|Photo by Beth Coller|
The resurrection of Boardner’s cocktail lounge can be described by three words: Tricia La Belle.
“I’ve cleaned it up some and made it smell a little better,” she modestly admits about her role in reviving the faded Hollywood landmark. “Boardner’s was in dire straits when I came here, but I knew there was more to it than what met the eyes — just as you find there’s more to people the more you get to know them.”
Before this Connecticut native joined Dave Hadley as Boardner’s co-owner two years ago, La Belle had ricocheted across a pinball machine of experiences: Studio 54 habitué at 12, teenage runway model in Manhattan, high school dropout at 16, Hollywood gofer at 22, followed by an odd coupling of club promoting and paralegal work.
“I love contracts, the law and negotiating,” she says in a slightly husky voice. “I believe there’s always a way you can strike a deal.”
Just before she was about to embark on the path to become a lawyer, however, friends persuaded her to start her own nightclub. The result was Bar Sinister, her Saturday night Gotheteria which premiered at Boardner’s in 1998.
A firm believer in the revitalizing power of good restaurants, La Belle sees their shortage in Hollywood as a reason to be wary of all the Tinseltown Comeback talk — especially in the wake of the Hollywood & Vine Diner’s recent bankruptcy filing.
“We still have titty shop after titty shop for strippers, and head shops galore,” she laments. “There are all these new clubs but a lot of the nightlife in Hollywood is only for the Who’s Who. Anyone can come to Boardner’s.”
(Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov)
“The police won’t admit that there are streets in downtown L.A. where the homeless can sleep without being rousted on a regular basis,” says architect Jim Bonar matter-of-factly, as he stands amid the cardboard hovels and misshapen tents lining the sidewalk outside his office. Bonar is a co-founder and the executive director of the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a quasi-public organization — it works with the city of L.A. but uses private money, often in the form of tax credits — that owns and operates 18 buildings that offer affordable housing to the working poor, people living with HIV or chronic disabilities, and the homeless. Bonar, a former Peace Corps volunteer who combines a passion for social justice with an expertise in design, doesn’t boast about architectural niceties or interior-decorating particulars: He simply shows visitors the airy courtyards and pleasantly appointed common rooms that convey a tangible respect for the residents. Many of SRHT’s units are in rehabilitated hotels that had fallen into disrepair. At the Rossmore Hotel, natural lighting, decorative plants, colorful kitchen tile and framed posters chip away at the institutional rough edges typical of some low-income housing projects. Unlike many who believe that the homeless provide a stumbling block to the much-heralded “renaissance” currently under way downtown, the crisply efficient Bonar argues that affordable housing — which he’s been fighting the past 25 years to preserve — benefits the entire community. “It’s wonderful that a residential community is being re-established downtown. The tragedy is not gentrification. The tragedy is the displacement of an entire class of people.”