Archive for April, 2011


Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

While I found my visit to the Doheny Mansion last weekend to be somewhat aesthetically lacking it did inspire an interest in the history of Los Angeles and a return visit to the Greystone Mansion.

Greystone was the residence of Ned Doheny, son and sole heir of Edward Doheny.  He was murdered (or committed murder then suicide, depending on who you believe) in 1929.  His widow remarried and remained in the mansion with their five children until she sold it in 1955 to one Henry Crown who also owned the Empire State Building.  Crown never lived there – he rented the property to movie studios and eventually sold the house to Beverly Hills who turned the estate into a park in order to prevent the razing of the mansion to make room for a sub division.  You have to find all this on the internet.  There is curiously little information about the estate’s history on the actual property and the city run website remains quite tight lipped on the mystery behind the murder.

Greystone is much more appealing than the Doheny mansion.  To be fair the Doheny Sr’s property was built as a hunting lodge and is heavy and dark and in the flats of downtown while Greystone is airy and built on 16 acres in Beverly Hills.

Unfortunately the house itself is not open to the public unless you are lucky enough to be invited to a private event.  They are having a vintage car rally on May 1st for instance.

I suppose you could gain access if you decided to shoot a movie.  This place has more film credits than Lloyd Bridges.  (Who has appeared in 217 films, if you are curious.)

I managed to press my nose up against the glass to take some shots of the interior.  To a curious person such as I a locked door can be ever so frustrating.  I looked around but could not find a place to sneak in, and there were workers inside prepping the place.  I guess it would not go over well with the LAPD to be caught performing a B&E on a historic mansion.

Te building is beautiful and it SMELLS beautiful too.  There are several formal gardens and they are replete with roses and lavender and rosemary.

The place is beautiful and very peaceful on a quiet weekday.  If ere I decide to commit a murder/suicide (which I have not entirely ruled out) I cannot think of a nicer place to do it.



Doheny Mansion

Monday, April 18th, 2011

In an attempt to educate myself on the history of my new little Gomorrah I took a tour of the Doheny Mansion the other day.  Edward Doheny was one of the founders of Los Angeles and he and his wife were well known philanthropists.  The mansion itself is not really that interesting.  It was built in 1899 with a “Roman Revival” exterior and was nearly destroyed in the Long Beach earthquake of 1933.  The architecture is pleasant but unremarkable with the exception of the Pompeian room which boasts an extremely rare Tiffany glass domed ceiling.

The Dohenys were not collectors per se and much of the contents of the home were auctioned off in the 1980s.  The house itself was bequeathed to the stewardship of Mount St. Mary’s College and there are still some nuns in residence on the third floor of the mansion.  The place is big (25,000 square feet) but not immense by today’s LA standards and much of the house is off limits to tours as it is a functioning office of the college.

The tour itself was conducted by a series of matrons and it became rather obvious rather quickly was that the really interesting parts were the details that were being left unsaid.  St. Mary’s is a Catholic college and the docents all seemed very cautious about avoiding the more salacious details of the Doheny life.  The Daniel Day Lewis character from “There Will Be Blood” was purported to be loosely based on Edward Doheny and he was a saucy little number to say the least.  The Dohenys at one point were one of the 10 wealthiest families in the United States with more money than the Rockefellars.  Doheny Sr. was implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal that rocked the Taft presidency.  He was accused of giving bribes to the Secretary of the Interior in order to secure drilling rights that should have been offered for bid on the open market.  The Secretary’s name was Albert B. Fall and this evidently is the origin of the term “The Fall Guy”.  Curiously (or not) Doheny was twice tried and acquitted of offering the bribe, while Fall was convicted of having accepted it.  Having oodles of money can be convenient in such untidy circumstances.

Doheny had a son named Ned who built the beautiful Greystone Manor in Beverly Hills.  Ned himself died shrouded in scandal and mystery.  He was shot dead at Greystone by one Hugh Plunkett who was his long time assistant.  The docents on the tour said that Plunkett was distraught at an impending divorce and the fact that he too had been implicated in some of the Doheny bribery scandals and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  They reported that Plunkett started an argument with Ned, shot him and turned the gun on himself.  It seemed to be an incident that was being skipped over lightly so I did a little research when I got home.  Apparently there is some speculation as to who shot whom.  Ned’s body was moved from its original resting place, one of the bodies was found on top of the murder weapon, there is some evidence that would suggest that Plunkett and Doheny Jr were gay lovers and the LAPD declared the case closed after only two days of investigation.

Ah, fabulous wealth.  My quest for you continues.  I drove by this lovely establishment the other day and thought if all else fails I can get a job at the Disco Duck.  I just need to figure out what a Boogiein Cocktail is and I am in business.

