“Classic LA to Z” From Start to Finish

A behind-the-scenes look at how the February cover story was put together

Union Station. Photograph by Christina Gandolfo.

In the February 2012 issue of Los Angeles magazine, we note the ways in which history is all around us and offer 26 reasons to celebrate the city, from timeless places that provide comfort in their consistency to beloved institutions that continue to surprise.

“Ask Chris” columnist Chris Nichols tells us what it was like to report this story and the three little letters that almost kept us from publishing it:

I live and breathe Classic L.A., so of course I’m overjoyed with this month’s cover story. I love working on our annual Best of L.A. issue, but the rigors of our most intensive brownie tasting panels cannot match the challenge of hunting down ghost signs and movie palaces and the origins of neon in L.A. The feature’s opening spread on architecture gave us a terrific excuse to organize the city’s sprawling museum of houses into an easy-to-read infographic. Another spread on Kustom Kulture expert Edgar Hernandez gave me a chance to seek advice from one of my heroes, 86-year-old George Barris, creator of the Batmobile and the Munsters Koach. I dug through my postcard archives for an image of the Mulholland Fountain and fact-checked a story about the Cobb Salad with my collection of vintage Brown Derby menus. I told you, I love this stuff.

There was certainly much affection and knowledge of Classic L.A. here at the magazine, but the decision to organize this month’s story alphabetically nearly killed the whole package. I play “Words With Friends” as much as Alec Baldwin, but was among those flummoxed by Q, X and Z. For the last letter, we considered writing about Zephyr surf shop, but it recently closed and this issue celebrates classics that are still with us. We tried ‘zines and Zankou Chicken, but ultimately settled on Venice’s Z-Boys. For Q we considered the Apple Pan slogan “Quality Forever” and Quonset huts before realizing the answer (Quakes) was right under our feet. The final letter for us to assign was X, and it came closest to stumping the brain trust (X-Games? X Aircraft?). We settled on Xenu, the space creature that sprang from the colorful imagination of pulp novelist L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard introduced a crowd of Angelenos to his ideas at the Shrine Auditorium in 1950 and today his organization counts over 8 million members. Los Angeles has always been the land of invention and reinvention. We hope you’ll go out and be inspired by this collection of things that make Los Angeles special and maybe create some new traditions of your own. 

ALSO: Read “Classic LA to Z.”