The Garden of Allah was once Hollywood’s most famous – or perhaps infamous – hotel during from the 1930s through the 1950s. Corrupt Los Angeles officials did nothing to prevent the hotel being destroyed.
The brilliant Jack Nicholson in CHINATOWN. His face hacked by corrupt politicians in the classic film about evil and corrupt Los Angeles.
Polanski’s plot in the 1974 film classic CHINATOWN, on its surface, is about political corruption, a Water Department (Watergate?) scandal in Los Angeles in the 1930s. But his real story concerns human corruption, so deep and extensive as to be terminal. And his message, for all its apparent topicality, is finally so pessimistic, really nihilistic, that although Polanski exposes the corruption of capitalism (the sexual as well as the financial), he does not offer even the wisp of a political alternative.
THE TWO JAKES was the CHINATOWN sequel released in 1990 directed by Jack Nicholson. Jake Gittes investigates adultery and murder… and the money that comes from oil.
Is it time for a movie sequel? CHINATOWN 3 or the SUNSET STRIP?
THE PITCH… A Los Angeles Councilman, his chief of staff, and corrupt lobbyist attorneys ignore California and USA governments reports and help approve billion dollar developments built on earthquake faults all over Los Angeles. The FBI have started a stink operation within the corrupt L.A. City Hall. A major earthquake happens. Thousands dead and billions of dollars lost. The “City of the Angels” turns into Bell, California meets Enron meets Big Rock Mesa in Malibu! During the third act we see federal convictions for extortion, bribery, conflicts of interest and election crimes…they involve everyone… from the mayor to major attorney lobbyists to a building inspectors. Los Angeles declares bankruptcy and replaces Chicago as the most corrupt city in the USA and becomes a ruinous eyesore like Detroit. Who do you root for? The citizens of Los Angeles. Who are the villains? Politicians and corrupt attorney lobbyists. Box Office results? Major hit because America hates greedy politicians, lobbyists and doesn’t trust the government.
Could CHINATOWN 3 be based on a true story?
(Left ) Yesterday – Poster for the classic film Chinatown starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway; (Right) Today – Congresswoman Janice Hahn, former member of the Los Angeles City Council, and current Councilman Tom LaBonge in a recent parade in Chinatown. The 8150 Sunset development is in LaBonge’s district 4. Carolyn Ramsay, his Chief of Staff, is ignoring all calls from his constituents over the apartment project.
(Left: Bill Lewis – FBI director for Los Angeles) As Jessica Mitford - the “Queen of the Muckrakers” – would say… only the FBI can handle malfeasance and unbridled corruption at this level…
Lewis is a great American and a man who knows corruption when he sees it.
“The City of the Angeles” is so blessed to have him serving Southern California interests.
Can Mr. Lewis organize a new FBI “gangster squad” to clean up dirty politics in Los Angeles and West Hollywood?
Los Angeles seems the perfect place to investigate. According to Steve Lopez at the L.A. Times, Los Angeles is the second most corrupt city in the USA.
From Mickey Cohen and the Hollywood Mob to a history of corruption in West Hollywood. (Left) July 20, 1949: Mickey Cohen, right, and Harry Cooper leave the Continentale Cafe on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. An hour later, the two were shot outside Sherry’s Restaurant, on Sunset Boulevard. (Center) Mickey Cohen’s car outside Sherry’s on Sunset Boulevard (across from the former Scandia) after the shooting. An arrow points to bullet holes in the window. (Right) Cohen’s home blown up by West Hollywood gangsters. (Courtesy: Los Angeles Times.)
How corrupt is West Hollywood?
IS PAUL HASTINGS, A DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES LAW FIRM, RUNNING THE CITY OF WEST HOLLYWOOD POLITICAL MACHINE?
Hasting’s clients Townscape partners are developing 8899 Beverly Blvd and 8150 Sunset Blvd. The Los Angeles and West Hollywood city attorneys seem to have no problem with this.
