If you’re familiar at all with local Los Angeles clickbait generators and news aggregators you may’ve noticed that whether they’re promoting the hottest restaurants for “celeb” sightings, the hottest restaurants for “celeb” chefs, game changing brunch spots, or juiceries one has to visit before (never after) one dies, they all have one thing in common — they’re focused entirely on the Westside and Central Los Angeles. Those two regions, whilst together larger than all of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and San Francisco combined, comprise just 3% of Los Angeles County’s area.
Perhaps this exclusion of 97% of Los Angeles is driven by the demands of the advertising overlords. Maybe the underpaid “content generators” are just ignorant of most of the region — although nothing I’ve read suggests that firsthand familiarity is ever as prized by their bosses as the ability to describe everything and everyone as “hipster.”
I’m not knocking Central Los Angeles, nor even the Westside. For all the mockery of it, the Westside has some of the best Indonesian, Brazilian, and Persian restaurants, is home to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and boasts the closest things we have to proper pubs. Central Los Angeles, of course, is typically broken up into the regions of Downtown, Hollywood, Midtown, and Mideast Los Angeles. Downtown deserves more than a footnote, Hollywood is famous around the world for it’s Thai food, Midtown is home to the city’s most vibrant hottest neighborhood (Koreatown), and MELA is where most of the city’s pupuserias are found.
It’s been ten years since the death of Tony Ogden (30 May 1962 – 26 July 2006).
Anthony William Ogden was born in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport (Greater Manchester) in 1962. He studied art and design at Stockport College in Greater Manchester. From 1977-1979, Ogden played drums in a punk band, The Blackout, which also included Dave Conner (vocals), Gordon King (bass), James Fry (guitar), and Julia Adamson (guitar) — all fellow art and design students.
In 1982, James Fry and Gordon King were drawn by music to the city of Sheffield (see the documentary: Made in Sheffield). With a Casio MT32 borrowed from Jim’s older brother, ABC‘s Martin Fry, the two began making music together as World of Twistwith a friend from Northampton, Rory Connolly, on saxophone. The band’s name was a reference to Decca‘s budget-priced “The World Of…” compilations, launched in 1968 with The World of Mantovani.
Around 1983 they were joined by Ogden (again on drums) and Andy Robins (synthesizer). At the time of his joining World of Twist, Ogen was living in Manchester. Apparently he disliked the idea of living in Sheffield and compromised by commuting from Chapel-en-le-Frith, located midway between the two cities. Ogden was then co-operating a freight company, Alligator Express, with future World of Twist manager, Dave Hardy.
After Robins quit, Andrew Hobson (bass) and Nick Philips (organ) came on board. A collection of demos recorded on a TDK C90 cassette in 1984 or ’85 were released as Wigwam. The tracks included were a cover of “Thunderball,” “44,” “America,” “Casio Soul 5ive,” “The Big Theme,” “Ice Rink,” “Tonight,” “She,” “NSEW,” and “Skidding into Love.” They reflect that from the beginning World of Twist were influenced by synthpop, spy film score, Northern Soul, and Roxy Music. Of the tracks, “America,” “The Big Theme,” and “NSEW” show the most promise and suggest that fellow struggling Sheffielders Pulp were likely taking notes.
Soon after recording the demos, likely in 1985 (although some sources claim 1988), the band cut “The Sausage,” “Skidding Into Love,” and “Space Rockit“at The Music Factory, in Rotherham. “The Sausage” is almost completely at odds with the then-prevailing sensibility of mid-’80s Sheffield, and predating Denim‘s mid-’90s mash-up of ’70s sitcom themes and chintzy electronics by more than a decade. Those recordings wouldn’t see an official release until 1992, after the band’s dissolution, when Caff Records released the songs as a CD single.
In 1986, the band members organized a club night, World of Music, but the members grew increasingly disillusioned with Sheffield and soon after went their separate ways. Fry moved to London to pursue photography. In 1988, Hobson, King, and Ogden moved to Manchester where they shared a house with Martin Wright of the band, Laugh (which later evolved into Intastella). The remaining members of World of Twist added Alan “Adge” Frost on synthesizers and visual effects, Julia “MC Shells” McGreechin on “swirls and sea noises,” and Angela Reilly on visual effects. Ogden agreed to take over vocals, but not as drummer and thus Nick Sanderson (formerly of Clock DVA and The Gun Club) was brought into the fold. Fry returned as the band’s photographer and occasionally, lighting technician.
In August 1990, a sold-out gig at the Manchester Internationalwhere they were supported by Intastella, one of the few bands with whom they shared an aesthetic. Both bands were introduced by comedy duo Vic and Bob. Early in the year they released a four-track demo featuring “The Storm,” “Blackpool Tower Suite,” “The Spring,” and a cover of The Rolling Stones‘ “She’s a Rainbow.” Although only the latter could fairly be characterized as “baggy,” World of Twist were perhaps inevitably lumped into the Madchester scene, sharing a geography and danceability with their Madchester peers, if little else — more apparently inspired as they were by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop,Detroit proto-punk, the creations of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, glitter rock, Joe Meek, and Krautrockthan acid house and psychedelic rock.
The band’s first official release was “The Storm” b/w “She’s a Rainbow,” the final production of Martin Hannett, and released on 15 November 1990.
The band made their national television debut on Channel 4’s The World, where Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood likened them to “The Velvet Underground on acid.”
On BBC’s Juke Box Jury, norm-authority Bernard Sumner incredulously described them as “a bit ‘we are weird’.” In the end it topped out at #42 on the national pop charts. If there’d been regional charts, it might’ve topped them in the North and on 23 December they played a sold out gig at the Manchester Ritz, again supported by Intastella. On 29 December 1990, World of Twist returned to Sheffield to play The Leadmill. The support band was Pulp, for whom the gig was also a homecoming, as they’d relocated to London in 1988.
On 16 March 1991, World of Twist again played The Leadmill with Pulp opening (footage available here). Music writer Simon Reynolds described World of Twist as “camp sublime” and “kitsch-adelia” but by then both descriptions could’ve as properly been applied to both bands. In 1991 they played the Manchester Academy and The Hacienda. On 27 March, they played a sold out show at the London Astoria, supported by Saint Etienne (whose new singer Sarah Cracknell made her debut that night) and Sensurround. Five songs from the performance were shown on Granada and on 25 June they recorded a Peel Session.
On 28 October, World of Twist released their only album, Quality Street. The photos for the band sleeve were taken in the historic Pantiles area of the Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent and were designed to echo the 1970s designs for tins of Quality Street sweets. The music within, however, sounded a bit thin to many ears, apparently due to unsympathetic production and mixing from The Grid. Ogden later famously told a writer for The Guardian that, “We’d spent £250,000 making an album with the smallest bollocks in history.” Two weeks before the release, the New Musical Express reported that MC Shells had left the band. In an era ruled by the likes of Amy Grant, Bryan Adams, Roxette, and Seal, it nonetheless managed to climb to #50.
On 30 September 1991, World of Twist released “Sweets” b/w a cover of The Honeycombs‘ “This Too Shall Pass Away.” The single was promoted, ironically, with packs of cigarettes and a promotional video starring Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley as a World of Twist fan (not much of a stretch as Saint Etienne sang about World of Twist on at least two occasions: “London Belongs to Me” and “Over the Border“). The music press tried to lump like-minded bands Saint Etienne, Denim, and Pulp into something they labeled “The Crimplene Scene” which would’ve been great, perhaps, had it been a real thing and not merely the wishful thinking of music journalists at Select. Had it been a real thing, surely “Sweets” would’ve had a better showing than just reaching #47.
The penultimate single, the bubblegum MC5-ish “Sons of the Stage” b/w “Life And Death (Remix).” “Sons of the Stage” was so beloved by the brothers Gallagher of Dadchester band, Oasis, that they nearly chose to call themselves Sons of the Stage. They also used World of Twist’s James Fry as their album photographer on Definitely Maybe. In later years, Liam Gallagher‘s Beady Eye recorded a by-the-numbers cover. The World of Twist version only reached #58.
Hoping to recoup a bit of their costs, Circa released one last single, the band-dismissed “She’s A Rainbow (Fluke remixes)” b/w a different recording of “Lose My Way” in early 1992. The band mimed along to B-side on the children’s television show, Hanger 16, after which Ogden announced his wish to retire from both singing. Ogden encouraged Saunderson to take the lead, but the latter refused. Richard Branson sold Virgin in June 1992 to Thorn EMI and much of the label’s bands were cut loose as a result, including World of Twist. Fruitless auditions for a new singer followed and the remaining members met with Alan McGee in 1993. It’s hard to imagine a label where World of Twist would’ve been a more natural fit than Creation… at least before they became purveyors of the boring, massively popular, dad rock for Neoliberal politicians and the untucked army.
World of Twist disbanded, although in 1993 Fry, King, and Sanderson joined Rob Marche and Stuart Boreman in the shambolic and glitter revival cult act Earl Brutus. They went on to release two albums, (somewhat ironically, with Sanderson as the more-than-capable vocalist) both worth tracking down: Your Majesty… We Are Here (1996, Deceptive Records) and Tonight You Are The Special One(1998, Fruition). After that band’s dissolution, Sanderson played drums on The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s album Munki and inJim Reid‘s Freeheat.Sadly, he died on 9 June 2008 of lung and lymphoid cancer at the age of 47. According to his obituary, his idea of heaven was driving a train whilst listening to Steve Hackett’s Spectral Morning. Fry and King next joined Laurence Bray, Stuart Boreman, Stuart Wheldon, and Vincent Gibson asThe Pre New.
After the World of Twist, Ogden moved back to his parents’ home in Stockport. He didn’t stop making music either. Between 1992 and ’95, he and co-writer John West recorded demos on an eight-track which came to be known, amongst the band’s hardcore fans as The Lost World of Twist album. The recordings were, however, neither lost nor truly World of Twist and Ogden and West hoped to professionally record and release them as Man, Myth, and Music. The tracks include the instrumental “Roll the Dice,” the wonderful “Coral Sea,” the equally wonderful “Love Affair,” “Hot Young Blue Star,” “The Red Sea of Emotion,” the instrumental “The B-Link,” “New Electric Pop and Soul,” “Chewing Gum,” and a cover of “MacArthur Park.”
In 1994, Saint Etienne’s Icerink released the compilation We Are Icerink, which included tracks by Earl Brutus, Sensuround, Supermarket, Shampoo, and others. A recording of “New Electric Pop and Soul” was attributed to World of Twist, according to John West, because they couldn’t think of another name.
In 2000, Ogden briefly emerged from self-imposed seclusion to collaborate with a band called Mum & Dad on the song, “Dawn Rider.” In 2002, a collection of home recordings made between 1993 to 2001 were compiled as The Lost Parade.The uniformly excellent tracks include “Honey,” “Primaeval Crime,” “Schoolgirl Boogie,” a re-recording of “Love Affair,” “Hoochycoochy Girl,” the genuinely affecting “Can I Come Over?,” “Pop Wheels,” “Electric Dress,” “Puddletown Flirt,” “Miss Adventure,” and “The Lost Parade.” Three tracks recorded at Ogden’s home around 2003 were compiled as the Girls in ColoursEP and credited to Bubblegum.
In January 2005 Ogden was interviewed by The Guardian about what he’d been up to and where he was headed and he revealed “I spent four years on smack watching Third Reich movies because the good guys always win.” He also told revealed that his new project was called Bubblegum (or sometimes, Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion), and he released a digital EP titled Escape in the Love Machines. The tracks included were “Honey,” “Steal Your Love,” “Veronica Always,” “Sadness Is My Name,” “Escape in the Love Machines,” and “Planet Fades Away.”
Another collection of home recordings made between 2002 and 2005 was named The Angry Brigade. Its tracks included “What’s Your Game?,” “Red Sky (Dance on the Beach),” “Shake It Baby,” “Rusty Dreams,” “Random Events in a Dying Universe,” “Dollybird,” “The Angry Brigade,” “Drucilla,” a re-recording of “Coral Sea,” and the title track from the Escape in the Love Machines EP. Although Ogden’s voice in spots sounds strained, the results were again mostly excellent, both reminiscent of the arch pop of Luke Haines and the reduced-to-its-essentials rock T. Rex after they’d been abandoned by fans and critics alike.
