California Fool’s Gold — A San Bernardino County Primer

San Bernardino County, along with Riverside County, comprise the Southern California region known as the Inland Empire. Before 1914 (the earliest recorded use of the term “Inland Empire”) the region was known as “The Orange Empire.” Both San Bernardino and Riverside counties are inland — the nearest point in San Bernardino County to the sea is about 43 kilometers — but today their empire-like character is less obvious than it was in the days when they were important citrus producers.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s map of the Inland Empire — San Bernardino and Riverside Counties
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s map of the Inland Empire — San Bernardino and Riverside Counties

With orange production a thing of the past, what makes it the Inland Empire empire-like isn’t immediately obvious. It is a large area — San Bernardino is the largest country in the entire US, larger, in fact, than nine entire states (and 71 sovereign countries). The Inland Empire also has a fairly large population, about 4.2 million people, but in my mind, dwarfed as it is by Los Angeles County (the most populous county in the US by a landslide), the Inland Empire feels less like its own empire than a dominion or protectorate of the adjacent Los Angeles Empire. It’s proximity and mysteries are among the reasons that I, as an Angeleno, would like to further explore it and since I already wrote a Riverside Country Primer, here’s one for San Fernando which I hope will encourage readers to vote for the communities which they’d like me to explore.

San Bernardino Mountains (Image source: orange grove media )
San Bernardino Mountains (Image source: orange grove media )

Naturally spacious San Bernardino County includes some pretty large attractions, including all of Mojave National Preserve; parts of Angeles National Forest, Death Valley National Park, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, Joshua Tree National Park, and San Bernardino National Forest; and 35 National Wilderness Preservation System-designated wilderness areas (more than any other county in the US).

Ontario International Airport (Image source: unknown)
Ontario International Airport (Image source: unknown)

It’s hardly a busy international airport but Ontario International Airport is the county’s major hub of air travel. San Bernardino International Airport is, despite its name,currently operating as a general aviation and cargo airport but is being remodeled to serve as an international airport. Other general aviation airports include Apple Valley Airport, Baker Airport, Barstow-Daggett Airport, Big Bear City Airport, Cable Airport, Chino Airport, Hesperia Airport, Needles Airport, Redlands Municipal Airport, and Twentynine Palms Airport.

The Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, CA (Image source: Tony Hoffarth)
The Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, CA (Image source: Tony Hoffarth

San Bernardino is also served by rail. Metrolink‘s Inland Empire-Orange County and San Bernardino lines serve several stations as do Amtrak‘s Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited lines. Future transit plans include a Metro Gold Line extension from current terminus in Azusa to Ontario and further down the line, California High Speed Rail.

San Bernardino Transit Center (Image source:  Janice Kuhn)
San Bernardino Transit Center (Image source: Janice Kuhn)

Regional bus providers include Omnitrans and San Bernardino Express bus lines as well as Barstow Area Transit, Morongo Basin Transit Authority, Foothill Transit, Twentynine Palms Limited, Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority, Needles Area Transit, Orange County Transit Authority, Riverside Transit Authority, Victor Valley Transit Authority, and Greyhound.

Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail - Rancho Cucamonga, CA, (Image source: Vuoch. "Busy Bee" L..)
Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail – Rancho Cucamonga, CA, (Image source: Vuoch. “Busy Bee” L.)

Cyclists and pedestrians can utilize the Santa Ana River Bicycle Path, which when complete will stretch 135 kilometers from Redlands to Huntington Beach. There’s also the 34 kilometer long Pacific Electric Inland Empire Trail connecting Rialto to Claremont (as well as the Santa Ana River Bicycle Path).

San Bernardino Symphony, led by Maestro Frank Fetta, at the historic California Theatre
San Bernardino Symphony, led by Maestro Frank Fetta, at the historic California Theatre (Image source: San Bernardino Symphony)

Cultural institutions of San Bernardino County include the Inland Empire Harmony Carousel Chorus, the Redlands Symphony, the San Bernardino Symphony, Theatrical Arts International, and the Victor Valley Symphony.

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Painted Rocks Petroglyphs (Image source: Shereth)
Painted Rocks Petroglyphs (Image source: Shereth)

Before the Spanish Conquest, the Inland Empire was home to several Native American nations including the ChemehueviIviatim, Kuupangaxwichem, Maarenga’yamPayómkawichumPaiuteTaaqtamVanyume, and YuhaviatamThere are many Native American sites of archaeological note in San Bernardino County although the precise locations of many are restricted in order to protect them (mostly petroglyphs and pictographs) from vandals.

Sites open to visitors include Aiken’s Wash (near Baker); the Rodman Mountains Petroglyph Archaeological District (near Barstow); the Black Mountain Rock Art District (near Hinkley), Newberry Cave Site (near Newberry Springs); Calico Early Man Site (near Yermo);  and Foxtrot Petroglyph Site (in Twentynine Palms).

Restricted sites include Archeological Site CA-SBR-140 (near Baker); Bitter Spring Archaeological Site 4-SBr-2659 and Fossil Canyon Petroglyph Site Archeological Site (near Barstow); Archeological Site No. D-4Piute Pass Archeological District, and Topock Maze Archeological Site (near Needles); Archeological Sites CA-SBr-1008A, CA-SBr-1008AB, and CA-SBr-1008C (near Johannesburg); Archeological Site No. E-21 (near Parker); Squaw Spring Archeological District (near Red Mountain), and Archaeological Site CA SBR 3186 (near Helendale). 

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In 1810, Spanish from Mission San Gabriel Arcángel established a church at the village of Politania (or Apolitana). Father Francisco Dumetz named the church San Bernardino on 20 May after the feast day of St. Bernardino of Siena. In 1819, the Franciscans established the San Bernardino de Sena Estancia farm in what’s now Redlands.

Mexico achieved independence in 1821 and the mission lands were secularized and granted to Mexican citizens. Rancho Jurupa was established in 1838, Rancho Cucamonga and El Rincon in 1839, Rancho Santa Ana del Chino in 1841, Rancho San Bernardino in 1842, and Rancho Muscupiabe in 1844. The first Mexican pueblo established was Agua Mansa, settled by immigrants from New Mexico on land donated in 1841.

California was conquered by the Americans as a result of the Mexican-American War. California became a state in 1848 and the town of San Bernardino was founded by Mormons in 1851. San Bernardino County was formed in 1853 from Los Angeles County. A portion of the new county became part of Riverside County in 1893.

As of the 2010 census San Bernardino County was home to 2,035,210. The population self-identified as roughly 31% non-Latino white, 9% black, 7% Asian, 5% mixed-race, and 1% Native American.  49% of the population are Latino of any race.

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What follows is a brief introduction to the communities of San Bernardino County to pique your interest. Click here to vote for as many as you’d like to see be the focus of future episodes of California Fool’s Gold and when a community gets enough votes, I’ll head out and explore it. Thanks!

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ADELANTO

Adelanto (Spanish for “progress”) is located in the High Desert and as of 2010 had a population of 18,130. It was founded in 1915 by E. H. Richardson, inventor of the electric iron. Richardson sold his patent and used the profit to purchase land which subdivided. A post office opened in 1917 and a library followed in 1921, operating out of the office of a fruit company. It incorporated as a city in 1970 and the city’s police department was disbanded in 2001 due to massive corruption.

AMBOY

Roy's Diner (Image source: )
Roy’s Diner (Image source: Paul Reiffer)

Amboy was once a major stop along Route 66 but went in to decline when Interstate 40 opened in 1973. As of 2014 it had a population of four. Amboy is still home to the iconic Roy’s Motel and Café, which opened in 1938. Nearby is the Amboy Crater and Lava Fieldan extinct cinder cone volcano that rises above a 70 square kilometer lava field.

ANGELUS OAKS

Angelus Oaks is an unincorporated community in the San Bernardino National Forest which, as of 2010, had a population of 190. In the 1970s, the nearby Seven Oaks post office closed and the Camp Angelus post office was renamed Angelus Oaks. Despite its size it retains a general store, a gas station, a restaurant, a post office, a real estate office, a sheriff’s office and two commercial lodges.

APPLE VALLEY

Apple Valley (Image source: )
Apple Valley (Image source: Travelux)

Apple Valley is a town located at the southern edge of the Mojave Desert in the Victor Valley. As of 2010 it reported a population of 69,135. The town was formerly home to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who established a museum there in 1967 (which moved, naturally, to Branson, Missouri but closed in 2009). State Route 18, which passes through it, is known as the “Happy Trails Highway.”

BAKER

Baker, California (Image source: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Baker, California (Image source: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Baker is famously home of the world’s tallest thermometer (although technically it’s an electric sign displaying the temperature and not a thermometer). As of 2010 the census-designated place (CDP) reported a population of 735. It was founded in 1908 as a stop on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad and was named after Richard C. Baker, president of the T&T.

BALDWIN LAKE

Baldwin Lake is a CDP located in the San Bernardino Mountains on the shore of a shallow, intermittent, alkali lake of the same name. It is surrounded by the 63 hectare Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve.

BARSTOW

Casa_del_Desierto,_Barstow,_California

Barstow is home to a Harvey House Railroad Depot, a train station built in 1911 and currently a train station housing Barstow city offices and two museums (the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western America Railroad Museum). In 2010 the population was 22,639. The town is named after William Barstow Strong, a president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. A series of murals created by Main Street Murals depict the town’s history. The largest meteorite found in California, the Old Woman meteorite, is housed in the Desert Discovery Center.

BIG BEAR CITY

Big Bear City, despite its name, is an unincorporated town and not a city. Also despite its name, hunters drove the titular California Grizzly Bears into extinction in the first decade of the 20th century. The town is located on Big Bear Lake‘s eastern shore, east of the city of Big Bear Lake. As of 2010 it had a population of 12,304.

BIG BEAR LAKE

Big Bear Lake, CA: Big Bear Village Street Scene (Image source: Cornell Prodan)
Big Bear Lake, CA: Big Bear Village Street Scene (Image source: Cornell Prodan)

Big Bear Lake is a resort town located on the large reservoir of the same name. As of 2010 it had a population of 5,019. Bear Valley Dam is considered an attraction, as is Old Bear Valley Dam — entirely submerged but usually visible through the water. The town is home to the Big Bear Discovery Center as well as the Planetarium, Projector, and Science Museum.

BIG RIVER

Big River is a CDP which in 2010 had a population of 1,327. The titular big river is the colorado river, which forms the towns southeastern border. It is home to Big River InnBig River MarketBig River RV ParkDock Restaurant, and Mediterranean Skewers.

BLOOMINGTON

Bloomington is CDP which in 2010 had a population of 23,851. Bloomington was originally developed as “Crestmore” in 1888 by the Semi-Tropic Land and Water Company. Today it’s home to Baker’s Drive ThruCenaduria La GordaChina ExpressHong Kong ExpressEl Mesquite RestaurantFarmer BoysGoyo’s TacosJ&A Bakery & DonutsJuan PolloMGM BurgersMikel’s Donuts & SubsPorky’s Pizza, and Tacos El Primo.

BLUEWATER

Bluewater is a CDP which in 2010 had a population of 172. The blue water refers to the Colorado River. Facing Bluewater, California, across the Colorado’s brown water, is Bluewater, Arizona.

CADIZ

Cadiz is an unincorporated community in just south of the Marble Mountains.The town was named in 1883 by Lewis Kingman, a locating engineer for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, and once boasted a railroad stop. A new stop will be constructed if the tourist train between Cadiz and Parker is completed as planned.

CEDAR GLEN

Cedar Glen is an unincorporated community which in 2000 had a population of 552. It’s home of the Cedar Glen InnCedar Glen Malt Shop, and Jensen’s Foods.

CHINO

Chino (Image source: Get a Cool Box)
Chino (Image source: Get a Cool Box)

Chino was where I stayed when I first moved to California. On the television series The OC, the main character (Ryan Atwood) was a Chino tough who was adopted into the wealthy Cohen family in Newport Beach. The Chino Airport is home to Yanks Air Museum. Other Chino attractions include the historic Yorba and Slaughter Families Adobe (1853) and Moyse-Gray Building (1887). 

CHINO HILLS

Photo of the City of Chino Hills on a clear day (Image source: Chino Hills)
Photo of the City of Chino Hills on a clear day (Image source: Chino Hills)

Chino Hills is city which in 2010 had a population of 74,799. It borders Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties. The hills after which it’s named include Chino Hills State Park and the town proper is where I ate for the first time at an El Pollo Loco (I ordered a BRC and a smokey black bean burrito).

COLTON

8th Street in Colton
8th Street in Colton

As of 2010, the city of Colton had a population of 52,154. It was founded in 1875 and incorporated in 1887. Colton is home of the Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery, the ruins of Camp Cady (established in 1860), and has a Carnegie Library.

CRAFTON

Crafton is an unincorporated community . It’s named after Myron H. Crafts, who established a small orange grove there in 1870. In 1882 he established the Crafton Land and Water Company and constructed the Crafton Reservoir.