“Democracy has left West Hollywood. This cannot stand. Our city has become bogged down in CORRUPTION, machine politics, and we have entrenched elites who are in the back pocket of wealthy developers…” John Lucas
John Lucas was the youngest candidate to run for West Hollywood City Council in 2011. He is West Hollywood’s future. He could not beat the entrenched corrupt political machine that controls West Hollywood. His word are more frightening today: “We need to stop this stranglehold and take back our city! First elected during the Reagan administration, John Heilman and Abbe Land have been on the city council for over 40 years combined. Heilman himself has been entrenched since 1984! These two professional politicians have become entrenched elites who have been in a position of power for decades. Democracy was further eroded in 2009, when rather than conducting a free and democratic election, Lindsey Horvath was appointed to the city council by Heilman and Land after having lived in West Hollywood for only 18 months. She proved to be a solid and loyal vote for the two, allowing them to further their agenda on behalf of developers who contribute to their campaigns. Is this what representative democracy is supposed to be?”
(From Left to Right): West Hollywood (WEHO) Councilman John Duran (was under investigation for two years by the LA District Attorney for abuse of city credit cards and possible indictment);WEHO City Attorney Michael Jenkins who seems to play the Paul Hastings game; WEHO Councilman Jeffrey Prang (Former special assistant to John Noquez, Los Angeles County Assessor, who is pending Federal prosecution for 30 felony counts of major corruption charges).
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(Left: Jayne KIm, State Bar of California, Chief Trial Counsel) The developers of 8150 Sunset Blvd. (in Los Angeles) and 8899 Beverly Blvd. (in West Hollywood) employ Paul Hastings as lawyers. Does Jenkins think there could be a conflict of interest regarding Hastings when it comes to the best interests of the citizens of West Hollywood? Is there a conflict of interest? Is Duran, an attorney, advising Jenkins? Is it time for Jayne Kim (State Bar of California, Chief Trial Counsel) to join Mr. Lewis at the FBI and look into all of this?
West Hollywood City Council has a history of of Federal convictions for fraud. Valerie Terrigno, West Hollywood’s first mayor, was convicted of 12 counts of embezzling thousands of dollars in 1986 from Crossroads Counseling, an agency for the poor, when she was executive director of the agency from 1982 to 1984. Ms. Terrigno’s attorney, Howard Weitzman (O.J. Simspon), told jurors in closing arguments of the four-day trial that his client was being singled out because she was a lesbian. But jurors said her homosexuality was never an issue in their deliberations. Terrigno was just a corrupt politician and a common thief. Federal District Judge Laughlin Waters sentenced Ms. Terrigno to prison.
John Noguez, former Los Angeles County Assessor, in jail house orange talking to his attorney about setting bail and getting out of jail. Noguez is charged with 30 felony counts, including accepting bribes, perjury and misappropriation of public funds. Jeffrey Prang, West Hollywood City Councilman, was a special assistant to the government official. Noquez allegedly abused his office by trading bribes for lowering property tax bills.
Prang states he is a long-time “political friend” of the government official now out on bond and awaiting trial for corruption charges. Prang was also worked in Pico Rivera where officials were investigated for sleaze and more corruption charges.
The University of Illinois, Patt Morrison and Steve Lopez (LA Times) consider Los Angeles the second most corrupt city in the USA. The Department of Building and Safety has been a major target for the FBI including indictments and criminal convictions. Remember the bribes and pay-offs in the film classic Chinatown?
Los Angeles and West Hollywood historical buildings in the immediate area of the 8150 Sunset skyscraper apartment complex designed by a San Francisco architect.
Last week’s deadly fire on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. The corrupt City of Los Angeles failed to have sprinklers installed in high-rise apartment buildings. A small baby is in intensive care because of corrupt Los Aneles politicians. This proves how dangerous skyscrapers can be besides earthquakes. Do the residents of Los Angeles and West Hollywood want this happening at Sunset and Crescent Heights?
(Left to Right: Teddy Davis, Tara Bannister, Carolyn Ramsey, Joan Pelico, Steve Veres) These are the bit players in “Chinatown 2″. The five announced candidates running for Councilman Tom LaBonge’s District 4 seat in LALALAND. They hope to become elected officials in what the LA Times is calling the second most corrupt city in the USA. What is their position on taking money from developers building high-rise skyscraper apartment projects on major earthquake faults?
The iconic mid-century LYTTON CENTER will be destroyed to make way for a skyscraper apartment project. Hundreds of resident are joining together to oppose this. Young, old, minorities, celebrities and citizens who believe in American exceptionalism, recently cheered by President Obama, don’t want transient high-rise apartments at the gateway to Sunset. These voters feel LYTTON CENTER should be turned into a mid-century architectural museum and the shopping center into a park. Including a special section for children and a special section for walking their dogs.