On 26 July, 2006, Tony Ogden died at the age of 44. As far as I know, no cause of death was made public. The only rumors I’ve heard is that his body was found in a lake or that he suffered from a heart attack and collapsed into a stream. Neither provided any source for their slightly conflicting information.
Predictably, perhaps, there’s been something of a reassessment and renewal of interest in Tony Ogden’s work with and without the World of Twist since his untimely demise, including interviews with surviving members and other journalistic pieces. In 2009, artist Jeremy Deller created a piece called Procession which included a procession carrying a banner proclaiming “We Miss the World of Twist” through Manchester’s streets. In 2013, a remixed version of Quality Street was released with a disc of extras, removing the cataract to reveal with clarity what a fillerless classic it always was. Also in 2013, Brian Sweeney’s Glasgow art gallery, Repositioned gallery re-opened in a new space with a photographic exhibition by James Fry titled Sons of the Stage: Now We Are Young Again.
Canadian-Americans are a largely overlooked minority in vast landscape of Los Angeles‘s diversity. Los Angeles, after all, has no Little Toronto nor an HistoricCanuck Town. Whereas immigrants from south of the Rio Grande are celebrated, vilified, romanticized, ignored, and pandered too; those from north of the 49th Parallel are practically invisible.
To be fair, Mexican-Americans comprise 47.5% of Los Angeles’s population whereas Canadian-Americans comprised only .3%. Still, numbering about 44,000, there are still more Canadians living in Los Angeles than there are in any town on Prince Edward Island or, for that matter, than in all three of Canada’s territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon).
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, I visited Vancouver for the first time. Despite Los Angeles’s diversity, I was surprised upon my return to learn of the the existence a Canadian restaurant in theSan Gabriel Valley. Later, whilst researching the beginnings of Hollywood, I was surprised to to learn that many of those silent stars, although unheard, were speaking in Canadian dialects. My thoughts again turned to Canadian-Los Angeles when the 2010 census revealed that the majority of the Lake Towns‘ populations were from Canada.
By size, Canada is the second largest country in the world, surpassed only by Russia. Its population, though, is relatively small, just 35.16 million in 2013 — less than that of much smaller countries like Korea, Ethiopia, or Vietnam; less, in fact, than the state of California. California’s population surpassed that of Canada’s in 1984, the same year Canada’s MuchMusic was launched and Labatt introduced the twist-off cap.
The US census makes no distinction between naturalized Canadian immigrants and native-born Americans with Canadian ancestors. It’s rare to hear an American of Canadian ancestry self-identify as Canadian-American, though, at least in my experience. There have been, however, several Angelenos with Canadian ancestry includingWalt Disney, Rudy Vallée, Matt Frewer, Robert Goulet, Kiefer Sutherland, Missy Franklin, Robin Thicke, and Mark Wahlberg.
CANADIAN POPULATION IN LOS ANGELES
There is no area in Los Angeles County in which Canadian-Americans are dominant but there are several communities in which Canadian-born make up either the largest or second largest percentage of foreign born: Lopez & Kagel Canyons (19%), Elizabeth Lake (15%), Lake Hughes (15%), Tujunga Canyons (14%), Hidden Hills (13%), Topanga (11%), Westlake Village (11%), Malibu (11%), Acton (10%), Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System of the Department of Veterans affairs, West Los Angeles Campus (10%), Santa Monica Mountains (including the village of Cornell) (8%), Ladera Heights (7%), Calabasas (7%), and Century City (6%). Of those, only Century City and Pacific Palisades (home to Hamilton, Ontario-born actor Martin Short) are neighborhoods within the city of Los Angeles.
CANADIAN VS AMERICAN ENGLISH
I suspect that Canadian-Americans are a relatively invisible minority because both the US and Canada have cultural roots in Great Britain and Anglo-Canadians easily assimilate into Anglo-America. Compared to other English speakers, Americans are as a whole strangely deaf to the nuances of regional English dialects. To be sure, many but not all Anglo-Canadian and Anglo-American dialects are similar but they’re also recognizably different to anyone paying any degree of attention. Nonetheless, I’ve never heard an American do a convincing Canadian dialect of any sort — generally American impressions come down to inserting gratuitous a “eh” and pronouncing “about” as “a-boot” (when it should be more like “a-boat). Likewise, Canadian-Americans are rarely tasked with attempting American dialects. In the film Juno, for example, the American actors like J.K. Simmons (perhaps because he is Midwestern) spoke with Midwestern dialects whereas Canadians Ellen Page and Michael Cera didn’t seem to bother disguising their Canadian vowels. Canadian news broadcaster Peter Jennings was an anchor on ABC for 40 years and aside from stumbling a few times on air over the pronunciation of words like “lieutenant” passed as American for most viewers. Pop rapper Drake never hides his Torontonian background but raps in a black southern dialect, appearing to subconsciously draw on the minstrel tradition rather deliberately attempting to sound American.
Anglo-Canadians are not the only Canadians, of course, and not the first people to inhabit what’s now Canada and the US. Before the European Conquest, Native nations including the Apsáalooke (Crow), Huron, Ktunaxa, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux), Seliš (Salish), Syilx (Okanagan), and many others lived on both sides of what’s now the border between the US and Canada, most of which is formed by the 49th Parallel, set at the London Convention in 1818.
After the establishment of the border, some early Canadian immigrants came to the United States after having sided with the colonies during the American Revolution. After 1867, large numbers of unskilled Anglo-Canadian laborers emigrated to the US in search of manufacturing jobs, most settling in the border states of Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Rhode Island. French-Canadians were more likely than their Anglo counterparts to make their way to California.
In the 1830s, French-Canadians established French Camp at the terminus of the Oregon-California Trail in San Joaquin County. Later French-Canadians, along with people from all over the world, flocked to California in search of gold. After most failed to find any, a French Town emerged in Los Angeles in the latter half of the 19th Century (there are still street names in the location of the old neighborhood which hint at its existence: Bauchet and Vignes). French Town, although home to many of Los Angeles’s Quebecois immigrants, was something of a Franco-American stew but most of its inhabitants were Euskaldun (or Basque). (See Cedric Drake‘s “Boarding Houses and Handball Courts: The Fleeting Story of Los Angeles’ French Town“). According to Quebec’s Musée de l’Amérique francophone, between 15 and 20% of Angelenos spoke French in that era (when Los Angeles still had a population of fewer than 10,000).
Today there are still far more Americans of French-Canadian background than Anglo-Canadian, in large part because half the population of Quebec emigrated to the US between 1840 and 1930, fleeing religious, employment, educational, and ethnic discrimination. In particular the years between 1900 and 1930 saw French-Canadians crossing the border, with immigrations slowing after World War II, when French-Canadian autonomy increased and the Canadian economy improved. As of the 2010, there were roughly eight million Americans of French-Canadian ancestry, two million of whom continue to speak French at home. California is home to more French-Canadians (and French-Americans, for that matter) than any other state and 10% of all the US’s French speakers live there.
CANADIAN AMERICANS TODAY
According to 2009 estimates, there were 1,062,640 Canadian citizens living in the US — more than any other country in the world besides Canada. A 2008 report by the Urban Institute estimated that “65,000 and 75,000 undocumented Canadians currently live in the United States.” When asked about the possibility of building a wall along the Canadian border, presidential candidate Trump stated, “With Canada, you’re talking about a massively long piece. You’re talking about a border that would be about four times longer. It would be very, very hard to do — and it is not our biggest problem. I don’t care what anyone says. It is not our big problem.” The Canadian-US border is actually only 2.78 times longer than the Mexican-US border, so perhaps a manageable solution would be to build a Canadian-US wall at 36% the height of Trump’s proposed 17 meter high Mexican-US border wall, meaning a nice six meter high wall along the 49th (never mind the fact that an estimated 40% of undocumented arrive in the US by air in planes which would fly over either wall).
One of the earliest prominent Canadian-Angelenos was Quebecois-American Damien Marchesseault (or Marchesseau), born 1 April 1818 in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. Marchesseault was elected Los Angeles’s seventh mayor on 9 May 1859. He was re-elected in 1861 and again served during a three month interruption in the term of Cristóbal Aguilar. After the conclusion of the Mexican-American War he moved to New Orleans, where he made a bit of money, supposedly from gambling. He returned to Los Angeles in 1853 and co-founded an ice vending company with fellow Canadian-American Victor Beaudry in 1859. After the conclusion of his mayoral term he assumed the lofty title ofWater Overseer of Los Angeles. However, the gambling which had earned his fortune had became an insurmountable strain and on 20 January 1868 he slipped into Los Angeles City Hall and shot himself to death. Today his name is memorialized by Marchesseault Street, home to the Original Water Department Building.
Victor Beaudry mined, worked in real estate, and developed water works before moving to Los Angeles in 1855. After he and Marchesseault built their ice house, Beaudry made money selling ice to saloonkeepers and other clients, money which he used to buy property around French Town in the 1860s. Beaudry moved to Montreal in 1876 where he married Angelica Le Blanc. The family returned to Los Angeles in 1881. With his brother, Prudent, Victor constructed a reservoir in the Elysian Hills which the two used to deliver water to their respective properties, Victor Heights and Bunker Hill. Victor’s subdivision also boasted the presence of the lushly-landscaped Beaudry Park (now replaced by the residential high-rise known as The Elysian, and formerly the Metropolitan Water District Headquarters). Victor Beaudry returned to Montreal in 1886 and died there in 1888.
Prudent Beaudry was elected the thirteenth mayor of Los Angeles in 1874. After the Rebellions of 1837, he travelled the US promoting the annexation of Canada. After settling for a time in New Orleans, he returned to Montreal in 1842. Persuaded by Victor to come to California, he first moved to San Francisco before relocating to Los Angeles in 1853. After returning to Montreal for five years, he re-settled in Los Angeles and bought parcels of land on the previously undeveloped Bunker Hill. After years of acquiring and developing properties he served three years in the Los Angeles Common Council before ascending to the mayorship, where he remained until 1876. He died in 1893 and was buried in Montreal.
The city of Ontario, California is a located just outside Los Angeles County, on the San Bernardino County side of the Pomona Valley. The town’s roots are in the Ontario Model Colony, established in 1882 by Canadian engineer George Chaffey with his brothers William and Charles. Ontario incorporated as a city in 1901 but North Ontario broke away in 1906 and quickly turned its back on its Canadian heritage, changing its name to Upland. It was once an important citrus producer but is today best known for being home to Ontario International Airport, which is the city’s largest employer.
GORDON NORTHCOTT AND THE WINEVILLE CHICKEN COOP MURDERS
The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders is the name given to a series of murders of young boys that took place in Los Angeles and Riverside counties between 1926 and ’28. The perpetrator of the killings was Bladworth, Saskatchewan-born chicken ranch owner and Canadian-American, Gordon Stewart Northcott. Northcott, his mother, and a captive nephew together kidnapped, molested, beat, and murdered three children (Northcott also murdered a teenaged Mexican without help) before the authorities caught wind of what was going on at their Wineville chicken ranch. The disappearance of one of the family’s victims, nine-year-old Walter Collins, received national attention after a nationwide search led to a twelve-year-old boy in DeKalb, Illinois falsely claiming to be Walter so that he might travel to Hollywood and meet his idol, cowboy actor Tom Mix. Gordon and his mother, Sarah Louise, fled back to Canada but were apprehended near Vernon, British Columbia. After the unfavorable attention, Wineville changed its name to Mira Loma in 1930. The events inspired the 1952 Dragnetepisode “The Imposter” and the 2008 Clint Eastwood film, Changeling, although Northcott was portrayed by an American actor, not a Canadian.
In 2013, a 21-year-old Canadian named Elisa Lam died in downtown’s Cecil Hotel. Her mysterious behavior was caught on CCTV moments before her death and inspired a host of theories about what might’ve transpired and led to the strange circumstances of her death, which bore uncanny similarities to the 2002 Japanese film 仄暗い水の底から (Dark Water). Her tragic and bizarre demise, in turn, inspired the plot of an episode of the television series Castle titled “Watershed” as well as the Chinese film, 盂蘭神功(Hungry Ghost Ritual).