CRESTLINE

Crestline is a CDP which in 2010 had a population of  10,770. Crestline is home to the Mozumdar Temple and Pillars of ChristHeart Rock Falls, and Lake Gregory Regional Park. Local eateries and bars include Chef Cindy’s CafeBear Claw SaloonLa CasitaLake Gregory Coffee HousePazzo’s Italian & Pizza, Roadhouse PizzaStockade, and Toni’s Kitchen Mexican Food.

DAGGETT

Daggett Stone Hotel - famous from Bill Mann's book (Image source: Bill Cook)
Daggett Stone Hotel – famous from Bill Mann’s book (Image source: Bill Cook)

Daggett is an unincorporated community which as of 2000 had a population of 200.It was decided to name the city after then Lieutenant Governor of California, John Daggett, during the Spring of 1883. It’s home to the Daggett Pioneer Cemetery and Desert Springs Bar-N-Grill.

DECLEZVILLE

Declezville is an unincorporated community. It’s home to El Colima Mexican GrillNogales Burgers No 2, and My Little Video Store.

DEVORE (DEVORE HEIGHTS)

Roadside business in Devore along former historic U.S. Route 66 (Cajon Boulevard) (Image source: Amin Eshaiker)
Roadside business in Devore along former historic U.S. Route 66 (Cajon Boulevard) (Image source: Amin Eshaiker)

Devore (or Devore Heights) situated near the San Bernardino National Forest. It’s home to the the largest amphitheater in North America, the San Manuel Amphitheater. It’s also home to Papa Tony’s Diner and Screaming Chicken Saloon.

EARP

Earp is an unincorporated community in the Sonoran Desert. It was founded as Drennan in 1910 and renamed Earp in 1929, after lawman Wyatt Earp, who had lived and mined in the area. Earp died at his Los Angeles residence but a fake grave stands in Earp.

FONTANA

Programmatic orange stand (Image source: Joe Orman)
Programmatic orange stand (Image source: Joe Orman)

Fontana is the third largest city in the Inland Empire and the second largest in San Bernardino County. Located on the grounds of the Mary Vagle Nature Center is the Fontana Pit and Groove Petroglyph Site. It’s also the home of the historic Fontana Farms Company Ranch House (built in 1906  and aka Pepper Street House). Fontana is home to a programatic, 2 meter tall Big Orange fruit stand (built in 1936) and an adjacent Streamline Moderne building (1943) that was previously home to Bono’s Restaurant and Deli, since relocated. The first time I visited Fontana I told my friend from Chino that the area reminded me of Kentucky, and it was then that he informed me of its nickname, Fontucky. 

FOREST FALLS

Forest Falls is an unincorporated community located on on the southern edge of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area.As of 2010 it had a population of 1,102. It is also known for the waterfalls on Vivian and Falls creeks. It is less well known for — but nonetheless is home of — El Mexicano I and Elkhorn General Store.

FORT IRWIN

(Image source: The Villages at Fort Irwin)
(Image source: The Villages at Fort Irwin)

Fort Irwin is a CDP which as of 2010 had a population of 8,845. It is centered around the Fort Irwin National Training Center but is also home to the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, part of NASA‘s Deep Space Network, ChopstickSamuel Adam’s GrilleShockwaveStrike Zone Bowling.

GOFFS

route_66.Par.51471.Image.-1.-1.1

Goffs is an unincorporated community. Practically a ghost town today, it was once a railroad town and, until 1931, a stop along Route 66. From 1893 until 1902 it was known as Blake, after Isaac Blake, builder of the Nevada Southern Railway. It’s home to an abandoned general store (the town’s largest structure) and an historic schoolhouse built in 1914 which now houses a museum devoted to the area’s mining history.

GRAND TERRACE

Grand Terrace is a city which in 2010 had a population of 12,040. It’s located in a valley between Blue Mountain to the east and La Loma Hills to the west. It was incorporated in 1978. Earlier names include “East Riverside,” “South Colton,” and “Grand Terrace.”

HELENDALE

Aerial view of Helendale (Image source: Bobak Ha'Eri)
Aerial view of Helendale (Image source: Bobak Ha’Eri)

Helendale is a CDP located along historic Route 66 in the the Victor Valley. The 2010 census reported that Helendale had a population of 5,623. The town was originally known as Point of Rocks but was renamed “Helen” after Helen A. Wells, daughter of railroad executive Arthur G. Wells. In 1918 the name was changed to Helendale. In 1969 construction began of two artificial lakes and the resort community of Silver Lakes opened in Helendale in the early 1970s and nowadays, Silver Lakes is sometimes used instead of Helendale to refer to the unincorporated community.

HESPERIA

Hesperia, CA: Main St in the morning (Image source: City-Data)
Hesperia, CA: Main St in the morning (Image source: City-Data)

Hesperia is a city in the Mojave Desert which as of 2010 had a population of 90,173. For a city of its size, Hesperia, has surprisingly few attractions other than restaurants.

HIGHLAND

Highland is a city which in 2010 had a population of 53,104. It is twin cities with, Lachin, a town internationally controlled by the mostly unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (who renamed it renamed it Berdzo). It is home to the 1900s-era Highland Historic District.

HINKLEY

Hinkley, California (Image source: )
Hinkley, Calif., may soon become a ghost town as residents move away from contaminated water. (Image source: Gloria Hillard)

Hinkley is an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert which in 2000 had a population of 1,915. Its claim to fame is for having the largest plume of cancer-causing chromium-6 in the world — which contaminated its water and was the inspiration of the film, Erin Brockovich. The only school in Hinkley closed in June 2013 and today there’s apparently almost no business or civic activity.

HODGE

Hodge is an unincorporated community located along historic Route 66. It was named after ranch owners Gilbert and Robert Hodge.

HOMESTEAD VALLEY

Homestead Valley is a CDP which in 2010 had a population of  3,032.

JOHNSON VALLEY

Johnson Valley is an unincorporated community located in the High Desert with a population of approximately 2,200.

JOSHUA TREE

Joshua Tree (Image source: Alex Around the World)
Joshua Tree (Image source: Alex Around the World)

Joshua Tree is a CDP in the High Desert which in 2010 reported a population of 7,414. It’s home to several odd attractions, including the Krblin Jihn Kabin, Hicksville Trailer Palace, and the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum. For country rock fans, Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn is famously where Gram Parsons overdosed and died 19 September 19, 1973.  Less famously, but worth noting, Room 11 is the Donovan Suite.

KRAMER JUNCTION

(Image source: Unknown)
(Image source: Unknown)

Kramer Junction (also known as “Four Corners”) is an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert. In 2000 it reported a population of 2,231. Located just northwest are the Solar Energy Generating Systems sites SEGS III-VII.

LAKE ARROWHEAD

(Image source: Lake Arrowhead Village)
(Image source: Lake Arrowhead Village)

Lake Arrowhead is a CDP in the San Bernardino Mountains and situated along the shores of the Lake Arrowhead Reservoir. As of 2010 it had a population of 2,424. It was founded as “Little Bear Lake” but its name changed after it was purchased by the Arrowhead Lake Company. Local attractions include Shady Point (an historic home from 1930).

LANDERS

The Integratron (Image source: Kai MacMahon)
The Integratron (Image source: Kai MacMahon)

Landers is an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert which as of 2012 had a population of 2,606. Just outside of town is Giant Rock, a large freestanding boulder which in the 1950s became a popular destination with UFO believers. The rock also inspired inventor and UFO contactee George Van Tassel to build the Integratron in 1959, a structure whose designer claimed it could could rejuvenate visitors, create anti-gravity, and transport objects through time.

LENWOOD

Lenwood is a CDP which in 2010 had a population of 3,543. It’s home to Plata’s Mexican Food.

LOMA LINDA

Loma Linda (Image source: Patrick Strattner)
Loma Linda (Image source: Patrick Strattner)

Loma Linda is a city which in 2010 reported a population of 23,261. It incorporated in 1970. It’s well known as the home of Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists, founded in 1905. Since many Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarians, the town boasts several popular vegetarian and vegetarian friendly restaurants including A Dong Restaurant IIAngelo’sAyda Ethiopian Restaurant, Baker’s Drive ThruCafe SocietyCha-Cha’s TacosClark’s Nutritional CentersFirehouse SubsJeeva’s KitchenLoma Linda Market & Nutrition CenterLLU Dining Councilors Student PavilionNajwa’s Mediterranean CuisineNapoli Italian RestaurantOh Mai Pho!Patio PantryRed Hot KitchenSorrentino’s Italian RestaurantTess’ PlaceThai Bowl Cafe, and many more.

LUCERNE VALLEY

Lucerne Valley is a CDP located in the Mojave Desert which as of 2010 reported a population of 5,811. It is home to the Jack O’Landia roadside attraction which is something like a vacant theme park/folk art piece. It’s also home to China HouseRock’s Place, and Stallone’s Pizziera

LUDLOW

Ludlow (Image source: dwinslow)
Ludlow (Image source: dwinslow)

Ludlow is a small town in the along historic Route 66. The town started as a water stop for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1883 and grew into a mining town. Mining ceased in the 1940s and the town essentially became a ghost town in the 1960s although there are a few businesses there today.

LYTLE CREEK

Lytle Creek is a CDP located inside the San Bernardino National Forest. The population as of 2010 was 701. Mormons arrived in the valley in 1851 and named it “Lytle Creek” after their leader, Captain Andrew Lytle. Lytle Creek’s  newspaper, The Canyon, has been published by volunteers at the Lytle Creek Community Center since 1948.

MENTONE

Briannas Place, Mentone CA (Image source: voo_doolady)
Briannas Place, Mentone CA (Image source: voo_doolady)

Mentone is a CDP which in reported a population of 8,720. It’s named after It was named for Menton, France. It’s home to Arthurs RestaurantBarnacles Sports BarThe Beach HouseCasa MayaDiamond Jim’s SaloonFrank’s PlaceGarden ThaiGreenspot MarketHeska’s Sugar ShackJacinto FarmsMill Creek Cattle Company, and Stafford Produce.

MONTCLAIR

Montclair, CA: Montclair Plaza just off the I-10 Fwy (Image source: City Data)
Montclair, CA: Montclair Plaza just off the I-10 Fwy (Image source: City Data)

Montclair is a city which in 2010 had a population of 36,664. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there were several settlements in what’s now Montclair, including MarquetteMonte Vista, and Narod. Suburbanization increased after World War II and the city was incorporated as Monte Vista in 1956. However, due to there being a Monte Vista in Northern California, it was changed to Montclair (a play on the name of neighboring Claremont) in 1958. Local attractions include the Mission Tiki Drive In Theatre and the Russian Village District.

MORONGO VALLEY

Morongo Valley is a CDP on the western edge of the Mojave Desert which in 2010 had a population of 3,552. Attractions include the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Covington Park. Local establishments include Morongo Valley CafeHappy CookerMorongo Fruit MarketRattlesnake Jake’sSand to Snow Monument Bar & Grill, and Willie Boy’s Saloon & Dance Hall.

MOUNT BALDY

Top of the Notch Restaurant (End of Mt. Baldy Road, Mt. Baldy) (Image source: )
Top of the Notch Restaurant (End of Mt. Baldy Road, Mt. Baldy) (Image source: LA Weekly)

Mt. Baldy is an unincorporated community named after Mount San Antonio, the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains and colloquially known as “Mount Baldy.” It was established in 1906 as Camp Baynham n 1906 and its name changed to Camp Baldy in 1910. It became Mount Baldy in 1951. In addition to nearby hiking and ski trails, the community is also home to Top Of The Notch Restaurant.

MUSCOY

Muscoy is a CDP which had a population of 10,644 in 2010.

NEEDLES

1940 Front Street and E Street Needles, California.
1940 Front Street and E Street Needles, California.

Needles is a city situated on the western banks of the Colorado River in the Mohave Valley. As of 2010 it had a population of  4,844. It’s name comes from “The Needles,”, a group of mountain peaks in the Mohave Mountains. In the comic strip Peanuts, it was the home of Snoopy‘s brother, Spike, who lived in a hollow saguaro cactus. Another notable lodging is El Garces Hotel, built in 1908 as a Harvey House.

NEWBERRY SPRINGS

Henning Motel (Image source: Fading Nostalgia)
Henning Motel (Image source: Fading Nostalgia)

Newberry Springs is an unincorporated community located at the foot of the Newberry Mountains. As of 2000 the population was 2,895. The springs after which the town is named also inspired the town’s first name, “Water.” Local establishments include The Barn and Kelly’s Market.

NIPTON

View of Nipton, California, with freight train passing through (Image source: Stan Shebs)
View of Nipton, California, with freight train passing through (Image source: Stan Shebs)

Nipton is an unincorporated community located on the northern edge of Mojave National Preserve. It has a population of 60. It was founded in 1905 as “Nippeno Camp.” It’s home to El Oasis Cafe and the Nipton Trading Post.

OAK GLEN

One of Oak Glen's apple orchards (Image source: Jessie Terwilliger)
One of Oak Glen’s apple orchards (Image source: Jessie Terwilliger)

Oak Glen is a CDP situated between the San Bernardino Mountains and the Little San Bernardino Mountains. As of 2010 it had a population of 638. In the 1940s it acquired a reputation for its varieties of apples and apple products, sold at roadside stands. It’s home to Apple Annie’sThat Creative CafeRileys at Los Rios Rancho, Trezo D’haiti Coffee, Mountain Town Wildlife Museum, The Wildlands Conservancy – Oak Glen Preserve, and Willowbrook Apple Farm.

