Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two Hollywood Mystery Locations Solved - The Hollywood Sign and the Beginning of Mulholland Drive




The 1940 Streamline Moderne facade of the Hollywood Palladium Theater - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Two Hollywood Mystery Locations - The Hollywood Sign and the Gateway to Mulholland Drive

Continuing our January 2012 driving tour of Hollywood, Carrie McCoy and I departed Paul Pink’s Hot Dogs on La Brea Ave. heading north toward Hollywood 28, as it was known in the old days. The beautiful residential streets in the lower slopes of Hollywood mesmerized us. We emerged from that bubble at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Argyle Ave. As I turned right on to Sunset Blvd., I caught a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign, several miles away.

After stopping the car, I got out and took several long shot images of the Hollywood Sign. Panning to my right, I recognized the Hollywood Palladium, a Streamline Moderne Hollywood theater built in 1940. According to the marquee, “Bassrush Presents” hosted a sold-out electronic music event there The top of the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)the previous night. From the Big Band era to  Nero, the return of Funktion and the 12th Planet's “The End is Near Tour”, the Palladium has seen and heard it all.

Continuing north on Argyle Ave, I stopped to view the iconic Capitol Records Building. When it opened in 1956, both the public had mixed opinions about the building. It had been a while since a new Los Angeles building had made a whimsical statement through its architecture. Although its statement was not as literal as the old Brown Derby, the building’s cylindrical structure did evoke a stack of 45-RPM records. This thirteen story turntable featured a roof pinnacle that looked like a soaring stylus.

To some, it was a reference to vinyl as state-of-the-art in the recording industry. Others hailed the building’s energy-saving features. There were The original 1929 Hollywood Tower Apartments, listed in the National Register of Historical Places - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)exterior metal sunshades, which surrounded each of the floors. In contrast to the trend toward sealed glass towers, the building’s windows were operable. The combination of shade and afternoon sea breezes allowed workers to enjoy fresh air, without the need for constant air-conditioning.

Still heading north, but now on Gower Street, we approached the Hollywood Freeway. Poking above both the skyline and the freeway was the original 1929 Hollywood Tower Apartments. Its tower sign is visible to thousands of motorists driving north each day on the Hollywood Freeway. Is it any wonder that Walt Disney Company, under Michael Eisner expropriated the name Hollywood Tower for an attraction at their California Adventure theme park in The Hollywood Sign, viewed from Gower Street in Hollywood, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Anaheim?

As freeway drivers curve gracefully around the faux French Normandy concrete monolith, few realize that highway engineers created that jog in the Hollywood Freeway in order to avoid the landmark. In its early days, and into the 1980s, many writers and actors called the Hollywood Tower Apartments home. From the tower itself, they could lord over all of Hollywood, so long as they paid the rent.

Continuing up Gower Street, we followed the path towards Hollywood’s Holy Grail – the Hollywood Sign. As with all things Hollywood, the simple, direct path may not lead to your destination. In the upper reaches of Gower Street, the terrain screens the Hollywood sign from view. In the lower canyon, there are several good, if distant views of the sign.

The Pilgrimage Bridge over the Hollywood Freeway, Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)If you seek a close-up view, consult with Google. By the way, the residents of North Beachwood Drive would prefer that you stay away. Parking is almost nonexistent and the road is narrow. Although we did step out on to lower Gower Street to photograph the fabled sign, we soon turned back and headed for equally fabled Mulholland Drive.

Hollywood is full of secrets. One of best kept is how to access Mulholland Drive at its source, just north of the Hollywood Bowl. Traveling from Hollywood, the directional signage is of little help. Google Maps gets the route correct HERE and gives an alternate route using the Pilgrimage Bridge HERE. I have no interest in conspiracy theories, unless they are my own, so here are my facts to support the Mulholland Drive Conspiracy.

• The first “Mulholland Drive” sign on Cahuenga Blvd. North directs you appropriately toward the Mulholland Drive Bridge.
• At the Pilgrimage Bridge intersection, the "Mulholland Drive" directional signage is partially obscured by a traffic signal on the left side, as seen in this Google Street View.
• If you turn left across the Pilgrimage Bridge, a "Right Turn Only" sign will direct you unknowingly towards your goal.
• Less than one mile north on Cahuenga Blvd. West, there is a traffic signal, with access to Mulholland Drive, at the point where it actually takes the Mulholland name.