The once trendy clothing company, American Apparel, was founded in 1989 by Canadian-American Dov Charney who moved the company’s base of operations to Los Angeles in 1997. In 2000, when it was riding high, American Apparel took over a large warehouse in Downtown Los Angeleswhere, for a time, it operated as a wholesale brand. After going retail, it courted controversy with ads depicting underfed and underage-looking women which seemed to be inspired by amateur child pornography. Charney bought the historic (and all-concrete) Garbutt House in Silver Lake in 2006. However, although he successfully weathered seven sexual harassment lawsuits, he was deposed after it was revealed that the company which he founded hadn’t made a profit since 2009. The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015. The ousted Charney is now starting a new clothing company inSouth Central, which he promises “to make cool” in the same way he credited himself with making Downtown cool with American Apparel.
The emergence of Los Angeles as a center of film production in the early 20th Century attracted a wave of Canadian actors and aspiring filmmakers. The first film footage shot in Los Angeles was done so in 1898 by famed Canadian-American inventor, Thomas Edison, for whom a cameraman shot a sixty-second actuality titled “South Spring Street Los Angeles California.”
The very first Hollywood film studio, Nestor Motion Picture Company, was founded by London, Ontario-born brothers Al Christie and Charles Christie in 1911. It studio was built by David Horseley behind the Blondeau Tavern building on the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street in the area that came to be known as “Gower Gulch.”
In 1912, Richmond, Quebec-born Mack Sennett (né Michael Sinnott) founded Keystone Studios in Edendale (now Echo Park).
The eldest three Warner Brothers were born in the Russian Empire and the youngest, Jack L. Warner, was born in London, Ontario. After relocating to Los Angeles from Canada, the four formed Warner Bros. in 1923.
Louis B. Mayer, who co-founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1924, though born in Minsk, grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick before moving to Los Angeles.
Actor Florence Lawrence was born Florence Annie Bridgwood in Hamilton, Ontario. Before her name was widely known, film audiences knew her simply as “The Biograph Girl” — a reference to American Mutoscope and Biograph Company for whom she worked. At the height of her popularity, the 1910s, she was also known as “The Imp Girl” and “The Girl of a Thousand Faces.” She made film history when she became the first film actor to be billed by her professional name.
After Florence Lawrence’s name became publicly known, another Canadian-American actress became known as the Biograph Girl, Mary Pickford. Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto on 8 April 1892. In the 1910s and ‘20s she was one of the most popular film actors in the world, earning her the nickname “Queen of the Movies,” “America’s Sweetheart,” “The Biograph Girl,” “The Girl with the Curls,” and after her professional name became known, “Little Mary.” Pickford cofounded the Hollywood studio, United Artists, and was one of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Pickford’s siblings, Charlotte “Lottie” and John Charles “Jack” Pickford, were also became Hollywood actors.
Broadway performer Ruby Keeler was a source of optimism for many during the Depression era, and nostalgia hit audiences hard when she returned to the stage decades later.
In the Classic Studio Era, Canadian-American actors Berton Churchill, Deanna Durbin, Douglass Dumbrille, Fifi D’Orsay, Gene Lockhart, Glenn Ford, Harry Hayden, Hume Cronyn, Jack Carson, James Doohan, Jay Silverheels, Lorne Greene, Barbara Kent, Burt Metcalfe, Raymond Burr, Raymond Massey, Ruby Keeler, Victor Jory, Walter Huston, Walter Pidgeon, and William Shatner would all relocate to Los Angeles to work in Hollywood film. With the exception of Jay Silverheels, all were, like their silent predecessors, white. Today, even though 25% of Canadians are either aboriginal or a “visible minority” and only 20% of Canadians identifies as being English-Canadian and 15% as French-Canadian, most Canadian-Americans (like their American counterparts) in Hollywood are white.
CANADIANS IN HOLLYWOOD TODAY
Today, Canadian immigrants are more often of Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and South Asian ancestry than English or French. If one doubts that Hollywood prefers white Canadians to aboriginal or visible minorities, consider how many more prominent white Canadian-Angelenos are acting in Hollywood today. Anna Paquin, Bre Blair, Brendan Fraser, Catherine O’Hara, Chantal Kreviazuk, Cobie Smulders, Corey Haim, Cory Monteith, Dan Akroyd, Dave Foley, Deborah Kara Unger, Diana Krall, Donald Sutherland, Elias Koteas, Elisha Cuthbert, Ellen Page, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Eric McCormack, Estella Warren, Hayden Christensen, Howie Mandel, James Cameron, Jason Priestley, Jessica Paré, Jim Carrey, John Candy, Kathleen Robertson, Kristin Lehman, Laurie Holden, Lorne Michaels, Malin Åkerman, Matthew Perry, Mia Kirshner, Michael Cera, Michael Ironside, Michael J. Fox, Mike Meyers, Missy Peregrym, Neve Campbell, Pamela Anderson, Phil Hartman, Rachelle Lefevre, Reece Thompson, Ryan Gosling, Sabrina Grdevich, Seth Rogen, Tara Strong, Tom Green, Victoria Pratt, Will Arnett, and Will Sasso.
Now consider the relatively few mixed-race Canadian-Angelenos acting in Hollywood in recent times: Jennifer Tilly, Keanu Reeves, Kristen Kreuk, Rae Dawn Chong, Sandrine Holt, and Tommy Chong.
And now consider famous Asian-Canadian-Angelenos: Steven Yuen of The Walking Dead, Sandra Oh of Grey’s Anatomy and Sideways, and Grace Park, who was born in Los Angeles, raised in Vancouver, and holds dual American and Canadian citizenship. As far as aboriginal Canadian actors living in Los Angeles, I can only think of Adam Beach, a Saulteaux actor who was born in Ashern, Manitoba and at least as of 2005 was also an Angeleno.
Although Canadians were hugely important in the creation of the Hollywood industry, few genuinely Canadian film genres can perhaps be said to have had much influence on Hollywood. One notable exception is cinéma direct, the documentary genre which arose in the 1950s in which the documentarians attempted to achieve something approaching objectivity by hiding the filmmaking apparatus. The fly-on-the-wall approach (as opposed to cinéma vérité, in which the filmmaker participates in front of the camera and thus exposes the artifice of filmmaking) is exemplified in the US by Robert Drew, DA Pennebaker, and the Maysles Brothers — none of whom (as far as I know) were ever part-time Angelenos. However, the aesthetic of cinéma direct seems to inform every non-Chuck Lorre involved sitcom filmed in Los Angeles since Arrested Development.
Although utterly forgotten today, the Northern genre had a surprisingly long run as evinced by quite a few cinematic examples. Northerns were a mostly Canadian (and sometimes Alaskan) counterpart to the Western — which like the Western had its roots in literature. Most authors of Northers were Americans, including writers like Jack London, Rex Beach, Fran Striker, and James Oliver Curwood. There were Canadians who authored Northerns as well, such as Robert W. “Bard of the Yukon” Service. The films were nearly always Hollywood productions starring American actors and only set in Canada. Perhaps the first Northern film was Pierre of the Plains (1914), an American film set in Canada but both the filming location and director of which are today forgotten.
Just beyond Los Angeles County, Big Bear Lake and the Big Bear Valley proved popular filming locations for Northerns set in Canada. Northern films and serials shot in that area include Caryl of the Mountains (1936), Phantom Patrol (1936), Outpost of the Mounties (1939), King of the Royal Mounted (1940), North West Mounted Police (1940), King of the Mounties (1942), The Royal Mounted Rides Again (1945), Dangers of the Canadian Mounted (1948), Trail of the Yukon (1949), Snow Dog (1950), North of the Great Divide (1950), Call of the Klondike (1950), Yukon Manhunt (1951), Northwest Territory (1951), Fangs of the Arctic (1953), Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders (1953), Northern Patrol (1953), Gunfighters of the Northwest (1954), Yukon Vengeance (1954), and Perils of the Wilderness (1956).
Chatsworth subbed in for Canada in O’Malley of the Mounted (1921); Lake Arrowhead played Canada in Tiger Rose (1929) and Code of the Mounted (1935); Idyllwild had the honour in Northwest Rangers (1942) and Northwest Trail (1945); and Simi Valley served in Fort Vengeance (1953). Susannah of the Mounties (1939), Pierre of the Plains (1942), and Rose Marie (1954), on the other hand, were all filmed on a 20th Century Fox studio lot in Culver City.
The commercial film industries of Canada, especially Toronto and Vancouver, have come to colloquially be known as Hollywood North. In 1979, Toronto was the third largest movie production center in North America. In 2003, the Toronto Ontario Film Office was established in Los Angeles. Vancouver is often interchanged with Los Angeles and even portrays Los Angeles in film and television. The first two seasons of MacGuyver were filmed in Los Angeles before relocating to Vancouver — although the setting remained Los Angeles throughout. The first five seasons of The X-Files were filmed in Vancouver before production was moved to Los Angeles. The pilot of Walking Dead was filmed in Los Angeles but the remainder of the series has been filmed in Vancouver. The series Lucifer, though set in Los Angeles, is filmed in Vancouver.
On Canadian-American (and visible minority, to boot) who enjoyed a career in Hollywood neither in front of nor behind the camera was Spoony Singh. Spoony Singh (né Sapuran Singh Sundher) was a Canadian businessman and colorful personality who established the famed Hollywood Wax Museum. He was born in Jalandhar, British Punjab on 22 October 1922 and his family relocated to Victoria, British Columbia in 1924. In 1943 he married Chancil Kour Hoti and the two opened an amusement park in Victoria called Spoony’s. In the 1960s, Spoony Singh bought an empty brassiere factory and opened the Hollywood Wax Museum on 25 February 1965, which he promoted in colorful fashion. Singh died of congestive heart failure at his home in Malibu in 2006.
The 2004 film Crash was directed by London, Ontario-born filmmaker Paul Haggis, a former Scientologist whose television credits at the time included creating Walker, Texas Ranger and Due South. Due South was a CTV series about an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police assigned to work in the Chicago Police Department, assisted by a wolf dog named Diefenbaker. Crash was Haggis’s self-described passion piece, an overheated and heavy-handed race drama inspired by the carjacking of his beloved Porsche in 1991 and similar, if somehow cornier, than the 1997 film Volcano. The film, to me, feels indelibly tied to that pre-riot Los Angeles but was released in 2004, by which time it had as much to do with the Los Angeles of my experience as Walker, Texas Ranger probably does with your average Texican. In the theater in which I watched it it was seemingly well-received, albeit as unintentional comedy. Needless to say, I wasn’t at all surprised when it was awarded Best Picture by the Academy, nor when Film Comment placed it first on their list of “Worst Winners of Best Picture Oscars.”
HIGHLAND GARDENS/THE L.A. COMPLEX
Although I’ve never heard of it until researching this piece,The L.A. Complex (originally Highland Gardens) was apparently a Canadian drama which premiered on CTV, MuchMusic, and The CW in 2012. The series starred Toronto-born Cassie Steele as an aspiring actress who “moves to Los Angeles with nothing but her Maple Leafs hockey bag and dreams of being a famous actress.” Although an undoubtedly promising premise, it was nonetheless cancelled the same year in which it debuted.
There’s little that obviously distinguishes mainstream American pop from mainstream Canadian pop. Both countries produce more than their fair share of that generic, jingle-ready “whoa-oh” music seemingly designed more to sell car insurance than records. If Americans heard them they might be able to pick-up on the fact that Stan Rogers or Bill Staines were Canadian but those two, sadly, aren’t household names in the US. There’s something unmistakably not-American about Canadian disco groups like Lime or all of those Montreal-based post-rockers but I’m guessing most Americans don’t know that they, like the singers of “American Woman,” are American — although I bet that most Canadians do.