OAK HILLS

Summit Inn (Image source: JOSHMC)
Summit Inn (Image source: JoshMc)

Oak Hills is a CDP in the High Desert which in 2010 had a population of 8,879. Its most famous icon is the Summit Inn Restaurant, an iconic 1950s diner.

ONTARIO

Busy day at the Ontario International Airport (Image source: Ska Design)
Busy day at the Ontario International Airport (Image source: Ska Design)

Ontario is a city which lies just east of the Los Angeles county line. As of 2010 it had a population of 163,924. It is home to LA/Ontario International Airport. Its name comes from the Ontario Model Colony, established in 1882 by the Canadian engineer George Chaffey and his brothers William and Charles. It’s home of the historic Ontario State Bank Block (1887), Dr. Orville S. Ensign House (1893), and Frankish Building (1915).

ORO GRANDE

Image source: © www.levetchristophe.fr
Image source: © http://www.levetchristophe.fr

Oro Grande is an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert on historic Route 66. As of 2010 it had a population of fewer than 1,000. It’s home of Elmer Long’s folk-art Bottle Tree Ranch as well as a pizzeria, Cross Eyed Cow Pizza.

PHELAN

(Image source unknown)
(Image source unknown)

Phelan is an CDP located in the Victor Valley. In 2010 the population was 14,304. Phelan was named after Senator James D. Phelan and his brother, John Thomas Phelan.

PIÑON HILLS

(Image source: Lands of California)
(Image source: Lands of California)

Piñon Hills is a CDP which as of 2010 had a population of 7,272. It’s home to Big Rock InnCasa Ortega, and Rick’s Roadside Cafe.

PIONEERTOWN

Saloon, bank, bath house and livery stables on Mane Street, Pioneertown, CA (Image source: Matthew Field)
Saloon, bank, bath house and livery stables on Mane Street, Pioneertown, CA (Image source: Matthew Field)

Pioneertown is an unincorporated community in the Morongo Basin which began as a live-in Old West motion-picture set, built in the 1940s. Roy Rogers, Dick Curtis, and Russell Hayden were among the original developers and investors. As of 2006, Pioneertown had a population of 350. Today it’s home to Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA

Cucamonga Peak 12/26/08 (Image source: Cheryl R. Swain)
Cucamonga Peak 12/26/08 (Image source: Cheryl R. Swain)

Rancho Cucamonga is a city forty which in 2010 had a population of 165,269. It incorporated in 1977, merging the pre-exisiting communities of Alta Loma, Cucamonga, and Etiwanda. It boasts a couple of historic buildings, including the John Rains House (1906) and the Pacific Electric Etiwanda Depot (1914). It’s also home to the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center.

RED MOUNTAIN

Red Mountain Kelly Mine (Image source: dwinslow)
Red Mountain Kelly Mine (Image source: dwinslow)

Red Mountain is mostly a ghost town, with an estimated remaining population of 130. It was founded as “Rand Camp” and later known as “Yellow Aster Mine.” It’s first post office opened in 1896, when the population was roughly 1,500. Its population peaked at around 3,500 in 1899, the year the Orpheum Theatre was built. Today the theater, cabins, a church, and saloons remain, albeit long empty.

REDLANDS

Downtown Redlands (Image source: Pibzz)
Downtown Redlands (Image source: Pibzz)

Redlands is a city which as of 2010 had a population of 68,747. It’s home to the historic A. K. Smiley Public Library, Greek Revival Barton Villa (1872), Beverly Ranch (Fisk-Burgess House), the ruins of Guachama Rancheria, Kimberly Crest House & Gardens, the Mill Creek Zanja, the Redlands Central Railway Company Car Barn, the Redlands Santa Fe Depot District, San Bernardino de Sena Estancia (founded in 1819), San Timoteo Canyon Schoolhouse, the Smiley Park Historic District, and the US Post Office—Redlands Main. It’s also home to University of Redlands and the Richard Neutra-designed Auerbacher Home (1951).

RIALTO

Wigwam Motel on Route 66 (Image source: The Cavender Diary)
Wigwam Motel on Route 66 (Image source: The Cavender Diary)

Rialto is a city which in 2010 had a population of 99,171. It’s home to four major reginal distribution centers: Staples, Toys “R” Us, Under Armour, and Target. It’s also home to Pyro Spectaculars, one of the largest American fireworks distributors. A 19th century adobe is the oldest building, located in Bud Bender Park. It’s most treasured historic building is First Christian Church of Rialto (1907), home to the Rialto Historical Society.

RICE

Rice, California (Image source: Walking In LA)
Rice, California (Image source: Walking In LA)

Rice, formerly named Blythe Junction, is a ghost town located in the Mojave Desert and former stop on the Santa Fe Railroad. Few signs of the former town remain — a former sign announcing the town disappeared and the abandoned service station stands in ruins. At some point a custom developed amongst travelers to hang pairs of shoes on a Tamarix shrub which has become known as “The Shoe Tree.”

RIMFOREST

Rimforest sign (Image source: Raymond Yu)
Rimforest sign (Image source: Raymond Yu)

Rimforest is an unincorporated community in the San Bernardino Mountains. Its post office opened in 1949. It’s home to Angie’s Mexican Food and The Original Cottage Family Restaurant. It appears to have inspired a place of the same name on Ginger Brooks Takahashi‘s fantasy map, Welcome to Gayside.

RUNNING SPRINGS

Running Springs (Image source: unknown)
Running Springs (Image source: unknown)

Running Springs is a CDP which in 2010 had a population of 4,862. It was originally known as Hunsaker Flats, named after a Mormon named Abraham Hunsaker. It’s home today to FiresideJensen’s Finest FoodsNeo’s Pizza HouseOld Country Coffee Shop & DinerRocky’s Roadhouse, and Toto’s Mexican Restaurant.

SAN ANTONIO HEIGHTS

San Antonio Heights is a CDP which in 2010 had a population of 3,371. It’s most famous feature is an enormous holiday display, first lit in 1958. The house to which it was attached was destroyed in the 2003 Grand Prix Fire.  A replacement was later erected on the property although copper wire thieves kept if from being lit in 2006.

SAN BERNARDINO

Picture-2

San Bernardino is the second largest city in the Inland Empire and the largest in San Bernardino County. Cultural and historical sites of interest include the Fox Theatre, Heritage House, San Bernardino Railroad and History Museum, Sturges Center for the Fine Arts, the unsanctioned McDonald’s Museum (at the site of the original McDonald’s), the Inland Empire Military Museum, the American Sports Museum, the WBC Legends of Boxing Museum, the California Theatre of the Performing Arts (built in 1928). The city annually hosts the nation’s largest car show, the Route 66 Rendezvous as well as the National Orange Show Festival

The Robert V. Fullerton Museum of Art and the John M. Pfau Library are located on the campus of California State University, San Bernardino. Other colleges and universities include San Bernardino Valley College, National University San Bernardino, The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire, Argosy University-Inland Empire, Everest College, American Sports University, and UEI College.

Streetside of San Bernardino Santa Fe Depot (Image source: Oakshade)
Streetside of San Bernardino Santa Fe Depot (Image source: Oakshade)

Other attractions include the Mission Revival style Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Passenger and Freight Depot (1918), San Bernardino County Courthouse (1927), US Post Office-Downtown Station (1931), the grand Arrowhead Springs Hotel (1940), Wigwam Village No. 7 (a motel where the lodging quarters look like tipis), and the César Pelli-designed San Bernardino City Hall (1969).

SEARLES VALLEY

The Searles Valley Inc. plant dominates the community (Image source: Bobak Ha'Eri)
The Searles Valley Inc. plant dominates the community (Image source: Bobak Ha’Eri)

Searles Valley is a CDP in the Searles Valley of the Mojave Desert. It’s dominated by the Searles Valley Minerals plant, a raw materials mining and production facility which produces borax, boric acid, soda ash, salt cake, and salt. It is the site of the annual Gem-O-Rama, sponsored by the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society.

SIBERIA

Downtown Siberia, 2009 (Image source: Fred Henstridge)
Downtown Siberia, 2009 (Image source: Fred Henstridge)

Siberia is a ghost town in the Mojave Desert which lies along historic Route 66. Siberia was a water stop and a rail siding for the Santa Fe Railroad. It was abandoned after the 1973 opening of Interstate 40, which bypassed it.  Almost nothing remains today but the ruined foundation of a lone structure.

SKYFOREST

Santa's Village postcard
Santa’s Village postcard

Skyforest is an unincorporated community. Its post office opened in 1928. It’s home to Hortencia’s Mexican GrillHungry Bear Deli, Bakery & Café, and Lou Eddie’s Pizza. It’s most well-known attraction is the kitschy Santa’s Village, which opened in 1955.

SPRING VALLEY LAKE

Homes surrounding the Spring Valley Lake (Image source: Rennett Stowe)
Homes surrounding the Spring Valley Lake (Image source: Rennett Stowe)

Spring Valley Lake is a CDP in the Victor Valley which in 2010 had a population of 8,220.  It’s mostly comprised of large homes situated on the edge of an artificial lake — there are only two commercial buildings. Residents enjoy waterskiing, fishing, riding horses, golf — that sort of thing.

SUGARLOAF

Sugarloaf, California (Image source: Search Big Real Estate)
Sugarloaf, California (Image source: Search Big Real Estate)

Sugarloaf is a primarily residential unincorporated community which in 2010 had a population of 1,816. It’s named after a mountain, Sugarloaf, and not the Classic Rock band who wrote and performed “Green-Eyed Lady.” Before the invention of sugar cubes, refined sugar was sold by the loaf.

TRONA

Borax Plant - Trona, CA (Image source: unknown)
Borax Plant – Trona, CA (Image source: unknown)

Trona is an unincorporated community located along the western edge of the dry lake bed of Searles Lake. The town’s name (which it shares with an adjacent community in Inyo County) is derived from the abundance of trisodium hydrogen dicarbonate dihydrate (aka sodium sesquicarbonate dihydrate or Na3(CO3)(HCO3)•2H2O), a non-marine evaporite mineral. Nearby are the Trona Pinnacles. Trona was established in 1913, as a self-contained mining company town. The economy is still dominated by soda ash processing and evaporative salt extraction.

TWENTYNINE PALMS

Twentynine Palms (Image source: Vote 29)
Twentynine Palms (Image source: Vote 29)

Twentynine Palms is a city named for the palms found there in 1852 by Colonel Henry Washington whilst surveying. A post office was established in 1927. As of 2010 it had a population of 25,048. Twentynine Palms is home to the ruins of the McHaney Gang’s Cow Camp (built in the 1880s), the ruins of cattle rustler Jim McHaney’s Desert Queen Mine (stolen from its original owner in the 1890s), Keys Desert Queen Ranch (1894), the ruins of  J.D. Ryan’s adobe, Ryan House (1896), as well as Lost Horse Well, Barker Dam (built in 1900), the philosophical folk art musings of Samuelson’s Rocks, and Wall Street Mill (1933).

TWENTYNINE PALMS BASE

Twentynine Palms Base is located next to the town of Twentynine Palms. As of 2000 it had a population of  8,413. Its status as a CDP was discontinued prior to the 2010 census. From 1942 through 1945, the base was a naval auxiliary air station. In 1949, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton headquarters issued Post Order 343 creating the Marine Corps Training Center, Twentynine Palms.

TWIN PEAKS

Twin Peaks is an unincorporated community. Its post office opened in 1916. It’s also home to The Grill At the Antlers Inn. It’s also home to the Church of Scientology Technology Headquarters, a compound designed to survive a nuclear war with a shelter awaiting the eminent return of L. Ron Hubbard.

UPLAND

Upland postcard from the 1960s
Upland postcard from the 1960s

Upland is a city in which in 2010 had a population of 73,732. It incorporated in 1906 and was previously known as “North Ontario.” It’s home to the historic Upland Fire Department Museum and Cooper Regional History Museum, the Carnegie Upland Public Library, the Old San Antonio Hospital, a series of monumental statues from the 1920s called Madonna of the Trail, and the Romanesque Revival Ontario and San Antonio Heights Waiting Station (built in 1907).

VENUS

Venus is an unincorporated community. The Venus Deep Space Station, part of the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, is located there.

VICTORVILLE

Airplane boneyard in Victorville (Image source: Lucy Nicholson)
Airplane boneyard in Victorville (Image source: Lucy Nicholson)

Victorville is a city located in the Victor Valley which as of 2010 had a population of 115,903. It’s roots were in a way station established in 1858, by a Mexican-American War veteran named Aaron G. Lane. He named it Lane’s Crossing. Later it acquired a railroad siding named “Victor“, after the California Southern Railroad‘s general manager Jacob Nash Victor, and that evolved into a village of the same name. It incorporated as the city of Victorville in 1962. Victorville is home to the Route 66 Museum, the Old Victor School, and a Veteran’s Memorial. Perhaps the most stunning feature is the Southern California Logistics Airport, an airplane boneyard.

