Getting Angry, Baby?

You can’t live in Los Angeles and not have some kind of food issue. Everyone I know is vegan, gluten free, pescetarian, lactose intolerant, only raw food, or only eats local food in season. Ordering at restaurants is like an interrogation in an Iranian prison, “Tell me! Is there any wheat? Don’t lie. I will know!” I try to be as trouble free as possible. My only constraint is too much meat. I probably won’t order the Meat Lovers Platter at Claim Jumper.

Twenty years ago, some of our friends invited us to dinner with their out of town guests. These guests were older and went to Nickodell Restaurant whenever they visited. The older part is important because Nickodell was an ancient restaurant near Paramount studios. It must have been a hot spot in the 1940s, but had declined in a bad way. It sounds like a groovy dive that should be fun. But, the evening was a cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Blue Velvet. The inside of Nickodell was standard issue Hollywood: vinyl booths, nicotine stained dark walls with framed photos of old movie stars, and dim lighting.

The out-of-town couple started the evening with several martinis. They quickly began arguing. After ordering appetizers, they switched to wine, and continued the vicious attacks on each other. By this time, I was feeling sick. Then the food came. An extremely old waitress wearing something similar to a 1940s nurses uniform slowly wheeled an old metal cart to the table. The couple’s giant slabs of beef sat on the top shelf. As she wheeled the cart away, they attacked their bloody and rare steaks, slammed down two bottles of wine, and yelled at each other while chewing. This was the impetus for my aversion to excessive amounts of meat.

However, this has not dampened my love for the Porterhouse Room logo. Robert Sinnot designed this around 1950 for the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. It’s a beautiful mark and proves that a logo does not need to be all hard lines and flat geometry. My only issue is that I can’t tell if the cow bull has no eyes, or alien eyes.

The Eyes of Lester Beall

One of my favorite clients is Cedars Sinai. I love learning about complex medical issues, and working with smart and logical people. A common issue I face is trying to communicate a difficult and unappealing subject, such as prostate cancer, in a way that invites the audience. I want to be true to the subject, but detailed images of surgery tend to not be good for publication covers. Upjohn Pharmaceuticals produced Scope magazine in the 1940s and 1950s. Incredible designers such as Will Burtin and Lester Beall designed arresting and seductive covers. These offer an alternative to the high rez 4 color digital photography that is the default medium for everyone this day. They may look light and playful, as if the designer threw it together on a sunny afternoon. But, guess what, it probably took some time, and I like to imagine Beall slaving away in a dark Dickensian hovel as it snows outside.

from the Lou Danziger collection