There have been a few notable Canadians who’ve contributed to Los Angeles’s music scene. John Harvey “Oscar” Gahan was a Orangeville, Ontario-born violin prodigy who performed as Arvé. He moved to Los Angeles where he acted in minor parts in B-westerns and performed music with several Western acts including TheSons of the Pioneers, The Arizona Wranglers, The Range Riders, and The Hollywood Hillbillies. He also composed and sold songs to cowboy singers like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Bob Nolan, the latter a Canadian immigrant from Winnipeg whose popular compositions include “Cool Water” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”
Buffalo Springfield formed in Los Angeles in 1966 and contained within their ranks two Canadian musicians, Neil Young and Dewey Martin. Their best known song, “For What It’s Worth,” was written to protest the heavy-handed enforcement of curfew laws in West Hollywood. Young, of course, went on to a long and creatively rewarding solo career and also wrote the hit “Ohio” during his tenure in Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young — but today lives in Northern California. Dewey Martin performed with many musicians and died in 2009 in his apartment in Van Nuys.
Promises were a Canadian-American band founded in Thousand Oaks, California in 1978. The members were siblings Leslie Maria Knauer (vocals), Jed Knauer (guitar, piano) and Benny Knauer (keyboards and vocals), all born either in Vancouver or Toronto. They moved with their father, Peter Knauer, to California in the 1960s. Their single, “Baby It’s You,” was a big hit in Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa but neither their eponymous debut nor their 1979 follow-up, Real to Real, were released in the US or Canada. The group split in 1979.
More recently, teen pop stars like Ottawa-born Alanis Morissette and London-born Justin Bieber have moved to Brentwood and Beverly Hills, respectively, and Toronto-born actor/pop rapper Drake’s (né Aubrey Graham) YOLO Estate is located in Hidden Hills.
Growing up I don’t remember Canadian cuisine ever crossing my mind. Whereas the US’s neighbor to the south was fairly well represented in my hometown by Mex-American fast food drive-thrus and sit down strawberry margarita Cal-Mex joints, I never saw a restaurant with even the vaguest pretense of Canadian-ness. As a child I watched Degrassi Junior High and the episode “Food for Thought,” which dealt with eating disorders, but I don’t remember what food Kathleen avoided or threw up.
From aKids in the Hall sketch I got the impression that Canadians like ham, and that Canada is a nation where fine ham abounds. It also suggested that salsa was almost unheard of; as the character Fran said, “In the beginning there was Miracle Whip, one kind of cheese, and fish came in sticks. Bread was white and milk was homo. Our condiments were mustard, relish, and ketchup. Our spices were salt, pepper, and paprika. These were our sacraments. Garlic was ethnic, mysterious, something out of the Arabian Nights. And then something happened, food exploded!” In many ways Fran’s description of the changing culinary landscape of Canada seems more generational than geographical; my aunt’s fridge in Iowa was pretty much just like Fran’s. Only occasionally would we break from the meatloaf/hamburger/beef stew/chili rotation to have fajitas.
The first time I visited Canada I did discover that there were ketchup flavored Lay’s, which seem like they would’ve done quite well throughout the US, at least in the pre-sriracha age. The markets there seemed to devote more real estate to frozen waffles than their American counterparts but were otherwise similar. One strange exception was that American Cheese, the US’s most disgusting culinary export (a sort of individually wrapped square piece of lactic plastic), was bafflingly packaged as Canadian Singles.
There are foods intrinsically associated with Canada though. There’s maple syrup, of course, produced by the Algonquians and other Native peoples since before European contact and currently for sale in Maple leaf-shaped bottles in the duty free. In Canada’s west, something called whipped soapberry has long been a popular treat. In the north, indigenous people have long fermented their meat to make igunaq and kiviak. European influences from Great Britain, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Ireland, have combined to create a distinct cuisine. Jewish influence can be tasted inMontreal-style smoked meat (similar but superior, according to some, to American pastrami) and Montreal-style bagels,and schmoo tortes. There’s also poutine, butter tarts, salmon jerky, perogies, donairs, and nanaimo bars. Although nowadays Canadians are increasingly in search of “authentic” food, for a century Chinese-Canadian cuisine was a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. The now universally popular Chinese buffet traces its roots to Vancouver in the 1870s, when Chinese cooks adapted their cooking techniques to the tastes of Scandinavian loggers and mill workers familiar with smörgåsbords. The California roll was invented by Hidekazu Tojo in the 1970s in an effort to tailor sushi to Anglo tastes. A well-known Vietnamese restaurant in Glendon, Perogy Café, advertises “Ukrainian and Chinese Perogies.”
In Los Angeles County learned of Canadian Café in Monrovia, which closed in 2008 before I had a chance to check it out. In the tradition of pho, the only dish that 95% of self-professed Vietnamese cuisine fans seem to have yet sampled, Canadian cuisine in Los Angeles is represented in Los Angeles today almost wholly by poutine, that delicious Quebecois delicacy consisting of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Places serving poutine, or something like it, include the Hollywood location of the chain Smoke’s Poutinerie, the Federal Bar in North Hollywood (on Mondays and Tuesdays), Soleil Westwood in Tehrangeles, The Kroft Anaheim (inAnaheim), and Spudds in Pasadena. In the past, Umami sold a limited edition Truffled Poutine Burger. There are dished listed as “poutine” on the menu Big Wang’s –– although neither are served with cheese curds and thus don’t seem to meet the standard definition.
If one is looking for Canadian dishes other than poutine, perhaps only Soleil Westwood, in Tehrangeles,can accurately claim to serve Canadian cuisine, or at least Quebecois. Its owner and executive chef, Luc Alarie, grew up in Val-d’Or and opened the restaurant in, I believe, 2006. Poutine hounds are catered to too — in fact, in 2012 the restaurateurs opened a poutine bar next door called P’tit Soleil.
There’s also a place called Canadian Pizza & Grill in Long Beach. I admit, I’ve heard of several regional pizza styles including Chicago, French, Neopolitan, New York, Sicilian, and St. Louis, but Canadian is new to me. It seems from their reviews that their most popular offering is the Hawaiian pizza, which I do know was invented neither by Hawaiians nor in Hawaii but rather by Greek-Canadian Sam Panopoulos of London, Ontario.
On the subject of Canadian bars and booze consumption, I was lead to believe by Bob and Doug McKenzie that Canadians were a beer-loving people, which may be true although Americans drink more alcohol per capita. From satellite television I learned of the existence of Labatt’s Blue and Molson Ice and for a time ice beer seemed to be a thing in the Midwest too — at least with my brother — although he favored domestic Icehouse to Canadian imports.
In 2008, there was a bar in Beverly Grove called Sheddy’s which had Canada nights on which they’d screen Kids in the Hall episodes andpints of Moosehead and Molson were $3. I surely would’ve gone had I known of it then, but they closed in 2014.
Nowadays Redondo Beach Café and Jay’sBar are probably the closest an Angeleno can come to finding something like a Canadian Bar. Redondo Beach Café, opened by Montrealers Kosta and Chris Tsangaris, began as a Greek-American restaurant but over time added smoked meat to the menu, Canadian beers to the tap, and began showing hockey games and hung an Ian Turnbull Maple Leafs jersey on the wall.
In East Hollywood, near Silver Lake and Los Feliz, Jay’s Bar is owned by Canadian-American Jay Batton. They rotate the beer a lot but regularly, offer a version of poutine, and broadcast hockey games.
CANADIAN-ANGELENO SPORTS FIGURES
On the subject of hockey, it’s fair to say that when most Americans think of Canadian sports they immediately think ice hockey, which (sure enough) originated in Canada in the 19th Century. Canada is also the birthplace of Lacrosse, and Canadian football. That basketball was invented in Canada will probably surprise many but sure enough, Almonte, Ontario-born James Naismith invented the game in 1891.
I’m the last guy to come to for sports trivia but I don’t think that there are a lot of famous Canadians in the NBA but I do know that former Laker Steve Nash and current Laker Robert Sacre are Canadian. In Los Angeles hockey, Canadians Wayne Gretzky, Martin Jones, Robyn Regehr, and Tyler Toffoli all played for the Kings. In baseball (a pastime often characterized as a sport) Éric Gagné is a Canadian Dodger. Behind the scenes, Hamilton, Ontario-born Jack Kent Cooke wasthe former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Wolves, and the developer of The Forum in Inglewood.
As of a 2009 poll, 67% of Canadians identified as religious and rates of religious adherence are steadily decreasing. However, a plurality, 39% of religious Canadians, identify as Catholic. Canada has no official church although there are references to God in the Preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the national anthem. The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada, founded in 1925, followed in size by the Anglican Church of Canada. I don’t believe that either have churches in Los Angeles, or possibly outside of Canada; however, one of the most prominent religious figures in Los Angeles’s history was Canadian.
SISTER AIMEE SEMPLE MCPHERSON
Sister Aimee Semple McPherson was a celebrity evangelist and faith healer in the 1920s and ‘30s who in 1923 founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. She was a pioneer of modern media, using the radio to expand her reach to a massive following from her weekly sermons at Echo Park’s Angelus Temple. Her disappearance and subsequent accusations that she’d fabricated her kidnapping turned her into a national spectacle. Nevertheless there are still more than 1,000 Foursquare churches with millions of adherents. The Angelus Temple still stands — today home to the Angelus Temple Hispanic Church. McPherson died in Oakland in 1944.
Angelus Temple, the central house of worship of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, was constructed for McPherson in Echo Park in 1923. It was designed by architect Brook Hawkins, decorated with stained glass windows created by artist George Haskins, and decorated with a ceiling mural painted by Anne Henneke.
THE CANADIAN BUILDING
The Canadian Building, (1909, 108-112 E Winston Street) is located in the Toy District and was designed by architecture firm Parkinson and Bergstrom. Lancashire, England-born John B. Parkinson formed his partnership with Neenah, Wisconsin-born G. Edwin Bergstrom in 1905. Their partnership lasted until 1915 when Bergstrom struck out on his own (later designing the Pentagon). I’m not sure why it was called the Canadian Building but my guess is that it was home to a location of the California Canadian Bank.
CALIFORNIA CANADIAN BANK
The twelve-story California Canadian Bank (625 S Spring Street) building was completed in 1923. In 1984 it was one of the first two buildings converted into residential lofts in what came to be branded the Old Bank District.
NORMAN W. ALPAUGH
Norman W. Alpaugh was another prominent Canadian-Angeleno architect. Alpaugh was born in Canada around 1885 and moved to Toronto in 1906, where he worked for two years in the office of Robert J. Edwards. By 1912 he was living in Los Angeles and formed the partnership of Russell & Alpaugh with Clarence H. Russell. His most recognized buildings include Park Wilshire Hotel (1924, with Russell) in Westlake, Temple Emanuel (1924, with Russell) in Koreatown, the AsburyApartments (1925, with Russell) in Westlake, and The Town House Hotel (1929) in Wilshire Center. Alpaugh died on 15 November 1954.
The most famous Canadian-Angeleno architect is undoubtedly Frank Gehry. Gehry was born Frank Owen Goldberg in Toronto, has designed numerous recognizable buildings in Los Angeles including Theater Row’s late modern Danziger Studio (1965), Westwood’s Student Placement and Career Planning Center (1977), Westlake’s postmodernLoyola Law School campus (1978-1980), Santa Monica’s deconstructivistGehry House (1978-1992),Beverly Grove’s deconstructivist Gemini G.E.L. (1979), San Pedro’s deconstructivist Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (1981), University Park’s Air and Space Gallery, California Science Center (1984), Venice’s deconstructivist Arnoldi Triplex (1981) and Norton Residence (1984), Toluca Lake’s Late Modern Wells Fargo (1982), and Bunker Hill’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (2003), to name several. The 2006 documentary, Sketches of Frank Gehry, included interviews with sixteen admiring men, including Hollywood celebrities. The architect is currently involved in the revitalization of the 77 kilometer long Los Angeles River.