Let us go back and assume that you did not access the Pilgrimage Bridge, instead motoring north on Cahuenga Blvd. East.

• At that point, the obscured sign that you missed seeing leaves you guessing and then shunts you on to the Hollywood Freeway North.
• If you manage to escape the freeway trap, stay to the right and continue north on Cahuenga Blvd. East.
• Soon, you will pass under the Mulholland Drive Bridge itself.
• Without any warning or directional signage, you must then turn right at Lakeridge Place., reversing direction in order to head south.
• Soon, with new energy light shining down as it does in this Google Street View, you will gain access to the original, two-lane, 1940 Mulholland Bridge.
• After crossing over the freeway, you will intersect Mulholland Drive, which was your original destination.

The original 1940 Mulholland Drive Bridge over the Hollywood Freeway, viewed from Cahuenga Blvd. East - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I indicate above, why should any historic Los Angeles street be so difficult to find? Did some influential residents of Mulholland Drive ask City Hall to remove the directional signage? Did residents pay a private crew to remove the signs? Did adequate directional signage from Hollywood to Mulholland Drive ever exist? In the absence of a simple answer, I cannot yet abandon my Mulholland Drive Hollywood Conspiracy Theory.

In our next article, we will motor along the scenic Mulholland Drive to the new Mulholland Drive Bridge, currently undergoing replacement in Sepulveda Pass.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dining at the Legendary Paul Pink's Hot Dog Stand



Legendary Paul Pink's Hot Dog stand in Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Dining at the Legendary Paul Pink's Hot Dog Stand

In January 2012, I toured Los Angeles, California, stopping first at the Hollywood Bowl for a water display created and produced by LACoFD Truck Company 8. After that memorable experience, I headed south on Highland Blvd. through old "Hollywood 28". After postal Zip Codes came into use, that designation changed to Hollywood 90028. Even today, the cognoscenti are aware that real Hollywood resides within that one postal designation. Nearby areas pretend to be Hollywood , yet no other Zip Code can legitimately make that claim. At Sunset Blvd., I turned west and then turned south again to 709 North La Brea Ave. There I stopped for lunch.

Power House Cocktails on North Highland Ave., Hollywood 28, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)For readers who do not know that address, it is the location of Pink’s Hot Dogs. As the Great Depression wore on in 1939, Paul and Betty Pink bought a rickety pushcart and went into business selling hot dogs. At the time, a Hoffy brand hotdog “made special for Pink’s”, served in a long split roll and ensconced in cardboard boat lined with an undersheet of wax paper, cost ten cents. If lunch at Pink's was then ten cents, was coffee a nickel?

The Pink family built, or possibly remodeled the current building in 1946. In a nod to the diverse neighborhood in which it stands, one half of Paul Pink’s contiguous building still houses the Things-Antiques store. In 1939, when Paul Pink purchased his pushcart, my father was fourteen years old and living in L.A.'s Fairfax District. Each weekend, he would travel between his father's home in Los Angeles and Sunland California, where his mother and stepfather lived. In researching this article, I asked if he had any memories of Paul Pink’s that he might share. Here is what he had to say.

Dr. Loron N. McGillis: “Each Sunday, we would travel through Cahuenga Pass and then would navigate to the corner of Melrose Ave. and La Brea Blvd. On the northwest corner of the intersection, there was a station. Next door, at 709 North La Brea Ave. stood a pushcart where a man sold hotdogs. I do not remember if a hotdog cost a dime, but a Hershey bar or a Coke was only a nickel, so that sounds right. In those prewar days, there was no discernible smog in Los Angeles. With help from Google Street View, I can still see that cart, shining in the sun. It stood on the parkway or sidewalk, right where people still stand in line for a hotdog. His hotdogs were so good that Paul Pink's became our regular Sunday stop.”

