Termites...and big ones, too!

In this post we depart from the usual focus on neighborhood geography, although we do remain specific to Los Angeles.  The subject is an advertisement the L.A. Times has been running for a couple of weeks, and you've probably seen it if you're a regular reader.

Termites Of 2010!  You'll convulse.

Since termites thrive in hot weather, I can only assume that this is timed in response to our recent spate of extremely warm weather.  As the ad makes crystal clear, there is every reason for homeowners--or even anyone who lives in a home--to take the termite menace very seriously.  What's more, these exterminators seem to have everything you'd want in an exterminator.  No tents, no moving out, and so on.   But  the ad's title seems to belie the threat.  This isn't one of those half-baked shillfests that tout  once-in-a-lifetime discounts, but then when you get there you find that all the good termites have been sold.  No--this is a Termite Spectacular!  You should order your tickets early and plan to bring the kids.

But you know, this isn't the first Termite Spectacular, for that trail was blazed over seventy years ago by some well known comics who worked at Columbia. 

Termites Of 1938.  Call the Acme at once!
This is a great title card in so many ways.  First, the film's title Termites Of 1938 is a send-up of several major 1930's features that had a year in the title, including at least three variants of The Big Broadcast Of (Year), and also Gold Diggers Of 1937.  Still you can't help wondering if there are some lost, legendary Stooge shorts like Termites Of 1937 or Mice Of 1934.  It's also one reason the Curly shorts are the best.   It's true that Shemp tends to be vastly underrated by present day Stoogeophiles, even though he was probably as good as Curly in his own way, and almost certainly more versatile as an actor.  But in my opinion the shorts with Shemp never quite matched the earlier ones for sheer surreal bizarreness.

I also like the use of the word "in" in the title card: THE THREE STOOGES in TERMITES OF 1938.  It almost sounds as if Harry Cohn and the others had to deliberate over the casting of this film.  You can almost imagine the meetings at the studio.  "Hmm...who should we cast in in that new Termites film? How about Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and James Stewart...no?...Then how about those other three...damn!...What are their names again...?"  As if it could have been anyone but Moe, Larry, and Curly.  The Stooges weren't in their films, they were them.

The Acme Exterminating Company was very discrete.  Their customers didn't have to go through the tedium of covering the furniture or moving out, and they never had to suffer the embarrassment of those circus-like tents that other exterminators use to protect the environment from their customers' houses.  They utilized many ingenious methods of combating pests, many of which are unknown to have ever been used by anyone else...

Quiet As A Mouse

...but it must also be conceded that their quarry could be quite resourceful in their own right.

Again unlike most exterminators, the Acme Exterminators were also masters of disguise.  Below, we see them employing one of their favorite ruses, which was to transform themselves into gentlemen.  This enabled them to conduct their business completely undetected by their well-heeled customers' party guests.   Moreover, since the vermin that lived in these elegant houses were accustomed to people who were well-mannered and well-dressed, this "gentleman" ruse was effective at lulling these rodents and insects into a false sense of security.

Over the top, gentlemen!
 And given their exceptionally proficient grasp of the customs and etiquette of the era, the Men of The Acme were able to effortlessly...




The exterminators responsible for the advertisement above continue to amuse.   This month they are running the version pictured below:
Termites Of The Holidays
We can only say: Beware termites bearing gifts.


Greek Row

(Deutsche Version ist hier. )

Within a seven mile radius of City Hall, there are scores if not hundreds of apartment buildings that went up eighty or more years ago, but it wasn't always like this.  If you grew up in L.A. in the 1960s and 1970s, chances are that your schools and the house your family lived in were younger than you were.  Given the results of earthquakes, and a postwar culture favoring urban redevelopment,  until the late 20th century it was the rule that, on any given spot in the city, if a hotel or apartment house had been built eighty years before, it was either (a) replaced by a modern building or a parking lot, or (b) had become a slum.   But no more.   The demographic forces affecting L.A. nowadays are radically different, both in the slowing of overall growth, and also in the fact that a great many neighborhoods have achieved a level of stability that was unknown fifty years ago.  Back then, old buildings were routinely torn down.  Now they're just as likely to be left where they are, and to be used in the same way they have always been, whether apartments, offices, or stores.   And so we now have a healthy inventory of older buildings to stimulate our curiosity with regard the stories their walls could tell, assuming for the purposes of argument that walls can talk.  It turns out this is no assumption after all, as you'll see.

