Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Kitschtastic East LA and My Saturday Ride with Charles Phoenix

As many of you know, one of my favorite things in the world to do is to take rides with my BFF, Charles Phoenix, and go to places in and around LA that most people don’t know about unless they live in that part of the city. One of my absolute favorite things about LA is that there are so many different sections of the city. But the shame is that so few people who live here venture east of downtown. Charles and I, on the contrary, always venture east and, trust me, it never disappoints. If you’re heading south on the 101, make sure you drive farther than this building (and not just to get off to go the Music Center, Disney Hall, or MOCA).

In our particular case, our drive occurred in Charles’ brand new Dodge Challenger. New as in just hours old and now we were taking it on it’s virgin voyage. The new car smell added to the adventure.

One of the great things about having a friend who you share such keen interests with, coupled with the fact you’re both considered authorities of sorts on the topic – incredible vintage and/or kitsch architecture, signage, cars and the like – is that you can be fascinated almost anywhere you go. Charles and I only had a couple of hours so we headed for a quickie run down Whittier Blvd. Seriously, unless you’re blind, elitist or have absolutely zero kitschEsthetic genes in your body, Whittier Blvd. is breathtaking. So here’s our ride in the order it occurred…

We overshot our exit on the 101 so got off at Seventh St. and wormed our way back to Whittier Blvd. Which was fine as we wouldn’t wanted to have missed this spectacular hot dog roof:

Always special is this dinosaur and soda cup diorama, neither object of which has anything to do with the business underneath.

We always take First St. to get to Whittier Blvd. as one of our favorite houses in the city is there. But I’m dismayed to report that the vines have been plucked on the formerly eye-boggling ‘grapes house’ which used to look like this…

… but sadly now looks like this:

Don’t start me…

Thank God, further down the street some old movie theaters with original neon still survive.

It took all our strength not to stop and see what the Valentine’s Day decorations looked like inside Unique Dollar but we had limited time so kept driving.

I absolutely love store names like this:

Here we are at Whittier Boulevard. As soon as you turn onto the street you know you’re in for an excellent time warp experience.

Perhaps you should have the great 60′s guitar anthem, “Whittier Blvd.” by Thee Midnighters, on as a soundtrack while you tour the street with us. Press the following if so:

Charles and I were starving before we even left the house. We almost stopped here at the ‘they-don’t-resemble-Shaq-and-Kobe-other-than-they’re-big’ Bionicos food truck:

But luckily, Charles knew a “great Mexican restaurant full of pigs” just down the street.

The photorealistic food on all the windows was beautiful but all the rest of my window shots had too much glare to post.

Porky’s was definitely filled with pigs.

The menu was thrilling and pig filled too…

… though neither one of us ordered any of that particular animal.

I was especially impressed that the salad Porky’s served Charles consisted solely of radishes and lemons. I say save time in the kitschen and leave it at that.

When we left we would’ve stopped at the dress shop next door…

…but we were too excited to get across the street and go here:

There’s lots of excellent merchandise like this inside Whittier Crafts:

There’s also an abundance of carefully crafted and spelled signage:

Speaking of signage, there’s vintage overload in this part of LA:

There’s also incredible architectural detail like this 1950′s cement block facade…

… and this excellent 1960′s tile motif which I wish you could see closer than this photo I took. It’s like an explosion of vintage flooring but on a building.

Whittier Blvd. is definitely known for the automobiles that cruise it.

These were all within a two block radius of each other:

I wonder where the people who rented this limo were going?

I’m going to guess A. Torres Tuxedos as starting at :34 that’s where all the action took place when this classic car parade was shot.

Just a few blocks from A. Torres is this 1930s tamale shaped building. It used to be a Mexican restaurant.

You can see how the tamale ends twist at the sides of the building:

Whittier Boulevard has quite a few incredible old Deco buildings like this:

At the other architectural end, I love when business facades don’t quite live up to their names.

But even more, I like when a business is named one thing on one sign and something else on the other.

And even more than that I like when a store’s displays have nothing to do with what their awning says they sell.

Although this isn’t on Whittier Blvd. we passed it when we headed back to the freeway. In a city where spectacularly detailed murals abound, this is the one that makes our kitsch hearts sing:

Maybe you can appreciate it more if you see it closer:

Although we usually like to stay out past dark to catch all the neon, both Charles and I had places to go Saturday night so we headed back  early. Although I wish I could end with the penultimate kitsch shot, there’s absolutely nothing kitschy about this one other than the brains of the occupants.


Categories: Architecture, Art, Clothes, Crafts, Food, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Los Angeles, People, Place, Sculpture, Sign, Transportation, Travel

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8 Comments

  • namowal says:

    I was hoping The Tamale would show up as I scrolled through this, and I wasn’t disappointed!
    As for the Grapes House, I’d never heard of it before and am sorry I didn’t get a chance to see it. I’d love to know why the owner thought decorating with grapes was a good idea…

  • OMG I love the “lady with the cat face and tail perched in a champagne glass” – I just may be her for next Halloween! Thanks for letting us tag along – what a fun adventure – and so nice to see places that aren’t snowbound, like we are here in Pennsylvania!

  • Barb Claypool says:

    Loved following you both down Whittier Blvd. The first picture of the 2 of you makes me smile :)

  • baebeeblu says:

    *sob* R.I.P. grape house. Glad to see you have an old picture of it. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  • Ann Nyberg says:

    I would have killed to have been with the two of you on this ride! I am a fan of you both and love, love, love what you are doing. i am working on a big party pineapple for a soiree…that will ring a loud bell to one of you here.
    Keep up the great work, if you were only out in Connecticut we could hop on a cool ride and I could show you all some sites, which isn’t a bad idea for a show.
    Having been in TV for a long time, it would sell…hint hint!

    • Allee says:

      If I were anywhere near Connecticut, trust me, I’d take you up on that ride! And you don’t have to sell me on the idea of being on TV. I’m a walking reality show and agree I should be bouncing forth from the tube! Make sure and check out the short film I posted today of Charles and me baking a Cherpumple.

  • Thanks for sharing your trip. I could show you all some sites, which isn’t a bad idea for a show.

  • nuru massage says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip.

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