The offices of the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles are located on the ninth floor of the 550 South Hope Street, in the Financial District. Nearby is Manulife Plaza, the property of which hosts a Christopher Keene sculpture titled Salmon Run. Manulife is a Toronto-based insurance company and financial services provider. The Canadian Consulate’s residence, meanwhile, is located in Hancock Park. Organizations serving Canadian-Angelenos include Canadians Abroad, Québécois a Los Angeles, Canadian Society of Southern California, French-Canadian Heritage Society of California, Canadians Moving to LA, and Canada in L.A. It appears that Canadians at Caltech and Southern California Canadians are no longer active.
As always, additions and corrections are encouraged. Just leave a comment.
IfYorba Linda is known for one thing, it’s as the birthplace of disgraced Republican president Richard Nixon. 22 years after his death, the memory of Yorba Linda’s most famous resident continues to loom over the suburb, the main attraction of which is the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, built on the site of the Nixon family home. Yorba Linda strikes me as an appropriately private place for such a deeply private president, a community characterized by fairly cookie cutter homes and notable for its dearth of public spaces. Although the rest of North Orange County has densified, diversified, and liberalized, Yorba Linda remains one of just two cities (the other being Villa Park) which can uncontroversially still be described as a Republican stronghold.
HISTORY OF YORBA LINDA
Most of Yorba Linda is situated in the Chino Hills and the along the Santa Ana River, which enters the Orange County coastal plain via the Santa Ana Canyon to the east. The rolling hills are covered with grasslands and scrublands dotted with stands of oaks, walnuts, and sycamores. The Acjachemen, Payómkawichum, and Tongva— all three of whom historically spoke related Uto-Aztecan languages — likely arrived between 3,500 and 9,000 years ago and encountered American badger, arroyo toad, bats, bobcat, California sister butterfly, California tree frog, canyon wren, coast horned lizard, common kingsnake, coyote, golden eagle, gopher snake, gray fox, grizzly bear, kangaroo rat, least Bell’s vireo, long-tailed weasel, mountain lion, mountain quail, mule deer, Pacific rattlesnake, ring-tailed cat, speckled rattlesnake, spotted owl, spotted skunk, steelhead, tarantula, western gray squirrel, western pond turtle, western spadefoot toad, woodrat and other animal species. The Native Americans camped in the hills where they harvested acorns, elderberries, walnuts, and other plants, and established permanent villages along the banks of the river below.
After Mexico was defeated by the US in 1848, most of the ranch lands remained in the hands of the Yorba family. Near the site of the demolished Yorba adobe is the Yorba Cemetery, donated to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1858 (the year Bernardo died). It was used as a public cemetery until 1939 and is today open to visitors on the first Saturday of each month (except May) from 11:00-13:00.
In 1889, Orange County seceded from Los Angeles County. In 1902, the Anaheim Union Water Company completed work on the Yorba Reservoir (drained in 1969). In 1907 a portion of the Yorbas’ land was sold by Jacob Stern to the Janss Investment Company, who named their purchase “Yorba Linda” (meaning “Pretty Yorba”) and subdivided it in 1909. That same year, the Yorba Linda Water Company filed articles of incorporation.
The first citrus groves were planted in 1910, when the town’s population was about 35. 1911 brought construction of the first school (at 4866 Olinda street) and the arrival of the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company. The first post office was built in 1912 and electricity arrived via the Southern California Edison Company — as did the Pacific Electric Railway (the historic depot is now home to Polly’s Pies, 18132 Imperial Highway). The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. 1912 also saw the formation of the Yorba Linda Citrus Association. In 1913 the first avocado trees were planted, the first library opened, and the Yorba Linda Chamber of Commercewas organized. Pioneer Street (now Yorba Linda Boulevard) became the first paved road in 1917. That year the town’s first paper, TheStar, also began publication. By 1920, Yorba Linda’s population had just surpassed 200. The Yorba Linda Citrus Association’s wood-framed packinghouse (19200 Yorba Linda Boulevard) was destroyed by fire in 1929. The Yorba Linda Citrus Association’s new packing house opened in 1930.
Yorba Linda didn’t immediately suburbanize after the end of World War II like many Orange County suburbs, retaining its rural character for decades afterward. By 1960 it was home to just 1,198 people. After attempted annexations by Brea (in 1958), Anaheim (in 1963), and Placentia (also in 1963), Yorba Linda finally incorporated as a city in 1967. During that decade the population increased by 890%, reaching 11,856 in 1970 and Yorba Linda adopted a General Plan for municipal development in 1972. By 1980 it had 28,254 people. In 1990, it had 52,422 residents. Growth has slowed since, reaching 58,918 in 2000 and 64,193 in 2010.
66% of the population of Yorba Linda is non-Latino white (mostly of German, English, Irish, Italian, and French heritage), 16% is Asian, 14% are Latino of any race, 4% are of mixed race, and 1% are black. 57% of Yorba Linda’s registered voters are Republicans but nevertheless, 45% of voters voted for Democratic president Barack Obama in the 2012 election. 61% of Yorba Lindans are Catholic, 18% are Evangelical, and 9% are Protestant.
Yorba Linda neighborhoods are more often than not, subdivisions rather than neighborhoods in the traditional sense, the product of developers rather than organic formation of identity. They’re often surrounded by walls emblazoned with fanciful names at seeming odds with the modest, anonymous plaster and plywood homes within. Neighborhoods include Amalfi Hills, Avenida Rio Del Oro, Bryant Ranch, Carbon Canyon, East Lake Village, Fairmont Hill, Foxfield, Grandview, Hidden Hills, Kerrigan Ranch, Lake Park Mobilehome Community, Lomas de Yorba, Old Towne, Parkside Estates, Rancho Dominguez, The Preserve, Travis Ranch,Troy Estates, Victoria Woods, Villagio, Vista Del Verde, West Yorba Linda, Woodgate, and Yorba Linda Hills. Yorba Linda’s neighbors are the cities of Anaheim, Brea, and Placentia; Chino Hills State Park the north; and to the east, San Bernardino County (in which Chino Hills and Corona are the nearest communities).
SUSANNA BIXBY BRYANT RANCH HOUSE (aka Bixby-Bryant Ranch House)
The oldest human-made attraction in Yorba Linda is the Susanna Bixby Bryant Ranch House. It was built in 1911 by Susanna Bixby Bryant on a parcel of land that her father John Bixby purchased from Bernardo Yorba in 1875. She built the home after her father’s death, when she assumed management of his property, the ranch’s cattle business, and its citrus groves. Today it houses the Yorba Linda Heritage Museum. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The museum offers docent-guided tours every Sunday from 12:00-16:00 except holidays. I’m not sure if they are open at other times as I can’t find that information on their website and their hours are unlisted on Yelp. When I got there I found they were closed.
HISTORIC MAIN STREET & (NOT) GETTING AROUND
Reyner Banham famously learned to drive so that he could know the Los Angeles of a half century ago and so I borrowed a car to explore Yorba Linda, which in many ways seems gridlocked in ye olde automobile era. Exploration by car is the least rewarding way to explore a community that I know of but Yorba Linda is, to be frank, not even close to being the sort of walkable, modern city one expects to find in the first world, despite demonstrable but thus far inadequate efforts to enter the 21st century.
Yorba Linda’s Main Street is the showcase of Yorba Linda’s so-called “Old Towne.” Both Historic Main Street and the adjacent Town Center have been part of a city plan to establish something like a recognizable downtown for nearly a quarter of a century and yet on my visit Yorba Linda’s downtown more warranted being labeled “ghost town” than the affectation of a Middle English spelling. That’s not to suggest that it’s without a certain Forsbergian charm which I find in all sorts of uneasily quiet spaces; however, at roughly 320 meters of length it’s hard to imagine it being the vibrant centerpiece of anything but a very small district. Maybe the Town Center will change things — promising as it does “a pedestrian-friendly, high-end retail, entertainment, and restaurant project located in the heart of Yorba Linda” including a market and a commons.
All that seems still in the rendering stages and aside from a bank about the only signs of life that I detected were coming from Main Street Restaurant, where I’d have grabbed a bite and a drink if not for Yorba Linda’s time-eating sprawl which meant that most of my exploration would be spent slogging around town in a borrowed car. For those who still wish to walk, a least recreationally, check out Ginger Krell and Susan Blackburn’s Walk Yoga Linda: 9 Loop Walks in Yorba Linda and Yoga in the Parks(2010).
By contrast, Garden Grove’s Main Street (small but more than twice the length of Yorba Linda’s) has recently been the centerpiece of several open streets events, named Re:Imagine Garden Grove. In the more than half century since the advent of such initiatives, Yorba Linda has still yet to host one and remains firmly in the throes of automobile addiction. Walkscoreassigns Yorba Linda a pathetic walk score of just 27 out of 100 and memorably estimates that Yorba Lindans “can walk to an average of 0.0 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in 5 minutes.”
Yorba Linda’s most bikeable neighborhood, Travis Ranch, has a bike score of only 3 out of 100! That’s not to say that one can’t safely ride a bicycle in Yorba Linda, however. There are some dedicated bicycle lanes, recreational bicycle trails including the El Cajon Trail(built atop a former irrigation canal) and the 154 kilometer long Santa Ana River Trail, which connects San Bernardino County to the Pacific Ocean. Bicycles are also entitled to use the same streets as automobiles and Yorba Linda is served by two bicycle shops:Jax Bicycle Center and Fenix Cycling. There are also horse trails, also primarily recreational, but its hard to imagine that more than a minuscule amount of Yorba Lindans ride either bicycles or horses to work or to run errands. I did see a rider heading across a street, into a park, and I saw perhaps a dozen cyclists riding along the Santa Ana trail.
The Nixons themselves had several ties to trains. Hannah Milhous and Francis Anthony Nixon were two Quakers from the Middle West. The couple moved to California after Francis was frostbitten whilst working as a motorman on a streetcar in Columbus. The couple had a modest kit home shipped to Yorba Linda by train where they attempted to grow lemons. The restored home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
The couple produced five children: Harold, Richard, Francis, Arthur (who died in childhood of tuberculosis), and Edward — four of the five were named after legendary and/or historical kings of England. Richard, the future president (not the Lionheart) was born 9 January 1913. The docent told us that young Richard used to listen to the nearby trains and imagine riding them to the far corners of the world. Pacific Electric Railway had only extended service to Yorba Linda in 1911 and built the depot about 200 meters from the Nixon home (today it houses to a location of the chain, Polly’s Pies).
The Nixon family farm ultimately failed and in 1922 the Nixons moved to Whittier in Southeast Los Angeles, where Francis opened a service station for automobiles. The La Habra-Yorba LindaLine ended service in 1938 as its riders increasingly embraced the automobile. In high school Richard proved to be a talented debater and a mediocre but spirited player of American football. After a failed engagement, Nixon hoped to join the FBI, practiced law, and met his future wife whilst a member of the Whittier Community Players.
During World War IINixon served in the US Navy, became obsessed (like many of his era) with the perceived threat of communism, and entered politics. As vice presidential candidate he showed himself to be adept at manipulating middle American sympathies, deflecting criticisms about a rumored political fund by pointing out that his wife didn’t have a mink coat and redirecting attention to his cocker spaniel, Checkers.
In 1960 he ran for president and lost to a hawkish (and handsome for a president) John F. Kennedy. Nixon lost the race for California Governor in 1962. In 1964, Richard Nixon and Young RepublicanHillary Clinton both worked on the losing campaign of Barry “Mr. Conservative” Goldwater. In 1967, Nixon decided to again run for president. Nixon positioned himself as a stabilizing, hippie-hating leader of the “silent majority.” He narrowly defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey and (much more decisively) American Independent candidate George Wallace. He was inaugurated as president in 1969.
Though a Republican, Nixon was far to the left of the presidents which followed him, both neoconservative Republicans and neoliberal Democrats. No isolationist, Nixon restored diplomatic relations with China and the USSR and initiated the Middle East peace process. Hardly a hawk, Nixon lowered the voting age, ended the draft, and pulled the US out of Kennedy and Johnson’s imperialist wars in Vietnam and Cambodia. Nixon even suggested that Israel attempt to make peace with its neighbors. No small government Libertarian tea bagger, Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, enforced the desegregation of schools, funded cancer research, sent astronauts to the moon, launched the war on drugs, and attempted to establish government-run universal healthcare. The first lady, Pat, was of all things, a former public school teacher!