On La Brea Ave., three blocks south of Pink’s is the local branch of the Bank of America (BofA). As Paul’s son told the story in a recent BofA Television ad, Paul Pink strode into the BofA branch one day and asked for a loan. The granting of that loan led to Pink's new location in 1946 and to an enduring business relationship.

Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy at Paul Pink's Hot Dogs, 709 North La Brea Ave. in Hollywood, California - Click for  larger image(http://jamesmcgillis.com)In July 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made headlines with their visit to Los Angeles, and to legendary L.A. eatery Paul Pink's Hot Dogs. Although no one so famous as they were present in the Hollywood crowd, I noticed Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy,waiting patiently in line.

“I’m having a chili dog and a Coke", Carrie stated. "What will you have?”

“I’ll have the same, thank you”, I replied with a smile. We had places to go and things to see, so this was no time for a complicated order.

As we wended our way through the slow shuffle of the line, I asked Carrie why she came to Pink’s Hot Dogs on that day. “For me”, she said, “it is all about Paul Pink. He was such a beautiful man”.

“So, you knew Paul Pink personally”, I asked, somewhat surprised.

A mash-up of business signage at Paul Pink's Hot Dogs, Hollywood, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“Yes. I was born nearby, at the Queen of Angles Hospital. My early childhood, I spent here in Hollywood. Later, in the 1980s, I worked at the BofA, here on La Brea Ave. Paul Pink would come in to deposit his cash receipts at our branch. I remember that he was happy and friendly to everyone he met. Almost daily, he would travel the three blocks from his store to the bank. Sometimes, he would bring hot dogs for everyone. It was always a treat to see Paul Pink. To me, 'Paul Pink’s' is the proper name for this place".

After several minutes, our simple order of two chili dogs received top priority from the staff. Soon, Carrie McCoy and I were sitting out back in the patio area. It was late January in Los Angeles and we were out there having fun in the warm California sun. The food was so good that we finished eating in a matter of minutes. Although each of our meals cost more than ten cents, I must say that for me it really hit the spot.

Thank you to Los Angeles native, Carrie McCoy for dining with us at Paul Pink’s. Her personal story added greatly to an authentic Hollywood experience, even if we were in Hollywood 90038.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New ATM Technology Helps Eliminate Waste, Fraud and Theft



The old outdoor ATM Machines at Kokopelli Federal Credit Union - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

New ATM Technology

Other than a few ascetics, penitents and abstainers, almost everyone likes money. Even better than hard-earned money, is free money. To get free money, you could win the lottery, but the odds are against you. Robbing an automated teller machine (ATM) has recently become another method of choice. Becoming a bank robber is both risky and illegal. Usually, such actions result in a prison sentence for anyone so foolish as to try.

Regardless of the consequences involved, my two previous articles about ATM robbery continue to be among the most popular on this blog. As the website administrator, I can see which articles receive the most “hits”. Over time, I have watched as individuals Google “ATM Robbery” or “Bank ATM Robbery”. The number of such searches is an indicator of trans-personal economic stress. Whenever the world economy wavers, I see more search phrases that include "bank robbery". With my articles, I hope to discourage, rather than to encourage any plans to rob a bank or ATM.

Deposits to the old ATM required a separate deposit slip and envelope for each transaction - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In May 2008, I wrote about after-hours break-ins to bank ATM rooms. Poorly armored and alarmed ATM rooms were easy prey for break-in artists. After demolishing a demising wall from an adjoining suite, the robbers might utilize a high-speed plasma torch. With such a torch, it is easy to penetrate the lightly armored back of an ATM. With a combination of luck, skill and criminal intent, robbers could make off with more than $100,000. Better yet, the untraceable twenty-dollar bills come neatly concealed in currency cassettes complete with carrying handles.

Defeating ATM robbery attempts is relatively easy, but often neglected by even the largest banks. A combination of video surveillance, motion alarms and high-decibel alarm-horns would eliminate most such robberies. Still, many strip-center bank branches have ATM security no greater than door locks. Until the banks wake up to their vulnerabilities, I expect a continued increase in ATM break-in robberies.