The Los Angeles Police Department “Gangster Squad” that finally got West Hollywood gangster Mickey Cohen. This led to FBI investigations and indictments against the Sunset Strip mob boss. It is time for Mr. Lewis, with the FBI, to expose the major corruption in Los Angeles and West Hollywood…
Thousands of the voters in this area are Democrats. Many have contributed millions of dollars to major national, state and city candidates. These players can easily afford to recall Los Angeles City Council members who plan to put families at risk with apartments built on earthquake faults. Starting with Hollywood’s Mitch O’Farrell…
THE HISTORY OF THE GARDEN OF ALLAH…
Excellent historic video on the Garden of Allah… does Los Angeles want a skyscraper apartment project as a monument to a great era?
“Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got / ‘Til it’s gone / They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot”…. Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”
Urban legend has it that folk music legend and “lady of the canyon” Joni Mitchell penned her 1970 song “Big Yellow Taxi,”–an eerily cheerful lament about green space turning into concrete businesses–about something in Los Angeles that wasn’t there anymore: The Garden of Allah. The accuracy of the urban legend aside, Mitchell did land on one truism never more true than in a city like Los Angeles: We don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone.
Francis X. Bushman, the famous silent film star at the closing party for the Garden of Allah.
(Left: full view of hotel along with Crescent Heights and Sunset Blvd.) A kind of paradise used to be at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights. Built when Hollywood was young and in need of a playground, the Garden of Allah was a home, or a home-away-from-home for stars of the silver screen, the literary world, and the upper crust.
The Garden of Allah began as the palatial home of Alla Nazimova, a star of the screen in the silent film era. (Reports vary, claiming she bought the house in 1918, 1919, or 1921). As talkies began to force many of film’s original luminaries out of the picture, in 1927 Nazimova was advised to convert her mansion and the two-and-a-half acres on which it sat into a business property that could provide her with income in her retirement.
For sometime, this was the largest swimming pool in town. It was built to remind Nazimova her home in Yalta. Paramount Studios had bestowed Nazimova with the home and grounds when the star was at her apex so that she could enjoy a glamorous retreat in the burgeoning Hollywood community. A 1959 LA Times article discusses those early years: To garnish the gift, [Nazimova] built Hollywood’s largest swimming pool—65 x 45 ft.—and had it shaped like the Black Sea of her girlhood. The pool hung like a dewy sapphire around the heart of her garden.
And when she made her garden over, Nazimova was bountiful. In the big revamp, she showered $1.5 million on the place, built 25 unique villas of Spanish design and packed tem with the last word in charm and fashion.
The last wild party at The Garden Of Allah… click on photo for full view….
Nazimova was opening up the Garden of Allah (named as a play on her first name; the addition of the “h” to which it is rumored Nazimova objected) as a hotel, and when the grounds had their premiere party in January of 1927, Los Angeles was duly dazzled. One website, however, indicates that the ambitious property makeover sent Nazimova herself to the poorhouse, not the penthouse: “By the time she had completed remodeling the house and adding the bungalow complex in 1928 she was bankrupt and forced to sell out. Eventually she was reduced to renting a flat in one corner of her former home.” This could be why a 1930 LA Times article mentioned that “Central Holding Corporation, a recently formed syndicate of Los Angeles capitalists” were behind the purchase and some sort of construction of the property, with the following financial information: “The Garden of Allah Hotel at Crescent Heights and Sunset boulevards to cost $782,000″ and “Garden of Allah Villa House adjoining the hotel, and costing $200,000…”
Many a scandal played out in these bungalows. No matter who was left holding the books, the Garden soon soared into popularity. Stars would spend their days by the pool or at the bar, enjoying the strolling troubadours providing musical entertainment. Many would set up a more permanent residence in one of the bungalows, particularly if they were part of a clandestine duo embarking on an affair. Area socialites would use the hotel and grounds for club meetings, debut parties, bridal showers, and weddings, all of which went on record in the papers’ gossip columns and social registries. Explains Steve Lee in an online article:
Some of the celebrities who visited The Garden of Allah were in town for films they were working on, some lived there long-term. Some were between marriages or homes; some were there for the parties going on from sunset until dawn. But whatever the reason for the visit, the Garden of Allah was an escape from reality for those whose job it was to provide that escape for everyone else.