VIDAL

Beautiful Downtown Vidal, California (Image source: )
Beautiful Downtown Vidal, California (Image source: J. Stephen Conn)

Vidal is an unincorporated community. In the 1960s, Vidal was home to Solar Lodge, a secret society (1965-1972) who owned the town’s businesses and were later involved in a child abuse case known colloquially as “The Boy in the Box.” Vidal is also home to the remains of World II-era Camp Iron Mountain and one of Wyatt Earp’s cottages.

VIDAL JUNCTION

Vidal Junction Cafe (Image source: ITSMADNESS)
Vidal Junction Cafe (Image source: ITSMADNESS)

Vidal Junction is a small town site in the Sonoran Desert. It’s home to Vidal Junction Mini-Mart & Gas Station, a trailer park, and a California agricultural inspection station.

WILD CROSSING

Wild Crossing is an unincorporated community located along the Union Pacific Railroad, east of the Mojave River.

WRIGHTWOOD

Wrightwood (Image source: Bid 4 Assets)
Wrightwood (Image source: Bid 4 Assets)

Wrightwood is a CDP in the San Gabriel Mountains which in 2010 had a population of 4,525. A ranch owned by Sumner Wright was subdivided into commercial lots in 1920s. It’s home to the Cinnamons BakeryEvergreen Cafe & Racoon SaloonGamee KitchenGrizzly Cafe, Mile High Pizza, and The Village Grind

YERMO

Possum Trot Dolls (Image source: Mojave Project)
Possum Trot Dolls (Image source: Mojave Project)

Yermo is a town in the Mojave Desert, just south of the Calico Mountains. In 2009, the town’s population was an estimated 1,750. The opening of Interstate 15 in 1968 brought about a decline in the town’s livelihood. For years after, however, it was famously home to the Possum Trot Doll Theater.

YUCAIPA

Yucaipa Boulevard (Image source: Jessie Pearl)
Yucaipa Boulevard (Image source: Jessie Pearl)

Yucaipa is a city which incorporated in 1989 and as of 2010 had a population of 51,367. Stater Bros. Markets was founded there in 1936 (but has since relocated its headquarters to San Bernardino). It’s still home to the much older Yucaipa Adobe, built in 1859.

YUCCA VALLEY

Yucca Valley Town Limit (Image source: Computational Vision at CalTech)
Yucca Valley Town Limit (Image source: Computational Vision at Caltech)

Yucca Valley is an incorporated town which in 2010 had a population of 20,700. Yucca Valley is home to the Desert Christ Park sculpture garden, erected in 1951), as well as Andrew Roger’s large sculpture, Rhythms of Life.

ZZYZX

Zzyxx (Image source: Roadtrippers)
Zzyxx (Image source: Roadtrippers)

Zzyzx, formerly Camp Soda and Soda Springs, is an unincorporated community within the Mojave National Preserve. It is the former site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa, now the site of the Desert Studies Center. Lake Tuendae, originally part of the spa, is now a refuge habitat of the endangered Mohave tui chub. The name “Zzyzx” was given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, who wanted it to be the last word in the English language and founded a spa in the spa the same year. It remained in operation until 1974, when the government took over the land

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

Homes Fit for Heroes — Clinton Manor Apartments

Clinton Manor is an apartment complex located at 5184 Clinton Street in the Larchmont neighborhood of Midtown Los Angeles. I visited yesterday for what my be the last time, to help some friends and tenants prepare for their move to Portland, Oregon. I’ve always thought that it had a certain charm and decided to write about it for Homes Fit For Heroes.

Clinton Manor
Clinton Manor

At roughly 7,250 people per square kilometer, Larchmont is one of the most densely-populated neighborhoods in Los Angeles — itself the most densely-populated city in the nation’s most densely-populated urban area. A plurality, 30%, of Larchmont’s residents are Asian-American, mostly Korean. About 25% are non-Latino white. 3% are black. 56% of residents were born abroad. 37% of the residents are Latino of any race, mostly of either Mexican or Guatemalan ancestry.

Pretty in pink, isn't she?
Pretty in pink, isn’t she?

Clinton Manor was constructed in 1940 on land subdivided by I.A. Weid. I’m not sure whether or not it’s its original color but today Clinton Manor is painted a soothing pale pink — the color of soothing products like calamine lotionpink bismuth, and some brands of adhesive bandages. Both the buildings and courtyard are in the American Colonial Revival style. Their are bay windows and pretty stairway tiles. The units’ themselves are modest — the brass peepholes in the front doors are the most interesting detail, literally connecting the exterior to the interiors.

The Brass Peephole
The Brass Peephole

Although the sign in front refers to the complex as “Clinton Manor Garden Apartments,” they’re more properly courtyard apartments. Garden apartments

Aerial view of Clinton Manor
Aerial view of Clinton Manor

developed from courtyard apartments but are much grander in scale. Wyvernwood, a celebrated garden apartment in Boyle Heights, was constructed a year before Clinton Manor and is comprised of 1,187 units situated on 28 hectares. By comparison, Clinton Manor has just 54 units and occupies about half a hectare.

Courtyard apartments represent a step forward from bungalow court apartments, which along with duplexes and fourplexes, dominated multiple family housing in the years before the Great Depression, when only the working class typically lived in them. By the time courtyard apartments appeared, middle class and wealthy urban dwellers increasingly chose to live in multi-family housing and the detached house surrounded by a grass moat was increasingly banished to the bleak, suburban outland. Located as it was within walking distance of the studios of RKO, Columbia, United Artists, 20th Century Fox, and CBS, Clinton Manor was early on likely to have been home to many Angelenos involved in the film industry.

This is our famous hedge maze. It's quite an attraction around here. The walls are two feet high and the hedges are about as the apartment itself. It's a lot of fun.
This is our famous hedge maze. It’s quite an attraction around here. The walls are a meter  high and the hedges are about as old as the apartment itself. It’s a lot of fun.

I asked Tim (one of those moving and frequent traveling companion on many episodes of California Fool’s Gold) whether or not he ever sees any of his neighbors broach the hedges to sit on the lawns and he said that he occasionally sees people lug folding chairs over the manicured hedges onto the manicured, grass lawns. I asked whether or not he ever socialized with his neighbors and he said no, and added that he didn’t even know any of their names — but this probably says more about Tim than the intention of the complex’s designers.

Gardens in the Colonial period, which this landscape seeks to evoke, were typified by rectilinear beds with straight pathways. Clinton Manor’s maze-like hedgerow-bordered walkways force residents to take indirect paths and increase the likelihood of their bumping into neighbors. Patios, too, are shared and staircases are located outside. It seems like a fair amount of thought went into forcing neighborly interactions.

On the other hand, whereas the beds of Colonial gardens were used to grow ornamental flowers, fruits, herbs, and vegetables; the hedge-quarantined areas of Clinton Manor’s courtyards are entirely non-productive — surrendered to drought-intolerant, upkeep-intensive, pretty much useless grass.

Magnolia, home of the soulja
The magnolia — home of the soulja

The saving grace of the grass “gardens” is a lone, stately magnolia. Although impressive, I’ve never in all my visits seen it used for social gathering, solo meditation, or otherwise demonstrably enjoyed. I did, however, enjoy the site of what looks to me to be a parasitic plant of some sort apparently enjoying the company of one of the palms in front of the complex. It certainly doesn’t look to me like the plant’s flower.

Tree growing out of a palm?
Is that a shrub growing out of the palm on the left?

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

Fastfood Undead – A Taco Bell reborn as a Thai Original BBQ

Thai BBQ outsideI’m not a big fan of Taco Bell, the restaurant chain founded in Downey in 1962. I’m not a fan of their food, anyway — or the chain in general as it exists today. I am, however, a fan of the iconic architecture from the Golden Age of Fast Food (1940s-1980s) and I’m an even bigger fan of adaptive reuse. I also love it when old fast food places are reborn as something else, which is the  focus of my series Fast Food Undead. In this episode I visit the Thai Town location of Thai Original BBQ Restaurant, one of the many Thai restaurants which have taken over the former locations of Taco Bells.

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When I was young I do remember eating at Taco Bell. It was never my favorite chain (for whatever reason I preferred the Kans-Mex chain, Taco Tico). I wouldn’t say that I hate Taco Bell’s food but in a world where other food is available, why would anyone (except for a stoned coprophiliac) purchase and eat something called a Volcano Burrito with Lava Sauce? Taco Bell is pretty gross today. That’s probably down to it being part of a huge chain; it was probably rather different in the beginning.

First Taco Bell (Image source: )
First Taco Bell (Image source: Taco Bell)

Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell in Downey in 1962. Although Taco Bell is often referred to as a Mexican restaurant chain, it was ostensibly Tex-Mex — a distinction worth noting. The original restaurants were built in the Mission Revival style. I have tried and so far failed to determine what architect designed the original Taco Bell but they deserve to be credited. In the golden age, the architecture of fast food places franchises by the likes of White Castle, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Wienerschnitzel, the International House of Pancakes, was an integral aspect of their branding. The original Taco Bells had real bells, red fake brick floors, small indoor seating areas, outdoor fire pits, and bathrooms in the back. The menu was small and included burritos, frijoles, tacos, tostadas, and chili burgers.

PepsiCo bought the chain in 1978 and afterward the chain underwent an overhaul. I remember feeling sad when the location along my school bus route replaced the metal bell with a plastic sign. A new color scheme appeared too: brown, red, gold, green, and orange. The design of new buildings was generic, with an apparent focus on functionality rather than identity.

Bathrrooms in the back, sunroof top, diggin' the scene with a gangsta lean
Bathrrooms in the back, sunroof top, diggin’ the scene with a gangsta lean

In 1997, Tricon Global took over operations of Taco Bell and another overhaul occurred. Most of the old buildings were either abandoned or rebuilt with larger dining rooms and restrooms were placed closer to the dining areas and kitchens (yum). The Taco Bells of this era are anything but generic and seem designed to rebuke defenses of deconstructivism. 

A year after Tricon Global took over, fajitas were removed and with them the last pretenses of Taco Bell being a Tex-Mex chain. Advertisements began airing in which a dog expressed his admiration for the new menu. No, it didn’t include Alpo burritos, kibbles and bits con queso, or dog chow puffy tacos; the mad scientists at Tricon instead concocted experimental foodstuffs like Baby Ruth Chocodillas, bacon and egg Crunchwraps, biscuit tacos, caramel apple empanadas, Pizzazz Pizzas, and Waffle Tacos. Was anyone surprised when a Cedar Rapids Taco Bell was found to double as a methamphetamine lab? Presumably, no one who had watched Breaking Bad.

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Thai BBQ Dining Room

When an old Taco Bell became a Thai restaurant in 2006, it gave me great pleasure, even though I’d never before eaten at the small Thai chain. When the original Thai BBQ opened in 1978 (the same year Glen Bell sold Taco Bell), there was no Thai Town and it opened on 3rd Street in the Wilshire Center neighborhood. Thai Town  only began to take shape in East Hollywood in the mid-1980s partly as a result of the Southeast Asian Financial Crisis. Thai Town’s iconic Thailand Plaza wasn’t constructed until 1992. Thai BBQ locations popped up in other neighborhoods and today there are locations in Carson, Cerritos, Covina, Glendale, Las Vegas, Palms, Redondo Beach, San Francisco, Santa ClaritaTarzana, and Union City

Thai BBQ Aquarium
Thai BBQ Aquarium
Thai BBQ Food
Cashew tofu (off the Green Garden section of the menu), Thai spring rolls, and a chicken dish.

If Yelp reviews are anything to go by (I mostly read them for entertainment), a surprising number (as in “more than zero”) of diners are quite perturbed by the notion of eating Thai food in a building that was once a Taco Bell. I have to wonder if there were diners a old Taco Bells who took issue with eating Bell Beefers in buildings designed to resemble 18th Century Spanish Catholic missions. Lucky for the outrage addicts, Thai BBQ offers delivery and take-out, allowing diners to eat Thai food in the comfort of their no-doubt authentic ruean Thai-inspired homes. It’s also worth noting that there are over 1,000 Los Angeles Thai restaurants not located inside former Taco Bells but for me this adaptive reuse and inauthenticity is one of the restaurant’s chiefest charms.

Aponsi
Kinnaree guarding the crosswalk

Thai BBQ Hollywood is open 11:00-22:00 (10:00 pm) Sunday through Thursday and 11:00-23:00 (11:00 pm) on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s located one block east of the Hollywood/Western Station of the Metro’s Red Line subway. It’s also served by Metro’s 180/181, 207, and 217 buses as well as the Rapid 757 and 780 lines. Sadly, although Thai Town is physically quite walkable, there are relatively few crosswalks in the neighborhood and Hollywood Boulevard’s antiquated design seems to surrender completely to speeding motorists. There are currently no bicycle lanes.

