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A 1989 RETROSPECTIVE : L.A. SIDESHOWS

Los Angeles has always been regarded as a laboratory of ideas. And 1989 brought its fair share--from the weird to the symbolic. State Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) aggressively pursued a plan to build a freeway on the bed of the Los Angeles River. After all, it never rains in Southern California, or so the song goes. There also was the brief, if unsuccessful, attempt to purge Hollywood of its evil influences. Members of a Salvation Army branch unfurled massive banners over the Hollywood Freeway proclaiming: “Satan is a liar and the father of lies.” It was a year in which the U.S. Army, in an effort to prepare young surgeons to treat war casualties, sent doctors to work at the trauma unit at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in Watts. It was also a year in which Los Angeles Police Academy classes got a full dose of street reality: They received their first training in the use of semiautomatic weapons. Not all artists found Los Angeles a receptive place to work. The Beverly Hills City Council ordered artist George Herms to remove his “Moon Dial” sculpture--an assemblage of rusty buoys and old window grates--from a park along Santa Monica Boulevard. In downtown Los Angeles, a replica of the Chinese pro-democracy movement’s “Goddess of Democracy” statue was erected atop a Civic Center footbridge--only to be demolished by vandals after being moved to Chinatown. Finally, it was a year in which a Soviet rock band named Gorky Park brought their own version of glasnost to Los Angeles, performing music at Birmingham High School and urging the students to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Just say Nyet ?


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