bonanza.

19. Walt to Walter

Before the land was secured by Walter O’Malley to build a home for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the site at Chavez Ravine was being offered around to different potential buyers. One of those being offered the land was Walt Disney who was looking for a location to set his plans for Disneyland in motion. Disney ultimately denied because of the altitude’s effect on Br’er Bear.

Conclusion

As you can gather, L.A. had a very delicate baseball ecosystem going before the Dodgers came and flipped everything on its head. Although things may have gotten off to a controversial start (listen to the pod for more insight on the Chavez Ravine drama), many big changes do and the Dodgers quickly proved to the city that they were worthy of being called our official home team. But let us not forget the great teams and players that called L.A. their home before the Dodgers even took their last bite of Brooklyn pizza.

For more information on Greg and Daniel, or to listen to the latest episodes of their podcast, be sure to visit their website at lameekly.tumblr.com.

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