Friday, December 13, 2019

Safety Last on Friday the 13th

Downtown L.A. has long been a place for movies. The Downtown avenue known as Broadway was once lined by fabulous movie palaces, at which the beautiful people would congregate to see motion pictures in luxurious surroundings. (Those surroundings are much seedier today, but some of the theatres—like the Orpheum—still exist, and play host to special screenings.) And, in the days when the motion picture industry was new, Downtown was often used as a backdrop for Laurel and Hardy pie fights and for Harold Lloyd dangling off the side of an office building in Safety Last! In more recent years, even though so much production has moved to right-to-work states and Third-World countries (not to mention Canada), Downtown still has allure for filmmakers. Films like Drive and a staggering number of commercials for cars, trucks, and other vehicles have made use of Downtown thoroughfares. 500 Days of Summer showed off the romantic side of what hipsters now call DTLA.

I recently took an “above the skyline” tour of DTLA, sponsored by the always-reliable Los Angeles Conservancy. This particular tour focused on the high-rises that shoot up above and around L.A.’s old Bunker Hill neighborhood. As a group led by a gifted docent armed with plenty of photos of what used to be, we mourned the loss of the spectacular old Atlantic Richfield tower and cheered for the adaptive reuse of the Superior Oil Company headquarters into the charmingly eccentric Standard Hotel, whose upside-down sign is a new DTLA landmark. But the  climax of our tour was a visit to the U.S. Bank Tower. Its construction, completed in 1989, led in a circuitous way to the saving of the grand old Los Angeles Central Library, which had been severely damaged by an arson fire and was dangerously close to being torn down. The backers of what was then called the Library Tower proposed to lease air rights above the library, which allowed for the building of a 72-story post-modern edifice, while giving the library the funds it needed for a major expansion campaign.

That 72-story tower, for many year’s L.A.’s tallest,  is now owned by a Singaporean consortium, which has transformed its top floors and viewing desk into a genuine tourist attraction, the Oue SkySpace.. Along with spectacular views the SkySpace offers a multimedia primer on all the wonders L.A. has to offer. You can photograph yourself being accosted by paparazzi at a glamorous movie premiere, or pose high above the lights of the City of Angels with angelic wings extending from your shoulders. There are vivid displays of L.A.’s sports heroes, and of the iconic record albums (like The Doors and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds) recorded locally to capture the L.A. vibe. Above all, there are nods to many of the movies set in SoCal: everything from the The Player to Straight Outta Compton, from The Big Lebowski to Crash. L.A. as seen in the movies is a place for romance and fun (The Graduate, L.A. Story), but also the grit and grime of urban life (Nightcrawler, Jackie Brown). It contains both the sadness of Chinatown and the derring-do of Die Hard, as well as the blend of horror and fantasy captured by Tarantino in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And, of course—with its fires, quakes, and mudslides—it offers great possibilities for disaster flicks.        

One of the stranger offerings at the SkySpace is an indoor/outdoor slide that slaloms you down a floor. It’s a great quick way to admire the view, and to remind you that L.A. is slide country, in more ways than one.
Beverly with Angel Wings

View from Oue SkySpace

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