In an earlier post I devoted some space to some of the oddball apartment names in my neighborhood. I've been living in high density urban neighborhoods for over 20 years now, but it was only recently, after a move, that I discovered the Crapi and the Chee-Zee Apartments.  I thought that would be about the end of it.

Was I ever wrong.

Thanks to the Dingbatologist my life's a little more nearly complete, because now I have learned of the Alexander, Ruler Of The World Apartments. How should I prepare you? I just happened on the other website, but if you're reading this, you deserve at least some sort of build-up, a bit of patter, as it were, before you are confronted with this thing in its full glory.

Let's suppose we're strolling down the 800 block of North Van Ness Avenue, in the eastern part of Hollywood.  This happens to be the location of Paramount Studios, and we're walking down the east side of the street, near the studio lot wall, when we happen to notice a slightly unusual building, framed by the trunk and branches of an old tree.

Whose Stern Ramparts Are These?  We come bearing gifts.

Hmmm.  The red facade and pink side are a little unusual, and it's a rather large building compared to the smaller apartment houses and single family houses that neighbor it.  We might even think it has a slight San Francisco-esque quality to it, remembering the "Painted Lady" Victorians we've seen there.  But it isn't terribly unusual.  Like I said, in the inner core there are countless buildings more or less like this.

But walk a little further down Van Ness, and now if we all look directly across the street, we behold the Alexander, Ruler Of The World Apartments, and tremble at their majesty.

Alexander Apartments: A House Fit For Conquerors To Live In.
Whether this place has always been dedicated to Alexander The Great, or the building was recently acquired by a new owner of Greek or Macedonian heritage, we can't help but be gratified by the fact that the name ALEXANDER is also given in the original Greek, ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ.    What was that I was saying about walls talking?   Because these walls clearly do speak, although whether they are actually saying anything worthwhile is another question.

Let's take a closer look at some of the details.   First, the overall pattern, which seems to suggest a herd of snails, or something, one of which is resting on the cover of the access pipe.  As for the sign, I think it's safe to say that greater truth in advertising has yet to be seen on this planet.

The Dingbatologist thought the artist was attempting to imitate classical Greek bordering, like this:

 Although my respect for the Dingbatologist is nearly without bound, I think he's off base here.   Anybody who not only names their apartment house after Alexander The Great, but also spells the name in the correct Greek probably is perfectly familiar with the typical bordering pattern often seen in classical Greek art.  I think therefore he was just caught up in the joy of the moment, saying to himself, or herself, "Why not just cover the front with stylized snails?"  Or eels?  Or coils of rope, or any other coiling material?   After all, he even decorated the place with some reasonably accurate emulations of Greek art.

And not to mention the profile of the great conqueror, himself, directly above the main entrance and below the second story fire escape.

The main portal.
The front door is interesting because it shows elements of the Art Nouveau style, and is almost undoubtedly  a replacement of the original.  If authentic Art Nouveau, it's probably at least 20 years older than the building itself.

Three thousand and more years had passed since King Priam quoth, "Don't open the gates. That thing will never fit through the opening,  instead tell ye the porters to take it straight back to IKEA, for we have changed my mind."  Oh wait, Priam was Trojan and Alexander was Greek, so the problem would have been to get the horse out...and there we are.

And so now we say farewell to the mighty House Of Alexander, humbly accepting the fact that we utterly underestimated the the number and variety of oddball treasures.

UPDATE: A recent article in the Times tells us that this odd building originated in 1927, and was likely originally planned by Paramount Studios to house actors.  1992 saw its acquisition by actor George Pan-Andreas, and it continues to house actors and other workers in the theater and film industries.  

Next time: Termite season is here! Are you ready?