Third installment of my commentary on the influence map that I laid out for QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS. The whole thing should wrap just in time for the book's launch on 12/11/18. Don't forget to pre-order. Pre-orders save lives!
Here's the slice we're looking at today:
Earl Caroll Theatre
I found this place on one of my many research trawls and while the architecture itself was striking, what really caught my attention was the neon sign on the exterior. It was a great example of simplicity in design. And when I started working in 3D programs to make neon designs as elements for covers and the like, I re-created the sign, which took a little doing. The way I looked at it finally was like cartooning. The more simple and open the shapes, the more that the viewer has an opportunity to identify with them. Of course, you can take that to extremes of abstraction, sure. But a successful neon design gives you enough to recognize the subject and engage with on that level ahead of taking in the whole piece. Sadly, the building is no longer a theatre today and hasn't been for some time (the last time being when Nickelodeon was using it as a studio theatre in the 90s.) The sign doesn't exist, either (though it is recreated at Universal City Walk.) Sharp-eyed viewers will note that I used it as my model/template in the series of neon portraits that I did of the primary characters of QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS a little while ago.
Don't know much about the Rialto Theatre's heyday. I do know that today the building hosts an Urban Outfitters. And say what you will about the store, at least they kept the beautiful theatre marquee intact and lit. The design reads solidly post-Deco but too early to mine any Googie/Atomic Age veins and is both beautiful and impressive when you approach it while walking along Broadway. If you look close, you can see signs of decay and grime here and there, which make the neon an even more striking contrast, glowing tubes with light so weird that even dirt and rust become maps of alien continents in miniature. The decay is there, even in the beauty, and maybe the two simply can't escape one another.
Michael Mann's THIEF left a big impression on me as a kid. It was the kind of movie that my father would pull me aside to see on cable (that and THE GODFATHER stick out in particular.) He'd point it out as an example of a movie touching on hidden truths, that even the myth of the enigmatic loner between both the cops and the mob wasn't a romantic story, but the tale of a man would end up being forever alone. Every performance in this film is astonishing, with terse dialogue that I would love to say I've mastered. Unfortunately, I lapse into the circular (so did Chandler, so that's okay, I guess.) Even the way the city (Chicago in this case) was visualized, with apartment towers becoming impossibly aloof and distant monoliths and used car lots becoming imbued with a terrible sense of isolation and loneliness, those feelings hit hard and still stick.
The datura is better known as loco weed (or is that lupine – it's true, both have been given the name) or jimson weed is a beautiful green-purple foliage shrub that grew wild all over the Southern California of my youth (a much less settled place than it is now, sadly.) The plant blooms into elegant and graceful trumpet-shaped white flowers which are beautiful, but don't pick them unless you're wearing gloves. The plant itself carries a potent alkaloid in its leaves. Yes, people have used it to get high and have visions. This is not a good idea. At all. But the whole beautiful/poisonous/visionary relationship is one I've found intriguing, enough so to make several call-outs to it in QUEEN OF NO TOMROROWS. Sometime I might even get around to explaining why they've got the place they do with the characters. Sometime.
Distress Neon Set
If memory serves, this is a crop of a picture that I took while walking along Sunset Boulevard, not far from the 101 back in 2015. That was one of the first times I'd gone to LA to do nothing more than see people and take pictures. It's a nice luxury to have, that kind of escape. Not sure this place is even a salon, but I took it as the inspiration for the haircut parlor Distress which is the setting of the first meeting between Cait and anyone from No Tomorrows in the novel. I really dug how this picture encapsulated the entire aesthetic from the angular type to the color choices to the battered industrial setting and even the black enameled security gate. Just a perfect way to pass along information on several valences at once.