If you land at LAX bleary-eyed, intensely sleep deprived and - to maintain this overheated tone - ravenously hungry after a jarringly early flight from Chicago, it might be your temptation to jump in your rental car and make a beeline to points north, Hollywood or wherever you might be bound. It might well be your temptation in such a state to throw your arms around the first drive-thru you encounter. Heaven knows your arms and your stomach are all too familiar with such dubious embraces (and yet if to love the drive-thru is wrong, perhaps we do not want to be right, a part of your mind stubbornly contends).
But if you proceed instead east and a couple of miles south through some of the working class neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, you might come on a Googie vision called Chips.
To sit in this impeccably operated joint of a weekday morning and have a large breakfast served to you, nary a hipster in sight amongst the clientele going quietly and happily about their business, to gaze out the ample plate glass onto Hawthorne Boulevard on one of those fine California mornings, sitting among the brash, jutting surfaces...is to be very happy and have greeted the sprawling city on the best of terms.
To continue this relatively gentle ingress into Los Angeles, you might also avoid the clogging artery of the 405 expressway and instead proceed north on La Cienega Boulevard, much as it will throw other culinary and aesthetic temptations before you, like Randy's Donuts.
|Something went terribly wrong in this country when we stopped erecting giant roadside figures and foodstuffs. God bless America! Randy's Donuts - La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. |
Up La Cienega, along ravines east and west of the sinuous thoroughfare, you'll also see derricks going about their work, one of the many iconic cliches of the city and decades past, which has favored many a film set in Los Angeles as a shorthand of place and usually time. And yet there they are, like so much about the city - past and present, the real and the unreal superimposed upon one another. The derricks slowly plying their trade like those toy birds of perpetual motion set to plunge and return from some little reservoir of water, slowly and inexorably dipping, rising, dipping again.
If you find your place of sleep through all the traffic and infinite calls to the already overburdened senses, if you then sleep most of the late afternoon away, how better to enhance the sense of unreality, the heady cocktail of fatigue, displacement and, well, Los Angeles, then to venture back out for a night of film?
Even better that the strangeness be turbo-charged by an odd East German/Polish sci-fi extravaganza entitled First Spaceship on Venus. The discovery that Earth was visited and nearly destroyed by malicious Venusians in the early 20th century, prompting and international team of eggheads to zoom off to Venus in a ship called the Cosomostrator, which looks more like a pointy, souped-up candelabra than a spacecraft.
All of this occurring at the New Beverly Cinema. Charmingly stuck in a 60's/70's theater wardrobe of coarse, fairly tacky fabric draped over (presumably) cinder block walls in its broad auditorium. The New Beverly was saved from redevelopment by none other than Quentin Tarantino in 2007. In 2014, he took over the programming. Hence, the generally wondrous parade of nightly double features, projected from actual 35mm film.
Tarrantino's own film output might have veered yet again toward the masturbatory - Hateful Eight offered the seamy prospect of a flasher whipping it out and then sadly unable to get it up - but you have to hand it to the man for his advocacy of film, interesting careers salvaged from the Hollywood scrap heap and the extended life he has granted The New Beverly.
The mission to Venus mainly a success - some good men lost to the hostile environment - the Cosmostrator settles back to Earth. Each of the surviving scientists offer their words of wisdom. Some are too overcome to say much. Some impressive shocks of Eastern European hair bounce off into the sunset. A happy crowd of film geeks is discharged onto Beverly Boulevard and into the Los Angeles night.