Tom Cruise’s home-away-from-home at Scientology Celebrity Center

Scientology’s most famous member, Tom Cruise, no longer owns a home in Los Angeles, but when he is in town he can always stay at the Scientology Celebrity Center and its Manor Hotel on Franklin St. in Hollywood..

Built by the widow of an early Hollywood movie mogul, the Celebrity Center was originally called the Chateau Elysee and was a combination of apartments and a hotel for the international elite.

The sign may read “Manor Hotel” but not just anyone can make a reservation to stay in this Scientology Celebrity Center.

In an early photo of the building it stands grand and glorious at the edge of the Hollywood Hills.  Today it is surrounded by tall fences, except at the entrance to the hotel where a guy in a casual clothes reading a newspaper turned out to be a guard.

There is another gate with a sign that reads “Welcome” and offers free classes, but you have to ring the bell for admission to what looks like a very lovely garden terrace. And I have no doubt that if you ring the bell you will be greeted almost instantly by someone who is actually a Scientology recruiter.

Several years ago I wrote about another Scientology building in Hollywood and my encounter with the guard at that location.

Here is what I saw on a walk around the Celebrity Center.

bars around Scientology Celebrity Center LA City Pix
Peeking through the fence I spied what looked somewhat like either an enclosed swimming pool or an elegant greenhouse.
garden terrace at Scientology Celebrity Center LA City Pix
A terrace outside the Celebrity Center. Ring a bell at a nearby gate and you might be admitted. Maybe.
Fortress Scientology LA City Pix
From the street behind the Celebrity Center the complex looks like a fortress. I wanted to visit the garden on the top of this structure, but the guard dissuaded me.


Free classes at Scientology Center Los Angeles LA City Pix
Free classes about breaking into the movie industry are a major way to lure young people into Scientology. For whatever it is worth, Scientology is banned in both the U.K. and France.    I would love to welcome you as a subscriber to LA City Pix. Please use the form in the upper right side of this page to receive updates when new posts appear.



A million dollar home with a blue bottle garden for lawn replacement

Blue Bottle garden Pasadena LA City Pix
This Spanish Revival home’s front yard is now filled  mostly with succulents and cactus plus lawn ornaments everywhere!

The woman who owns this home told me that she decided to take up lawn replacement design on her own.  She said she had no art training of any kind, so I have begun to think of her as a self-taught primitive landscape designer, a kind of “Grandma Moses of lawn replacement”.

Flower Bed Blue Bottle garden LA City Pix
The basic design unit she uses is a circle within a circle within a circle. Each with its own colors. The basic background is dark red wood mulch, which has begun to fade in some areas.

The design of this front garden breaks almost every rule of conventional garden design.

Blue bottles around plumeria LA City Pix
I think the blue bottles are from a water brand–maybe?  Or maybe wine? She told me she loves butterflies so there are parts of the garden with colorful butterfly ornaments. The tree looks like a Southern California favorite from the tropics: a  heavenly fragrant plumeria. To it she has added blue light bulbs as decorations.  And there are lots of wind spinners throughout.

The result is astonishing. Unlike anything else in the staid, quiet Madison Heights neighborhood of Pasadena.  And I love the whimsy of it all!

(For more about lawn replacement go to my Hot Gardens website.)



Blue Bottles, wind spinners and butterflies in Pasadena LA City Pix
The blue bottles are a striking visual element during the day and light up at night along with many other parts of the gardens. Stacked around the edges of the garden are bags of mulch and empty pots, so I think she is not done with her design. Happily, all the plants look alive and thriving    

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The historic La Placita church has fresh paint on its 204th birthday

The cornerstone for the church commonly called “La Placita” church in the historic district of the Pueblo of Los Angeles was laid by Franciscan Luis Gil y Taboada in 1814 on the ruins of an older church founded in 1784.  It is the oldest church in Los Angeles.

Our Lady Queen of the Angels church Los Angeles LA City Pix

Our Lady Queen of the Angels Olvera Street
This photo of the  La Placita church was taken about 10 years ago.

And, much to my surprise, La Placita has recently been painted all white…well, except for one wall on the side by the cemetery so perhaps the painting is not complete. Quite frankly, I preferred the beige and red colors of the previous exterior paint.  Because it is a parish church and Sunday services were being held I did not see if the interior has been repainted too.

This church faces onto the historic plaza at the end of Olvera Street near downtown Los Angeles.


The Annunciation on La Placita church LA City Pix
A closer view of the painting above the front entry. In fact, parishioners enter the church from a doorway inside the courtyard at the side of the church. While this artwork remains, the name of the church over the archway entrance to the side patio has been painted over.  I assume the name will be restored,



Cemetery by La Placita church LA City Pix
The dark green fence surrounds the old cemetery. The remains of more than 680 people are in this graveyard where native plants have been allowed to grow. The beige wall on the left side seems to be the only one that has not been repainted white..




