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Palomar Inn 30s Gangster Set

Seven years ago, I met talented, creative and imaginative photographer Craig Owens. We embarked together on a vintage photography project, which eventually evolved into the highly interesting Bizarre Los Angeles

 

Craig collected binders full of old film-set, actor and movie scene photos for inspiration. In 2006, he created a character for me named Agnes Beaumont, a vulnerable, sultry, silent-film actress who had been somewhat wearied by life’s troubles. With authentic costumes from the era and an Egyptian art deco decorated room, we shot most of the night getting some beautiful results.

With his extensive knowledge of both film and California history, Craig expanded the project three years ago to include shoots at historical locations in Southern California famously known for their stories of haunting. At the Bella Maggiore Inn in Ventura, hotel guests enjoyed our crew’s presence from another time. While shooting in the lobby, an older man came up to me with tears in his eyes and told me I reminded him of his late mother in my costume and character.

The Palomar Inn in Temecula became the next canvas for Craig’s project, which was this time a 1930s gangster film set. We weren’t there for long before an inebriated Andy Dick wandered into the lobby asking for a room. Our team booked out the whole hotel for the week so they had to decline him where he then went on his way to be arrested for public intoxication at the local Marie Callender’s, giving us a taste of the modern day bizarre.

At the Mission Inn in Riverside, we recreated even more scenes and ideas from Craig’s unique photo collection. With amazingly detailed costumes from Valentino’s Costumes and hair/makeup by Joanna Serrano, Craig recreated an early photo of Loretta Young with me on the roof the hotel. It is a remarkable shot with hardly any change from the rooftop original.

The Amargosa Hotel and Opera House was my favorite setting for the project. My four-hour scenic drive from LA to Death Valley was welcomed by 113-degree mid-September heat when I arrived at the hotel, an L-shaped white adobe-looking structure with a theater at the end. The hotel’s owner, Marta who was a Broadway dancer in the 1950s, discovered the location in 1967 and has been performing theater there ever since. Because of the small audience in Death Valley, she painted an entire audience on the walls of the theater including a king and queen and Cheshire cat. With incredible makeup and hair by Melinda Mauskemo and costumes again from Valentino’s, I became both Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette in that bizarre opera house theater. During my stay, I was surprised at how many tourists from other countries visited the hotel and Death Valley. I met college students from Japan, a family of travelers from Germany and even gave directions to an Italian tourist,while wearing my sweet Queen consort of France costume on the desolate road one evening.

The highlight of my time at the hotel came on my last day there. I decided to do some exploring in the mid-day heat. As I walked up the road toward the Nevada borderline, I suddenly spotted a team of wild horses. My heart leaped as I carefully approached them. Four of them began crossing the road but one held back watching me. As I talked to him, he let me come within a foot as we locked eyes for a while for a truly soulful, extraordinary and bizarre moment.

Look for the Bizarre Los Angeles book to be released soon!