Nixon was also deeply awkward, contradictory, paranoid, insecure, inscrutable, racist, secretive, self-sabotaging, shrewd, shy, square, strange, and perhaps mentally unstable. His favorite food was cottage cheese mixed with ketchup. His Southern Strategy successfully appealed to the racism and fears of Southern working class whites (previously solidly Democratic) in order to get them to vote against their own economic interests — and the Democrats gave up hope of winning them back by turning their attention to Wall Street and big money.
The hundreds of hours of Nixon White House Tapes which Nixon recorded reveal a man who hated, feared, and was confounded by almost everyone. His foulmouthed opinions on race, ethnicity, sexuality, and youth culture, seem more like the observations of an uneducated Victorian raised in isolation than the leader of the free world in the Age of Aquarius. I suspect that Nixon more wanted to be recognized for his accomplishments than his personality, and perhaps he even shared my view that psychopathy is actually more useful and common amongst world leaders than is morality.
The Nixon administration, not content with winning the White House, continued after victory to engage in a variety of “dirty tricks,” including but not limited to spying on, harassing, slandering and sabotaging political and social opponents — both real and imagined. Nixon compiled an “Enemies List” which targeted ad-men, blacks, Hollywood executives, intellectuals, Jews, journalists, labor activists, Leftists, Liberals, pacifists, philanthropists, professors, progressives, scientists, socialists, Democrats, women, and Paul Newman. The list came to light as a result of the Watergate scandal, which broke when five of Nixon’s dirty tricksters were caught breaking into the Democratic party headquarters in 1972.
Nixon, whether or not he’d known about or ordered the burglary beforehand, was actively involved in the attempted cover-up. Faced with almost certain impeachment, he resigned from the presidency on 9 August 1974. The Nixons then retreated to their private home, La Casa Pacifica, in San Clemente — located like his childhood home near a passenger rail line. Nixon was pardoned by Gerald Ford, who Nixon appointed to vice presidency after the resignation of Spiro Agnew. After his disgrace, Nixon suffered from both a grave illness and a profound loneliness. He dedicated much of his time to maintaining a Coast Guard station and penning his memoirs, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. In 1977 he famously participated in a series of interviews conducted by David Frost.
The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace opened in 1990, with Nixon in attendance, originally as a private institution administered by the Richard Nixon Foundation. Pat Nixon died of emphysema and cancer in 1993. Richard Nixon died less than a year later, from stroke-related complications. Both are buried on the grounds of the library, in behind Nixon’s childhood home. In 2007 the library was renamed the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and made one of the National Archives and Records Administration’s thirteen presidential libraries. It’s currently being renovated but parts are open to the public including the Nixon home, the rose garden, the president’s VH-3A “Sea King” helicopter (although it was closed during my visit due to extreme heat), and a replica of the East Room of the White House. In the latter a docent quizzed three young Vietnamese women who were revisiting the seen of their high school prom.
YORBA LINDA CHURCHES
Nixon was raised in the Quaker (or Friends) church. The Quaker tradition began in 17th century England. They opposed war and slavery and advocated plain dress and abstinence from drugs. The Quakers in the American colonies were persecuted by the Puritans, who burned their books and confiscated their property. Their persecution at Puritan hands culminated in the public hanging of the Boston martyrs in 1661.
Nixon’s father converted to Quakerism from Methodism in 1908, whenhe married Nixon’s mother (whom Richard Nixon referred to as a “Quaker saint”). The first Quaker church in Yorba Linda was built in 1912 at 4845 School Street — now home to the First Baptist Church of Yorba Linda. The current Friends Church was founded as the Yorba Linda Friends Church in 1969. That megachurch has an average weekly attendance of over 4,000 and is the largest Quaker church in the world.
The Yorba Linda Public Library is independent from the Orange County Public Librarysystem, but like all public libraries has more to offer to the public than just books. The Yorba Linda District Library was founded in 1914 and was formerly housed in smaller buildings until the opening of the current library building in 1971. There is at least one highly regarded book store, Books Redux.
Yorba Linda has also been the subject of several written works, including March D. Butz’s Yorba Linda Its History (1979), Don Meadows’s The House of Bernardo Yorba (1985), Dennis A. Swift’s Growing Graciously: An Oral History of Yorba Linda’s Municipal Incorporation (1989), Mary Ruth Erickson’s The Yorba Legacy: A Child’s History of Yorba Linda (1989), James V Granitto’s The Yorba Legacy: A short history of Yorba Linda (2000), Michael A. Miniaci’s Don Bernardo’s cemetery: the Campo Santo on Bernardo Yorba’s Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana (2001), Cindy Tino-Sandoval’s Yorba Linda (part of the Images of America series, 2005), John Reger‘s Yorba Linda Country Club: A History of the First Fifty Years (2007), and Linda Rattner Nunn’s A Place for Our Future: Building a Jewish Community in Yorba Linda, California (2007). If you want to read newspaper articles about Yorba Linda, look for issues of The Star (1917-1922), The Yorba Linda Star (1922-1985), Yorba Linda Star and News-Times (1985-1986), The Yorba Linda Star (1986-present), and the Yorba Linda Voice (2005-present).
Interestingly, Yorba Linda seems never to have supported a cinema — not even free screenings in a park — although the city did appear in the film, Frost/Nixon (2008). There is a cinema planned for Town Center, though. Yorba Linda also currently apparently supports no art galleries, no art museums, no nightclubs, no dance halls, and the only live theater seems to be provided by the Yorba Linda High School Forum Theaterand at the Huston School of Music & Theatre. Live music seems to happen only occasionally and is primarily limited to the aforementioned Main Street Restaurant and a sports bar known as Canyon Inn.
The quasi-public shopping center seems more popular with Yorba Lindans than parks and local shopping centers include Country Club Village, Eastlake Village Shopping Center, Mercado del Rio, Packing House Square Shopping Center, Post Office Plaza Shopping Center, Remax Shopping Center, The Country Club Shopping Center, The Court Yard Shopping Center, Valley View Shopping Center, Villa Yorba Shopping Center, Village Green Shopping Center, and Yorba Linda Station Plaza Shopping Center. The most interesting shopping center is Savi Ranch, a sprawling consortium of shopping centers, anonymous office parks, and vast parking lots which spills across the border into neighboring Anaheim. As I wound my way through I spied what looked to me like residences being constructed in the shadow of the 91 Freeway. Then again, they could be hotels. Currently Yorba Linda’s only lodging houses are Extended Stay America – Orange County – Yorba Linda and Ayres Suites Yorba Linda — both located within Savi Ranch.
SOCIETIES & COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS OF YORBA LINDA
It’s been noted that the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (enacted in 1968) is one of the key reasons Los Angeles today is the city that it is. That act ended the practice of favoring European immigrants and as a result transformed what had once been promoted as the “Great White Spot of America” into “the world’s great Pan-Asian metropolis.” It didn’t just open the door wider for Asians though, although Africans have immigrated in much smaller numbers. In 1970 there were only about 80,000 African-born Americans. According to the 2008–2012 American Community Survey, today that number has grown to about 1.6 million — or roughly 4% of total immigrants, 3 in 4 since 1990.
California has 155,000 African immigrants — the second largest population after New York — 164,000. Africa is a vast and diverse continent, though, and whilst over half of New York’s African population comes from West Africa, the plurality of California’s come from East Africa (including, especially, theHorn of Africa). California also has the largest population of North Africans — primarily Egyptians. Los Angeles is home some roughly 68,000 African immigrants, a number equaling Atlanta and quite a bit smaller than the populations of Washington, DC and New York City. New York has Le Petit Sénégal and Los Angeles, Little Ethiopia.
As the only African enclave in Los Angeles, block-long Little Ethiopia and the city’s Little Ethiopia tend to fuel the most of what little food writing there is about the city’s diverse, intriguing, African restaurant scene. I’ve eaten at about a dozen African restaurants in Los Angeles and am certainly no authority. I’m compiling this guide, rather, as a resource (and hopefully incentive) for all the food writers, listiclers, foodies, tourists, and adventurers (including myself) to explore Los Angeles’s under-explored pan-African food scene.
My introduction to African cuisine was at a short-lived restaurant in Iowa City called Sahara which, if I recall correctly, was nominally pan-African but seemed to lean rather heavily towards West Africa. I don’t recall having any sort of African cuisine after its closure until I first visited Los Angeles in 1998 and was taken by a friend to Nyala (sadly now closed). It was a revelation not unlike the first time I had Indian food. I next remember frequenting the Santa Monica Promenade for it’s International Food Court, which included Ethiopian and Egyptian restaurants as well as others. Although hard to imagine now that the promenade is a conglomeration of the same faceless corporate chains one encounters in any suburban mall, in the late ’90s it was the sort of place people would often describe as “hip” and perhaps, “funky.” Back then there were record shops, independent book stores, and street performers (often including a gifted guzheng player). In 1999 the food court closed and was replaced with an outlet of the Bebe chain, which, believe it or not was itself once a hip brand.
Ethiopian cuisine is generally characterized by its thick stews known as wat (less often w’et or wot), which is served atop and a sour flatbread known as injera which doubles as the utensil. Commonly eaten animals include chickens, cows, goats, fish and sheep — many of which are sautéed with vegetables and known as tibs. Ethiopian restaurants are generally quite accommodating for vegetarians and vegans and common plant ingredients include cardamom, carrots, chard, chilis, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, enset, garlic, ginger, lentils, onions, potatoes, and split peas. Dairy products include ayibe (a feta-like cheese) and niter kibbeh (spiced, clarified butter). Kinche (or qinch’e), a porridge made from cracked wheat and niter kibbeh, is commonly eaten for breakfast. Another common breakfast dish, fit-fit (or fir-fir), consists of stir-fried injera (or kitcha— another type of unleavened bread), a wat, eggs, and honey. Popular Ethiopian beverages include tej (a mead-like honey wine), atmet (a sweet, thick beverage made from flour, butter, and other ingredients), and coffee. Coffee was, in fact, first cultivated either in Ethiopia or its cross-strait neighbor, Yemen. Perhaps predating even coffee cultivation is khat (or qat), a flowering plant which contains an amphetamine-like stimulant barely known in the US which the American DEA nevertheless classifies as a controlled substance.
Moroccan cuisine reflects the historic cultural interactions between Morocco’s indigenous Amazighs (or Berbers), Arabs, and the Andalusians of southern Spain. Commonly eaten animals include chickens, cows, fish, goats, and sheep. Common plant-derived ingredients include anise, bay laurel, caraway, cayenne, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, grapes, lemon pickle, mace, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, nuts, olive oil, oranges, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, peppermint, saffron, sesame seeds, tumeric, and verbena. Spices are especially important and a blend of 27 are used to make the country’s famed ras el hanout. A typical Moroccan meal involves hot and cold salads followed by a tajine (or tagine), a stew named after the pot in which it’s cooked. The most internationally well-known Moroccan culinary is invention is couscous; small, steamed balls of semolina which are utilized rather like rice. Most meals also include couscous topped with meat and vegetables and served with bread. Only Turks drink more tea than Moroccans and the most common local version is sweetened and flavored with mint.
Tunisian cuisine reflects the cultural interactions of that country’s indigenous Amazighs with the traditions of Arabs and various Mediterranean cultures which have made their mark on the country. Tunisian tajine is quite different from the Moroccan dish of the same name, resembling more a sort of frittata-sort of pie than a stew. Commonly eaten animals include camels, chickens, cows, cuttle fish, fish, octopus, partridge, pigeon, quail, sea snails, sheep, and squid. Common plant-derived ingredients include almonds, anise, apricots, basil, bay leaves, bell peppers, capers, caraway, carrots, celery, chestnuts, chickpeas, chilis, cilantro, cinnamon, coriander, cucumbers, cumin, dates, eggplants, fennel, fenugreek, figs, garlic, geraniums, ginger, hazelnuts, honey, jasmine water, lemon, mint, olive oil, olives, onion, oranges, oregano, parsley, peanuts, pepper, pine nuts, pomegranates, potatoes, quince, rose, rosemary, saffron, squash, thyme, tomatoes, tomatoes, and turnips. Spices are prevalent, especially in the creation of harissa, a North African condiment made of bakloutis, caraway, coriander, cumin, garlic, mint, olive oil, salt, serranos, and other ingredients. Despite being a Muslim country and that religions prohibitions against alcohol, Tunisia produces beer, brandy, and wine in addition to its locally popular (and non-alcoholic) scented waters.
