The Kid

JACKIE COOGAN REACHED THE PINNACLE OF SUCCESS AND STARDOM WHEN HE WAS FIVE. THEN HE SET THE HOLLYWOOD PATTERN OF PAYING THE PRICE FOR EARLY FAME.

 

Once he had been the most famous child in the world, praised by the Pope, celebrated by the League of Nations, loved by millions—even by the Sultan of Swat. “Other boys went to see Babe Ruth,” Jackie Coogan said. “But Babe Ruth came to see me.” This might have seemed preposterous, coming as it did from a bald, heavy, 58-year-old man with a weather-beaten face, bulbous nose, and droopy mustache. But it was the simple truth.

 
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Forever Hollywood

THE PLACE where the greatest early movie stars built their final homes is returning to life

 

Paramount Pictures stands at its back door. Film crews shoot B movies on its sixty-two-acre grounds. And the thousands of tourists stop at the office, pick up maps, and go searching for its resident celebrities.

 
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The Myth Behind The Streetcar Revival

Light rail was an attractive, economical, and environmentally sound technology— until the auto companies crushed it. That, at any rate, is what a lot of people believe, and now the nation is spending billions to re-create an imaginary past.

In a crucial scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit , the murderous Judge Doom reveals a “plan of epic proportions” for transforming metropolitan Los Angeles. He boasts to private detective Eddie Valiant that his Cloverleaf Industries has bought the Red Car electric railway network so that he can dismantle it. Read more »

Liberalism Overthrown

THIRTY YEARS AGO A HARD-FOUGHT gubernatorial campaign heralded the third great political upheaval of our century

IT WAS A FUNERAL TO REMEMBER. The rain had been pelting for hours when the mourners gathered in St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church, in the Sunset district, but now the skies cleared as four National Guard helicopters clattered overhead in a “missing man” formation ” as scores of dignitaries—governors and representatives, senators and aides from Sacramento and Washington, Los Angeles and New York—stared gravely at the casket, draped in the red and white state flag. It was February 17, 1996, and Edmund G.Read more »

Nation Of Gamblers

Once seen as a vice and now as a public panacea, the national passion that got Thomas Jefferson in trouble has been expanding for two centuries

“I’m dad-gum disgusted at trying to police every half-square and every half-house,” Sen. Huey Long told a radio audience in Louisiana in May 1935. “You can’t close gambling nowhere where the people want to gamble.”

Dozens of casinos in St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes reopened the next day, after a nearly five-month hiatus. Read more »

Learning To Go To The Movies

The great democratic art form got off to a very rocky start. People simply didn’t want to crowd into a dark room to look at a flickering light, and it took nearly twenty years for Americans and motion pictures to embrace each other.

On July 5, 1896, the Los Angeles Times greeted the imminent arrival of Thomas Alva Edison’s moving-picture projector with enormous enthusiasm: “The vitascope is coming to town. It is safe to predict that when it is set up at the Orpheum and set a-going, it will cause a sensation as the city has not known for many a long day.” Read more »

Who Are The Westerners?

“Why hasn't the stereotype faded away as real cowboys become less and less typical of Western life? Because we can't or won't do without it, obviously.”

Being a Westerner is not simple. If you live, say, in Los Angeles, you live in the second-largest city in the nation, urban as far as the eye can see in every direction except west. There is (or was in 1980—the chances would be somewhat greater now) a 6.9 percent chance that you are Asian, a 16.9 percent chance that you are black, and a 27 percent chance that you are Hispanic. You have only a 48 percent chance of being a non-Hispanic white. Read more »

Traveling With A Sense Of History

From Fort Ticonderoga to the Plaza Hotel, from Appomattox Courthouse to Bugsy Siegel’s weird rose garden in Las Vegas, the present-day scene is enriched by knowledge of the American past

To grow up in New England is to grow up with an inescapable sense of history, a heritage that a New Englander carries with him wherever he goes. Read more »

The Olympics That Almost Wasn’t

In 1984 Los Angeles will once again play host to the Summer Olympics. It’s got to be easier that the first time. That was just fifty years ago, when, in the teeth of the Great Depression, a group of local boosters boldly set about planning

March 1925. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, president of the Comité International Olympique, in a confidential letter from Paris to William May Garland, president of the California Olympiad committee: “In case of Holland failing to fulfill her engagements … in the IX Olympiad … would Los Angeles be willing or not to take up 1928 instead of 1932? An answer must be given immediately. Therefore we beg that you shall consult without delay upon receiving this letter with the mayor of Los Angeles and the organizing committee.Read more »