The Cranky Preservationist in… What the Hell Happened to the Pantages Neon? (episode 22)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 22 finds Nathan in front of the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, to confirm the terrible rumors that have been circulating on social media since Saturday, 2/29/2020.

It’s true! The magnificent neon blade sign, an integral part of the landmark and a streetscape beacon for nearly a century, is really gone. Since the first photo of the sad letters PANT being lowered to the sidewalk began circulating online, L.A. preservationists have desperately sought reliable information, while going through the classic first four stages of grief.

  • Stage 1: Denial. (This can’t be happening! Maybe it’s Photoshopped?)
  • Stage 2: Anger. (What idiot is responsible for this outrage? GR$#!@%)
  • Stage 3: Bargaining. (Bummer. Can our neon sign museum have the old sign?)
  • Stage 4: Depression. (I heard from a kid who talked to a guy on the crane that it’s going to be LED. I want to put my head in the oven.)

The last stage of grief is Acceptance, and Cranky Preservationists will NEVER accept the loss of a landmark as inevitable, or not worth yowling about. As with Felix the Cat, another beloved historic neon sign that was sneakily removed only to be replaced with a hideous LED copycat, what’s happened to the Pantages is an important cautionary tale.

Felix wasn’t a protected monument, because Antonio Villaraigosa kept that from happening as a favor to the politically connected property owner, Shammas Group. (Learn more about that at Save The Felix Neon SIgn Blog) But the Pantages Theatre is Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #193, and its character-defining features are protected under the law. The historic sign should never have been removed on a Saturday afternoon, leaving citizens scrambling to figure out why.

When Nederlander, the owner of the Pantages, sought a permit to work on its sign in 2018, that permit request should have triggered an agenda item at the Cultural Heritage Commission, giving the Commissioners and community a chance to hear what Nederlander proposed, give feedback, raise concerns and decide on appropriate next steps. With a back office approval and no public notice, we’re left with nothing but rumors, and an ugly black splotch where a great sign lit the Hollywood night from Garbo’s time until Leap Day, 2020.

And that’s enough to make any preservationist cranky.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist meets The L.A. Preservation Imp (episode 21)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 21 finds Nathan in an obscure corner of Ernest Batchelder’s 1914 Dutch Chocolate Shop in Downtown Los Angeles, researching the stylistic differences between the tile master’s catalog output, and the cute doggies that appear in the landmark’s custom murals.

But wait! What is this mysterious casket wedged between the wall and the south mural? And what strange creature pops out to make its strong feelings about historic preservation in Los Angeles known?! It is a pal, sidekick and uncanny foil for the Cranky Preservationist, and we think you’ll be seeing quite a bit more of the L.A. Preservation Imp. So tune in and say hi… if you dare!

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist: 3 Beauties Bite the Dust (episode 20)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode Twenty finds Nathan back in Pico-Union, a disenfranchised community of immigrants and renters that is experiencing unprecedented development-fueled displacement and demolition. On the 2700 block of West Francis Avenue, three beguiling early 20th century homes converted to multi-family housing stand boarded up and derelict, waiting for the pneumatic claw to rip them to shreds.

Your tax money in the form of HHH funds will be used to build something quick and cheap, but very profitable for the consultants, developer and politicians attached to the project.

And yeah, presumably some poor elderly people will get the chance to live in that quick, cheap structure. But West Francis Avenue and Los Angeles will be forever diminished by the loss of these beautiful homes that have grown up with the city. In a city blighted with tens of thousands of vacant lots, strip malls and oil change pits, it is a crime to turn landmarks into landfill, and once beautiful blocks into eyesores. If you’re cranky, too, let’s demand better from City Hall and the County Supervisors.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

Cranky about Facebook? This video is also on YouTube

Catch all the rants on Facebook

The Cranky Preservationist: Won’t Anyone Think of the Squirrels? (episode 19)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode Nineteen finds Nathan in Pico-Union, on the 1100 block of South Westmoreland, where a pair of elegant 1930s apartments stand empty save some abandoned toys on the stoop. Here, 16 households were cast out into the cold by the landlord’s invocation of the Ellis Act, and demolition is nigh. The planned mega-project has fewer low income units than the existing structures, but makes up for that by also eliminating green space, and dooming the local squirrels to homelessness–or worse!

For this is how Los Angeles grows, when developers play the system to pencil out vast profit and City Hall happily rubber stamps every permit, blind to good planning, overstressed infrastructure, visual pollution or the suffering of constituents. Yet just down the block, a brand new building earns Nathan’s grudging respect, because it actually serves a purpose. Sometimes even a Cranky Preservationist can justify sacrificing a good, old building if its replacement truly serves a local need.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog.

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

This video is also on Facebook!