I’ve always loved the classic buildings of downtown Los Angeles. I had a birthday a couple of years ago at the Crocker Club, a renovated bank vault from the 60s turned bar/lounge. My favorite building in Los Angeles is the Eastern Columbia. I have fond memories of my father taking me through the Bradbury Building as a child. I’ve even flirted with the idea of moving into one of the restored beauties, The Chapman (check out that first pic of what I’d see from the rooftop view).
Needless to say, I couldn’t NOT go visit the Alexandria when I found out our beloved ‘Water For Elephants’ filmed there.
*WARNING* I’ve included my pictures & inner monologue from my day trip after the cut in case anyone doesn’t want to be spoiled. You might want to wait for the movie magic
Quick history: The Alexandria was built by John Parkinson in 1906. I was impressed by the other LA landmarks he also designed: The Coliseum, City Hall, and Union Station. Those buildings also carry special memories for me and it was awesome to include The Alexandria now due to WFE. In it’s heyday, the Alexandria was a popular hotel that hosted many famous celebrities and politicians: Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, Greta Garbo, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and William Taft.
The Alexandria is now a private, residential complex. Upon arrival, I checked in with security. This isn’t a place you can just waltz in, set up a boom box and fox trot around the ballroom. I let security know who I am, what I do, and why I was there. They were very kind and allowed me to access the ballroom, alley, and mezzanine (areas reserved for WFE).
We know the speakeasy scene was filmed at this location and I personally think that filming happened in the mezzanine but I’ll describe both of the main rooms used for movie productions. While the mezzanine is the room most likely used for filming, the ballroom, Palm Court, is the real gem.
The mezzanine: Located on the second floor, this room was dark and the ceilings low. Burgundy walls and black doors and molding. Detailed molding around the light fixtures. The room was quite large and had a long bar along one of the walls. Windows were scattered along two walls, some covered with makeshift black drapes. Perhaps to block out the light.
There was also a freshly built faux wall that had a faux door that opened up to a faux brick wall. Lots of fauxness and it was put there recently…hmmmm. My detective skills were turned to max I was sniffing the paint (not as naughty as that sounds) and examining the wood (not as naughty as that sounds). It was definitely a new structure…possibly withing the last two weeks
There was a shiny, black, baby grand piano in a corner and it was tuned. This place didn’t look like it would have a tuned piano unless it was recently used…hmmmmmm. Can you see me with my fedora, trench coat, pencil and pad?
This room had the feel that would be used in a speakeasy scene. With movie magic and the vision of Jack Fisk, David Crank, and Jim Erickson, this place will be the cat’s pajamas if it is indeed the location of the speakeasy. The other location in the Alexandria is the historic ballroom, Palm Court.
Quick history: Palm Court has had many names but the beauty remains the same. It was the place to be from 1911-1922. The most stunning aspect of this room are the stained-glassed Tiffany skylights. It was considered one of the most prestigious ballrooms during its time, hosting presidents and movie stars.
This room was very pretty, mainly for it’s high, Tiffany skylights. You could understand how it was considered to be so stunning during its time. A little rough around the edges, it can still be polished up for productions and given some glamour. The room is very bright and didn’t give me the impression of a speakeasy but what do I know. It was reserved for WFE so maybe it had use in another way. Time will tell I had to give it some attention though since the ballroom is a historical cultural monument and I got a thing for these historic buildings.
The alley: It was gross. It smelled and I got the hell out of there. You can examine the couple of pics I got while gagging and see if you think its the same alley from the WFE pics. I had to flee almost immediately from the stench.
So there ya go. That was my little adventure. My friend, Maria, and I exited the way Rob was spotted going in and out the building. I didn’t know that because the pics were when I was out of town and I didn’t implant them into my memory yet. Maria let me know about the epicness of walking through the same door as Rob. So ridiculously, dorky but it did make us giggle. Or maybe I just giggled.
The Alexandria has seen better days but I’m happy to have visited the filming location. Just like seeing the big top in Fillmore and Piru, these things just make the WFE fan all warm and fuzzy inside. I can’t wait to see how Francis Lawrence and his cast and crew recreate the speakeasy scene, giving this Los Angeles classic a chance to shine once more.