• Homage to Big Boy

    The mailbox in front of 10612 Baird Avenue in Northridge is embedded in what looks to be authentic arm from a Bob’s Big Boy statue, of which there used to be several around the Valley. Hat tip to the blog Losanjealous, which has a closeup and calculates that the arm is located 17.6 driving miles from the historic landmark Bob’s in Burbank.

  • Oakie Estate To Be Developed

    Oh, crumb. Dennis McCarthy’s column in the Daily News brings word that the 11-acre Jack Oakie estate — maybe the last intact vestige of the old Northridge horse culture — is being developed into 29 homes. The estate at 18650 Devonshire Street, just west of Reseda Boulevard, dates to the golden age of Northridge thoroughbred breeding. In 1935, actress Barbara Stanwyck left her husband, Frank Fay, and moved into a small stone house on the Northridge property. Her agent Zeppo Marx, brother of Groucho, Chico and Harpo, lived next door. They jointly formed the 140-acre Marwyck Ranch and raised thoroughbreds. She commissioned an English Manor-style home by Paul R. Williams, one of…

  • Blog makes it big

    Carney’s in Studio City is bragging about its top rating from Hot Dog Spot.com, a North Hollywood blog by Stephen Worth, in a big way along Ventura Boulevard. The billboard is out of date, though. The Hot Dog Spot has since given a higher rating to The Wiener Factory in Sherman Oaks. HDS also points me to Tony Mora’s NoHo blog So Bad Its Good. He takes and posts photos of the murals found at carnicerias all over the Valley. He writes, “I’ve always had a fascination with them ever since I was a little kid.” I’m making it my blog discovery of the day over at LA Observed. Here’s a sample:

  • See a vanished gem

    Hard to believe today, but where a typical faceless Northridge subdivision stands at 10000 Tampa Avenue used to be one of the Valley’s most celebrated architectural works. The home was designed in 1935 for director Josef von Sternberg by modernist Richard Neutra. All-steel and glass with rounded edges and a moat, it drew raves for Neutra and also made an inviting landmark for World War II pilots to buzz during training flights over the Valley. The home was razed in 1971 or ’72, and is largely forgotten. Today’s West magazine in the Los Angeles Times runs a gorgeous photograph (page 9) of the von Sternberg home by Julius Shulman. The…

  • Wooden honor official

    The U.S. post office at 7320 Reseda Boulevard is being named the Coach John Wooden Post Office, under a bill sponsored by Rep. Brad Sherman and signed today by President Bush. Wooden, the former UCLA basketball coach, lives in Encino but that post office was already named for the late Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn. Wooden’s daughter, Nancy Muehlhausen, lives in Reseda and I guess everybody figured that was enough connection. The new name will be dedicated at a ceremony on Wooden’s 96th birthday October 14.

  • Good news is on the way

    On Monday the Daily News will launch a new strategy to invite readers onto the paper’s website through blogs and local news reports organized by the community. Some of the reports posted at ValleyNews.com will make it into printed editions of the Valley News supplement, but they aren’t looking for hard-edged stuff. From the editor’s introduction: Raise your hand if you’re sick of all the bad news, all the time.Hurricanes, wars, crime, politicians. Ugh. Why isn’t there more news about what’s actually happening in our daily lives, what our families and friends are up to, what television, movies, books or restaurants we’re enjoying, what happened with our kids’ sports teams and what the…

  • 818 film carnival

    For his contribution to this year’s Real Best L.A. issue of CityBeat and ValleyBeat, film editor Andy Klein decides to highlight his list of the best films to take place in the Valley. It’s a subject I enjoy playing with, obviously. See my own list of favorite films (and books and songs) on The Valley in Literature page. Klein begins where I do, with Chinatown. He moves quickly to Every Which Way But Loose, the 1978 romp where Clint Eastwood races around the Valley with a chimpanzee for companionship. Targets was new to me as a candidate for the 818 canon, what Klein calls Peter Bogdanovich’s “barely released first feature” that used the circa-1968 Sepulveda Drive-In as…

