Last Chance, For Love

Before I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18, my only perception of the city was through television and movies. I imagined the valley to be like the Brady Bunch or Adam 12. The beach communities were a hotbed of swinging singles and fern bars like Three's Company. Hollywood was a place where teenage runaways became prostitutes and got syphilis via Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. West Hollywood was incredibly hip and the center of disco and cocaine as in Thank God It's Friday.

If you are old enough to remember drive-in theaters, Thank God It's Friday is a movie that you would see at one. I think I saw it with some older cousins at a drive-in theater on the border of Reno and Sparks. It was a double bill with Corvette Summer. The only parts of the plot I recall is Donna Summer wanting to sing, the dance floor had a giant spherical DJ Booth, and everyone was rather seedy. It all seemed very dangerous and slick.

By the time I was in college, the disco in TGIF was still there, but was a rock and roll venue. There was also a restaurant with a big whale's mouth across the street. Today, I drive through this intersection every morning. Unfortunately, a hideous Loehmann's and bizarre upscale apartment building replaced the Fish Shanty and Oskars disco.

People in New York complain that neighborhoods are too gentrified and sanitized. They miss the urban danger and grit. In Los Angeles, the gentrification has taken away something more precious: glamorous disco glitter, rows of gas guzzling rust colored Cadillacs, lines of people in sequins and parachute pants, and restaurants with hungry whale entrances.


slick leather outfit

TGIF title

TGIF poster




The Millionaire's Club (pre-Oskars)

Oskars replacement: Loehmanns

the intersection

New apartment where Fish Shanty was

Fish Shanty

Marget Larsen

Marget Larsen, cardboard Thonet chair

I have a romanticized idea of design in the 1960s and 70s. I imagine the designers of that time sitting at their drafting tables, ordering type, calling an airbrush illustrator, sketching wildly on their large pads, and jumping into their Corvettes to hang at a local Victorian bar with the other designers. Early in my career, I went to Robert Miles Runyon’s office in Marina Del Rey for an internship interview. I recall a woody interior with macramé and hanging ferns. It was very “Regal Beagle” from Three’s Company.

I never met Marget Larsen, she died prematurely in 1984, but I imagine her in this way: “Here’s a sketch,” I imagine her saying to young designer in a white shirt and black tie, “I’m thinking Caslon.” then sitting back and drawing curly-cues. The work is sublime and looks so effortless. Of course, it was probably much more difficult.

Larsen worked in San Francisco. She worked on ads for whisky, bread packaging, and fashion stores. Her touch was delicate and bold at the same time. There is a slight touch of Victoriana and assemblage in the work. Her sense of typography for ads designed while she was at Weiner & Gossage elevated their genius copy and gave them national standing. These ads move away from the traditional composition of product image, headline, secondary copy and logo in the bottom right corner. They are designed with the presumption that the audience is literate and can read. My favorite Larsen design is the cardboard Thonet chair. It’s one of those ideas that I see and say, “Why didn’t I think of that? Can I copy it and nobody will know?” Since I’m publishing it here, I guess not.

Marget Larsen, Dean Swift Snuff

Marget Larsen, Paul Masson ad

Marget Larsen, Irish Coffee ad

Marget Larsen, Whiskey ad

Marget Larsen, Parisian Sourdough Bread