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Happy 200th Birthday, Avila Adobe on Olvera Street – Part 2

The Avila Adobe is the oldest remaining home in Los Angeles. (The nearby La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, more commonly known as  La Placita church, is 4 years older and I’ll be writing about it in the next post.)

This home was built by Californio cattleman Francisco Avila in 1818 as an in-town residence for his family. He also had a home on his ranch near what is now the Mid-Wilshire area by the La Brea Tar Pits.

Green pomegranates Avila Adobe LA City Pix
Covering the kitchen, shown below, is a grape arbor and growing nearby is a pomegranate bush with these 2 green pomegranates on it.

Members of the Avila family lived in this adobe until 1868 then turned it into a rental.  By 1926 the building had fallen into disrepair before being restored as part of a revitalization of Olvera Street.

The building is now managed by the National Park Service and entry is free. It offers a good idea of how well-to-do people lived in Southern California back in 1818.


Avila Adobe oldest LA house
The home faces onto Olvera Street which was the Main Street of the little town of Los Angeles back then. 


Parlor Avila Adobe LA City Pix
The parlour was considered spacious for the era. I doubt that there was really a piano in this home when the Avilas first moved into the home.  Guitars were a more common musical instrument during the Californio period.
Office Avila Adobe LA City Pix
The rooms in the Adobe are furnished with items typical of the early 1800s.
Center courtyard Avila Adobe LA City Pix
The adobe courtyard, surrounded on 4 sides by the building walls which were 2.5 to 3 feet thick, was a center of household activities and festivities.


This cart, below, was built by Darryl Robertshaw in 2004 as a replica of the carts used originally to bring produce to Olvera Street, the main street of Los Angeles.  There is a similar cart used for bringing in grapes on display at the San Gabriel Mission.

Carreta at Avila Adobe


Kitchens back then were always separate from the main house– not only in California, but in homes around the world.  Here in California, the Avila kitchen was outdoors on one side of the courtyard.

Avila adobe kitchen outdoors
This kitchen looks very spiffy painted white.  No doubt it was discolored by smoke back when the Avilas lived in the home.




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Dancing in the Plaza by Olvera Street – Part 1

From a block away I could hear the Mexican music from the bandstand in the enter of La Placita at the historic Pueblo de Los Angeles near Union Station.  Hundreds of people had gathered in the area and it felt just like a central plaza in a small Mexican town. And the music was almost non-stop thanks to the Olvera Street Merchants Association which sponsors entertainment in the Plaza during summer months.  Supposedly it is for tourists, but it is very obvious that locals love it, too!

crowd of people in La Placita LA City Pix
It is an old tradition in Mexico to gather in the central plaza of the town or city to talk with friends and do some people-watching. This custom has been transferred to some parts of Los Angeles..


And dozens of people were dancing to the sounds of a Mexican DJ up on the bandstand in the middle of the plaza.

Dancing to Mexican music Olvera Plaza LA City Pix
Near the bandstand couples danced the the beat.
Two women dancing La Placita Olvera St. LA City Pix
Further away there were women dancing with women and solo people dancing by themselves. The music really called people to the “dance floor”.


After a while the DJ folded up his speakers and left. Before long one of the Native American/Mexican Indian dance troops started beating their drums and dancing. Their costumes look a lot more Mexican Indian than American Indian to me, but who am I to judge?  They look cool!

native american dancers at La Placita Olvera st. LA City Pix


And when I wandered away from the bandstand down a narrow lane on  Olvera St. what did I find but two mariachis. The rest of the band and a singer were inside the restaurant. (More from Olvera Street in the next post)

Two mariachis at Olvera Steet LA City Pix




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A quick visit to the Southwest Museum’s exhibition of native American pottery

The Southwest Museum in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles was founded in 1907 by one of the wild and fun men of the early Twentieth Century: Charles Lummis. (See more about Lummis, his home and his adventures in this post.)

Kayenta Women Southwest Museum LACityPix 2018
Not far from the entry is a contemporary sculpture entitled Kayenta Woman.

For decades the Southwest Museum was home to an ever-growing collection of Native American art that, I’ve been told, was not treated with the care it deserved. Now owned by the Autry Museum of the American West it is open on Saturdays only and only a fraction of the collection remains in the building. The curators at the Autry moved most of the art works to safer conditions.

Entry and parking are free. If you go by Metro Gold Line you will disembark at a remarkable and controversial Metro Station just one block of the Museum.

Back in June I stopped in and here is some of what I saw:

Southwest American pottery LACityPix 2018
Much of the pottery  in this exhibition is from the 20th Century, rather than ancient pots dug up on an archaeological site.


Native American pottery Southwest Museum LACityPix 2018
There are many signs to explain the sources and, in some cases, the individual artists who created these art works.
Acoma Pueblo pottery LACityPix 2018
A large pot created by a potter in the Acoma pueblo.
Southwest Museum Navajo painting 2018
A Navajo painting of a ritual dance painted by a student at the Indian School.


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