Movie Studios-Culver City

After the news that Amazon Studios will be moving into Culver Studios at 9336 Washington Blvd, we looked into the history of this movie studio.

Culver Studios (c) Elisa Leonelli

It was built by silent movie producer-director Thomas Ince in 1918 on a lot acquired from Harry Culver, who founded Culver City in 1917. It was owned by director Cecil B. De Mille from 1925 to 1928, then by RKO-Pathé from 1933 to 1950. For several years it was leased by David O’ Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind (1939). In 1950 it was purchased Howard Hughes, who continued to lease it. In 1956 it was bought by Lucille and Desi Arnaz for their Desilu Studios; they renamed it Culver Studios in 1970. It was acquired by Sony Pictures in 1991 and its 13 sound stages have housed the production of countless movies. See list and history at this link.

MGM Studios Colonnade (c) Elisa Leonelli

And here’s the history of the most legendary movie studio, MGM, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that was not located in Hollywood but in Culver City, which in 1936 was dubbed “The Heart of Screenland.” It was built in 1915 as Triangle Studios by Thomas Ince, who moved its Inceville here from the Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset, then sold the lot to Samuel Goldwyn in 1918. Its original colonnade entrance along Washington Blvd in Greek-revival style is still standing. In 1924 it became MGM Studios, after the merger of three companies: Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Studios, Louis B. Mayer Productions. In 1981 it merged with United Artists into MGM-UA, it was sold to Lorimar in 1986. In 1989 Warner Bros, who had bought Lorimar, sold the lot to Columbia Pictures, that had been acquired by Sony, the Japanese tech giant. Sony Pictures spent $100 million to completely renovate the historic studio to its former glory, including the 1938 Thalberg building.

Culver Hotel (c) Elisa Leonelli

Harry Culver built the Culver Hotel in 1924 in Renaissance revival style, renovated in 2013, with 46 rooms and a lively restaurant.

The Helms Bakery was built as the official bakery of the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

No longer standing is another movie studio in Culver City, the Hal Roach Studios (1919-1963)

In the parking lot in front of Culver Studios, construction has started for a retail and restaurant complex called The Culver Steps. It is scheduled to open in 2019 like the giant 500,000 square feet Ivy Station in the parking lot of the Expo station that closed in February.

Sony Studios, Culver gate (c) Elisa Leonelli

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Chocolate on Robertson

At the September 27 SORONC Townhall meeting about the Robertson Great Streets plans, I was impressed by the heartfelt speech of a young man, David, who introduced his handcrafted chocolate to the neighbors. They are open to the public on Saturdays from 11am to 4pm, and offer free samples. So yesterday I went to visit their factory, Letterpress Chocolate, at 2835 Robertson, the same storefront where Sue Leedom used to sell her Mollie’s Cookies, next to Fred’s Bakery, recently remodeled by new owner by Avi Kadmon.

David Menkes with a tray of cacao beans

Letterpress is a technique of relief printing from plates. David used to be a graphic artist, and does all the designs for his artisan chocolate packaging. The logo is inspired by an old US airmail stamp. It means that he comes from the mountains, flies all over the world and brings back chocolate beans.
His wife and daughter work at the family business, where they manufacture small batch, bean to bar, chocolate in different flavors, single sourced from small farms in Belize, Tanzania, Trinidad, Ecuador, etc.

David Menkes with wife Corey and their daughter

This reminds me of the Lavazza coffee that I have been drinking since moving to the US in 1972, to make sure that every morning as I wake up I smell and taste the same flavor I am used to, having grown up in Italy. I buy Lavazza at Bay Cities, World Market and Vons. It comes in cans and in 12oz bags in several flavors, plus 2 single origin coffees: Santa Marta, Columbia and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. A couple of years ago I received a Nespresso machine as a birthday gift, but I load refillable pods with Lavazza. To me this Italian coffee beats the taste of the Swiss brand by far.

Stop by to meet David on Saturdays, taste the various samples, ask him to introduce you to his wife and daughter, who are busy in the back making and packaging the award-winning chocolate they ship all over the world. And if you wish to buy some bars of your favorite flavor, they cost $10 to $12 each.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

For more blog posts on Robertson businesses click here

Food markets

The Santa Monica Coop, at 1525 Broadway since 1995, opened another location in Culver City. It’s called Coopportunity Market & Deli, it’s located at 8770 Washington Blvd and National.

Coop, Culver City

I went to check it out today and found a wide variety of choices, organic fruits and vegetables, grown without pesticides, grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics, cage free chicken wings, crusted wild salmon, hot pizza, poke bowls and much more. It has free underground parking and tables to sit and eat from their salad bar and cooked food selections.

Sprouts, Culver City

It is a welcome addition to the nearby Sprouts that opened last September at 8985 Venice Blvd and to Trader Joe’s at 9290 Culver Blvd.
The Coop is planning a Grand Opening celebration on September 9, don’t miss it.

Trader Joe’s, Culver City

I frequent many other food markets that offer salad bars, hot soups and prepared meals, such as Whole Foods at 11666 National Blvd and Barrington. Amazon already started lowering the prices today, after their recent acquisition.
Gelson’s in Century City, Bristol Farms at 3105 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, Erewhon at 7660 Beverly Blvd and Fairfax LA 90036, Lassens at 710 S LaBrea and Wilshire.

I do love cooking my favorite recipes at home, and I constantly experiment with new dishes, but I also enjoy the quick satisfaction of trying different tasty and healthy foods prepared by others, while shopping for groceries at these markets.

