Land of Smoke and Mirrors: A Cultural History of Los Angeles

By Vincent Brook | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Gentrification (and its “ethnic cleansing” adjunct) is not the sole province of Echo Park. Its most powerful effects, since the 2000s, have been felt downtown. As I suggested in chapter 6, Blade Runner–inspired retro chic and postmodern gloss have transformed a noir inner “city of regret,” a governmental center that once “emptied every night,” into a cultural, entertainment, and upscale residential in-spot, largely for affluent whites.1 Hollywood, of course, has played the transformation both ways. The first film in the Transformers franchise (2007) and TV series such as NCIS: Los Angeles (2009–) have mined the burnished inner city for Babes in Toyland action finales. The Soloist (2009), a docudrama based on L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez’s befriending of a black homeless man whose mental condition masks a gifted violinist, dredges skid row for spiritual uplift but at least reminds us such a place exists. Marc Webb’s 2009 love letter to downtown, (500) Days of Summer, stakes a middle ground. An L.A. answer to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979), the film both engages and disavows the inner city’s upward mobility. Viewed through an aspiring architect’s faux-nostalgic lens, what we glimpse at street level nods to downtown’s newly hip lifestyle. What we get to see of the skyline is blinkered: all beaux-art and pre–high modern, with scarcely a steel-and-glass building or concrete freeway on-ramp in sight—perish the thought of Disney Hall. This is Spanish Fantasy Past turned Downtown Past Perfect.

The Downtown Art Walk provides a real-life appraisal of the central core’s renaissance. A grassroots event inaugurated at Biddy Mason Park in 2003, the Walk drew an average of seventy-five people to makeshift galleries its first couple of years. By 2011, a Gallery Row of more than forty art venues, as well as theaters and eateries, between Main and Spring, Second and Ninth streets, was attracting monthly crowds of more than thirty thousand people.2 Demographic surveys further support a downtown revival but also reinforce Soja’s and Murphet’s claim that the city’s spoils remain unevenly apportioned and tilted toward whites. As opposed to a pre-2000s inner-city population

-233-

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Land of Smoke and Mirrors: A Cultural History of Los Angeles
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iv
  • Contents viii
  • Acknowledgments x
  • Prologue 1
  • Introduction 5
  • Part One - Original Si(G)N 23
  • Chapter 1 - The Ramona Myth 25
  • Chapter 2 - Ramona Revisited 43
  • Part Two - Si(G)N City 65
  • Chapter 3 - "City with Two Heads" 67
  • Chapter 4 - What Price Hollywood? 83
  • Part Three - L.a. Noir 103
  • Chapter 5 - Bright and Guilty Place 105
  • Chapter 6 - Neo-Noir 126
  • Part Four - Multicultural L.a 151
  • Chapter 7 - Latinos 153
  • Chapter 8 - Blacks 170
  • Chapter 9 - Lasians 189
  • Chapter 10 - Langlos and Lagbts 209
  • Conclusion 233
  • Notes 243
  • Index 281
  • About the Author 303
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