Los Angeles is known as a mecca for those who aspire to make it in Tinseltown. Wanna-be actors and actresses, script writers and directors flock here from all over the world for their chance at glory, led by the belief that they all have that certain something that others that will mark them out from the crowd.
Of course, not everyone who visits L.A. comes to the City of Angels with dreams of fame. It’s a very popular tourist destination for many reasons, not least of which is the movie industry. Home to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Rodeo Drive… So many names we see and hear in the media on a daily basis, who wouldn’t want to see these famous and legendary locales?
Even with all we see, hear and know about L.A., there’s much more to this bustling city than meets the eye. It’s not all simply glitz, glam and shameless self-promotion; there is much more culture and life than you might imagine. If you can’t find something to shock or entertain in this city, you’re not trying hard enough. With cultural districts like Olvera Street and Little Tokyo, there’s always some new food to try. With landmarks like Griffith Park, The Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign, there are opportunities for memory-making photos at every turn.
But besides these obvious attractions, Los Angeles has even more to offer. The city has a rich, and oftentimes unique, history. Being that the city is home to more artistic types than any other city has ever had in the history of the world, well– you might expect that things could be little more colorful and interesting. To say the least.
10. Nobody Knows The City’s Real Name
When researching the history of Los Angeles, you will come across a variety of sources who claim they know the original Spanish name given to the city. However, this is a topic that’s been debated at great length by historians. What is known is that the city was meant to be named after angels, but beyond that, historians have been arguing about the real name of the city for more than 75 years.
There are so many variations of the name being thrown around, it’s easy to get confused. The name is listed differently in many different sources including history books, scholarly papers, encyclopedia entries and the plaques placed around Olvera Street.
The first handwritten map listed it as El Pueblo de la Reina de los Angeles, which translates to “the town of the Queen of Angels.” But some historians believe that was a mistake when the map was drawn and the real name, which is listed in several places throughout the city, is El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula, or “the town of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula”.
9. Drive-In Movies… At A Cemetery
The Hollywood Forever cemetery’s website lists is as a “Cemetery, Funeral Home, Library of Lives.” And it is unlike any cemetery that you’ve ever been to before. It claims to be one of the “world’s most fascinating landmarks”, and that “it’s the final resting place to more of Hollywood’s founders and stars than anywhere else on earth.”
And it’s probably right, on that last part at least.
But not only can you walk around, looking at headstones of famous people, you can also catch a flick in the cemetery itself, perhaps even a horror movie if you’re feeling adventurous. On special nights, Hollywood Forever Cemetery offers up a film night for those who don’t mind catching a flick with the dead. The films are projected against the mausoleum that houses the remains of Rudolph Valentino.
8. Record-Breaking (Bizarre!) Museums
It’s no secret that L.A. is a cultural hotspot, with more artistic and creative people in the city than in any other city of the world. Of course, this means the residents enjoy a wide breadth of creative and artistic endeavors, including theaters, shows, and museums. Of course L.A. has art museums like the Getty and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but there are more than just your typical museums to visit.
If you’re in the mood for something a little bit different, L.A. has that as well. The Museum of Death is one such museum, offering guests a self-guided tour of the morbid and macabre. Not for the weak of heart (or stomach), you’re able to view exhibit such as serial killer artwork, a severed head, and actual crime scene photos from some of the most disturbing crimes in history. Of course, there are museums for those who’d rather avoid such gruesome adventures too, such as the Baby Jane of West Hollywood which shares photos of Hollywood icons… completely naked.
7. The Getty: Going Green On A Whole New Level
Speaking of museums, possibly one of the most famous ones in L.A. is the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Getty houses some of the most amazing pieces of art found anywhere. Not only does it house priceless art, the Getty has also striven to cut their energy consumption in some interesting ways. One of the ways it has accomplished this is by using goats to clear the bush around the 110-acre hillside campus. The goats save energy and reduce waste, which helped the Getty earn its Silver LEED certification. LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, recognizes sustainable and responsible building practices. The Getty was the first existing building to earn LEED certification, and it was certified at a Bronze level until it took additional steps to conserve energy and reduce waste – such as utilizing goats to help clear the brush. With the prevalence of wildfires in the area, it’s very important to keep the brush under control.
Lynne Tjomsland, manager of grounds and gardens, has said, “The goats keep all the brush out of the waste stream. They prevent us from having to use chainsaws and trucks, plus they keep our guys off the steep slopes. It’s a safe way to do a difficult job – and the goats love their work.” We’re sure they do.
6. Hollywoodland Housing Estate
There are few things more iconic than the Hollywood sign. It welcomes those who dream of breaking into the entertainment industry, while also having taken at least one life from someone who failed (Peg Entwistle jumped to her death from the “H”).
