Tinseltown! The Dream Factory! The capitol of the Nation of Hollywood goes by many names, but no matter what you choose to call it, this remarkable town is a byword for glamour, fame and glitz. Hello, this is your roving reporter, Hollis Hauser. For part two of my Flyer's Guide to the nation of Hollywood, we're heading north from San Diego to get a glimpse at one of the most dazzling cities of the Left Coast-Los Angeles!
The largest and most populous city on the West Coast of North America, Los Angeles is the economic and political hub of the Pacific Ocean, and a major shipping port for trade with China, Hawaii, Japan and distant Australia. But the city is even more famous for its entertainment industry, housing no fewer than five of the continent's largest and wealthiest film studios. More movies are produced in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the world combined today, and they are eagerly watched by adoring fans across the globe. Los Angeles is also one of the lynchpins of the aviation industry, boasting several major commercial and military airports and aircraft corporations such as Hughes Aircraft and Lockheed making their homes in this great city. In Los Angeles, a visitor can start the morning witnessing the spectacular aerial stunts of the Hollywood Knights performing their daily fly-by before starting patrol, catch the latest Flash Gordon or Gene Autry adventure serial at a theater after lunch, and finish with dinner in the evening only to discover Clark Gable or Jean Harlow signing autographs at the table next to you!
Popular accounts say that the city was officially founded in 1781 by Spanish settlers from Sonora, and given the official name of "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula" or "The Town of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula." It's small wonder that as time passed, the name was shortened to the much simpler "Los Angeles."
In 1821, the town came under the control of the now-independent Mexican government, and following the Mexican-American war, California and all of its municipalities--including Los Angeles--were ceded to the United States in 1847.
The Gold Rush of the 1850s brought a boom in settlers to California, and Los Angeles prospered with the sale of cattle to the ever-growing numbers of miners of settlers coming West to seek their fortunes. As the 20th Century dawned, the city continued to expand, adding railroads, a trolley network, and a booming economy thanks to the discovery of oil and the arrival of movie makers from New York who found the sunny, temperate climate ideal for year-round shooting of film. The movie industry brought wealth and international attention to Los Angeles, and the seeds of a new nation had been planted--but would not fully bear fruit until the collapse of the United States in 1930.
The Great Collapse And The Deane Amendment
Though one of the first states to secede following the influenza panic and Great Collapse in 1930, initially, California found itself ill-prepared to forge its destiny alone as a sovereign nation. Though some U.S. Navy vessels and crews decided to ally themselves with the new nation, they were not enough alone to defend the struggling young country against opportunistic attacks from marauding soldiers coming north to flee the chaos in Mexico, or the newly formed pirate bands such as the Red Dragons and the Yosemite Brotherhood. Hollywood had economic and industrial power, but what they needed was a military--and one that could be mustered and deployed within a timeframe of mere months.
It seemed like an impossible task. But thanks to the efforts of Lionel Deane--a former RKO Studios executive and member of the Los Angeles City Council--a unique political bargain was brought to the new nation's government from an unexpected quarter. An alliance of the major motion picture studios--Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount, RKO and 20th Century Fox--offered to front the millions necessary to purchase fighter aircraft and recruit volunteers into air defense militias. In return, the studios and other industrial concerns who contributed financially to the nation's defense would be guaranteed a voice for their interests in government affairs. The Deane Amendment was passed 162-4 by the new government, and thanks to round the clock negotiations with the local aircraft industry, Hollywood had its first private air militias assembled and airborne by the end of 1931.
Today, the "Big Four" studios, along with Hollywood's native aircraft manufacturing firms are almost considered a third branch of the national government. It is through their efforts that Hollywood is defended, and in return the owners and directors of these economic powerhouses have direct influence in steering political decisions. While some trade unions and social activists decry the Deane Amendment as little more than graft and corruption given legitimacy, the average citizen of Hollywood takes great pride in the way the famous and powerful have supported and made their young nation a powerhouse in North America. And after all, many say, how can you call the nation "Hollywood" and not give the studios a say in how things work? Without them, the nation wouldn't even exist!
