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My Cross Street Rocks!

And at all hours!

© Russell Smith, 2011

Every Sunday to Thursday evening, they’re out there, pulling over scofflaws- people who run stop signs, exceed 25 mph in a residential area and drivers under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol (DUI). Hollywood, in case you haven’t heard, is a cesspool of homelessness, drugs, crime and tourists. They’ve opened up so many nightclubs that on the weekends it is DUI heaven up in here. And you can quote me on that. The cops don’t really enforce the law, so much as pick up the pieces of people who need some repairs, whether it’s their bodies, their cars or both. The sound of the ghetto birds cheers the heart all through the weekend, along with its close friend the siren-bird whose lilting dulcet sounds can be heard all over Hollywood every night of the week.

© Russell Smith, 2011


There he is, our propellor-driven friend, keeping the skies and streets of Hollywood safe.

© Russell Smith, 2011

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Hooray, hooray, hooray

Who needs hallucinogens when you live in a ‘hood like Hollywood?

© Russell Smith, 2011

There’s always a friendly face to greet you when you de-subway at the Hollywood & Highland stop on the demonic Red Line. It cracks me up that the guy doesn’t even mention MSNBC. This picture would thrill the pants off of Rupert Murdoch, who is busy putting out a big fire in England. Let me tell you. This guy was proud of his sign. Please forgive my unfortunate use of the word crack!

© Russell Smith, 2011

I hate Madame Tussaud’s! Their figures are not wax. They are plastic. Check out the guy getting his jollies looking at the Asian woman’s body, while she is obliviously taking a picture. (You have to click on the images to get a larger view). Busted! I love candid photography.

© Russell Smith, 2011

Hollywood is larger than life. Life is larger than life, so Hollywood is larger than itself. Sometimes I get sick of all the tourists and crackheads but it really is an amazing place to live. Where else can I buy ashtrays with the Hollywood Walk of Fame on the bottom? There’s been a multi-billion dollar renovation of the town. Hundreds of new overpriced apartment units have gone up. It seems as though the character of the place really is changing. I heard a man once say that “In ten years, Hollywood will look just like Manhattan.” The last time I was in Manhattan I saw a lot of Starbucks, GAPs, and all the rest of the homogenizing chains. But I get what he’s saying. Hollywood will be expensive, flashy with restaurants and nightclubs, goody-goody with its overpriced organic food distributors. Über-gentrification might be a good name for the process.

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor

It is a sad day indeed here in Hollywood. An icon of epic proportions just died. I am speaking of Elizabeth Taylor. I heard the news on the Washington Post’s web site. It appears she left her body some time around 11 a.m. Pacific time. The cause of death is listed as complications of congestive heart failure. She’d been in hospital for a couple of weeks at Cedars Sinai, celebrating her birthday there on February 27. Her four children were with her when she died according to IMDB. As the peons and praises pour in, let my add my weak voice to the chorus. An Oscar laureate two times over, she never really garnered the acclaim as an actress that she deserved. She was accused of dragging down Richard Burton, ruining his career and making him a lap poodle. Let’s remember that Sir Richard was an alcoholic of raging proportions, that he remarried her just for the sadistic pleasure of leaving her again.

Why should we care about the passing of Liz Taylor? Because it marks the end of an era. A child actress, she made her fame in Lassie (the movie) and National Velvet. As an adult, her list of credits is endless. She worked hard for the money, yet according to all reports, she was a gracious lady to all comers, hence the Larry Fortensky fiasco. With Ms. Taylor’s passing, gone is a woman who turned all heads, world round, not just with her beauty but also her very public private life. She is one of the last of a dying breed- a real actor who put herself into a role without losing herself in that role. An actor who took her work more seriously than public persona. We could use more Liz Taylor’s and less Angelina Jolie’s in the movie business, that’s for sure. Despite her strange proclivities, such as her friendship with Michael Jackson, she did her best to leave the world a better place than when she found it, especially her groundbreaking work on the part of victims of AIDS. She’s probably done more single-handedly to humanize the plight of these people, and to encourage research and development of therapies to treat HIV/AIDS. God Bless her. She will be missed by generations of fans.

