Archive for August, 2010

Cemetery Cinema

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a unique setting to watch a film on a Saturday night.  Cinespia is in its tenth season of transforming this famous cemetery into a moonlit cinema.  Last weekend, we watched “The Sting” (1973) with 3,000 other movie lovers and the spirits of screen legends interred nearby.

In the daytime, the cemetery is popular with tourists who want to commune with dead celebs such as Looney Tunes voice actor Mel Blanc; producer Cecil B. DeMille; actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr.; “Golden Girl” Estelle Getty; philanthropist Griffith J. Griffith; guitarist Johnny Ramone; gangster Bugsy Siegel; and actress Fay Wray.  Hollywood Forever is bordered by strip malls and car repair garages so its glamour is a bit frayed at the edges.

As the sun set, we enjoyed a picnic with our Canadian friends Ethan and Zarene on the grass beside the mausoleum which holds Rudolph Valentino’s tomb.  The lawn was cool and damp so we sat on an unzipped sleeping bag as we dug into stromboli, salad, corn on the cob, and cake.  The group next to us huddled around a tablecloth covered in tea lights, so we were in fine company dining al fresco.  DJs Hair and Carlos Niño spun Bob Dylan and Portishead to keep the crowd feeling groovy.  Most smokers were kind enough to congregate near the porta-potties next to a field of parked cars.  Scott was smart to pack our camping headlamps so that we could find our way in the dark.

Just after sunset, “The Sting” was projected onto the side of Valentino’s mausoleum.  “The Sting” stars Robert Redford and the late Paul Newman as Depression-era grifters who con a mob boss out of half a million dollars.  The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director in 1974.  It’s fun and exciting to watch – such a crowd-pleaser!

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Jared Harris, Amoeba Music, and “The Rachel Papers”

Last week, “Mad Men” was filming an episode a couple blocks from our loft in downtown L.A.   As I waited to meet Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper on the series), I took this photo of his co-star Jared Harris (who plays Lane Pryce, Don Draper’s former British overlord / new business partner).  The crew member I was speaking with as I snapped this shot was surprised that the British actor has fans in America.    

One of my favourite retail haunts in L.A. is Amoeba Music.  Amoeba Music is the world’s largest independent record store:  new and used vinyl, CDs, DVDs, posters, T-shirts…  it’s all there.  Our French friends Aude and Adrien brought us to the Haight-Ashbury store in San Francisco last summer and when we moved to L.A. last fall, I was eager to explore the Hollywood store on Sunset Blvd.  The original store is still open on Telegraph St. in Berkeley.

Recently, I bought a used DVD of “The Rachel Papers” (1989) at Amoeba Music.  I was excited to find it as I had seen the film once on late-night TV in the early 1990s.  I had liked the film enough to read the novel, which is by Martin Amis.  Scott watched the film with me and we’re sorry to report it hasn’t aged well despite its interesting cast:  Ione Skye, Jonathan Pryce, James Spader, and you guessed it, Jared Harris.  Although Jared Harris once lamented on NPR that being a chameleon-like actor is “good for the craft; crap for the career” and that “in this country, a good actor is confused with a famous actor”, we recognized him right away and are happy that he’s still a good actor and now a famous one, too.

Moreton Bay Fig Tree

In my hometown of Winnipeg, the land is flat and the city’s urban forest boasts the largest population of American Elm trees in North America.  From the air, the treetops are so abundantly green in the summertime that the city looks like a tray of freshly-steamed broccoli!  In our current neighbourhood of downtown L.A., shade trees are few and far between so sometimes I miss walking under Winnipeg’s canopy of century-old elms.

Colorado Blue Spruce trees anchor the landscaping of most yards in Winnipeg.  These evergreens are perennial reminders of Christmas in a town that’s covered in snow six months of the year.  During our first Christmas in California, I didn’t know what to make of the palm trees draped in tinsel and cotton batting:  Charlie Brown would not approve of these tarted-up palm trees.  I grew to love the Bay Area’s majestic Canary Island Date Palm trees.  Their thick trunks and full crowns inspire confidence:  these are trees that you can trust.  I feel no such affinity for the tall and skinny Mexican Fan Palm trees which are most common in L.A.  Their spindly trunks and feathery fronds remind me of flighty Hollywood starlets.  Mexican Fan Palms are the “Paris Hilton of Trees”.

Scott shares my fascination with trees; his all-time favourite tree is the Moreton Bay Fig Tree in Santa Barbara.  We visit this Ficus macrophylla every time we pass through town; it is the largest of its kind in the country.  A plaque in front of the tree indicates that it was planted in 1877 and designated a historic landmark in 1970.  Its branch spread was 176 ft (53.6 m), its height was 80 ft (24.4 m), and the circumference of its trunk was 41.5 ft (12.6 m) at 4.5 ft (1.4 m) above the ground in July 1997.  I wonder how much it’s grown since then.

Last Monday night, we stood under the Moreton Bay Fig Tree at dusk.  It’s such a beautiful tree.  The sun had set so I tried to compensate for the darkness by using a tripod and setting a slow shutter speed on my camera, but my photos didn’t turn out.  The photo I’ve posted is of the tree as it appeared last August, when we visited the tree during our move from the Bay Area to L.A.  Someone had chained a bike frame to the fence that surrounds the tree.  The white bike frame lends a sense of scale to the shot.

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