But few realize that the sign wasn’t always the sign we see today. In fact, it used to say Hollywoodland before the last four letters were removed. Originally, the sign was intended to advertise a housing development in the hills. The sign was intended to last only 18 months, so when it fell into disrepair, it was meant to be taken down. However, there was an outcry amongst the residents who considered it a landmark and it was saved, removing “land” from it and shortening it to Hollywood, to represent the entire area.
5. You Can Picnic At An Abandoned Zoo
Not too far from where you can see the iconic Hollywood sign, you can also visit some discarded ruins. Wait, don’t get too excited dreaming of ancient architectural digs – this is still L.A. after all. The ruins are actually the remains of an abandoned zoo. When the new Los Angeles zoo opened in the 1960s, the former zoo was not torn down like some might think. No, the grounds were instead turned into a picnic area and hiking trail.
You can hike amongst the old animal cages and exhibits and the zoo is fairly easy to find. It’s north of the merry-go-round on the east side of Griffith Park, about five miles south of the current zoo. There are picnic areas, BBQ grills and a grassy field to go wild in. Not only is it neat to see in and of itself, but fans of the movie Anchorman might recognize the zoo as a backdrop for the bear scenes. In case you ever wanted to see what it would be like to be a caged animal, you can step inside the old holding pens, and one exhibit even has tables arranged it.
4. The Watts Towers – Built By One Man
The Watts Towers consist of seventeen sculptures constructed out of steel and covered in mortar. The tallest tower stands 99 1/2 feet tall and contains the longest slender reinforced concrete column in the world. And all of this work was done by a single man, Simon Rodia. He purchased the lot in 1921 and started work on his masterpiece, which he called Nuestro Pueblo, or Our Town. Rodia worked on the project for 34 years, and without the benefit of machines, scaffolding, bolts, rivets, welds or drawing board designs, he built it using simple tools, pipe fitter pliers, and a window-washer’s belt and buckle, nothing more.
Rodia was a construction worker by day, but obviously an artist by night. He used a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th-century, hand-painted Canton ware and many other items to decorate the towers. Along with the towers, there’s also a gazebo with a bench, three bird baths, a center column and a 38-foot tall spire. There’s also the “ship of Marco Polo” which has a spire of 28 feet, and the “south wall” is decorated with tiles, sea shells, pottery, glass and hand-drawn designs.
3. Capitol Records Building – Architectural First
The Capitol Records building is famous in the music industry, but it’s also famous in the architectural community. The building, which boasts the Walk of Fame stars for John Lennon and Garth Brooks out front, was the world’s first circular office building. It’s been said that the building was built to resemble a stack of records, but that’s nothing more than an urban legend. It’s just what it looks like; a circular office building. However, one lesser known fascinating fact is that the spire blinks out the word “Hollywood” in Morse code at night.
The building has a studio which is known for its acoustics, and many famous artists have recorded there including the Beach Boys and Nat “King” Cole.
2. The Walk of Fame Is A Money Spinner
An estimated 10 million visitors come to the Hollywood Walk of Fame each year. The Walk of Fame stretches for 18 blocks and has more than 2,400 stars from Hollywood Boulevard to Vine Street. However, what few people know is that in order to be considered for the Walk of Fame, a celebrity must first be nominated. Anyone can nominate a star, but the celebrity must agree to be considered and if chosen, they – or a sponsor – have to pay for the ceremony, which currently costs $30,000.
There are a number of big names who surprisingly don’t have stars on the Walk of Fame, including Clint Eastwood. There are a number of reasons some big stars are notably absent, which may include missing the requisite five years of history in their field, or an unwillingness to pay the hefty fee. However, others, like Charlie Chaplin, don’t have a star because of some controversy: Chaplin’s name was removed from consideration because the committee questioned his morals, most notably his acquittal of “white slavery” charges and his left leaning politics. However, Chaplin did eventually get a star, 12 years after his son sued over the exclusion.
Names that are controversially missing also include George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, George Lucas, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie, and Leonardo Dicaprio – among many, many others.
1. Hollywood Is Plagued By Poverty
When most people think of Hollywood, they think of glitz, glamor and movie studios. And while there are many studios in the surrounding areas, Hollywood itself is home to only one major movie studio – Paramount. Other major studios like Warner Brothers and the first studio to locate in Hollywood, Universal, have long since relocated to other parts of Los Angeles.
While there are still landmarks like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, most of Hollywood isn’t glamorous or glitzy, and in fact you can find countless homeless people lining the streets, many of them young. The USC School of Social Work did a street count on a random night in October, and of the 460 youth they talked to, 222 of them were homeless (meaning either on the streets or in a homeless shelter).
It’s no secret that Los Angeles is a very expensive place to live, and sadly, it can be disastrous to try and live on a minimum wage salary or be unemployed. Visitors come to Hollywood to see celebs and experience the glamorous life, but instead are more likely to catch a glimpse of something more shocking on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard; the loss of hope and dreams.