Things To See In Los Angeles
As the heart of North America's movie industry, if you ever wanted to meet your favorite actor or actress, Los Angeles is THE place to be! Here are just a few of the many places you should take time to visit if you're seeing the City of Angels for the first time:
The Brown Derby: Located at 1628 North Vine Street in the heart of Old Hollywood, this famous restaurant is named for the distinctive look of the building, which is shaped like a gentleman's hat! Come to enjoy the delicious food and see the many drawings, cartoons and paintings of celebrities that have made the restaurant famous--and if you're lucky, you may even find yourself sitting next to the genuine article! Many Hollywood stars dine regularly at the Derby--in fact, a popular rumor says Clark Gable proposed to his wife there.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre: While there are dozens of movie palaces in Los Angeles worth visiting if you wish to catch the latest hit films, there are few as spectacular as Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Built to emulate the splendor of an Oriental palace, this was the site of the world premiere of Howard Hughes' first runaway success, "Hell's Angels" and many celebrities have left their hand and footprints on display in the concrete outside the venue. And there's no better place to catch a flick during the summer, as the Chinese Theatre boasts special machinery that keeps it cool and refreshing indoors no matter how hot it gets outside...a remarkable new technology known as "air conditioning!"
The Coconut Grove: Located in the luxurious Ambassador Hotel, the Coconut Grove is THE place for the wealthy and famous to spend their evenings. Politicians, studio heads, and entertainers alike come here for the finest in music, dancing and drinks.
The Sky Palace: Head south toward the Santa Monica Pier, and you will see an astonishing site: A gigantic zeppelin hovering in the skies, its passenger cabin replaced with a fabulous residence that would make the builders of Xanadu gnash their teeth in envy. This is the Sky Palace, the airborne home of billionaire and aviation giant Howard Robard Hughes--and if gossip is to be believed, the site of many amorous rendezvous with some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. But don't try to hop on a plane and fly by to catch a glimpse of the man himself--Hughes is notoriously touchy about his privacy and the Sky Palace is patrolled at all times by rotating squadrons of handpicked veterans of the Hughes Air Guard.
Aviation in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is the center of the aviation industry for western America, and boasts no less than six major airports. Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale is the central destination for commercial airships, with dozens of zeppelins and dirigibles carrying passengers and cargo from other North American nations, Europe and Asia arriving and departing each week. Griffith Park Aerodrome and Clover Field in Santa Monica house military aircraft, providing fuel, supplies and repairs to state-sponsored militias. As the home base of Charlie Steele's Metro Marauders, Clover Field is a frequent destination for tourists hoping to get a photo or autograph from one of Hollywood's most famous fighter squadrons. Hughes Airport, located north of Westchester, is the home of the Hughes Air Guard and for testing of new Hughes Aviation prototypes. Needles to say, as with all things Hughes the airfield is jealously guarded from public scrutiny. Union Air Terminal in Burbank and Mines Field south of Los Angeles handle primarily civilian air traffic, while Metropolitan Airport in Van Nuys has hosted many notable aviation events and competitions, including several record-breaking speed and endurance flights and the 1936 North American Air Races (formerly the National Air Races.)
Hazards and Risks
Los Angeles is perhaps the safest and most-well guarded city in the Nation of Hollywood. With no less than three premiere air squadrons protecting the city, along with aerial police forces, private milita squadrons and corporate security forces, most Angelenos enjoy security and comfort enjoyed by citizens of few other North American Nations. Still, it pays to be careful, especially when leaving the city limits. Occasionally, pirate bands such as the Sky Slavers have attempted brazen kidnappings of the rich or famous from inside the city limits itself, and forces of hostile nations such as Mexico and Pacifica have prowled the airspace over the nearby Pacific Ocean as a show of belligerence. While these saber-rattling flights rarely are more than a gesture of sound and menace, occasionally encounters with local defenses have turned into all-out dogfights above the city. Should an air raid occur during your stay, be sure to follow the instructions of local police and proceed to the nearest civil defense shelter immediately.
