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Los Angeles: Portrait of a City (Taschen)
on December 31, 2009
As long time Angelenos, we were certainly excited to receive our invitation to Taschen Books headquarters for the new release party for their latest coffee table opus `Los Angeles - Portrait of a City.' While partying with the Hollywood elite (Diane Keaton, Hugh Hefner, Jerry Bruckheimer, David LaChappell, Rodney Bingenheimer, various politicos, etc.) and being serenaded by hometown music from the Doors, Mamas and Papas, the Go-Go's and others, we celebrated the release of Jim Heimann and Kevin Starr's new 572 page exhibition of the colorful photographic history of the Los Angeles basin.
In this heavyweight book, readers are treated to nearly all the glorious history of the City of Angels from it's very beginnings as an oil and orange grove mecca, thru the war years, the Hollywood years, the earthquakes, the riots and beyond. And while the book chronicles numerous LA icons (the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Frank Gehry and the Case Study House; the famous buildings of Ciro's, the Brown Derby, the Hollywood Bowl, Capitol Records, Grauman's Chinese, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Watts Towers, as well as the Dodgers arrival at the L.A. Coliseum, JFK's 1960 convention, RFK's assassination, OJ's car chase, Rodney King and more...) as well as the world famous personalities (the MGM players, James Dean, Cecil B. DeMille, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, the Beach Boys, Hugh Hefner and Joni Mitchell) and artists (Billy Al Bengston, Dennis Hopper, Helmut Newton, David Hockney's pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt and clips from Ed Ruscha's masterpiece `Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966'), there are still significant gaps in the author's coverage.
One does wonder where some of the more recent luminaries of LA disappeared to within these pages. There are, for example, no photos of sports greats Sandy Koufax, Magic Johnson or NBA logo model, Jerry West, nor L.A. superstars like Jack Nicholson, Mickey Mouse or the Dreamworks triumvirate, no Johnny Carson or TV game show hosts or four time mayor Tom Bradley, and, in fact, very little or no depiction of the twin L.A. Olympics, the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl or the most recent years of LA fame and glory (the Queen Mary, Staples Center, The Grammys, Kodak Theatre, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink's, etc. - there are so few photographs taken since the year 2000 that the book has a dated-right-off-the-press feel.) In fact, one might have to squint to even find legends like Jack Warner and Walt Disney within these pages.
Though light on descriptive captions, Kevin Starr's text is quite comprehensive and the book does a magnificent job of referencing a reasonable number of additional L.A. inspired movies, books and records in its back page indexes, leaving anyone who wants to earn a masters degree in the city's stature with hours of resources to indulge their every whim. The English language book, which bills itself as the most complete photographic collection ever done on L.A., is translated into German and French as well. Ultimately, a fine collection, but not without some significant gaps. - [...]