Week two in LA and we’re heading just north of downtown to Echo Park.
A neighbourhood that, pre-WWI, was the Hollywood of LA, the place all the film studios called home. Charlie Chaplin, Westerns etc.
After the ‘white flight’ post-WWII, Latinos and gangs moved in but more recently in the last decade it’s been artists and hipsters, seeking a cheaper alternative to neighbouring uber-hip Silver Lake.
Echo Park’s main drag is on Sunset Boulevard, which, despite all the romantic imagery those two words conjure up, is pretty run-down in parts, with the occasional hipster-friendly shop or cafe. Much like Sydney’s Paramatta Road, around Annandale, for example. The hilly bits above Sunset, on the other hand, reminded me of some parts of Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Now, apparently it’s still a real mix of people but truly, everyone we met – the non-Latinos at least – were all writers, musicians or actors.
But by “everyone” I mean, ooh, maybe ten people. As the guy in the bookshop explained, LA isn’t a “sidewalk culture” (okay, maybe Venice Beach is, but not here).
In other words, people were very thin on the ground, literally.
So, given the lack of bods and the fact we’re in the land of make believe – and that Echo Park has some relationship of one kind or another with various LA writers like Raymond Chandler and Bukowski – I decided this post would be a little different…
Lights, camera, action…
Irene, a passionate landscape architect and vintage collector from Arizona, has arrived in LA to pursue her dream of becoming a famous actress. She narrates her story…
Then one day I got a call from a big shot agent. Come up to Silver Lake and we’ll talk, he said.
What did it all mean?
Cast, in order of appearance:
Maya Stein (student and fifth generation of the original Mexicans in LA from the 1700s) in intro image
Irene (vintage mannequin), appearing as herself
Andy (musician) and injured dog Whelan, as themselves
Maria (unknown career), as Frida Kahlo
Matthew (pathology assistant), the guy with the gun, as the hit man (Yes, real gun, he has… three)
Gerado (17 year old student), as Karate Kid
Ned Casual (musician, actor, painter), as moody Mike
Rosie (from England, out here with punk rock dad), as lonely Lola
Unknowns as Eddie and Bill
Manuk (actor, photographer), as Jack
Unknowns as Ghoulish faces
Dominga Perez Padron and Jose Ramon Padron as dearly departed Mexicans in photographs at an early Day of the Dead celebration in Echo Park
Eric (stage actor, newly arrived from Chicago) as the Man who Smoked a Pipe
Unknown as Juan.
Bronson the pug as himself.
All vintage clothing by Flounce Vintage, Echo Park.
Pretty kooky huh? Well, silly it may be but it was kind of fun to do. I didn’t have the idea until after I’d shot 99% of the shots so it was like piecing a storyboard together, albeit with limited images.
To anyone who I photographed, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve cast you as a character in this strange little production. As I said, I didn’t know at the time that I was going to use your photos like this. Please email me if you’d prefer not to be involved. (I may then have to kill you off… oh dear, it’s all getting rather complicated…)
Anyway, to round out the picture of Echo Park, I should say that it has more than just seedy, run-down motels/apartment blocks (which I personally love for some reason). There’s a range of architecture there, from the grand Victorians in the area called Angelino Heights, to some nice Modernist homes. It also has a major sports stadium, a huge park and a lake that would be filled with lotus flowers if it weren’t for the fact it’s currently under renovation and looks more building site-ish than anything lovely.
On the ‘home front’
Coco had a ball at Echo Parks’ Flounce Vintage, trying on pretty much every pair of shoes in the place as well as all the lovely old hats. And she also loved all the dancing at the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration we stumbled on while we were in the neighbourhood.
But the real highlight of the week? Disneyland! She has my friend Fiona to thank for that – if it’d been up to me, we’d never have gone. But Fiona offered to take Coco and then I felt I had to go too, so off we all went, with Fiona’s 13 year old, Katie, in tow. How was it? Hugely fun. Except for Space Mountain. It was terrifying. Not the spooky imagery but the way you hurtled through complete darkness at unbelievable speed, violently jerking this way and that at every turn. Coco and I clung on to each other, me screaming “JUST SHUT YOUR EYES!” and Coco screaming back, “IT DOESN’T HELP!”, totally convinced she was about to be thrown out of the cart at any moment. I swear it was the most freaked out either of us have been since we left Sydney more than 10 months ago – at Disneyland!
This suburb has been brought to you by Triscia from Fresco Creative
See you next week.