Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Pope of Broadway

Downtown Los Angeles is a thriving home for the fashion industry, which ranges from cutting edge new fashion denim designers to wholesale distributors of sweat socks. One facet of the industry is the bridal business, where dresses for weddings, quincineras, first communions and christenings are custom designed. I was trying to photograph a gown in a shop on Third Street and inadvertently caught a reflection in the window.

If you stand on the sidewalk on Third Street north of the Bradbury building, you can see "The Pope of Broadway". Painted by muralist Eloy Torrez in 1985, it depicts the Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn, and it's one of the murals on the Victor Clothing Building at 242 Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Once the headquarters of a menswear company, the building is being restored and turned into affordable housing. The developer is seeking funds to restore the murals, which, as years passed, have suffered chipped paint, grafitti, and other damage.

The Victor Clothing Company opened in the 1920s in a store a few blocks away. It thrived in the 40's and 50's, as the haberdasher of choice to business moguls and Hollywood celebrities. It moved to the Broadway building in 1964, and as the years passed, its upper floors were rented to artists as studios. In the 1980s it became the home of LACE - Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.

Before the company folded in 2001, the store's owner, Paul Harter, commissioned artists to paint murals, which appear on several exterior and interior walls. Many of the works celebrate Latino culture in honor of the clients that increasingly frequented the business. Among the artists were John Valdez, Juan Garduno, George Yepes, Kent Twitchell and Francisco Cisneros.

Torrez, who had painted a mural of movie stars in Hollywood, was reminded that star Anthony Quinn had a past connection with the neighborhood at the nearby Million Dollar Theatre.

In crime writer Michael Connelly's book, Angel's Flight, his hero Harry Bosch contemplates Torrez's mural:
"Bosch was still staring at the mural. He liked it, even though he had a hard time seeing Anthony Quinn as a Christ-like figure. But the mural seemed to capture something about the man, a raw masculine and emotional power. Bosch stepped closer to the window and looked down. He saw the forms of two homeless people sleeping under blankets of newspapers in the parking lot beneath the mural. Anthony Quinn's arms were outstretched over them. Bosch nodded. The mural was one of the little things that made him like downtown so much. Just like the Bradbury and Angels Flight. Little pieces of grace were everywhere if you looked."
I like the way Connelly puts it. I would never have known about the Victor Clothing Building murals had I not caught this reflection in my photo. We encounter little pieces of grace everyday.

We just need to make sure we see them when they appear.

3 comments:

Jason said...

I love this! I've seen this mural, and I do believe I was inside the Victor building a few years ago. I love downtown LA.

Queenly Things said...

I love this area of the city - love it. It is so vibrant. There used to be an all-night place, I think nearby - Gorkey's - that was a great place to go and hang out. Oh, I love the city part of L.A.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful is that! And did you know that Connelly lives down here in Tampa?

(It's brother D., BTW. For some reason I cannot log in...)