You know, I just can't walk past a mirror without taking a self portrait.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Charles Bukowski - In Search of Henry Chinaski

Charles Bukowski died on March 9, 1994, but his alter-ego Henry Chinaski lives on in his literature. Although, in 1986 Time called him a “laureate of American lowlife”, Bukowski never won the Pulitzer Prize nor was he a Nobel Laureate. He did write about his home city of Los Angeles almost exclusively.
In the ever changing landscape of Los Angeles, some of Bukowski’s/Chinaski’s haunts still survive, and some have disappeared (victims of gentrification, urban redevelopment, or just plain neglect). Los Angeles itself is a much different place , the Hollywood dives are now trendy hangouts. Downtown LA, the manufacturing area in particular is being re-developed into residential lofts, and even Skid Row is getting a gradual facelift!

In 1952, Bukowski started working for the US Post Office, first as a carrier, then as a clerk and sorter. He worked at the Terminal annex Post Office, until 1970, when he resigned to pursue a full time writing career.

A view of The LA skyline from the Post Office

Much of Bukowski’s earlier works were written when he lived on De Longpre Avenue, East Hollywood. An interesting street not only filled with other Courtyard Apartments, but also Ukrainian Catholic Church.

These Courtyard Apartments across the street have been featured in several Hollywood Films.

Although Bukowski did spend a lot of time in bars, he apparently did a great deal of his drinking at home. His favorite liquor store, not far from his home, was Pink Elephant Liquors, on N. Western.

Musso & Franks was one of his favorite Hollywood hangouts,  the Original Spanish Kitchen and Norm’s were also frequented by Hank.

All that remains of The Original Spanish Kitchen is the sign, now considered a landmark.

Both Henry and hank liked the ponies, and santa Anita figured in strongly.

Bukowski liked to spend time at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, he was also known to take his girlfriends there.

He may have frequented many bars, but here are a few of note.
The Frolic Room has now become a hip and trendy hangout in Hollywood.

There are others in Hollywood, that claim he frequented there, but let us move downtown. The area that is known as Skid Row, which at times can still be dicey but has seen an amazing transformation.
5th and Main can still look rough. Here we can find the Rosslyn Hotel.

But, just one block away, Located in thew King Edward Hotel is the King Eddy Salon. Not much has changed here except perhaps the addition of the flat screen tv’s.

Sadly Craby Joes closed its doors 5 years ago. You can still see the outline of the old sign on the remaining store front. Dr Lee, looks over the intersection (labelled Bukowski Square by Larry Harnisch) with an approving smile.

In addition to the bars, he also frequented the following downtown.

The Grand Central Market,

Cole's French Dip, 

And, The Clifton Cafeteria.

All in all, downtown Los Angeles has changed significantly since Bukowski wrote about it, The alleys are no longer filled with garbage.

Yes there are still some SRO’s.

While other old Hotels have re-invented themselves as trendy hotels on Skid Row.

Union Stage has seen an resurgence!

The Royal Palms where he also lived for a while is now a Half-way House. Sort of ironic don’t you think.

Even McArthur Park has been given a new lease on life.

But when you contrast what has been there with what is replacing it. With the new skyline towering over the old, we certainly don’t want to lose anymore!

Finally. Bukowski’s final years were spent living in San Pedro (but that is another project). He is buried not far from there at Green Hill Memorial Park.

Notes: I have been working on this project for over 2 years. I originally developed the idea 5 years ago when I was working on a project that required a lot of filming in the Downtown area. In earnest started researching about 2 years ago and finishing it as I write these notes (going out this morning to grab a few more shots). The images have been shot with a variety of cameras. Leica M8, Canon 5D mkII, Canon 1DmkIII, iP4, with Leica, Zeiss and Canon lenses. The images here are only a small selection of what I have shot. The Downtown Los Angeles area is visually rich and full of history.
As always all text and images are ©Peter Politanoff (RedStarImage), and all appropriate International Restrictions apply. Please do not use or repost without proper attribution and photo credit.