Tag Archives: kitsch

Painting The Town Pink

Most incarnations of pink make me cringe.  The mere sight of certain shades seems to spontaneously force-feed me sickeningly saccharine candy and cause Hello Kitty hallucinations.

My aversion to the color is traceable to at least 1983.  That was the year my parents bestowed a great gift upon us kids — an apartment big enough for my younger brother Justin and I each to have our own bedroom.

Now, those in the know have informed me that, well in advance of my second birthday, I had grown rather adept at articulating my opinion.  It’s understandable then, that by the age of eight, I had stated in no uncertain terms my preference for lavender — NOT pink — as the theme color for my new room.

So imagine my mortification on move-in day when I, eager to affix my Simon Le Bon and John Taylor posters inches above my pillow, rushed in to find pink carpet AND a pink canopy bed.  Gross!

(It turned out that the painter had convinced my parents — who apparently out of short-term self-preservation thought it best not to convey that information to me — that the limited natural light on that particular side of the apartment would make lavender appear a dull and unattractive gray.)

More than 25 years later, pink is still a personal pariah.  I cannot recall a time when my lips or nails have been painted any color on the spectrum between cream and tomato red.  I’ll pick peppermint over bubblegum any day.  And the only pink articles of clothing or accessories for which I have exchanged cash or credit were soon thereafter gifted to Britney, my cousin Nicole’s six-year-old daughter.  Simply put, I don’t do pink.

Except when it comes to kitschy Los Angeles landmarks.

For such bastions of Americana, I’ll even suspend my ordinarily meat-free diet and embrace a plate full of it, enclosed in a bun and overflowing with too brightly hued condiments.

Enter Pink’s — a Hollywood mainstay since 1939.

World Famous Pink's Hot Dogs on La Brea and Melrose

71 Years and Counting...

More than seventy years ago, Paul Pink first parked his pushcart full of chili dogs at the intersection of Melrose and La Brea.  His hot dogs became so popular that, seven years later, Mr. Pink upgraded to a permanent establishment on the very same corner — out of which the Pink family still dishes up meaty treats to throngs of customers, locals and tourists alike.

Unable to remember the last time I had filled my belly with such forms of sustenance, I figured that my plans to see Judd, a fellow native New Yorker/high school friend now living in West Hollywood, provided the perfect opportunity to pop my Pink’s cherry.

Kitchen Antics

Meeting there at 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night enabled us to avoid the labyrinthine queue that customarily assembles outside Pink’s on any given weekend night.  We had only a few moments to scan the extensive menu, which has clearly been supplemented since Pink’s inaugural days.  For instance, I was particularly drawn to the Patt Morrison Baja Veggie Dog, a vegan “hot dog” topped with guacamole, onions and tomatoes.

Only in Hollyweird...

But I hadn’t come to Pink’s to play it safe.

After all, if you’re gonna go, go big.  Right?

And so I did: a hot dog, drowned in chili and sauerkraut, and then smothered in ketchup and mustard.  Oh, and a heaping portion of colossal, well-bronzed onion rings.

Yep, That's Right

Taking the Plunge

Childhood fans of Gray’s Papaya (a younger, but equally well-loved New York City hot dog mini-chain) and the ubiquitous food carts gracing countless city corners, Judd and I were a tough audience.  My ultimate conclusion was that I preferred Gray’s Papaya’s toasted buns, but that Pink’s onion rings were a crispy force with which to be reckoned.

Requisite Celebrity Wall

After eating all that we could stomach, Judd and I caught up on life, as our arteries processed the veritable shock into which we had sent them.

Inside Pink's Palace

As we tossed our chili-stained plates into the trash and headed south to the Little Bar for a post-feast beer, I was delighted, after all these years, to have finally crossed Pink’s off my to-do list.

And when I awoke the following morning, I was even more elated — I hadn’t needed a dose of a certain over-the-counter medication of the same color.

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American “Pie”

What’s big and round and has America written all over it?

Nope, not apple pie.