OTHER AFRICAN CUISINES
Other African cuisines represented in Los Angeles and Orange counties include Eritrean, Kenyan, Nigerian, Senegalese, Somali, and South African. The modestly sized city South Bay city of Inglewood is home to eight African restaurants representing four types of African cuisines. In other words, Inglewood is to African cuisines what Alhambra is to Asian… except that no one seems to acknowledge it.
Eritrean and Somali cuisines are both similar to but distinguishable from Ethiopian cuisine. Nigerian and Senegalese cuisines are both representative of West African cuisine, featuring as they do spicy stews, porridges, and rice and bean-based dishes. Kenyan cuisine resembles that of other countries of Africa’s Great Lakes region, with many dishes built around millet or sorghum and various meats and vegetables. South African cuisine probably deserves its own entry but my personal experience with it is limited to eating a couple of sides at a Nando’s in London. Its complexity of influences doesn’t surprise me since South Africa is so characterized by waves of migration and invasion. The country’s indigenous people, the San, were historically hunter-gatherers and who ate local plants and roasted game for 100,000 years before they were joined by the pastoralist Khoikhoi, who raised sheep and cattle. The Bantu Expansionbrought black Africans from the north. Colonization brought whites from Europe and their Asian slaves and servants — all brought their own cooking traditions which have combined to create modern South African cuisine. It’s worth noting that popular South African ingredients like maize, rice, beans, cabbage, and potatoes were all introduced by outsiders.
Here’s my list (and map) of all African restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange counties. If I’m missing any, please let me know. If any open or close, please keep me updated. Finally, please support and nourish our unparalleled restaurant scene and let their chefs and cooks nourish you!
African Table is an African restaurant (I’m not sure what specific cuisine, if any, it specializes in) in Hawthorne. It’s served by Metro’s 126, 210, and Rapid 710 lines as well as Torrance Transit’s 2 and 10 lines.
Awash is an Ethiopian restaurant in the Faircrest Heights neighborhood and in my opinion, one of the best. It’s served by Big Blue Bus’s 7 line.
Azla is a vegan Ethiopian restaurant located in South Central. It’s served by Torrance Transit’s 4 line; Metro’s 460 line, Silver line, and Expo line; OCTA’s 701 and 721 lines; and LADOT’s Commuter Express 438 and 448 lines.
Bamboo Café is a Nigerian restaurant in Inglewood that’s served by Metro’s 211/215 and 212/312 lines.
Banadir is a Somali restaurant in Inglewood served by Metro’s 111/311 line.
The Briks is a bistro specializing in North African pastries. It’s served by Metro’s 14/37, 70, 71, 76, 78/79/378, 81, 96, 442, and 460 lines; LADOT’s Commuter Express 419 and 423 lines, and Foothill Transit’s Silver Streak.
Buna is an Ethiopian café and market in Little Ethiopia and is served by Metro’s 28, 217, Rapid 728, and Rapid 780 lines.
Darna Mediterranean Restaurant is a Moroccan restaurant located in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. It was opened in 2014 by Aviva Bendavid and her son, Sam, both of whom are from Marrakesh. Previous to moving to Los Angeles, Aviva ran a catering service in Tel Aviv, which likely accounts for the presence of several kosher dishes. It’s served by Metro’s 150/240 and 243/242 lines.
Dirdawa is an Ethiopian restaurant in Inglewood that is served by Metro’s 115 line.
ELDORADO BAR & GRILL
Eldorado is a sports bar with pool, live music, and both American and South African dishes. It’s located in the Harbor city of Long Beach’s Rancho Estates neighborhood and is served by Long Beach Transit’s 102, 104, and 173 lines.
Fresh is an Ethiopian restaurant in Inglewood that’s served by Metro’s 110 and 607 lines.
Koutoubia is a Moroccan restaurant which features belly dancers on weekends. It’s located in the Westside neighborhood of West Los Angeles and is served by Big Blue Bus’s 5, 8, and R12 lines.
Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant is in Little Ethiopia served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728 lines. Owner Tenagne Belachew previously worked in the kitchen at Rahel and Marathon.
Little Ethiopia is, naturally, an Ethiopian restaurant located in Little Ethiopia. It’s served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728 lines.
Marathon is an Ethiopian restaurant located in Little Ethiopia. It’s served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728 lines.
Madinah Restaurant is a Somali restaurant located in Inglewood which is served by Metro’s 115 line.
MEALS BY GENET
Meals By Genet is an Ethiopian restaurant in Little Ethiopia with great food and a pleasant atmosphere. It’s served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728 lines.
Merkato is my favorite Ethiopian restaurant in Little Ethiopia due to its great food, unique atmosphere, sassy servers, and the attached market and coffee bar. It’s served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728 lines.
Messob Ethiopian Restaurant is a fine Ethiopian restaurant located in Little Ethiopia which is served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728 lines.
Moun-Of-Tunis is a Tunisian restaurant with (I believe) some Moroccan dishes and (I’m certain) belly dancers. It’s located in Hollywood and is served by Metro’s 2/302 line.
Nkechi is a Nigerian restaurant located in Inglewood that is served by Metro’s 115 and 442 lines.
Palm Grove is an Ethiopian restaurant in Midtown‘s Harvard Heights neighborhood which is served by Metro’s 35/38, 207, and Rapid 757 lines; as well as LADOT’s DASH Midtown line.
PORTUCAL PERI PERI
PortuCal Peri Peri is a restaurant located in Burbank and is served by Metro’s 92, 94, 96, 154, 164, 165, 183, 292, and Rapid 794 lines. Although the name and website suggest acknowledge a culinary debt to Portugal and California, “peri peri” is a Swahiliterm for a Mozambican-Portuguese fusion method of preparing chicken.
Rahel is a tasty vegan Ethiopian restaurant in Little Ethiopia which is served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728.
The specialty of French-born Farid Zadi’s Revolutionario is “North African tacos.” It’s located in South Los Angeles‘s Exposition Park neighborhood and is served by Metro’s 35/38 and 206 lines.
Fekere Gebre-Mariam’s Rosalind’s Ethiopian Restaurant was the first Ethiopian restaurant to open in what became Little Ethiopia. It often features live music. It’s served by Metro’s 28, 217, and Rapid 728.
SPRINGBOK BAR & GRILL
Springbok Bar & Grill is a South African restaurant located in Van Nuys. Co-owners Peter Walker, Robin McLean, and Graham Taylor hail from Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. It’s served by Metro’s 164, 236/237, and Orange Lines as well as the LAXFlyAway.
Sumptuous African Restaurant is a small, Nigerian chain with locations in Lagos, Abuja, Illorin, Port Harcourt, and now, Inglewood. The local location is served by Metro’s 40, 442, and Rapid 740 lines.
Tagine is a Moroccan restaurant in the city of Beverly Hills, co-owned by sommelier Chris Angulo, chef Abdessamad “Ben” Benameu, and Canadian-American actor Ryan “Hey Girl” Gosling. It’s served by Metro’s 20, 220, and Rapid 720 lines. The Purple Line subway is currently scheduled to arrive sometime around 2026.
Last year, 2015, I visited London for the first time. I’m only getting around to writing about it now because I’m leaving for Mexico in a few hours. I wanted to write about visiting the UK earlier but it just seemed so unnecessary — a bit like writing a book about World War II or making a documentary about the Beatles. There’s probably not that much to say about London that hasn’t already been said — and by far more insightful writers than me — so I’ll try to keep it short.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of major cities in the world. Naturally I’d like to visit them all but unless something radically changes,that’s not likely to happen so I have to be selective when planning my international trips. London is 8,750 kilometers from Los Angeles — roughly the same distance to Tokyo, Asuncion, or Dakar. Given my preconceptions about the UK, flying all the way across an ocean just to go to England seemed to me a bit like trekking across the country to eat at a Red Lobster or TGIFridays. In other words, England and London have always been low on my list.
My preconceived notions of London were largely (de)formed by film — especially the sort of bad British-Hollywood co-productions that Anglophiles love, because they falsely portray the British capital as a sort of quaint backwater populated entirely by passably charming, white English men who invariably fall in love with either American girls or British girls played by American actresses. And that accent! That characterless RP accent common to all ancient humans (regardless of their native tongue), all authoritative aliens, and all fairy-folk.
Before I first visited Los Angeles I had a similar distaste for that city, mostly on account of cinematic representations. The realization finally arrived that mainstream cinematic depictions of London might bear as little resemblance to the real London as Hollywood depictions of Los Angeles do to Los Angeles. What if London, in other words, is the Los Angeles of Europe? And why did it take so long for this thought to occur?
I chalk it up to my “England problem,” which I was born with when I inherited the family name, “Brightwell.” It’s a fine name as any, I suppose, but throughout my life people have seen fit to address me as “Mr. Brightwell” in an affected, unpleasant English accent with depressing and disappointing regularity. I’ve never encouraged it, having as I do the grown-ass-man’s natural aversion to all varieties of Ren Faire/Cosplay nonsense. I also resent the fact that people with equally English surnames like Smith, Jones, Taylor, Williams, and Brown are spared this indignity. I suppose that people might think that I enjoy it because I’m also regularly and just as wrongly assumed to be an Anglophile.
I can’t point to anything I’ve done to promote this misperception either, but I also generally don’t waste too much time in refuting it because the problem, as I see it, lies with Anglophiles and Anglophila, not me. I can eat every sort of cuisine on Earth, watch films from every country, read books in every language, and listen to music from every culture and Anglophiles will still assume that I’m one of them, I suppose because amongst the many things I like are are the inevitable British products and for Anglophiles there are only two countries in the world, our embarrassing one and the wonderful one we stupidly fought a war of independence against.
I can add that I have never spelled words in the British manner, I’ve always resented the fact that some of my brain cells are devoted to an even casual awareness of the British royal family, I’ve never worn or owned anything with a Union Jack (or any other nationalist emblem of empire), I don’t enjoy mostcomedies which depend on cross-dressing or funny voices for laughs, have never had nor especially wanted to have low tea, and I have banished antiquated and stupid British Imperial Units from my usage… but my protestations inevitably fall on deaf ears… and all Anglophiles have deaf ears, because how else can one explain their love of Oasis?
Funny enough, many of the the English things that I do enjoy, things like 2-step, Free Cinema, World of Twist, William Morris wallpaper, English Folk music, Go-Kart Mozart, porter, Liberty London, the pre-Raphaelites, chav-watching, English cuisine, and The Wind in the Willowsare not things I associate with Anglophiles, who tend to listen to bad music and wear style-less Lonsdale T-shirts, which being adwear, is as tacky as American Eagle, Aeropostale, or Abercrombie & Fitch but for Anglophiles is invested with a cultural capital which requires the recognition and approval of other Anglophiles because otherwise it’s just a dumb T-shirt with words written on it.
But again, what if London, like Los Angeles, bears little resemblance to the cinematic portrayal and tourist experience? What if London is the Los Angeles of Europe? The best way to know a city is aimlessly ramble around it so that’s what I did — and although I came away thinking it’s the most Londony-place on Earth, it did end up reminding me more of Los Angeles than any other city I’ve yet visited.
There are differences and similarities between London and Los Angeles worth noting. London is old and new. Unlike museum cities whose final chapters seem to have been written decades ago, London continues to show signs of life — breathing, growing, and changing. Londinium may’ve been founded by the Romans in 47CE but they left and it wasn’t again resettled until the Anglo-Saxons arrived in 886 and re-named it Lundenburh. After that it was erased and redrawn over and over by fire, the most notorious being the Great Fire of London, which left nothing of pre-1666 London but the pattern of streets. Modern London really took off in the 18th Century, when it began expanding in all directions and absorbing neighboring towns which became its neighborhoods.
