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Bohemian Los Angeles

Bohemian Los Angeles: and the Making of Modern Politics

Daniel Hurewitz
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 377
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  • Book Info
    Bohemian Los Angeles
    Book Description:

    Bohemian Los Angelesbrings to life a vibrant and all-but forgotten milieu of artists, leftists, and gay men and women whose story played out over the first half of the twentieth century and continues to shape the entire American landscape. It is the story of a hidden corner of Los Angeles, where the personal first became the political, where the nation's first enduring gay rights movement emerged, and where the broad spectrum of what we now think of as identity politics was born. Portraying life over a period of more than forty years in the hilly enclave of Edendale, near downtown Los Angeles, Daniel Hurewitz considers the work of painters and printmakers, looks inside the Communist Party's intimate cultural scene, and examines the social world of gay men. In this vividly written narrative, he discovers why and how these communities, inspiring both one another and the city as a whole, transformed American notions of political identity with their ideas about self-expression, political engagement, and race relations.Bohemian Los Angeles,incorporating fascinating oral histories, personal letters, police records, and rare photographs, shifts our focus from gay and bohemian New York to the west coast with significant implications for twentieth-century U.S. history and politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94169-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XI)
  4. Introduction Traversing the Hills of Edendale
    (pp. 1-19)

    High on a hillside overlooking Los Angeles’ Silver Lake Reservoir stands the Villa Capistrano, the former home of film and vaudeville sensation Julian Eltinge. Built in the late 1910s with a typically Angeleno combination of Spanish, Moorish, and Italian elements, Eltinge’s villa once commanded the surrounding area like a baron’s manor. At the time, the neighborhood bore the poetic name of Edendale, and it bustled with the comings and goings of the early film industry. The topography undulated with little hills and valleys, and its roads twisted and bent, following the curve of the reservoir or the slope of an...

  5. Prologue A World Left Behind
    (pp. 21-39)

    They arrived by the hundreds and thousands, new migrants pouring into the city every day. In 1900 barely 100,000 people lived in Los Angeles, making it only the thirty-sixth largest city in the country. San Francisco, by contrast, had a population of nearly 345,000 and New York, 3.5 million. By 1910 Los Angeles had grown to 319,000; by 1920 it had nearly doubled to 577,000; and over the next ten years it more than doubled again, to 1.2 million residents. Invaded by newcomers, in only thirty years Los Angeles became the fifth largest city in the country. And unlike New...

  6. ONE “A Most Lascivious Picture of Impatient Desire”
    (pp. 41-75)

    As eltinge settled into edendale and the new phase of his career in the 1910s, he quickly found himself at the center of a flurry of activity. Movie-making was a busy business. By a conservative estimate, the film companies in and around Los Angeles were already spending more than 30 million dollars a year. At least twenty thousand Angelenos were permanent employees of the industry. Part of the excitement in the film world focused on just the sort of entertainment that was Eltinge’s specialty: playing with and challenging gender roles. In fact, in 1917 the popular fan magazineMotion Picture...

  7. TWO Together against the World: Self, Community, and Expression among the Artists of Edendale
    (pp. 77-113)

    In 1927, in the few moments it took Margaret Landacre to wander into Jake Zeitlin’s rare-book store and ask a question, she dramatically altered her and her husband’s lives. In part, she simply discovered the Zeitlin scene, one of the central flash-points of Los Angeles cultural and intellectual life. Even more, she discovered Edendale and its community, which placed both her and her husband, Paul, in an entirely new world, socially, geographically, economically, and aesthetically. Within that world the Landacres encountered both an organized communal life that sustained artistic effort and a new aesthetic sensibility that privileged art which plumbed...

  8. THREE 1930s Containment: Identity by State Dictate
    (pp. 115-149)

    While edendale’s arts community focused on sustaining independent artistic expression, the involvement of the federal government politicized art-making dramatically and narrowed the range of acceptable art. Although the Federal Art Project set out to support creative aesthetic exploration, the coordinators increasingly pushed for artists to “speak a language which is directed to the people and comprehensible to them.” Painter Herman Cherry, who settled into Edendale in the 1930s, insisted that as a result “there wasn’t much experimentation” within the program. The earlier questions about modes of expression and unique artistic visions were drowned out by the demands of subject matter....

  9. FOUR Left of Edendale: The Deep Politics of Communist Community
    (pp. 151-187)

    When miriam brooks sherman moved with her parents and two sisters into Edendale in 1931, they were at the leading edge of a Communist community that would soon take root in Edendale alongside the neighborhood artists. Isidor and Bessie Brooks had brought their three girls with them to Los Angeles from Albany, New York, in 1927. They had lived for four years in the vibrant, predominantly leftist Jewish community of Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles, and the whole family had been caught up in the life of the Communist Party. Isidor, who had been a Party member since 1919,...

  10. FIVE The United Nations in a City: Racial Ideas in Edendale, on the Left, and in Wartime Los Angeles
    (pp. 189-229)

    When miriam sherman, dorothy healey, and others spoke across forty and fifty years of memory to reflect on their lives in the Los Angeles Communist Party, many of the predictable details slipped in and out of their grasp: names, dates, locations. Nevertheless, on one aspect of their experiences, they were keenly verbose and exceedingly clear: the power of the Party to focus their and their contemporaries’ attention on issues of race. In Miriam Sherman’s recollection, race was the “paramount issue” for the Party, at least as important as its focus on workers. Dorothy Healey concurred, reporting that for her, racial...

  11. SIX Getting Some Identity: Mattachine and the Politics of Sexual Identity Construction
    (pp. 231-267)

    In the winter of 1952, early in the Cold War, five Mexican American boys in Echo Park—toward the southern end of Edendale—got into a fight with the police. One of the boys was shot, two were beaten, and all five were arrested. The case came to the attention of the neighborhood leftists. Under the auspices of the Edendale Civil Rights Congress, they launched a defense campaign for the boys. The CRC framed its case in an open letter to the community. In now familiar language, they argued that the violence and arrests “fit into the pattern of the...

  12. Conclusion The Struggle of Identity Politics
    (pp. 269-282)

    Harry hay and julian eltinge framed a moment of transition in American life. In some ways, they had a great deal in common. They both lived on the slope of a small ridge in a corner of Los Angeles. They both loved the theater. They both shared a predilection for sexual activity with men. And, for a time, neither man let that fact define his public life. For Eltinge, that public life occurred onstage, and when anyone dared suggest that his dressing as a woman made him anything like the “prim gentles” who waited at the stage door, he let...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 283-342)
    (pp. 343-346)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 347-367)