I’m talking BIG.  REALLY BIG.  Like 32.5 feet in diameter.

In case you haven’t already guessed…

The Famous Randy's Donuts

The well-known Los Angeles landmark — a giant donut perched atop the roadside shack that is now Randy’s Donuts — has been drawing the likes of locals, tourists and, of course, Hollywood for decades.

Designed by Henry J. Goodwin and built in 1953, the donut shop was originally the second of ten locations of the Big Donut Drive-In chain.  Like the famous Tail o’ the Pup hot dog stand in Los Angeles (built in 1946 and currently awaiting its second relocation), it is a prime example of the kitschy “programmatic architecture” that became popular in the first half of the 20th century.  The “onomatopoeia,” if you will, of building construction, the term is used to describe shops and restaurants built to resemble the goods they sold — an architectural gimmick to draw in the throngs of people riding the explosive wave of American automobile culture.

Tail O' The Pup (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While many of these novelty buildings have fallen prey to demolition, this particular one continues to thrive well into the 21st century.  After changing hands several times and acquiring the name “Randy’s Donuts,” the shop was purchased in 1978 by brothers Larry and Ron Weintraub, who have been churning out the sugary treats ever since.

Today, Randy’s Donuts is recognized on a global scale.  Not only is the colossal donut structure in close proximity to LAX (the world’s 6th busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic), it has also made multiple pop culture cameo appearances.  Notable examples include the films Earth Girls Are Easy and Coming to America, as well as Randy Newman’s music video for his 1980s ode to the City of Angels, “I Love LA.”  (Watch this and travel back in time.)

It is also the cover image for the critically acclaimed Time Out Los Angeles city guide – a copy of which happens to have a home on my bedside table.  Glancing at it the other day, I thought how curious it was that I had yet to sample the doughy deliciousness and snap a shot of the iconic building.

There are at least two reasons for that.

The first is simple:  I love donuts.

While in recent years I’ve traded in pizza for quinoa and Mr. Goodbar for organic dark chocolate, donuts will always occupy a special place in my palate and heart.

The passage of more than two decades has done nothing to diminish the thrill of crowding around the kitchen table with my brother and cousins, as my Grandma Helen and Grandpa Phil strolled in the door, sporting grand smiles and a paper box stuffed with glazed, powdered and chocolate frosted circles of sweetness.

The second reason may be a bit quirkier.

I have an obsession with Americana.  Something tells me that, in a past life, I cruised down Route 66 in a turquoise and chrome convertible, weaving through red desert mesas under the azure western sky.  Just ask my brother, Justin; not a day passed on our cross-country road trip when I didn’t drag him to Graceland, Cadillac Ranch or the Big Texan.

So how was it that Randy’s Donuts  — a mere 7.2 miles from my front door — was sure to serve up a dose of both guilty pleasures, and I had yet to indulge?

Well … as they say, timing is everything.

And July 4th was just around the corner.  What better way to celebrate American independence, I thought, than to stuff myself with thousands of calories at a tourist attraction?

As the afternoon sun beat out the morning fog this past Saturday, I visually shape-shifted my 2005 Subaru Outback into a 1957 Chevy Bel Air and headed towards Randy’s Donuts.

Located at the intersection of Manchester and La Cienega Boulevards in Inglewood, Randy’s Donuts is open 24 hours a day and boasts both drive-thru and walk-up window options.  Though the former seemed more in the spirit of the era that spawned such a spectacle, the promise of warm sun on my face was too enticing.

After taking some requisite photos, I practically skipped to the menu to decide what it would be.  Apple fritter?  Chocolate glazed?  Cinnamon?  After a few moments of indecision — I wanted them all — I decided to go with the sugar-glazed classic, a mere 70 cents.

As I handed the cheery clerk a dollar bill, and she in turn placed in my palm a donut that seemed nearly as big as the replica towering over us, I started to salivate.

As I stepped away, I took my first bite.  It was positively scrumptious.

And then I did what any good American does.  I ate the whole thing.

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Filed under Architecture, Food, Landmarks