One of the surprise darlings of this year’s Golden Globes was Amazon Studios’ series Transparent. The show, which centers on Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambour), a transgender parent, and her three grown children, snagged the award for Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy, and Tambour walked away with a Best Actor trophy. I had never seen an episode of Transparent (the pilot is free to watch on Amazon, while subsequent episodes are available exclusively to Prime members), but was intrigued by its wins and its local setting.
Upon watching it I discovered the series makes fabulous use of the L.A. landscape and features quite a few notable locations, including the Richard and Mary Alice Frank House in Pasadena, Canter’s Deli in Beverly Grove, and the Los Altos Apartments, located at 4121 Wilshire Blvd. in Windsor Square. The historic 1925 building is where Maura’s youngest daughter, Ali (Gaby Hoffman), lives on the show.
Though long rumored to have been commissioned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, the Los Altos Apartments were in truth constructed for Luther T. Mayo and Preston S. Wright of Mayo-Wright Properties, Inc. by architect E.B. Rust. Upon its opening, the exclusive five-story Spanish Colonial-style building consisted of 75 custom-designed apartment units, each of which was individually owned. During its early heyday, Los Altos was home to many notables, including Jane Novak, Clara Bow, Bette Davis, June Allyson, Peter Finch, Douglas Fairbanks, Judy Garland, Loretta Young, and Mae West. Hearst was also rumored to have kept an apartment there for his mistress, Marion Davies, but, from what I have been able to gather, it seems he may have actually used the space for the much less illicit purpose of an office.
The Los Altos eventually ceased being a co-op and was turned into a traditional apartment building. During the Great Depression, the property went bankrupt. It fell into disrepair, and more and more tenants vacated the premises. By the early ‘90s, the site was virtually abandoned and set to be demolished. Neighborhood Effort, a nonprofit development company, stepped in to rescue the historic structure in 1993 and ultimately returned it to its original glory. Los Altos was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and is amazing to behold today. (You can see some interior photographs of it here.)
Since its revitalization, the building has been immortalized numerous times onscreen. On the television series Angel, it played the Hyperion Hotel, where the headquarters of Angel Investigations was located. It also passed as the Rancho Verde Assisted Living facility in the Season 2 episode of Numb3rs titled “Assassin,” and is where Kristine Walsh (Jenny Sullivan) lived in the 1983 television miniseries V. It was most recently featured in Mark Wahlberg’s latest flick, The Gambler.
It’s often said that Los Angeles does not value its past. Due to the demise of places like the Ambassador Hotel and the Brown Derby—and these 12 endangered spaces—I am inclined to agree. Thank goodness there are groups like Neighborhood Effort willing to step in and preserve historic structures for the betterment not only of the city’s landscape, but also its main industry, show business.
Lindsay Blake is an actress, writer, celebrity admirer and Los Angeles enthusiast who contributes to CityThink each Thursday. Her true love is filming locations, and she founded the Web site IAMNOTASTALKER in 2007 to document her vast findings on the subject. For more “stalking” fun, you can follow Lindsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.