Ask Chris: Pinball Machines Illegal? Kim Kardashian Is A Lawyer?

Email your burning questions about L.A. to [email protected]

Q: Were pinball machines really once illegal in Los Angeles? 

A: There were illegal casinos on the Sunset Strip and gambling boats off the harbor when Mayor Fletcher Bowron persuaded voters to outlaw pinball machines in 1939. (He was anti-crime, and he had a personal beef with a lawyer for the pinball lobby.) Most bars paid off wins with a beer, but high-stakes games continued, and shady owners kept raking it in. By 1971, Starlite Bowl in North Hollywood wanted in on the action and hired attorney Warren Wolfe to argue that the introduction of flippers in 1948 had transformed pinball into a game of skill. “He needed a plaintiff in this lawsuit,” remembers Wolfe’s cousin Roger Cossack. “I signed an affidavit saying I liked to play pinball machines. We won.”

Q: Did  L.A. lose any museums to COVID-19?
A: Todd Lerew of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles visited 600 institutions while researching his book Specific Museums of Greater Los Angeles and notes that the A+D Architecture and Design Museum and the Annenberg Space for Photography shuttered during COVID. He says L.A. has lost about 125 museums in the last century, including institutions dedicated to Freemasonry, the Pony Express, and podiatry. When the Museum of Miniatures family retired, it shipped its tiny collection to Florida. When Oran Z lost his Pan African Black Facts & Wax Museum, he started searching for a new home. “Ninety percent of closed museums were the passion project of an individual,” says Lerew. “When they move on or lose their space, it’s over.”
Q: Did Kim Kardashian ever become a lawyer? 
A: She’s working on it! California is one of only four states that allow budding barristers to skip law school in favor of an apprenticeship. The mogul has been studying under prison-reform advocates since she saw a jailhouse video on Twitter that moved her so much, she got the woman a presidential pardon. Last fall, Ms. Skims passed a test that has enabled her to take the bar. “I was never one to like school,” she told the New York Times. “And the fact that I love it is so shocking . . . But everything kind of pertains to me now: I get contracts all the time, and now I understand how to read them and how to write them.” We’re impressed.
Starry Nights

Before he was the ad hoc cultural director of the Mount Wilson Observatory, Dan Kohne was creating special effects for the U.S.S. Enterprise—”whenever they needed something kind of trippy at the end of the universe,” he says. Since 2017, though, Kohne has been making a new kind of magic at the observatory, with a concert series called “Sunday Afternoon in the Dome.” The first show was snowed out (the building sits more than a mile above Pasadena), and later engagements were canceled by nearby fires and COVID. So this season, the observatory is going all out with top jazz and classical performers inside the telescope’s dome, with wine and cheese served before and after each show.

This story is featured in the July 2022 issue of Los Angeles Magazine

(Photographed by Shayan Asgharnia)

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