Ancient Spirit Kokopelli removing the old Automated Teller Machine (ATM) - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In December 2011, I wrote about a new, more brazen ATM robbery. That month, in Laguna Hills, California, a local Chase Bank branch had an outdoor ATM disappear overnight. Using a large truck, robbers rammed the building, dislocating the ATM from its moorings. Using a truck-mounted winch, the robbers grappled the ATM and hauled it away. In only a few minutes, the thieves absconded with the ATM, leaving a gaping hole in the wall of the building. As of this writing, the Chase Bank Laguna Hills robbers remain at large.

There is an easy solution to the ATM-snatch-robbery phenomenon. All outdoor ATMs should have concrete filled steel bollards installed to prevent ramming by heavy equipment. A recent visit to Kokopelli Federal Credit Union (KFCU) showed no such barriers installed. Beyond exposure to “smash and grab” robbers, the lack of barriers leaves customers exposed to errant drivers. Only when enough banks settle liability lawsuits from injured customers or incur sufficient losses from outright ATM theft, will the situation change.

Installation of the new ATM, prior to mounting the fascia - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)During a recent visit to KFCU, the ancient spirit Kokopelli was correcting their ATM problems. Seemingly everywhere at once, Kokopelli oversaw the installation of both crash barriers and a new Diebold ATM security. Although busy removing an old ATM at the time, Kokopelli stopped to show me the differences between old and new ATM technology.

An old ATM, Kokopelli indicated, was a glorified envelope-processing machine, with a cash dispenser. Each day, an attendant removed the deposit envelopes, placed them in bags and couriered them to a processing facility. There, staff counted the cash and processed the checks through the Federal Reserve System. Upon envelope, a high-definition camera would photograph the contents of each envelope. That way, the bank could reconcile any discrepancies between the recorded amounts and envelope contents.

The ATM Room view of a new Diebold Automated Teller Machine (ATM) - Click for large image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Careless or disreputable customers often deposited empty envelopes. The more brazen would later claim that they had enclosed money or checks. Although most ne’er-do-wells quickly admitted their malfeasance, some demanded proof that their envelope was empty. Either way, the process took time and money, thus creating losses for the banks. With fraud and abuse becoming rampant, banks need new ways to stop the fraudsters at their source.

In order to eliminate ATM fraud, Diebold Corporation designed KFCU’s new ATM with electronic, photographic and communications modules. By combining new hardware and software, KFCU eliminated the use of deposit envelopes and deposit slips altogether. As you feed cash deposits into the new ATM, a photographic reader rejects any defaced or counterfeit bills.

Fascia for a new Diebold Automated Teller Machine (ATM), prior to final installation - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)When you deposit a check, the reader sends data to both the Federal Reserve System and to independent fraud detection. Once the software accepts the account as valid, the ATM requires the customer's approval, as well. Upon agreement, the ATM provides immediate check truncation, thus debiting the check issuer’s account. Thereafter, the scanned image becomes a substitute check, eliminating further need for the original paper check. Thereafter, the paper check serves only as backup to the electronic version.

After explaining the new technology, Kokopelli exposed the backside of the new ATM. The machine contains a high-speed central processing unit (CPU) similar to a home computer. As the brains of the ATM, the CPU connects electronically to the KFCU processing center. The center connects in turn to both the Federal Reserve and fraud prevention. Included in the new machine are check and cash readers, with storage bins for each media type. Finally, there is a device that every customer loves - the cash dispenser.

With the exception of its fascia, Kokopelli installed the entire ATM from inside the building. With proper structural reinforcement and crash guards, thieves can no longer grapple a KFCU ATM and pull it through the wall. If every bank and credit union were as careful as KFCU, the incidence of ATM theft and robbery could decline. Thank you, Kokopelli and KFCU for continuing to cover our ancient assets.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Key to Google Search Ranking is New and Unique Content



The 2007 Small Google Logo, with drop-shadow effects - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Raise your Google Search Ranking

In September 2007, I bought the internet name JamesMcGillis.com and began writing this weblog. Since that time, I have posted over two hundred fifteen unique articles. My many subjects include Pre-Puebloan Indian cultures, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, LA County Fire Department Aerial Truck 8 and radioactive contamination at the Moab Pile. Each topic was one that I cared about, enjoyed researching and wished to share with the world.

