Our great American imagination
CHAPTER 1 | CHAPTER 2 | CHAPTER 3 | CHAPTER 4 | CHAPTER 5 | CHAPTER 6 | CHAPTER 7 | CHAPTER 8 | CHAPTER 9 | CHAPTER 10 | CHAPTER 11 | CHAPTER 12 | CHAPTER 13 | CHAPTER 14 | CHAPTER 15 | CHAPTER 16 | CHAPTER 17 | CHAPTER 18
SCOTTY There’s that big giant glazed donut used to be down on La Cienaga and Jefferson, I think it’s still there.
SCOTTY Is that what it’s called?
STACEY Little plug.
RICK Big donut. Randy’s is not far from the L.A. airport and has great donuts, as does the Donut Hole not too far away in La Puente, California, where you can drive through a giant donut tunnel. But California was once home to lots of crazy buildings, and so we went to talk with Jim Heimann, a writer, illustrator, editor and a sort of visual historian who in 1980 put together a book about these sorts of goofy buildings.
JIM California Crazy was the first book that I did, but I found all the photos, did all the research, and no one had ever done a book on this stuff before, so then by default I became the authority on oddball architecture.
RICK And so Jim has searched and found and collected zillions of pictures and documents.
JIM The most popular period for these buildings probably was 1925 till 35. It starts to drift off in the late 30s, certainly for California and the Los Angeles region, part of that was that the rising property values started to cut out that really inexpensive property. And then people’s taste you know changed. And so the stuff you know that was you know thought to be clever and funny and so on, suddenly was like Aw, that stuff is really dated and it’s terrible and it’s kitsch-y and so on. Of course, that kind of whimsical nature to them was abhorred by serious architects. They felt they were really a blight on the landscape. But you know who couldn’t really laugh at a giant woman and you’re walking into her skirt to go get ice cream or a giant pig that you could drive up to and get a you know pork sandwich out of its mouth. So it’s truly kind of a fantasy land which again worked well with Los Angeles, you know this whole idea of nothing was really real here, you know architectural history wasn’t really something that people were concerned about.
RICK But across the country, some people liked the architectural exuberance, and travelers came to love big surprises beside the road.
JIM These buildings really became like these exclamation points along the highway because if you had something that was kind of an average looking building, and then all of a sudden you see you know some giant you know pickle or a giant ketchup bottle or a giant…, they really just kind of you know, all of a sudden your attention was you know gravitated towards these buildings, and they grabbed people off the road with that, with that idea.