I Don’t Like Tuesdays

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

No, this is not an extremely late sequel to a Boomtown Rats hit from 1979.  I am finding I just don’t like Tuesdays.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Tuesdays are the days that they clean the streets in my neighbourhood so you have to park elsewhere from 11:00 to 2:00.  Not that I have an objection to clean streets, but if you fail or forget to move your car this cash strapped city dings you with a $65 parking fine which hurt the first time and even more the second.  As well Tuesday is the day that the gardeners come to tidy up my little complex.  Again, I have nothing against gardeners.  They are everywhere here – landscaping fees are built into the rent.  The gardeners are almost universally armed with a variety of lethal looking, cacophony creating implements of mass vegetal destruction.  There are trimmers and mowers and blowers, all gas powered units belching noxious fumes and clamor in equal portions.  I call Tuesday mornings The Fall Of Saigon as the men traipse around the compound with bandanas tied around their faces, sunglasses and hats pulled low with leaf blowers (which look astonishingly like flame throwers) strapped to their backs.  Leaf blowers, by the way, are illegal in Los Angeles and cannot be deployed within 500 feet of a residence, which should come as a surprise to the guy who was standing on my doorstep this morning with his unit turned on full blast.

I tried to get a picture of one, but I suspect that both the blower AND the gentleman wielding it may not be here legally.

It seems for some reason that I am always working from home on Tuesday mornings so I am around to A) have my car ticketed and B) have my eardrums shattered and my respiratory system challenged in the name of urban beautification.

Today became an extra special Tuesday as I had to book a return flight  for my cat back to Toronto.  At first I called Air Canada, which is a delight in itself.  I waited on hold for 20 minutes listening to possibly the worst musak loop ever created only to be told by a surly French Canadian that I had to call Aeroplan to book the extra passage as they had handled the original ticketing.  Fine.  I did so, and was told by the sunny announcer recording that my wait time would be less than five minutes before I would be connected to an agent.  At the appointed time there was a click and I was transferred directly to a busy signal, then disconnected.  So I called back.  Seven times.  They have vocal recognition technology at Aeroplan but by about they fourth attempt the computer could no longer identify me by voice.  I imagine the yelling and profanity didn’t help.  I am curious indeed by what constitutes a “rewards” program as Aeroplan points are difficult to redeem and the customer service is appalling.  After FAR too long the cat has been registered and I suspect my blood pressure is returning to normal.

The day did manage to redeem itself as I had lunch with a composer called Jeff Grace.  Jeff hails from New York and he  composed the music for the spot I did for a Canadian client a while back.  He was not able to fly in for the actual session so we had only met over a computer link.  It was very nice to meet him in person.  The hour lunch turned into a three hour coffee where we covered topics from classical orchestration to the conflicts in the health care system.  If was a nice meal with excellent company and a great way to save the day.  Plus I saw this sign on a change table in Burbank.  I suspect it may be a translation from something not originally in English.

A Continental Comfort Oasis?  I think I need one of those.

Ron Sexsmith, Caitlin Rose and a Friday night at Largo

Monday, April 11th, 2011

I am at the tail end of a lovely weekend here and I thought I should report in on my various goings on.  I spent Friday night at Largo watching the fabulous Ron Sexsmith perform.  I am a big fan of Ron’s.  He doesn’t seem like the kind of fellow who would take offense at being address by his Christian name so I shall continue to do so. We’ve never met, though Willard and I did manage to unwittingly ruin a portion of a video shoot by paddling a canoe into frame at the Toronto Islands and proceeding to declare our admiration rather loudly before noticing the camera and sheepishly moving along.

I must admit I didn’t give Ron’s reach enough credit.  I showed up to Largo only half an hour before show time to discover it had sold out and got a seat in the back row.  Fortunately the owner recognizes me now and knows my seating preference so I was on an aisle with good site lines and in a nice listening spot.  The opening act was a girl named Caitlin Rose.  She was backed by a guitar player and a lap steel player and the combined ages of the talent on stage appeared to less than that of someone who could reasonably expect to collect a pension any time soon.  As I am now 200 years old and cranky to boot I wasn’t expecting much, then Caitlin stepped up to the mic to sing and out came a voice that reached all the way to the back row and punched me in the throat for my cynicism.  She was very entertaining, had a great presence and fantastic pipes.  She writes quirky lyrics and beautiful melodies and is a very good songwriter.  She has all the alchemy for greatness but in her particular genre and in this era of airbrush and auto tune I don’t know if we will hear about her opening for Gaga.  Worth checking out if she makes it north.

Ron followed.  He has a great band and the drums are newly helmed by my old pal Blake Manning who I unfortunately did not get a chance to talk to.  Mr Sexsmith has an easy presence and seemed delighted to have such a happy and receptive audience.  He played my favorite of his songs, Hard Bargain from his Retriever album, and announced that it is soon to be covered by Emmylou Harris who is another of my favorites.