Thai BBQ Ghost Bike

SEE ALSO

Old Taco Bell sites retain their flavor

Taco Bell Historic Buildings

Used To Be a Taco Bell

California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Thai Town (ไทยทาวน์)

 *****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

One Album Wonders: The Zodiac

The Zodiac - Cosmic Sounds


Zodiac
 were a studio group who released one album, Cosmic Sounds – Celestial Counterpoint with Words and Music, in May 1967. The members of Zodiac were respected session musicians Bud Shank,Carol Kaye, Cyrus Faryar, Emil RichardsHal Blaine, and Paul Beaver. Each song is devoted to the signs of Chaldean astronomical zodiac. The music was written by Canadian synthesizer pioneer Mort Garson.
The spoken word narration was penned by Jacques Wilson and are narrated by Faryar in a voice reminiscent of Jim Morrison‘s who as part of The Doors, had recorded their debut in 1966 and released it in January 1967 to great acclaim.

The success of The Doors was a primary inspiration for the project. Elektra head Jac Holzman came up with the concept and hired Alex Hassilev, a member of The Limeliters, to produce. Hassilev brought Mort Garson to the project — the two had just formed a production company together.

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Mort Garson
Mort Garson

Morton S. “Mort” Garson was born 20 July 1924 in Sain John, Canada and was a Cancer. He moved toNew York City where he studied music at the Juilliard School of Music. He worked as an arranger and pianist. After serving in World War II he worked as a session musician. While working on Cosmic SoundsGarson met Robert Moog and as a result featured his Moog synthesizer heavily in the arrangements, played by Paul Beaver. Garson died of renal failure in San Francisco in 2008.

Bud Shank
Bud Shank

Clifford Everett “Bud” Shank, Jr. was a jazz flutist, saxophonist, and a Gemini. He was born 27 May 1926 in Dayton,Ohio and attended the University of North Carolina between 1944-1946 then moved to California where he studied with Shorty Rogers and played in the bands of Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton. In the 1960she primarily worked as a studio musician in Los Angeles. In the 1970s he formed The LA Four. He died on 2 April 2009 in Tucson, Arizona.

Carol Kaye on bass
Carol Kaye on bass

Carol Kaye was born Carol Smith on 24 March 1935 in Everett, Washington. She is a bass guitarist andAries. In the 1950s she played in nightclubs before being paired with Sam Cooke in 1957. As a member of the celebrated Wrecking Crew she was one of the most widely recorded session bassists and has over 10,000 credits. She retired from recording in the 1970s due to arthritis.

Cyrus Faryar at the Farm in Hollywood
Cyrus Faryar (center) at the Farm in Hollywood

Cyrus Faryar was born 26 February 1936 in Tehran and is a Pisces. He was raised in Honolulu, Hawaiiand after college operated the Greensleeves coffee house, a haven for beatniks. He moved to Southern California in the 1950s. After Dave Guard quit The Kingston Trio, the two briefly played together in The Whiskeyhill Singers. That group quickly disbanded and returned to Hawaii Faryar co-founded the Modern Folk Quartet in 1962. He released two solo records in the 1970s but worked primarily as a session musician and producer.

Emil Richards (By Mark D'Antonio)
Emil Richards (By Mark D’Antonio)

Emil Richards (né Emilio Joseph Radocchia) was born 2 September 1932 in Hartford, Connecticut and is a Virgo. He began playing xylophone when he was six and later graduated from the Julius Hartt School of Music. He played in various ensembles in New England and New York before settling in Los Angeles in 1959 where we was in demand as a session player.

Hal Blaine and his drums
Hal Blaine and his drums

Hal Blaine (né Harold Simon Belsky) was born 5 February 1929 in Holyoke, Massachusetts and is anAquarius. He played drums with several bands before finding steady work as a session musician for Capitol Records as a member of the Wrecking Crew. Though mostly uncredited he recorded the drums on more than 40 number one hits.

Paul Beaver and his Moog
Paul Beaver and his Moog

Paul Beaver was born in Ohio in 1926. He was a session musician especially associated with the Moog synthesizer which he played on releases by The Byrds and The Monkees. In 1966 he co-founded the electronic pop group Beaver & Krause. In the 1970s, with Ruth White, Beaver co-founded the The Electronic Music Association in the 1970s. Beaver died in 1975.

*****

The music, as one might expect, is groovy in the extreme. So too is the album art, by Abe Gurvin. The album contains instructions for the the listener, “Must be played in the dark.” The music seems likely to have inspired The Moody Blues’s Days of Future Passed, Louise Huebner‘s Seduction Through Witchcraft, and the rock musical, Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. I wonder if the Zodiac Killer owned a copy!

Garson and Hassilev had planned to do a series of concept albums and they began working on The Sea with Rod McKuen but McKuen left the project and recorded his own version with Anita Kerr and The San Sebastian Strings for Warner Bros. Hassilev produced The Dusk ‘Till Dawn Orchestra‘s Sea Drift, with Garson conducting. Garson and Wilson re-teamed in 1968 for The Wozard Of Iz album, produced by Bernie Krause and released on A&M and a series of twelve follow-up albums; one for each astrological sign.
Cosmic Sounds is long out of print on vinyl but was reissued on aluminum compact disc by the Water label in 2002.

 *****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

A Look Back at the Depeche Mode Riots

Depeche Mode

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots (or Watts Rebellion, depending on your point of view). In that riot, 3,438 Anglenos were arrested, 1,032 were injured, and 34 died. This year (but not today) is also the 25th anniversary of another, less serious uprising, the Depeche Mode Riots, in which five to seven people were treated for injuries.

*****

Southern California has hosted its share of riots; there was the San Gabriel Mission Riot in 1785, the Chinese Massacre of 1871, the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, the Cooper Do-nuts Uprising of 1959, the Sunset Strip Curfew Riots of 1966, the Black Cat Riot of 1967, the Huntington Beach Surf Riot of 1986, the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, the San Bernardino Punk Riot of 2006, the Anaheim Riots of 2012, and the another Huntington Beach Surf Riot in 2013. Some (most) were exacerbated by the authorities, and several were fueled by civil rights aspirations, opportunism, and/or racism. Only one that I know of was fueled by hormones, Anglophila, and ARP-2600s.

In most of the USDepeche Mode were known only as that band who sang “People are People.” 1987’s Music for the Masses only reached no. 35 on the pop charts and of its four singles, non troubled the Top 40. In Southern California, however, Depeche Mode and Music for the Masses were massive and on the final performance of that album’s tour they played to an audience of 60,000 fans at the Pasadena Rose Bowl — there biggest concert ever. The event formed the centerpiece of 101, a concert film by cinéma direct pioneer DA Pennebaker.

Depeche Mode’s follow-up, Violator, was eagerly anticipated by fans who waited three years for its release.  The electro-glam single “Personal Jesus” provided a tease when released in 1989 and singlehandedly gave birth to the schaffel subgenere. It cracked the Top 40 which meant Casey Kasem and Rick Dees were obligated to play it on their chart shows, which in turn meant even kids in the heartland heard it emanating from the speakers on their school buses.

Enjoy the Silence” reached no. 8 in the charts, at that point their highest placing yet. The stylish Anton Corbijn-directed music video was duly played on syndicated Saturday morning video shows and suddenly Depeche Mode were familiar to anyone under 30. I remember a troglodyte stand-up having a bit about how wimpy (gasp!) and pale (the horror!) they were… and probably something to about how music made on electronic rather than electric music isn’t “real” (a surprisingly common view among idiots of the day). Just don’t refer to their music as “progressive techno-pop.”

Violator was released on 20 March 1990. I bought a copy on compact disc from a music store in the Columbia Mall. I heard about the Depeche Mode riots was from a syndicated tabloid “news” show — probably either A Current Affair or Hard Copy. I remember the subtext of the report was along the lines of “How is it possible that so many kids are rioting over a band that I, a journalist, have never heard of?”

The the newscasters’ discredit, though, they probably would’ve had the same reaction had the band in question been U2, INXS, or R.E.M., but none of those stadium filling bands of the era were English and in Anglophile California there weren’t just Depeche Mode fanatics but Depeche Mode clones like Anything BoxCause & Effect and Red Flag. The band’s sartorial style, too, was suddenly similar to that of the local “rebel” subculture which was the subject of a series of typically exploitive/concerned Chris Blatchford exposés for Fox Undercover.

Depeche Mode were scheduled to do an in-store signing at the Wherehouse on La Cienega in Beverly Grove, to promote the new album and sign autographs. Fans came from other states and in some cases camped out for four days in oder to catch a glimpse of the band. By the 20th, the line was three kilometers long and contained as many as 17,000 hard core fans.

After 90 minutes, the LAPD shut down the event out of safety concerns. The boys from Basildon escaped out the back entrance, and hundreds of mounted riot police and police helicopters tried to maintain control. The stores windows were smashed and all hell broke loose. Aside from the five injuries, most of the wounds were of merely disappointment — something the band and KROQ tried to soothe by giving away a free promotional cassette of an interview conducted by Richard Blade b/w a remix of “Something to Do.”

 *****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

No Enclave — Exploring English Los Angeles

By many measures Los Angeles is the most diverse place on Earth. One of the many ethnicities present in the region’s population is English-American. However, it seems to me that there’s little real connection between of Angelenos of distant English ancestry and the more visible recent English immigrants who are the focus of this episode of No Enclave.

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ENGLAND AND AMERICA

Do you know all the history of the British Isle? Were you born to be servile?

Luke HainesEngland vs. America

All areas of the world that were ever part of the British Empire -- source: The Red Hat of Pat Ferrick
All areas of the world that were ever part of the British Empire — source: The Red Hat of Pat Ferrick

The US and UK are both cultural descendants of the British Empire. The United States voted to become independent from Great Britain on 2 July 1776. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on the other hand, remains a constitutional monarchy with a royal head of state which British taxpayers subsidize the lives for the bargain annual price of £35.7million.

Naturally, the UK’s official language is English. The US has no official language although approximately 80% of Americans speak some dialect of English. Although many modern Britons view all forms of American English as an aberrations of British English, in fact both have evolved considerably since the 17th Century and some dialects of American English (e.g. the dialect spoken in East Kentucky) are purported by some scholars as being closer to the English spoken during the colonial era. On the other hand, 193 countries use metric measurements whilst only the US, Liberia, and Burma cling to the British Imperial system, based upon stones, the length of Henry I‘s arm, the distance between cricket wickets.

The American does not exist. Everyone is Italian-American, African-American and so on.” 

— Drissa Touré

More than any other American ethnicity, English-Americans are often considered to be unhyphenated Americans, a people whose ancestors magically sprouted from Appalachian soil and just happened to look and speak English. For many Americans, “English-American” isn’t an ethnicity at all — it’s Americans’ ground zero, a blank slate — for them “ethnic” means “any ethnicity other than English-American.”  Similarly, “American culture” means “English-American culture” and the term “English-American” is reserved for the first generation English immigrant, not the American whose forebears colonized Jamestown four centuries ago.

including-unreported1

Eight out of ten of the most common family names in the US originated in the British Isles but in the last census only 9% of Americans identified as English-American. Of course, trans-Atlantic slavery and the Americanization of non-English names means that not everyone with an English surname is of English ancestry but 9% is, objectively speaking, an undercount. Most English-American respondents merely listed themselves as “American.”

Brightwell Manor, to which I wasn't handed the keys
Brightwell Manor in Brightwell. Surprisingly, I wasn’t handed the keys.

English-American is as much an ethnicity as any and hardly the default background of most Americans and certainly not Angelenos. Most Angelenos of distant English-American ancestry (that I know) have little cultural connection to the UK. I went to England for the first time in June and although I enjoyed myself (and even visited the village of Brightwell) I didn’t in any way feel like it was a homecoming of any sort. I even went to Brightwell Manor but although someone drove up in a pick-up as I stood in the driveway, I was not welcomed inside. 

Whereas most Americans of distant English ancestry reject the notion of being ethnic and claim merely to be American, recent English immigrants seem more than any other ethnic group to embrace their status as “perpetual foreigners” — almost always reserving the term “expat” for themselves and almost never using the term “immigrant.” I suspect that this special status is part of the reason so little has been written or said about English-Americans as an ethnicity in Los Angeles. There is no Images of America book titled The English in Los Angeles, there’s no entry on English-Americans in the Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County, and “Anglo,” here, is almost always understood to be short for “Anglo-American,” a non-ethnically-specific counterpart to “Latin-American” and not specifically Americans of English ancestry. There is no officially recognized English-American enclave, as far as I can tell, anywhere in the world.

AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE

Grand Union Flag

“In America, there are fifty-one states… or maybe it’s eighty by now. Does England count? I’m not quite sure.”

Bruce McCullochIn America

Many of the things which we think of as symbols of America have surprisingly deep roots in England. Actual American culinary inventions include cashew chickenchili con carne, fajitas, fortune cookies, French dip, Pasta Primavera, and succotash. On the other hand, ice cream, potato chips, soda, and apple pie were all invented in England. How many ’70s and ‘80s kids watched The Tomorrow People and thought that St. Paul’s Cathedral, shown afterward in the Thames Television ident, was the US Capitol? Even the American flag  that uncontroversial, morally unassailable emblem of righteousness — is based on the design of the British Grand Union Flag

CALIFORNIA VS. ENGLAND

California, conquered named by the Spanish, has a much of a cultural connection with England than does most of the US. 45% of Angelenos speak a language other than English at home. If English culture can anywhere be characterized as “exotic,” it’s Los Angeles. Although the demographic percentage of English-Americans in California is small, California is three times larger than England and is home to more English-Americans than any other state in the US by quite a large margin (even Southern California is 15,970 square kilometers larger than England). Nearly one in ten Britons lives permanently abroad and nowhere has a larger population than the Los Angeles area. 