What are my favorite movies by Liz? You may ask. Here’s a short list: Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Butterfield 8 (a campy romp that landed her first Oscar). Virginia Wolfe was Oscar number 2. She did her share of stinkers- remember the Sandpipers? On the whole, her career was lengthy and full of well-deserved plaudits. She was a ground breaker in many ways. Did you know that she was the first actor to be paid a cool million for a role? That was back in 1963. Can you imagine Angelina Jolie condescending to take a role for only one million? Never!

Cropped screenshot of Richard Burton and Eliza...

Image via Wikipedia- Taylor & Burton in Cleopatra (1963)

Remember when she became the official vamp/femme fatale when she “stole” Eddie Fisher from poor little Debbie Reynolds? Nothing like that could ever happen again in this jaded world in which we live. The whole Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston affair was like a puff of smoke compared to the media explosion caused by the Reynolds-Fisher breakup and Liz’s role in it. Liz was a mirror of our society in many ways, from her mixed up marital shenanigans, to her charity and finally in her passing. According to sources, she went gently into that goodnight, to paraphrase a Welsh poet. Good bye, Liz. This is one blogger who will mourn you deeply. Speaking of bloggers, I stumbled across a great blog that has tons of beautiful pictures of the former Queen of Glamour. Please allow me to treat you to a couple.

Below is a more down to earth image of Liz, from the filming of Suddenly Last Summer, another great Taylor vehicle. When she is standing on the catwalk above the “insane” people, her facial expressions are amazing and real. Those smoldering glances and piercing eyes captured my heart when I was a little boy. I’ll never stop loving you, Liz! You will live forever in the hearts of your fans and in the body of work that you’ve left behind.

Smoldering in Suddenly Last Summer

Liz in 1964, photographed by Avedon

Panic in Hollywood

First there was the cult

I don’t know who these morons are. They were standing on the sidewalk (as you can see from the photos) but they objected when I took a picture of a couple of their signs. The second photo shows their leader trying to stop me from filming. They grew very agitated and couldn’t understand that because they were on the sidewalk with signs, then reason dictates that they wanted attention. I wished I’d been running my video camera, but alas. They were videotaping me, so perhaps the whole thing will be captured on YouTube for posterity anyway. Their low-budget frocks are almost endearing. They seemed very earnest and I would have been glad to hear what they think, but I’m Whitie, the blue-eyed Devil. Why can’t we all just get along?

So proud of their signage! ©Russell Smith, 2011

Note the fringe on their frocks! ©Russell Smith, 2011

Then there was the spitter

I saw the man spit at a woman. The woman said he was hitting on her underage daughter and she was trying to make him go away. His unfortunate manner of retaliating against the cock-blocking mother was inappropriate to say the least. He nearly got his ass kicked by the whole neighborhood. What follows are entertaining footage and photographs of the event.

First the videos

Then come the photographs

Figure 1. Restraint

"I have been base." Mercedes, The Count of Monte Cristo, by Dumas

"Run, Rabbit, Run!" John Updike


All we need is rope and a shovel.

The Power of Images

Shall I begin with some gossip?

I saw Andy D. on my own lowbrow street about a month ago in the company of a petite young man with a pretty face. Andy and I locked eyes, and he was so, “Where do I know you from?” He’s a funny man, but deeply troubled. He’s always getting into trouble. I believe he wants to be clean and sober, but the temptations of Hollywood hold him back. If I’ve heard the story once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Good luck, my friend. Or should I say, “Break a leg?” How do I know he was up to no good? Well, the city erected permanent road blocks along my street which is parallel with Hollywood Blvd. Does that answer your question? If you are from L.A. then that should clear everything up.

Russell gets rejected. Tries again.

Well, Beers & Lambert rejected my six submissions, but the images were shabby and poorly edited. Simple things were amiss like cropping. It’s embarrassing when I think about it now. But hey! We learn from our mistakes. I’ll never enter a contest so late. By the time they’ve reached the deadline, they’ve decided which pieces they want, and which pieces they don’t want.
But all is not lost, gentle readers! I just submitted 6 new pieces to a show right here in Los Angeles. To be exact, I submitted six pieces to LACDA; that is, the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. I am crossing my fingers. No! Don’t wish me luck! That is bad luck. If all else fails, just tell me to “break a leg.” I entered their snap to grid show which is not a competition, but rather a fund raiser. I haven’t even picked up my suitable for framing copy of the jpeg that I sent down the pike. C’mon Russell! Here’s the image, for your aesthetic appreciation. All Rights Reserved!


ENDORSEMENT

Tom LaBonge- another hit?

I would like to endorse Stephen Box over Tom LaBonge in the upcoming city election. Mr. Box has shown a sincere commitment to “greening” Los Angeles. He is a bicycle activist which is not always a good thing, but he’s thinking about the future. Most politicians just think about lining their pockets. Go to Mr. Box’s web page and compare it to Lefty Labonge’s. You should notice that there is a lack of hucksteria on Mr. Box’s pages, while Mr. LaBonge wants to scare everybody into space suits and freeze themselves for a good one hundred years, give or take. I wonder if he includes his daughter in his diabolical scheme? Bwah ha ha ha ha! I’m sick of Tom LaBonge. He’s so in the pocket of the developers that it isn’t even worth discussing at this point, and how much of the tax payers’ money is going into putting out those semi-talented calendars that he sends out to his poor constituents every year. Why not use that money to set up a scholarship fund? That would be a nice gesture, dontcha think?

A man with a stylist!

The before and after pictures of Stephen Box are courtesy of City Hall Insider.

Hollywood Cops

I get tired of them.

In the clutches...

They like to pick on people. They don’t like to arrest people, or filling out police reports. If you can afford private security, then you are safe in Hollywood; otherwise, you are in constant danger of being mugged, harassed, or any other awful thing. People use drugs in public. Crack houses operate with impunity. I know because I’ve lived across the street from one for years. Below is a video that shows cops harassing bicycle riders, and then they jump on the videographer. It’s ugly.

There’s a cop who appears in both the video and this picture. I’ve taken his picture before and he has a problem with being photographed. I wonder why? I wonder how many crimes, large or small that he’s committed while “protecting and serving?” All of the cops from the Wilcox station seem to give off a creepy vibe. There used to be a few nice guys on the force, but I think they got reassigned. One cop told me that personnel was down. If that’s so, why does it take THREE cops to detain this poor fellow who looks like he weighs 98 pounds wet?

2011- Day Two

It really is scary the way time excellerates as one gets older. I’m at that age where they really start to fly by. Hollywood was in the middle of a multi-billion dollar overhaul when the economy tanked. When I moved to Hollywood, over ten years ago that was. It looked quite different than the picture we now see. High end boutiques and trendy restaurants are elbow to elbow with the old stripper wear boutiques, head shops and tattoo parlors.

There’s a W Hotel and Apartments at Hollywood and Vine that nobody can afford. At Sunset and Vine there is a mixed use (apartments, restaurants and shops) structure that takes up an entire long block from Sunset to Selma on the west side of Vine. It’s called Sunset+Vine. How imaginative! These units looks very cheap but cost a fortune. Then at my end of Hollywood, in the heart of tourist land, Hollywood & Highland, the high-end residential stampede is finally grinding to a halt. The Jefferson Project and the McCadden Project are done.

©Russell Smith, Sunset+Vine

Above bears witness to the immense changes that Hollywood has undergone. Across from Sunset+Vine, a Trader Joe’s has just opened up.

An Interesting Holdout, Molly’s

On the NW corner of Selma and Vine

The Jefferson Project in Pictures


As you can see, the Yucca Corridor has been through a lot of changes, or should I say convulsions over the last few years? The last picture may be from the McCadden Project. It’s all ugly and overpriced. Nobody wants to rent it and it’s creepy to watch these multimillion dollar projects sit fallow. Poor city planning results in this kind of crap. And it makes me, for one, very angry. Where is the housing for the poor and middle class? We exist too. I guess this is the part where I wish everybody a Happy New Year. I wish it for the poor and the displaced. The horrible divide in wealth in this country will eventually lead to upheaval if it is not corrected.