Tuesday, January 5, 2010

L.A. Neon

Later this week I'll post images from my recent Dingbat Tour - an ongoing photographic survey of mid-century L.A. structures that transformed the International Style into working class apartment living. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some images of the neon signs that caught my eye during the trip. First up, the unmistakable Bob's Big Boy marquee, reason enough to visit the place Johnny Carson used to mockingly call "Beautiful downtown Burbank."

While in Burbank, I stayed at the Safari Inn, an otherwise unremarkable two story motel that boasts one of the most gorgeous neon signs on the West Coast. Sitting atop a deck overlooking the pool, you can sip an adult beverage and enjoy the traffic under the setting sun. Watch out for the "Manager's Walk-In Special," though; it's no better than the price you can get online.

Johnnie's Pastrami Restaurant is a perfect spot for late-night eating. Even well past midnight, all sorts of people jam the parking lot in search of rich, tasty comfort food. And the rolls... I've typically found French rolls to be overly crunchy, but not the ones served stacked high at Johnnie's. Order their regular sandwich - tell 'em you want cheese, or you'll get it plain - and savor every bite. This place is fantastic.

I'll end today's neon tour with a stop at Helms Bakery, also in Culver City. The bakery is long gone, replaced by food and furniture offerings. But far-thinking preservationists rallied to save the animated neon sign, lighting it every night to the appreciation of retrophiles everywhere. I'll post a link to my YouTube video of the sign tomorrow. And trust me: You'll want to check it out. It's amazing.

(Photographs by Andrew Wood)


Evan said...

I trust that you saw some of the other neon signs on that stretch of Sepulveda near Johnnie's? There's Cycle World, a liquor store with a cool sign, and some old motels nearby.

The Helms sign is wonderful, isn't it?

The next time you come down to Southern California, take a trip to Long Beach--there are some good neon signs there, my favorite being the sign for the old Douglas Aircraft (later McDonnell-Douglas, then Boeing, and now...nothing) plant just north of Long Beach Airport:


I need to grab some more photos of that, for better quality, but to also show just how big it is. Take a look on Google Streetview (Lakewood Blvd. & Conant St.):


highway163 said...

Awesome recommendations - as usual! Thanks for your advice. You've really helped me get a lot out of my SoCal adventures...