Personally, the weather in Southern California is my least favorite thing about the place but I realize that this places me in a very small minority. Offer people from anywhere in the world a weekend vacation to either the North York Moors or Palm Springs and I reckon about 99.7% would choose the latter (see Your underwhelming UK holiday photographs) but if 350 annual days of sun are your thing wouldn’t you choose somewhere which also has universal healthcare, great public schools, excellent public transit, and less gun violence? Somewhere like Australia? OK, so Australia is home to the largest population of overseas English. 

Michael White Adobe -- source: Los Angeles Conservancy
Michael White Adobe — source: Los Angeles Conservancy

The first Englishman to arrive in the Mexican Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was possibly Michael White, an English sailor born in1801 who emigrated to Spanish California in 1829. Around 1845, White received a 32 hectare land grant and built an adobe which still stands in the city of San Marino.

James Johnson arrived via boat from Sonora in 1833 bringing with him Mexican and imported Chinese goods. He purchased Rancho San Pedro and became a powerful, local cattleman.

William
William “Don Julian” Workman

William “Don Julian” Workman, born in Temple Sowerby, Westmorland, and who as part of the Workman-Rowland Party arrived in Mexican Alta California in 1841. Workman played a leading role in the insurrection of 1845 against the Mexican governor during the Mexican-American War and was rewarded, for his part with a huge land grant which included the land of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel.

Henry ''Don Enrique'' Dalton -- source: California Historical Society Collection, USC Digital Libraries
Henry ”Don Enrique” Dalton — source: California Historical Society Collection, USC Digital Libraries

Henry “Don Enrique” Dalton was a wealthy English merchant who moved to Los Angeles in 1843 and operated the Enrique Dalton & Co. trading company. The following year he bought Rancho El Susa from Luis Arenas and renamed it Rancho Azusa de Dalton.

The first significant wave of English immigrants to California were attracted not by sun and surf but by gold — and they weren’t alone. The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) attracted tens of thousands Mexicans, Chinese, Australians, Filipinos, Basques, Turks, and Britons. British manufactured goods were also in high demand.

California_Clipper_500

After World War II approximately 70,000 British “war brides” moved to the US, but in early California, another small but substantial wave of immigrants arrived in search of fame in Hollywood.

ENGLISH IN HOLLYWOOD

The British film industry and Hollywood have always been unhealthily close.  Many commercial British films are actually Hollywood/British co-productions and when they’re not, the end results are still virtually indistinguishable. Since the beginning of Hollywood, English filmmakers have been instrumental in shaping the identity of American commercial cinema.

Animal Locomotion Plate 391, Collotypie, 1887
Animal Locomotion Plate 391, Collotypie, 1887

Even before the motion picture there was English photographer Eadweard Muybridge whose photographic studies seem to have anticipated the motion picture. In 1850 Muybridge immigrated to the US. In 1855 he first arrived in California. He led a bizarre life too remarkable to go into here. If you’re interested, seek out Thom Andersen‘s film, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1974).

charlie-chaplin

The first film shot in Hollywood was D.W. Griffith‘s In Old California, completed in 1910, but for several years after the nexus of American cinema was the Edendale neighborhood. In 1913, Walworth-born actor Charlie Chaplin joined the Edendale-based Keystone Film Company and was soon the most popular film star in the world. Chaplin never did become an American citizen although when he was 35 (and married) he did marry a Los Angeles native, Lillita Louise MacMurray, with whom he’d began a sexual affair whilst he was married and she was just 15. In Los Angeles today, “Charlie Chaplin lived here” is practically the west coast real estate equivalent to the east coast’s “Washington slept here.”

Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel

Ulverston-born Stan Laurel, like Chaplin, worked in Fred Karno‘s music hall troupe before moving to California to work in film, in fact arriving on the same boat as Chaplin. His acting career took longer to take off but eventually, after joining the Hal Roach Studios Comedy All Star Players, Laurel was paired with Oliver Hardy. and as Laurel & Hardy they appeared in 107 films. A staircase in Silver Lake was central to a 1932 short titled The Music Box and was named The Music Box Step in their honor.

Later on in the talkie era, many of Hollywood’s biggest talents continued to come from England, including Alfred Hitchcock, Audrey Hepburn, Boris Karloff, Cary Grant, David Lean, James Whale, Laurence Olivier, and Vivien Leigh.

Although  the Academy Awards purportedly honor the best films from around the world, since 1927 only twelve Best Picture winners have been exclusively financed outside the US and eleven of those were British productions. In fact, only nine non-English language films have ever even been nominated for the award. Of course only English language films have won.

The tradition of English filmmakers shaping Hollywood’s identity has continued more recently with the likes of Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle, David Yates, Edgar Wright, John Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Vaughn, Mike Newell, Paul Greengrass, Paul W. S. Anderson, Richard Curtis, Ridley Scott, Sam Mendes, Steve McQueen, Tom HooperTony Scott, and many others.

Few English filmmakers that I can think of have tried so make a film that’s actually about Lost Angeles in any meaningful way. When I was a kid I loved Peter Medak’s Zorro, The Gay Blade (1981) — although not having seen it since I was in single digits for now I stop short of recommending it. In 2000 Ken Loach’s Bread & Roses portrayed a Los Angeles that I recognized and the film was admirable if not one of Loach’s best. 1998’s Gods and Monsters starred Ian McKellen as Frankenstein director and English-Angleno, James Whale1999’s The Limey starred the seemingly always excellent Terence Stamp as a sort of Cockney ronin in Los Angeles and was one of Steven Soderbergh’s best. 

Perhaps the best-loved Hollywood film about the English is Los Angeles is The Loved One. It was directed by Free Cinema co-founder and British New Wave pioneer, Tony Richardson, in 1965 for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was adapted from The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy, a 1948 novel written by Evelyn Waugh, who had arrived in Hollywood in 1947 to oversea the cinematic adaptation of his novel, Brideshead Revisited. Waugh was perplexed by much of Los Angeles but “found a deep mine of literary gold in the cemetery of Forest Lawn.”

ENGLISH AUTHORS IN LOS ANGELES

(Left to right) Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley
Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Julian Huxley, and Aldous Huxley

Although Waugh referred to Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney as “the two artists” of Hollywood, Waugh wasn’t the first, nor the greatest English talent to come to Los Angeles. High Lane-born Christopher Isherwood moved to the US earlier and was, along with WH Auden, caricatured by Waugh in his novel Put Out More Flags as Parsnip and Pimernel — two poets who fled to California to avoid fighting in World War II. Ishwerwood became an American citizen in 1945 and pithily dismissed Los Angeles haters, stating “Either they understand it’s the only place or they don’t.”

Godalming-born Aldous Huxley was a close friend and occasional collaborator with Isherwood (and fellow Englishman/LSD experimenter, Gerald Heard). He moved to Los Angeles even earlier, in 1937, and initially found little to his liking. In 1940 he moved from the city proper to the Llano, in the Antelope Valley, very near Job Harriman’s utopian socialist Llano del Rio commune. In 1954, Huxley published The Doors of Perception about his experiments with mescaline which would prove influential to the psychedelic music scene (and inspire the name of Los Angeles rock band The Doors).

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (1972)

Other noted English authors who’ve moved to Los Angeles including Geoff Dyer, Geoff Nicholson (The Hollywood Dodo), Gerald HeardReyner Banham (Los Angeles The Architecture Of Four Ecologies), Richard Rayner (Los Angeles Without A Map), and Simon Reynolds.

ENGLISH MUSIC IN LOS ANGELES

“Going out to llano. Going to look for Aldous Huxley. There between the power lines and the purple flowers of mescaline.”

Frank Black and the CatholicsLlano del Rio

Much American music has its roots in the British Isles. Many hillbilly songs were adapted from English ones (e.g. “The Knoxville Girl,” an adaptation of “The Oxford Girl”). In 1812 the British again warred with the US and even occupied and destroyed the White House. Amateur poet Francis Scott Key wrote a poem about a British attack, “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Set to the tune of a British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” became the US’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” in 1931.

Although rarely acknowledged, in the 1980s there were several influential English-born rappers including Monie Love, Slick Rick, Young MC, and Zev Love X of KMD (later MF Doom) who helped shape American hip-hop. Americans like Dana Dane, Rockwell, and more recently, Nicki Minaj, have all at various times adopted English accents — and where would New Orleans rap be without Derek B’s “Rock the Beat”? But none of that has much to do with the west coast, where anglophilia has, with exceptions, generally been of a whiter shade of pale.

Before the British Invasion, the “California Sound” ruled the radio, exemplified by Los Angeles acts like The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. It was by no means the only music coming out of Los Angeles, which was also a hub of soul, frat rock, surf music, and country. The sudden popularity of The Beatles, however, inspired hundreds if not thousands of Angeleno teenagers to form their own bands. The most obvious inspiration was the at-first-fictional band, The Monkees, whose singer Davy Jones was from Openshaw, Manchester.

The ByrdsJim McGuinn and Gene Clark originally performed as a Peter & Gordon or Chad & Jeremy-styled duo before adding members, rechristening themselves the suitably English “The Beefeaters” and releasing the Beatles-esque “Please Let Me Love You.” Even as the more American sounding Byrds they echoed the 12-string jangle of The Searchers.

Many English-sounding Angeleno bands appeared in the 1960s including Boyce & Hart, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, The Merry-Go-Round, The Palace Guard, The Standells, and The Turtles. Even after the ‘60s, Los Angeles has continued to produce bands decidedly in debt to the British Invasion(s) including Allah-Las, The Arrogants, The Autumns, The Beat, Bikeride, Charming, The Day Beds, Dramarama, The Dream Syndicate, Further, Gliss, Grand Ronde, The Knack, The Nerves, Opal, The Plimsouls, Shadowland, Silent Gray, Smallstone, SunstormTeen Heroes, The Three O’Clock, The Tyde, The Warlocks, and Zolar X. Although less-indebted to English music, Lily Marlene of Lily and the Ladies and The Grown-Ups was born in the UK.

RODNEY BINGENHEIMER

Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco
Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco

Rodney Bingenheimer isn’t English, although he played one on TV (as a stand in for Davy Jones on The Monkees). He’s also probably responsible more than any other Angeleno for nurturing Los Angeles’s musical anglophilia. Bingenheimer, born in Mountain View, California, named the glam rock club which he launched in 1972, Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. The club was popular with the glam rock elite. Glam rock was a mostly English phenomenon and even American glam rockers like Brett Smiley, Iggy Pop, Jobriath, Lou Reed, and New York Dolls were all bigger in the UK than at home. Still, the Sunset Boulevard club did prove influential on the hair metal scene with which Los Angeles would become widely associated in the 1980s.

In the days of the English Disco, American radio was increasingly dominated by black artists like Billy Preston, The O’Jays, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, and Stevie Wonder and at the same time, “disco” acquired a new connotation not represented at Bingenheimer’s club, which  closed early 1975 — shortly after Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, and Silverhead played a Death of Glitter concert at the Hollywood Palladium. While the music Angeleno Anglophiles listened to may have been almost exclusively made by white English, the fans in largely Asian and Latino Los Angeles have notably always been quite diverse.

rod R-676870-1434563498-8432.jpeg rodney3lp

Bingenheimer resurfaced on KROQ, launching the influential Rodney on the ROQ in 1976. The program championed punk and new wave. The Anglophilia continued after The Jam released In the City in 1977 and Quadrophenia entered cinemas in 1979. Suddenly, the 1960s mod subculture was “revived” (something oddly antithetical to the subculture’s “never look back” ethos). Two-Tone, too, had a large following in Los Angeles.

Coverage of the 1990 Depeche Mode Riots, a then “new” (ten years old) “progressive techno-pop” dance band

KROQ and in particular, Bingenheimer and fellow DJ Richard Blade (born Richard Sheppard in Torquay), were spotlighting and breaking American bands t00 but English bands like Depeche Mode (Blade’s favorite), Morrissey, The Cure, and Siouxsie & The Banshees could sell out massive venues and cause riots when they played in Los Angeles even whilst remaining virtual unknowns across most of the country

Morrissey Karaoke Thrives in Boyle Heights (Shannon Cottrell)

Morrissey, born in Davyhulme, moved to West Hollywood in the early 1990s. He was a regular fixture at the Cat & Fiddle. A local Smiths/Morrissey tribute band, Sweet & Tender Hooligans, has been led by Jose Maldonado since 1992. There are Morrissey karaoke nights on the mostly-Latino Eastside, including Sing Your Life! at The Office Club in Lincoln Heights and MorrisseyOKE™ at Eastside Luv Wine Bar Y Queso in Boyle Heights. Naturally, Morrissey’s popularity amongst Mexican-Americans has been the subject of several investigative pieces and documentaries and tributes like Is It Really So Strange?My Life with Morrissey, Real Life with Morrissey, and Viva Morrissey!, For his part, Morrissey has responded by donning Chivas gear, penning “First in the Gang to Die” and when I once saw him live performing to an audience with three Anglos (one being me) in a T-shirt decorated with an Aztec calendar (and with El Vez! opening) he told the audience that he only know one Spanish word, but that it was his favorite, “Mexico” (which happened to be the name of a new song).

