How long were drive-in theaters around before the first one opened in L.A.?

Readers Ask Chris about our county seal cow, construction in Leimert Park, and more
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Q: How long were drive-in theaters around before the first one opened in L.A.?

A: Fifteen months after the experimental “Automobile Movie Theatre” debuted to great fanfare in Camden, New Jersey, a posse of entrepreneurial L.A. exhibitors formed California Drive-In Theatres, Inc. and quickly built the West’s first drive-in at the corner of Pico and Westwood boulevards. The venue, where the Landmark cinema stands today, opened on September 9, 1934. The company went on to open dozens more theaters, including one of L.A.’s last ozoners, the Vineland, in the City of Industry. California Drive-In Theatres, Inc. later changed its name to Arclight Cinemas.

Q: Why is there a cow on the Los Angeles County seal? Who is she?

A: Her name was Adohr Eldor Pearl-ette, and she was reportedly a real stunner. Born in Camarillo in 1942, the bovine beauty started winning pageants when she was only five years old, at a time when Los Angeles produced more milk than any other county in America. The flirty Guernsey made personal appearances, mingled with movie stars, and took home the coveted “Golden Milk Pail” award. She even flew on a chartered plane to the national cow championships in 1949, where she was crowned first lady of cowdom. But like many local starlets in their sunset years, Pearlette- retired—to a farm outside of Chicago—and was never heard from again.

Q: What’s that huge steel building with no floors going up near Leimert Park?

A: The sparkling tower is part of a $33 million, 17-year-in-the-making project that hopes to transform a faded movie house from the ’30s into a state-of-the-art performing arts center. Workers tore off the back wall of the dusty old Vision Theater to install a new fly loft, scene dock, dance floor, hydraulic stage lift, and dressing rooms. The art deco landmark will also offer classes in theatrical lighting and sound taught by the Manchester Junior Arts Center. The city is seeking an operator for the site and expects the neon to flicker back on in 2022.

Q: What’s with all the paper license plates I’m seeing on cars? Are they legal?

A: For decades, California motorists were able to anonymously evade tolls, carpool fees, red-light cameras, and paparazzi (google “Steve Jobs Mercedes”) while waiting for their permanent plates to arrive in the mail. But after years of abuse, the practice ended last January. Since then, every new car that rolls off the lot is outfitted with a mandatory $5 paper name tag bearing the car’s make, model, and registration expiration date. Some minor design discrepancies have arisen during the first year, but the state says the temporary tags will all bear the same look starting this month.