Empty Shell

The long abandoned Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles, a few months before its conversion into a CVS. The amazing clam shell in the lobby has apparently been put into storage. I’m guessing the mattresses and other junk have been cleared out as well. As we explored the theater late one night, we were startled to hear a woman shout at us in Spanish from one of the opera boxes. It turned out she was pregnant and living inside the box, and our presence was severely freaking her out. I should add that entering the space involved some moves that wouldn’t necessarily be advisable when carrying a child, which made her presence all the more baffling – but she wasn’t in the mood to chat. I wonder where she ended up and if she still returns to her opera box above the new drugstore now and then, perhaps flinging plastic razors at the shoppers below.

Milwaukee Modjeska

This lovely theater in Milwaukee was named after a famous Polish actress, Helena Modjeska, and has been closed since 2010. As of 2012, efforts were underway to restore it – perhaps it’s not too late to help?


The Vanity Ballroom in Detroit in the summer of 2012.

The first time I saw the ballroom in 2007, I barely had time to look around before being chased out by someone who claimed to live downstairs (the bottom floor was once occupied by stores and is now in a pretty destroyed condition). At that time there was hardly any graffiti and the wood floor was still up for a few dances. Since the stairway was busted wide open earlier this year, the building is going the way of so many other architectural gems in this city. For reference, the Detroit News recently published a nice historic photo of the space as part of its essay Detroit Dances Through Time.

The Lamar Theater in Memphis – built in 1926 – has been closed for over 20 years, but it looks almost worse in this shot from 1983. It not only appeared in the movie Mystery Train but, more recently, on an “I love Memphis” T-shirt. It’s just one of many sites that make for a fun roadtrip to Memphis, Tennessee.