MI0001825426
A compact disc compilation released by Cafe Bleu

Long after the English Disco was shuttered, anglophile club nights returned with rise of Britpop. Perhaps the first was Tita Ortega‘s Superstar, which was held at the now closed British Dominion & Supper Club in Fullerton. In 1996, Piper Ferguson and Shalyce Benfell launched the legendary Cafe Bleu at the Checca Nite Club.  The Checca was later renamed the Tempest Supper Club, which in 1999 also hosted a glam revival club, Flash — co-produced by Jason Lavitt and Bingenheimer.

BANG-18 BANG-26 BANG-23 BANG-24
Britpoppers at Bang! in 2001 — source: Club Bang!

Lavitt was involved in several Anglo-leaning Los Angeles club nights, including the ‘80s-driven Make-Up (launched with Joseph Brooks and Pat Briggs in 1999), the mod-oriented Shout! (also launched with Brooks in 1999) and Bang!, (also launched with Brooks, in 2000). It’s worth noting, I think, that by the turn of the century actual English people were more likely to be listening to the likes of A1, All Saints, Gabrielle, Sash!, or Westlife than they were to be dancing to Blur, Pulp, or Oasis and innovative English music such as UK Garage was (to my great disappointment) completely ignored by Britpoppers, for whom British music apparently peaked in 1995.

“Oasis sing along @ Club Underground” — source: Michele B.

The longest running Britpop club launched in 2001, about five years after the end of that era. Back then Anglenos Dia Becker, Eric Agrusa, Jason “Plucky” Anchondo, Lawrence Gjurgevich, and Mark Wright launched Underground at the Fais-Do-Do. It later moved east to the Tempest, continued down Sunset to The Echo, and finally landed at Chinatowns Grand Star Jazz Club where Gjurgevich is joined by Diana Meehan of the pretty-English-sounding band The Sweater Girls.

ENGLISH-AMERICAN RADIO

Steve Jones hosting Jonesy’s Jukebox in 2004
Steve Jones hosting Jonesy’s Jukebox in 2004

Bingeneheimer is still on KROQ, albeit relegated to the 12am-3am on Monday morning slot. The station became part of corporate giant CBS in 1997 and his early morning slot is the only time listeners can expect to hear anything worth listening to. After KROQ went mainstream, Indie 103.1 launched in 2003, playing the sort of music KROQ was formerly known for. It’s best known show was Jonesy’s Jukebox, hosted by Hammersmith-born Steve Jones from 2004 until 2009, when the station went off the air. There are still prominent English voices on the Los Angeles airwaves, however. Birmingham-born Nic Harcourt, hosts the KCSN Morning Show with Nic Harcourt and Bath-reared Frances Anderton hosts DnA: Design and Architecture on KCRW, a station based in Santa Monica.

LITTLE BRITAIN

Although there are larger percentages of English living in Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, Westlake Village, Topanga, Sierra Madre, Manhattan Beach, Malibu, and the Hollywood Hills, Santa Monica is sometimes referred to as “Little Britain.” Only 8% of Santa Monicans identify as English but its presence is long-established and high profile, reflected in the presence of an English market, an English restaurant, the offices of British Weekly, and a small but vial handful of English pubs. Although they’re all located in a reasonably small are Santa Monica, Little Britain is more of a psychogeographic space than a physical location.

THE BRITISH ARE GOING! THE BRITISH ARE GOING!

Santa Monica began acquiring the reputation for being Little Britain at least as early as the 1950s, when, after World War II’s conclusion, many English in the aerospace and defense industry moved to the US where despite the war’s end military spending just continued to increase. As Santa Monica becomes less and less affordable for all but the wealthiest, its British population had decreased dramatically. In 2000, there were 1,171 English living in Santa Monica. In 2011, when the US Census Bureau conducted the American Community Survey, that number had dropped to just 807. Thanks to businesses catering to English, however, the population remains highly visible. 

ENGLISH PUBS

Pre-zombie times at the Winchester
Pre-zombie times at the Winchester

To me the public house is profoundly wonderful. However, having recently been to English pubs in England as well as those referred to as English pubs in the US I have noticed a few key differences. English pubs in Los Angeles are few and far between — rarely within stumbling distance. At pubs in Los Angeles there’s seemingly never a moment when music isn’t blasting — and in some cases drowned out by an even louder television blasting sports. Compared to our so-called Irish pubs, however, which are often akin to green-tinted Hooters, they’re still among the best places to enjoy some beer, relaxation, and conversation.

A word of warning; not every establishment with a pub-sounding name ieven remotely resembles a pub. They do serve alcohol at Hyperion Public and the Pig N Whistle but I doubt that any sober person has ever referred to either as anything other than a bar. Public House 1739 is a bit like a pub designed by frat boys who’d looked at pictures of pubs on Pinterest and surmised that they’d better choose a random olde timey year to add to their establishment’s name.

The Whale and Ale
The Whale & Ale

Recognizably pub-like are The Whale & Ale (San Pedro), Lucky Baldwin’s (Pasadena), and The Fox & Hounds and The Kings Head II (both Studio City). I haven’t yet visited (and thus have no opinion on) The Lost Knight (Angeleno Heights), The Robin Hood (Sherman Oaks), the Underground Pub & Grill (Hermosa Beach), or The Olde Ship British Pub & Restaurant (with locations in both Fullerton and Santa Ana).

Inside the Daily Pint -- source: EthenWithAnE
Inside the Daily Pint — source: EthenWithAnE

Santa Monica is pub central, home to Ye Olde King’s Head, the Britannia Pub, the Cock ‘n Bull, and the Daily Pint — only four and too spread out for a pub crawl. Josh Stephens’s “In L.A., thirsting for a decent bar culture,” makes several points, including that a lack of bar density often leads to increased drunk driving since bars aren’t within walking distance. It should probably be figured into the website Walkscore or someone should launch Barscore. When the Expo Line is completed, getting to and from the Westside’’s pubs will become that much easier but it’s still worth remembering that a trip to the restroom should be taken before a long transit ride.

Inside the Cock 'n' Bull -- source: Erin O.
Inside the Cock ‘n’ Bull — source: Erin O.

Christopher Hutt‘s book, The Death of the English Pub, was published in 1973 and the English public house has repeatedly been pronounced dead in the following four decades. It’s hard to reconcile, for me, because in the UK it seems like there’s a pub on every corner whereas in Los Angeles County there are whole communities where all drinking is done in private or parking lot. When the Cat & Fiddle closed (and are currently in the process of relocating), it felt like a bigger blow than it would’ve were there more like it on the pubscape.

Ye Olde King's Head -- source: Yara
Ye Olde King’s Head — source: Yara “Yarita” G.

The Britannia is alright (bit too much of a sports bar for me) but the King’s Head is my go-to pub on the Westside. One of Los Angeles’s biggest failings is its lack of bar density and the last time I went to the King’s Head I walked twelve kilometers (or eight British Imperial Miles)  to do so. After thirstily tossing back a pint of Tetley’s, I surveyed the bar.

ENGLISH CUISINE IN LOS ANGELES

The Trip, in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon eat their way across Northern England.
The Trip, in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon eat their way across Northern England.

I’m not sure to what all of those tired, old jokes about English food can be attributed. Everywhere I ate in England was fantastic. The jokes seem to date from the stone age — or at least before the invention of refrigeration or the discovery of Indian food. Anyway, should Americans really throw stones in a glass kitchen stocked with processed plastic marketed as “American cheese,” bucket meals, beverages that double as car battery corrosion solvents, chocolate bars that taste like vomit, and macrobrews which taste like Comet? Our ancestors rightfully regarded skim milk as industry waste but now plenty of Americans think it’s a suitable breakfast item when poured over sugary corn junk. It’s not really in the same ball park as a full English.

The Pikey -- source: Elizabeth Daniels
The Pikey — source: Elizabeth Daniels

Although all of our pubs serve food, the only proper English stand-alone restaurant that I’m aware of is The Pikey, the head chef at which is East Dulwich-born Ralph Johnson. There’s also an English food truck, Cod Save the Queen.

H. Salt Fish & Chips -- source: Una
H. Salt Fish & Chips — source: Una

The English fish and chips chain, H. Salt Esq., launched in 1965 by as Salt’s Fish & Chips by Haddon Salt. Salt had originally sold fish and chips in Skegness and opened his first American restaurant in Sausalito. In the 1970s it was at its most popular but even today there are local franchises in Anaheim, Beverly Grove, Gardena, Koreatown, Lake Balboa, North Hollywood, San Fernando, Sawtelle, Temple City, and Westminster.

FORMERLY ENGLISH, FORMERLY EXTANT

Inside the Prince -- source: Joe
Inside the Prince — source: Joe “Nitro” F.

There are, of course, many English-themes institutions which have come and in many case gone. The Prince opened in the 1920s as The Windsor and still retains a British decor even though the mostly Korean clientele will find soju on the menu, not stout. Nearby, the HMS Bounty (which opened in 1948 as The Gay Room) retains an English vibe; it’s dark, named after a ship in the Royal Navy, and there are British decorations. Both are located, not coincidentally, near the former site of the Ambassador Hotel, in operation from 1921-1989 and demolished in 2005. 

The old(e) English part of the Red Lion -- source: Antho
The old(e) English part of the Red Lion — source: Antho “I am N–the Songwriter” L.

The Red Lion in Silver Lake began existence in 1959 as an English pub before transforming into a faux-Bavarian gasthaus in 1963. In fact, the “Red Lion” is by far the most popular pub name in the UK. While the biergarten and middle room are appropriately Germanic, the original section, downstairs, still retains an air of Englishness. Gone but not forgotten are Royal ClaytonsThe British & Dominion Social Club, and the Tudor House.

ENGLISH MARKETS

Inside the Continental Shop -- source: Pavel A.
Inside the Continental Shop — source: Pavel A.

Santa Monica also has at least one mostly-English market, the Continental Shop. Its exotic groceries include Maltesers, cans of Heinz beansbrown sauce, and a huge rental library of British series and films on video and audio cassette. The shop is owned by Australians and there are thus also Australian delicacies like the leftover brewers’ yeast extract marketed and sold as a food spread. Other English grocers in the Southland include The British Grocer (Fullerton) and British Connection (Torrance). Ye Olde King’s Head’s has a small gift “shoppe” too — and actually, most of the Indian markets that I know of have at least an aisle stocked with English goods.

ENGLISH TEA

animal tea

On the subject of formal tea, I don’t know much. I’ve never had a low tea service but it seems that many Americans think all English are tea connoisseurs who have break out the doilies, scones, thin sandwiches, macaroons, macarons, and light music every time they drink from a porcelain cup and saucer. Although my firsthand experience is hardly scientific, most English I’ve seen are content to drink dusty bags of low quality Tetley or PG Tip scalded by water heated in a scaly, electric kettle. The result tastes a bit like I imagine pencil shavings in hot cream would.

Rose Tree Cottage -- source: Jennifer J.
Rose Tree Cottage — source: Jennifer J.

Traditionally tea has not been cultivated in the UK. In fact, the only tea plantation is maintained by Tregothnan, a tea company founded in 2005.

Tea was first cultivated and consumed in South Asia and is most popular in Morocco and Turkey. In Los Angeles, the biggest consumers of tea seem to be young people who prefer Taiwanese boba to Earl Grey and there are tea houses packed with card-players and students in the San Gabriel Valley and North Orange County. Anglophiles, however, seem to want their tea parties to resemble the sort that young girls throw for their stuffed animals and dolls. The only businesses that I know of that serve formal, low tea are the Rose Tea Cottage (Pasadena) and The Rose Garden Tea Room at The Huntington (San Marino).

ENGLISH SHOPPING

There are, of course, shops which specialize in the kinds of English products not found at grocers or gift shops. It’s not at all uncommon to see Aston Martins, Bentleys, Jaguars, and Land Rovers idling in Los Angeles gridlock. Without having paid too much attention to their license plate frames, I assume that the majority are sold by local car dealers (although I’m not sure why any city dweller would want one). Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US, has the second largest public transit system, and the second highest ridership. Besides, the bus, train, and rapid transit were all invented in England whereas the car is German.

Posers -- source: Time Out
Posers — source: Time Out

English clothing brands commonly sold in Los Angeles include Barbour, Burberry, Dr. Martens, Duncan Quinn, French Connection, Paul Smith, Reebok, Reiss, and Ted Baker. The Melrose store Posers carries more subculturally-specific brands like Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, Lonsdale, and Merc. There’s also a Ben Sherman store in Beverly Grove‘s Beverly Center and the Philadelphia-founded Urban Outfitters carries a selection of Fred Perry.

ENGLISH-AMERICAN TELEVISION

“The Big Two…  Britain and America… um, sorry rest-of-the-world!”

— Ricky Gervais, taken out of context

Unlike Hollywood cinema, which has always been closely tied to British cinema, American and British television have largely operated along separate lines. There are few British-American co-productions such as Extras (co-produced by BBC and HBO), Derek (produced for Channel 4 but somehow a “Netflix original”) — both of which star Ricky Gervais. His former creative partner, Stephen Merchant, starred in HBO’s Hello Ladies, about an Englishman’s search for love in a Los Angeles. I liked the series although the Los Angeles it depicted was to me almost completely unrecognizable.

