Monday, November 13, 2006

Downtown Disneyland

This past weekend, BT and I had the distinct honor of being part of the Charles Phoenix "Disneyland" Tour of Downtown Los Angeles. We first heard about the tour and Charles Phoenix from Barb - but - now I can't imagine life without Charles! He's the kind of guy you wish was at all of your parties to make sure everyone is having maximum fun. He also would be a blast to have along at a flea market, and would be the one to find a stuffed squirrel wearing a Shriner hat, or something equally odd and charming. I'm sure I won't do the tour justice, so you can catch the Master in action here.

The premise of the tour is that there are many similarities between downtown Los Angeles and the Disneyland theme park. You can get a flavor for the tour stops and what "land" they are compared to on the tour website.

(Look! It's the Dumbo ride!)

Most of the tour stops were not new to me, having worked downtown for 3 years, but it was fun to experience the sites in a new way, and learn more about Los Angeles history. I will forever after think of riding the Metro trains as taking a ride on the Monorail.

But, just like Disneyland, you always see something new. I had never seen The Chocolate Shop, which I guess we did not get any pictures of, but here are some online. It was a little restaurant in the early 1900s, and is completely covered with Dutch-themed murals made from Batchelder tile. As a devotee of the Arts and Crafts movement, it is nice to see the tile is still in place, but is a little disheartening to see the space in use for some of the dozens of junk vendors that dominate central downtown Los Angeles.

Lunch at Clifton's brought back nice memories. Even though it is "just a cafeteria," Clifton's was reserved for special occasions at work. As hard as you try, I don't think it is possible to spend less than $12 per person here. I try to mentally add things up in my head, but I'm always surprised at the total. I guess it doesn't help that you (or at least I) end up with 3 dessert items on your tray. The inside is decorated as a lodge theme (Adventureland), and is kind of a trip. The *new* thing for us was finding out about the chapel

I'm not quite sure how I missed the neon cross before to be honest..Inside a little turret is a woodland scene and a recording of The Parable of the Redwood. Mr. Clifford Clinton (Clif-ton) believed in nourishing the spirit as well as the soul. If Mr. Clinton were alive today, the burning question I would have for him is -- why in the world did this location ever close? I think we would have lived there!

Ok - hold onto your hats and glasses for this next stop, folks.

By far the trippiest thing we have done in years. If you are local, I would suggest jumping on the Autopia and heading down to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater at your earliest possible convenience. This is the front of the building - shabby white painted cinder block, graffiti, dirty awnings, tattered ribbons from banners hung long ago, and painted over, decaying plaster rose bushes

Part of you wants to come next weekend and fix everything up and make it into a happy place, and then the other part of you wants to preserve the creepy coolness for all eternity.

You truly have no concept of what decade (or universe) you are in once you are inside. There are these godawful Christmas decorations that I get the sneaky suspicion are up all year round. Everything is red - the carpet - the walls - the curtains. Honestly, I would not take a child under 16 to this place for fear of instilling permanent and crippling paranoia of puppets/marionettes and anything fitting in the same genre of make-believe (clowns, jack-in-the-boxes, anthropomorphic teddy bears, etc.) Don't get me wrong - this was definitely the highlight of the tour. We were even treated to a backstage tour and a performance by Bob Baker himself, which we were told is very rare these days.
Truly a Los Angeles treasure.

What a memorable day. It was made all the more fun by our entertaining and gracious host. The little things that made it all the more special included his gifts - handing out pennies for the fountain in Chinatown, fortune cookies after our stop there, a taquito at Olvera Street, cake from the famous Phoenix Bakery (no relation to the tour guide) to enjoy at the theater party room, and a souvenir marionette puppet.

Four thumbs up for this tour - highly recommended for visitors, and those that think they have seen everything L.A. has to offer.


eviedee said...

I am SO BUMMED that I missed this! Thanks for sharing your great pictures!!

Barb said...

I am so so so glad you enjoyed this. You might mention Charles' website, because he has ongoing events all the time, as well as several books for purchase.

elizabeth said...

how fun!!!!

jungle dream pagoda said...

I had a great time watching the youtube tour! did you go in the Golden Pagoda? glad you did the cafeteria!

telfair said...

I love these parts of your blog. I've never been to LA but I always see it through your fond and interesting eyes when you write about it. Thanks for sharing...

jek-a-go-go said...

you got to see my town and my tour...i had no idea Charles Pheonix had a tour, how nifty. but all of these places are our favorite places to stop! Did you get to see a puppet show? I took artboy there for his birthday, AWESOME oh and I've sat on that elephant! also...;)