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Weird LA part 2

The continuing adventures of Paul and Jim in Weird LA…

Friday evening, after spending the day at Anaheim’s WonderCon, we dropped into Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles for a uniquely American dinner, then headed to the Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s a Rat Pack-era dive bar that hasn’t changed a bit since 1963. Since it happened to be William Holden’s birthday, we stopped by his star (just off Hollywood Blvd on Vine Street) to pay our respects.

On Saturday morning, joined by another friend, Tim Kupins AKA Koop, we set off on a day-long adventure in Los Angeles. Because we got a late start, we had to cut several destinations from our schedule; I’ll cover those in a separate post.

Paul and Koop at Lucha Junkie.  Photo by me. © 2014 Jim MacQuarrie

Paul and Koop at Lucha Junkie.
Photo by me.
© 2014 Jim MacQuarrie

First stop was at Paul’s request, a visit to a Lucha Libre store, “Lucha Junkie,” a little shop in East LA. We almost missed it, because the name wasn’t on the sign; instead there was a sign reading “The Tunnel.” When we went inside, we found that it wasn’t one shop, it was several all sharing space. There’s a comic shop (Legion Comics) up front, with a skate shop on the opposite side of the room. The next counter down contained art supplies on one side with punk music DVDs on the other. Behind that, there’s a screenprinting setup with t-shirts for sale opposite the thing we came for, an alcove full of luchador masks, action figures, t-shirts and DVDs of famous Mexican masked wrestlers. There were other sections in the store, but I didn’t make it that far.

After leaving the Tunnel, we headed to Philippe’s for lunch. They claim to be the inventor of the french dip sandwich, and while I can’t verify that claim (there’s at least one other place in LA that claims they invented it), I can say they make a pretty good one, with your choice of beef, ham, pork, lamb or turkey. The place is always crowded, but there’s ample seating. It’s cash only, so hit the ATM before you come in.

The Velveteria. Behind these doors are more black velvet paintings than you can imagine. They have a "no photos" policy, unfortunately.

The Velveteria. Behind these doors are more black velvet paintings than you can imagine. They have a “no photos” policy, unfortunately.

Two blocks west of Philippe’s is the Velveteria, possibly the world’s only museum of black velvet paintings. For $10, you can wander through several rooms of these kitsch treasures, which run the gamut from bling-covered portraits of Liberace to Keane-inspired big-eyed portraits of Vietnam-era US soldiers, sent to stateside families by homesick military personnel. Some of the art on display is horrendously amateurish, some are vibrant examples of folk art, and a surprising number of them are actually very good. The subject matter ranges from Playboy pinups to pink poodles, with an entire room devoted to examples intended to be seen under black light. The owners are a wonderful couple who clearly love sharing their oddball collection; if you can’t make it to LA to see the Velveteria, you should check out their book, Black Velvet Masterpieces: Highlights from the Collection of the Velveteria Museum.

You've seen these stairs in dozens of movies. Photo by me. © 2014 Jim MacQuarrie

You’ve seen these stairs in dozens of movies.
Photo by me.
© 2014 Jim MacQuarrie

About six blocks south of the Velveteria is the legendary Bradbury Building. Built in 1893, it’s been a popular film location for decades, most notably Blade Runner and (500) Days of Summer, and it played a vital role in the Outer Limits episode “Demon With a Glass Hand,” written by Harlan Ellison. The interior of this building is amazing. If you remember the episode, one of the climactic moments is a chase in which Robert Culp has to try to beat the ornate wrought iron elevator full of evil aliens to the lobby by running down the ornate wrought iron stairway, finally leaping from the final landing (the stunt man broke his ankle). In Blade Runner, the Bradbury served as the home of the creepy inventor of the replicants, and the climax was filmed on the roof. In (500) Days of Summer, it’s the setting for the final scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt has his job interview. It’s an insanely cool building, and it’s free to explore the first floor lobby and take photos from the first landing of the stairways. The rest of the building is occupied by businesses, so you can’t go traipsing around the upper floors or the 110-year-old elevators.

Across the street is the Million Dollar Theater, a 1920s-era movie palace that’s recently been restored to its original state. The front facade is spectacular.

More to come…

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