"Inspire Consciousness" t-shirt from the 2007 Quantum Leap Celebration in Taos, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)When they use text only, blog articles tend to be pedantic and boring. To add unique content to my blog, I began publishing my own photographs. That way, I could tell my stories with both words and pictures. Hoping to catch the eye of readers both young and old, I targeted my content to a ninth grade reading level. Moreover, I continued to write and publish new and unique information. Now, with more than four years of internet experience, I can see the fruit of my labor. Following are a few examples.

In September 2007, I attended the Quantum Leap Celebration in Taos, New Mexico. There, 650 Shaumbra arrived at Taos Station in an Old Energy train. Three days later, we pulled away in the new energy express. At the event, I purchased an “Inspire Consciousness” t-shirt. After taking a picture of my new energy t-shirt, I published it within an article about that event. If you Google “Inspire Consciousness” today and then click “Images”, my t-shirt has #1 Google search ranking.

Elton John Live at the Hollywood Bowl, September 7, 1973 - Photo courtesy Harvey Jordan - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In November 2007, I wrote about new social networks, which were then taking the internet by storm. At the time, MySpace.com had eighty percent market share, compared to Facebook.com with just over ten percent. Since then, MySpace crashed under the weight of Rupert Murdoch’s ownership. As the epitome of old energy, Rupert could not relate to new media, let alone new energy. MySpace is now an internet afterthought while Facebook is valued at $100 billion. In my 2007 article, I displayed a small Google logo. If you Google “small Google logo” today and then click “Images”, my version has #1 Google search ranking.

In March 2008, I wrote about Elton John’s “lost concert”. On September 7, 1973, Elton had played the Hollywood Bowl, yet at that time there were no pictures or video of the concert on the internet. Later, legendary rock & roll photographer Harvey Jordan sent me an image of Elton at the piano that night. With Harvey’s permission, I inserted his picture into my original article. In November 2008, I wrote about my souvenir Elton John Hollywood Bowl t-shirt. If you Google “Elton 1973”, “Elton Hollywood Bowl” or “Elton John t-shirt” today, and then click “Images”, Harvey Jordan’s photo, my article and my t-shirt each has its respective #1 Google search ranking.

The U.S. Presidential Seal affixed to the crypt of President Ronald Reagan, at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In November 2010, I initiated two live webcams in Simi Valley, California, as shone on the website Simicam.com. In December 2011, I wrote about the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, also in Simi Valley. After visiting the library, I published several outdoor images in my article about Ronald Reagan. Today, if you Google “Ronald Reagan webcam” the first search result is for Simicam.com. If you Google “Ronald Reagan crypt” and then click “Images”, my image of the presidential seal, as affixed to his final resting place has #1 Google search ranking.

In July 2011, I began a series of articles about the twentieth century Italian impressionist master, Costantino Proietto (1900 – 197?). At the time, there was scant information on the internet about the artist. After publishing an image of my own C.Proietto masterpiece, friends, family and collectors of C.Proietto’s work came forward. With the help of others, I have now published many previously unknown images of the artist’s work. If you Google “Costantino Proietto” or “C.Proietto” today and then click “Images”, my images of his work have #1 Google search ranking.

Amalfi Coast scene, painted by 20th century master, Costantino Proietto (1900-197?) - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)So what does all of this mean? Google, and to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s Bing search engine will reward new and unique content on the internet. So much content has disappeared from the internet in recent years that my “small Google logo” is the oldest extant copy. The key to success on the internet is to add new information without deleting the old. If you do so, Google will raise the search ranking of all related content.

