Jury selection begins this week. I will give updates daily on everything I don’t see and don’t hear.

It’s warm! It feels like spring. Everyone goes outside and says ahhh, yes: finally.

But it’s really too soon. We ought to know that. It’s possible we’ll never seen another snowstorm - that was the point of my column yesterday, the annual delusion - and that would be great. But did we earn it? Hasn’t been a particularly cruel winter. Just a week or two of -20. Not a lot of snow.

On the other hand, consider that this is the second spring of the pandemic.

Have you ever read a book that seemed so thick and uninvolving you were almost mesmerized by its lack of action? I have. It’s “Munich,” about the conference between Chamberlain and Hitler. Let me give you a slight parody:

“The car arrived at the appointed time, and he entered, gripping the handle of the door and pulling it open, then entering the back seat with a a sense of unease. The driver had close-cropped hair and smelt of elderberry, he thought. He had a small mole on his neck. The rear-view mirror of the car was smudged, as if the driver had adjusted it without wiping his hands first. As the car moved through the city he saw several large red banners. The car stopped at each intersection to wait for the signal from the traffic policeman. The policemen wore a band on their arms with the same brilliant red of the banners. The drive was short and smooth; the car performed with a mesmerizing sense of mechanical purpose and precision. When it deposited him at his destination, he got out of the car, putting one leg out first, then the other, and then he stood upright and began to walk. He nodded at the guards who flanked the door, noting their impassive expressions, then headed inside down the long marble corridor, passing several guards who bore the same expression. At the door he adjusted his tie, feeling somewhat self-conscious, and entered the room. It was large and impersonal, intended to impress upon the visitor a sense of ceremonial grandeur. He passed the several yards along a thick red carpet and came to a halt at the edge of the desk, waiting for Hitler to look up from his papers.”


I mean, it’s all accurate, and it’s all necessary, I suppose, but the damned book is nothing but tick-tock. One of my favorite authors, too: Robert Harris.

There is some intrigue. There might be an assassination attempt. The problem is that we know Hitler was not shot, and there was a war, and all the intrigue was meaningless - so why, why spend 400 pages recreating the events of the day when they consist almost entirely of men sitting around talking?

It’s maddening: I think, am I missing something? So I got the audiobook version, thinking it might help if the story’s narrated, but no: I swear I spent an hour listening to one group of politicians take a train to Munich and another group take a plane from London.

I have decided to give it up, because not only is life too short, but my Audible membership was cancelled and I have three weeks to listen to 10 books.

After that, my “purchases” disappear, because they weren’t really purchases at all.

I finally settled on “The Splendid and the Vile,” an Erik Larson account of Churchill and his life during the Blitz, with lavish subplots and fine historical detail about the particulars of the Battle of Britain. You’re struck again by the narrowness of it all, struck by the ability of England to produce and meet the threat, struck by the errors of Germany, and immersed in the grimness of the harrowing interlude. It coincided nicely with a project I’ve been working on - advertising in America in the year before the war, something spurred by another book, The Darkest Year.

When I was taught about this period, the narrative was simple: bad stuff happened in Europe, then Japan attacked the US out of the blue, then America rolled up its sleeves and got to work, and we ground out a victory. What we weren’t taught was the run-up, the isolationism, the nervousness that suffused the US popular culture as Hitler rolled over Europe, the shock after the Japanese attack, the disarray, the dismay over the US’ lack of ability to gear up and strike back.

The ads are fascinating. Most of them are blithe and happy. As 1940 ends, military motifs start to enter the ads. We’re not at war. But the ads are leaning into the new mood, and it’s all very reassuring. All these things we have! All these trucks and ships and guns and swabbies and soldiers! Pall Mall had a long-running campaign that showed a smart smoker schooling someone about Pall Mall’s length advantage; all of a sudden the ads are set in military settings, with men in uniform discussing cigarette proportions.

It’s one of the most obvious examples of the oncoming culture appearing in ads before it swamps every aspect of society, and it’s fascinating.


And then there’s this.

You might say - what? 1941? Our man Briggs was long dead. Look again.

MISS Clare Briggs. His daughter. She brought her father's work back to life for two years.


But you probably already saw the MISS part, because you’re a Bleatnik who knows more about Clare Briggs’ work than 99.9% of the people out there.

We remember this stuff here. We’re tourists in the past, and yes so are a lot of people, but at least we get off the bus and poke around the back streets.


New artist! These guys were all New Yorker faves.

Syd Hoff, botn 1912, died 2004. More about him later.



We're still looking at "Crooked Way," because it abounds with inadvertant documentary.

What do you see in the background?

Anita's? Well well.

If you want to get a good sense of the loss LA inflicted upon itself, here's one ordinary corner . . .

And the same spot today.

It's not a great street; it's not architecturally significant. But what's that sign say?

Orange Julius! Imdb says this is the location.

It's a tour of the empty glaring night. I love it so. I'd probably get rolled, or food poisoning, but I'd still like to visit.

I have to believe this isn't a set designer's commentary on things, but a recreation of the way things were.

Finding the exact locations is fun. You have to find the clues. In this case it's . . .

The sign. On the extreme lef. ITFALL? So, Pitfall, the movie.

  Run it through the LA papers, find out when it premiered, and where.

I think I have it. Four Music Hall theaters? There would be three, if you eliminate the Tower, which was briefly renamed the Music Hall. Looking at the others, the Music Hall in which our Noir Man is standing appears to be this:

It's the only one that seems to fit, with a theater marquee across the street. So:

Yeah. Okay.

More of the old LA; I assume it's the same neighborhood.

DORF C? Waldorf Club? After poking around, I find mention of  a "Waldorf Club" that turned into a gay bar, close to Harold's, which had an address . . . here.


What a world it was.


That will suffice! Now, as ever, the Matchbooks.





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