The Garden of Allah made sense to Angelenos—adopted or otherwise—but to the outside world, perhaps it sounded a bit otherworldly. “I’ll be damned if I’ll believe anyone lives in a place called ‘The Garden of Allah,’” Tom Wolfe said in a letter to author F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937, who was one of the Garden’s most well-known scribes, having moved in during his screenwriting days. (He was also known to frequent Schwab’s drug store, conveniently located just across Crescent Heights on the south side of Sunset Blvd.) It was at the Garden of Allah where Fitzgerald met Sheilah Graham and embarked on an affair with her while his wife Zelda was tucked away in a sanitarium; Graham later wrote a book about the Garden of Allah.
The list of guests and tenants is the stuff legends are made of (although, as Los Angeles ages, our memories may find that these names have less and less meaning). Said Time magazine in 1959: Through the late, intoxicated ’20s and ’30s, the Garden was more house party than hotel. Robert Benchley was resident clown; John Barrymore kept a bicycle there so as not to waste drinking time walking between the separate celebrations in the sprawling, movie-Spanish villas. Woollcott, Hemingway, Brice, Olivier, Welles, Bogart, Dietrich all lived at the Garden during its green years.
Add Gloria Stuart, Dorothy Parker, Errol Flynn, Greta Garbo, the Marx Bros, and Francis X. Bushman to the roster, and you can imagine just how popular and, well, trendy, this place was. Adds Walt Lockley in another online tribute: And hundreds of other names [than those often mentioned] maybe, who knows. Not everybody who went to the Garden of Allah wanted to be seen there. Somehow, among the tangle of phony marriages, the fist-fights, the volume of liquor especially all through Prohibition, high-powered and insecure and spoiled celebrities, tons of recreational sex, other tons of drugs, robberies, drunken rages, cross-gender liaisons, the black frustrations of writers (and others) having their souls eaten by the Hollywood system, orgies, more robberies, simmering feuds, money problems and sudden changes of plan, the Garden of Allah acquired a bohemian reputation. A reputation for hedonism. Imagine that.
And while Nazimova returned to her modest on-site apartment in 1941, living there until her death in 1945, the Garden of Allah soon began to lose its charm. One reason for this is that Hollywood became less transient in the 30s and 40s, as the post-silent film era proved to be something worth pursuing, and sticking around for. Stars made the move to Los Angeles permanent, and luxurious new neighborhoods and cities, like Beverly Hills, saw the construction of mansions the stars could call their own. Who needs a hotel to hide away in when you could hide away behind your very own tall gates?
As Hollywood grew, the studio era began to wane and the city eventually surrounded the Garden of Allah. The real estate it was built on became more valuable as commercial property than the hotel itself. The hotel became seedier and the new stars, such as Montgomery Clift and James Dean, stayed at the nearby Chateau Marmont, which afforded more privacy and less chance of encounters with the less stylish transients who increasingly occupied the neglected villas at the Garden of Allah.
(Guests in the pool…) In 1959, the Garden of Allah came to its official end. Francis X. Bushman, onetime resident, appeared at the closing party, but of course, nothing was the same. The party was wild with guests thrown in the pool. Eager souvenir hounds gathered at an auction that sold off the furnishings and other items from the property. They were clearing out to make way for the greatest destroyer of romantic notions: The wrecking ball.
Lytton Savings and Loan had bought the property, and had plans to turn the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights into a business center, anchored by a bank and a tower. The $5 million Lytton Center was iconic (mid-century) architecture of the 50s and early 60s in Los Angeles in terms of business and architecture.
Said Bart Lytton, Lytton’s President, of the plans: “We had approached outside planning from the point of view of creating a beauty spot at this important intersection, rather than from how many square feet we can cram on the lot” (“1st Phase”). That tower, by the way? Never happened. The City of Los Angeles was so corrupt we could never get anything going. I found politicians, at least in LA, some of the most dishonest people and corrupt individuals I’ve ever met.”
And there is nothing lovelier than a parking lot, now is there? Perhaps this is why Mitchell mourned the paving of paradise in favor of a parking lot–here, or, anywhere else for that matter. As anyone who rounds that corner knows, Sunset and Crescent Heights where the Garden of Allah once stood, boasts a strip mall, and a bank branch (very, very, very recently re-christened as Chase, after many previous incarnations). There’s nothing there to suggest anything else ever was, which up until 2007, wasn’t the case. There used to be a model of the hotel on display outside beneath a glass bubble, which eventually moved inside the bank, and then…disappeared. But it has turned up.