If you plan to write for the internet, rather than using a pay-for-play blog company, consider creating your own blog. By hosting Google AdSense ads on your blog, you can monetize your efforts. When the late Andy Rooney retired from the CBS Television show 60 Minutes, he had broadcast 1097 episodes of his “TV blog”. In order to catch up with Andy Rooney's output, I have 880 articles yet to write. I call that number my stretch goal. Why would anyone create content for Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook to monetize when you can take home the cash yourself? Any ninth-grader reading this article knows the answer to that question.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Two New Paintings by Italian Artist Costantino Proietto Surface



Original Oil painting of the Swizz Alps by artist Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Two New Paintings by Italian Artist Costantino Proietto Surface in the United States

Since July 2011, I have been investigating an ongoing art mystery involving twentieth century modern impressionist master, Costantino Proietto (1900 – 197?). Among the most startling revelations, from the LoCastro family in New Jersey is that I have been spelling the artist’s name incorrectly. Originally, I understood his name to be “Constantino Proietto”, but after verification by two friends of the artist, I shall henceforth call him by his given name, Costantino Proietto.

After spending over seven months coaxing Google to recognize his misspelled name, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for Google to shift their search algorithm back to the proper spelling. In order to assist them, I have changed all my previous mentions of C.Proietto on the internet to the proper spelling of his name.

Signature "C.Proietto" on the Karns family painting of a Swiss Alps scene - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Many C.Proietto paintings that now reside in the United States originated in Stuttgart, Germany. Stuttgart had been an Allied bombing target during World War II, later becoming a major center for U.S. Military operations in Europe. Today, the 6th Area Support Group (ASG) is located in Stuttgart, providing command, control, communications and Base Operations to Headquarters United States European Command (EUCOM).

Why the Sicilian born artist immigrated to Germany after World War II, we do not yet know. Judging by the number of people and paintings with ties to both C.Proietto and the U.S. Military, it appears that the artist lived in Stuttgart for many years. With the recent discovery of more new pictures, it appears that he painted real life locations. In order to create those scenes, the artist probably made many trips from Germany to Italy and Switzerland. I have one report that he painted within the walls of the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican.

Italian coastal scene painted by Costatino Proietto in the mid twentieth century - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)This morning, when I opened my email, I had more good news. The Karns family of Severna Park, Maryland provided images of two newly discovered C.Proietto oil paintings. Both works are family treasures, purchased by Peter Karn’s father, who served as an aide to a U.S. Army senior officer in Germany from 1944 to around 1946.

Both Karns family masterpieces appear on this page. One is a coastal scene, with ethereal Mediterranean light. The other features a Swiss Chalet, with a river to one side and the Alps reaching for the sky in the background. Although I do not know either location, perhaps readers of this article could comment the locale of the two new C.Proietto pictures.

Signature of Costantino Proietto (C.Proietto) in the Karns family painting of an Italian coastal scene - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Costantino Proietto’s skill in depicting the sky is unrivaled in modern impressionism. In his Swiss Alps scene, the artist blends the granite of the mountains with the sky above. In the coastal picture, he employs mist or fog to blend light and color between sea and sky. Although these images do a good job of bringing out the artist’s interplay with water and light, viewing the effect in his original works is even grander.

In the near future, we expect to hear from more friends, family and collectors of Costantino Proietto. If any reader has pictures or information regarding the artist, please send an email or click on “Comments” below. Because so many of his works included Italy’s Amalfi Coast, we once called the artist “The Man from Amalfi”. With so many new Costantino Proietto works now surfacing, we may have to add, “The Man from Stuttgart” to his biography.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Los Angles County Fire Department Aerial Truck 8 at the Hollywood Bowl


LA County "tillered ladder" Fire Truck 8 at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Los Angles County Fire Department Aerial Truck 8 at the Hollywood Bowl

On a recent trip to Hollywood, California, I decided to visit some of my favorite historical haunts, including the Hollywood Bowl. Rather than watching a concert, I just wanted to see the place on a Sunday afternoon. Upon arrival at the parking lot, I realized it had been almost thirty-nine years since my last visit, on September 7, 1973.

I still have fond memories of that classic night at the premier Hollywood venue. Some call it “The Lost Concert”. Others Google “Elton+1973” and find Harvey Jordan’s classic image of Elton John playing live at the Hollywood Bowl. To this day, my Elton John 9/7/73 T-shirt from that night is a treasured artifact.

