Monday, February 21, 2011

The Langham

When young hopeful artists or twentysomethings move to LA without a trust fund, they often have to live in a layover neighborhood. A stopover before they get their bearings and move somewhere with a better zip code. I lived in North Hollywood but a few of my friends landed in Koreatown. K-town is pretty bland. Highrises, few trees, and a lack of anything else to do besides Korean BBQ. It's a little sketchy but the sketchiness doesn't make it more interesting (strangely). I have lived in many an emerging neighborhood and I've learned that there can always be little discoveries & places reveal themselves, especially if the neighborhood had anything to do with "Old Hollywood".

This past summer I was house sitting for my friend Jose while he shot a documentary about the banana trade in Central America. He lives in an apartment off of Wilshire Boulevard, converted from a 1920s hotel called The Langham. During the 1930s the Mid-Wilshire region was a pretty fancy neighborhood. Ritzy apartment buildings and hotels, department stores and restaurants. Although not as grand as it's neighbor the Ambassador Hotel, The Langham is still pretty ornamented by contemporary standards. So in the middle of Koreatown I was staying in an old golden gem. Though converted to moderately priced apartments and by no means lavish anymore, the building has maintained a lot of character. My friends eyes were like saucers when they entered the lobby with two story ceilings, a Kane-like fireplace and carved brass plated elevators. Most units still have a dressing room and built in vanity area-where, I am sure, one would primp before heading to the Oscars at The Ambassador. There is a penthouse on the top floor used for (many), film and photo shoots. And my favorite was the rooftop pool, allegedly LA's first. When Jose and his girlfriend broke up I asked if he was going to move and he said, not yet, "I'm not finished with this building." So for a couple months I was able to hide away, pad the floors & work on my script. I swam and took phonecalls by the pool. I often would hear sirens, but at times I could tap back into the fantasy, the echos of the old dream city.

photos by me and by Jose of -the lobby, stairwell, pool, one of the film shoots in front of the building, Nick & Natalie's engagement photo & Wendy Rose.

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