However, the most serious threat to Los Angeles and the coastal cities such as Long Beach, Santa Monica and Ventura remains the pirate Red Dragons, led by the flamboyant self-styled "Prince Vlad" from the outlaw haven of Catalina Island. (Please see this Air Action Weekly special report for more information about the history of the Red Dragons.)
Notable Pilots and Squadrons
Hollywood Knights "Metro Goldwyn Mayer" Squadron ("Metro Marauders")
The first and most famous of the Hollywood Knights Squadrons, the Metro Marauders are led by founder and commanding officer Charlotte "Charlie" Steele, who originally formed the group from a misfit band of stunt pilots, struggling actors and rookie debutante pilots to fight a Sky Slavers incursion into Hollywood. For a full history of the Hollywood Knights and biography of Charlie Steele, please see Air Action Weekly's profile in the 1936 Warriors of the Air special issue. (Crimson Skies original boxed set)
1st Hughes Air Guard ("Hollywood Flight")
The personal security squadron of Howard Hughes, Hollywood Flight is responsible for the protection of all Hughes Aviation interests in Los Angeles, including Hughes Airfield, the Sky Palace, and the Hughes facility in Culver City. It's a daunting task, but Hughes' chief pilot, Jonathan "Samurai" Murayama, has proved himself both a capable fighter and skilled leader, distinguishing himself during an airstrike against pirates south of the Mexican border. Unfortunately, with the threat of Imperial Japanese aggression against Hollywood shipping in Pacific waters, public mistrust of Murayama due to his Japanese-American heritage has led to this fine pilot being unfairly ostracized by much of L.A.'s high society, despite Hughes' public statements of confidence in him. For more information, please see the article on the Hughes Firebrand in Air Action Weekly's Spring 1937 "Aircraft of North America" special issue. (Crimson Skies original boxed set)
Hughes Air Guard Air Combat Evaluation Squadron ("ACES")
Like so much else about Hughes Aviation, Howard Hughes is notoriously reticent about this elite group of test pilots selected from the best among the Hughes Air Guard and led by famous former stunt pilot and adventurer Florence "Pancho" Barnes. For more information, please see this article from the Summer 1937 issue of Air Action Weekly.
The Archangels are a private militia famous for both their flying skills and for their all-female roster of pilots. Founded by Anastasia "Sasha" Kamarova, a refugee Red Russian pilot who fled the chaos of the Revolution and the later civil war in Alaska, the Archangels were conceived by Kamarova after her efforts to join the state-sponsored air militias were refused due to her lack of wealth and connections. Kamarova recruited mainly from smaller towns and communities of the former Southern California region that were often passed over or conveniently ignored by the more famous air militias in favor of wealthier or more politically important regions. Outfitted with aging aircraft and limited resources, Kamarova has nonetheless drilled and trained her squadron into a disciplined and highly effective defense force. While many among the Hollywood elite sneer at Kamarova's refugee background and Communist politics, her skill has earned her the respect of other Hollywood squadrons, and the novelty of an all-female force of pilots has captured the imaginations of the Los Angeles press corps. The Archangels have earned the respect of the poor and destitute of Southern Hollywood due to the number of humanitarian and relief missions they have undertaken to aid smaller communities plagued by bandits and marauders in the Inland Empire, Mojave Desert and Central Coast.
Special Ability (OPTIONAL): The Archangels are often outgunned and outnumbered, and Komarova has trained them to stay calm and stick together when the odds are against them. Whenever they are outnumbered in a scenario, all Archangels pilots treat their Sixth Sense skill as if it was 1 point higher (so a Sixth Sense of 5 would be treated as 6 as long as the squadron is outnumbered)
Editor's Note: During his visit to Los Angeles, Hollis Hauser was invited to attend a special airshow unveiling of the newest aircraft from Hughes, the Angel light fighter. Read more about the plane that's taking Hollywood's wealthiest by storm here.