Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Culver Hotel and Munchkinland

The munchkins totally partied here.

Fig: The Culver Hotel Lounge. So inviting!
That was my (Lara’s) first thought as I walked into the pie-slice-shaped Culver Hotel in Culver City with my fellow divas, Michelle ("The Actress") and Chandra ("The Makeup Artist"), and marveled at all the big-time glamma packed into a small space.  Our Fourth Diva, Cori ("The Writer"), was home nursing a sore throat and sounding a lot like Demi Moore.  

I hoped I had the courage to convince my friends that they should join me and dedicate the next year to writing a guidebook about Art Deco and Old Hollywood. For someone who talks for a living (I guess that makes me "The Voice"?), I was sweat-trickling-down-the-back nervous. I was going to need a trough of liquid courage (caffeine) for this. Latte, please. Or six. Add in another shot.

But back to the munchkins. Even though the hotel has hosted tons of superstars, from Clark Gable to Lana Turner to Judy Garland to Ronald Reagan, it’s all about the little people for me. Is it because I had a thing for the Lollipop Guild when I was a child, and wanted them to welcome me to Munchkinland?  Perhaps. 

Fig. The Culver Hotel Dining Room.
Join us for a dinner party?!
Legend has it that when filming was going on for The Wizard of Oz, an underground tunnel was built to usher the Munchkins from the hotel to nearby MGM (now Sony) Studios. Later, not wanting a good tunnel to go to waste, it was utilized to ferry alcohol and women during the Prohibition Era. Holla! How do I get a tunnel between my casa and Starbucks?

Legend also has it that the munchkins got up to all kinds of naughtiness while throwing some wild parties. I want to go to there, this munchkin shindig. Ain’t no party like a munchkin party ‘cause a munchkin party don’t stop. However, they must not have trashed the place too badly because their picture still hangs on the bathroom door that’s just off the grand lobby.

As I thought about how this place was once just empty land, and then Culver City’s first movie theater, and then this beautiful hotel, I remembered this quote: “Everyone who got where they are had to start where they were.” 

Maybe it was the spaciousness of the lobby, the startling print on the black and white wallpaper, the tiny projector to the right of the bar, or the piano music that was being piped in from somewhere (the secret tunnel?), but I found myself opening up to Sugar and Michelle and sharing from my heart about this dream I’ve had for a few years now of writing the book that I would like to read on Art Deco. But not just a straight-up guide book, or a book that is just about history and design, but one that shares how the beauty of Art Deco can change a life and reveal beauty in every woman.

Our book would be full of tips on everything from how to make a vintage cocktail to how to put together a kick-ass playlist from the ‘20s and ‘30s (I’m talking about your delightful, de-lovely songs, Cole Porter). How I’ve found that, as I’ve started to add things like reading books about design, and going to historical buildings, and drooling over 1920’s beaded flapper-style dresses from The Way We Wore online into my own life I’ve started to crave quality, glamour, and fun in the every day things.  

And how my mindset has changed as I’ve been exposed to incredible images. I’ve started to feel like maybe, just maybe, my best years aren’t behind me, and that the future could be very bright indeed.

Thankfully, my girls didn’t run screaming for the Hollywood Hills when I shared all of this with them, especially the part about how it’s all going to be a process, and right now we have no idea where we’re going to end up (Barstow, maybe?). I could have kissed their stilettos, because they were actually excited at the prospect of throwing themselves into something new. I do think that the yummy omelettes and waffles (Sugar had one of each!) may have helped bring them around to Mama’s way of thinking. 

That morning at the pie slice, we planned our very first Deco Day, and will be hitting the Roosevelt Hotel and Egyptian Theater in Hollywood in the very near future to look for the ghost of Marilyn Monroe.

P.S. We’re excited that you are joining us on this journey, too.

If you find yourself poking around at the Culver Hotel and perhaps trying to convince your friends to join you for a random project, try the waffles and don’t miss these five things:
Fig. The Green Chair!
(Was it in the Emerald City
in the land of Oz?)

  1. The Mezzanine Lounge, perfect for a cozy meeting with a lovahhhhhhhh.
  2. The bathroom off of the Mezzanine Lounge. The mirror, the wallpaper…we felt glamorous while blowing our nose in here.
  3. The vibrant green chair you see as you enter through the door by the valet.  If your dogs are barking after a long day, take a load off here, fanny.
  4. The sparkly private dining room. We wanted to wear the se napkins as a hat, and then felt inspired to buy some for our own house, instead of handing people a roll of paper towels when they come over and saying, “We’re not fancy around here.” 
  5. The bird/duck/falcon? faucet in the downstairs ladies room.  And by the way, gentlemen, it’s worth sneaking in to take a peek at this beauty of a bird/duck/falcon. Oh, the detail! We swoon. 

Fig: Bathroom sink in The Culver Hotel.
We think it's some type of cool cross-breed.
And just a side note, let us know if you find that secret tunnel.  We have some alcohol and women we’d like to ferry through. 

Culver Hotel
9400 Culver Boulevard  Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 558-9400

Fun Note: The “Jewel of Downtown Culver” City was branded a skyscraper (at what looks like six stories!) in 1924 when it first opened its doors. Culver City and the hotel were created by Harry Culver as the ideal stopping ground for people going from the beach to the wonderful Hollywood Nightlife, a drive that now takes about 20-25 minutes without traffic.  But it’s still fun to stop in CC for a little refreshment with sand stuck between your toes.

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