How Did Rodeo Drive Become the Most Luxe Street in the Area?

Readers Ask Chris about new museums, a unique bit of In-N-Out architecture, and more
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Q: How did Rodeo Drive come to be the most luxe street in Los Angeles?

A: The road connecting the Beverly Hills Hotel to the Beverly Wilshire once had practical businesses—a gas station and a hardware store—tucked between the celebrity-packed hot spots like the Brown Derby and the Luau. Giorgio founder Fred Hayman launched the Rodeo Drive Committee in 1972 to radically upscale the street, but European fashion brands, not quite convinced, played it safe and sold franchises to locals. The first Prada, Versace, and Fendi stores were run by “mom-and-pop people,” according to realtor Gilbert Dembo, who has sold property on the street for 50 years. These global companies gradually displaced local shops through the ’80s, and today rents have soared to $70 per square foot, making the street one of the most expensive in America. “It wasn’t a gold rush,” Dembo says. “It didn’t happen overnight.”

Q: Where are indigent people buried in Los Angeles?

A: County workers collect unclaimed bodies every day from hospitals, sidewalks, bus benches, jails, and private homes. They spend three years trying to contact families before sending the cremated remains to L.A.’s potter’s field at the Los Angeles County Cemetery on 1st and Lorena in Boyle Heights. Last December, 1,547 Angelenos were interred under a four-inch marker inscribed “2017.” There’s a service once a year that has grown more inclusive recently, with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Native American rituals. Last year’s service featured a violinist from Street Symphony, which performs concerts on Skid Row.

 

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Q: Why are there revolving pyramids on top of some In-N-Out Burger shops?

A: They’re not tiny Egyptian funerary mastabas or symbols of Christian mysticism; the aluminum-plated spinners are simply there to scare off pigeons. The makers of the Eagle Eye device claim it reflects sunlight at a wavelength that birds “associate with danger.” Ornithologist John McCormack likens it to a human being reacting to a camera flash. “If you were walking in the forest and the paparazzi took your picture,” he says, “you’d be startled and maybe go somewhere else.”

Q: LACMA is in the throes of a big renovation. Are there new museums on the horizon?

A: With LACMA still in the midst of a multimillion-dollar renovation, a handful of other museums will soon be vying for our attention. Any day now, we’ll have a glass sphere with the shark from Jaws at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Wilshire and a spaceshipful of Renoirs and Rockwells at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art at Exposition Park. The Armenian American Museum in Glendale will be joining 400 others in L.A., quite possibly home to more museums than any city in the world.


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