Angela Lansbury was born in Regent’s Park, London to an Irish actress and English politician. In 1940 she moved to New York City. After living there for two years she relocated to Los Angeles and began acting in MGM films. In the 1960s her daughter Deirdre developed an unfortunate association with the Manson Family and later opened a restaurant, Ristorante Positano, in Westwood (it closed in 2005). Lansbury’s son Anthony became a television director, helming 68 episodes of Murder, She Wrote, a long-running series which starred Lansbury as  best-selling English mystery author and amateur sleuth. Although set in Maine, it was mostly filmed in and around Los Angeles (primarily at Universal Studios).

Patrick Stewart was born Mirfield, West Yorkshire in 1940. He’s most widely known for playing the French Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation and its successor films — and to fans of superhero cartoons as Professor Charles Xavier. He’s also a respected stage actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He’s currently starring on upcoming Starz sitcom, Blunt Talk, in which he portrays an English newscaster named Walter Blunt who moves to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles station KCET and Globe Trekker co-produced a series called Global LA, which featured an episode called “British in Southern California.”

More than HBO or BBC America, PBS (or more specifically, its affiliates) have done more to bring English television in it’s original form to American audiences. Beginning with WGBH’s airing of The Forsyte Saga in 1967, PBS affiliates began purchasing British shows and rebroadcasting them in the US. The US’s longest-running weekly prime time drama series, Masterpiece Theatre, debuted on PBS in 1971 and its episodes are all BBC, Channel 4, and ITV productions. In 1980 it spawned another, similar series, Mystery! 

In 1974, KERA in Dallas was the first American station to broadcast Monty Python’s Flying Circus and many PBS affiliates soon followed suit. In 1977, Fawlty Towers became the UK’s best selling overseas program. Doctor Who was also discovered by America in the late 1970s, although episodes of the originally serialized show were typically shown over the course of several hours.

Mike Frisbie introducing a Doctor Who series for IPTV

Other American television networks apparently doubt that their advertisers would go for English rebroadcasts and they’re remade and inflated from a dozen episode to hundreds. American series including All in the Family, American Idol, Big Brother, Cash Cab, Cracker, Coupling, Dancing With the Stars, Dear John, Hell’s Kitchen, House of Cards, Kitchen Nightmares, Men Behaving Badly, The Office, Prime Suspect, Queer as Folk, Sanford & Sons, Spaced, Three’s Company, X Factor, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Weakest Link, and many others were all adapted from English series.

BBC series Stephen Fry in America and Top Gear have filmed in the US and The Equalizer starred Croydon-born Edward Woodward as a classy vigilante but was filmed in New York — as is John Oliver‘s Last Week Tonight. More often than not, British actors appear playing Americans: Alex O’Loughlin (Hawaii Five-0), Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead), Idris Elba (The Wire), Mischa Barton (The OC), and Hugh Laurie (House) all feature English playing Americans.

ENGLISH ARCHITECTURE & ENGLISH-AMERICAN ARCHITECTS

John and Donald Parkinson's Bullocks Wilshire Building (1929) -- Source unknown
John and Donald Parkinson’s Bullocks Wilshire Building (1929) — source unknown

As the first industrialized country in the world, the UK has long pioneered both urban and suburban development and architecture. In the 19th century some English factory owners built residences for their workers which inspired public housing and at the same time the middle classes relocated to the outskirts. The

John B. Parkinson
John B. Parkinson

Old Nichol, built in London in the 1880s, is often considered the first public housing project. Recently Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the Homes For Heroes Initiative For Homeless Vets, which borrows a phrase from the UK’s patriotic attempts to provide homes for those in need of assistance. In Los Angeles, the last public housing projects were built in 1955 because Republicans successfully convinced voters that housing war veterans and the poor was unpardonably un-American.

One of Los Angeles’s most important architects was English-American John B. Parkinson, born in Scorton in 1861. He moved to Los Angeles in 1894 and had a hand in the design of a good deal of the Beaux Arts high rises of Old Downtown‘s Historic Core such as the A.G. Bartlett Building, Braly Block, and Hotel Alexandria. He also designed (or had a hand in the design of) Bullocks Wilshire, the California Bank Building, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles City Hall, Title Guarantee and Trust Company Building, Zumberge Hall of Science, and my favorite, Union Station.

Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments (IAmNotAStalker)
Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments (IAmNotAStalker)

Kitschy English architectural aspirations are evident in both houses and housing developments such as Janes Village in Altadena, Lawrence and Martha Joseph Residence and Apartments in Palms, the Spadena House in Beverly Hills, and the Snow White Cottages in Los Feliz.  Also, shout out to Toad Hall in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which since part of Disneyland isn’t actually a residence but the design of which was reputedly inspired by either Fawley Court, Hardwick House, or Mapledurham House — all country houses in the Thames Valley.

Many communities in Los Angeles and Orange County have strangely English names. There’s Canterbury Knolls, Chesterfield Square, Hyde Park, Ivanhoe, Oxford Square, Sherwood Forest, Westminster, and Windsor Square, to name a few. Sometimes the English affectation barely extends beyond a community’s name, perhaps to Victorian looking lamp posts and maybe a mock Tudor strip mall. 

ENGLISH LANDSCAPE

The influence of the English culture on Southern California has not always been so great. The English upper classes are to blame for the dumb, non-productive grass lawn. Although grass lawns and rose gardens might do reasonably well in the UK without much maintenance, the effort to impose them on our semi-arid Chaparral has certainly not helped the situation with our droughts. Maintaining a stupid grass lawn has become such an imbedded part of the American psyche that I’ve heard people dismiss drought tolerant, native yards as ugly. The picture below is of one of those “ugly” yards and two houses down, when I took this picture, I saw a man apparently compelled by muscle memory to water his stupid grass lawn… even though it was raining. 

Native lawn

The grass lawn is an “innovation” of England’s upper classes, designed to conspicuously flaunt wealth by not doing anything productive with land. By this twisted toff logic, a food-producing garden is something of which to ashamed (and therefore planted, when necessary, in the backyard with the equally shameful clothesline). Plant something on a road verge or let your lawn go native and you may risk the ire of your local fascist homeowner associations.

Just because it's not snowing doesn't mean that it's not
Just because it’s not snowing doesn’t mean that it’s not “real” winter — Madrona Marsh during the rainy season

I sympathize with transplants from temperate climates who wrongly think that Los Angeles is a desert without seasons. It does have seasons, of course, as does every corner of the planet although they don’t look like those in England or the Middle West. Neither is the fact that it’s not a drizzle soaked bog mean that it’s a desert (except when it is — there are many natural wetlands in Los Angeles). Learning to read the seasons of unfamiliar climate can actually be quite rewarding.

The Mars-like natural landscape of Los Angeles
The Mars-like natural landscape of Los Angeles

In Hugh Laurie’s mostly-excellent piece, Hugh Laurie’s Los Angeles, the English actor claims that without water Los Angeles would resemble the surface of Mars. Turn off the water here (please) and Southern California will no more resemble Mars than would Australia, South Africa, or the Mediterranean — — or to name a place most Britons are familiar with — Ibiza. We’re currently experiencing the worst drought the region has experienced in 1,200 years and the myth that Los Angeles is an artificial oasis in the desert kept alive only by lawn watering is crap. Turn of your hoses and sprinklers, I implore you. 

Shall I compare thee to the surface of Mars?
The Nature Gardens — shall I compare thee to the surface of Mars?

Not all English subscribe to myth that Los Angeles is a desert. Lila Higgins, Special Projects Assistant at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, knows this. Facing off against the large Exposition Park Rose Garden (itself pretty English and established in 1928) are the history museum’s new-ish Nature Gardens, teeming with life and created in a space formerly occupied by a parking lot. A visit will hopefully make clear for all but the most deluded that Los Angeles’s diversity isn’t limited to humankind and that the native landscape little resembled that of the lifeless red planet.

DAVID HOCKNEY

Pool with two figures, 1972, acrylic on canvas (David Hockney)
Pool with two figures, 1972, acrylic on canvas (David Hockney)

One Englishman who seems to like Southern California the way it is — especially it’s private pools — is David Hockney. The Bradford-born Pop Artist was inspired by residences of Los Angeles to paint a famous series of acrylics. I believe that my brother had a poster of one of his pieces in our bedroom when we were kids (I went with Jacob Lawrence). He first moved to Los Angeles in 1964 and remained until 1968 before returning to Los Angeles in 1978 at which point he purchased residences both in Nichols Canyon and Malibu (although he’s since sold the latter).

ENGLISH LODGING

RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary

There are a few lodging houses in Los Angeles which aspire to create a sense of Englishness or, in the case of a converted ocean liner, are actually from England. The RMS Queen Mary is a Long Beach hotel converted from a retired British ship that sailed the North Atlantic from 1936-1967 (but was built not in Clydebank, Scotland). Yes, she was built not in England but in Clydebank, Scotland — but her port of registry was Liverpool.

The London West Hollywood is home to an English bulldog but English guests will no doubt be confounded by shower doors which stretch all the way around the bath as well as combined hot and cold faucets. The Palihouse, with locations in West Hollywood and Santa Monica, apparently caters to English visitors — although I’m not exactly sure how beyond featuring decorative Union Jack throw pillows. Over in Orange County there are fake English hotels and motels near Disneyland including the Anaheim Camelot Inn & Suites and the not-so-highly regarded Robin Hood Motel.

EVENTS AND ORGANIZATIONS

There is at least two British social organizations in Los Angeles. According to the website of local Soho House, in West Hollywood, “Unlike other club concepts, which often focus on wealth and status, we aim to assemble communities of members that have something in common: namely, a creative soul.” Creative souls can become members for the low price (depending on desired level of membership) of $1000 to $2800 (plus a $300 registration fee and 9% sales tax). 

Brits in LA, as far as I can tell, is free but does require one to apply for membership to their Facebook group and there is a “code of conduct.” They organize a weekly breakfast club, Sunday luncheons, day trips, and have a football team, Blaggers United FC.

The annual BritWeek was launched by Wirral-born Nigel Lythgoe in 2007. Christian Smith and Englishwoman Rosie Woodward Smith’s “street museum project,” Walking LA, is related to the particularly English tradition of rambling. The offices of the British Consulate-General are located in Century City.

ENGLISH-AMERICAN SPORTS

Boris Karloff bowling om a match for the OCC (Overseas Cricket Club) om 1948).  C. Aubrey Smith at bat for the HCC (Hollywood Cricket Club)

Boris Karloff of the Overseas Cricket Club bowling (left) and C. Aubrey Smith of the Hollywood Cricket Club at bat in 1948.

Although colloquially known as “America’s pastime,” (or alternately, “America’s nap time’) baseball has its origins in the Tudor era ball-and-bat game, rounders.  So, too, did cricket, which although popular in many parts of the world retains its strong associations with England. Cricket teams formed in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Riverside in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and Pasadena and Hollywood formed cricket clubs in the 1930s. Today the sport is represented locally by the Corinthian Cricket Club and the Compton Cricket Club (who formed as the Los Angeles Krickets in 1995).

Perhaps even more associated with England is the game of soccer, or association football. Los Angeles is currently home to one professional football club, Los Angeles Galaxy, which has employed several Englishmen including David Beckham, Kyle Patterson, and Steven Gerrard. From 2004 till 2014 their crosstown rivals were Club Deportivo Chivas USA, who employed John Cunliffe and Ryan Smith. In 2018, the Los Angeles Football Club is set to become Los Angeles’s second association football team. As for American football, or “handegg,” Culver City is home to the NFL Network‘s headquarters but Los Angeles hasn’t had an NFL team in over twenty years.

Los Angeles Waves Netball Club
Los Angeles Waves Netball Club

I only just heard of netball for the first time in June but it turns out that there’s the Los Angeles Waves Netball Club, who formed in 2002.  The English sports of badminton, darts, field hockey, snooker, and squash are all also represented and too numerous to list. 

As always, additional information is always welcome and considered for inclusion. Just leave me a note in the comments. Until next time, or as the English say, until next time!

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

One Album Wonders: April 16th

April 16th promo photo
April 16th (APRIL 16TH APPRECIATION SOCIETY)

English hard rock/heavy metal band April 16th formed in London in the summer of 1985. The members were Chris Harris (guitar), Dave Russell (vocals), Eric Puffet (bass), John Fisher (drums), and Lawrence Mills (lead guitar). They released just one album, Sleepwalking, in January, 1989. It was recorded at Cherry Studios in Croydon and released by High Dragon Dragons, a subsidiary of Parisian label, Black Dragon Records. The sleeve painting was done by Mike Stick.

April 16th - Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking garnered the April 16th some attention. Radio 1 invited them to record a session with the lateTommy Vance, influential host of The Friday Rock Show and champion of heavy metal. They also appeared in a feature on ITV‘s London Weekend Television. There was a review in Kerrang! A second album was tentatively planned for release in 1990 but never saw the light of day. The band broke up in 1991.

 *****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!