Coop, Culver City

Click on all the red links for more info, please write your comments.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Reynier Park regulations

Reynier Park. Wooden pergolas

Loud and drunken parties have occasionally taken place at Reynier Park for years, however, since Nextdoor has made it possible for neighbors to communicate directly with each other on the Internet, the posts about the weekend invasion of our park have been numbering in the hundreds. It is also true that the size and frequency of these large gatherings in our small park has increased, and some of these events have been professionally catered.
Last year SORONC took notice and revived their Park Committee, RVNA members and residents attended several meetings and expressed their concerns. In October 2016 I was present as RVNA Co-President, when 6 LA Park and Recreation representatives promised new signage would be posted, in English and Spanish, so existing regulations would be made clear to park users, and enforceable. No amplified sound, no smoking, no alcohol, no bouncy houses, no catered events, no open flames, no tents, etc.
9 months later these signs have not yet been posted, but SORONC and RVNA are still committed to finding solutions and are organizing a ice-cream party Sunday July 30 at 2pm. Residents are invited to come and share ideas about the park.  SORONC (South Robertson Neighborhood Council) posted yard signs about “reimagining” Reynier Park, with weblink to a survey.

Reynier Park. Picnic, July 16

Actually many of us residents feel Reynier Park is great the way it is, and it is enjoyed daily by dozens of children and adults, with no improvements necessary. It is the invasion of hundreds of people on weekends that should be regulated. We have proposed that only 2 parties be allowed per day, of no more than 30 people each, under the wooden pergolas that provide shade and seating. No need to set up tents that occupy park space. A Park Ranger should be on call to enforce these regulations, allowing LAPD to respond to real crimes such as burglaries, robberies and murders.
See our earlier post on this blog.

RVNA Park Night, July 12

On the bright side, there were no large parties this past weekend, only a baby shower set up under a white tent with seating for less than 30 people. And last Wednesday RVNA, our Reynier Village Neighborhood Association, held a summer park night, a tradition that started in 2005. More than 30 residents walked over to one of the lovely pergolas and talked to each other face to face. What a concept in this era of Social Media…

We love our Reynier Park.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

 

Enjoy South Robertson

Ivan Gallery. Art by Barbara Mendes

Sunday June 4, I walked 3 blocks from my home to South Robertson to experience the SORO Fest, a joyous community event in its 20th year, when this usually busy street between Cadillac and Cattaraugus is closed to traffic and SORO residents enjoy walking to the many restaurants and shops in our neighborhood.

I greeted my friends, at the booths for RVNA, SORONC, Hami Garden, and said hello to Barbara Mendes, who was teaching kids how to do chalk drawing on the sidewalk in from of Ivan Gallery.

Fred’s Bakery-Avi Kadmon.

I spoke with Avi, who bought Fred’s Bakery two years ago and recently completed a thorough remodel. This neighborhood favorite was opened in 1949 by Fred and Harriet; when Fred passed away in 1992, his children (Bob, Steve and Cecilia) ran it for 12 year, then sold it in 2005 when Cecilia (Cissy Klein) moved to Las Vegas.

Wonders Kids World. Julia, Natalie

I looked into the window of Wonders Kids World. They were closed today, but a couple of weeks ago I had met with Natalie, from Paris, France and Julia, from Yucatan, Mexico. They are devoted to teaching pre-school children French and Spanish in a fun way, through music and games.

Barbara Mendes painting Angel Wall. July 2012

You don’t have to wait another year to enjoy South Robertson, now dubbed the Great Emerald Blvd. These businesses are open most days of the week. Go have breakfast at Undergrind Cafe, lunch at Dolce Isola, dessert at Monaco Gelato, take home tasty Argentinian Empanadas or a heavenly green chile burrito from Campos. Check out the many programs the Relational Center has to offer. Enjoy art at the Ivan Gallery, decorated with the colorful and intricate murals painted by Barbara Mendes through the years. Explore all the places that she included in the map below.

For a list of our favorites click on the Robertson page of the RVNA website.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Reynier Park

During the past couple of weeks, we noticed several workers in orange vests and hard hats working on our Reynier Park, so we went to check and talk to them. They removed the old sidewalk and poured cement to build a new one all around the park, along Olin, Reynier and Hargis. They completed the job Friday April 28. They were employed by a private company called John S. Meek, hired by the Los Angeles Department of Street Services.


We are grateful for such improvement, however many Reynier Village resident wish that the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks would require permits for large picnics on weekends, catered affairs that bring over 200 people to our neighborhood, and would limit the parties to 2, to take place under the lovely wooden pergolas, and the number of party-goers to 20 for each party.


Also the erection of tents and bouncy houses are not allowed by existing park regulations, which should be enforced. In October 2016 the SORONC Board approved a resolution asking for new signs, in English and Spanish, spelling out all the regulations. We’ve been waiting 6 months, so we hope these signs will be posted soon.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

New Restaurants-Culver City

Baco Shop 17awWe were curious about several new restaurants that opened recently in downtown Culver City, replacing others that closed, so we took a walk, looked at their menus and sampled some of their food. We favored inexpensive and unpretentious establishments, offering healthy choices.
For example the baby kale salad at BACO SHOP (424) 258 6301, 9552 Washington Blvd, the grain bowl with black lentils at CAVA (23) 230 5027 , 9343 Culver Blvd, the Angry Avocado roll at RAMEN ROLL (310) 426 8926, 9900 Culver Blvd.
Ramen Roll 17-2awWe also indulged with the Chicken Karaage at TENTENYU (424) 603 4803, 3849 Main St. It was yummi (and boneless), much better (if not comparable) than HONEY KETTLE’S FRIED CHICKEN, rated number one in Los Angeles by LAist, Thrillist and Los Angeles Magazine (if you don’t mind waiting 30 minutes or more).

For a list of our favorite restaurants in Culver City check the RVNA website.

Please go explore and comment with YOUR favorite choices. Thanks!

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli