The lesson is...If you are a legally protected building with Historical Significance, and a developer with stars in their eyes buys you, you could soon be hearing the words of the Wicked Witch Of The West ringing from your storied walls at 4:30 in the morning...."Have a little FIRE, Scarecrow!"
This week the 1933 Carl Laemmle Building, the only building on Hollywood Boulevard designed by Richard Neutra, and with interiors by S. Charles Lee, became the latest in the long list of neighborhood Historical Treasures to vanish in a holocaust of 40 foot flames, begun somewhere between midnight and 6 am, and "already FULLY involved before firefighters arrived on the scene," even though the fire station is but three blocks away. The old Cahuenga station had a look out tower 50 feet above Selma Avenue, so the firemen of yore could spot smoke anytime of the day or night, from Mount Lee to the Ambassador Hotel. Perhaps they should have moved it down the street when they built the new station.
So, we can add the Laemmle Building and the landmark business Dan-Dee Shoe Repair with its historic neon sign, to the ABC Radio Studios, The Little Country Church Of Hollywood, The Vine Street Brown Derby, the Hillview Apartments (lucky da 'hood was in the mood for condos when that got torched!), The Pan Pacific Auditorium, and portions of The Garden Court Apartments. All places that developers had been in some sort of snit about before spontaneously combusting. While I certainly can't SAY FOR SURE what happened in the case of the Laemmle building, it did just change hands, and you will note, it is the only corner of the four at Hollywood and Vine, that is not a Condo Ready High Rise. Nope. It was one story and it was going to have to stay that way. Unlessssss......
One of our brave Councilmen, See No Evil Hear No Evil Never Call The D.A. Over Gangster Developers La Bonge, arrived on the scene to assess the loss of this landmark. When reporters asked him about how important the famed building was, he immediately replied...."The LAND alone is worth MILLIONS!" Thanks Tom.
(To learn a great deal more about how things work in the neighborhood these days, I encourage you to follow the link below and read the article from The Hollywood Heritage Newsletter on Page 5 and learn how this....
........Turns into THIS......
.....And NO ONE gets held accountable for it!
May 2007, Volume 26. No. 1 (special color double issue) )
While most media reports have stated that the only thing of note that happened in the building since 1933 was that a scene was shot for a remake of Oceans 11, a production as overblown as La Bonge's sense of self awareness, the building did, in fact, house many important restaurants over the years, and for anyone who grew up or lived in the neighborhood prior to the "old days" death throes in of the early 1990's, it was full of cherished memories.
As I said in the beginning, it was designed by Richard Neutra, and what was REALLY fantastic was that the building one door over, Sardi's (now the porn shop) was designed by R.M Schindler. Not TOO many places in town where the two had buildings 20 paces apart. When the Pig n' Whistle at Las Palmas outgrew it's tiny space next to the Egyptian, in the late 30's, it expanded into the Laemmle building, and later changed its name to "Melody Lane" while remaining in the "Pig N' Whistle" Chain. With the name change, the big guns were called in and S. Charles Lee was hired to give the entire building a Moderne look.
In the late 1950's and 60's it was transformed into a family oriented coffee shop named "Hody's" which was legendary for it's gigantic "clown head" sign trellis. Frankly, it scares the hell out of me, I can't IMAGINE how it didn't frighten children and hippies. None the less, it was there for years.
This is where the irony gets REALLY thick. After they let squatters in to burn The Vine Street Brown Derby (that's an old developer trick...leave holes in the fences and back doors unlocked in an unwanted building, so when it goes up, you can blame punk squatters and junkies before the cameras, then collect your insurance money), and Grant had it bulldozed against court order (I mean, Grant REALLY REALLY needed another parking lot!), the Hollywood Brown Derby, relocated into the Laemmle Building, and went discount, hoping to attract the Lucy Ricardo Tourists, looking for their long de-camped Bill Holdens. It closed in 1993, leaving Musso's the last man standing.
It was closed for several years, then became an ENORMOUS tattoo parlor. Finally, around the turn of the century, things were looking up for the neighborhood, and the tattoo joint was shunted to one side, making room for a ridiculous club full of poseurs and wannabees, the sort who think OTHER poseurs and wannabees with clipboards and lists should be what gets you into a club, rather than a decent suit of cloths, proper shoe leather, and a generous tip to the maitre 'd, like it should be (and still is in NY).
I mean, the Bush girls partied there to celebrate turning 21 so they could get shitfaced "legal." Need I say more?
Then they shot part of a crappy remake there, then it burned, while the learned Councilmen stood on the corner fancying himself a real estate appraiser. I will admit, he did better as an apraiser evaluating the corner of Hollywood and Vine than he did as an Historian, once claiming before assembled news media that the land beneath the Hollywood Sign had been left in perpetuity to the City Of Los Angeles by Griffith J. Griffith in 1911. It was in fact, privately owned and DONATED to the City in 1949, as anyone with even a cursory knowledge of neighborhood history knows...oh hell...THATS even in $2 tourist pamphlets sold to Iowans at World Book And News, on every Grey Line Tour, on The Chamber of Commerce website....tourists, and junkies walking out of the methadone clinic know that, if they've been in town more than two weeks! Tom had to shut up. I desperately with that THAT lesson had taken. (The Councilman is Pictured Here Announcing To A Shocked Local Press That His Name Is Jor-El As He Welcomes Them To His Newly Remodled Mansion On Mount Krypton)
Can't wait to see what goes up next in an early morning conflagration. Because the word is out. Fires "intentional" or "accidental" (in which case landlords should be held accountable for not having proper alarms and sprinkler systems!) and "accidental bulldozing without proper permits" (I'm certain they would have torched The Cocoanut Grove, if Boston hadn't already beat them to it) will go unpunished, by the Council, DA Cooley, Wilcox Station, the Fire Department (who is responsible for enforcing the fire code and inspecting the buildings, and doing arson investigations) and any other LA good old boy group that has visions of high rises dancing in their heads. Forget it Jake, it's Hollywood.
I'm actually glad our Dear Sainted Mayor of Hollywood is in a better place, and didn't have to look at smoke rising outside his window at the Roosevelt, yet again. And I hope where ever he is, he's as pissed as I am, and starts haunting some people who are hell bent on smashing up whats left of the neighborhood for those DREADFUL yuppies and their condos.