Colin Marshall sits down below the mid-Wilshire offices of Los Angeles magazine with its associate editor Chris Nichols, the man behind the Ask Chris column and blog, former chair of the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee, and author of The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister. They discuss the importance of the now-empty Johnie’s Coffee Shop on Wilshire and Fairfax; what being a civic booster means in Los Angeles; the remains of the postwar American car culture of easy, breezy livin’, and their enduring value; the preponderance of hard-to-explain objects across the Los Angeles landscape, and how he explains them in his writing; the richness and strange inhospitability of La Brea Avenue, currently caught between old and new ideas of the city; architectural preservation, and how much of it in Los Angeles is too much; the surviving Googie coffee shops like Pann’s and Norms, Wayne McAllister’s pre-Googie creations, and their place in the city’s historical palimpsest; his determination to help tourists determine and discover their fantasy of Los Angeles, of which countless many exist; why you have to go out and find the city, and why it will simply never come to you; the wonders of Cucamonga; how he’s used Los Angeles as his own personal party space; the Dutch chocolate shop that became a swap meet, and the spectacular twenties movie palace that became a storeroom; how things filled out when “the world moved in” to places like Koreatown, where you can find, for instance, a cafe that is also a boat; what meaning, if any, Frank Gehry’s much-discussed Disney Concert Hall has; and his desire to get lost in Los Angeles once again.
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