  • Valley’s hookers are different

    “Heather” is a 38-year-old undercover LAPD officer and mother of two whose blond hair helps her catch johns looking for prostitutes on Sepulveda Boulevard. That strip in Van Nuys has been a street-walker zone seemingly forever, despite occasional crackdowns and a city ordinance that allows seizure of the vehicles driven by men who solicit sex. She has worked Hollywood and the Valley, and tells the Daily News’ Susan Abram that the Sepulveda Boulevard trade is distinct from that over the hill. In the Valley, the prostitution scene is dominated by drug-addicted women – who Heather bluntly calls “crack whores” – who walk Sepulveda Boulevard. These women don’t bother to dress up. They…

  • Those planes over the Valley

    I enjoyed Saturday’s cloudy skies and twenty-plus degree dip on the thermometer sitting in the backyard of the Northridge home where I grew up. The conversation was difficult, though, due to the continual roar of warplanes overhead. These weren’t the screaming after-burners that scratch your eardrums near a military flight line. These were the groaning radial engines and props of World War II birds. On one fly-by, I peered through the trees to spot a B-25 bomber, escorted by a P-51 Mustang of the sort that used to train over the Valley’s bean fields during the war. Was there a vintage air show I didn’t hear about? Today’s Daily News solved…

  • Girard reservoir in the news

    Must admit I had not known of the old, now-dry Girard reservoir until the L.A. City Nerd blog mentioned it recently. Now the Daily News and the Los Angeles Times both have stories today about residents in Woodland Hills trying to block a condominium development on the adjacent Nicholson Ranch property. Their strategy is to nudge the city Department of Water and Power to sell the former reservoir for parkland within the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy realm. The city, however, says the site may be needed for a DWP tank to boost low water pressure for homes in the area. Whatever. I just like that there is another reminder of old Girard, the plucky 1920s subdivision…

  • New York Times likes the Valley

    Writing in the New York Times Travel section, author Marc Weingarten (of Studio City) spreads a little love on the new bars and restaurants along the Ventura Boulevard corridor. It’s New York so he has to fall back on the Valley girls and pornography canards, but the Valley boosters will be happy. THE San Fernando Valley has always gotten a bad rap. For years, it has been associated with two dubious cultural phenomena: Valley Girls and pornography. But just as the city of Los Angeles has undergone a process of rediscovery in long-neglected regions like the downtown area, so this suburban outpost across the Santa Monica mountains has also experienced an image makeover.“A…

  • Cowboy up

    We’ve had a spate of posts here lately that feature observation of San Fernando Valley boyhoods. Now Jerry England, founder of the Chatsworth Equine Cultural Heritage Organization (ECHO) , has put together a great web page about growing up with horses and horse people in the Valley of the 1940s and 1950s. That’s Jerry (I think) in the picture on Manton Avenue in Woodland Hills, of which he writes: Rural Woodland Hills was horse country. I learned to ride a horse at my grand uncle’s ranch in Montana during the summer of 1950. By 1952 we had horses in our Woodland Hills backyard. As a youngster I rode to Calabasas, Canoga Park,…

  • An 11-year-old boy and his bike

    Author Josh Deutchman contributes a piece of short fiction to West magazine in the Los Angeles Times that evokes the freedom to roam of boyhood in the Valley. There’s a message in there too about appreciating what you have. Here’s a snippet from I Remember Rosemary Fishman: Nineteen eighty-one. If you were an 11-year-old boy, and you lived in the San Fernando Valley, and you owned a dirt bike, there was nowhere you could not go. You could ride to In-N-Out and buy a Double-Double with cheese, stop at Moby Disc for a new cassette, head north on Sepulveda to Castle Golf and challenge the chain-smoking, mustachioed high school dropouts to…

