Yesterday (March 19), Victoria and I joined Charles Phoenix on his "Disneyland" tour of downtown Los Angeles. Charles Phoenix collects vintage slides and produces retro slide shows. He's very informed, humorous and quirky. His next slide show will be "The Retro Disneyland Slide Show" at the Egyptian Theatre (sister theatre to the famous Chinese Theatre in Hollywood) March 25. Anyway... he has an interesting theory that downtown Los Angeles is like Disneyland in many ways. One has to stretch the imagination a little to follow the point, but we had a lot of fun visiting some interesting locales around town. About 50 of us were on the tour. Just like a visit to Disneyland, the tour began at the train station: Union Station in Los Angeles. This was the last of the grand train stations built in the USA and was built in 1939. I only took a single photo here and it didn't come out very well due to poor lighting. This is the original Harvey House restaurant. It is no longer used. Fred Harvey operated restaurants all along the Santa Fe route and provided the food on the trains. He is also Victoria's great-great-great grandfather.
From there, we boarded "The Monorail" (ok, it was really a Yellow Line metro light rail, but we pretended) to Chinatown. This was our Adventureland. Then it was over to Olvera Street, one of the oldest areas in Los Angeles. This street is filled with vendors and celebrates L.A.'s Mexican heritage. It was very much our Frontierland. We saw colorful Aztec dancers (remember the old Indian Village and Ceremonial Dance Circle?) and the oldest home in town, built in 1818. Just before we left, we were each treated to a free taquito! Yum. Then we were bused through the wholesale toy district (Fantasyland?) and up Broadway (Main St?) to Clifton's Restaurant for lunch. Built in 1935, it is the largest and strangest restaurant in Los Angeles. The interior is pure Country Bears.
The best you could say about the food was that it was hot, brown and there was plenty of it. Mr. Clifton was also a Salvation Army captain and his policy was "pay what you want." Anyone down on his or her luck that couldn't pay at all was still fed. In 1935, the suggested price for lunch was 64 cents!
(Sorry, again about photo quality) Looking over the dining room, you see it's decorated like a woodsy lodge. Note the moose head at the right. Across the way is a tiny two-person chapel (note the blue neon cross on the roof) where you can push a button and hear a pre-recorded homily. Just below our table was this rustic tableau... a little Critter Country mixed with POTC. All that was missing was an old gent plunking a banjo.
Here's another view. It's difficult to see, but at the center of this next photo, a family of stuffed bears is enjoying their lunch.
After lunch, we traveled down the street to see the Bradbury Building, built in 1893. Across the street was this eight-story mural of Anthony Quinn. It had nothing to do with the Disneyland theme, but was interesting all the same.
When Mr. Bradbury commissioned the design for his building in 1893, he wanted something futuristic. This was their idea of what architecture would look like in the year 2000.
New Orleans Square, anyone? Here is the wrought iron elevator. Note the glass ceiling. The building is still in use as office space.
Next, we visited the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre, built in 1961. We were treated to a show featuring annoying music and lots of puppets. Sound familiar?
We were also treated to cake and ice cream. The ice cream came in those little striped cardboard cups with the flat wooden spoon, just like Carnation used to serve on Main Street USA. Then we visited Marceline, KS.
Actually, Carroll Avenue: the largest concentration of Victorian homes in Southern California.
Most of the homes are maintained in beautiful condition and some are quite elaborate.
Here we found our Haunted Mansion:
At the end of the street was this fabulous "painted lady."
Charles Phoenix has conducted this tour many times and the owner of this home has never come out... but on this day he did. Not only did he greet us pleasantly, he actually invited our entire group insidefor an impromptu tour! (There's a brave man.) The interior is authentic Victorian. His family has owned the home since 1941 when his parents purchased it for $3000. It is currently on the market for just over $2 million.
It was a thrill to be invited inside and on this day was our equivalent to being admitted to Club 33. Those with an eye for detail will also note the similarity in the color of this home to the facade of Club 33. We then boarded our bus to visit Tomorrowland!
This is actually the Civic Center of Los Angeles. The "flying saucer" fountain was not operating, unfortunately. At the top of the photo, you can see the rounded shape of the Mark Taper Forum Theatre behind the square colonnade. Does it remind you of Disneyland's Carousel Theatre? It should. They were designed by the same architects! BTW: That's Charles Phoenix with his bullhorn. Only in La-La-Land can one dress in Mickey Mouse ears, a vintage Shriner's jacket, maroon pants, pink shoes and a red,white and blue tie... and no one looks twice! Down the street we stopped to view a large bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln. It was a brief, but great moment. Then it was on to "The Castle."
This, of course, is the Frank Geary designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
We climbed a daunting flight of stairs to the roof garden where we saw the "Lillian Disney Fountain" in the shape of a rose. It's made of thousands of bits of broken Delft pottery.
This next photo really has nothing to do with Disneyland, but the late afternoon light yielded a marvelous view of the Los Angeles City Hall from the roof of the concert hall.
One final detail of the swooping architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall looked vaguely familiar. Can you see a socerer's hat?
Then the tour was finished and returned to Union Station. Like I said, you had to use your imagination a little to make the Disneyland connections, but we all had a lot of fun finding these little nuggets of interest in downtown Los Angeles... and for an afternoon, it became our "Happiest Place On Earth."