Los Angeles’s origins also lie in pre-history. The Chumash lived in and around the Los Angeles Basin as early as 11,000 BCE. The remains of the so-called Arlington Springs Woman, found on the Channel Islands (of California, not England’s), are the oldest human remains found in all of the Americas. When the Tongva arrived around 1,500 CE, the Chumash had abandoned the basin and for the coast and offshore islands. The Tongva established many villages, including Ya’angna, near which their Spanish conquerors chose to establish El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles in 1781. Just as with pre-modern London, the ancient roads are among the few reminders of the ancient past. Modern Los Angeles was really born in the 1880s, however, when the population exploded and the city soon after began expanding in all directions, aided by the world’s largest-ever interurban rail system, and absorbing neighboring towns which became neighborhoods.
London and Los Angeles are thus similarly sprawling. Greater London’s area is 1,572 km2 whilst Los Angeles’s is 1,302 km2 — both are the center of much larger metropolitan areas. In London there are about 514 recognized neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, there are neighborhoods, unincorporated communities, and Los Angeles County municipalities which from the perspective of the explorer are pretty much the same thing and number collectively at about 467. Both cities are served by a developed transportation network. London’s train and bus network are amongst the best in the world and Los Angles’s is pretty good and, by sluggish American standards, improving rapidly. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is a comparatively comfortable place to bicycle, criss-crossed with about 1,000 kilometers of dedicated bicycle lanes and an average of 329 days of rain-free days per year.
London’s diversity is primarily limited to humans. All of England is temperate and London is aflat city, located within a bowl and centered bisected by a major river. Southern California, on the other hand, is a biodiversity hotspot with a variety of biomes, climates, and microclimates; and Los Angeles has the greatest variation in elevation of any city on Earth — but also is primarily located within a bow-like basin bisected by a major river. Glaciations and human activity have left England with zero endemic species of mammals and most of the countryside consists of dull or charming (depending on the individual or time spent in it) Midwest-like farmland, with stone walls in place of barbed wire fences. The most fearsome creatures found in England’s wild woods and suburbs are foxes and badgers. In Southern California, by contrast, the landscape includes deserts, forests, mountains, swamps, grasslands, scrubland and in Los Angeles, coyotes and raccoons roam the streets; run-ins with bobcats, bears, and panthers aren’t uncommon.
Both cities have highly diverse human populations, though, with hundreds of languages spoken and large percentages of foreign born and those descended from foreign born. The majority of Angelenos primarily speak a language other than English and half of the most-spoken languages in Los Angeles are East Asian. By contrast, only 22% of Londoners primarily speak a language other than English and roughly half of the most-spoken are South Asian. In both cities, that diversity contributes to an amazing culinary scene which help cement their reputations as the cultural capitals of their respective countries. Both cities are also overrun with bearded bun boys in yoga pants and blue-haired young women in wide-brimmed hats, both essentially dressed like sidekicks from ‘90s sitcoms whose sartorial mistakes we’re apparently doomed to repeat.
Given my desire to do nothing so much as ramble around South London, pursuing whims, following instincts, and popping in and out of pubs, I was less than thrilled that my London-based hosts insistence that we visit Big Ben and the London Eye, the world’s fourth tallest Ferris wheel, with measurement conveniently provided in Coca-Cola bottles. What the fuss is about completely alludes me although the same can be said of Hollywood and Highland, Los Angeles’s equivalent tourist polo ground, where hordes wearing tennis shirts emblazoned with large horses hold selfie sticks aloft like polo mallets and have apparently bathed in celebrity-branded scents worse than anything they’re designed to cover up. I often tell visitors to Los Angeles to start their visit at Hollywood and Highland, choose a direction at random, and then begin walking because it will all be uphill from there. I will now apply the same advice to London and its shirime.
After getting that out of the way we stopped at a pub — my one request. None of my hosts, though English, had ever been in a pub, preferring soda to adult beverages and fast food to pub grub. I later found, with equal shock, that none of my hosts (despite one living in Tipton, where the very air tastes of it) had ever had curry. There is a sad Yankophila too, it seems, a disorder just as sad as Anglophilia, and one which is contributing (if the always hyperbolic British media are to be believed) with the death of pub culture. If that’s true, it would be a shame, because pubs were my favorite aspect of native Englishness and where most of my happiest and fuzziest memories were made. Although I was told that pubs were closing left and right, there still seemed to be one on every block and could scarcely imagine a pubbier place on earth.
When I returned to Los Angeles, I returned with a desire to see bar density — which would aid the exploration and formation of community as much as our relentlessly sunny days and expanding rail network. I’ll hopefully return to England someday. Hopefully the trains to Manchester will actually run that time, hopefully I’ll be able to see parts of Liverpool not connected to the Beatles, and maybe I’ll even have another go at making sense of Birmingham — but a visit to London will be a given… and the pubs had better still be there.
Public art, by its definition, is only public when located in an open public space. Increasingly, corporate plazas patrolled by security guards are what often pass for public space and private organizations determine what hours of what days the public are allowed to view “public art” which in many cases could be considered “plop art,” the sort of generic, interchangeable, multi-million dollar abstractions created by international artists to satisfy civic programs which require developers to devote a tiny percentage of their costs to public art. However, at least in the cases of Los Angeles’s two best known Asian-American enclaves, Chinatown and Little Tokyo, the creators of public art have in every case made clear attempts to engage and reflect their surroundings. Because Los Angeles is the world’s great Pan-Asian Metropolis and May is Asian Pacific American HeritageMonth, here’s a look at public sculptures, memorials, and monuments in and around Los Angeles. As always, additions and corrections are welcome!
Hong Kong-born architect Rupert Mok‘s Chinatown Gateway was unveiled in 2001. It features two dragons meant to symbolize luck and prosperity. Mok earned a Master of Architecture degree from the University of British Columbia and is a member of the American Institute of Architects. His architecture firm, Rupert Mok & Architects, is based in Los Angeles.
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt lured 120,000 citizens of the Philippines into the US armed services with the promise of American citizenship. 200,000 Filipinos ended up fighting with US forces and about half were killed. In 1946, after the war’s conclusion, President Harry S. Truman signed Congress’s Rescission Act, which denied military benefits and citizenship to Filipinos. In 1990, congress finally granted US citizenship to Filipino veterans. In 2006, Missouri-born artist Cheri Gaulke‘s Filipino World War II Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Filipinotown.
Shinkichi Tajiri‘s Friendship Knot (1972) was originally known as Square Knot and was on display at Tajiri’s home in the Netherlands. It was renamed Friendship Knot by the Friends of Little Tokyo Arts, who procured and relocated the piece and invested it with a new meaning, the “unity between two cultures.” To me it suggests the sort of unity described in the Kama Sutra but who knows what Tajiri was thinking when he made a giant square knot for his home. Tajiri was born in Watts in 1923 and died in 2009.
GO FOR BROKE (Little Tokyo)
Roger Yanagita‘s Go For Broke Monument honors Japanese-Americans who served in the US Army during World War II and lists the names of 16,126 nisei soldiers. It also features an inscription about Japanese-Americans who were interned in concentration camps during the war. Design and construction began in 1991 and it was dedicated in 1999. Although freely accessible to the public, it’s unfortunately depressingly located in the middle of a parking lot.
HARMONY (Little Tokyo)
Harmony (1996) is a mixed-media sculpture designed by Nancy Uyemura and adorns the entrance of theCasa Heiwa Public Housing Project. The piece depicts the “personal journey of the spirit” and “family relationships in balance.” In 2007, deteriorated aluminum panels were replaced with porcelain ones.
JAPANESE VILLAGE PLAZA FOUNTAIN (Little Tokyo)
The Japanese Village Plaza was designed by Korean-American architect David Hyun as part of the revitalizion of Little Tokyo. I’m not sure who designed the fountain, though, although it probably was dedicated with the plaza in 1978.
KOREAN BELL OF FRIENDSHIP (San Pedro)
The Korean Bell of Friendship is a massive bell housed in a stone pavilion located in San Pedro‘s Angel’s Gate Park. The bell, modeled after the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok the Great of Silla, and was a gift from Korea presented in 1976, to mark the US bicentennial.
LA BALLONA (Culver City)
Shanghai-born, Los Angeles-based artist May Sun‘s La Ballona is a mixed-media piece installed in 1995 at CulverCity Hall‘s courtyard. It’s meant to suggest Ballona Creekand to commemorate the native Tongvanation.
LISTENING FOR THE TRAINS TO COME (Chinatown)
May Sun’s Listening for the Trains to Come was created in 1992 and installed in 1993. According to the artist the piece “pays homage to the Chinese railroad workers who built the railroad bed for the Southern Pacific.” Somewhat ironically, it’s located in a parking lot… but in 2003, the launch of the Metro Gold Line spelled the return of trains to the area.
MONUMENT TO ASTRONAUT ELLISON S. ONIZUKA (Little Tokyo)
Isao Hirai‘s Monument to Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka was dedicated in 1990. It commemorates the Challenger space shuttle crew, all seven of whom were killed shortly after lift-off in 1986. Among the crew was Onizuka, the first Japanese-American astronaut in space. The artist, Isao Hirai, was then president of Hawthorne‘s Scale Model Company.
MONUMENT TO HAIKU AND TANKA (Little Tokyo)
Monument to Haiku and Tanka, located in Japanese Village Plaza, consists of several wooden panels decorated with haikuandtanka poems. The artist and the piece’s date of creation are unknown to me.
SEVEN STAR CAVERN WISHING WELL (Chinatown)
Liu Hong Kay‘s Seven Star Cavern Wishing Well was created in 1939 out of concrete mimicking natural forms. It’s creator, who also went by Henry, took his inspiration from the Seven Star Cavern in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region— although to my knowledge that cave was never covered with odd colors of paint and tiny wishing wells.
STONERISE (Little Tokyo)
Seiji Kunishima‘s Stonerise was created in 1984, from four, large, black blocks of African granite and seven small black stones of Indian granite. Seiji Kunishima was born in Nagoya in 1937.
The Terminal Island Japanese Fishing Village Memorial was dedicated in 2002. It was funded by the Terminal Islanders Club, a group of Japanese-Americans who lived in the no longer extant Terminal Island fishing village of Furasato before their forced removal during World War II and the island’s subsequent redevelopment. The memorial was designed by sculptor Henry Alvarez(The Thing,Legend,Robocop,Total Recall), who died in 2012.
TOWERS OF PEACE, PROSPERITY AND HOPE (Little Tokyo)
Michihiro Kosuge‘s Towers of Peace, Prosperity and Hope is an abstract sculpture consisting of three bronze-topped stainless steel towers meant to suggest “tōrō,” “shichidō garan,” and “origami.” It was dedicated in 1989. Kosuge was born in Tokyo in 1943 and lives in Portland.
TOYO MIYATAKE’S CAMERA (Little Tokyo)
Nobuho Nagasawa‘s Toyo Miyatake’s Camera, dedicated in 1993, depicts an oversized box camera on a tripod and which projects images onto a screen behind a window at the Japanese American National Museum. It’s named after photographer Tōyō Miyatake, who documented the experiences of Japanese-Americans interned at the concentration camp in Manzanar during World War II. Nagasawa was born in Japan and now lives in New York City.
Carl F. K. Cheng‘s Water Lens Tower was dedicated in1992 and is located at the Kaiser Mental Health Center and is, although funded by the CRA as public art, fenced off from and effectively inaccessible to the public. Cheng was born in San Francisco in 1942 and received both his BA and his MA from University of California, Los Angeles.
WISHING BELLS, TO PROTECT AND SERVE (Civic Center)
Sook Jin Jo‘s Wishing Bells, To Protect and Serve was dedicated in 2009.The piece was commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles and is meant to honor both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Japanese character of neighboring Little Tokyo. The artist was born in Gwangjuand moved to New York City, where she is based.
YAGURA TOWER (Little Toyko)
Yagura Tower mimics the appearance of a traditional Japanese fire tower. It was designed by local architect David Hyun as part of the redeveloped Little Tokyo in 1978. It’s inarguably now the most iconic structure in the neighborhood.