El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Wiltern Theatre 1943 and The Nothing Maker

Three friends in front of the Wiltern Theatre, Wilshire Blvd - Feb 21, 1943

My Mom, El Nino and my siblings - Wilshire Blvd/Hobart Blvd 1966 (The Wiltern is right behind us in green)

As a photo collector nothing makes me happier than to see documentation with a vintage found snapshot. A person’s name, a date or a location description adds to the voyeuristic engagement of a stranger’s photo album. The first photograph on this post of three fashionable people in front of the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles is dated on the back “Feb 21, 1943“, 67 years ago this weekend. Although we were right in the middle of a war in 1943, jobs were plentiful and people sought out entertainment as a diversion from front page news. A day on Wilshire Blvd may have included a matinee at the Wiltern, lunch at the Ambassador Hotel‘s coffee shop, an afternoon at the La Brea Tar Pits or shopping at the May Company department store (now LACMA West). Everything you see in this photo from the cool period clothes to the automobiles were made and built right here in the USA with American sweat and pride.

A Los Angeles Art deco masterpiece, The Wiltern Theatre with its terrazzo façade and the adjacent Pellister building were originally built in 1931. The theater had its heyday, changed hands a few times and eventually was neglected and fell on hard times in the 1970’s. The building was saved from demolition by the Los Angeles Conservancy in one of their first victories to presevere the historic architecture in the City of Angels. In the 1960s and early 70’s my family lived in the Ambassador section of Wilshire Blvd (second snapshot) until we planted roots in The Sunset Junction Neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Wiltern has rapidly become one of my favorite places to see live music. The theatre has cozy unimpaired seating, a great sound system a nice warm and up close feeling and of course that great urban and historical experience that one gets there. In 2008 I went to see former Kink’s front man and legend Ray Davies put on an amazing show to support his new record, The Working Man’s Café. In March of 2009, I witnessed the incredible Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders rock the theatre with a set list that included the classics and several new songs from their then new record, Break Up The Concrete. In her knee high boots, Chrissie left no doubt that at age 57 she had not lost a step as she wailed away on lead vocals while mastering her Telecaster. As far as I was concerned it was 1979 all over again. Coincidentally Ray Davies and Chrissie Hynde have a daughter together from a long term realtionship they had years ago.

One of the songs absent from the set list that night was The Nothing Maker written by Chrissie about an ordinary man living in the backdrop of a not so ordinary industry. Touching and real, it is perhaps my favorite modern Pretenders song and it so much about the ordinary that it did not even make it to Los Angeles and the Wiltern Theatre show that night, but I did. Here are the lyrics:

The Nothing Maker
by Chrissie Hynde
He doesn't Make Shoes
Or Design a New Shirt
Or Take Photographs
But no one gets hurts
And he doesn't look Trendy
Like guys in Magazines
You won't see him at parties
He's not the Face behind the scene.

He Makes Nothing
He's the Nothing Maker
He's the Maker of Nothing
He's the Nothing Maker

And he doesn't paint pictures
Or Write poetry
Or act on a stage
For others to see
and he don't expect much
Santa Claus knows
Cause he doesn't make list
Of toys and new clothes.

Everyone's Chasing
A reason to live
Mostly they take more than they give
The Succeeder Justifies
Why he's better than the rest
He believes his own lies
And thinks he's the best......
but my guy

Doesn't make Movies
To suit an audience's whim
He lives by a code
Known only to him
And he doesn't make money
to Buy watches and cars
Cause there's no time and no place to go
For a man who has nothing to show

He Makes Nothing
He's the Nothing Maker
He's the Maker of Nothing
He's the Nothing Maker

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