Friday, July 06, 2007

touring a legend

alexandria hotel sign
Last week, I toured the Alexandria Hotel. Yeah, I lived there for ten years, but this was different - Amerland wanted to show how the renovation was coming along. So I went.

alexandria hotel lobby
alexandria hotel lobby
They moved some things around in the lobby, like taking out the big red circular leather banquettes and closed off the front desk area except for a small window to retrieve your mail. I saw that a lot of the same residents were still around, but a few notables (like Puppet, Dr. Smellgood, Preacher Man, the guy who sells meat in the elevator, and the voodoo woman) were conspicuously absent.

russell brown, docent
alexandria hotel tour group
Russell Brown and Blair from the Amerland Group led the tour.

My timing was good. It was also Helen's last day at the Alexandria. Helen is the Korean woman who runs the convenience store inside, or rather, she was. She's moving her store to Pico, two blocks from Crenshaw. We didn't have time to catch up, but she did have a few things to say about the current management of the Alexandria, so we made plans to break bread once she gets settled and I finish my rewrite. Helen has introduced me to some of the best places to go for Korean food and was one of the nicest people I met while living at the Alexandria.

second floor ballroom
This is one of two ballrooms on the second floor. They're mainly used for commercial filming, but this one will be renovated and will function as a rec room/community center.
don garza tours the ballroom
Yes, the ceilings are that low. Did I mention that our very own Town Crier, Don Garza, was on the tour? While checking out the model unit, he mentioned that he was considering moving to the Alexandria.

This is the other ballroom on the second floor, also used for filming. I think the last thing shot at this location was Rush Hour 3.
renovating another ballroom
2nd floor ballroom and scaffolding
scaffolding and balconies

On to the rest of the building and the renovation that's underway. They're starting with the lower floors, so the 3rd floor residents were moved to higher floors while Amerland did their magic.
outside an interior window
3rd floor hallway scene

They have a new color scheme. I think the new gray carpet aren't as scary-looking as the original red carpet in the picture above, but the lower floors are still pretty dark.
empty 3rd floor hallway

We waited on the 3rd floor for someone to bring us a key to the model unit, which is right down the hall from the fire escape. This fire escape is the best vantage point to watch filming on the corner of 5th and Spring. At least that's where I watched crews film Spiderman 1 & 2, and countless other films.
3rd floor fire escape

It seemed like we were waiting a long time. Our tour group just hung out in the hall while residents walked past, some moving their belongings up to higher floors. Others were just chatty. This guy was talking to Don Garza when I walked up. He seemed pretty chill, so I asked him if I could take a look at his room. "Sure," he said, giving me the thumbs-up, "I'm down this hall." That got a few weird and worried looks from some members of the tour group, but they were freaked out and left early anyways. I guess some people just scare easily. Anyway,I got to his front door and a friend of his stood in the hallway, saying that his "old lady is still taking a nap." So he declined and said, "Maybe another time." For future reference, I asked, "Hey, what's your name?" He replied, "Lucky. My name is Lucky."

come look at my room

The rooms were clean, bright, and of a decent size.
empty model unit
model unit bathtub

It was pretty roomy, even with all these people inside, poking around. I have no idea what Ed Fuentes was looking at.
model unit tour
peek at a model unit

Then came my favorite part, walking up the stairs in the heat and humidity to the 11th floor. Since they were moving residents from the 3rd floor so that their units could be renovated, all the elevators were being used to transport furniture and bedding. All the elevators that were working, that is. Nice to see that some things just don't change.

Slowly, the group made its way up the old stairwell.
scary stairwell
interior window 8th floor

I spent a little time on the 8th floor, checking out what it looks like, pre-renovation.
8th floor hallway
# 800
original curtains
hole in the carpet
dirty bathtub

I lagged behind, taking pictures. Another member of the group, some guy (Borzu?) from the CRA also fell behind, but he was rather portly and had huge underarm and neck stains on his dress shirt, from the heat and exertion. I didn't take a picture of that. Slowly, we made our way up. Can you imagine having to walk through this scene (pre-renovation) on your way to your room every night for ten years?
9th floor hallway

There were quite a few notices stuck to doors all along the hallway. Some were water shutoff notices (they turn the water off every Tuesday so they can upgrade the plumbing, but sometimes they add an extra day, much to the chagrin of residents).
water shutoff notices

But other floors were rife with eviction notices. BTW, I don't think that's blood on the door.
Unit 1101
eviction notice for #1101

At least the hallways on the 11th floor are nice and bright. And the view isn't bad.
11th floor hallway
view from the 11th

It was about this time that Borzu and I realized, we lost the rest of the tour group. We walked up and down hallways on the 11th and 12th floor to no avail. I ran into some familiar faces, mostly hotel maintenance staff that stayed on with the new management and a few former neighbors. I asked a few questions about the changes to the building, how they like the new staff, working conditions, etc. But they kept eyeing Borzu suspiciously (he stuck to me like white on rice, like Brer Fox was all over Brer Rabbit), shrugged their shoulders, and said things were, "okay." I walked Borzu back down to the lobby, where he gave up looking for the group and left. I was about to do the same, when I saw the group emerge from a stairwell. I rejoined them and proceeded to the Palm Court.
the palm court
palm court tiffany ceilings
tiffany ceilings
chandelier reflection

Then it was outside to check out the building's facade and Charlie O's.
corner alexandria hotel sign
bar room pool tables

Going back and touring the place brought back a lot of memories, some good, some bad, some of it chronicled in the archives of this blog, but I admit, I left out a lot of dirt, a lot of the good stuff. I'll have to go over my notes and correspondence from when I lived there, but more than likely it'll wind up in a novel or screenplay. It sure was something though, living with a legend for ten years.


Angel ABC said...

Guess they took down the sign in the stairwell that said $20 blow jobs. And some people call that progress.

I say "Don't it always seem to go? That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone ... Take slutty whore-nest, put up a luxury condo!"

celia said...

joni mitchell is spinning in her grave, and she hasn't even bought the farm yet.

they only took down that sign because with all the gentrification, prices were rising faster than they could change the sign. but i think they still have the sign in the garage that says "the alexandria hotel - a return to excellence".

Cowgirl said...
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