1. Who knew that a small Catholic college (now the home of American Film Institute) at the corner of Vermont and Western was a hotbed of social discontent in the 1960s? And the primary revolutionaries were nuns? Sister Corita Kent headed the art department at the college and encouraged activism through art. Using screen printing techniques, Kent and her students could quickly create posters to pepper marches protesting the war in Vietnam and racism. Despite being created by a nun, Sister Corita’s art commanded attention. She is considered a Pop Art contemporary of Andy Warhol. Her work is held by major institutions like the Whitney and LACMA. And yet we found a collection of her work lining the walls in an unassuming hallway on an all-girl high school campus in Los Feliz. Visitors are welcome to visit free of charge.
Sister Corita Kent's Protest Art (Photo by Lyudmila Zotova)
2. Before Brangelina, there was Hollywood screenwriting royalty Joan Didion and Gregory Dunne. No one captures Los Angeles like Didion does in her essays, like her treatise on driving the freeways in 1960s LA. The iconic photo of petite Didion in a maxi dress leaning against her white Stingray Corvette was taken in front of her then home, now the Shumei Retreat House. The public is welcome to visit the garden behind the house, formerly the tennis court where Didion and Dunne’s daughter played tennis.
The author Joan Didion at what is now the Shumei Retreat House (Photo by Julian Wasser)
3. Restoration Lives! Los Angeles traditionally has not been all that great with history. In particular, architectural history. Take for instance the Ambassador Hotel, former home of the acclaimed Cocoanut Grove, demolished in 2005. In Highland Park, a Prohibition era bowling alley, after a long stint as a punk music venue, has been lovingly restored to its former glory. Added bonus, preservationists discovered a California Plein Air mural that runs the length the wall behind the pin racks.
4. The art of a broken heart makes for a good date. One of the greatest additions to the LA museum scene is a Croatian transplant. The Museum of Broken Relationships in the former Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie store shares an evolving collection of artifacts of ruptured romance with its sister museum in Zagreb. Love letters to a dinosaur piñata to stolen street signs with an ex-lover’s name are elegantly displayed alongside plaques telling stories using the universal language of heartbreak. (Photo at courtesy of the Museum of Broken Relationships)
5. One of the best parts of writing this book, besides working with great people, was deciding what tip to include for each place. Although the book is called 111 Places in Los Angeles That You Must Not MIss, each entry includes a tip, someplace less well known, perhaps around the corner to add to the experience. So the book is more like 222 places. After visiting Velveteria (entry 104), I explored Chinatown and stumbled upon the gem of Tin Bo. For almost thirty years Tin Bo has been providing traditional Chinese Medicine and herbs. Teas in large glass containers on wooden shelves neatly line the walls. Staff in smock aprons will fill orders upon request.
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