LA County Truck Company 8 is a 1998 KME 100 ft. Tillered Quint - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)When I was growing up, every boy wanted to be either a “fireman” or a “policeman”. Today, every child, regardless of gender can aspire to be a firefighter or a police officer. Still, the little boy in me stopped and stared when I saw Los Angeles County Fire Department Truck 8, which is an immense “tillered ladder”, with separate rear wheel steering. Also called a tractor-drawn aerial (TDA) or hook-and-ladder truck, it featured a turntable ladder mounted on a semi-trailer truck.

In motion, it would have two drivers, each with separate steering wheels for the front and rear wheels. The fifth-wheel articulating design provides a short turning radius and high maneuverability. Rear trailer steering allows the “tiller driver” to negotiate tight corners and congested streets in and around its West Hollywood home base.

Stern view of LACoFD TDA Truck 8 at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With research, I discovered that Truck 8 is A Quint truck is both a pumper and a ladder truck. A "Quint" has: 1. a pump, 2. hose, 3. a water tank, 4. ground ladders, and 5. an aerial ladder. Truck 8 has a 1000-gpm pump, and carries 300 gallons of water, and 25 gallons of foam, delivered through a pre-piped aerial waterway. Truck 8 carries 218 ft. of ground ladders, an Amkus Rescue System and seven air bags. With only 300 gallons of water onboard, Truck/Quint 8 supplements available resources rather than acting as an engine/truck combination.

Truck 8 was immaculate, from bow to tiller. There was no grease, grime or even dust on its traditional high-lacquer red finish. With its pristine look, I would not have guessed that the truck had already seen fourteen years of service. To me, it was timeless, as were my wishes to fight fires and save lives. Growing up in Los Angeles in mid-century, I watched the TV show “Rescue 8” and the later TV show, called “Emergency”. Both shows featured LACoFD Station 8, where Truck 8 stands ready today.

Route 66 logo sticker on the LACoFD Truck 8 at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)On the front bumper of the aerial truck was a large black and white sticker featuring the Route 66 logo. Seeing the distinctive logo, I recalled that nearby Interstate I-10 (the Santa Monica Freeway) was the replacement road for Old-66 through Los Angeles. During a recent spate of arson fires in and around Hollywood, Truck 8 responded to the multiday fire-related disaster.

After recovering from my daydreams of being the tiller driver on Truck 8, I spotted members of LACoFD Station 8 conducting a live firefighting drill in the parking lot. As their water source, they employed Engine 8, which operates a 1995 KME 1000-gpm engine. Wearing yellow waterproof gear, Firefighter Darney, trained a hose skyward, casting an arc of water gently across the sky. On first look, it looked like a waste of water. Stepping closer, I saw that he directed the stream of water into the extensive landscaping throughout the terraced parking lot.

LACoFD Firefighter Darney trains his hose across the Hollywood Bowl parking lot, Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With the old Pilgrimage Theater cross standing on the far hillside and the sun at his back, the firefighter trained the powerful stream of water back and forth across the landscape. As he did so, the cascade of falling water created a rainbow all around him. It was a glorious sight on a clear winter day in the City of the Angels. Later, I realized that Coney the Traffic Cone had sidled up close to the firefighter, to take in all the action.

Email James McGillisEmail James McGillis

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Refraction of Sunlight on a Construction Crane Creates Potential Air Disaster in LA's Sepulveda Pass



Contractor Kiewit crawler construction crane boom, I-405 Sepulveda Pass, Los Angeles, CA - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Refraction of Sunlight on a Construction Crane Creates Potential for Air Disaster

On January 29, 2012, I visited the Mulholland Drive Bridge replacement project and got a close-up look at progress there. Starting in Hollywood on a clear afternoon, I drove Mulholland Drive until its intersection with Interstate I-405. There I traveled west across the remaining north side of the Mulholland Drive Bridge. After parking my car and surveying the scene, I soon found a perch that overlooked the freeway and construction project.

Operator exits the cab of Kiewit Contractor's Liebherr LR-1200 crawler crane adjacent to I-405 freeway in Sepulveda Pass, Los Angeles - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)With the natural light on my back, the late afternoon sunshine provided good visual contrast at the ongoing project. Along with the remaining half-bridge, new support structures and construction cranes fought for dominance of the scene. The cranes had the upper hand, with their great, latticed booms dominating the vertical scene. Less than half as tall as were the twin derricks, massive new freestanding bridge-supports imparted strength and security to the scene.