The highlight of the evening was when he pulled the visiting Andy Kim out of the wings and they duetted on Andy’s first composition “Baby How’d We Ever Get This Way”(written in 1968, fully twenty years before the birth of the opening act).  Andy had a big hit in the 1970s with “Rock Me Gently” and co-wrote the song “Sugar Sugar” for the Archies, which is hopefully keeping him in warm socks for the winter.  Andy has a really great voice and the atmosphere was truly convivial.

It was a lovely way to spend and evening, wrapped in the warm bosom of my favorite venue with my Canadian brethren.  A gentle introduction to a fine weekend, in fact.  Hope yours was the same.

Long Beach

Friday, April 8th, 2011

I spend a good amount of time in California doing research, talking on the phone, scheduling and rescheduling appointments but on Thursday after I had put a significant number of ducks in carefully appointed rows I decided to take a day off and drive down to visit the aquarium at Long Beach.  Long Beach lies south down the coast and is a quite large city on its own although it is still part of the greater Los Angeles area.  It has a population just shy of half a million people and is a very busy working town as it houses the second busiest container port and one of the largest working sea ports in the world.


The aquarium itself is rather nice, although I have been to better ones at Monterey Bay and New Orleans.  I may have been slightly off put by the fact that it is a popular destination and was overrun with children, none of whom seemed in any danger of being fed to the sharks although some of them distinctly deserved to be.

There were many of the usual suspects on display.

As well as my new found kin

I though this was an excellent name for a fish (could have described me with a different haircut)

And I loved the attitude of this fellow (called a Rock Fish, which is also not too far off a fair description of your truly)

I found the jellyfish displays eerily beautiful

Plus I learned a thing or two.

I hope they are sure about this.  I have already expressed an unnerving similarity to the otter and honestly there are days I dream of only 5%.  I am willing to entertain the possibility that I am part seal.  If they eat Lebanese food like the delicious meal I had in the trendy area of town it would seal the deal (oh dear.  Puns yet)

All in all it was a lovely day and I learned that I have more in common with the creatures of the sea than I had ever know before.

Or Sid the Squid, at least.

Have a great weekend.

Griffith Park

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Sometimes the naming conventions in this city can be rather confounding.  I whole heartedly approve of some aspects of it.  The obvious labeling of highways for instance.  If you want to get to Santa Monica, take the Santa Monica freeway.  If you want to get to Pasadena, take the Pasadena freeway.  Same deal for Hollywood, San Diego, Sacramento, Ventura.  Quite logical really.  Then there is the general reluctance to relinquish the names, despite how many directional changes a road may have made or counties it has crossed.  I have mentioned this before – the existence of two identical addresses on Robertson Blvd, mere blocks apart.  I ran into a similar situation the other day.  I was running an errand that took me to a shop called Glendale Auto at 2242 San Fernando Blvd.  I looked the address up in though there was no such address in Glendale there was one in the neighbouring area of Burbank so I made the assumption this was the locale.  When my GPS announced I had arrived at my location where there appeared to be only a lonely stretch of railroad I called the store to be informed that they were, in fact, downtown and the Glendale appellation was just a coincidence.  I left A to get to B when in reality I needed C.














Needless to say, this rather changed the course of my day.  A friend of mine had suggested a walk in Griffith Park earlier and it seemed like a good way to rescue the afternoon.



Griffith Park is quite an amazing piece of real estate.  I had assumed, this being a movie town, that the place had something to do with the director D.W. Griffith.  It was actually donated by a wealthy mining baron named Griffith J Griffith who had originally bought the property as an ostrich farm.  G Griffith’s own history is fascinating (he was convicted of shooting his wife, for instance and ever after was considered politically tainted.  The likes of Charlie Sheen seem to be able to avoid this fate in modern society)  The park itself features the famous observatory














as well as the LA Zoo, the planetarium, the Museum of the American West, the Greek Theatre and is home to the Hollywood Sign.

The park has been used as a location for dozens of films – Rebel Without A Cause, Terminator and Charlie’s Angels to name but a few – and is also houses to a real bat cave (no Adam West at this one).

The park is enormous – 4310 acres.  By comparison, Central Park in New York is 843 acres and our own High Park in Toronto is but 398.  There are trails for days, spectacular views, wildlife, as well as golf courses and tennis courts for the more sports oriented people.  It was a beautiful place to save the day and I really look forward to exploring it in depth.


I think what I need to do is find myself a really great job with a really great salary that affords me an enormous amount of leisure time.  Too bad I have not seen any listings for “Retired Billionaire” or “Kept Woman of Leisure” in the Workopolis ads lately.  But if there were any, they would be here.  I’ll keep looking.