  • Joe Pass of the Valley

    Jazz guitarist Joe Pass apparently had prominent Valley roots, teaching out of his Northridge garage and playing memorable sets at Donte’s when the defunct club was hopping on Lankershim Boulevard. Come On, Feel the Nuys says Donte’s sessions can be heard on two CD sets, “The Joe Pass Trio Live at Donte’s” and “Resonance.” There’s a Donte’s entry at Gone But Not Forgotten

  • Take the boy out of the Valley…

    Author and investigative journalist Greg Palast credits his experiences in Sun Valley for developing his critical take on President Bush, the Iraq War and other issues, according to a guest column by freelancer Ed Rampell in the Daily News. His embittered memories of growing up Valley during the McCarthy and Vietnam eras are anything but “American Graffiti”-like reveries.”For me, the class war began in the Valley. … We had this sense that there was a bright city over the hill. Cross Laurel Canyon and you entered the city of the winners. We were in the planet of the losers, below sea level, economically and socially. Most of my area was Chicano. We…

  • Speaking of anniversaries

    Cupid’s, the unofficial hot dog of The Valley Observed, is celebrating sixty years in the San Fernando Valley on Saturday, June 17. All hot dogs will cost sixty cents, instead of the still-reasonable two bucks, at the last remaining original Cupid’s stands in Canoga Park (opened 1962) and Northridge (1965.) The company now has a website up with the official history. Excerpts: The Original concept was derived from a friend who owned a stand called “Hugo’s Hot Dogs’ in Van Nuys, CA and was no longer able to participate in the business because of failing health. This store was located on Van Nuys Blvd. and still exist today under the name…

  • 50 years of Casa Vega

    Countless family restaurants that opened in the postwar rush to suburbia have vanished. See the Gone But Not Forgottenpage for evidence of that. But Casa Vega, at Ventura and Fulton in Sherman Oaks, seems as popular and as hip now as when Marlon Brando and Cary Grant were regulars. It’s certainly harder to get in. Brent Hopkins in the Daily News took note of the phenomenonon Casa Vega’s fiftieth anniversary: Twenty-two years old, confident and charming, Rafael Vega took his mom’s recipes and a small business loan and opened a restaurant that bore his name.This was 50 years ago today, back when Mexican food didn’t show up on every corner, before the…

  • Winona project trailers

    Places to live were in extremely short supply immediately after World War II. Converted barracks were used to house returning GIs and their families at the Basilone Homes on Glenoaks Boulevard beneath Hansen Dam; at the Rodger Young Village at Griffith Park (where the zoo is now located), Quonset huts accommodated families. This 1945 scene shows the trailers offered to returning Japanese Americans from the Valley who had been interned at Manzanar and other inland camps. The temporary housing was located at San Fernando Road and Winona Avenue in Burbank. The photo is from the Online Archive of California.  

  • Meltdown in the news

    The July 26, 1959 accident at an experimental nuclear reactor above Chatsworth was only a partial meltdown. And while the full extent of radioactive releases wasn’t known for many years, there were news reports about the mishap within a month. Still, it’s always good to see the past events at the old Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Laboratory get more attention. There’s even a photo of the Sodium Reactor Experiment Containment Building that I had not seen before. From Living on Earth, “an independent media program” about the environment: Chernobyl in the Ukraine, Windscale in the UK, and… the Santa Susana Field Lab in California. Those incidents are the top three releasers of radioactive…

  • Valley gets a ‘Jeopardy!’ nod

    Fresh off his well-reviewed Comedy Central spoof with Stephen Colbert and mention in the recent “60 Minutes” piece on Colbert, Rep. Brad Sherman’s pop culture image is about to receive yet another boost. He shows up next Tuesday as a question on “Jeopardy!” during the Double Jeopardy round. The category is “Shermans.” Alex Trebek: Fittingly, Congressman Brad Sherman represents this L.A. suburb, home of the Galleria of “Valley Girl” fame.Correct question: What is Sherman Oaks? I’m told the contestant answered “What is the San Fernando Valley,” so she got it wrong.