Each of the massive crawler cranes had a cab painted in the signature gold color of Liebherr Cranes, a German manufacturer. That company, through its U.S. affiliate offers a wide range of mobile and fixed construction cranes. Each of the Sepulveda Pass cranes crane had a single latticed boom, which could be up to 89-meters (226 ft.) in length. With its boom painted black and sporting a white tip, the westside crane created a high visual contrast against a clear Los Angeles sky. At that time, the eastside crane stood in full sun. After lifting a load with the crane, an operator came out of the golden cab and stood upon the huge crawler treads.

New bridge support columns, serviced by the eastside golden crane - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)On the eastside crane, I could see the bridge contractor’s logo, with the name Kiewit painted boldly on the side of the long cab. Since the Mulholland Drive Bridge project required demolishing and rebuilding the bridge one-half at a time, these cranes shall see service at this site for years to come. Rather than simply leasing them for this job, it appeared that the contractor had purchased both of these cranes.

For some reason, I kept looking back to the golden crane on the east side of the freeway. Since so much of sunlight falls into the yellow and gold portions of the visual spectrum, the entire crane appeared to glow in the lengthening light. To me, the huge crawler crane appeared as a beautiful piece of kinetic sculpture. If I starred at it long enough, the golden crane virtually disappear into the scattered light of the sky. A shake of my head brought the skyward-reaching boom back into focus.

Coney the Traffic Cone standing guard at the southside Mulholland Drive Bridge replacement project in Los Angeles - Click for larger image, including a view of the golden crane (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Before I departed the west side of the bridge, I stopped to take a picture of the lane closure created by the partial demolition of the bridge. When I turned the camera from horizontal to vertical, I realized that an old friend was standing guard there both day and night. It was Coney the Traffic Cone, of course. Too shy to speak, Coney had stood there for months hoping that someone would notice him as he warned motorists that half the bridge was missing.

When it was time to leave, I drove east across the bridge and then headed for the northbound onramp of the I-405. That ramp has a straight downhill run and enters the freeway just south of the summit and the bridge replacement project. As I descended the ramp and then drove under the bridge, I fired my camera shutter repeatedly. After entering the freeway, I stopped shooting as I passed close to the eastside golden crane.

Later, I uploaded my photos and began writing this article. As usual, I selected the pictures first and then wrote the text to match. It was then
Watch as the Golden Crane fades from sight at the top of Sepulveda Pass, Los Angeles, CA (http://jamesmcgillis.com)that I discovered the incredible disappearing crane. As you view the accompanying animated GIF image, you will see four frames in which the golden crane fades into the northern sky. Whether the golden crane poked through the veil and into another dimension, I cannot say. Perhaps it was simple refraction and diffusion of sunlight through the golden lattice boom of the crane.

Once I got over the metaphysical possibilities inherent in the scene, I realized that no matter the cause, the beautiful golden crane was a hazard to aircraft flying near the Sepulveda Pass. Although there are minimum elevation restrictions for commercial and private aircraft in Sepulveda pass, Kiewit’s Golden Crane still represents a danger to public safety.

Police chases on the freeways of Los Angeles are a regular occurrence. The first line of defense is the police cruiser or perhaps a CHP cruiser. Following in the air, is usually an LAPD helicopter. Above that, typically there are several TV news helicopters. With the golden crane disappearing into the haze of the northern sky, a Sepulveda Pass police chase could easily become an air disaster. If the angle of the sun is right, the pilot of a fast moving helicopter might not see the crane until it is too late.

The golden crane on the right in this picture fades from view in the afternoon light, creating a hazard to aircraft in Sepulveda Pass, Los Angeles, CA - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As beautiful as the golden crane may be, it should be lowered and its boom repainted in high contrast black, with a white tip, just like the crane on the west side. Until then I will not sleep easily knowing that there is a huge construction crane materializing and then dematerializing next to the busiest freeway in Los Angles.


Email James McGillisEmail James McGillis